Monday, June 13, 2022

the day the dishwasher died....

 So, for reasons only best known to the machine - my dishwasher decided to give up the ghost.   It showed this by refusing to drain and sending me repeated 'BIP' messages asking me to 'verify' the water levels.   Whilst I speak a number of languages BIP/BEEP is not amongst them.... and everytime I opened the dishwasher to check on the water, there was water, water everywhere.

The setting I had chosen was for an 'intensive' wash - so I decided this might be too strong and changed it for a normal programme .....which worked apparently perfectly..except the dishes, though clean, were not quite dry...

And then I noticed the machine had not properly, gloves on, I fished around in the drain but found no impediment.  Next solution: there must be a blocage, so I reach for the sink plunger.   Of course, sod's law, no sink plunger where there should have been a sink plunger. Quick trip to the local hardware store (nine kms away) to buy the last plunger it had..

But that was no use, no amount of plunging brought up any obstructive matter...and the power supply to the machine died.  So now I am back to handwashing dishes, pans, cutlerly and glassware - only to find how much I had forgotten.

The use of rubber gloves, what to wash first, how to set washed items properly in the drainage rack, how to rinse after washing to get rid of the soap...

My mind went back to memories of my number two American stepmother preparing to load her dishwasher....I always mocked her because she rinsed the dishes before loading the I think she was right.   Machines are not as good as people.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Return of the Weather Gods...

 The Weather Gods are at it again...having mizzled us all into thinking summer was nearly here - if not actually here..everyone relaxed and sun-bathed.    Plants woke up and started their usual summer cycle, putting out flowers, starting fruits, growing more densely. Possibly this was the third year running that the Perigord had such a warm May.

Someone pointed out that this May was the driest since that of  2020, a mathmatically minded commentator observed that there was 45% less humidity...Gloomsters suggested that the likelihood of warmer summers would also increase the likelihood of forest fires....

Here at La Chaise I am not too worried even though our house is firmly in a woodland glen, all around the wood appears of have been cleared.   The blight on chestnut trees of the last couple of years had something to do with his.

Now we are in June - and on its second day the Weather Gods threw an ice-storm with hail, lashing rains and winds..  Guess where?  Yes - on the vinyards of the Bergeracois and Langedoc...

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

 This last week - starting May 10 - has seen the greatest blossoming/presence of wild orchids at La Chaise since....oh, since we have been here some 40 years ago.....Sadly with the joy of such rare plants come human quarrels....this because the grasslands of La Chaise have been let to a random local person who is entitled to take the hay from the fields. And this person is using the phrase 'exploit' in its more pejorative sense.

We have had orchids at La Chaise before - in fact the sheep used to rest on the biggest display of 'lazy purples' regularly seen under the corner ash tree in the main field.   But this time we have had some truly exotic ones - stems decorated with imitation bumble bees, some with flies - there was even one known as the 'hanging man' orchid because it seemed there was a skinny green skeleton hanging inside its petals.


But what has been different this year is that there has been a greater show of public interest - and consequently administrative interference....Official bodies have been set up to 'administer' the life of these flowers....what are know as 'arretes' in french are issued that threaten fines on any one who is know to have destroyed orchids.  Of course if one is haymaking it is difficult, given the size of present day hay-making tractors, to skim round a fragile plant which sometimes is no higher than the grass

So this year, Stephanie who is our 'gardienne' at La Chaise and is highly qualified in the subject of wild flowers, put stakes and warning ribbons round the plants...fortunately most of them were near existing fencing so it really should not have been a problem. Equally fortunately the plants are very short lived - possibly not more than a week for the whole cycle from emergence to flowering to fruition - eventually the 'exploitant' agreed to differ his mowing until he was called.   He is probably sacrificing many things, praying very hard, that the May meteo stays clement - so far no sign of rain.

My suggestion for a collective noun?   A profusion.....

Summer - orchids

Chalk stones, age blackened, are slathered

down the hillside like petrified spume,

thrown from fields below by calloused hands,

to grow the staff of life - oats, barley or rye.

The cairn, labour’s monument, now

collapsed near the field’s edge of marjoram and thyme.

