Tuesday 24 January 2006

Seedlings of Hope

Some of the Eucalyptus seeds have come up. Actually they were showing their heads yesterday but I didn't check until after I wrote yesterday's entry. They look fine for now but past experience suggests some will succumb to damping off so I'm keeping the lid off of the propagator to allow some fresh air in.

I do have some reservations about using eucalyptus in the coppice. They are undeniably not a native species and might escape to cause a problem in the local environment. OTOH there are very many eucalypts in parks and gardens all over Europe and there doesn't seem to be any problem with that. These trees are destined for regular cutting to produce firewood and will barely have time to reach flowering maturity before their heads come off (everyone say 'oooh') and they have to start all over again. I'll take the chance.

We're off to Ireland tomorrow. Many more people know this than you might expect as I inadvertently sent an email to the Veggie mailing list detailing the arrangements under the mistaken impression I was sending it to Roy only. Oh dear.

We're hoping to clear the old house and hand it over to an agent for selling. Nice property set on two acres with 3 bedroomed farm house, outbuildings, dutch barn and new septic tank. Water piped in from the mountain, no rates or land bills, beautiful isolated position overlooking fields and forestry. A bargain. Contact me if you're serious about a price.

Here's the house, Leitra

A house in Ireland

And talking about contacting me - I've mentioned this blog in quite a lot of places now. If you are reading and can bear to admit it, make a comment, just this once. I'm beginning to feel like a DJ at 2 a.m.

Sunday 22 January 2006

Local Interests

I've been spending a bit of time on the awful AngloInfo forum where a lot of Brits in Normandy hang out and amongst tips for finding Guinness and real Bisto granules (same thing but dried, n'est-ce pas? Ed.) there are a few gems of local information worth hanging onto.

For example, as part of a local (and for all I know EU wide) initiative to restore traditional hedging all householders in Manche are entitled to 50 hedging plants at, if I remember correctly, 20 cents each plant each year. Application forms available in the Mairie. Worth having. There is also a Tree Fair is Lisieux just up the road from us each March in which the whole town is taken over in massed horticultural frenzy.

And we've been looking at ways of repairing the buildings traditionally by referring to British practices but it seems there are local enthusiasists trying to keep local skills alive. I've been given the address of Pierre et Masse, 50210 Cerisy la Salle just down the road from Ouville. The website was disappointing, seemingly an unfilled blogspot (!) but it's good to know that some people somewhere have some interest that they may be willing to share with us.

And more on the buildings tomorrow...

Tonight's picture is from a friend of Mark Ynys Mon's who is part of the writing on the snow. Support Greenpeace and Stop Whaling.

Help End Whaling
Originally uploaded by mym.

21/01/06 Keeping Livestock

This should have been posted yesterday but we went to celebrate with Paul's mum for her 75th Birthday Party at an expensive restaurant in London. We stayed away overnight and of course, the cat couldn't join us so he stayed at home alone with 3 bowls of food.

Naturally, for one night he was fine. All the food was eaten up which makes a change as normally he nags for something fresh as soon as the leftovers are 10 minutes old and he was pleased to see us but it is going to be really BIG problem.

We can't ever leave the house together for more than about 36 hours. For annual holidays we have in the past asked the neighbours to look in daily but now the cat is so old and cranky it seems to be more than any normal human would want to take on casually. We've had Xtal to stay, and paid other kind souls to stay with him at home for a week at a time but people have their own lives and can't just pop over at the drop of a hat and we can't afford to do this regularly anyway. The cat hates travelling, gets quite overstressed and unwell with it so leaving him with family and friends is difficult and contemplating boarding him with strangers in a cattery an unusual cruelty.

So what are we going to do with him, when I'm hoping to spend a lot of time in France and Paul hopes to visit me there often? The pet passport system is still cumbersome, requires injections, regular visits to vets and other intrusive procedures like chipping. Even if all this wasn't too much for his frail old system (I'm not even sure he could take a rabies vaccination with his heart and kidneys) then there is still the actual travelling to overcome. Hours in a car and ferry might be o.k. once if he was emigrating but frequent trips would be insupportable.

