Sunday, 26 July 2015

Internet/Phone Problems


Since a recent storm our internet has gone to almost non existent levels meaning, in effect, we have no internet. This is why I've not been able to reply to Animal Tales comments etc etc.

I'm not ignoring you, just not able to connect with you!

Hopefully a trip to the Orange shop on Monday will sort all this out.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Animal Tales - 32


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. 

This week has been horrible for us which is why I took so long to get round to commenting on your posts.  I did eventually read all of them and I think my favourite was Debbie's post about a cat called Ugg who has well and truly adopted her.  It's a lovely, upbeat and happy story.  I needed that.



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, 20 July 2015

The saddest farewell


Last Friday we had Harry, our beautiful Labrador, put to sleep.
We are too heartbroken to talk about the details. 
I have tears in my eyes as I write this.
It is so unfair for him, for us and for Saari.
Maybe he was just too good for this world.
Sleep tight lovely dog.
We will never forget you.




Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Animal Tales - 31


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. 

A photo I like ..


I was in the chicken run earlier this week and could not resist snapping this picture of Fumée and Firkin with Fluffy Chick and Baptista.  Have you got a caption for this photo?

Caption needed!



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.

********* 
I loved some of the wildlife posts from last week's linky - there was J the dog and his squirrel chasing antics, free birds and night-time wildlife with fabulous photos from Spain.

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, 13 July 2015

Escargots anyone?


We have had quite a long dry spell but overnight it had rained a bit and so when I went down the valley to feed the sheep this morning the wet weather had brought out some of our largest resident molluscs - Helix pomatia, know in England as Roman snails and as Burgundy or edible snails in France.  They are in fact the species of snail you will be eating if you order escargots in a French restaurant.

Helix pomatia

Helix pomatia near my ancient Nokia phone to show their large size

In France they are a relatively common native species found on a wide range of habitats with calcareous soils that give them calcium needed to build their shells that grow up to 5cm across.  In England however they are not native and were introduced by the Romans to supplement their diet (hence their name).

In mainland Europe and especially France, Roman or Burgundy snails are collected both by individuals for their own dinner and commercial operators to sell on.  However the loss of habitat and excessive commercial collecting is reducing numbers and it is now being restricted in some countries.  In England they are rare and limited to chalk grassland of southern counties where they are protected under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.  This means if you fancy heading out to collect some Roman snails you cannot as the law prohibits anyone to collect, sell, injure or kill Roman snails.

With snails such a popular dish in France there are now snail farms to breed these large molluscs, including one near to Eco-Gites of Lenault that you can visit.  

And I'll leave this particular Animal Tale with a question - how can tell if the snails pictured above are males or females?  I can tell - but can you?


Thursday, 9 July 2015

Seeds you can sow in July


This evening we had dinner from the chickens and veg patch - ratatouille with our own onions, courgettes and aubergines together with new potatoes and a poached duck egg.  There is something immensely satisfying about eating your own produce and if you are keen to start vegetable gardening it is no too late for sowing a variety of vegetables in July for harvesting later in the year.

Seeds you can sow outside in July


Dwarf French beans* – so long as you are quick
Beetroot*
Spring cabbage*
Chinese cabbage
Endive
Non forcing chicory
Kohl rabi*
Lettuce*
Turnips* (late in the month)

There are also plenty of vegetables you can transplant if you can get seedlings.

Seedlings you can transplant in July



Broccoli
Winter cabbages
Cauliflowers
Kale and Cavolo Nero
Leeks (if you are quick)
Lettuces

If you are lucky enough to have a polytunnel or greenhouse then your choice of even greater

Seeds you can sow in a polytunnel in July



All the vegetables above that are marked with an asterix can also be sown in the polytunnel along with the following:

Swiss chard
Spinach
Leaf beet
Pak Choi
Fennel
Oriental veg such as mizuna, mibuna, komatsuna etc
Parsley
Rocket
Lamb's Lettuce

These under cover sowings are really important if you want to see your polytunnel producing fresh veg once the summer tomatoes, peppers and suchlike are but a distant memory. By sowing now, in July, you can ensure fresh veg on into the winter months.  If, however, you are likely to be away you may want to delay most sowings until early August … and if you are away then I suggest asking a friend to come in and water or all your hard work could be lost in the heat.

