a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


A Sweet Present

Miel en brèche

I got a present from my bee keeper friend Michel today.  He knows I like honeycomb so he gave me some “miel en brèche” as it is known in French.

It was up to me to cut it avoiding the metal strips running through it which serve as guides for the bees to build the comb on.

1-Cut up

I think I managed quite well, for a beginner.

1-Bread and honey

Morning coffee with fresh bread and honeycomb.

Empty honey frame

I thoroughly scraped around the frame so I would not waste any of the honey and then I put it outside for the bees to clear up the rest.

Bumble on frame

However, so far, they do not seem interested in my leftovers but this bumble bee is not going to pass over some easy pickings.

Earlier this morning I had read Emily’s post, “All about the hunny”, in Adventures in Beeland’s Blog,  explaining that she and Emma had difficulty extracting their honey.  I wonder if this could be a solution in areas where the honey was difficult to extract.  However, I am not a bee keeper (not yet).  I also love honeycomb and if some pieces of the comb mix in, it does not bother me, in fact I like it. I always remember honeycomb being something extra special and it was a particular favourite of my grandfather.   I wonder whether this is an unusual taste or not?

1-bee on breche


 Just as an update – some honey bees did come.

1-bumble on breche

And the odd honey bee deserted the Nepeta underneath to sample the honey.


Lac Bajamont


We took a break for a few days last week to stay outside Agen and visit the area nearby, between the rivers Garonne and Lot.  Lac Bajamont, is not well known but was nearby so we decided to take a look.  At first site it reminded me of some of the small lochs you see in Scotland, it even had a fisherman on the bank.

1-Hummingbird Hawkmoth

There were plenty of thistles around but you would not see a Hummingbird Hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) in Scotland!

1-Lythrum salicaria (Purple loosestrife)

The  lake was bordered by wild flowers like these purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) although it is not a natural lake but more a dam of 22 hectares that has been created by the nearby local councils to control local flooding and regulate the flow of the river.  The lake is under the protection of the Fishing Federation of the Lot and Garonne and is used for course fishing.

Teasels and knapweed

Teasels and knapweed

As we walked around the lake we were impressed by the variety and abundance of wildflowers.

Honey bee on bird's foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

Honey bee on bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

Of course, where there are flowers there is lots to see.  I think that someone must have had hives as honey bees were very much in evidence on the flowers.

Top- Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) Lower-Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

Top- Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) Lower-Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

There were lots of Meadow Browns and I spotted the very similar Gatekeeper as well.

Top-Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) F Lower-Common Blue M

Top-Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) F Lower-Common Blue M

The bright blue of the male butterflies seems so unreal.

Spotted Fritillary, Melitaea didyma

Spotted Fritillary, Melitaea didyma

Sometimes you need to get closer to feel the full impact of the colours and patterns, like the eyes of this Spotted Fritillary.

Meadow Fritillary. (Mellicta parthenoides)

Meadow Fritillary. (Mellicta parthenoides)

Perhaps it is a good point to mention that I have done my best to identify all the creatures that we managed to take decent photographs of, because I would like to share our walk, but I am not an expert and I apologise in advance if I I have made any errors!

Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii)

Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii)

The waters of the lake are so clear at the edges that Kourosh was able to take this picture of the Crayfish under the water.  This is an invasive variety and not a natural European species.  I must give Kourosh the credit for many of the photographs in this blog as I kept on my Macro lens as there were so many small creatures attracting my attention.

The lake is kept only as a nature reserve.  No swimming or motor boats are allowed and fishing is with a permit only.   This allows joggers and picnickers a site to enjoy the outdoors and its peace.

1-HoaryPlantain - Plantago media.1

Most of the flowers were similar to the ones we see in our area but I had never seen Hoary Plantain (Plantago media) before.

1-HoaryPlantain - Plantago media.

The more common plantain flower is very plain but this plantain has lovely lilac/pink flowers that the bees and butterflies find very attractive.


