Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

So the results are… IT WORKS!

Just two days after starting my natural weed killer experiment, the weeds had started to die after being attacked by my white vinegar spray. The solution which was 100% vinegar worked better than the 50% diluted solution, but that did also work a little bit but would be better reserved for small and young weeds.

First area - 50% vinegar / 50% water

First area – 50% vinegar / 50% water

Area 2 - 50% water / 50% vinegar

Area 2 – 50% water / 50% vinegar

area 3

It’s going to be a task to keep on top of this though as it rained on the third day and then it was sunny again but I was busy with other things and didn’t keep on top of weeding so they all came back!

We’ve now invested in a better weed sprayer and Mr Piglet is talking about buying something to burn them once they are dead so we can achieve the clean, patio look I am looking for.

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The crazy, wet, warm and then cold weather we have been having over the past few months has been a real treat for the garden with many plants flourishing. Unfortunately, this also applies to the weeds and the wet weather has meant that we haven’t really got round to treating them (what with being fair weather gardeners and having a toddler)…

We have a large gravel entrance/parking area, more gravel to the side and a large gravel terrace at the back of the house. Not my taste but to replace would cost a fortune and to be honest I am still seeking what my ideal outdoor space would be.

Last year we managed to get the local farmer to kill all the weeds but with a toddler and a cat, I am not keen on using dangerous pesticides and have searched the internet for something more natural. I found vinegar as a solution.

In the past I have tried vinegar for many things including cleaning the bathroom, the toilets and also as a way of getting rid of deodorant marks on clothes. I can’t say I have been more than happy with any of the results and the smell of it just gives me a headache.

I have chosen to treat three different areas, the first two areas with a 50% vinegar / 50% water solution and the third area with a 100% vinegar solution:

First and Second Areas – 50% vinegar / 50% water

First area - moss and mixed weeds

First area – moss and mixed weeds


Third area – 100% vinegar

Side of the house weeds

Side of the house weeds

The weather is warm and sunny, no rain forecast so hopefully the vinegar will work it’s magic and I can report back with the results in a few days time.

Meanwhile, a couple of questions for you:
1) do you have any natural gardening tips to share? Please comment with your tip or link to blog post!
2) any other alternative use for vinegar? Again, please comment with tip or link.
3) have you entered our giveaway? Closing date is 3rd July so just a few days left and it is easy (and free!) to enter (no location restriction either). Simply comment here.

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Now we just need some sun and warm weather (and maybe a natural solution to ward off the slugs)…


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Gardening. It’s something I come back to time and time again and now that I have a lovely (and huge) garden I really do want to create a haven rather than just a field. However, it must be stated that I do not have green hands, the only time they’re green is when they’re physically green from either grass stains or playing with paint with Little Piglet. So I really do have a serious handicap and quite often any free time is spent looking at the garden wondering where to start!

So far this year I have managed to successfully plant (and keep alive) 35 laurel tree cuttings and some strawberries.

Not so lucky were my Oliver tree, Oleander bush and Japanese Maple tree all of which died throughout the winter.

Desperately clinging on now is my pear tree, I believe it is in trouble and I’m not sure what to do with it. I really hope that one you will be able to help identify what is wrong with it and maybe suggest a treatment please? I tried Traitement Totale (total treatment) spray last week and it doesn’t look any better for itself but maybe that is normal?

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Last summer I frequently reported on my attempts to grow various plants and vegetables from my city garden in Lyon, I named the posts “Jardinage Jeudi” which was quite appropriate as I managed to get in the garden once a week, usually on a Thursday!

I’ve been a bit slow in discovering my new garden in rural France. To be honest the weather has been absolutely dreadful, either raining and cold or far too hot. Either way, I’ve preferred to hang out indoors with Baby Piglet in order to stay dry or too stay cool.

