Tuesday, 30 June 2015

New French Driving Laws


If you are driving in France any time soon you will need to be aware of these new laws that come into force on July 1st 2015:

Break the following new rules and you can be fined and get points:

  • Driving under the influence of drugs - 4,500€ fine and 6 points
  • Drink driving is already against the law but now the limits for new drivers i.e. anyone who took their test less than 3 years ago has been reduced from 0.5g/l to 0.2g/l - break this and expect a fine of 4,500€ and 6 points
  • Watching a screen that is not a driving aid - so it's OK to use a Sat Nav but not watch a DVD - 1,500€ fine and 3 points
  • Texting - 135€ fine and 3 points
  • Using headphones (both external and in-ear types).  This includes cyclists and only using one earphone - 135€ fine and 3 points
  • Not wearing your seatbelt - 135€ fine and 3 points
  • Smoking with a minor on board - this law has yet to be passed but it is believed it will be very soon - 68€ fine and points yet to be announced.  I am guessing this law will apply to anyone in the car, not just the driver.

These new laws could get you a 75€ fine depending on the discretion of the police officer who catches you:

  • Eating a sandwich ... I am not sure if this law applies to all foods though.  Is a sweet OK for example?  Maybe some-one better informed can advise me.
  • Rummaging in the glove compartment
  • Listening to overly loud music that means you cannot hear normal road noises
  • Applying make-up, even if you are stuck in a traffic jam.
 

For further information on driving in France please do pop on over and read this blog I wrote recently - it could save you getting caught breaking the law and should help making your driving in France easier.

Sorry - No Animal Tales this week


If you were expecting to find Animal Tales I am afraid I am not able to run it this week.  I am so busy with the gite (last minute preparations before a very busy summer) and the garden/smallholding that I have not got the time to run the linky as well.

Normal service will resume on Tuesday 7th July and please feel free then to link up 2 posts then if you want.


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Plants at a Normandy Market


Today I give you, not pictures from our garden here at Eco-Gites of Lenault but plants I saw at the market in Condé-sur-Noireau, where I went this morning.  I go most Thursdays, meet with a friend for coffee and buy any supplies I need.  Today I came home with lettuce and red cabbage seedlings, melons, nectarines, cherries and 2 cucumbers.  My cucumbers, as I mentioned last week are fruiting but not fast enough to keep the hungry mouths here fed - I think I need more plants next year!

Markets are wonderful places for plants and you can buy a huge variety of either small or large plants, made up pots/hanging baskets, herbs and vegetable seedlings, all usually of very good quality and not too expensive.  Often the plants will be grown locally, especially if you visit the part of the market we call "The Little People" - here local people can set up a stall and sell produce from their own gardens.  I don't know what the rules are for having a stall (I must find out) but I do love the wonderful mix of things for sale - I bought a kilo bag of cherries but I could have had cut flowers, eggs, jams, potted herbs, fresh veg and even live pigeons and rabbits!  I'll try and get some photos another time but the stalls were too crowded today to get a decent shot.  Here instead are other photos of the plants for sale on the main stalls:


Bright Busy Lizzies


A mix of summer annuals


Delicate Geraniums


Scented Pinks


Pots of Herbs


Leek Seedlings

And this final one I snapped at a flower shop in the town just because the lavenders were so beautiful in their matching pots that I could not resist a photo.  The shop is called Exotic Fleurs which makes me chuckle every time I read it.  The French for exotic is exotique but they have chosen the English word and placed it before the noun when in fact the French adjective almost always goes after the noun.  The Académie française (note the adjective is after the noun!) works it's socks off to try and stop non-French words entering the French language but it seems it's citizens might not always be d'accord with that!


Lovely Lavender

I love French markets and there are local markets every day in the various towns and villages close to Eco-Gites of Lenault.  If you click on "markets" in the labels section to the right you can see plenty more pictures from these Normandy markets.  What do you love about French markets?