Hallictus scabiosa on Centaurea nigra (Common Knapweed)

There was lots of Knapweed around.  This is really a plant to attract all sorts of pollinators and one I am going to try to increase in my garden.

Common chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Common chicory (Cichorium intybus)

There were lots of blue chicory flowers, this one was being attacked by a snail much to the disgust of the little bee.

Upper- Common blue damselfly, (Enallagma cyathigerum)-lower-Blue Hawker (Aeschna cyanea)

Upper- Common blue damselfly, (Enallagma cyathigerum)-lower-Blue Hawker (Aeschna cyanea)

Of course, being beside the water there were plenty of damselflies and dragonflies around.  Just so much to see.

Swallowtail, Papilio machaon

Swallowtail, (Papilio machaon)

I at last saw my first Swallowtail of this summer.  Not a great photo as it is taken with my Macro lens after a close chase.  It is a big butterfly but it can shift!

Lesser Purple Emperor, (Apatura ilia)

Lesser Purple Emperor, (Apatura ilia)

This one was sunning itself and easier to capture.  It had attracted my attention as it was purple!  The colouration changed with the angle of the light that was falling on the wing scales.  You can just see the slight colouration in the photograph but it does really look purple in certain lights, in others it looks a much less remarkable brown.  I was very lucky to see it on several counts.  Firstly the female does not have the purple reflection and secondly they often spend the day on the crowns of trees.  The eggs are laid on Poplars and Willows and we have plenty of those near us but this is the first time I have seen it.

unknown moth

Unfortunately, I’ve had no luck identifying this.  I would guess at a moth, but it has such a strange wing shape.


I’ll close with a picture of some vetch.  We took so many photographs on our short walk round the lake that it’s been hard to condense them to give an idea of the place.  Our lasting impression was of admiration for the brilliant solution to the areas previous  flooding problem.


Une Nuit Blanche

Une nuit blanche is a French expression for having passed a night without sleep.  This could have a good or bad connotation depending on what you were doing during the night!

This expression has been taken by the region of Grand Champagne (one of the most prestigious cognac producing regions) and for the past twenty years, every Friday night in July and August anyone can join in “Les Nuits Blanches” presented by the local people.  Organised by the Office of Tourism you book your car and follow a mystery tour through the beautiful countryside.  The event is well-organised with marshals holding back the traffic to allow the line of cars which passes in a follow-my-leader style from stop to stop.

bees in Mallaville

The evening started in Malaville outside its 13th. Century church.  My husband was quick to spot some honey bees that had built a hive with an opening  just above the front door.  They were still busy in the late evening sunshine and I chuckled at the thought of sneaking bees into this post.

For the previous two weeks the Nuits Blanches had been cancelled as the French weather forecast had declared an orange warning predicting thunderstorms.  As this year the theme of the evening was – Auprès de mon arbre, it was not deemed wise to take people into the woods with violent thunderstorms predicted.

celtic start

We made our way on foot to our first “saynète”,  or little scene, which was waiting for us to arrive.  There was a rumble and a crack and some rain, thankfully held back by the trees.

covered speaker

Someone rushed to cover the speakers with plastic.  I think the Celtic priestess had words with the spirits of the forest because the rain soon stopped and the weather was fine for the rest of the evening.


Our Celtic priestess explained to us that they appreciated the forest and the trees but their customs and traditions are forgotten compared to those of the Romans and Greeks.

Obélix and Idéfix

Obélix and Idéfix

There is more to the Celts, she tells the children, than you read in Asterix and Obelix.


Now we are off in the car into the woods, listening to the CD which is provided, and starts with Georges Brassens singing the first few lines of his song ” Auprès De Mon Arbre”.  The CD talks of trees, their origins, their importance and the first part finishes  just as you reach the first stop.

This scene talks of the lives of the people who lived in the woods in communities or family groups, rarely going into towns but living in the woods which provide them with their livelihood chopping wood, gathering herbs or making charcoal.

