The pompier called

Yesterday a sapeur pompier rang the door bell and I hurried out to open the garden gate as he stood outside in the sunshine.  He saw my bemused look and waved a copy of the calendar he was carrying.  The penny dropped and I invited him in explaining that I was having a hard time realising that Christmas was approaching, he joked  that they had decided to come round in the spring this year!

Just before Christmas every year the pompier comes with his calendar and you make a donation and receive the calendar.  It is all in a good cause for their benevolent fund.  Out of our local group of about thirty but there is only one full-time professional, the rest are part-time volunteers.  In France they are more than just fire fighters and are often the first at the scene to deal with any accidents.

This means that we will be receiving another calendar soon from our factrice or post lady who provides a brilliant, personalised service but this time the thank you will go straight to her.

It has reminded me that Christmas is fast approaching and I still have not made my recommendation of Dave Goulson’s superb book “A Buzz in the Meadow”.  He is very readable author and he will tell you more about bumble bees and other insects that you really didn’t realise you wanted to know about – until you read his book.

Goulson Buzz

For me the best bit was to find out more about his house in France and the surrounding thirteen hectares of land he hopes to make into a wildlife preserve.  He writes candidly about his unorthodox renovation of the house and the species rich environment he has uncovered.  The saddest story was when he decided to share his passion for butterflies with the locals by advertising a guided walk.  No-one turned up except one English lady and her daughter who lived near by.  I have to sympathise with him as I meet very few local people who are interested in what the British call, in general terms, “Nature”.  Some have worked all their lives in the open and never have noticed bees or dragonflies and shy away from snakes and lizards.  Enjoying nature seems to mean walking outside and enjoying the scenery but not being aware of life – plant or animal, with the exception of some large furry animals.

Goulson writes that his goal in writing this book is to make you go out and get down on your hands and knees and look.  He feels that if we learn to value what we have we will make an effort to preserve it.

Queen bumble bee

I’m sure he would enjoy watching the queen bumble bees visiting my Salvia.

Bumble bee with pollen

I’m sure he would be interested to see a worker bumble bee with pollen-laden legs on the Salvia in this picture taken on the 26th. November 2014.

bumble bee robbing nectar

The pollen laden legs mean that somewhere there is a bumble bee nest that is still active and raising young.  However, next week the temperatures are set to drop and it looks as if winter will begin in December.

The heat goes on…

We were away for over a week and we seemed to have missed a week of rain although the temperatures were not low.  I thought things might have started to change in the garden.

Goldfinch eating Cosmos seeds

But no: the Goldfinches are still dining on the Cosmos seeds.

Pink Hollyhock

The stray Hollyhock in the vegetable garden is flowering happily with no sign of rust despite the rain.

Bee in Hollyhock

The bees are happy to visit for the nectar but I would not think she would want all that pollen she has stuck onto her at this time of year.

Medlar fruit

The Medlar tree is heavily loaded with fruit this year but it is not ripe yet.


It has been so mild that even the little olive tree has given us some olives but it will be a long time before we get enough to do anything with them.

Persimmon tree

I love the colour of the Persimmon tree at this time of year and I had thought that the mild year and warm autumn would give a bumper crop.

Persimmon and Great Tit

However, it has not been an exceptional year and we better get them off the tree tomorrow or else the birds will peck them all.  I thought it was all the Blackbirds fault but this Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) has been caught in flagrante delicto.


It was only after taking the photograph that I realised the Tits (a Great Tit ( (Parus major) here ) were being helped by a Blackcap ( Sylvia atricapilla), well the free-for-all will end tomorrow and it will be back to peanuts and sunflower seeds for them.

Winter honeysuckle

I was pleased to see my winter flowering honeysuckle had started to flower while we were away.  I cannot be sure what kind of bumble bee this is as the buff-tailed bumble bees (Bombus terrestris) in France have white tails!  So very easy to confuse with the white-tailed bumble bees (Bombus lucorum)   Perhaps this winter I will have more time to hone up on bumble bee IDs.

Bumble bee

I’m pretty sure this one is an early bumble bee queen (Bombus pratorum) as the yellow band on her abdomen was broken in the middle and the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust says this bee has the most variable colouration.  If you are interested in my tentative identification of bees have a look at my other blog “Bees in a French Garden”.  I am always keen to have contact with anyone interested in solitary bees.


The colours of autumn are not appearing uniformly which with the sunshine give the feeling of springtime more than autumn.  My Liquidambar is turning yellow but I do not see much red in its leaves.


The cotoneasters are trying their best to provide a vivid red and are laden with berries this year.


My Physalis or Chinese Lanterns are bright red where they have self-seeded themselves here and there.  They are a lovely addition to an autumn garden but I am not sure how to make the best of them.  Mine seem to have a weedy growth and I wish I could make better use of them.  Any tips for a better show next year?

Mahonia "Sweet Careless"

I was pleased to see my Mahonia “Soft Caress” that I planted last January has flowered.

Rosa mutabilis

I planted it at the same time as my Rosa mutabilis which I first saw in Christina’s garden blog, it is such a delicate rose and virtually thornless and is full of flowers at the moment.

Salvia and bumble bee

In fact, it does not feel at all like autumn yet.