This site is about our gîte but to give it a little animation I am writing an occasional blog about the house, grounds and the people and places around us.
Blog 4. 6th October 2015, a beautiful autumn afternoon. I am sitting in my study looking out on to the lower trunk of the walnut tree. My studies are constantly distracted by a procession of squirrels, all beautifully brown, but with variations in shade and size, and dark and white patches, that make their way up the tree and soon to descend again, walnut in mouth, to scamper up the bank, across the lawn, over the wall and into the woods. If they think they have been spotted by me or the cat or the dog they jump from the boughs of the walnut tree, to the boughs of the mulberry tree, across it at high level, then a dash across open ground top the wood.
Blog 3. Occasional is clearly an understatement; today is 6th January 2015 nearly seven months since my previous entry.
Today is very cold and incredibly beautiful. I have had lunch (indoors) the frost is still thick on the shadier half of the garden even though the sun (for the time of year) is high in the sky. The sky is 100 per cent blue.
Last night coming over a high point on the road back home from Montélimar the full moon, low on the horizon, was a giant, magically creating penumbras of the low mountains that herald the alps to the east. Later, returning home from a visit to friends the garden was ethereally illuminated, the stars on the darker side of the sky adding their delights to the scene. A bonus, a shooting star, the first that I have ever seen!
Yesterday we attacked the ivy on the lovely trees that separate our track from the little river Vermenon, from which our house takes it name. There is a debate as to whether ivy is a good or bad thing, but given half a chance it clearly destroys the beauty of a trees profile and, python like, can squeeze a tree to its early death. Le Vermenon, ‘our’ little river, arises from the limestone cliffs that form our backdrop, it meanders south-easterly from us eventually crossing under the main road from Montélimar between the villages of Bâtie-Rolland and Montbucher after which it flows into the river Jabron which flows into The Rhône. Our little river almost always has a reasonable flow, and only in the longest, hottest periods is it reduced to a few pools.
Blog 2. It is some months since my first (and only previous) blog entry; it is now mid-May 2014. Following all the winter rain mentioned before everywhere has now dried out and is in fact too dry, so I now do regular watering of the newly planted and sensitive areas. I have also re-established a couple of automatic watering systems which take care of the tomato and strawberry plots and two of the borders.
Historically water for the house was from a ‘source’, a spring, in the small limestone hill behind us, but this was supplemented by an extensive channel draining system at the foot of the woods that fed the rain water into a deep pond, also fed by the source, from where the water was piped into the farm. The water arrived into a tank behind what was once the laverie, or laundry house.
Such laveries can still be found in a number of local villages but they are rarely associated with individual houses. They are roofed structures with walls normally on just three sides which shelter two or more basins constructed in a mix of stone and concrete. The water arrives continuously into the first smaller basin (1m by 0.5m by 0.7m), which would often have a tap and stand for filling pots and kettles. From here the water flows into the second large basin (3m by 1m by 1m) which has a wide sloped edge used for scrubbing and beating the clothes. This larger basin is often divided into two parts the lower part for washing and the upper part for rinsing the washed clothes.
Our laverie now only has the small first basin which is fed from a new five cubic meter tank buried behind it. The water for this tank is collected off the roofs of the laverie and the adjacent ‘grand salon’, most of it is subsequently pumped out for garden watering.
Our laverie area has become a wonderful outside, but covered, eating area where a nice dinner and drinks can be enjoyed as the sun sets behind the plane trees.
Blog 1. Today, Wednesday 12th February 2014, has been beautiful here. In the UK, by all radio accounts, it has been terrible: high winds, floods and rain.
We have, however, had an awful lot of rain and walking in the garden is like walking on a sponge. To keep the water flowing away I spent a considerable part of the afternoon clearing a large pipe under the track that crosses into the field, the associated ditch forms our western, and lowest, boundary. Late autumn the ditch had been redug by the farmer (with a substantial digging machine) but I think in doing this he had filled the pipe with earth which had resulted in generating a mini-canal rather than a drainage ditch. I was successful, but hard work, and I could do with a very long handled, narrow bladed shovel.