Thursday, 28 May 2015

Plants a go go ...


Over the last few weeks I have not done as much gardening as I would have liked - often it was raining when I could have been gardening and when it wasn't raining I was tied up with other things ... so things have been backing up and I was feeling I was getting rather behind. However this week the weather gods have been smiling on me and I have found plenty of time to get caught up a bit.

First I needed to get plants that I started from seed and potted on out into the garden.  These plants in fact: 


I have planted out my pumpkins, courgettes, broccoli, nasturtiums, runner beans, sweet peas and sunflowers.  Hopefully we have seen the last of frosts for a while as many of these are tender.  A few years ago we did get a rare frost on May 28th so as I type this on the evening of the 27th I feel I should be OK.

What it does however leave me with is another job to do - namely to sort this lot out!!


I have also weeded, cut back edges, helped Ben build a hazel a bean wigwam in his garden,earthed up potatoes and moved poo!  A LOT of poo!  Simon had a mini-mini digger for a job and with time to spare he brought it here to clean out the pig pens.  I then had the slightly more energetic job of barrowing this black gold (as it is known in gardening circles) up to the garden.  UP the hill.  Yes, you realise after several heavy loads that having your veg garden higher up than your pig pens is a bad move. Oh well, I may have aching legs this evening but I know this manure will help give me greater yields next year, so the aches will be worth it.

Leaving smells behind for a final note, here is a picture of the beautiful irises growing in our little front bed, now that the garden in duck proof!  They bring  a smile to my face every time I go out and they are Simon's favourite flower. What a pity they are only short loved though.


Joining in with Annie's How Does your Garden Grow linky - why not pop over and see what others have been up to in their gardens.

How Does Your Garden Grow? Mammasaurus


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Animal Tales 25


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. 

Animal updates from Eco-Gites of Lenault


This week we said farewell to Maddie - who went off to her new home in style.  I actually swapper her for 3 Red Orpington chicks. Orpingtons are wonderful large fluffy chickens and I already have 3 Buff Orpingtons, known as the Buffy Girls.  They are however getting quite old so I jumped at the chance of bringing some young birds into the flock. As for photos these are the best I have managed - 3 three Red Orpington'sin the overnight cat basket and one of the Buffy Girls to give you an idea of what they will grow into:




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 was nice to see Phoebe from Lou Messugo down in Provence join us again with wildlife she has seen in her garden and welcome to first time linkers, Apparently Awkward with her stick loving dog Kia and Angela from DaysInBed with her dog, Yoda (which led to a raft of Star Wars type Twitter accounts following me after I tweeted the name Yoda!)

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, 25 May 2015

The tale of a goat and a London taxi


I mentioned in passing on my Animal Manoeuvres blog that Maddie the goat was in the way.  Maddie came to us unexpectedly at the end of last year having been abandoned locally.  We took her in with 2 ideas of her future: one idea was to fatten her up for the freezer and the second idea was to breed from her.  Maddie must have realised our first plan though as she never put any weight on being the fussiest goat I have ever met.  Oh well, we could always fall back on plan B and breed for her.  

However last week when we let the pigs out in the field next to her we found a problem we had not thought of, namely that Maddie was trying to "play" with the piglets through the fencing. Actually for play read the words head butt!!  The situation was made worse by the piglets trying to play head butt her back.  Her fencing was designed to keep in ducks not head butting goats/piglets and it was getting damaged to the point that it was going to break pretty soon. So the piglets were moved to another pen well away from her and we made the decision that it might be easier to find Maddie a new home. We have no other pen suitable for her and and we need the field next to her for the pigs.

With heavy heart (we have become very fond of her) I placed an advert up on a local expat forum and was thinking about putting up another one on LeBonCoin (a French ebay type site) when the phone rang and Maddie had already found a new home. She was off to a couple who had some ducks off us earlier in the year and keep a large menagerie of animals for pets, rather than the freezer ... so she'll be free to put on weight if she wants!

We arranged for Maddie to head off to her new home on Friday.  I assumed she would maybe head off in a trailer or at least the back of a 4x4 but I was wrong on both counts.  No, Maddie left in the back of ......


A LONDON BLACK CAB!!





Do you think I might be safe in saying this is possibly a first for Normandy?  A goat in a taxi?  What do you think?  Have you any tales of odd ways of transporting animals or have you transported something just as odd in a taxi?

ANIMALTALES

Friday, 22 May 2015

20% off ...


Visit Eco-Gites of Lenault in Normandy France 

and you have 2 ways to get 20% off.


We are offering 20% off all our remaining 2015 dates
AND
We can give you a code if you are travelling with Brittany Ferries to get 20% off your crossing.

Holidays to Eco-Gites of Lenault just got cheaper!!

