It’s February and winter’s finally here. This is the inside of our kitchen window which faces West, ie. not in the direction of the current biting winds form the North and East! :-
Cooooollllld! but lovely patterns which look like replicas of leaves themselves I thought:-
The fire was restarted sharpish this morning.
For several days I’ve had the company of a large barn owl in the evenings. They are such beautiful birds and amazing to watch as they silently glide through the air. It doesn’t take much imagination to see where the idea of ghosts came from especially when they do make a noise.
One bright sunny day I was surprised to see a small owl flying outside the front of the house, it flew off as I arrived and took up residence on a favourite post for various birds of prey at the edge of the next field. I thought nothing more of it as there are a variety of owls around here quite frequently perched on posts and wires.
The next morning I spotted something on the ground just by the entrance to our garden. This is what I found:-
A young barn owl destined not to survive this winter.
Too beautiful to not photograph even in death.
Such a sad day!
Here we are a month from the winter equinox and while the orchard may be bare and leaves are on the ground, other parts of the garden think it’s summer. Here’s the proof…….
These apple and cherry trees are into winter mode but….
the flowers are still blooming and we have rosebuds!
On the potager there are borage and poppy flowers
following the early October harvest of butternut squashes and chestnuts:-
having left the relatively bare summer crops waiting to be pulled up and cleared away :-
an autumn aubergine !
and masses of raspberries, though at this time of year they are starting to taste a bit watery. Climate change or freak weather event je sais pas.
Our pond at the front of the house supports quite a bit of wildlife despite being, or probably because it is, totally neglected. There is too much other stuff that takes priority so although there’s a pondweed problem that gets worse as the summer progresses, it seems to be regulating itself fairly successfully.
We have frogs and newts which I hope you can make out on these pictures, taken with bright sunshine refecting into my vision, so I couldn’t actually see what was there through the lense at the time!
I’m taking this as a good sign of the enviromental state of the pond. I’m tempted to try and clear out the pond weed but the ducks which occasionally visit seem to enjoy feeding on this. The problem is that the ducks don’t stay long because the pond is by the lane into the house and the farmer’s yard, so there can be too much activity for them. Last year we did have a female duck that stayed for a couple of weeks with her ducklings until the maize harvesting started. In the winter we had a heron drop by on its way to the lake in the woods behind us I presume.
One year we even had a water vole which used to be visible as dusk was approaching. It’s no longer there and I miss it’s characteristic plops. I think our dog who is also now gone was just too much for it as he’d quite happily take a dip much to the cats’ disgust.
The pond dries out at the height of the summer but I’m hoping we’ll get some rain as this year it could end up being dry for a few months rather than weeks.
Great excitement as Montresor is about to appear on France 2 following filming this winter. The film crew stayed at Navas, the premis of the programme is “a week without women” and is some kind of documentary. This is as much as anyone seems to know. Fact or fiction, it’s got my curiosity going, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for it in the coming week(s).
For a longer time than any of us care to remember a group of us women have been getting together for oriental dance and yoga week. One of these being at Navas a couple of years ago and another one we’re hoping will go ahead despite le crise this year in August. Navas is a large manoir with a couple of other buildings which are now gites and a large hall often used for weddings. There is also an amazing full-on catering kitchen. All set in it’s own lovely grounds. Navas is about half way between my home La Canterie and the village of Montresor and has its own website. We had a lovely time there and the owners – M et Mme Predal – are lovely people. I think Regine was a little surprised and just as curious when we first went to her with our holiday proposition as I am about the mysterious telly programme.
Definately one to check out!
With more snow on the way I thought I’d post some pics of last weeks early winter which despite being snowed in all week looked very lovely.
This is the morning view of our potager taken from the bedroom window which faces north. This sprinkling was just the start.
Some of the crops have the benefit of winter cover which, despite the weight of snow which I had to repeatedly clear, did their job and protected the spinach, chard and mache and the winter lettuces. Not forgetting my autumn sowings of onions and garlic with their emerging shoots waiting to sprint into action with the arrival of spring.
Other crops I’m afraid were left to fight it out with the snow and ice:
Various brassicas at different stages of growth – the smaller of which are under plastic containers or bottles if they fit!
Next to the purple sprouting brocoli are one of two lots of leeks sticking two fingers up to the cold. The parsnips just kept their heads down well under cover :
A glimpse of parsnip!
