Friday, November 10, 2023

It has been a wonderful year for figs - if you like figs obviously

We have three fig trees at La Chaise, two either side of the entrance into the Farmhouse barn and a third that just reached over the railing to the terrace alongside my bedroom.  That one had to be severely pruned because it suffered from a classic fig tree pest - of which more later.

The two fig trees you see here are either side of the barn entrance.  One bears black figs, the other has the classic 'white' figs which are actually green. As well as eating them I made some jam - a new recipe which uses red wine - and I also filled two litre glass preserving jars with whole figs in red wine.

The figuiers are the result of two fig sticks that we were given several years ago with the instruction - 'just stick them in the ground' - because they would just grow roots and get on with it.  However, I will admit I did look carefully to see which end was best to shove in the ground.   I judged that fig leaves would grow pushed the other end into the ground.   

BUT it is not only humans who like figs - small birds do as well but one can frighten them away.   The real pest that dissuades human visitors is the hornet and the hornet is very territorial about its figs.  This means no getting figs when the sun light is directly on the trees - the hornets will go for humans even dressed in full protective gear - face mask and helmet, gloves and boots...Finding figs by torchlight is difficult..

This is how the fig trees looked after it was decided no longer toput up with the nuisance of hornets...they had started to come far too close to the main house terrace - a dedicated human space.  One early evening a brave human with a handy chain saw reduced the fig trees to ground level.  But we hope for a more moderate size tree to appear next summer.

And now for why we cut down the fig tree that looked over the terrace of the main house - and looked right into my bedroom.

The great leaves of the untamed fig tree,
Benevolent hands that spread shade
Over the old wooden rocking chair,
Hide the small furry animal beneath.
Immobile it could be a much loved soft toy,
Dark brown with rounded ears,
A small pointy face, shining birght currant eyes,
A yellow bib under its chin.
It looks at me, in bed with tea and a book,
Annoying human in his place....
The sharp teeth bite into the fig
Held between two clawed, destructive paws,
Duck killer, egg stealer, the wild pine-marten.

Monday, November 6, 2023

The unprintable, the unseen, usually rare ...except at La Chaise!

 As I was strolling up to the road, hoping for post in the post box...something strange in the grass caught my eye but not strange enough to stop me in my tracks.   There were several of these strange least ten on the short way to the gate.   See below....pretend to hold your nose because it really is very smelly - unless it is raining.

So I decided to look it up in one of my specialist mushroom luck.   Aaach!   I knew what it was because I have seen it every year in the driveway of La Chaise.  

So, take a deep is the 'phallus impudicus' - and a more descriptive name one cannot imagine. But I was puzzed - not just because this time there were so many - but because none of my specialist mushroom books - all two of them in English - )listed it.  I put the question to Stephanie - (resident expert in all matters plant related) and she came up with the idea that a) it was so rare it would only be in very academic books....and b) its name was too rude to be conveyed to the general, possibly underage, public..  I laughed.
When I went to my local bakery/wine/ etc general store and showed the picture to my friend who has worked there for years - is in fact part owner - her first reaction was:
Oh! a 'morille'...a very prized mushroom indeed (except by me) and I had to disillusion her - but we both laughed...

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Desperately searching for the flea...

 The other morning I woke up - irritable and irritated - even though it had seemed an ordinary night. My restless hands then found the problem - something had bitten me during the night, there were large, red, itchy patches on the front of my thighs.  Adult discipline stopped me scratching them raw but it took me a while to remember that - hopefuly - I had a child's remedy in the bathroom cupboard.   I did, Apaiysil Baby soothed the redness. 

Despite an excellent yesterday's egg from the chickens, even a reasonable cup of (decaf - sigh) coffee and proper toast, I did not recover my good  humour and rather hid from people - not that there were any around.

           Eventually I overcame my shame and asked Stephanie what could possibly have                     inflicted such  horridness on me.   She looked and very kindly did not laugh.

          A flea, she said - it was a flea.  Then she told me what I had to do....

         First I had to wash the sheets at 60 C for a long cycle...OK but the sheets were large and           the washer could not cope efficiently with more that one sheet at a time......

        So one sheet duly went into the washer at full strength for over an hour.   The other I                 decided to put into the dryer for a long cycle with the pillow cases. The blankets, heavy             duty wollen, posed more of a problem.   The answer was the washing line and a child's             tennis raquet and my strong (huh) right arm.

        The spots are still there but no longer itch - nor have they increased in number - but I am         still embarassed... still wondering where the flea came indoor domestic animals.



e dryer           





Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Waiting for rain - again

So here we are again - waiting for the rain which will just not come.  We have restrained ourselves from using mains water for the essential plants - not by virtue but because the old wine vat in the woodshed has long been converted into a water source.  Accessing the outlet is rather tiresome as it is very low down but we soon learned to leave a bit of hose attached...

