Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The odd behaviour of orchids

The orchids started this summer at La Chaise with a most odd behaviour.   Usually they are in small clumps of two or three plants.    One extreme exception was the spread of the early purples under the ash trees - from a distance they looked like a rash of clover.  But then the sheep decided this was a good corner for digesting and sat and sat.   Now there are no early purples there.

Instead single flowers showed themselves in random parts of the fields.   An orchid's way of showing its head above the ramparts.   Of course the sheep bit their heads off.

Ever since the juniper bushes started dying some three/four years ago I have worried what would happen to the orchids that used to co-habit with them on the rocky slopes.  After good winters, warm and wet, there would be prolific numbers of pyramid and scented orchids, sometimes the hanging man could be found, also the bee and fly orchids, if not plentiful, were not rare. 

Young juniper bushes sprang up in a random manner, some came up near the lake and grew rapidly.   Others gradually spread along the fence at the bottom of the horse fields.  Now they are flourishing -  not least because they are not mowed, there are no horses in the fields and sheep do not relish young juniper tops.    Soon there will be a good thick, long hedge of juniper.   We could call it 're-wilding' even though involuntary.

And now the orchids have discovered them and the partnership has been restored.   Lurking in the lower branches are some smaller purple orchids - may they spread and prosper.
Yes, I know - one of them is actually a clover...

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The frogs are back!

For  the past couple of months we have woken to the glorious sounds of frogs revelling in the Black Pond in the woods. In the evening the sound is always as great.    We have missed them for a year or so and wondered why.   There were flies enough, strange things moving in the bottom murk, greenery if wanted.  The Black Pond is filled mostly by run-off from the road, it has no spring that we know about.  

Curiously, the short diversion of the official ditch is not just discreetly on the pond side of the road - La Chaise property - but appears to run under the road because there is a hole also in the ditch opposite.      We do not have enough knowledge of when and how the road was built or when it was adopted by the Department of the Dordogne as the D103.  Speculation is fun. 
This is the Black Pond, complete with fallen cherry tree making a bridge.

 The road that goes past La Chaise may be a departemental but it is not very busy, thankfully.  Still we wondered if pollution was the problem. The road is cleaned by the departement from time to time,mostly by cleaning the ditches.  The time of fauchage causes little traffic perturbation but, many years ago, caused us great annoyance. The driver of the tractopelle was a little bit too proud of his skill.   He came too close to our garden wall and down it fell. The property builder's fault, apparently, for not having envisaged 200 years ago that machines, rather than cantonniers, would clean ditches.

Actually the Black Pond must have been a major work of engineering when it was created.  It is probably 60 metres long and at least five metres wide at its widest part.   Depth varies according to rainfall and off take - by the aid of a floating pump it can be linked to the watering system in the fields below. And - just imagine this for a moment - the pond you see above was dug by hand.

This curious structure is made of stones and has an insert for a handle on the top.
Our local know-it-all said the Black Pond was linked to the well in front of our house by a form of sluice.   On top there should have been an iron handle which opened or closed it.   Presumably the iron vanished during war time to serve a more useful purpose and anyway a close relative of the then resident family parked half into the well coming home late one night.  Know it all forgot to mention that a smaller well had been dug alongside the house when a granny flat was added. Then filled in also.  But water passes where it will.