But hurry - June will soon be upon us and this is a limited offer ... although we will always have the ferry code.

How to contact Eco-Gites of Lenault:


Via our website
By email
By our advert on Brittany Ferries
By phone - 0033 231 09 27 51 (up to 8pmUK/9pm French time please and we can call back to a landline)

Please contact us with any questions you might have and to make that booking.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Why I grow vegetables


Growing vegetables is hard work - there is no denying that.  Digging, sowing, weeding, watering, thinning, checking for diseases, more weeding, more watering and so on and so forth.  So maybe it is no surprise that sometimes people ask me why I bother. After all you can buy fresh fruit and veg in the shops and at very reasonable prices.

True ... but this is why I grow my own veg ...



These are the first of our new potatoes from the polytunnel that I dug up today and within less than half an hour they were cooked and on our dinner plates.  No shop anywhere can give you that sort of freshness!

I can also grow things that are much harder to buy. Today, whilst shopping for Ben's birthday presents I may just have diverted to the garden centre and picked up these:  2 pepper plants (one black and one orange/green) and a bit of a mystery plant.  It is labelled as a Poire-Melon (Pear melon) and a quick search online reveals it is Solanum muricatum or pepino dulce ("sweet cucumber" in English).  Does anyone know anything more about it?





So that my friends is 2 reasons why I garden.  It also is a great way to keep fit, get fresh air in your lungs and keep yourself connected to Mother Nature.  Are you a gardener?  If so do tell why you garden.


How Does Your Garden Grow? Mammasaurus

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Animal Tales - 24


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. 

Animal updates from Eco-Gites of Lenault


I have to report some sad duckling news this week which I blogged about yesterday. You may want a tissue when reading.

In happier news, I am thinking about renaming Toggle, one of the piglets .... Houdini.  A few days ago Ben came rushing in to say the piglets had escaped.  I already knew that their time in their pen was limited as they fencing is not particularly strong and they are getting really big now.  Toggle, in his insatiable quest for something more to eat, had managed to push up the fencing, break it a bit and wriggle underneath (and Ginger followed!).  Ho hum, no worries as they were due to move anyway.  One bucket, 2 gates open and less than a minute later they were happily settled into their summer quarters ... with added grass to keep Toggle's tummy happy.

Fast forward to yesterday and as Tom and I came back from a dog walk were were met at the back gate by .... Toggle!  Once again he had found a weak point in the fencing and wriggled underneath.  Temporary repairs were made and as I type this on Monday morning Toggle has, as yet, (fingers crossed and all that) not escaped!  I suspect this will not be his last escape attempt though.

Toggle (left) and Ginger ... or is he really Houdini?

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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There were so many interesting Animal Tales last week I have spent ages trying to pick favourites.  Do go over and have a read of you have not already.  I particularly enjoyed Boo and Maddies trip to Spitalfields City Farm where they watched The Oxford and Cambridge Goat Race as well as Mama Owl's close encounter with some Australian wildlife.  I almost love Koalas as much as hippos .. almost!

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, 18 May 2015

RIP Little Duckling


It is a sad fact that is well known by any livestock owner: If you have livestock you also have dead stock.  Here at Eco-Gites of Lenault that was the case this week. Sadly, I found one of the ducklings, who hatched last week, dead when I went to shut them in a few evenings ago.  It was just outside the door and looked for all the world as if it was simply asleep rather than dead.  My suspicion is that it didn't follow it's 2 Mums into the shelter and as the warm day turned to cool evening it got hypothermia.  Young chicks and ducklings need heat for the first few weeks of their life, either from warm sunshine, a heat lamp or their mother (adoptive or otherwise) and without this they can quickly die.

I can however assure you that the other duckling is doing just fine.  It now has only one Mum, Baptista, as I thought 2 Mums for one duckling really was a touch excessive so put Bianca back with the chickens!  Baptista is very protective of her charge and trying to get a decent shot is nigh on impossible so you'll have to make do with these:
 
Errmmm - no pictures please

I'll lead the way Mum


OK Mum - you lead the way and I'll follow

If you have an animal tale to tell please do come and link up with the Animal Tales blog linky.  It opens this on blog every Tuesday and more details can be found here.


 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Breakfast in France - Tripe anyone?


What do most people think of when you say mention France and breakfast in the same sentence?  Buttery croissants fresh from the local baker's? Steaming hot coffee?  Tripe maybe?

TRIPE??!!

Tomorrow is the local Vide Grenier (Boot Fair) at Vassy, a small town a few kilometres from here.  It's a pretty big affair with the 150 sellers expected and the town centre shut to vehicular traffic for the day.  As well as perusing the tables of wares dragged from the depths of people's cellars, sheds and lofts, between 7.30am and 10.30am you can also have a traditional Normandy breakfast if you want.  But forget croissants.  This is what is on offer:

Tripe and chips
Apple tart
Coffee
1/4 bottle white wine

FOR BREAKFAST??!!

