Tuesday, 20 May 2008

The Swallowtail Butterfly and the Fennel Leaves

This exquisitely beautiful butterfly was never seen by us in the UK, in Norfolk where it was rare, but today it has been fluttering around a magnificent specimen of fennel in our garden and bending it's ovipostor towards the end of the branches of the fennel leaves whilst incessantly fluttering it's wings. As I stood motionless, watching it fly to and from the fennel plant, I willed it to land, all the time wondering what was the attraction because there are no flowers on the fennel. Then I remembered that two years ago we discovered two caterpillars on a different fennel plant and research verified that they were the caterpillars of the European Swallowtail butterfly. Here today was the adult laying her eggs onto the fennel plant. Such a wonderful thing to witness. I have decided not to take the leaves of this plant for our fish dishes as there are other fennel plants nearby and will watch to see if the caterpillars emerge and eat the delicate green fluttering frothy frondlike wands of the fennel then make their chrysalis which if nature guards them correctly will metamorphose into the adult butterfly. The cycle will be complete.

I will add a photo or photos later!

Friday, 16 May 2008

Toads, rainbows and hoopoes

This younger toad was found on a different morning.

Rainbow coloured granny blankets dry in the Summer sun. They have just been repaired and I would like them to be family heirlooms. The colours tell a story. The one with smaller squares was made when I was pregnant 34 years ago. The second came from my father's house in Spain. After he died about 15 years ago I couldn't bear to dismissively dispose of the colourful cover. It's not well made but it evokes memories! A different rainbow suggest that the thunder in the stormy skies have ceased.

And the hoopoe has been heard near our neighbour's barn.

Work in progress and the final tile is replaced

Well done and the summery weather really helped!
A very big thankyou to Garth and Anthony!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

The builders have arrived

Yep... it's verandah time again. The rain has abated and the sun has been shining, so the tiles that we put on the new roof in the October or November have had to be removed because the rain has been penetrating just a little. Captain Sensible and his back needed help so two friends have arrived to provide physical support and create a second layer of battening. Another friend who loves climbing ladders and scaling rooftops thought she could help but sloped off before serious work began!
First thing this morning these two little fellows were revealed below the tarpaulin! My services up and down the ladder were not required so I have been a cook most of the day and also a cleaner. Then in the evening a gardener and somewhere in between, a pianist! I've been really proud of my energy levels. Later in the evening I did a bit more crochet for Francesca's new gift (you'll have to wait until it's finished to see what it is) and learning on the www.

First of all I used up the roasted leg of lamb which had already given 6 meals plus stock for soups and the lamb lasagne made 6 portions but all was eaten. It is good to see hearty appetites. I made Lemon Meringue Pie for dessert . Recently I had a hankering to make one as I hadn't made one for several years. I haven't lost the technique. Delicious. Then I made a Normandy Apple Cake, a 350g loaf of Bread with wheat and walnut flours, and then a Sticky Dark Gingerbread cake. For supper we had Welsh Rarebit on toast, made with beer! Yummy with a green salad for supper!

PS Aforesaid son has found a stopping point and telephoned so now his Madre feels happy again!
PPS I can hear Francesca gurgling and chuckling. She can hear the telephone discussion between me and my daughter who has the hands-free system so she can feed the baby at the same time as speaking to me! But is still not on the internet! Very frustrating!
PPS It is midnight and outside the nightingales are singing incessantly. How lovely!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

May 4th and the grasshoppers have arrived

It has been sunny and warm for two days. No rain.... but that is forecast for the rest of next week. We have battled with our land, which Captain Sensible reckons is as bad as land is in some parts of Zimbabwe where once he worked as a volunteer. This land of ours is heavy, stony and labour intensive and needs more manure and more sand and fewer stones! However, we have spent two days toiling and breaking our backs to get about 200 potato plants into the ground, plus several rows of seeds... parsnips, carrots, lettuce leaf (two types), mangetout peas, french butter beans and french beans as well as garlic, onions, and shallots! That's our lot!! However, we left space for tomato plants and courgettes, squash and pumpkins will have to go at the end of the field where they can run rampant now that the sheep don't come onto our land. Along the wire fence I planted "grimpantes", that is climbers of mixed flowers, nasturtiums and an orange flower with a black eye! I ran out of space to put the sweet peas which MUST be planted this year as they are my alias.
The new potager The old potager
The two potager gardens The two pottergers
Yesterday we had the first barbecue. Sardines! Tonight we had the second barbecue. We hacked off some of the thawed frozen leg of lamb from LIDL, which is superdupervalue, and made it into kebabs. Yummy. We will roast the rest of it tomorrow and that should last us the week!
Back to the garden .... it seems endless.... the mowing, strimming, weeding, moving stones and plants, repotting, sowing seeds etc etc etc! It sounds so easy but it has been jolly hard work and we really did have to STOP mid afternoon, as the temperature was 28°C and hot. I did my crochet whilst the Captain slept in the hammock, and then I had a brainwave for the 4 o'clock gouter and found the bottle of Pimms which we have discovered the French supermarkets sell, so we can have a little slice of England in our French garden under the shade of the plum trees!
Yes, the grasshoppers have arrived - 6 days earlier than last year - they haven't quite got into full song yet but are competing with the chaffinches, tits, magpies, cuckoo and the song of the beautiful nightingale!

On a different note. Go to my son's blog - Wendy Ann II - see right hand side of this blog page ! Despite the fact that I don't hear from him very often, I know that he is working oh so very very very hard and therefore I cannot berate him very much!!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

La Roche Posay and the First of May

Today is a National Holiday in France for the FĂȘte de Travail and Ascension Day.
Four months of the year has passed and we are still in Winter and the rain has fallen and the heavy ground is still too wet to plant potatoes. A few weeks ago we celebrated the arrival of Spring and mowed the lawn and weeded and prepared the vegetable plots. We even planted some potatoes but we expect they have rotted in the cold wet conditions! Having been plunged back into winter and daily deluges of water falling from the skies we were all grateful that the Summer arrived for the last weekend of April because

"Le Moyen Age" came to the ancient mediaeval city of La Roche-Posay.

So click on the link
which is in the right hand column of this page. Lire en français aussi.