Joining in with Annie's How Does Your Garden Grow linky as well as the new linky #LoveWhereILive from Elaine at Entertaining Elliot.
Entertaining Elliot
Mammasaurus









Finally an apology - with Simon away last week I was extra busy and did not get round to commenting on any #HDYGG blogs last week (hangs head in shame).  I promise not to just dump a link and run this week :)

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Animal Tales - 29


Welcome to Animal Tales, the blog linky that brings together all sorts of animal blog posts from all over the world.  It runs from Tuesday morning thought to Friday night and showcases a wide range of animal related posts. 

Mad week at Eco-Gites of Lenault

Simon has been away in England most of this week so I have been busy "home alone" ... which is why I didn't need the piglets squeezing under a fence I thought was piglet proof, nor did I need an injured turkey, not did I need an infestation of red mite in one of the chicken sheds, nor did I need one of my hen birds to in fact turn out to be a cockerel who has "found his voice" ... right outside the gite bedroom window!  

Cockerel has been caught and relocated further away, red mite have been attacked with a blow torch,Vaseline and a major clean of the hen house, turkey has been put in isolation until the massive blister that has mysteriously appeared under her wing has cleared up and the piglets and Boris, our  boar, have been swapped over (after additional piglet and Boris proofing repairs were made) .... which is OK except for the fact that now Boris is much closer to Coco Chanel, our grumpy-when-I am-in-season pig), who is in season again and there has been A LOT of pacing up and down fences from both of them!!  So far Simon's new fencing is keeping the love-pigs apart. The animals have certainly been keeping me busy this week! 

So this is my excuse for only now getting round to commenting on some of you lovely people who linked last week.  It is also why today I am giving you an old post for the link up and I promise to try and do better this week.

At least these two behaved themselves this week:



Don't forget our Pinterest Board


If you are on Pinterest don't forget that Animal Tales has it's own group board which you can join:  https://www.pinterest.com/ecogiteslenault/animal-tales/and details of how you can join can be found on Animal Tales 21.  Please do ask away if you have any questions - I am only just getting my head round Pinterest but if used properly it can be a very useful tool to drive traffic back to your blog.

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I loved reading all your posts last week but one in particular brought back very happy memories for me, namely Sabrina from Wolves In London's post about The Cotswold Wildlife Park.  I used to love just a few miles away from the Park and as a child would cycle over and sneak in the back gate without paying!!  However, when I went back a few years ago with the boys the back gate entry was well and truly locked!

So over to you now.  Feel free to come and add your animal related posts to the linky below.  The posts can be old or new and as varied as the animals who we share our world with. If you tweet with the hashtag #AnimalTales I'll retweet you.  Just give me a nudge if I appear to have forgotten you.

Full details of the linky can be found here but can I remind people of a couple of the "rules":


  • Please can you comment on at least 2 other blogs linked up - that is, after all the whole purpose of joining a linky to find and comment on more blogs and hopefully drive traffic back to your blog.
  • Please can you include my badge (preferably) or a link back to this blog.
  • Can I remind people not to add sponsored posts or paid-for reviews.  Eco-Gites of Lenault has no advertising on it and I am not comfortable promoting products or companies I know nothing about.









Thursday, 18 June 2015

How to Protect Broad Beans from Blackfly


Hopefully within the next couple of days I'll be harvesting the first of the broad beans.  I would usually already have had a crop from the polytunnel but regular readers will know that the mice put paid to that idea this year.  Mice are not the only pesky pest trying to get to my beans before me and I noticed, yesterday, that some of the beans had some blackfly on them.

Blackfly or black bean aphid (Aphis fabae) are a species of aphid that love to feed on the tender tips of broad beans and can increase rapidly to the point of even killing a young plant and certainly weakening all plants they infest.  They can quickly spread from one plant to another helped by ants.  The ants feed on the sticky honeydew that blackfly secrete and they have "learnt" to move aphids to new plants in what can only be described as a form of farming.

