Friday 19th June saw my first test of the pool, and Saturday my first swim. Both days were hot and sunny, forecast to be 25 and 26 degrees respectively. The hay bales have been collected and two of the asparagus rows have been dug over and what we think are fertilizer pellets seeded in the soil. All done by tractor! The clover patch is now over eighteen inches high and the sweet corn closer to two feet. When we first arrived, they were tiny green sprouts in large rows across the curve of a hill or meadow. The hay meadow itself now has bright green grass over a foot high. We watched from the balcony room, with the door closed as a hare bounced across it the other evening. Tim saw it, barked and 100 yards away the hare turned, ears straight up and stared in our direction.
The greenery is rampant here, so we’ve almost completed a cut-back of the drive so we can drive in without the car being scraped by brambles and young saplings. Then its off to the river. When Tim goes river-running, which he does several times a day when it is hot, he disappears through a tunnel in the nettles and other greenery and all I hear is the splash-splash as he runs up and down the river. I see his head occasionally as he jumps to see if I’m still there, but otherwise, he is out of sight. So in two of his favourite spots, I’ve cut back the greenery and can now see the river and Tim having fun. Back home we’d call this river a stream. It’s rarely wider than six or eight feet and though there are deeper pools and stretches, Tim runs where the water is less than chest high on him and there is a gravel bottom. Until he stirs it up, the water is lovely and clear with turquoise dragon flies zooming about.
Monday 22nd June. The longest day passed without incident if you ignore the fact that the Black family were almost extinguished. Picture us walking Tim down a narrow road towards a classic + crossroads. Brilliant sunny morning shortly after 9.30am. Out of the trees to the south blasts a white car which charges straight over the crossroads without stopping or even slowing down and revs up the hill towards us. I had two seconds to get Tim out of the way of the car before it blasted past us. He didn’t slow down to go by us and certainly didn’t stop but powered by on his merry way. I wished him a puncture. Actually I didn’t, but I should have done. It was all over so quickly we weren’t even shocked. Another two seconds and he was half a mile up the road.
23rd June More swimming, pics taken as if we need proof! The drive cut-back finally complete. Only problem is the size of the bonfire has increased by a third with all our cuttings. Tim only has a few toys and I mislaid one of them yesterday. A Kang rubber chew thing inside an old Argyll pattern sock of DH’s was a favourite and I went out into the garden to throw it for him. (Tim, not DH) First throw, huge effort to get it across the grass and make him run – and the wretched thing flew vertically instead of horizontally, tangled in the branches of a 60 foot tree and stayed there.
I like French farmers in this region. I don’t know any of course, but I like their farming methods, which I see all around me. Instead of the arable-livestock divide I’m used to back home, here there is often a mix of the two. They don’t stick to one or two main crops either. I’ve mentioned the asparagus, but barley grows on the hillsides and there are potatoes, sweet corn, courgettes and sunflowers growing along the valley bottom next to the field where the cattle wander about. The soil is very fertile. Plums, quinces, cherries and walnut trees grow in the hedges and fields. I’ve been picking up the green walnuts that drop off in the faint hope that I may have some walnuts in the autumn. The deer get the plums and fallen cherries and quinces, and then we see deer shit full of cherry stones. The river seems empty of fish this year. I haven’t seen a single flash of a tail. The fishermen have been too greedy.
Wednesday 24th June Deep blue skies continue. The water level in the river goes down daily, as you can see by the little vid. I’ve cleared more undergrowth from around the base of the tree and have discovered two more chunks of fallen trees. There was a huge storm in 1999 that brought down mature trees all along the valley. I always knew of one trunk still in the river, but now I know the whole trunk is still here – in three chunks. Oddly enough, when we did our Lapeyrouse circuit, we noticed that trees had been felled all along the river. We assumed local land owners wanted to stock up their wood piles. Or maybe people who know more about trees than we do decided they were too old and needed to come down. Last year in the same spot we heard a terrific tearing crack and looked round in time to see a major branch fall about seventy feet, crashing through lower branches as it went down. Back in 1999 a walnut tree came down in the storm and narrowly missed the mill; had it fallen to the north instead of to the east, the mill would have been in ruins and we would probably not be here enjoying it. Since then two more walnut trees and a pine have been taken down as a precaution against just such a disaster. Trees can be dangerous.
25th June Nothing but good weather to report. Cloudless blue skies from morn to evening and so hot we spent a good deal of the middle of the day in the shade. Some nights we have decided against a BBQ because it has been too hot to stand/sit in the sun next to a BBQ, but by 6pm it there was some cloud cover and it was cooler. By the time we sat down on the bolly to eat, there was a mini plague of what we call flying ants. One crash landed in my salad, loads of them speckled the surface of the pool and I swept them up off the bolly. No idea where they came from or why. DH turned on the hose and showered them away. An hour later, no sign of them. All the insects in France seem twice and three times their normal size. A hornet of some kind, about an inch and a half long, landed on the saucer of freshly grated Parmesan cheese at lunch time. I recoiled in horror and left it to Dh to step in and remove saucer plus hornet. He came back minus the hornet; said he nudged it away with a finger (gulp!) and it flew off into the bushes. There is another type that buzzes around but rarely lands, but when it whizzes by your ear it is startling. We’ve nicknamed them the B57s in honour of the large bomber planes.
28th June Nothing to report as good weather continues and the heat is such that we get up early and walk Tim, then spend the day creeping from one spot of shade and coolness to another until about four or five o’clock when it becomes more bearable. I’ve been taking stock of the books I’ve read while here; First of all it was JoJo Moyes One Plus One. Then The Salt Bride on Kindle (Lucinda Brant) followed by Joanna Trollope Balancing Act, Lee Child 61 Hours in spite of the fact that I’d read it before. The Abduction by John Grisham, Not Dead Yet by Peter James (on Kindle) Jason Foss When the Dust Settles (also on Kindle).
We’ve been watching the unpleasant scenes at Calais and thinking we’ll have to run that gauntlet soon.