Monday, April 1, 2024

An overburdened tree...

 This is a three pear tree....Odd you may think, definitely different.  The idea, apparently, was that the then owner of our orchard either did not have enough space for three trees - or was just feeling mean.   Any how this tree does need much attention when being pruned or generally tidied - who knows you might accidentally cut away of the pear varieties...

The three different pears appear (sorry about that) at slightly different times, mostly days apart.  Some of the pears will ripen on the branch, these are usually the cooking pears, large and white and - sorry again - tasteless..For the other two varieties the orchard watcher has to be very aware.   They are small, dark skinned and seem to drop after the slightest breeze..I have never managed to collect sufficient to make anything with them for the slightest delay at collecting them and they are covered in ants, sometimes wasps - the latter are quite aggressive about their fruit rights.. 

Obviously what I need to do is to find myself a fruit tree expert but where to start? The Dordogne rather specialises in apples and grapes..  I think I shall start in the hardware store - then in our small multi-services shop in town - probably the best is to launch  the question into the air next time I am in the local cafe...

Wish me - wish US!! luck.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

White ghosts on wheels - in the Dordogne

 My nerves are now on full alert when driving, a new and uncomfortable experience.   It does not matter whether I turn left out of the gate to descend to Tocane St Apre ....or right in order to get to St Astier.  Both are long winding, twisting roads which - fortunately - have been broadened in recent years.  Crossly I sometimes put this down to my forthcoming forth score of years, due at the end of this month.

Then sometimes self blame gets going:    I should not have taken that second cup of coffee - a known over stimulant - but I drink decaf so that should have no effect.  Ditto the glass of wine - leave time for that to be absorbed by whatever I am eating.

After self-blame comes the other popular culprit - the local roads authority and its constant mending, fiddling, obstructing parts of the road.  The roads themselves are not exactly flat - not possible on hill sides! 

As I was rehearsing all these factors coming up from St Astier one morning I was obliged to draw over to the ditch side of the road as three small cars insisted on overtaking me at excessive speed. 

This shock to my attention suddenly made me see the reason  - I think - for my problem:   all three cars were WHITE, SHINY WHITE!!

It was as though a procession of automobile ghosts had gone by.  Over the following days I noticed more and more white vehicles going in all directions.   Then I saw a shiny white petrol tanker go, I thought that really cannot be possible - but it was. I saw it twice, once followed by a white builder's van carrying sand. And, to cop it a cement mixer on of those very long bodied vans on which there is a churning, slurping, egg shaped recipient.

Fortunately I have a clever son who explained:   white metal paint is cheaper than any other....

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Beware AI entanglements...!!

Through my own stupidity - my dislike of crowded, noisy places - such as airport luggage recovery spaces - I managed to leave Merignac without my laptop, my tablet - and my deaf aids plus their fancy cleaning stuff.   This happened because of the security systems - all the above equipment had been scanned at Gatwick, passed and put into a separate black bag - rather than back into my usual travelling trolley..

At the exit I saw my daughter waiting - so just rushed off to meet her, pulling the trolley behind me, not thinking at all about the 'black bag'.
It was not until I unpacked at home that I realised what I was missing...panic stations.

But my very computer competent daughter was able to snaffle the French grandsons play computer - a sturdy Hewlett Packard - and get it working reasonably well.   It did have some 'etats d'ame'  and refuse to cooperate at times - the keyboard would jam, for example. So I was able, more or less, to keep up with my essential admin matters - but not much creative 'stuff'.

Eventually I got fed up, demanded advice from my also computer competent son in London as well as my c.c. daughter in France.  Their consensus opinion is that I should purchase a 'Cromebook'.  The daughter tried to order one on the ever useful Amazon site - and the first snag came up.    In France 'Cromebooks' could only be bought with 'azerty' keyboards...I learned to type on the classic English 'querty' keyboard - essential for someone whose handwriting was illegible...

So we ordered one via the UK and it duly arrived in the most amazing
packing ever seen - three boxes, one inside the many trees I asked myself...But shut up as soon as I got to work with and on it.
Communication with the UK and other places outside the Dordogne was soon flourishing.   I felt on top of all my admin chores..and even had a little look at my 'creative' writing.

However, reality soon showed its ugly face.    My London accountant sent me xxxx pages of tax declaration to study - and a final page to sign and return.  So I dutifully read, noted where I had to sign and tried to download the one page I needed...Only by this time the Crome system had cleverly spotted that it was in it tried to download that one page to a French system of 'fischiers'...which of course I did not have...

