Thursday, 24 July 2014

Normandy Floral Displays

Posted by Rosie

Whilst I have been very busy in the garden this week, I have never once remembered to take any photos so for this week's How Does Your Garden Grow I thought I would give you something a bit different.

Condé-sur-Noireau is one of our local towns.  During WWII it was pretty much completely decimated by allied troupes advancing after D-Day, with little more than the church spire left standing after liberation.  
Photo from Espace Musée Charles Léandre

After the war, the priority was to get towns such as Condé rebuild as quickly as possible and so the buildings tended to be more practical than architecturally beautiful.  There were advantages such as improved services and wider roads but overall Condé is not one of Normandy's most stunning towns.  But what it lacks in building beauty, it works hard to make up for in it's floral displays:

Raindrops on roses

Begonias that soon fill this whole bed

It has been a good year for Hydrangeas

Plant boxes on the bridges
Cannas, Cosmos, Dahlias and Busy Lizzies

Pretty flowers, less pretty buildings

Finally, for those who like a bit of a challenge I have another mystery plant.  It's a tree this time, one of many that line the central car park at Condé-sur-Noireau ... but have you any idea what it is?

I hope you have enjoyed my little floral tour of Condé-sur-Noireau.  For more gardening blogs why not visit the How Does Your Garden Grow linky over at Manneskjur?  Maybe other bloggers have been out and about too.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Le Lac de la Dathée

Posted by Rosie

Simon has been away for much of this week, dog sitting at some friends' house which meant when it came to my birthday on Saturday, he wasn't here.  No worries, we simply arranged to meet up at the house from where we could walk around the nearby Lac de la Dathée.  With the 3 terriers Simon was looking after as well as Poppy and Saari we were a bit apprehensive that we might lose some of the dogs but actually, except for our 2 sneaking off at one point to raid a bin and one of the terriers trying to outrun a cyclist, they all behaved really well.

The Lake is a flooded reservoir and the walk around it is just over 6kms long, with strategically placed signs showing how far you are from the barrage at any given point.

Our start point - 6.1kms to go!
Lac de la Dathée
Beautiful views all round the lake
Of course it was not all walking - there were trees to be climbed:

How high will they get?

 And water to swim in (if you are a dog):

A very happy Poppy

Our aim, however, was to walk all round the lake so boys were brought down from trees and dogs persuaded out of the water and our journey continued.

On the barrage so 4.2kms to go!

Our canine friends - Saari, Poppy, Gallette, Gimly and Beth

Along the way we saw some interesting and even weird sights:

For example we have absolutely NO IDEA how this fish came to be wedged half way up a tree!  It did however remind me of this Einstein quote:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Flying Fish?

Sadly, the many alder trees around the lake are under attack by a ferocious non-native pest.  The caterpillars of the alder flea beetle (a relative of the Colorado beetle that can decimate potato crops) are so numerous that many of the leaves have been stripped back to their skeletal veins.  They may look pretty but it must be damaging to the trees.

Alder Flea Beetle larvae

This triffid like plant caught our attention - it is in fact a member of the umbelliferae family, a large group of plants which includes carrot, cow parsley and hogweed amongst many others.  I think this may be angelica but I am not at all sure though so perhaps some-one more knowledgeable can correct me if needs be. 

An emerging umbelliferae

Nearly home!

If walking is not your thing Le Lac de la Dathée is also good for bird watching, fishing (you will need a licence), cycling, sailing and rowing (there is a boating school) or simply enjoying the scenery with a picnic.   It is about 40 minutes from Eco-Gites of Lenault and well worth a visit.

Have you got a favourite lakeside watery walk you like to do?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Animal Leaf Pictures

Posted by Rosie

In the fifth of our series of nature games and activities for children today we have:

Animal Leaf Pictures

This activity involves going for a walk to collect a variety of leaves of different shapes and colours before returning home to create an animal picture with them.

