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Blue

Today’s colour is BLUE !

Just picked our first crop off our early blueberry bush.  200g doesn’t sound a lot but I have been grazing on the bush every time I visit our potager and there are plenty of fruits left on, waiting for a little more sunshine!

Blue Berries

A few years ago, I was given three blueberry bushes as a birthday gift off my parents – early, mid and late summer varieties.  We built 3 raised beds full of acidic soil  and planted the blueberries along with a goji  berry and lingonberry.  This year the blueberries are totally coming into their own.

Unfortunately the lingonberry didn’t survive – I think it was just too exposed for it and the goji berry is trying to take over the garden – it will need a major hacking back this autumn to contain it!

The mid and late summer blueberry bushes are heavy with unripe fruit, although a few of the berries on the mid variety are starting to change colour!

mmmm I see blueberry muffins and pancakes with blueberry sauce on the menu at Chez Bellebouche !

WOO HOO – Spring is here !

The day started out dark and gloomy with a thick fog hanging ominously in the air but … by 10:30 it had lifted to reveal a glorious day.

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Aperitif á  l’Épine noire

In late 2006 we’d had a roofer in, Denis, to do some renovation and repairs on our old slate roof at the rear of the property. He was a super guy and tireless worker… scampering up on the roof in the dark at 7am and living on-site with us and parking his camper van in the paddock for a few nights each week. A real diamond in the rough.

When the job was over he invited us over to his place to see his renovations on his own place (very impressive) and to view his vehicle collection… he had five Harley Davidson motorcycles, one of which was pre-war and a huge white (white leather interior, whitewall tyres on gold spoke wheels, massive V8 engine) Cadillac pimpmobile. Awesome stuff – he was totally into Americana.

Anywhoo, he took us to his friends place (a very smart riverside petit-chateaux) and we were offered an Aperitif à  l’Épine noire.

Strange to describe this but this drink is made from the spring growth of the woody spines of a blackthorn bush. Speaking to various French neighbours, there seems to be some differences in opinion as to what parts of the bush you use – young fresh buds or young leaves.  We were informed that you cannot buy this drink in the shops but lo and behold we found a bottle.

epine

Now, it’s only a few short weeks until the growth will show again in our hedgerows.   We will be attempting to make our own and will now be able to compare with the commercial version.

Fleurs du Jardin.

A quick post, apropos of not very much at all… other than to say it pays dividends every once in a while to stop and smell the flowers.

A few brief minutes trolling around the garden camera in hand turns up a treasure trove of early summer blooms. A triumph of massive, beautiful Clematis, Iris and Lillies are looking spectacular.

Small snaps below, click each one for the original and the full size images are on flickr.

clematis 3

clematis 1

clematis 5

iris 1

iris 2

canna 1

iris 3

Hedges, Hedges, Hedges.

In late 2004, after we’d signed up for this place but a little before we actually owned it, I decided that a little training in the agricultural arts was appropriate. In the November of that year I invested a little time and spent a day with the National Trust at Styal Country Park in Cheshire for a days tutelage in Hedge Laying. That day lingers long in the memory as I also got an important lesson in tool maintenance/sharpening and how to work with olde-worlde bill hooks and the like.

You’re not going to master this in a day -that undoubtedly takes a lifetime – but you can pick the rudimentary skills up with no bother. The proof of the pudding is in trying it out for real… and on your own hedge!

Fast forward to January 2006 and I decided the time was right to have a go at our own hedge. Time flies when you’re having fun and all that and three years on now it’s time to revisit.

All I can say is Wow! The sections that I’d laid had all, universally survived the cutting of the pleachers. Not a lot of new growth from the bases below where I’d laid the trees but consistently large, vigourous new vertical growth along the length of the laid down branch that was ripe for further laying.

So, I set-to, clearing out masses of unwanted growh and laying down the new growth into the densest, most unpenetrable countryside hedge.

The main section of blackthorn at the end of the garden is now totally stock-proof. We could happily remove the wire fencing from the adjacent field and the livestock (currently six non-pregnant breeding sheep) would never make it through to my Asparagus bed (1 ,2) !

The hedge had sprouted a number of runners in some places… with some roots speading a good 3M into the lawn – I’ve dug these up and removed them cleanly. I was able to rescue about a dozen small shrubs that might transplant so they’ve been moved too and we’ll see if they take.

Next update? February 2012.

Hedge, Camera, ACTION!

Just about got my mojo back. Enough to set-to on the problem at hand some digging!

That’s the saga of the missing 80 beech trees over. phew.
Mind you. I’ve still got 100+ other trees to get in over the next few weeks.

The 100 Missing Trees Arrive!

This afternoon, while dozing infront of the fire, a delivery truck gingerly drove past on the icy road.  Adrian jumped up and I exclaimed – “that’s our missing trees“.

A huge 18kg package was brought from the back of the truck and Adrian brought it round to the back of the house.

Missing Trees

The label on the package informed us that it had been sent air freight via Charles de Gaulle airport.

As the ground is totally frozen, we just opened the package to inspect the contents and to make sure all the trees were there :-

80 green beech, 5 golden weeping willow, 5 london plane, 5 lombardy poplar and 5 mock orange. Check!

We packaged them all back up again and put them in our garage.  They should be fine for a week or so, until the ground softens a little.  The beech will then go into their new dug trench, while the others – who knows !!

Some of our trees are missing !

After travelling all the way to England to collect a load of bits and pieces – but – more importantly – 200 trees – we returned home to find – some of our trees were missing …

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In the trenches

In preparation for the arrival of 80 Beech trees and another 100 odd various other trees, I have dug out a trench along the edge of the potager. (more…)

Autumnal Artichoke Lunch

Today was a gorgeous autumn day – warm, sunny and beautiful blue skies.  I love days like this.  We decided to go and visit the Lac du Cebron and watch the birdlife for a little while.

Lac du Cebron

We have visited this site many times in the past and enjoyed watching the flocks of birds coming and going across the lake.  There weren’t that many birds today so we decided to take a look at the lake’s newest bird hide.

Bird Hide

This hide opened earlier this year and looks really impressive.  Unfortunately, it was closed until 2.30 and today was the last day it was open for this year.  Oh well, there is always next year.

On the way back to the car, we explored the new walking trail and admired the firey autumn colours.

Autumn colours

After stopping for a welcome cup of coffee from the flasks we had packed with our binoculars, we headed home. A few days earlier I had bought some large artichokes with a view to enjoying them as a starter for dinner one evening.

Today was such a lovely day, warm, sunny and no wind that we had the artichokes for lunch outside.  What a lovely relaxed meal. White wine, fresh bread and garlic butter and spicy mayonnaise for dipping the leaves into.

Artichoke

The artichokes kept us busy, peeling each layer of the leaves off and dipping them into the sauces. Eventually leaving a pile of leaves

finished leaves

and a bowl of the inside hair

Choke

Even the neighbours cat enjoyed the culinary delight.

TLC

I’m sure the neighbours wondered why their cat’s breath stank of garlic when he returned home that night!

Finally, a plate of cheese – rocamadour – my favourite with a swedish cracker.

Cheese

The perfect meal to end our outside lunches this year.  The weather is now forecast to get cold and wet.

Here’s looking to spring 2009 and more delicious outside meals.

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