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.

Saturday, May 8, 2021


Not this year, this year I managed to do something that - for me - was a major triumph.   I managed to take a picture of a butterfly as it was resting on a tree.

Sadly I do not feel qualified/competent to say which type of butterfly it was ....I am tempted to say 'Red
Admiral' but would not bet on it.

This was in the second week of April.  The Weather Gods were tranquil - possibly soothed by the warmish weather they had created.    Anyhow all the wild flowers showed themselves in abundance. The daisies, buttercups and especially the dandelions covered almost every inch of soil.  Was I glad that I live in France, so feel no need to make dandelion wine. 

These bluebells are in a shady spot between the garden wall and the dilapidated chicken house (yes, am going to renew it) which meant that, as you can see, a path got trodden in the middle of them.   However there were many clumps in various corners of the garden, mostly in unexpected spots.  They lasted for nearly three weeks before beginning to droop.

Another burst of colour came in the woods.   The broom sprang out into flower, almost hiding its leaves.
As it is situated on a corner of the woods, I have a good view of it every evening when sitting on the terrace with (yes, of course) my evening drink - not dandelion wine.

Not to be outdone the - shall we say civilized flowers - were also ahead of themselves, especially the wisteria.  This was a mixed blessing for while it's colour is wonderful, its flowers are frail. The terrace was quickly covered in pale purple flower heads which made walking a little dangerous.   Sweeping them up would have meant a twice daily chore, so I just stopped using the steps down....

So here it is, on the corner of the trellis work, a wonderful colour but possibly not a good addition to a glass of Pouilly.....I have made a note to check whether or not the flower is edible.....somewhere upstairs I have a book (in Dutch) called 'cooking with flowers'. Must find.

Two other cultivated plants are also out-doing themselves, the ceanothus and the honey-suckle
The ceanothus was supposed to be a border plant to the vegetable garden but looks as though it wanted to join the ranks of vegetables.  The honeysuckle, however, has dutifully stayed on the fence surrounding the smaller gite...

And to my great joy, the absence of sheep, means the wild orchids are venturing back.  There are two of them that I have spotted (I am discouraged from walking in the fields because of hay potential).   One is colloquially known as the 'lazy purple', the other as  the
'early purple'...

Your guess is as good as mine....

Monday, April 19, 2021

Very Silly Oma Story


She had to go out shopping, stupid things like dishwasher tabs, tissues and loo-paper but on to better things like pink or white wine. The beer reserve was fine. But then......

Since she lived on her on in an isolated place – trees her only friends and neighbours within shouting distance – she was careful about locking up when leaving the house.

The Son-in-Law (best one EVER) had kindly put bolts on the inside of the front door because she had learned that, even if locked on the inside, it could be unlocked from the outside.

So she was careful to put the bolts on before going to bed. But, after bolting the front door, for going shopping she had to use another door that gave on to the outside, either the kitchen door in to the conservatory or the sitting room door that led to the terrace.

The kitchen door key was a bit cumbersome but it could be cleverly left in plant pot that had a plant in it. The terrace door key could be hung from the car key which already also boasted a front door key.

Shopping that day was very tiresome. It was hot, there were too many people in the bank, same story at the baker's where there was a queue of six people, four of them outside in the heat. The dry cleaner was the only satisfactory contact, very brief polite exchanges verbal and pecuniary.

Eventually, after an uneventful stop at the hardware store, she decided to go home via the dumpsters at Tamarelle where she could unload the yellow rubbish and the bottles because she would be on the right side of the road.

She also decided to do a 4km detour to the Spar shop at Mensignac for the pink wine and bread, also fresh vegetables. No way would she go into St Astier's only supermarket, which had better remain nameless, for she was somewhat agoraphobic.

The Mensignac trip was a success and she turned to go home, mentally worrying that she had done 18kms A/R to St Astier and another 8 A/R to Mensignac. Audi was flashing lights at her, demanding fuel and a service.

Once safely through the gates of home, she collected a shopping bag and went to the front door, pushed the handle with her elbow. It would not give. Mild panic as she was not sure which door had been her exit. Not the kitchen door it seemed, nor the sitting room door. Panic set in when she found the dining room was also locked.

She emptied her hand-bag onto the terrace table – no visible key. Two sets of car keys but no door keys. Neither of her mobile phones either, not the French one, nor the English. The mind raced with wild plans of breaking glass, wondering what the children would say, how could she explain this to her friends....

As a last hop she went to try her bedroom door which also gave onto the terrace. It had a mosquito screen and was NOT LOCKED!

Some minutes later, after a restorative glass of pink from an open bottle, she went to the front door to go to the car and unload more. It was not bolted. She had let herself panic because it was stiff, had not even thought to TRY the front door key....

Monday, March 15, 2021


A confabulation of cranes passed over La Chaise early this March, string after string of black V shapes, honking at each other. It seemed to me that they circled over our roof. Why I don't know – perhaps they were trying to locate the direction north by looking to see where the moss was on the trunks of the oaks. Or they were just arguing about it.

Apparently moss grows best on the north side of tree trunks, or so I was told during my one and only evening at a Girl Guides meeting some forty years ago. This would be helpful, apparently, if I was ever lost in a wood.But I had already read Little Red  Riding Hood..and never went to Girl Guides again.

Although I did not notice it particularly we must have experienced a very long, damp period from the beginning of September until now. There is moss on everything, even on things that are not wooden – such as some of our wrought iron garden gates. Yes, I know – lack of maintenance.

I did get rid of the ivy, anyway.

There is moss also on the leafless japonica that exploded into blossom soon after the cranes had started flying north. There is moss almost everywhere that is damp – like the terracotta tiles on roofs and walls.

On the roofs it is simply moss, nothing else, but with luck frost season is over. Only the locals* warn we must wait for the Saints de Glace to come and go before we can be sure. There are three of them, Saints Marmert, Pancrace and Servais whose days are 11, 12, 13 May! Frozen moss will crack the tiles. Hopefully a dry period – let's call it 'summer' – will dry up the moss and no harm done.

See how many friends the moss has!

But in some places the moss is not alone. On one particular tile on our garden wall it shares space with ferns and some hair like lichens. Some twigs on still naked trees are completely covered in different forms of lichens, which are, I read in some leaflets I sent for years ago, an association between fungus and alga, about 15,000 versions...try not to think about that.

Think how artistic your 'flower' arrangements can be instead.

* I had a long argument, once, with a Dordogne taxi driver as to whether I could call the local French residents les indigenes but he found that rude. Indigenes he said, were only to be found in non European continents. The people of the Dordogne were autotochtones.