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January, 2009:

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.

Up Periscope

A Delightful long weekend in the UK and we returned on Jan 13th. A quick trip to IKEA in Nantes on the way back home, some pickled herrings for lunch, all the free coffee I could consume (Yay!)  and then an afternoon making a start on the tree planting marathon. Of the 80 beech trees I set out to plant I got 21 in before the cold/mist/damp/darkness stopped play. It was cold, hard work and just a daft enough amount of exhertion in the cold to bring on the most miserable dose of flu I’ve had for seven years. Five days in bed. Didn’t leave the house for eight days.

Fast forward ten days and we’re (Joan came down with a matching dose) on the road to recovery but just miserably weak. Still have no appetite. Next year I’ll make sure we both get a flu shot.

The only appropriate course of action… some retail therapy!

Few things make me as happy as picking up a rare tree and today I scooped a major Bargain, -75% off in the January sale on a mature Chamaecyparis obtusa.


This Dwarf Hinoki Cypress is a native of Southern Japan, will probably never grow more than 2M in my lifetime and is.. rather nice. We’ve long admired Japanese style gardens and we’re blessed in living not too far from (and being season ticket holders for) the largest oriental garden in Europe (previously).


The tree grows naturally in a cloud form with curled up branch ends. Niwaki, naturally.

I feel a bad moon rising.

Our first day out in the car for a few days today as we were running low on champers and truffles and needed to get off to the shops. All wrapped up we proceed to set off and.. high revs… no forward motion as the arse end of the car starts going sideways down the drive. EEP!

It’s been down to -11 over night and the brake pads on the rear had frozen solid, after I’d applied the handbrake a few days ago – the whole pad/disc/wheel combo was locked up solid.

Five minutes of warm water squirting onto the rear brake discs and I was finally able to free them up and we could then gingerly skate off down the mile of lanes we have, before we hit the main road which was thankfully snow and ice free.

Back home for some hot food and then it’s off out into the garden to rig up some chicken defrosting equipment. The chicken’s drinking water has frozen solid every night even though it was inside the chucky hilton which is itself, still inside one of the barns. Told you it was cold. No sign of a promised thaw is in sight just now so I reworked my old hand-built egg incubator into a chicken-water defrosting device and plugged it in. That should give them quite a few days autonomy now.

I’ve been trying hard to bone up on my photography skills and whilst sitting reading about it is all well and good, there’s no substitue for getting out and having a go. We’ve had such spectacularly beautiful days with the pressure system that’s brought this cold snap across to us and a full moon has been approaching for the last few nights… the only obvious thing to have a go at is the moon… and my ebay-bargain-humongous-zoom makes it possible. Technically.

What utter heartbreak to do all the homework, spend hours outdoors clicking away at the moon to end up with utterly rubbish photos. Time and time again I was just not getting it.. the results looked like MS-Paint, circa 1995.

But… at last this afternoon. A result. That’s my third evening expedition, wrapped up in a bazillion layers and almost unable to feel the shutter button as my fingers were so frozen solid. Anyway. I’m making progress and have conquered manual mode well enough to be able to share a photo. It can only get better! For a little inspiriation I did a check online for all photos on flickr tagged ‘moon’ taken on this day – 9th Jan. More than 540!


Moon over Bellebouche

As there are zero streetlights for miles around we do enjoy some breathtaking nightime displays. The canopy of the stars are stunning here and we’ve always enjoyed summer nights watching satellites/the shuttle/ the ISS spin overhead.

Stargazing is a little bit nerdy but we enjoy it so much that santa brought a telescope for Joan last year. We’re not far off having a rig to take photos with that – but milder nights must arrive first. It is spooky though staring at the moon and one thing springs to mind…

The rain is loud on the roof and beating on the windows.  The gathered continue to drink, play chess and darts, but all are silent and contemplative.

Perhaps they’ll be safe in the

The Chess Player slams his hand on the table. Shouts:

No one brought them here!  No
one wanted them here!

You could have told them!

Are you daft?  What do you
think they’d say?  They’d
think us mad.


The rain is subsiding.  There is a very faint howl.

Did you hear it?  We must go
to them.

I heard nothing.

Nor I.

Beware the moon, lads!

It is just so so cold …

Having climbed out of bed around mid-day – “WHAT” you exclaim – well we do have an electric blanket and no central heating – Adrian lit the fire.  I opened the shutters and while brushing my teeth, looked out onto the snowy scene outside.

I do love the beauty of the snow, it is just such a pity that it has to be so cold as well!

Anyway, I couldn’t but help chuckle into my toothpaste as I remembered the reaction of our dearly departed pigs when they woke up one morning in January 2007 to their first sight of snow.  It was a case of – “Sod that – I’m not leaving Piggy Hilton – It’s cold out there!”.

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 !!

Snowy Day

Sub zero temperatures have been with us for a few days with last night dipping to a chilly -9. We had a smattering of snow but nothing quite as spectacular as the great ice storm of 2006.

The place does look pretty in snow… and I don’t need much of an excuse to take some snaps!

A photoset of a snowy Bellebouche

There’s a shiny belle with a shady bouche, there’s more where that came from – click the photo for the full slideshow.

Now… hot coffee, dunky biscuits and more logs on the fire are required.

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