Broad bean tip infested with blackfly
Young pods infected with blackfly

Because blackfly can be so damaging to a crop of broad beans it is vital that they are quickly controlled.  The simplest method is to be vigilant checking daily for an infestations.  Infested bean tips should be nipped off, together with any offending pests.  If you are not squeamish you can also squash off any blackfly that are further down the plant or that have infected the pods, their second favourite haunt.

Tip removed to show blackfly

Ultimately prevention is better than cure and there are various methods you can employ to keep blackfly numbers down:

7 tips to prevent blackfly infecting broad beans

1. Ensure you have a well manured soil to allow healthy plants to grow that are better able to withstand an attack.
2. Encourage insects and minibeasts in your garden that feed on blackfly including ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies.
3.  Keep down the number of ant nests in the garden.
4.  Remove the tender bean growing tip before an attack takes place.
5. Be vigilant and check your beans daily.
6.  Blackfky also infest other plants such as nasturtium and weed species such as dock and fat hen.  Keep other susceptible plants away from your beans and keep on top of weeding.
7.  Grow your beans as early as possible (mice permitting!) so that the plants are bigger when the blackfly first attack and better able to survive an attack.

Fingers crossed then I have saved my broad beans from death by blackfly and will soon be eating these delicious veggies ... although my friend JT is no doubt shaking her head in disbelief that anyone can actually LIKE broad beans!!  However look, JT ..... I have actually managed to harvest cucumbers from the plants you and Mr JT gave me.  They may not be huge but they are really tasty.  I have always struggled to grow cucumbers well and was not even going to bother this year until Mr JT gave me 2 plants.  Glad I didn't give up on them and fingers crossed there are more plenty cucumbers to come.

MY cucumbers!!

Are you a vegetable grower?  Have you any tips for growing great broad beans or cucumbers?  

I am linking this post with Annie's How Does Your Garden Grow linky over on her blog Mammasaurus (live form 5 pm (ish) today) - why not head over and have a nosy round some other gardens.

Mammasaurus

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Animal Tales - 28


Welcome to Animal Tales, the blog linky that brings together all sorts of animal blog posts from all over the world.  It runs from Tuesday morning thought to Friday night and showcases a wide range of animal related posts. 

New birds at Eco-Gites of Lenault

This week I blog about our swallows who are back breeding here after a few years not succeeding.  As the young are about to fledge our skies should soon be graced with even more acrobatic beauties.  On the farm front I went to market last Thursday with an avian shopping list ... and came home with 8 turkey poults and 2 new ducklings.  We don't breed turkeys as their eggs are notoriously difficult to hatch and we had enough difficulty hatching ducklings this year ... which is why, with only one lonely duckling no longer being looked after by his bantam adoptive Mum that I felt he/she needed some company.  So I bought 2 new duckling playmates who my duck was horrible to for day one but has since decided they are OK to hang around with.  

New playmates for our lonely duckling

I had also planned to get some more chickens but the seller only had cock birds left and as these will be in a pen behind the gite I was not sure guests would be too pleased to be woken up by 8 cockerels crowing early in the morning ... so I have ordered 8 hens (poulettes) for next week.

Don't forget our Pinterest Board


If you are on Pinterest don't forget that Animal Tales has it's own group board which you can join:  https://www.pinterest.com/ecogiteslenault/animal-tales/and details of how you can join can be found on Animal Tales 21.  Please do ask away if you have any questions - I am only just getting my head round Pinterest but if used properly it can be a very useful tool to drive traffic back to your blog.

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Last week I particularly liked Rue du Belverderes' post on her Bug Hotel as it finally kick started Simon into making one for me, a belated Christmas present.  There was also Mum in Meltdown's nutty tortoise neighbour (... or is he in fact being amorous?!) and some fabulous pictures of our close simian cousins from Victoria Visits. 

So over to you now.  Feel free to come and add your animal related posts to the linky below.  The posts can be old or new and as varied as the animals who we share our world with. If you tweet with the hashtag #AnimalTales I'll retweet you.  Just give me a nudge if I appear to have forgotten you.

