All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair –
The bees are stirring – birds are on the wing –
And Winter, slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
And I, the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.
(Samuel Taylor Coleridge Work without Hope, 1825)
What can I say about our winter this year in France. Well as they say here, ce n’était pas normal – or in plain English it was pretty miserable. Generally it was not too cold, but cloudy and rainy – a bit like England, to be honest. Then all of a sudden we had two days of winter, with temperatures dropping to minus 7 degrees Centigrade and a touch of actual snow.
As we were warned, Amelia and I had placed additional insulation on top and around of beehives.
But thankfully for our little girls, the following day the temperature rose by 20 degrees,! And the bees were rushing out in great numbers in search of pollen and nectar.
When we arrived in France on a permanent basis, we had very few birds visiting our garden. The Robin was, of course, sure that this is his garden and we are only the new tenants. He used to come every day at the beginning and even now he is the most friendly bird in the garden.
I started feeding the birds on a regular basis (they eat more than five kilos of seeds every week!) and over the years we enjoy drinking our coffee and watching the birds on the patio. Three years ago, my granddaughter on one of her visits here returned from a local fête having spent all her pocket money in buying two young doves. She released them in our front garden and each year they seem to have raised two babies. I see the older doves around our small hamlet, but the youngest ones visit us on a daily basis.
I have been delighted to see that the two pairs of goldfinches that visit our garden have gained enough confidence to come to our patio regularly. The blue tits, for whom I place the peanuts at this time of the year before they have young ones, looked at the goldfinches a bit suspiciously at first, but decided that there is enough for all.
For the first time I have seen another new bird coming to the patio – a brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) or as is know here, a pinson du nord.
I do think that Brambling is rather beautiful. However, another bird that is unknown to me – and hopefully someone can identify – is a really elegant lady-like bird.
The rain has brought back the water to the river Seudre running at the bottom of our garden. Amelia literally dumped all surplus daffodils last year along the river bank, and they have awarded us with flower this year.
But this is also beginning of the period when we start watching our hives in case they are thinking of swarming, and of course hoping to catch any new swarm that might be visiting our garden. We have placed two six frames mini hives as traps, one at the bottom of the garden and one on top of the old chicken house, as there we have caught several swarms in previous years.
So we are set and ready. Hurry up summer, we are tired of this winter.