Remember also that if you live in a mild area where frosts generally start late you have more chance of success with later sowings than if you live further north or in a frost pocket.

If you have no garden don't despair as there is still some things you can sow – the ever popular cress can be grown inside where you can also give sprouting seeds a go and maybe even a couple of lettuces in a pot on a windowsill or a chilli plant on a windowsill.


Have you been sowing seeds recently - have I missed anything from my lists?

Joining in with How Does Your Garden Grow from Annie at Mammasuarus - pop on over and have a nosy around other July gardens.

Mammasaurus

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Animal Tales - 30


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. 

Sorry ....


I am sorry I had to cancel Animal Tales last week - I was so busy trying to catch up from when Simon was away plus end of term school activities and fruit/veg picking like a mad thing that I just ran out time.  This week, then, if you want to link up more than one post please do and I will do my best to comment earlier than the week before!

On my post this week I give you a 6 month update on Harry.  In  some ways I cannot believe we've had him that long but in others he seems to have been part of our family for ever.


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.

********* 
There were lots of bird related posts on the last Animal Tales - I particularly liked the gannet photos from Adam Jones (but then I always love his photos!), the tale of a friend for Priscilla the peahen from Coombe Mill (which also begs the question - what is a baby peacock called?) and gorgeous swans and their cygnets from Adventures of a Novice Mum.

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, 6 July 2015

6 months of Harry at Eco-Gites of Lenault


We have now had Harry 6 months and it is like he has always been here.  He will never replace Poppy but he has certainly made his mark and is so different in character to his, still much missed, predecessor.  So, I thought for Animal Tales this week I would give you a pictorial record to celebrate Harry's 6 months at Eco-Gites of Lenault.

The day he arrived home
 
Saari was originally not too pleased to share her bed with him

But she did soften to him in time! ...

... and loves playing rough and tumble with him!
 
Here she is (behind the gate) teaching him how to jump.  Thanks Saari - NOT!!
 
He wasn't too keen on a visiting dog - so hid on the windows sill!

Nor does he like thunder when he hides under the desk!

Cool Dude

So what do you think - is Harry happy with his forever home after being abandoned twice before?

For more tales of animal head on over to the Animal Tales blog linky - opens July 7th.



Sunday, 5 July 2015

Strawberry jam - that sets!


I am sure if you asked 100 people what their favourite jam was then strawberry would be up there in the top three. However for makers of home-made jam, they will know it is one of the harder jams to make as it is a devil to get to set.  To make a jam that sets easily the fruit in it needs to have high levels of pectin and strawberries do not.  You can of course add commercial pectin but that puts up the cost.  You can also add lemon juice but I have found that often this flavour of lemon overpowers the strawberries or redcurrant juice, but this is not always available.  If you have an excess of strawberries crying out to be turned into jam here's how you can make strawberry jam that sets every time with nothing more than strawberries and sugar!


Strawberry Jam - that sets every time!


Ingredients



  • Strawberries
  • Equal weight of white sugar


 

Method

  1. Remove the hulls from the strawberries then cut the bigger berries into 4 and smaller ones into 2.
  2. Mix together the sugar and strawberries in a large bowl
  3. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a cool place for 24 hours
  4. After 24 hours the strawberries will be swimming in  a sea of juice, drawn out by the sugar.  Add to a large pan with plenty of space to rise up and bring slowly to the boil, ensuring the sugar dissolves before boiling point is reached
  5. Boil for 5 minutes.
  6. Return to a cool place, cover and leave for 2 days.
  7. After 2 days bring to boil and fast boil (rolling boil) until setting point is reached* - usually 15-20 minutes. 
  8. Spoon into hot, sterilised jars and add lids whilst hot. 

* To Test for Setting Point

Place a china plate in the freezer.  Place a very small amount of jam on the cold plate where it will quickly cool. When cold push it with your finger and if setting point is reached the jam will wrinkle slightly when pushed.  If no wrinkles appear, continue to boil for a few more miutes and test again.


Strawberries and sugar after 24 hours


Jam just about to reach a rolling boil


Are you a jam maker - have you any tricks to get strawberry jam to set?

