Wednesday, 1 October 2014

October in Normandy

Posted by Rosie

Bonjour octobre !
 Hello October!

Good grief, it's October 1st.  How did that happen?  After all, here in Normandy we still have daytime temperatures in the early twenties and we have not had any rain for over a month.  However the mornings certainly do belong to Autumn:

Autumn cobweb at Eco-Gites of Lenault

So what what might October offer us?  Weather-wise, who knows!  We have had hot beach days up to the second Sunday of the month and we have had frosts before the month starts.  Sometimes it's calm and sometimes it's windy!  

October on a Normandy beach


However we know we can offer you autumn colours, pumpkins, conkers, Halloween fungi and all sorts of festivals.

Here then are a selection of pictures taken over the 7 Octobers we have lived at Eco-Gites of Lenault:

 


  
 
Would you eat a mushroom called The Trumpet of Death?


Playing conkers!
 
Halloween

October sunset

October fungi

Normandy also has a large number of events throughout October on a wonderfully wide range of subjects including festivals on:

Shrimps, apples, fungi, soup, gastronomy in general, autumn plants and  the Battle for Normandy in 1944. 
  
Quite a variety of subjects then and there are more details here.

Have we tempted you to come and visit Normandy in October?  If yes, we have some availability and would love to welcome you here at this beautiful time of year.  Our available dates are up to Oct 12th and then Oct 23rd - 29th.

Please do visit our website or drop us an email for further details and prices.

I am linking this blog post to All about October hosted by Amanda at Expat life with a double buggy

ELWADB LinkUp
                                                          

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Free things to do in Calvados, France

Posted by Rosie

Coming on holiday does not always have to be expensive.  Going self catering can be a cheaper option and once at your desitination there are plenty of free things you can do.  Calvados in Normandy is no exception.  When I started to look into what free things there are to do close to Eco-Gites of Lenault I thought it would just be one blog but in fact ther is so much I will have to write several!

Here then is a summary of what to expect over the coming weeks:


1. Visits related to World War II


Normandy played a pivotal role in World War II and with thousands of troops landing on the beaches of Calvados and Manche on June 6th 1944, the Allies began to regain control of Europe from the Nazis.  There are many places you can visit to learn about and remember this time - the beaches themselves, significant battle sites, cemeteries and visitor centres.



2. Heritage Sites


The rich history of Calvados stretching back to before William the Conqueror is celebrated in it's many buildings.  From the great cathedral at Bayeux to a tiny chapel just down the road from here, there are free visits you can make to churches, abbeys, castles and stately homes.


The church at Lenault

 

3. Open Spaces


One of France's long distance footpaths (GR221) passing our back gate and there are miles of paths and countryside to explore.  Many designated wildlife and natural areas are free to visit as well as gardens and open farms.


Calvados countryside

 

4. Routes that guide you through the history and culture of Calvados


Calvados has a number of guided driving routes to guide you round the best of what the region has to offer.  These include WWII routes, a cider route and a tour of Swiss Normandy.

 

5. Free events, festivals, museums and art galleries


Throughout the year free events take place across Calvados. Food festivals celebrate everything from the humble carrot to the opulent scallop; kite festivals take to the air and there are many art exhibitions and museums with no entry charges.


Dieppe Kite Festival


Over the next few weeks I will give more details of the many free things to do in Calvados. In the meantime if you have any particular favourite free visits you can recommend for this region, please do let us know.


Travel Tuesday


Monday, 29 September 2014

Tree Trunks in Detail

Posted by Rosie

A footpath starts from our back gate at Eco-Gites of Lenault and takes you down "our" valley.  We regularly walk here, either to check the sheep, exercise the dogs or forage for blackberries etc.  It is a lovely walk in all seasons.


"Our" Valley Walk - September 2014
Can you see Saari the dog?

How often though, do we walk somewhere many times without seeing so much of what is actually there.  A few days ago I therefore made a special effort to stop, look at and photograph the tree trunks.  I think they are lovely and I hope you like them too.