Full details of the linky can be found here but can I remind people of a couple of the "rules":


  • Please can you comment on at least 2 other blogs linked up - that is, after all the whole purpose of joining a linky to find and comment on more blogs and hopefully drive traffic back to your blog.
  • Please can you include my badge (preferably) or a link back to this blog.
  • Can I remind people not to add sponsored posts or paid-for reviews.  Eco-Gites of Lenault has no advertising on it and I am not comfortable promoting products or companies I know nothing about.







Monday, 15 June 2015

Young swallows at Eco-Gites of Lenault


We like to see lots of summer visitors here at Eco-Gites of Lenault in Normandy and not just in the gite.  We also look forward to the arrival of our swallows.  We love seeing them swooping over the fields catching insects and hope each year they will successfully hatch their young. 

Imagine our sadness when, in 2013, no swallows returned to us.  They were about locally but none were here.  Not one.  Swallows always return to the same place year after year using navigational skills far greater than your average GPS and that no-one really understands.  Returning parents will often re-use the same nest, patching it up after the winter to raise a new family and young birds will build new nests nearby.  So why did no birds return to us in 2012?  We can only assume that they died somewhere between here and South Africa where they overwinter.  It is, after all, a hugely arduous journey made more perilous by the fact that some are still shot for sport in parts of Europe. Asking around, other people confirmed that numbers of returning swallows were down that year so we assumed conditions had not been good for them - maybe a drought in South Africa or especially bad weather for one or both of the migrations.

Come 2014 we wondered what would happen and thankfully a small number of swallows did arrive; probably young birds from nearby locations looking for new nest sites.  Sadly though, none of them nested in any of our stone buildings and we saw just one nest in the big barn ... and numbers were still lower than in previous years.

So what would 2015 hold?  As spring moved on I looked up every day, keen to see their distinct outline grace the skies.  I was not disappointed and a good number of birds have made it back this year.  Are they nesting?  Yes!!  There are still no nests in the feed shed so I am safe to go in there without having to duck when I open the door (they have a hole in the door to get in and out but always preferred to wait for me to open the door and fly out!) but I have found 2 nests in the pig pens and both are full to the brim with soon-to-fledge youngsters.

Nest number one is built on an old light near the door:


 Where-as nest number 2 in at the top of the wall in Boris' shed.


I took these photos when it was nearly dark and I had gone to put everyone to bed so the young birds were tucked in, all quiet and sleepy.  Below is a photo, snapped by Simon in 2010, when some very hungry youngsters thought he was bringing them lunch!


In that year he also managed to set up a video and film the parent birds repairing an old nest ready for their new family. It's only 28 seconds long so do have a watch:

video

Who finished building first, the swallows with their nest or us with the gite?  It was the swallows who won!  The gite wasn't finished until July 17th by which time the swallows had mended the nest, hatched a brood and were quite possibly on a second family for that year!

Do you have swallows nesting near you or have you any interesting swallow stories to tell?

For more tales of our feathered, furred and scaly friends please click on the link below for the Animal Tales blog linky (live from Tues 16th June).



Friday, 12 June 2015

10 reasons I will never be French


England and France are just 21 miles (35kms) apart at their closest and the 2 countries have a history has been intertwined for many years.  Parts of France and England were ruled by the same monarchs for much of The Middle Ages and Calais only reverted back to France from British rules in 1558.  However now, France and England are culturally very different. 

In August we shall have been in France for 8 years.  However I could live here for 108 years and I know I would never be "French".  No, I spent too long in England before arriving here and many English traits are just too engrained to be lost in favour of French ones. I have recently finished a book called "Watching the English" by Kate Fox and she has brilliantly notes what it is to be English with all our oddities and thus explaining why foreigners are often confused by our ways, ways that I find hard to change.