In the end I had to download the whole document - sign the single page, scan that page, save it and then send it.  I dread what is going to happen when I start to edit/rewrite/ generally fiddle with my creative text...

And now Stephanie has confessed SHE put the internet on in French...I wait to hear why but she is feeling rather queezy at the moment!!!

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Here comes the cold..

This morning the first cold of 2024 arrived ....approppriatly on the 13th day of January.   It was a pretty cold, mostly a light, nearly transparent mist that did not lift until well after lunch time - most un French, it might have stopped many people from going out to lunch, especially if they had to drive anywhere.   But even so there was quite a lot of fast traffic going past La Chaise which lies on the top of a hill midway between two market towns - Tocane St Apre and St Astier....both of them in river valleys, Dronne and Isle respectively - they join up later.

One very splendid surprise:   I subscribe to the local newspaper whose publishers guaranteed to deliver it by one o clock every day and so far this has been true.  It is usually the simple yellow post office van that brings it. An unkindness in me makes me wonder whether the postie does not have to hide somewhere to make the time come true. Occasionally, when I have nothing better to do, I wander up to the road and the post box a few minutes before 13.00 to see if I can see the yellow postal van lurking down the Tocane part of the road.  I never have seen anything - but then there is a little hamlet called Chantepoule just down the road, perhaps a friendly resident offers a warm coffee. 

Sometimes  when I get warning of the van's possible arrival I wander quite aimlessly up the path to the post box and manage to greet the postman, congratulate him on his timely arrival.  The usual postman, an elderly man with a Santa Claus beard, goes slightly pink and sometimes we shake hands as I thank him.

However, today's mist did delay the delivery but it was compensated in the most splendid way.   Just around 13.30 I heard the rush of an engine coming up from the St Astier side .....a yellow and white van drew up, turned in a circle to face back to St Astier, a young man got out - and put the weekend edition of my newspaper in the box.   I could not get there quick enough to shake hands and thank....but I did notice it was not the usual yellow all over post van - it was yellow and white, the colouring of the post office's extra fast and secure delivery service - Colissimo.

How's that for service?

As always mist softens

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Great Jumping Chestnuts...

 So a few days ago, TDH* Martin - who is now fully responsible for woodland management, not least new planting - but that will be another story ---

Well Martin set off with his trusty chain saw to deal with a copse of three skinny chestnut trees. 'Deal with' is of course a euphism for 'cut down'...He cleared the land around the trees, dead branches, excess fallen leaves and a surprising amount of chestnuts on the ground....anyone would think we did not have wild boar who normally hover up such delicious treats, especially once they have cleared all the acorns...but..passons...

Martin settled himself comfortably on his knees, started his chain aw and cut the recommended V near the base of the tree - making sure it would fall well away from him.  He says the tree wobbled, its head waved and it moved from its cut root....only to establish itself firmly into the soggy soil a few inches from its rooting place.   Martin swears the tree did not look at him with scorn - but it felt like that...

So Martin re-starts his chain saw, cuts another perfect V at the new base of the young chestnut and waited for it to fall exactly where he - Martin - had planned it should fall.  The chestnut shudders, wobbles, the head shakes.....and it planted itself again a few inches further into the soggy soil.  If young chestnut trees could grin, Martin swears it would have grinned at him.

Now Martin swears he was not cross with the tree, it was just that he had other trees to attend to, other things to do...So once again he cut the perfect V just above ground level on the chestnut's slender trunk. 

This time the tree conceded and fell to the ground as pre-ordained. But this leaves me with nagging problems:   should I burn the wood of an animate tree in my indoor fire places, should I sell it to someone else, without telling the story...perhaps as the wood dries its soul will drift into another tree...Not a happy thought. 

Later I heard that Stephanie (a girl) had got cross and lassoed the trees, then pulled so they would fall..

*= Tall, dark,handsome

Thursday, December 14, 2023


 Yes, the leaves are falling fast....this year, probably for the first time, I have noticed that the biggest leaves fall first.  I leave it to those much clever than me to make deductions based on this observation.

However I did not realise one of his reasons...just look at this picture of the Virginia Tulip Tree this autumn.....soon there will be leaves, leaves everywhere.

Fortunately Stephanie - la gardienne - is very pleased with the leaf blower and works it hard.  Imagine her surprise when I told of gardening advice I had heard from the BBC...Apparently one should NOT blow the leaves away for they are protecting the grass - and other things - from winter frosts.  The leaves become mulch.

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.