Young Elm

Hawthorn with Ivy

Hazel

Young Oak and Moss

I cannot decide which one I like the best,  
but do you have a favourite amongst them? 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

A Winter Weather Prediction - French Style

Posted by Rosie

Last Autumn I predicted that we would have a pretty mild, snow-free winter which turned out to be right ... I just missed out about all the rain we had!  So what of this coming winter?  I have been saying for a while that we may be in for a cold one but whether that means snow as well, I am not sure.

Anyway I was chatting to one of the local farmers earlier and as with all farmers, the topic soon turned to the weather.  I asked if he had any predictions for this winter and he shrugged his shoulders with typical Gallic charm and said no ... but then went on to say that "Les Anciens" say that if the blackberry runners grow long then the winter will be cold.

Errrm - I think I might go and check my thermals ...

The veg garden gate is disappearing beneath the blackberry runners:



These blackberry runners have grown in a few weeks since Simon strimmed the hedge at the bottom of the vegetable garden:



This is my rather overgrown fruit garden and that long plant growing up towards the sky is ... yes, you guessed it - a blackberry runner!


Do you have any feelings about what you think this winter is going to be like.  Or do you know any weather sayings that might help us to make a guess?

Friday, 26 September 2014

From Honey to Stink - A Fungi Walk

Posted by Rosie

Yesterday I wrote how the September weather here in Normandy has been fabulous.  Whilst daytime temperatures could all too easily be mistaken for midsummer, a closer look clearly shows that we are in early Autumn.  The nights are chillier, the mornings full of mist. Autumnal colours are appearing and there are fungi popping up. As yet there are not too many fungi as the weather has been so dry but no doubt more will appear when we get some rain.  These are the ones I spotted on a walk with the dogs yesterday.  Some of I can identify but one is a mystery as so often is the case with fungi!

Stinkhorn - Phallus impudicus


This is possibly one of the easiest of all fungi to identify and in fact you will smell it before you see it!  The smell comes from their sticky spores which attract flies who then distribute these spores on their feet.  And it's shape - well yes, probably the less said about that the better!

Stinkhorn

The picture below is also a stinkhorn, this time just before the fungus emerges in the characteristic form above.  It also has the distinctive smell and is known as a Witch's Egg.  Apparently it is edible and supposed to be an aphrodisiac but this is not recommended!!

Witch's Egg (Immature Stinkhorn)

Honey Fungus - Armillaria mellea


I think the fungi below are all Honey Fungus, a fungus that is a parasite of tree roots and can cause the death of trees.  The honey in it's name (mellea is Latin for honey) refers to it's honey colour, not it's taste.  It is a very widespread fungus and when it does appear it is easy to spot the large clusters.  As with all fungi though it is short lived and soon rots back, first to brown and then a rather disgusting black mass. 

Honey Fungus

Honey Fungus

Rotting Honey Fungus

Not all fungi are easy to spot. Both these pictures below are fungi but I only spotted them as I was down on the ground photographing the "Witch's Egg" above! 


Dead Man's Fingers - Xylaria polymorpha


It's easy to see where this fungus got it's name from!  It is a common fungus and present all year round where it lives on dead wood.


Dead Man's Fingers


Artist's Conk - Ganoderma applanatum


Look carefully in this picture and you will see a large white object in the top right, the base of a bracket fungus that I am fairly sure is an Artist's Conk. It is said you can etch into the white surface and the marks will turn and stay brown revealing your artistic masterpiece, hence it's common name.  

Artist's Conk - Ganoderma applanatum

Unknown fungus


This little cluster of orange fungi was growing under the gate into the turkey field but I have no idea what it is.  Fungi are notoriously difficult for the amateur to identify as many species look so similar.  However in France you can take you finds to the Pharmacy and they will do the identification for you and advise which ones are edible.

Unknown small orange fungus


With luck we will see more fungi when we get some rain.  Why don't you head out and see what fungi you can find.  But remember, if you do not know what the fungus is, do not pick or even touch it. Some can be irritant to touch. 