We paused in the dark to listen to the trees talk of their different properties and uses and were warned that there used to be wolves in the woods.


When one little girl saw these fierce wolves creep from the edges of the clearing she quickly demanded to be taken off her father’s shoulders to take shelter in the safety of his arms!

Wolves were a threat to the villagers in France at one time but the fear of wolves and other mythical creatures of the woods was also played on by thieves and army deserters.

On the car again and off to the next stop.

making barrels

This is the region famous for Cognac.  Oak barrels play a pivotal role in the production of cognac and some are still made in the traditional way in this area.  The oak used, however, is not local as it grows too quickly in the Charente and must be brought from cooler areas of France.  It is fascinating watching a barrel being made from planks of oak by binding them with metal hoops and heating them from the inside so they seal together forming a water tight container.


The next stop was in the grounds of this beautiful house and it took a light-hearted look at the fairy book characters whose dramas took place in the woods.

We finished the evening being offered a glass of cognac and tonic or a non-alcoholic orange drink courtesy of the area’s cognac producers and admiring the distillation equipment of a local producer of cognac who welcomed us onto his property.  He was the fifth generation of his family to be producing cognac on their lands.

I thoroughly enjoyed my Nuit Blanche and want to applaud again all the actors (who are unpaid volunteers) that told the story of their region so well.  In fact, there are about 200 actors and technicians who give their time freely to show with pride the beauty and traditions of their countryside.



Living in France

The magazine “Living in France” has chosen our garden for their new gardening page in the September issue of the magazine which has brought on a wave of nostalgia.  It seems as if we have turned a full circle from reading the magazine to becoming a part of it.

I was happy to be part of this issue but it also felt a little strange as this magazine had been bought and pored over by my husband while we were living in Aberdeen.  It had all started innocently enough with touring holidays in France but then the monthly purchase of the magazine warned me that ideas were brewing in his head.

In 2001 the deed was done and the house was bought.

old garden tif 0003

The garden was uninspiring, as this view from the bottom of the gardening looking towards the workshop shows.  On the right you can just pick out the ex-Christmas trees.

1-A & K back garden looking towards house June 2014

Things have changed since then.   This is roughly the same spot now but there are more trees and flowers in the garden.


The front garden too has changed.  But it is not just what we have put into the garden but it is also what has come out of it!

We have had a Hoopoe fall down the chimney and get trapped behind the glass door.

Inside on side-table

Inside on side-table

The little green frogs are a special part of the garden and this one made himself at home on the coffee table.


Even in winter we have visitors like this solitary lapwing that visited us day after day one winter.

Close up bat

Some visitors are furry like this cute Barbastelle bat that roosted behind our shutters.

Triton in hand

We also have a menagerie of marbled newts, salamanders, frogs and toads that we discovered in our old well.

Tetralonia in Malva

Can you see her pink pollen sacs?

What we did not realise was that the more fruit trees and flowers that we added to the garden, the more wildlife would come and share it with us.

1-Butterfly on mint


Hawk Moth Hemaris fuciformis


Bee kiss

and, of course, the bees.  The bees have become special to me as you can see from the bee kiss.

So much has happened since my husband first plotted his garden in France.  The garden did not turned out exactly as planned but perhaps all gardens take on a life of their own and give you back much more than you expected.










Last week my husband bought a new chain saw, the old one having given up the ghost after years of rough treatment.  Inspired by his new possession he attacked the trees and branches on the left side of the garden that had left too much of the sides in heavy shade.

Collecting the ash

I had no sooner finished collecting the ash from the last bonfire than new cut branches were starting to accumulate.

Clearing the back wood

We are also trying to clear the very bottom of the garden of straggly growth that allows only sufficient light for ivy to grow.

Old willow cut

Trees have a remarkable ability for regeneration but we have left them untended for too long and judicious pruning and loping is required.  I want to protect the willows as they are alive with bees in the spring.

