We've been here for three Springs now - four, if we count the year when we first visited when we were house-hunting. But we cannot remember so much blossom on the trees and shrubs ... last year it was pretty prolific, but this year everything is smothered with blossom:
As the soil has warmed up, and there has been plenty of moisture, we are continuing to plant perennials, particularly climbers - so, more honeysuckle to intertwine with the wisteria and the roses on the new 'walkway' and also trying some climbing hydrangeas on the north-side of the barn, to clamber up with the Virginia creeper that has appeared all over the far end of the barns in the last year:
And our obsession with 'constructing' things around the garden continues - slightly worryingly, it has to be said - so we have renovated the old entrance door to the barns and made a bench within the door alcove so with a table and a few chairs there is a space of sitting out in the morning to catch the east-side and the morning sun:
The construction of garden gates continues - we have now made gates for the raised bed/herb garden area. The plan is that visitors will be so exhausted with negotiating the multiple gates around the garden that they will have to have nearby seating to flop on to, while pondering whether this 'gated community' is benign or otherwise. Only time will tell ...
'Aaahh!', I hear you cry ... '... and what of nature?'. Well, we can certainly depend on the amphibians to make an appearance at this time of year - so, our digging and weeding around the garden disturbs baby toads, and we carefully return them to their hideaways under rocks and damp vegetation:
But the self-proclaimed 'stars' are the frogs in the pond - who once the warmth starts up in late March and April start their rehearsals for the opera, each little (and not so little ) green Pavarotti blasting away, with the overall volume being quite extraordinary. They are almost impossible to photograph, leaping off the banks into the water as soon as they sense any approach .... so, one can only record their noise. On a few early mornings we have 'caught' a big heron in the pond, no doubt taking a 'frog breakfast' .... and away he flaps as soon as we appear - so far he does not seem to have dented the choir's output:
March has seen mixed weather - up until a week ago we have had quite a lot of rain, making the soil too wet and chilly for planting preparation work, let alone actual planting.
So, this has been a good time to catch up on jobs that otherwise get ignored when gardening is in full swing.
One of these cropped up when we were renovating the kitchen and changing the sink. This required the mains water supply to be turned off - and we realised we were not sure where this was done. We had been told that there was some sort of tap in a small shed outside the front of the house, just the other side of the old well:
But on cleaning out the shed there was no sign of any mains supply or tap. What was there was a large galvanised tank and the remains of a system that connected this to the well. This was the old system, where a pump filled the tank from the well and this then fed across to the house. We then looked outside the shed and under the hedge, ivy and nettles, and we found a concrete manhole cover and beneath that there was a water meter and a tap. We turned off the tap and lo and behold the supply to the house was cut off. We had found the modern (!) water supply - but the odd thing is that it was clear no-one could have opened the manhole cover for some time (it took us about three hours to cut back the undergrowth, clear the stones and mud before we could open the cover) and therefore the meter could not have been read - but we have been getting water bills with meter readings quote. Very puzzling. This photo is after the clearing up!:
Well, if you've read this far I'm sure you cannot contain your excitement - 'what more have they been doing?', you ask. Our industry has known no bounds ... we have:
- renovated and painted 28 shutters;
- stripped down, rust-proofed, primed and painted the front gates;
- stripped and treated the big oak doors on the wood-shed AND, from a piece of old oak flooring, we have made a 'Nichoir' house sign:
Then the past week or more the weather has changed, with more sun, and temperatures bouncing up to the early twenties on occasion. So, we have been able to start work in the garden in earnest - one of the most interesting things has been pruning and shaping the mulberry tree that provides shade near 'the Nook'. While doing this we found to what extent the wisteria there has grown - clambering its way into the higher branches of the mulberry tree:
And we have prepared the raised beds for the first planting of salad crops and some new herbs; and have dug more edging beds around the swimming pool, transplanting some large oleanders that have outgrown their pots - and next month we will be sowing the wildflower seeds all around the pool that were so successful last year (and we think many of the flowers will have re-seeded):
Also, we have been building garden gates! This is not only about providing some security for Oska - who, with his current damaged ligament problems we are trying to prevent galloping at too rapid a pace when he spots white vans in the distance (!) - but also about emphasising what we're trying to do with creating different areas of the garden. Anyway, the first gate is on the west side of the South Garden and we have tried to use a simple, traditional design and we've used the red-stain colour that we have used on the renovated door and shutters that we blogged about a while back:
Finally, while all this has been going on, and while the trees and shrubs have been building up to burst forth dramatically in the next few days, in the pond the water lilies have been lurking beneath the surface of the water, hidden from view ... and then, one morning, we notice that just a few lily pads have quietly risen to the surface, like some strange vegetable jellyfish - and there they float, awaiting their colleagues over the next week or two .... and then they will spread out, acquire a darker, luxuriant green colour, and those wonderful flowers will start appearing, that will last all Spring and Summer. Magic!
Simon lives at Nichoir, Le Bruel, with his wife Noella. They moved here in May 2013, with their Newfoundland dog, Oska, and their cat, Snufkin. Together they have set out on an adventure to create what they hope will be home from home for family and a rather special Chambres D'Hotes for guests.
Simon & Noella Mauger, 'Nichoir', Le Bruel, 81340 Lacapelle Pinet, TARN, France