For more food ideas why not have a look at some of these linkies: TastyTuesdays, Recipe of the Week and #NoWasteFoodChallenge

#NoWasteFoodChallenge
#NoWasteFoodChallenge
Recipe of the week
  Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

Silent Sunday - July 5th 2015





SundayPhoto

Thursday, 2 July 2015

15 watering tips for healthy plants



It's always a bit of a joke in France that Normandy is the wettest department with many post cards having a bit of a dig at this. Well we certainly do have rain and sometime LOTS of it ... but right now we have having a prolonged dry spell after a not especially wet winter.  As a result I am spending a lot of time watering the garden to keep the plants growing. 



If you find you are spending too long each day watering then read on with the following tips you can implement to reduce the amount of watering you need to do, even in hot weather.

15 watering tips for healthy plants


Helping your soil retain water:

  • Before you even think about planting you need to make sure your soil is in good form.  Adding plenty of organic matter such as compost or well rotted manure will help the soil retain water.  This is especially important if you have light sandy soil.
  • To keep as much moisture in the soils as possible you can mulch around plants - good materials include woodchip, cocoa husks, damp newspaper and weed suppressing fabric. 

When to water

  • To reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation, water in the early morning or late evening.  For areas where slugs and snails are a problem the morning is better than the evening.
  • If you are planning to sow seeds or transplant new plants then water the base of the seed drill and the hole for the plant very well before you sow/plant.
  • If a hot dry spell is forecast water your plants well in the days before hand, ensuring the water soaks down deeply.  Strong plants with deep roots are better able to withstand a hot, dry spell than their weaker counterparts.


How often to water

  • It is better to water a lot every few days than every day and this allows the water to soak down deeply and encourage deeper root systems on your plants.  There are a few exceptions to this including seedlings, newly transplanted plants, those with very shallow root systems and plants in pots.


Prioritise your watering

  • If you are pushed for time then water those plants that really need it and for the others you can catch up later.  Plants that should be watered first include seedlings, newly transplanted plants (especially if they are bare rooted, not in a pot), anything in pots, anything that is wilting badly and any very drought intolerant plants. 
  • Check how wet soil is after rain, especially night rain - it may look wet but there may have only been enough to wet the surface which does not reach down to the roots. 


Not wasting water

  • If you find when you water most of it flows away it is likely the soil around your plant is compacted into a surface pan.  Gently break this up and water should flow down into the soil.  However you can leave the pan between plants as this will help retain any moisture already on the soil.
  • Another way to help water stay near the plant and not flow away is to plant in a slight hollow or build a small bund of solid around the plant to act like a damn.
  • Do not use a sprinkler as this wastes a lot of water - use a hose and water right at the base of the plants.  However do use a rose/sprinkler attachment at the end of a hose to water small delicate plants and seedlings to prevent damage that can occur with a blast of water from a hose or watering can.

Plants watered right where the need it most

Nifty watering hacks

  • Move pots into shady spots in the hottest part of the day
  • Mark rambling plants like pumpkins with a long stick so you know where to water - you'll be surprised how quickly you lose where the roots are once the plants take off and you could be watering well away from where the water is needed.
  • Sink plastic bottles with holes in the bottom near plants such as tomatoes to allow deep roots to form - you can find further details of this trick on this tomato blog I wrote.
  • Use a long handled hose attachment or fix your hose attachment to the end of a broom handle so you can easily water right at the base of plants where the water is needed. 
 


Whilst I have been busy watering the vegetable garden every day, there is one little plant that I have that can go days without water - it's a small succulent in my very shallow piggy pot.  I bought it at a boot fair having no idea what it would do and I love it's bright yellow and orange flowers ... and it survives very well even when I forget to water it for several days!   However I have not been able to find out what it is. I thought perhaps a sempervivum but perhaps some-one more knowledgeable can tell me.


Finally, whilst watering a few days ago using the watering can with the rose on the end I wondered how on earth this sprinkler attachment could come to be called a rose.  It certainly bears no resemblance to the flower of the same name.  Then is a moment of inspiration I think the answer came to me.  The French word for "to water" is arroser and there, hidden in within the word is our rose!  So nothing to do with flowers but a word derived from French.  In France, however a watering can rose is called a pomme d'arrosoir - an watering can apple?  Work that one out!

Mammasaurus

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.



AllAboutFranceBadge


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.