At the start of the week -
and by the end of the week:
the sunflower’s winter bonnet kept getting bigger!
But, even in all this snow my tabaco plants, which like everything else in this post were grown from seed, kept flowering.
They survived the snow but the hard frost later took its toll. Just counting the days to spring.
Before the frost and snow hit I managed to gather in the pumpkins and butternut squashes – a barrowful!
The butternut were planted a bit late this year, hence their green rather than yellow colouring, but in fact they ripened up ok once left to dry and harden off. I’ve just used the last of the pumpkins having already made some soup with some of the others earlier.
Another end of autumn harvest was the last of our apples, and the sweet chestnuts from our tree which is now in it’s teens. Some of the chestnuts are getting to a decent size now and Colin made some fantastic soup with half of those we harvested. There are still lots of small ones though, but we haven’t actually given the tree any fertiliser so maybe that’s still to be expected.
I would like to get some hazel planted too so we can harvest the nuts and wood – we need some hedging to try and filter the wind when it’s stormy. But that’s for the future and meanwhile it’s more apples and chestnuts :
Tarte tatin anyone?
The title says it all – busy, busy, busy. Lots of picking and processing with virtual non-stop productivity in the potager.
This is our kitchen table heaving with this weekend’s harvest and there’s still more to come. I wanted to put up a photo I took of the harvest taken at the end of August – an equally ladened table to show what its been like over the past few weeks – but you will have to look at Colin’s blog to see it as I can’t find any other copy on the computer.
Not content with this I’m off to plant two beds of onions which I prepared yesterday. The peas and melons having come to an end and so leaving some space.
Snails are my current pest problem at the moment along with blight starting to rear its head on the final tomatoes that are still ripening encouraged by the cooler, damper weather. I’m now stripping the tomatoes left and finished one row, only another two rows to go! Like I said at the start – busy, busy, busy.
We had our first autumnal mist this morning with the arrival of rain last night and more on its way. The last of the sweetcorn was collected in last week . There are still french beans and pumpkins growing on this plot. The butternut squash has flowered and started to form some small fruits – I hope they’re not too late as it took a while to get them going.
There is another sewing of borlotto beans which have come up as good strong plants and our purple sprouting broccoli have put on masses of growth. I’ve also planted a bed of romensco caulis and some conventional cauliflowers for the first time – the later of which has a reputation for being difficult to grow from seed – so we will see just how successful they are.
Spent a lot of time dealing with gluts of tomatoes, courgettes, raspberries, lettuce leaves of various descriptions and french beans. We picked the first of our lovely aubergines – about three kilos worth with more to come. The peppers on our two surviving plants have started to form up so we may get a small crop. The chard plants which I put in a few weeks ago are producing loads but the spinach which was sown from seed is still too small to start picking – perhaps the rain will change that!
Well I’m off to pick the last of our little pea crop which now on its last legs. I might even be able to pick a melon which have been another slow crop for us this year. My neighbour has been eating their melons all August and are coming to the end of theirs – I hope with a little help from some later cover as the temperatures drop we’ll still be able to ripen ours off. Still I haven’t had to put up with the plaintive cry of “not more melon, mom” this year – now cucumbers, that’s another matter.
Every summer there is a fete held at the lake in Chemille-sur-Indrois. This is a lovely spot with a separate campsite and a cafe-restaurant. Bedsides these features are a children’s playground and a separated area for paddling and bathing in the lake itself, a picnic area and pétanque area. It is possible to walk all round the lake though it is a very long walk. On the road-side of the lake many people set up to fish for the day and there is an old mill restaurant which specialises in grilled steaks. It’s a nice place to go for a treat in summer on the terasse and in winter inside with the grill blazing.
The fete in the summer is quite a big event with a vide grenier/brocante during the day and a cabaret and fete champêtre (with food and drink which consists of a basic menu served cafeteria style) across the evening. The finale is a big firework display which is amazing to see. You watch the display from the banks of the lake which are steeply sloped upwards from the lake and the fireworks are lit on the island in the lake. Since it is surrounded by hills there is an echo as each firework explodes and the impression is of the fireworks exploding directly overhead. Here’s a couple of shots we managed to get with our basic camera:
A little taster of July!