The plants are also quite confused and some are  into a second flowering - witness the buddleia -known as the 'arbuste a papillons' in French - but there are no papillons until next year....

France's most popular TV weather announcer - a glamorous blonde - was busy last night announcing the advent of rain from the north - the storm known as 'Babet' about to sweep over France quite soon.  Only on my tablet's version of the weather this storm was firmly fixed to the very northern tip of Scotland...

Ah well!   At least I can go back to my warm terrace with a cold beer and see how the 'chrysanthems' are doing...these are the flowers that celebrate the dead - they are well in bud that significant?

Sunday, October 15, 2023

A tree dies.....


This is is a dying Cox's Orange apple tree.....we brought it with us probably some forty years ago when we first came to La Chaise.   To be honest, we probably smuggled it in because countries are not keen on private individuals bringing in plants...But John did so want an English apple tree in our putative orchard...

We have cared for it with fertiliser, patching the holes in its bark, deterring greedy birds, pruning its excess growth.   But nothing helped - I do not remember ever having a fruit from that tree.  

Almost every year we removed the moss from its bark, patched the holes in its trunk, packed damp straw round the roots, added fertiliser  but nary a fruit was seen.

The butter coloured toadstools at its root must now have the final word. We shall have to dig it out and burn it - or we should burn it but burning is forbidden at present because of the lack of rain....

Sadly it will have an unceremonious removal - nothing like the drama that accompanied the descent of the great oak whose remains can just be seen behind the apple tree.

But perhaps, just perhaps....when it is gone some shoots will come up in the place where it was...Look at the remains of the great oak - there is a young oak growing there...We can - and shall - hope.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Passing life comes back to one pond.

A week or so ago, Stephanie spotted that we had an otter in the Black Pond in the woods. It was busy eating the dead carp, one by one.  Where the otter came from I do not know, nor where he has now gone...

The two carp that I bought all those years ago - in the hope that they would keep the pond at the Farmhouse buildings clear of weeds and other growth - were struggling when Stephanie first arrived.   The water was more like mud and not very deep mud at that. Stephanie announced that they had to be removed and put into the larger pond - the Black Pond in the Woods - that ran along the main roadside. 

 In knee high wellie boots, with a laundry basket as a tool,(see pic) she fished the carp out, one by one, and carried them in a wheelbarrow to the upper pond.

                                                  This is the Black Pond in the Woods

The carp took well to the transfer but promptly slid down into the mud so that we could not really see them.The occasional piece of stale bread would bring them to the surface but not much else did.

Sadly Stefanie did not manage to get a picture of the otter that was - so helpfully -  tidying up the Black Pond.  We do not know from where he came - or why, perhaps he could smell dead fish?  Nor do we know to where he - sorry, perhaps 'she' - has gone.

I have always been curious - and never got a good reason - why the buildings of La Chaise were built  nowhere near any fresh water springs.   Once I did employ a 'diviner' to look for springs at La Chaise - we had hopes of one in the ravine - but he dashed our hopes.

There were wells near the buildings, one largish one for the Farmhouse complex and a smaller one near the main house. One of my first actions at La Chaise was to get the well walls built up, above small child height, and lids put on. The main house well was soon filled in as a sycamore tree had decided to grow next to it, roots happily in the mud. It now has roses in it.

The Farmhouse well was next to its pond - it was one of those low entrance wells, the housewife would kneel in front of it, lower her bucket and pull it back up.   Obviously that had to go when our 20th century tourists came to stay. But the pond is still there.

And now I have a modern solution to keeping the Farmhous pond fresh!   The  Farmhouse has just been (expensively) re-roofed and I have added gutttering with a down pipe whose water will be led to the pond...

Who knows?   After a winter perhaps the wild ducks or the cranes will come back and refresh themselves on their long treks between Morroco and the Netherlands.


Monday, October 9, 2023

Some joys in old age...

 Failing memory is said to be one of the 'afflications' of old age.   Now that I acknowledge that I am officially 'old' - I succumbed to this definition also.  When I am in my usual cafe in St Astier quite often elderly women come and join me in my solitude - and they start chattering...

I know I know them because the faces are familiar.  But I do not know who they are or why/how I know them.    So I mostly just listen to their outpourings and interject - where I can - polite questions or comments but I never accept a drink...

But when at home my failing memory has had a positive result.    I do not remember where I have put things, sometimes I do not even know specifically what I am missing.   The positive side of all this is the amount of exercise I get walking round the house, going up the stairs, even sometimes to the garage or the vegetable garden, all in search of whatever it was.    Sometimes I even find things I did not know I had lost....

My new motto:   be positive