There’s plenty to do in the garden as it looks a bit like a glorified field with a few trees right now. Not quite an idyllic country garden although we do have some pretty awesome fruit trees including two apple trees and a peach tree:

Our red apple tree

Peach tree



Not really knowing where to start and with no real budget so to speak, I’ve decided to start off with the vegetable patches. At least I should be able to grow some produce then I can save myself money on food and hopefully buy a few plants to start my hedge.

We have three raised patches which I have to weed first. The weeds here are tough and grow back just as soon as I have finished. I guess the rain isn’t helping as everything is growing really quick.

Good heavens! Look at those weeds!

Some marigolds I found amongst the weeds

Now only if it would stop raining long enough for me to finish...

I plan to plant celery, radishes, parsnips, rutabaga and onions to start off with. They were the only things that I could find to plant at this time of year – thankfully they are all things I enjoy and I would be pretty chuffed if the parsnips worked out as I have such a tough time buying them here.

Before planting though I need to finish weeding and then turn the soil, mixing some fertilizer at the same time.

I don’t suppose anyone has any tips on growing any of these vegetables by any chance please? What else are you planting at this time of year in your vegetable patch?

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The Piglet family should (dramatic pause), normally have a home to call their own again from 15th March. We’re due to complete on the city pad sale on February 15th, meaning that we need to move out really by February 11th, meaning “OH MY GOD, I’M GOING TO BE HOMELESS IN 16 DAYS!!!”

It seemed to be the perfect time to have a baby, aged 28 + 31 we were settled in life, had stable businesses, a nice home and now we are going to be homeless! What went wrong?! First of all it took much longer than we thought to actually make a baby and then the world’s economy decided to continue to being bad. So here we are at ages 30 + 33 with a bun in the oven and homeless in a matter of weeks!

Fear not for the safety of Little Miss Piglet however, as we have found a house to buy! In fact, it was the house I first presented here back in November – ironically one of the first ones we saw after accepting an offer on the city pad.

Needs some softening, nothing some plants and pots can't sort!

You may remember our original wish list?

– spacious, ideally 200m2
– outbuildings
– rural but not isolated
– character building if possible (shouldn’t be hard in France)
– ADSL required!
– Not on a busy road
– No structural renovation required in the main property

Well this property ticks all the boxes except the busy road one. There is a busy road at the end of the garden, but the gardens 1.5 hectares big, so that’s quite a way away and with some hedge growing and clever gardening we should be able to block out a fair bit of noise.

Need some hedges here

Why we didn’t buy it back in November I do not know, it just seemed to early in the search and then we went on to the other property with dreams of running gites and the like so I guess we (more like I) got sidetracked in a dream world for a while. I’m still keen on the gites idea and we will have a barn which we will be able to convert eventually if I still want to do it.

Somewhere to make our wishes

Small but pratical, I will miss my current cupboard space

Dining room

A country feel...

We made our first offer on the property last week and by Monday we had agreed a sales price and completion date with the agent and vendor. Spookily though, ever since things have gone quiet and we are waiting for them to formally countersign the offer letter we sent them to send on to the mortgage bank (the mortgage bank have agreed to speed up the process of issuing our mortgage offer if we give them a copy of the countersigned offer letter).

We didn’t have any news from the agent yesterday and no news as yet so far today. Maybe this is just normal for France, I really don’t know but judging by our experiences so far it seems as if it might be, so I am trying not to panic just yet. Afterall, the vendors agreed to everything on Monday so why would they change their mind just yet?

I have to say though, everything is slow in the property process, here are a few more examples:

1. Removal company: we’re using a removal company to remove, store and then install our belongings. We contacted them on Monday morning first thing to confirm a removal date and we’re yet to hear back. We have chased.

2. Notary: we contacted our notary ref the property we’re selling on Monday to confirm a completion date for the signature of the Acte Authentique as we’d agreed with the purchasers that we’d complete on 15th February. So far, no confirmation from notary.