Leaf Mouse

To make Animal Leaf Pictures you will need:

  • A selection of leaves of different shapes, sizes and colours
  • Glue (PVA is best)
  • Paintbrush
  • Paper or cardboard
  • Laminating sheets (optional)
  • Animal pictures for inspiration (optional)


  • First head out to collect your leaves, which is best done on a dry day.  Autumn will give a better range of colour but even in Spring and Summer you'll be surprised how many different coloured leaves there are once you start rally looking.
  • Collect a good range including really small ones for eyes, long thin ones for legs and big round ones for bodies. Long thin leaves with a serrated edge make excellent feathers!
  • Once back home assemble your materials and start making your animals.
  • You may want to copy a picture from a book or the internet or be happy to go freestyle!
  • For younger children you can draw or print off an animal outline for them to fill in.
  • Be as adventurous as possible, building up layers of leaves for features such as eyes, spots on butterflies, scales of fish etc.

Note - if you want you can dry and press the leaves first although I have never bothered with this stage.  Another option is to make your pictures on paper and then laminate them for posterity.

Book - Look What I Did with a Leaf!

For this activity I got my inspiration from the book, "Look What I Did with a Leaf!" by Morteza E. Sohi.  If you head over to Amazon you can have a peek inside at some of the leaf animals in the book.

Do let me know of you have a go at making animal leaf pictures and I'd love to see your pictures.  You can either post them up on Twitter linking to us at @ecogiteslenault or pop them on our Facebook page.

 photo letkidsbekidslogobadge_zps424b7d61.jpg
Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party

Monday, 21 July 2014

Grated Beetroot Salad

Posted by Rosie

This Spring I struggled to get some seeds to germinate including beetroot.  I got there in the end and have plenty of small beetroots now happily growing in the veg patch but it will be a while before they are large enough to harvest.  I did sow some early in the polytunnel and these are large enough pull now but there are just not many of them.  (Note to self - sow more beetroot in the polytunnel next Spring!).

So what could I do with a few beetroots on what was probably the hottest day of the year so far?  Not enough for beetroot relish (my favourite) or pickled beetroot and it was too hot for beetroot soup (Simon's favourite) or roasted beetroot.   In fact I really did not want to cook at all.  No - we needed a salad.  Then I remembered a recipe I had seen in a gardening magazine years ago for grated beetroot salad.  A quick check in my recipe folder showed I had all the ingredients so grated beetroot salad it was.


2 raw beetroot, peeled and grated
1 eating apple, peeled and grated
4oz/100g sultanas or raisins
1tbsp/15ml fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp/30ml sunflower oil
Juice of 1 lemon or lime


Mix together all the ingredients, stirring well.

It really is that simple!

This salad can also be made a day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. In fact we think it improves with keeping.

Grated beetroot salad

Do you have a favourite beetroot recipe?  Please do share because if my late sown beetroots come good we are going to have A LOT of beetroot to eat!  Linking with Tasty Tuesday, What's The Story, ExtraVeg and #FoodieTuesday

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Link up your recipe of the week

Saturday, 19 July 2014

20 Facts about Me!

Posted by Rosie

I am Rosie Hill and along with Simon and our sons Tom and Ben we run Eco-Gites of Lenault, a family freindly gite (holiday cottage) in Normandy France.  That much I imagine many readers of this blog aready know.  What else do you know about me though?  Do you know when my birthday is or things I really do not like?  Do you know if and where I went to University or something odd that I might be allergic to?

Below are 21 facts about me.  20 of them are true and one of them is not .... but do you now which one is the false one?! 

Rosie Hill
1.  I used to be able to do the splits
2.  I am right-handed
3.  I have been called the Queen of Pavlova
4.  I went to Newcastle University
5.  I am extremely ticklish
6.  I have never watched Game of Thrones
7.  I can pluck and gut poultry
My first ever job was analysing cow poo 
9.  I have an ancestor called Fanny Willey
10.  I dislike sunbathing
I got married in a red dress
12.  I am never eaten a Krispey Kreme doughnut
13.  I can wiggle one nostril up and down
14.  Some sticking plasters bring me out in a rash 

15.  I really don't like avocados 
16.  I have not worn make-up since 1994
I once got to travel in the back of a police car with the blues and twos going whilst searching for a bicycle thief
18.  I have groomed several of Prince Charles' polo ponies
19.  My favourite wild animals are hares and hippos
20.  I used to live in a row of cottage nicknamed "Sin City" 
21.  I am a cancer and today (July 19th) is my birthday

20 correct.  One false.  Can you guess which one?