Tripe à la mode de Caen - photo with permission from Yun Huang Yong

Tripe à la mode de Caen is a traditional Normandy dish served at many an event breakfast.  Cow's intestine in a rich tomato sauce.  Hmmmm, I could manage the coffee and the apple tart but tripe and chips plus wine are, for my English taste buds, one culinary step too far. 

What's the weirdest thing you've eaten for breakfast ... and would you tuck into tripe? 


Thursday, 14 May 2015

Ben's Garden


This week for #HDYGG I am taking a week off although I am not sunning myself on a Greek island like one Annie some of us know.  In fact I am being super busy in the garden trying to keep on top of everything that needs doing at this time of year.  And this week I have added something new to my list ... "Help Ben, our younger son set up his own patch of garden".  So without further ado, it is over to Ben who is giving us the blog post this week.

Hi, I'm Ben and I have just started my own garden at Eco-Gites of Lenault and I am really excited to get it going.  So far I have already planted cabbages, purple sprouting broccoli, strawberries and lettuces.  I have put grass round them to try and stop some of the weeds and also reduce the need for watering (or so Mum says!).

My love of gardening started quite young - here I am with my brother Tom in our garden in England before we came to France ... however I have to say I have no idea what we are doing or whether we were supposed to be doing it or not!  We were probably trying to eat it!



Fast forward 11 years and here I am with my very own garden!



I'd love to have some ideas from you as to what I should plant in the rest of my garden.  I would prefer fruit of veg although edible flowers would be OK.  What do you think I should be growing?

For further great gardening posts head on over to the How Does Your Garden Grow linky which this week is being hosted by Gemma Garner.
How Does Your Garden Grow? Mammasaurus

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Animal Tales - 23


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. 

Duckling Update


Both good and bad news here. Hilda, sadly, didn't hatch any of her eggs and all bar one were in fertile and the embryo inthe fertile egg died early on in it's development.  Baptista and Bianca, the bantams, who were sitting on duck eggs each managed to hatch one duckling and are nor both mothering these 2 tiny balls of fluff.  It is so funny watching the 2 Mother Hens fussing over their adopted youngsters and this will only get more comical when the young decide they need to go and swim. Their mothers will be most distraught at this time!


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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There were some great tales on Animal Tales but no hippos this week (sulk).  Steph from the Misplaced Brit blog was a sad tale but one we must all face if we have pets (and children).  However Sarah from Ups and Downs and her tale of the cat who adopted her cheered me up. 

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, 11 May 2015

Animal Manoeuvres


When you have a smallholding you will find that you are constantly changing things around.  For a while you might think they you have yourself sorted and then something happens and you need to jiggle things.  It may be the unexpected arrival of an abandoned goat, ducklings hatching or a change in the time you decide to breed piglets which has unexpected knock on effects for weeks, if not months, to come.  Yesterday ended up being one of those days at Eco-Gites of Lenault, when we ended up undertaking major animal manoeuvres.  They sort of went like this:


  • The white chicks who had outgrown their small shelter were moved to the bigger field and shelter where Hilda the duck (who had been sitting on eggs) had been all alone.
Chicks in the pen they have now outgrown

  • Hilda, who sadly did not hatch any ducklings, was moved back in with the laying hens and other ducks (who themselves will move into the piglet pen once they move soon).
  • The 2 bantams who had been sitting on duck eggs and each managed to hatch one duckling were moved into the now vacated small chick pen.  


2 very proud bantam Mums with their adopted ducklings

    • The sheep, now numbering 2 ewes and 2 lambs were moved down to our valley field.  Please note that whilst that last sentence too just a few seconds to type the whole sheep manoeuvring malarkey actually took a couple of hours and included:
    Strimming grass around valley field gate so we could open it!
    Setting up a holding pen.
    Driving sheep to holding pen.
    Sheep looking at holding pen and running the other way into their shelter.
    Trapping sheep in shelter.
    Friend and I grappling an escaped sheep to the ground.
    Catching remaining ewe and lambs one at a time, worming them, giving them a pedicure and dagging them (removal of wool around their bottoms that can become very dirty and attract flies).
    Manhandling ewes and lambs across field, through now redundant holding pen and into the back of the 4x4
    Driving the 4x4 VERY CAREFULLY down the very narrow valley path (I always choose to walk at this point).
    Releasing sheep in valley field.
    Returning to valley field later with a water bucket and sheep lick.

    Sheep, blissfully unaware of manoeuvres to come!