As far as we know he's 16 years of age. He has a few more years left at most and they should be happy ones but to give him everything he needs is going to cripple us - or make life very difficult at any rate.

And in the future - vegans try not to exploit animals and so we have no problem with not filling the farm with pigs, goats and ducks. But companion animals are different, it would be hard never to have a cat or dog again, and yet if it means we can't see each other or move easily from country to country it will be impossible ever to offer a home to one again.

Friday 20 January 2006

Wildlife Survey

When we first viewed the house last July we were amazed by the beautiful butterflies, wildflowers and insects across the fields. It seems important that we make some sort of formal record of the flora and fauna of the place and perhaps over time we will be able to identify how replacing hedges, planting more native species and our general gardening efforts have affected the original populations.

I'm not sure of the best way to gather and store the material. A simple record (like this blog) backed up with some pictures is a start but it would be nice to have a searchable database with the ability to cross reference and annotate as more information becomes available. There are database systems and wikis out there but I've not found one yet that seems comfortable for me. Writing our own isn't out the question but it might take longer than is sensible if we're to start taking notes immediately.

However it is accomplished it must be easy to use and reliable - which is a difficulty on any computer. Perhaps the Edwardian Lady had it right after all.

Thursday 19 January 2006

Did nothing useful today

wasting my time painting this.


What I should have been doing, although it has little to do with la Rupallerie, is preparing a tax return for the company or even my other plan of spending a few hours at the allotment planting some broad beans and garlic.

Instead of which I've achieved nothing and so I'm not very happy as a result.

Wednesday 18 January 2006

Box Cuttings

What really happened today is that I spent a lot of time copying stuff from one machine to another and setting up programs, ameol, thunderbird and so on that I'd only just sorted from the last disk failure, but never mind, it's mostly done now. All I have to do is burn a few archive disks and try to keep the new disk tidy. Ha.

But it wasn't all lost time. The willow cuttings arrived, promptly and well packed. They are resting in the fridge for the time being until we go to France in a week or so. And the box cuttings were taken and are now in the greenhouse. I would have put them in the propagator but there's no room.

Other things France related, the insurance for the house arrived and the copy has been posted back to Agence Eaton, Generali Assurances. There is no insurance for the other French house. I wonder if we should obtain some.

I must check on my seeds. Maybe something will have come up already.

Yesterday's entry

I took delivery of my new Dell and in the ensuing mayhem didn't manage to create an entry for yesterday so here it is now!

Actually, not a lot happened to progress french interests. I took some time to go to our allotments in NP and did harvest a few young trees which have been potted up as potential woodland overseas. Then I (finally) took down the bean canes and did a bit of tidying up. I've paid for the allotments until October 2006 in order to give myself time to extract various perennials from the plots. Chief amongst these are the asparagus crowns just embarking on their third year. I'm not sure how well they'll transplant but we've been waiting so long. There are also three types of comfrey, the lovage and sweet cicely I brought from Worthing and some other herbs and rhubarb. I'm in two minds about the fruit, blackcurrants and raspberries. The blackcurrants have been fantastic but there were already on the land when we took it on and I suspect may be infected with virus. Since the farm is practically virgin territory I don't want to take diseases in with us. We may have to invest in new stock. The strawberries definitely need replacing.

As we have the land, more or less prepared, I hope we will be able to plant some bulk crops of potatoes, alliums and, this is fanciful, wheat all of which should be cleared in time to hand the allotments back in the autumn. We can then concentrate on preparing the winter veg. garden in France (along with some easy peasy beans and pumpkins) and continue to create our new vegetable patch from there.

Independent Online Edition > Environment

Independent Online Edition > Environment

The end of the world - coming to a screen near you soon.

Who's up for being my breeding partner in the artic then ?

Tuesday 17 January 2006

Hurry hurry hurry

nearly too late for today!

