a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

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.

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

29 thoughts on “The pompier called

  1. Two bee posts within a few hours of each other. Nice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m all for a book that tries to get people to get outside and see for themselves. That’s exactly what I try to do with my blog. I’ll have to see if I can find it here.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The book is on the list of presents for this year….
    and your description of French route-marching is perfect…
    Form a crocodile now…
    no talking…
    follow the people in the hi-vis vests…

    and to cap it all there are…
    another couple of hi-vis vestites at the back…
    armed with cattle prods….
    to keep the ones who want to look at and appreciate the countryside…
    in step with the other prisoners!

    NO… not a walk for us!!

    Just love the dew on the second bee picture….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I felt very lucky to hear Dave talk this year. The book on the grass is the best photo I’ve seen of it so far!


  5. Its hard to imagine anyone not engrossed in nature, what a loss. I’ve just found your lovely recommendation on Amazon and have put it on my wish list. (Its also on their number 1 best sellers for Insects) It does feel at all like December or Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I enjoyed looking at your bumble bees too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The cover of the book is lovely! That would be enough to get me to buy it 🙂 Like you I’m a great admirer of Dave Goulson. Did you know he writes a blog? It doesn’t get updated very much, but it is full of really interesting information, especially about farming practices and their effects on insects. Like he says, ‘whatever happened to integrated pest management?’ I realised recently that I only narrowly avoided being one of his students, by choosing a different university to do my qualification in biodiversity surveying. At the time I had never heard of him and I had heard of the botany lecturer where I went.

    I must be very lucky where I live (and Tim too, since he only lives in the next valley to me). I belong to a fantastic botany and mycologie club who are interested in all aspects of nature and unbelievably knowledgeable. Nature walks here are very well attended. I’m the only non-French member. I do encounter those who don’t know what they are looking at, but I find most people are at least interested. I think a lot of this stems from how popular foraging for edible mushrooms is, and now the popularity of digital photography is influential in getting people to look at the little creatures as well as the landscape.


    • I didn’t know that Goulson wrote a blog, I’d like to find it. I must admit that a month ago I attended a mushroom sortie in Lusignan and I was astonished that about 60 people turned up (compare 4 people and us for bats near us). The sortie was animated by a mycologist from the University of Poitier, a marvellously informative, enthusiastic and patient young man. We thoroughly enjoyed ourself and the people who attended were not only interested in the edible variety and some were members of the local mycologie club. Amelia


  8. At the French conversation club I go to there are French people who are interested in ‘nature’, which means I’ve been learning words for all sorts of things I would never have dreamed of wanting to learn when I lived in France! Anyway, the book sounds interesting and I too feel sorry for Goulson😔.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Goulson is a great champion for bumblebees and is doing his best to point out the wrongs which are being done in the name of neonicotinoids.

    Here is his blog address: http://splash.sussex.ac.uk/blog/for/dg229/2014/10/10/are-crops-being-devastated-without-neonicotinoid-protection



    • Thanks for that link Philip, I have now got it bookmarked. In addition, that particular response to Matt Ridley’s article was very interesting. Many people feel that it is commercial interests that push the pesticides. I had tended to veer towards ignorance as the problem but now I am not sure. Amelia


  10. I’ve enjoyed a sample of one of Dave’s books and am waiting to see if I get book gift cards for Christmas to buy them. They’ll make for nice reading in the cold of winter.


  11. I smiles at your description of French peoples interest or non interest in nature. ; the Italians are just the same; where I help teach about gardens the reaction to any insect is first “kill it” then ask what it is. Many parents won’t allow teachers in schools to teach the children about nature if it means they will get their hands dirty. What sums it up for me is that the term used to describe fallen leaves is that the streets are dirty! This is pretty rich coming from a nation that uses the side of almost every road as a place to dump all of its rubbish! I’ll look out for the book, thanks.


    • It seems such a strange attitude coming from people that seem much closer to the earth than a lot of city dwellers. Perhaps the confirmed city dwellers have more respect for the sights that they have little chance to encounter on a daily basis. Sorry I did not manage to correct the typo 🙂 Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  12. sorry can you correct that, it should be I smiled….


  13. Ignorance of nature is not unique to France. Many years ago before reinitroduction projects were thought of, I visited the last stronghold of the red kite in mid Wales. A van drew up next to our parked car. We asked the driver, “Have you seen a red kite?” “Why, have you lost one?” was the reply. Eheu. Pauline

    Liked by 1 person

  14. How sad that so few people appreciate the creatures all around them, Amelia.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. And you are a very readable author too, Amelia! I really like Dave Goulson’s books – they are a very human window into the insect world.


  16. And thanks for introducing me to yet another new word (for me): saveur pompier. I shall not forget it.


  17. I can’t imagine not being interested in the wonderful things around us. The book sounds like a great present. I wouldn’t mind the pompiers turning up on my doorstep, as long as it wasn’t because my house was on fire 🙂


    • It is difficult to understand other peoples interest or lack of it. My husband was working in the garden while I was talking to an elderly neighbour, he found a marbled newt and brought it over for us to admire and the poor old lady nearly jumped out of her skin! She has lived here in the country all her life and is from farming stock but is frightened of anything without fur or feathers. Amelia


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