#FungiFriday on The Purple Pumpkin Blog


Thursday, 25 September 2014

How to Eat the Best Sweetcorn

Posted by Rosie

I mentioned a while a go that I really needed a good early Autumn for some of our vegetables to reach harvest size. I am pleased to say that so far, September has been fabulous and the harvests are still rolling in.  The forecast is looking fine for the next week too, although the nights definitely on the chilly side more often now.  And the mornings come to think of it as I found out when I drove the the bus stop in my PJs today!!  I am also of frost watch as a few years ago we got our first frost of the Autumn on September 28th.

Late September harvest at Eco-Gites of Lenault
Clockwise from top left - 
Chard, Carrots, Pears, Yellow Courgettes
Savoy Cabbage, Sweetcorn, French Beans

The sweetcorn was sown horribly late in the polytunnel as part of a 3 sisters experiment (which I will write about in more detail another time).  Trying to get sweetcorn seeds in France is difficult as the French perceive sweetcorn more as animal feed that something delicious to chomp on, so few places stock seeds!  They do buy tinned sweetcorn to eat cold in salads but French friends have been amazed that we grow sweetcorn to eat on the cob or even that we eat the tinned corn as part of a hot dish.  Oh well, that's their loss!  Tese cobs were grown from seeds sent over by my lovely friend Andrea and they have done so well.  They are the most tender and sweet I think that I have ever grown.

The freshest sweetcorn possible

One of the reasons the sweetcorn tastes so good is because it is so fresh.  I remember Geoff Hamilton (my gardening inspiration) being asked once how long harvested sweetcorn would keep.  He answered thus:

"Head into the kitchen and put a large pan of water on to boil.  Amble to your vegetable patch, and pick the cobs.  Then run like the wind back to the kitchen, peel them and pop them in the water straight away!"

You see, as soon as the sweetcorn is picked the sugars that make it so sweet begin to change to far less tasty starch.  This is why I would never buy sweetcorn because however fresh they claim to be, they will never be as fresh as the ones we can cook within seconds of picking them.

Do you grow sweetcorn and if so have you noticed how much sweeter it tastes than shop bought ones?  

Time then, for my regular link up with Annie's weekly gardening blog linky over at Manneskjur.  Do pop over and have a nose around some other gardening blogs.

Manneskjur

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

No More Nutella!

Posted by Rosie

I live in a slightly strange household where half it's members do not like chocolate!  Actually that is not strictly true - everyone likes chocolate bars but Simon and Ben do not like chocolate cakes, puddings, ice cream etc!

Ben however, recently discovered that he likes Nutella and a friend bought him a 1kg jar of it for his birthday.  That is now finished and despite trying to persuade him to eat the many flavours of jam I have made, he still wanted a replacement jar of Nutella.  I put him off for a while but the nagging became too much to bear so I stopped on the chocolate spread aisle in the supermarket recently and was about to pop a jar in my basket when I paused to read the ingredients:



Sugar (as expected) then .... palm oil.

Palm oil is something we try hard not to eat - it is high is saturated fats and it is produced from trees grown on deforested land in Indonesia and Malaysia which has many detrimental environmental problems as outlined here in more detail.

The Nutella went back on the shelf.  The own brand chocolate spread was also made with palm oil so that stayed put too.

Apparently "Leader Price" which used to be "Mutant", a French budget supermarket chain similar to Aldi or Lidl makes a Nutella-like product without palm oil.  I will need to investigate.  Whilst I would prefer not to buy it at all, is there anything wrong with a little indulgence once in a while?!  In the meantime I do have about 8 types of jam to tempt Ben with and a large pot of Marmite!  I really hope that does not have any palm oil in it.



Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Spicy Peach Chutney

Posted by Rosie


Our lovely neighbour, Bernadette, stopped me on the way back from the school bus-stop a few days ago and asked it I would like some peaches.  She has 2 peach trees growing on south-facing walls in her yard and they have fruited really well for the last couple of years.  The peaches are only the size of apricots and not as sweet as larger ones grown in the warmer south so they really need cooking rather than eating raw.   Once picked they do not keep well, so I needed to come up with something quickly, otherwise the pigs would be eating our bag of peaches!

