This week's throwback Thursday takes us back ten years, with a combination of two posts from 20 and 24 June 2007.
We collected Sue and Wendy from the airport at Limoges on Friday. It seems they had quite a bumpy flight terminated by what can only be described as a positive landing. The two-and-a-bit hours trip here from the airport was pleasantly uneventful and uneventfully pleasant. It’s an interesting road through beautiful countryside. Limoges airport is at a bit under 400m/1300ft altitude, and we are at 542m/1780ft, so there is an overall gentle climb. In fact, the first hour and some is on a fairly level plateau, moving into rolling hills as the drive progresses. We were joined on Sunday afternoon by Wendy’s husband, Phil, who had made excellent time on the long(-ish) haul from Le Mans.
First order of the day was to relax and make use of the new decking area to sip wine and enjoy the setting sun.
While we were doing so, a cheeky little mouse came along and helped himself to the peanuts and fat balls that were put out for the birds. In fairness, he didn’t eat much and gave us a good few minutes’ pleasure. The next night there were two of them, so we had better keep a bit of an eye out in case they become pests.
Speaking of pests, here are just a couple of the problems we need to address if our orchard is to be a success:
Leaf curl. A great favourite with members of the peach family. We seem to have it on the Peach, Nectarine and, to a lesser extent, Apricot trees. Peach leaf curl is a fungal disease that has to be treated very early in the spring. It is too late for our trees this season.
Ants and insect pests. A perennial and ubiquitous problem. Now that we know the nature and extent of our problems, and which trees and bushes are most affected, we can be ready to treat next year. In any event, we didn’t expect to get fruit from any of the trees in this, their first year after planting. Next year, with the right treatments (non-chemical wherever possible), we shall hope for better. We want to co-operate with nature to produce good fruits, and it would be really nice if, occasionally, nature would co-operate with us – maybe by relocating the destructive insects and so on!
Having said that, we are both surprised and delighted that all of the currants are fruiting well, as are the raspberries and strawberries. We have already started enjoying jam from our own strawberries. The other berries are coming into flower and the Grape and Kiwi vines are growing very vigorously. We shall see later on if we are to expect fruit this year. All of the vegetables are doing really well and we have been harvesting potatoes and spinach for some time. Along with the more traditional varieties, we have planted Puy Green lentils, a local speciality. We don’t know quite what to expect, but it could be interesting.
The summer is off to a reasonable start – a good bit wetter than early June last year, but that is good for so many things. It does mean I need to cut the grass more often, and I can only do that when the ground has fully dried out; so a run of three or four dry days is good.
I think Sue, Wendy and Phil had a good time. We pretty much left them to do their own thing in the area and they came back with a lot of really good photographs. They went to the top of the Puy-de-Dôme, found the beach at the confluence of the Sioule and Sioulet, and the zoo just past Moulins – although the one close to the foot of the Puy-de-Dôme seems not to be there. We shall need to check that out. Of those three, we have so far only done the beach.
They left early on Friday for the 745 km drive to Roscoff on the Brittany coast in preparation for their Saturday morning crossing. Somehow, back to just the two of us, life seems strangely quiet. We do enjoy having visitors and sharing this beautiful part of France with them.
Meantime, progress on the home front is being made in a number of areas. This is an expensive time of year for us for several reasons (most having to do with it being the anniversary of our arrival and everything is up for renewal), and so we are concentrating now on things that we can achieve with minimal cash outlay:
- We have solved the problem of getting underneath the mower to clean out the mud from mole hills each outing. See the picture – we have invested in a small chain hoist. It is capable of lifting a tonne, which is much more than the tractor weighs, and I am sure that the beam will cope with the load. I shall certainly cope without going to the lengths we have had to employ to get under the beast!
- When we arrived, the cellar was damp due, it turned out, to inadequate ventilation. There is an opening of about one metre by half a metre that can be used to put stuff down into the cellar, but which also gives a good airflow. The previous owner, having a young child in the house, blocked that off with a concrete slab with a 100mm pipe in its centre. That pipe was insufficient, so we moved the slab away and placed some mesh over the hole. The trouble with that arrangement was that every time it rained heavily, if we hadn’t put the ludicrously heavy concrete slab back, water flowed into the cellar. No more! Using exotic hardwood left over from the decking, we have constructed a framework with a removable lid, that gives good ventilation and allows us to give cover against rain without compromising airflow.
We’ll see how it works out.
- The other thing we have done is to put some light onto the decking, using a unit that also provides two power sockets. The cable runs from the workshop to the outside, down beside the drain pipe and under the decking up to the point where it is needed. That means that, without trailing wires, we have a fixed light and power sockets outside where we want them. We have done this without employing an electrician, which has to be a good thing.
As always, whatever we do we are watched by something, birds, mice – we’ll ignore insects for the time being. This exercise was carried out under the watchful eye of…… a wall lizard!
The other exciting news is that Rik’s staircase should be finished by the end of next week. The carpenter will call us to confirm when it is completed, then Clare is to go and varnish it – at least the first coat. Rik will be in Belgium at the time and when he comes back, his children will have the job of finishing the other coats. This is quite important as, if he is happy with the job, there may be more commissions.
We went to Marcillat on Thursday to see if my Mazda was ready. It wasn’t. The garage owner assured me that it will be completed and ready for me on 29th June (Friday). He said he would call me when it’s ready – I said I would be calling around on 29th. Probably not a good idea to hold your breath!
Yesterday evening Pierre gave me a bottle of wine to try. It is Côtes du Rhône from his brother-in-law’s vineyard but, if I understood him correctly, Pierre actually made the wine.