3. SAFER: The SAFER is an organization who have first refusal on all agricultural and rural land over a certain size, a bit like how the townhall has first right to buy a property when a sale agrees. The vendor has to contact the SAFER and inform them that the property and land is being sold and then it can take up to two months (!) for them to come back and contest the sale. Because of our desired completion date we had to request that the fast track service was used as opposed to the normal bog standard service. Nobody in the sales chain (notary or agent) mentioned this was possible, it is only our knowledge of this that enabled us to request that it was used.

4. Our bank (three letter word with lots of L’s): refused our initial mortgage application because they were still taking into consideration our existing mortgage when deciding whether or not to lend. They wouldn’t reconsider until we could provide proof that our city pad was definitely sold (ie our buyers had got mortgage finance). This was sent to them on Monday morning. Today, I left my 6th message and finally got a call back confirming receipt but still no news on the mortgage – thank goodness we have another source to go to but I do prefer the rates our bank offer!

I’m sure there will be plenty more examples of how buying property in France is stressful over the coming weeks but let’s be positive, everything can be dealt with! So far, I’ve decided the best way to ensure that things keep moving (thanks to my business experience) is not to let up on anything! Each morning I make a list of all the people that are important to my project and I call them to touch base or to remind them I’m waiting for an update. This would annoy me so much but in France I’ve decided it’s essential.

You just cannot rely on people to get back to you, you have to remind them constantly. Proof of this is the number of people who are able to give you an update there and then and yet they hadn’t contacted you. Maybe I’m shooting myself in the foot and by calling everyday they won’t bother to update, they’ll just wait for our call, but at the end of the day it’s me that wants to move in as quickly as possible so I may as well make the effort!

Finally I can start dreaming up colour schemes and decoration for the nursery!

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Last weekend, whilst melting in extreme temperatures of 39 degrees, I ate a yummy courgette salad at my Beaux-Parents house. Unfortunately I didn’t think to get the recipe and finding myself with an abundance of courgettes today, I thought I’d try my hand at making my own version of it. Without knowing the original recipe I combined some of the ingredients that I’d remembered tasting along with some that I thought would taste nice; notably basil as I’d bought a huge bouquet of basil leaves for just 75 Cents!

Courgette & Feta Salad
Serves 4

Not very well presented but very tasty!

3 courgettes
2 spring onions
120 grams feta or brebis cheese, crumbled
Bunch of basil leaves
Black olives, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar

What to do:
1. Peel the courgettes as the skin can be quite bitter, not quite what you want in a salad!
2. Then grate the courgettes finely, like you would cheddar.
3. Finely slice the spring onions and add to the courgettes.
4. Finely slice the basil leaves and add to the courgettes.
5. Crumble the feta cheese and add.
6. Remove the stones and then finely slice the black olives adding as well.
7. Drizzle everything with olive oil, add a splash (or two!) of vinegar and then season to taste.

Et voila! A different type of salad which you can enjoy on its own (maybe with parma ham?) or as an accompaniment to a summer Barbeque. Bon appetit!

What you need to do

Jardinage Jeudi
Tonight I’m going to have a tomato and runner bean salad with some tomatoes from my garden! After months of waiting and anticipating, I’m finally getting a regular (if not small) crop. I’m only getting a handful at a time and as you can see they’re coming in all sizes. Who else is getting their tomatoes right now?

Tomatoes at last!

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At last! I have my first tomatoes! I ate my very first one yesterday, it was teeny tiny, but oh boy was it juicy and sweet. I hope the others hurry up, as I think my plants have got mildew again (any suggestions?) so I hope they all grow and ripen before the plants die…

Last night, Hubby & I were relaxing in the garden and could smell what we thought was a BBQ. Immensely jealous we went in and tucked into a salad all the while wishing we were enjoying a BBQ too. A little while later, we heard sirens and then a hell of a cuffaful in the street. As I’m Mrs Nosey we went to investigate and were met by two bright red fire engines, firemen and water everywhere. The house opposite ours was on fire and the street was all cordoned off. Spectators were standing around gawping everywhere. I would have loved to get the camera out and take a few pictures to share here but it just didn’t seem right as the poor family were standing in the street full of despair.

