Mr (or possibly Mrs) Toad

Mr (or possibly Mrs) Toad

Cleaning out the skimmers of the swimming pool, we found a toad, head down under the water and not looking at all crisp. In fact, he looked as if he’d drowned. Even when I tilted the basket full of leaves onto the slab by the fish pond, the toad had to be teased out of the basket. Once out, he just sat there, obligingly, an d let me take his photo. But a scarlet glint in his eye suggested he was still alive. Later, he had...
Rose Hip invaders

Rose Hip invaders

These photos show a small parasitic worm, or larvae, the tiny white object in the middle of the orange woody, furry, ball (in photo on right) which are growing on the wild roses, among the rose- hips. This is the rose bedeguar gall, Robin’s pincushion gall, or moss gall. It develops as a chemically induced distortion of an unopened leaf axillary or terminal bud, mostly on field roses (Rosa arvensis) or on dog rose shrubs (Rosa canina). It’s caused by the parthenogenetic hymenopteran gall wasp (Diplolepis rosae – Linnaeus, 1758). The insect is also called bedeguaris, Rhodites rosae or Cynips rosae. In May, the Diplolepis insect females lay up to 60 eggs in each leaf bud and the larvae over-winter in these furry-looking balls, emerging again the following spring. The wasp is asexual, less than 1% are males, and it will also attack garden rose cultivars. So, we’ll cut off all the gall balls we can see and put them on the...
The stream is running for the first time this winter

The stream is running for the first time this winter

We’ve had so much rain this weekend the stream is running for the first time this rainy season (always October and November). The ‘ancients’, as our predecessors over the centuries before us are called in the village, built the stream bed round the head of the valley above the house to stop water coursing off the cliffs in all directions and flooding the in-bye restanques and the house itself (see 5 November last year). Every winter, once the land is well wetted in the first autumn rains, surface water streams down the steep ground among the cliffs around us and, if there has been a drenching of more than 60mm in the day, the ‘ruisseau’ flows. The same happens in the cave which fills and overflows. On wet days like this in winter, more than 100 cu metres an hour floods down the usually bone dry Baume Obscure water-course into the River Gapeau in the valley...

The harvest is over

And it has gone relatively well, anyway considering the grim frozen days in February walking round the trees to see how much frost damage there had been.  Fortunately, our varieties were not much touched and we took nearly 1.5 tonnes to the mill, the best we’ve done so far and more than twice what we had two years ago. The frost struck the early Belgentieroise trees badly – all the big, old trees round the house – so we lost several hundred kilos of olives there, but, frankly, we were lucky compared to others in the village who have nothing but this variety and so lost all their fruit this year. Agriculture can be cruelly...

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