Anyway, what did I do today? I ordered the willow cuttings and some plastic mulch, then found another place in Wales with a lot more varieties of willow including a fantastic red stemmed contorted one which I MUST have. More importantly (how can that be?) they have a number of cultivars that appear to be traditional in Northern France (all the sorts I've chosen so far are from Somerset and the Midlands) so that's something to consider for next year maybe.

Also today, the seeds from Chiltern Seeds arrived and I have planted small pots of Eucalyptus Viminalis and Rubida, some Betula Ermanii and some Manna Ash which I'm hoping will come up soon. I took some cuttings from the perennial wallflower (the yellow one, the Bowles purple died) which I'm hoping will root quickly. I had plans to take box cuttings today as well but didn't quite.

And about the house I made some bread and took pictures of the Santos mixer which you can see Using the Santos bread mixer here somewhere.

so the day wasn't entirely wasted but more could be done!

Monday 16 January 2006


Spent a long weary day on Sunday looking over the very comprehensive lists of hedging plants available locally and deciding that they are still too expensive for the lengths of hedge we need to cover. So maybe I'll stick to buying a few of the more exotic and interesting plants (e.g wild pear, purple leaved hazel, cornelian cherry) and attempt to raise some bulk planting of sloe, may and ordinary hazel by myself. The planting is going to be heavy work too so it's probably best not to be too ambitious with expensive and delicate bare rooted seedlings. They wouldn't be best pleased to be out of the ground for too long.

There is a lot more to do at the farm than plan the plantings but until we get there and decide what gets priority it's difficult to progress much else. The cob and lime course has been booked for April 7th for both of us to attend which should give us some clues about how to repair some of our walls and make them watertight again but the roofing and the woodwork preservation is going to require some skilled professional attention.

This posting would have been made on the 15th but Blogger didn't want to play, honest.

Saturday 14 January 2006

The Willow Coppice Project

Have decided to create a willow coppice for basket making materials. This is relatively cheap to set up and quick to install as willow is very easy to root. My biggest worry is protecting the young plants from rabbits and deer until they are properly established.

Estimated pricing:
1200mm x 10m black plastic mulch £11 (http://www.plasticsbypost.net/mainpages/weedcontrolpage.htm)
30 willow cuttings from http://www.jprwillow.co.uk/willow-varieties.htm
not completely decided on varieties at 50p each plus £5 delivery but something like
5 x Salix purpurea Dark Dicks
5 x Salix purpurea Light Dicks (love those names!)
5 x Salix triandra Black Maul (all these recommended basket willows)
5 x Salix viminalis - Osier
3 x Salix alba britzensis (the red stemmed willow)
3 x Salix daphnoides - Violet Willow
2 x Salix nigricans - Black Willow
2 x Salix pentandra - Bay Willow

Total cost in the region of £35 but does not include protection from vermin.

or some mixture like that anyway. It provides 7 named species of willow and we already have Salix alba yellow barked form on the farm and maybe others that I've not identified yet. The total area required for the coppice will be about 5 sq m. max (plants are usually spaced at 30cm x 60cm which is close to keep the stems straight) and some of the more ornamental types can be used in the hedges and landscaping. Additional plantings will be free at the cost of a year's wait for propagation material.

Friday 13 January 2006

A New Year

Last year we finally purchased our new property in France.

It's about 24 acres (9.53ha) between Bayeux and St. Lo.

This blog is being hijacked to become the new blogging area for this venture and I hope to record something about it for each day.

So far this year I have investigated hedging. At £100 for 15m of half metre plants we can't afford to buy it in so we're going to have to grow our own. I've also purchased eucalytus seeds (viminalis and rubida), birch and manna ash seeds to start the coppice area and taken some cuttings of lavender from plants here to take there for the garden.

Today I've been looking into grape varieties - I don't really expect to make a lot of wine in what is fundamentally a cider area but would like some fruit for the table, maybe enough to dry for cakes and to make juice in a good year. I also need vine leaves for stuffing. There are a lot to choose from but not many suppliers found yet. The project continues.

List making is a vice, updating this blog comes top of the list so more tomorrow!