Frost-split stones  show fossils of shells. 

Here was once the Sea.

Today wild oats, barley or rye grow over the heap,

trefoil and clover creep, mossy patches slither

Solitary orchids rise above waves of wild grasses

a dark pink pyramid, heavy head bending the stem

a bright green spear, apparently adorned with flies.

Bees and spiders also have honeyed traps,

pale pink or spotted, each with its insect idol 

inviting from the flower’s throat.

This mycophilic orchid powders its dupe    

with grains of pollen to fertilise others of its kind.

Below earth, the hair tendrils of mycelium,

fed by their aerial host, wait to nurse its ripening seed, 

germ of another sweet flowered, insect attractive

fungus nourishing, rare plant.

Friday, October 15, 2021

BEWARE of the CROCUS - something rotting in the soil

 An important addition - and correction - to my last piece on the crocus....I have just found a short note I wrote many, many years ago on the very subject:  read carefully...

 '....August ends abruptly....the early rays of the sun later reveal the sudden presence of the autumn
crocus..This leafless flower seems not quite of our world, its translucent, anaemic hollow stems barely support the long, pale lilac petals,a fully opened head often breaks the stem...It is as though all its nutrients come from something rotting in the soil, as though the sun is irrelevant to its being.   It likes deep clay soils and 'nutritious substances' particularly nitrogen bearing... 

this quote comes from a French book on wild flowers - sorry I have forgotten the name)

....Then  I continue to quote: is not a crocus at all, 

but...(fam liliaceae rather than fam iridaceae) but a 'colquique - deadly poisonous in unmanaged quantities, apparently good for gout if distilled into drops - its vulgar name in French is 'dog-killer' - mort aux chiens...

How could I have forgotten!! 

old age coming on fast.


(in the last war, in occupied Netherlands my mother used to boil - carefully - tulip bulbs for sugar)

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Of Crocuses and Moles

The autumn crocus is a very reliable flower, it always comes at about the same time, if not actually at official autumn according to a calendar.  It comes when it decides it feels like autumn, or is just the time that it wants to come.

We have one very reliable plant, it is just next to a broken pot which is now so covered in ferns that no one can remember whether it really was a pot, or just a random tree stump.

 It is usually solitary even though its spring leaves promise more, But they get strimmed.  However, I am told that although a crocus springs up from a bulb it does seed and some of the seeds become bulbs. This year, in a much neglected part of the front garden we saw the result.


And yet we never have any crocuses (or should I say 'croci?) on the other side of the house. Perhaps it will take more than the 40 years we have been at La Chaise for the invisible seeds to settle and become bulbs. 


We did once try to plant bulbs on the other side of the house.   I had visions of swathes of daffodils, narcissus, jonquils at the end of the lawn.  But of course I had forgotten all about the resident moles.  About a third of what we planted flowered but only once. And, curiously, the moles do not come round to the front of the house.


All explanations gratefully welcomed.









Dog days in the Dordogne - survival ideas

 At last consistently hot days have arrived at La Chaise!   I can stop annoying everyone with my saying 'as a retired farmer, I am allowed to say we need a little rain...'  The temperatures for the last few days have consistently passed 30 C... This was written in July. 

This is a new friend - probably came in from the rain - no I don't know his name
As August  began it started to  behave like September or March - unstable temperatures and unpredictable rain. The months seem to have unfixed their habitual characteristics - April thought it was May, for example. I still do not accept that a shower can be 'sweet' except in the middle of a very hot month.

The death of the Camelia

The verandah always gets a cane roof for the summer.  This is very thoroughly watered.  I should have put on a double cane layer but it has taken so long to become really hot - that I forgot.  Otherwise the inside temperature is intolerable. I also wet the windows and the anti-insect curtains in the doorway.

The idea for wetting the window shutters and verandah covering came from a very ancient picture of my Grandmother's house in Indonesia.  A small boy was letting down a thin cane blind over the window, the next foto showes him watering it...

No wonder SOGEDO - loves is my 'utility' whose bills are so very useful for proving something to legal minds - what and why I do not know.