Friday, 18 July 2014

Word of the Week - Paperwork

Posted by Rosie

The Reading Residence



written documents such as forms, records, or letters

We have a new car.

Do not ask about the old car - that is a long and as yet unresolved story that I will save for another day.

The new car is a Kia Cee'd (no I had never heard of it either) which we bought in the UK but from a Romanian man so all the paperwork is in Romanian.

Hmmmm.  Then let the fun begin.  This is France and a country obsessed with paperwork and form filling.  In order to import a car and get French number plates you need a Carte Grise and believe you me, they do make this easy.  At least they supply you with an envelope listing all the forms etc you need but it is still a bit of a nightmare, not least because every time you go to yet another office to fill in yet another form or get the car checked they insist on filling in loads of paperwork.  They spend ages huffing and puffing because they cannot find the right figure on the Romanian papers we have!!  Surely we cannot be the first people to have imported a Romanian car can we?  

We finally got everything gathered together and took the envelope into the Sous Préfecture who deal with Carte Grise allocation.  Did it go smoothly?  Well, not quite.  The lady there shuffled papers, huffed and puffed, spoke French at us at 90 miles an hour and finally seemed to think all the paperwork was all there ... but there was a problem.  For some reason she was unable to tell us how much the Carte Grise would cost because she did not know what type of vehicle it was despite everything being there on the paperwork.  She said we could send everything off with a cheque with no amount written on it and the main Préfecture who allocate the Carte Grises would write in the correct amount.  

Gulp.  OK.  Oh but she could not send it as it was holiday season and there was no courier!!  We would have to post it ourselves although she did kindly write the address out for us.  So we went to the Post Office and sent it recorded delivery and now we are waiting to see if we have sent all the correct paperwork.

Anyone care to place a bet as to whether we'll get a letter back saying we need something else or will we get our Carte Grise?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Saving Blighted Potatoes

Posted by Rosie

Some of the potatoes at Eco-Gites of Lenault have blight.  In all likelihood the rest of them will be suffering from it in a very short period of time as it is a disease that spreads very quickly.

Blighted potatoes

Blight, a disease that brought famine and mass emigration to Ireland and can reduce a crop of potatoes to a pile of black slime in no time at all.  Blight is NOT a nice disease to have.  However it is not the end of the potato crop and if you act soon enough you can save your potatoes.  The trick is to be vigilant and act as soon as the blight hits. In fact act before blight hits if you know it is in the area.  

The brown patch is the first sign of blight. Act now to save your crop.


Saving Blighted Potatoes

1. First cut off all the haulms (potato tops) and dispose of them, preferably by burning and never compost them.  
2.  Do nothing for 2 weeks, after which time you can dig up the potatoes removing any as you go along that that have the tell-tale black marks and smell of blight.   
3.  Allow the potatoes to dry, away from the veg patch, for a few hours or a day.
4.  After they have dried, carefully brush off any excess mud and check each potato.    
5.  Remove any potatoes that are damaged.  Eat these as soon as possible. Damage can include:

  • Spade/fork damage
  • Slug holes
  • Signs of blight (usually inedible)
  • Signs of any other sort of rot
  • Signs of fungal damage
  • Scabby skins

5.  Store all healthy looking potatoes in hessian/jute or thick paper sacks in a cool, dark and frost-free shed.
6.  Check the stored potatoes regularly for signs of blight.

I have used this method now for several years and have always managed to store the potatoes through to when we run out in late winter or early spring.  