10 reasons I will never be French



1.  French language

OK so I can understand French better that I did when we arrived.  I can get by talking and I can read it somewhat more but I will never speak it fluently with all the nuances and slang etc of a native speaker. Nope, I still think in English, structure my sentences in an English way and get hopelessly lost when the conversation speeds up too much!


2.  Tu/Vous

I know this is technically language but it goes so much deeper than that - an exact understanding of when you use tu and when to use vous. For non French speakers both words mean "you" but when you use them depends who you are talking to .... and I don't always get it.  The French even have verbs to cover the subject meaning you can use the verb tutoyer to indicate to someone that it is OK to use the tu form with them or vouvoyer if you accidentally said tu when you should have said vous.  Here's how the Los Angeles Times sorted out this whole Tu/Vous thing!  Confused - I know I am!






3.  I queue

So many French do queue quite happily but also a large chunk of them have absolutely no qualms about jumping the line.  Imagine if you will, standing in line in the bank and an elderly lady and her companion enter. A brief perusal of the queue was followed by a defiant walk to the front without any obvious understanding that she was doing something we Brits just wouldn't do!  So true to my roots, I pointed out the error of her ways (using vous of course) and she did end up waiting her turn - but she was very surprised that I had pointed out her queue jumping to her.


4.  I hug

The French kiss (see below) but they do NOT hug.  A child may give you a "câlin" but no adult will.  Even when a good friend was really upset hugging was off limits and I found that so hard.  To me hugging conveys so much and would have helped relieve her angst yet if I had hugged her I would no doubt only have added to it.


5. I do not get how many kisses (if any) I should be giving

Two, three, four - do I kiss only when I say hello?  Some people give kisses when they say goodbye too, even if they have only popped in to buy some eggs when others only kiss hello in this case. And why do some only ever give a hand shake. Is there a secret sign I should know that tells me to kiss or hand shake?  And boys kissing boys.  That feels so wrong for me.


6.  I clear up dog poo

Pooch does a poop, I pull out a poo bag and scoop the poop.  Many French think I'm daft.  Oh and they even think that if you tread in dog poo with your left foot then you'll be due some good luck!


7.  I dislike pastis

... and whiskey and port so when I am invited for an apéro and those are the choices I am stuck.  I can manage a port but to me that is an after dinner drink not an apéro and certainly not something I would drink in the middle of the day which I have had to when there alternatives were whiskey and pastis.  Luckily I do like wine and Kir so all is not lost but the pastis dislike is another nail in my "Never being French" coffin.


8.  I miss Cheddar cheese

Don't get me wrong, I love French cheese (so long as it isn't TOO smelly) but I also could never live without Cheddar.  Nothing but Cheddar works in a cheese sauce and Cheddar on crackers with pickle is just divine.  It's not just cheese I miss from time to time - there's fish and chips, Marmite, Birds Custard powder and decent self raising flour ... 


9.  French meals

I love food and I love French food but I also love English food.  Where are the Yorkshire puddings, hearty stews and dumplings, spotted dick and Victoria sponges?  And the cheese course.  BEFORE pudding?  (Actually I do quite like that as it means I may not have quite so much room for dessert ..... which I suppose should be a good thing.)


10.  I don't get French TV

Honestly, I have tried but French news just isn't a patch on the BBC, I find dubbed programmes so difficult to understand and French quizzes are just loud and incomprehensible.  Oh and they still have Benny Hill programmes turning up from time to time. With that and dubbed Midsomer Murder and Downton Abbey I do think they may view the English as a sex mad, murdering race of lords and servants!  

So no - I am most definitely always going to be English.  We will have to wait and see whether the boys grow up to be more English or French but at least they should never be confused about the tu/vous thing.  

Are you an expat?  Do you feel more in tune with your country of birth or your new home country?


Thursday, 11 June 2015

Fruitful times


It's started.

The fruit harvest.  

We've been cutting rhubarb for weeks now and today the boys and I picked 4 big bowls of strawberries.