Last year when she gave us a bag I came up with the idea of making a chutney based on a mango chutney recipe.  We all love mango chutney but we are unable to grow mangoes here (obviously!) and it is very expensive and difficult to buy locally.

 

Spicy Peach Chutney



Ingredients



  • 1.5kgs peaches – roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 5cm piece fresh root ginger, grated or chopped finely
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp black onion seeds
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 large red chilli finely sliced.  Remove the seeds for a less spicy chutney
  • 500ml water
  • 375ml white wine vinegar
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt 

Makes 4-5 x 500g jars


 

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large thick bottomed pan, add the onion and fry for a few minutes until soft.
  2. Stir in the ginger and cook, stirring frequently, for about 8-10 mins until the onion is golden.
  3. Add all of the spices, except the turmeric, and fry for 1 min.
  4. Stir in the turmeric and chilli, lemon juice and chopped peaches.
  5. Pour in the water and vinegar, add the sugar and salt, then cover and simmer gently for 30 mins.
  6. Take off the lid and leave to simmer uncovered for 30-45 mins until the mixture has thickened. You will need to stir it from time to time to stop it catching the bottom of the pan.
  7. It is ready when a wooden spoon drawn across the chutney leaves a trail that only gradually fills back up.
  8. Spoon into hot, sterilised jars and add lids whilst hot. 




As with most chutneys, the flavour improves with keeping, so store in a cool, dark place for a month before trying.  I also see no reason why this recipe would not work with nectarines or even plums, although with zero plums on our tree this year I will not be making any plum chutney this year!

Freestones and Clingstones


Did you know that peaches and nectarines have 2 distinct types of stone in them?  Sometimes when you eat one you will see that the stone comes away easily and cleanly from the flesh.  That is a freestone peach/nectarine. Other times the flesh clings firmly onto the stone in which case it is classed as a clingstone!  I learnt that on University Challenge! 

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

Recipe of the weekTasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com
#NoWasteFoodChallenge
#NoWasteFoodChallenge
 

Monday, 22 September 2014

25% off Brittany Ferries crossings

Posted by Rosie

Eco-Gites of Lenault are now advertising with Brittany Ferries through their site Holiday France Direct.  We have joined on their Quick Book commission scheme where we don't pay to place our advert on the site, but Brittany Ferrries charges us £29 for each booking made.  We then charge the remainder of the amount to the guest so they don't pay any more than if they booked direct with us.


25% off Ferry Crossings!


The great advantage for guests is that which each booking they will receive a money off voucher for their crossing with Brittany Ferries.  Normally this is 20% but for all bookings made before Oct 31st the voucher will be for 25%.  That's a BIG chunk of a saving especially if you are looking to travel in peak season next year.


Brittany Ferries Routes

Brittany Ferries sail from Cork, Plymouth, Poole and Portsmouth and arrive in France at Roscoff (4 hrs +), St Malo (1½hrs), Cherbourg (2 hrs), Caen (1hr) and Le Havre (1½hrs).  The figures in brackets show how far we are from each port with Caen being the closest and Roscoff the furthest.  Crossings into Le Havre are with the Brittany Ferries Economie sailings where the boats are a little more basic but the cost is lower.


To make a booking and claim your voucher you need to book via our listing here.  Chose your dates, book them with Brittany Ferries and pay them £29.  They will put you in contact with us to sort out the remainder of the payment and further details. We will then harge as normal i.e. a deposit to secure the booking and the balance 6 weeks before arrival.  Terms and Conditions apply as normal as do any additional charges such as dogs (€20/dog per week), TV and DVD rental (€25 per week/€40 per fortnight), first night supper, on arrival shopping etc.

The Betagne leaving Portsmouth

Travelling by ferry is a great way to start your holiday.  The boats are spacious with on-board entertainment, plenty of restaurants and shops and time to start your tan up on deck!

To take advantage of this offer, book your holiday with us before Oct 31st and reduce your ferry crossing by 25%.  We are already getting enquiries for 2015 and have a week in August booked.  Don't delay and risk missing out.  Book now for great savings!