Healthy Potato Tops ... but for how long?

So not the best week at Eco-Gites of Lenault but certainly not the end of the world.  How is your garden doing this week?   For more garden inspiration visit the How Does Your garden Grow linky with Annie at Manneskjur.

And for anyone who is still wondering what the mystery plant was I showed last week - it was an Aubergine plant!


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

10 Tips to Cook more Efficiently

Posted by Rosie

With energy prices only ever heading upwards, we'd all love to cut our energy bills.  Here at 10 ways you can use your cooker for less energy expenditure (and be a bit greener at the same time!):

On the hob:

1. Use the smallest ring possible

Once something is boiling move the pan to the smallest ring and lowest setting to maintain the desired temperature. Never put a small pan on a large ring, you’re just wasting energy.

2.  Boil only what you need

When boiling water in the kettle or in a pan, only boil the amount you actually need. 

3.  Pan lids ON

Unless the recipe expressly says not to, always cook with the lid on. 

4.  One pot meals

Look to cook one pot meals where the whole dish is on one ring eg stews and make use of a steamer.


In the oven

5.  Oven pre-heating

When cooking something like a roast and other dishes that are in the oven for a long time, there is no need to pre-heat the oven. Exceptions to this rule are breads, cakes and pastries that need to be at the correct temperature to start cooking. 

6. Switching off the oven 

Switch the oven off 10mins before the end of cooking time and it will retain the necessary heat (But don’t open the door until the 10mins are up). Electric rings can also be turned off a few minutes before the end of cooking time. 

7.  Keep the oven door shut

Don't open the oven door to take a peek at what's cooking inside. Instead, keep the oven window clean and look through it to check on progress. Opening the oven door lowers the temperature inside - by as much as 25 degrees - which increases cooking time and is not energy efficient.

8. Fill up that oven

If the oven is on for one dish but there is space for more inside, bung something else in to fill the gap.  Either cook 2 of the same dish and freeze one for later or add something different i.e. a main course and a pudding both cooked in the oven at the same time.


9.  Quick cooking recipes

Look for quick cooking recipes – a search on the web will give lots of inspiration but if you still prefer to leaf through a book your local library should have a suitable book.

10.  Raw Food and Salads

Try including more raw foods in your diet. Lots of vegetables and fruits need no cooking and Summer is the perfect time for more salads.

Have you got any tricks to help reduce the amount of energy you use when cooking?  We can always include them in a later post!  And why not head over to the Thrifty Thursday linky and see what other money saving tips people have this week.

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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

25 MORE Child Friendly Activities to do at Eco-Gites of Lenault

Posted by Rosie

I recently drew up a list of 25 things you can do when visiting Eco-Gites of Lenault that do not involve leaving the gite at all and often are totally free.  However I quickly realised there was far more I could suggest so here are 25 MORE Child Friendly Activities to do:  

1.  See how many bird songs you can hear
2.  Ride a bike on the boules pitch or up and down our track
3.  Have breakfast, lunch and dinner in the garden
4.  Play Tag or Hide and Seek
5.  Play with all the toys we provide

Some of the toys at Eco-Gites of Lenault

6.  Do a Nature's Treasure Hunt
7.  Make leaf pictures 
8.  Toast marshmallows
9.   Do a puzzle
10. Feed the chickens
11. Make a photo diary
12. Play football


13.  Have a race
14.  Have a water fight
15.  Have a snail race
16.  Paddle in a stream 

Paddling in our local stream

17.  Blow dandelion clocks
18.  Look for animal tracks
19.  Learn how to use a compass
20.  Jump on the trampoline

Fun on the trampoline

21.  Make a den
22.  Stay up and watch the bats
23.  Lie back on the grass and watch the clouds pass over
24.  Write and perform a play or have a fashion show

And finally:

25.  Turn off all the computers, TVs, phones, DSs etc, remove all headphones, disconnect from everyone except yourselves and have some quality family time together!

 photo letkidsbekidslogobadge_zps424b7d61.jpg
Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party