MistletoeA lot of mistletoe grows in this area of France and it was handy that some of the fallen branches supplied us with good bunches of mistletoe for Christmas.

Plum tree rebalanced

The large plum tree, another firm favourite of the bees, has had some lower branches removed .

Bee hotel in place

The bee hotel stayed undisturbed on it perch.

Christmas tree standing

But I had my eyes set on the ex-Christmas tree left by the house’s previous owners.  We had inherited three ex-Christmas trees with the house, planted in a straight row – baby tree, Mummy tree and Daddy tree.  Baby tree was cut to join us celebrating Christmas the first year we bought the house while we were still in the U.K.  Mummy tree was cut some years later but Daddy tree just grew too big.  I think there must be a moral in this story about people who don’t knew much about gardening being careful about where and how they plant trees in their garden.  I know we certainly have made many miscalculations and I am astonished at how quickly trees grow, especially if you are not watching them.


Armed with his new (but not shiny any more) chain saw my husband complied with my wishes and cut down the last Christmas tree.

Fallen tree

This left a lot of leaves and branches to be cleared.

Bedding area exposed

The objective is to give more light to the bedding area to the right of the tree stump.


However, some of the plants are shade loving.  I have grown this fragrant Skimmia from a tiny cutting that broke off as I passed it in the Aberdeen Botanical Gardens.  I loved walking there and it has taken me nine years to grow my cutting to a reasonable size.  I fear that if I do not move it that the sun will scorch this shade-loving plant.

Seating area exposed

It will also leave our sitting area more exposed so I am considering some alternative lower planting or short “hedge”.  Any suggestions would be welcome.

Strawberry tree

Despite low temperatures morning and evening we’ve been enjoying some sunshine and the honey bees have been visiting the strawberry tree.

bee on gorse

I was surprised to see the honey bees were busy and gathering lots of pollen on the gorse which seems quite happy to flower in these conditions.

Tip toes

I watched as one spent considerable effort to enter a flower that was not quite open.  I wonder if the first-come gets more nectar?

Take off

She’ll need plenty of energy to carry those pollen sacs back to the hive!

Wasp on hand

Apart from the gorse, the medlars were ripening and we were snacking on the fruit while watching the bees.  Medlars are sticky things to eat and I had difficulty in persuading this wasp to go and find its own medlar rather than expecting me to hand feed it on the remains of the one I had just finished.

December is a time of sharp contrast here.  Frosts and low temperatures mornings and evenings but sometimes blue skies and warm afternoon sun.


A week of hard work

Before fire

It’s been a week of hard work in the garden.


We have at last been able to burn the branches torn down from the trees during the storm on 26 July this year.  We need to get authorisation from the Mairie (our local authority) to burn the branches in the garden so we were all set for this Friday.

Fire from side

Of course, all the larger wood was cut up and we first brought it up in barrow loads for storing.  A huge pile of small branches had been left on the grass and even more was distributed under the trees.

Near end of fire

All it needs now is a cut with the mower and I will be very happy to forget about the mound of branches at the bottom of the garden.  I did notice it was the favourite haunt of a wren who used to fly out of it when I passed by.

Wren in arriere cuisine

I don’t know if it is the same one that paid us a visit.

wren in arriere cuisine 2

She came into the utility room.

wren on door

I can’t say I blame her as it was a very cold day.

wren on doorstep

She did no seem in the least perturbed by her visit to the house but I do not know why she was picking up dried leaves to fly off with.  It is not nesting time unless they make a place to roost when it is cold.

Ring dove in Kaki

Our resident ring dove is keeping watch over the Kaki fruit as they ripen.  There is not much fruit this year, perhaps due to the late spring.  It looks as if it is going to be a race between us and the dove to see who’s going to be the first to get them when they are ripe.

There used to be a Forsythia beside the Kaki tree but this has been removed to allow more sun on the border for flowers.


