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July, 2005:

Frogs

FrogThere are numerous species of frog and toad in our garden. They make for an amusing evening with all their different songs, especially in their breeding season. At the bottom of the garden we have a source which is about 64 m2, 2m deep and 2m below ground level. There are approximately 12 frogs living in it. These disappear under the surface of duckweed when you peer over but if they are sunning themselves on the walls of the source, they will dive spectacularly into the source making a loud splash. There are also a number of toads around the garden, over wintering at the base of the fruit trees.

One summer evening we were sat on the patio and were disturbed by a really loud noise – not a typical croak but more of a mechanical grating sound. On further investigation we found a tiny green tree frog. His throat would blow up to almost the size of his own head and make an amazing sound. Each night he would find another spot to sing, up the Christmas tree, inside the vines by the bathroom window. Some evenings we would get the whole family, frogs that is, singing across our garden towards our neighbour’s lake, where all his frogs would return the call. Who said the countryside is peaceful?

Dig for Victory I

The things that the weather brings about! We’re far enough south in France to really benefit from weather that’s clearly not Northern European. We’d been enjoying outdoor evening meals from as early as March this year and come June we’d been hitting 30 degree days. It was lovely and with very little downside other than.. a slight pong! Work at easter time made sure that the fosse-septique was in good working order but it was clear that the final piece of the jigsaw needed some work. The original outflow pipe went to a soakaway that was visible from the surface and the lack of maintenance of the whole thing meant that the soakaway was blocked and not working. We had a small river of post-fosse treated water running down the lower end of the garden… and with a warm evening breeze from the south west.. it sometimes made outdoors dining a little unpleasant.

So, repairs were in order.

victoryi

There are quite clear guidelines and design constraints on a drainfield here in France so we had no problem in understanding what was needed. The size of the drain-field is specced on how many bedrooms you have and a given number of linear meters of drains that are a specific volume and a minimum depth underneath the surface was required.

So, off to buy the bits, lay out the works and set-to with digging. We decided, somewhat foolishly to do it all by hand. This meant early morning starts and trying to avoid the peak of the daytime heat. In hindsight we’d have been much much better off by hiring a small digger… but in the end we managed it all manually. The whole area was plotted out, levels dug (a mtre deep in places) and set true with a laser pointer. Once we’d infilled the trenches with about 5m3of gravel it was time to actually lay the drain network. The 100mm pipes that you can just see in the centre trench have drain slots cut through them so that effectively the whole bed acts as a soakaway. It was gratifying to put the whole thing together and just see it work when given a ‘dry-run’ (wet-run?!) with tapwater.

victoryia

I’ve installed a couple of inspection points and will dig them out and have a look after a year or so. The net effect now is that the post-fosse treated water goes into the land-drain that should see us right for the next decade or so. In the design of the layout of the land drain we’d positioned it and laid it now with the capability for the drain matrix to be extended. We can quite easily take the field up to well beyond what we’ll ever need in the house and I’m pleased that the design allows for the expansion of the network should it ever be necessary. All the relevant ‘T’ pieces are all ready installed in place – it’ll just be a case of getting the spade out again, or perhaps more likely… hiring a mini-digger :)

Snakes IV

We were just preparing lunch for Adrian’s parents, when his dad shouted out something indecipherable from the hall. All we could gather was it had something to do with one of our well traveled cats. We rushed out into the hall in time to see a huge grass snake (a metre long) slithering towards us.

With Adrian’s mum safely in the kitchen (behind 2 cushions!), Adrian on the end of a brush, Adrian’s dad with the camera and me opening doors, we managed to brush it out of the front door and up the road into a nearby field. Meanwhile, our well traveled cat just looked on bemused!

Could this have been the snake that left its skin down near the potager?

Leeches

One day, while trying to count the frogs in the source, I noticed unusual movements in the water. I fetched my binoculars to get a better look and saw what I at first thought were baby snakes, swimming across the surface. After fetching a net and Adrian scooping some of these things out into a wheelbarrow we realised that they were in fact leeches. No wonder the frogs in the source were so fat, they had their own ready supply of food!

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