    And back to animal manoeuvres chez nous ....
    • Moving pigs from their winter quarters out into the field where the sheep had been.  This was considerably easier than manoeuvring the sheep and the 3 greedy pigs simply followed a feed bucket!  I love pigs!!
    So there you have it - pretty much every animal we have is now somewhere different, with the exception of the goat, who is actually in the way, the laying chickens who never move and the piglets/Boris who will move very soon.  

    Ginger and Toggle who will be moved soon

    So how did you spend your Sunday?  I sincerely hope that by the end of it you did not smell like I did with a mixture of duck, chicken and sheep poo not being particularly pleasant!

    If you like reading about other Animal Tales or have written one yourself please do head on over to the #AnimalTales blog linky for a read and/or link up.



    ANIMALTALES
    You Baby Me Mummy

    Thursday, 7 May 2015

    Water-wise Tomato Watering


    After the rain (and gales) we have had this week - we lost our power for 6 hours on Tuesday probably due to a tree falling on an electricity line somewhere - it might seem that a post about watering is not best timed.  Ah well you see, it may be soaking wet outside at the moment but if you have a polytunnel or greenhouse you have in effect your own desert where no rain will ever fall and the survival of your plants is entirely dependent on you watering them. 

    Outside, my plants not be galloping forwards at great speed as they wonder whole stole the May sunshine and warmth but in the polytunnel it's a very different story.  My tomato plants have shot up and I am in the process of planting them out, together with a plastic bottle each.  Don't worry, I have not gone mad but it is an ingenious way to help with watering.

    A question for you first though.  Do you think it is better to water plants a little and often or a lot but less often?

    How best to water?

    Have you decided?

    The correct answer is a lot but less often*.  And this is the reason why.  If you water your plants with just a bit of water it will only wet the surface of the soil where in fact in hot weather it will quickly evaporate before the plant can use it.  It also encourages plants to have shallow roots near the surface, making them more susceptible to drought.  In contrast, if you give your plants a good soaking, but less often, the water will soak down deep to where it is less likely to be lost to evaporation and to where the plants will grow deep, healthy roots.  The one big difficulty with this method though, is that you can lose a considerable amount of water to surface run-off and so this is where the bottles comes in.

    Plastic tomato watering bottles

    Water-wise Tomato Watering


    Besides each tomato plant I have sunk a plastic bottle which has 4 holes drilled in the base.  I can then water directly into the bottle and the water drains out of the bottom some 15cm below the surface.  The tomato will send down deep roots to use this water and far less will be wasted.  I can also easily add liquid tomato feed this way and it should also have the added advantage of reducing weeds with much less water on the surface that is needed for their seeds to germinate.  Anything that reduces waste is good in my book.  Most of the year I use "free" well water (although I need electricity to run the pump so not totally free) but in a dry summer the well will dry up and I will have to switch to tap water, which here in France is all metered. 


    Tomato plants with their water bottles

    I shall let you know how I get on with this method.  It's taken a bit of extra time to set up but I think it should greatly benefit my tomato plants.  I also intend doing the same with all similar plants in the polytunnel such as cucumbers, pumpkins etc.

    * Exceptions to the Lots and Often wtering rule

    As ever there are always a few exceptions to the water rule.  Succulents, cacti and very drought tolerant plants will not appreciate a deep soaking every few days and plants in pots will need watering both well and often as they dry out so quickly. Seedlings will also need water little and often.

    Do you have any crafty ways to make watering your plants more effective.  Please do let me know.

    Linking as ever to Annie's How Does Your Garden Grow linky over at Mammasaurus. 

    How Does Your Garden Grow? Mammasaurus

    Tuesday, 5 May 2015

    Animal Tales - 22


    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. 

    Ducklings Due


    As I type this I am like an expectant father as Hilda's ducklings are due around today.  It's always a nervous time as the energy needed for a duckling to get out of the egg is huge, assuming they have made it though to maturity in the first place.  She is sitting on 8 eggs so hopefully very soon we'll know of any fluffy yellow ducklings will be gracing the fields of Eco-Gites of Lenault.



    In comparison the 2 bantams (who are surrogate mothers on nests of duck eggs) and Hettie have a couple of weeks of sitting still to do.  I am not sure Hettie is going to succeed as she was off the nest for along time yesterday. We also think we have a rat or two as eggs are going missing. We have set a trap and are hopeful we can catch any that have taken up residence.  

    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/ 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.

    ********* 

    There were some great tales on Animal Tales last week and two (yes TWO) hippos.  I am very fond of hippos and so really enjoyed seeing them on Chicken Ruby's blog about the Kruger National Park and Patrick's trip to San Francisco Zoo. I also loved Travel with Intent's story of Kaspar the Cat at the Savoy Hotel in London, as it's a great story and my grandparents were married in the Chapel of the Savoy Hotel back in the 20's.

    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.