Friday, 18 April 2014

Down on the farm

In March, we were pleased to see Monique had increased her flock of sheep by the arrival of a number of lambs in the early spring. Imagine our surprise (and hers I think!) to find twins had arrived last Friday. One of them looked a little frail, but I am happy to say it is thriving.
They are jumping around as only lambs do, leaping up with all four legs off the ground.
Mum is keeping a watchful eye!

Unfortunately, last years' lamb from the same ewe is a bit jealous, so we are keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn't try any funny business with it's brother and sister.

Daniel has just paid a fleeting visit to us at the start of his Easter holidays, and took advantage of a lovely day to go and feed the horses with some stale bread. He was a bit unsure about putting his hand out, but the horses are quite gentle, if not a little greedy!

The lovely warm weather has brought on the blossom to the fruit trees, and although we have had some cold mornings, there hasn't been sufficient frost which means we might get some nice fruit a little later in the year
The Bramley apple flowers
The cherry blossom holds the promise of fruit
There are also lots of flowers on the strawberries and the blackcurrants look like they should produce plenty of fruit for some lovely jam.

So, the gardening season is again upon us. I've got some lettuce under cover, and have peppers, aubergines, broccoli, green beans and courgettes in the greenhouse. Not to mention the flowers which I am gradually potting up into their containers ready for the gite garden. Plenty to keep us busy!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Strawberry fields forever

Every week we try to take a day off from our usual routine and do a bit of exploring in the MG.
We have wandered through the Sologne before, but decided it was time to revisit this area to make sure the route we suggest for gite guests was up to date. So, following the directions, we set off at the suggested time of 10.00am and headed up to St Aignan where we stopped for coffee
The St Aignan cafe in St Aignan
The grande cremes here are very reasonably priced - and you get a jug of hot milk too! We sat on the terrace, watching the world go by.

We continued on our way, eventually crossing the Cher and headed on into the Sologne. This area of France is renowned for strawberries (hence the title of this post) and there are miles and miles of hothouses with lots of people beavering away at this time of year, although the strawberries have quite an extended season as they are grown under plastic. We also passed some being grown using hydroponics

There are also a lot of etangs and plan d'eau's in the region, so there is a ready supply of water for the strawberries. We also saw large piles of grape must which is perhaps used as fertilizer?

We stopped for lunch in Vernou-en-Sologne at the Auberge du Croissant. This was a typical 12,50 menu for 4 courses which included wine. Very good value.
Don't be fooled by the exterior

Older houses in the Sologne are very unusual, being timber framed, but using bricks to infill

As we continued on our prescribed route, we passed through the small village of Lassay-sur-Croisne. Just outside the village is the Chateau du Moulin, and here they have a garden laid out with many different varieties of strawberries. The chateau, while small, is worth a visit, and the fee includes entry to the garden.

We came back via Selles-sur-Cher, which produces a distinctive flat goats cheese.

So, a very enjoyable day out, in lovely spring weather.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Aladdins cave

As is the case every year we undertake a range of renovations here at Les Deux Platanes in preparation for the first guests. The cottage garden is an important feature and 2014 will be no exception. For this year I have an idea for something a little different and for this I need a wine barrel end. So off we went earlier this week to search for this illusive item. We know of what we could call an antique shop in Levroux, a small town 40 minutes drive from Clion. This small town is the location of an amazing Aladdins cave of items that some would put in the rubbish bin and others class a wonderful find. Now this 'shop' is not for the faint of heart, it's a labyrinth of narrow isles, each side piled from floor to ceiling with all and every manner of items from boxes of paint to rare lamps, paraffin blowlamps, models, crockery of every description - the list goes on and on. Would we find our barrel end? We quickly found a selection of clocks, one made from a wine barrel end, not quite suitable. Another 25 minutes and we came across a genuine miniature wine barrel, in need of renovation but the perfect shape and size for the project. A little negotiation and we agreed a price.

The barrel - perfect for the project!
I have now removed the four steel rings and the oak segments fell apart revealing the blackened inside stained from its many years of holding red wines. The next stage is some gentle renovation to help ensure the barrel survives outside - more news to follow.

From Levroux and the barrel safely in the boot of the car we travelled on to the small village of Bourge le chateau, to enjoy lunch at an excellent small restaurant. We both enjoyed a very nice four course lunch for only 12 Euro before returning on small roads on what was a brilliant hot spring afternoon. 

Details of the above locations and routes can be found in the cottage guides.