As I cleared the border I lifted a stone from the stump of an old Hibiscus to reveal the little toadstools hidden underneath.  I was struck by the symmetry and force of their growth.

Tremella mesenterica

I noticed another fungus when I was gathering the wood at the bottom of the garden.  It is an attractively coloured fungus that I have seen before on the dead wood in the garden.  I think it may be Tremella mesenterica.

Cotoneaster berries

On a brighter note our cotoneasters are full of bright red berries and are doing their bit to brighten up the garden.  They seem to thrive here on minimal water and care.

Pear tree in ground

Crazed with our success at replanting our cherry tree last year, we decided to move a pear tree this week.  It has not thrived well in the front garden and its removal will give more light to the border behind it.

pear tree in barrow

Its roots were not too big and it was a one man job to get it into the barrow.  No need to get the car involved this time, which is just as well as it would have been difficult to manoeuvre it into the front garden.

Pear tree replanted

It looks much happier in the back garden.  It has not given us large crops of pears (Williams) but I valued it more for the beautiful blossom that it gives us every spring.

1-Pear & bee 2

Gosh!  That was a near thing, I nearly posted a blog without a picture of a bee!


A secret corner of paradise

I will share with you the secret of a little corner of paradise!

It seems, in any case, to be a secret, for when Amelia and I mention lake Carcans-Maubuisson to most of our French friends, they claim that they have never heard of it.  They all tell me that the largest lake in France is Lake Annecy (Lac d’Annecy) in the Haute-Savoie.  But lake Annecy covers an area of 27.5 square kilometers.  Lake Geneva, admittedly is large (580 Sq Km), but it is only partially in France.  Lake Carcans-Maubuisson or sometimes referred to as Hourtin-Carcans, depending on the leaflet of which tourist office you look at, is indeed the largest inland lake, entirely in France.  It covers an area of 56.67 square kilometers, and is just 50 Km west of Bordeaux in the Aquitaine region of France.

Lake Carcans Maubuisson to the North and Lake Lacanu below it.  The Atlantic Ocean on the left.

Lake Carcans Maubuisson to the North and Lake Lacanau below it. The Atlantic Ocean on the left.

Just on the Southern shores of the lake is the little town of Maubuisson, with its main Boulevard du Lac running along the shore.

Lake Carcans- Maubuisson

Lake Carcans- Maubuisson

Amelia and I escape to this little corner of paradise whenever the windsurfing fever takes us, or we just feel that we need a little relaxation from weeding and looking after Amelia’s ‘afrenchgarden’.

I love to just sit on the terrace of the café ‘Le Bord’eau’ and have a cup of coffee.

Le Bord 'eau

Le Bord ‘eau

I often look across the bay and watch the boats, the catamarans, and the windsurfers sailing across the lake.

Water sports heaven

Water sports heaven

We went to Maubuisson on 2nd of September but the French holiday season had finished.    The temperature was between 28 degrees Centigrade (82 F) and 34 Centigrade (93 F).  The water was warm and there were only a small number of holiday makers, mostly locals on the beach.

30 degrees and the summer is over!

30 degrees and the summer is over!

As we swam in the lake damselflies and dragonflies skimmed over the lake and sandy shore.

Azure Damselfly -(Coenagrion puella)

Azure Damselfly -(Coenagrion puella)

Amelia drew my attention to a pair of azure damselflies at ‘it’, on the sand.  Even during mating they appeared to indicate that they too loved Maubuisson .

Azure Damselflies mating (Coenagrion puella)

Azure Damselflies mating (Coenagrion puella)

We took a stroll in the weekly street market and watched the regional products on display.

Home-made Pate

Home-made Pate on sale

The Basque family  (Euskadi is their own name for Basque) were selling cheese and home made cakes.

Basque (Euskadi) cheese and cake

Basque (Euskadi) cheese and cake

The little Basque girl would be at school in a few days, but today she was helping mum.

Basque girl in the market

Basque girl in the market

The fishmonger was displaying beautiful fresh fish and his stall was certainly very popular.