Full of curiosity, I checked out the news this morning and learned that the fire had been caused by a chip pan. The poor people it makes me glad that I own an Actifry.

This is the second fire we’ve had here in six months. The last one was the house at the back of ours and I watched flames rise above our courtyard for an hour before they managed to put it out. That fire was caused by an electric radiator.

In both instances the houses were ruined and had to be completely renovated. Smoke detectors are quite rare in France and I don’t think either of homes had them installed. There seem to be a lot of fires here, two in six months is more than I have ever experienced in my life so far (fingers crossed I will not experience any more!). I really think that the government should campaign for people to install smoke detectors – it would be money well spent!

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Another week, another Thursday and I’m seriously running out of things to say about my garden. The weather is still awful (typically British, let’s chat about the weather!), summer does not know if it wants to come or go – maybe the Witch-In-Law could cast a spell so it stays sunny, I’m sure she prefers the sun to rain anyway!

This will be the last of my weekly updates, as I’m sure no-one wants to see each of my tomatoes or strawberries as they grow (although I find it extremely fascinating!). I’ll update on Thursday’s from time to time if there’s anything to report but will save you from boredom in the meantime…

So, what’s new in my garden? The tomatoes are finally growing but need some serious sun SOON to make them ripen:

The Geranium’s are in full bloom and look lovely. We got them as a mossie repellent but have not yet been able to test their efficacity as it’s been too horrible to sit outside!

The basil has grown too since the cat debacle. Well, actually we planted some more (the small ones) and quite a lot seem to have grown. Now we’re just waiting for the weather to settle and then they’ll be planted outside with tomato plants.

Finally, another plant which I’m not sure what it is is starting to flower. It didn’t do any flowers last year so it’s a minor miracle as far as I’m concerned. Can anyone help in identifying please? I thinks it’s called an Olliander but am not sure!

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Blog Birthday!

So, time flies. It really does. This week marks the one year anniversary of Piglet in France and my first tentative steps into the blogosphere. What a world to discover! A year on I’m totally hooked!

Thank you for coming here over the past year and for sharing your stories with me, it has been an enjoyable period and I have ‘cyber met’ a lot of nice people here. I have been astounded by the kindness of those who follow me and surprised that anyone even wants to read about the trivia I write about. I hope it continues for a long time in the future and I look forward to maybe meeting you in real life one day!

Some of my favourite posts from the early days:
French Kitchens
Lettre Recommandée

Jardinage Jeudi

The sun has come back, hooray! I’ve become a bit bored of the garden over the last week, probably due to the bad weather, but now the sun is back I’m looking at it with renewed interest, seeing what I can plant and what needs tidying up.

I will be sowing my parsnip seeds soon (I think I’m a bit late but nevermind, it’s worth a try) as I find it hard to find parsnips here and Hubby and I love nothing more than roasted parsnips in winter.

The seeds will be going in a large container which I grew runner beans in last year, but have failed to produce even a green shoot this year. I think it will be strange to grow a root vegetable in a container and I’m not even sure that it will work, but I’m going to fill it with soil right up to the top and we will see!

I was once lucky to find parsnips in our local vegetable store (called Marche Provencale for some strange reason – we are not in Provence!) and stood in a queue one Sunday morning for more than 30 minutes waiting to pay for them (there were a lot of people shopping and the till was also the cheese counter).

It was an interesting experience as the Mamie in front of me and the younger fashionista behind me were both intrigued by these strange looking, carrotish vegetables in my panier. They asked me all about them and I explained how I cooked them and gave them recipes (okay, told them how to roast them!). They both ended up leaving with parsnips!

For some reason parsnips are pretty much unknown in France, a lot of people will look at them and won’t know what they are, yet alone what they’re called. For a country that has so much diversity in it’s food and such lovely markets where one can purchase fresh produce, it seems strange that this lowly vegetable is so widely unknown.

I’m really hoping my parsnips grow and that I’ll have a good crop this winter so that I can feed my friends and family lots of yummy parsnips!

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