Although those frosty, chill mornings have been few and far between it remains the case that Nature manages to provide decorations that are infinitely more delicate and refined than anything we can produce:
As the weather has still enabled us to venture outdoors, there have been some interesting things to observe: for example, we have seen some mantises ... which we do see from time to time in the summer, but rarely so late in the year: here's one by the swimming pool, rather out of his/her' comfort zone:
Colour is typically bright green although, like this one, browner varieties can also be found. In fact they are often really hard to spot, being very well camouflaged with the long grass / undergrowth in which they stalk their prey - which is usually insects. With this one we made sure it did not tumble into the pool and, after a while, we just picked her/him up and took to some nice, long grass.
Actually, we did think of training the mantis to sort out moles .... which are starting to 'invade' the garden again. Contrary to what some people think (and some fictional literature supports - you know which book I'm referring to ...) moles do not hibernate; they are active all year round. Indeed, there is more visible mole activity during the winter and spring due to their working nearer the surface as wetter conditions usually move their prey to the ground's surface:
And we have been doing some tree planting - some oak trees in amongst our 'wildflower area' and also starting a new, small coppice of trees in an area of open grass, where we'll put together a mix of trees that are particularly attractive to bees, starting with some 'tulip trees':
Speaking of eucalyptus trees - we have those that we planted six years ago and they have grown very high ... they must be at least 15 metres and are flourishing, with foliage and flowers. This Autumn we have noticed just how many bees, particularly bumble bees, have been attracted by the blossoms:
When doing a bit of reading-up on all this we came across this lovely painting by the Californian artist Brian Stewart of bees feeding on the nectar of a Eucalyptus:
So, life of course continues: 'lockdown conditions' here remain strict, but there will be some relaxation in mid-December if the pandemic data allows, enabling some degree of families and friends meeting indoors. But travel restrictions on travel between countries, particularly between France and the UK, remain very complex and restrictive. So, we will have to be patient and await what we hope will be the efficient and effective distribution and application of the vaccines. What has been inspirational has certainly not been the politics, but the extraordinary scientific developments and co-operation.
We are in the process of 're-working' our Chambres D'Hotes/Gites, ready for 2021 and we look forward to welcoming established guests, friends and new visitors to 'Nichoir', to share some peace, calm and quiet, good conversation and ideas.
So, in the meantime, we wish readers of the Blog a safe and convivial Christmas!