Fishmonger in the market

Fishmonger in the market

The little dog waited patiently and hopefully.

Fish for dinner?

Fish for dinner?

There were several stalls selling local and regional handicraft: pottery, clothes and jewelry.

Local jewelry

Local jewelry

I mentioned that there are two lakes in that area.  To the North is the lake Carcans-Maubuisson and below that is lake Lacanau.  There is, however another little jewel in between these two lakes and that is lake Cousseau.

Lake Cousseau

Lake Cousseau

It is a nature reserve and can only be reached on foot or on bicycle.  The lake, now covering some 6 square kilometers,  was formed some 3000 years ago after the last ice age came to an end.  Initially lake Cousseau was joined to its sister lakes on the North and the South, but as the water receded, the area around the lake became, as it is today, a marshland ideal for the wildlife.

Lake Cousseau and its marshland

Lake Cousseau and its marshland

Whilst I enjoyed the absolute peace and beauty of the countryside, Amelia was busy (bee-sy?) taking macro photos of the bees , the damselflies, and the butterflies.

Amelia relaxing (I think) in the nature reserve.

Amelia relaxing (I think) in the nature reserve.

Along the path back from the lake I did see the white-tailed bumble bees gorging themselves on the heather.  This one’s pollen sac was so heavy that I wondered how she could fly.

White-tailed bumble bee on heather

White-tailed bumble bee on heather

It is rare in our area of the Charente-Maritime to see and hear the cicadas (Cicadidae).  But the Gironde region is that little bit more south. I could hear many cicadas singing in the hot mid-day , but when I looked carefully I eventually spotted him (or her?)



I found it difficult to photograph the little insect, but hopefully the very short video clip  (only 12 seconds) is more demonstrative as the cicada moves down along the bark of the tree.  I will not even try to explain how cicadas make their  wonderful sound, since  Sue in her Backyard Biology blog so wonderfully explains and illustrates it.

I looked up beyond the cicada, at the deep blue sky,

blue sky

blue sky

And I thought once again how lucky I was.  As Amelia and I drove back home I recalled the lyrics of an old song:

‘If paradise is half as nice as heaven that you take me to, who needs paradise, I’d rather have you.’

– K


The garden in September

Sunflower Earth Walker (Helianthus annuus)

Sunflower Earth Walker (Helianthus annuus)

Despite being surrounded by commercial sunflower fields, I still like to have sunflowers in the garden.  Some we sowed from the wildbird seed and are remarkably successful and are still flowering.  The sunflower Earth Walker seeds were free with the “Amateur Gardening” magazine.  I would never have bought them but are much more attractive than I imagined.   I will keep the seeds for next year (if the birds spare me some) as I have been charmed by their multi-headed plants.

Hemaris fuciformis on buddleia which is still flowering

Hemaris fuciformis on buddleia which is still flowering

I am still in denial about the autumn and I think the garden is with me.  The wisteria has been flowering since the beginning of the season, not as abundantly, granted, but there have always been flowers.  Now some other flowers are deciding to re-flower.

Pale blue delphineums

Pale blue delphiniums

I’ve never seen my delphiniums flower at this time of year.

Bell flower,  Platycodon grandiflorus

Bell flower, Platycodon grandiflorus

I am particularly fond of this plant as I bought it as a Heliotrope (complete with label) it took me a couple of years before I realised it was fooling me.  It usually flowers once in early summer so a second flowering is unusual.



My Astrantia are doing well still.

Yellow flower

Yellow flower

These are early to mid summer flowers but are still going strong.  They thrive in the hot sun and dry soil.  I was given them by a friend who called them black-eyed-Susies.  I think the error in this name is very clear but they are a great summer flower for my garden.

Clematis "Helios"

Clematis “Helios”

My yellow clematis is still in full swing and has only just started to have some fluffy seed heads.

Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum)

Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum)

This is a weed, or wild flower if you want to be kind.  It appeared on its own but it was so well placed near my bee hotel I had to leave it; it attracts too many pollinators.  I didn’t know then it would be a convenient re-fuelling spot for my leaf cutter bees.  That was because I did not know I had leaf cutting bees in the garden but more about them later.

Pumpkin patch

Pumpkin patch

A garden doesn’t let you stay completely in denial.  We planted two types of pumpkins this year Rouge Vif d’Etampes and Giraumon Turban.  It’s our most successful year yet.  They are well away from the potager and it looks as if the Rouge Vif d’Etampes will supply us with enough pumpkins for the season.

Turban and impostor

Turban and impostor

The Turban pumpkins are coming along nicely but another type has appeared that I have not planted.  I’m not sure where it has come from.

Red hazelnut tree

Red hazelnut tree

I took this picture in July.  The hazelnuts were just forming but we have saved them from the red squirrel which had just started to eat them and leave us the shells a couple of weeks ago.  The rapid rescue mission left me no time for a more up to date record.  We harvested a good bowlful which is a very good reward from such an attractive little tree.



Our grapes are ripening too.  They are not as good as last year, unhappy with the late summer probably.

Reine de reinettes

Reine de reinettes

Our oldest apple tree is a Reine de reinette and full of apples this year.  The apples have been the most successful of the fruits apart from the dark blue plum.

Golden Delicious

Golden Delicious

The Golden Delicious is also having a very good year and we have a small pear tree in the front and in the back garden which will provide enough to eat and probably make some compote.



This all brings me back to why I am in denial.  All this fruit has to be usefully preserved.  I have started but there is more to go and I still haven’t got round to gathering some brambles for jelly!


The beekeeper’s car

Bee keepers are full of surprises.

Michel's Renault

The other day our friend Michel turned up to show us his latest project completed.

90 year old Renault

His offer to go for a spin was promptly taken up by my husband and son-in-law Tim.


The dress code was casual!

Renault reversing

I have no interest in cars myself but I was completely seduced by the beautiful cream Renault.

The tour begins in the Renault

A perfect day for a drive in the country, even without your shirt!

Tim's royal wave

Tim gives the royal wave, quickly falling into spirit of the occasion.

Six months of work

Michel has been working on the engine of this ninety year old Renault  for the last six months.

Renault from rear

Aren’t bee keepers clever?


The largest European moth

I have to come right out and say it – this is the largest European moth’s caterpillar.  (Does that mean it is the largest European caterpillar?)

Saturnia pyri

Saturnia pyri

A couple of evenings ago I went out into the back garden to do a bit of watering and as I reached to turn on the hose I noticed something crawling along the wall in front of my eyes.  I did a double take as I had never seen anything like it before.  A few shouts and the whole household was roused to come and see what I had found.

Saturnia pyri from the front

Saturnia pyri from the front

It was not only its size that was astounding, 10 cm., but the blue baubles made it look very unreal.

Saturnia pyri from the rear

Saturnia pyri from the rear

I wasn’t able to get good pictures because of the poor light and the steady progress it was making along the wall.

Saturnia pyri on the move

Saturnia pyri on the move

I had a good idea what it might be as I had seen photographs of the huge moths that can be seen in the area.

For pictures of the adult moth and more information from Wikipedia please click on the links.  The moths fly from April to June so I presume the caterpillars must over winter in pupal form and my caterpillar did seem dead set on getting somewhere quickly, so it must have been searching for a convenient place to over winter.

The caterpillars feed on tree leaves and it appeared to have dropped out of our apricot tree.  The next day I started to search for leaves with large holes or even whole branches denuded!  However, when I looked up into the branches of the apricot tree I found something else.

Ring doves in nest

Ring doves in nest

The apricot tree was already being used by the Ring doves to nest in and I hadn’t noticed.  Not the most beautiful babies, perhaps I could label them “cute” if I was in a charitable mood.  I had to give up on my search for traces of the caterpillar’s passing.