Strawberries don't crop for too long but I doubt we'll be short of fruit over the coming weeks and months:

There will be summer raspberries


.. and blueberries


 ... and tayberries


... and redcurrants


 ... and gooseberries



And loganberries, worcesterberries, black and whitecurrants, blackberries and jostaberries.

Looks like I will be busy picking and preserving fruit for quite a while.  So if you are visiting Eco-Gites of Lenault any time soon and have ordered first night supper, you may well be getting some of this fruit on your pud!


Do you grow any fruit?  Perhaps there are some gardeners over on Annie's How Does Your Garden Grow blog linky - why not pop over and have a look.

Mammasaurus

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Animal Tales - 27


Welcome to Animal Tales, the blog linky that brings together all sorts of animal blog posts from all over the world.  It runs from Tuesday morning thought to Friday night and showcases a wide range of animal related posts. 

Update on that grumpy pig

Those of you who read about Coco, our escaping pig, last week might have thought that the tale was over but Coco had other ideas and escaped 3 more times before we finally managed to get the fencing sufficiently Coco-proofed to keep her in ... or it may just be that she was no longer in season and so her desire to get out was somewhat diminished.  Pigs come into season every 3 weeks so she may well try and get out again then but with luck Simon will have finished all the brand new fencing he is putting up and she'll be thwarted.  If only Coco were as laid back as Charlotte and Peardrop, then we'd never have any escaping pig issues!



Don't forget our Pinterest Board


If you are on Pinterest don't forget that Animal Tales has it's own group board which you can join:  https://www.pinterest.com/ecogiteslenault/animal-tales/and details of how you can join can be found on Animal Tales 21.  Please do ask away if you have any questions - I am only just getting my head round Pinterest but if used properly it can be a very useful tool to drive traffic back to your blog.

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Last week it seemed to be the Rosies who dominated the link up - I gave you 2 posts and then there was Rosie the cat, Rosie the donkey and Rosie the child and her day old chicks!

So over to you now.  Feel free to come and add your animal related posts to the linky below.  The posts can be old or new and as varied as the animals who we share our world with. If you tweet with the hashtag #AnimalTales I'll retweet you.  Just give me a nudge if I appear to have forgotten you.

Full details of the linky can be found here but can I remind people of a couple of the "rules":


  • Please can you comment on at least 2 other blogs linked up - that is, after all the whole purpose of joining a linky to find and comment on more blogs and hopefully drive traffic back to your blog.
  • Please can you include my badge (preferably) or a link back to this blog.
  • Can I remind people not to add sponsored posts or paid-for reviews.  Eco-Gites of Lenault has no advertising on it and I am not comfortable promoting products or companies I know nothing about.










Monday, 8 June 2015

Our Patent Canine BBQ Cleaner


The weather has warmed up here in Normandy, although perhaps not quite as much as people who saw my Sunday picture this week might have thought - that picture showing 39.2ºC was taken in the polytunnel where-as temperatures outsided over the last few days has been in the mid twenties.  In other words perfect temperatures for firing up the BBQ.  However with BBQ season comes the dreaded job of cleaning the grill.  Well here we have our very own patent BBQ cleaner.  

Saari has always coveted tasty morsels we humans cook on the BBQ but to help keep her newly found trim figure (and the fact we don't ever feed our dogs from the table or BBQ) no titbits have headed her way.  So she needed to put a plan in action to ensure she did not miss out.



And thus was born our patent canine BBQ cleaner:





Saari says she is available for BBQ cleaning hire at any BBQs in your area - "please contact me detailing levels of meat and fat to be removed and whether any vegetables are included!" she woofs.


Maybe I need to add BBQ cleaning to the list of jobs Saari fulfils and as detailed on my Animal Tales post last week.  For more tales of our feathered, furred and scaly friends please click on the link below for the Animal Tales blog linky (live from Tues 9th June).


PS - we do always clean the BBQ fully after Saari has done the pre-wash and thanks to her efforts it is MUCH easier to do!  Who gets the dreaded BBQ cleaning job with you?