This was the year we finally moved over to France. I had taken voluntary redundancy in July – though it was slightly more complicated than that in reality – and we moved over in September.
The first job was to clear the area which would become the garden of the many trees established there. Including much acrobatic antics from Timothe the tree surgeon!
Only then could we think about planning out the garden. We planted up a new hedge at the end of the garden, planted a beech hedge to split the garden into an orchard and a vegetable garden and made up our first raised bed. One of three we had brought out with us from the UK.
The year ended with our first snowfall in November.
2011 was the first full year we owned our french house. We had arranged for a local builder to install a fosse septique, a bathroom and other improvements. Which he did during a very cold January through to March. So cold in fact that in February our neighbours contacted us to say the temperature was -18C at midday.
We came over for our first visit after the work had been completed in early April. For a very sunny week of gardening and cleaning.
This was also the visit of the giant hailstones.
On our next visit in September we tackled the overgrown terrace with its grindstone “table”.
Finally in 2011 we had our first Christmas at Grahy with a heavily improvised christmas tree.
For a variety of reasons we are leaving Grahy and our garden at 750 metres. Principally, for the last 18 months I have suffered from a muscle strain that developed into acute tendonitis and the amount of time I have been able to put into the garden has decreased dramatically. Life here is good, but hard physical work and you need two fully fit people to make it work. We are leaving in January, returning to the UK for a new adventure in Northumberland. This blog will remain as a record of our years here in the Auvergne.
I thought it would be good at the end of this year, to look back at our time here. So over the next few days I will be posting a blog entry for every year we have been at Grahy, including our two years before we moved over permanently.
Last week our beloved black and white cat Sophie died after a heart attack. She was just over four years old. She bravely struggled on for a few days and we had her back home from the vets for a couple of days, but she had to be returned as she was so weak. The vets tell us she had a congenital heart condition, as did it now appears certain, her sister Jess, who died two years ago.
She was the gentlest cat we had ever had and a real character. It’s hard to imagine I won’t see her chasing crickets and butterflies around the garden or staking out voles in the grass. The garden and the surrounding woods were a paradise for a cat and it’s comforting to know she had such a good, though short life.
She will be greatly missed, an integral part of our life here, as was her sister.
The garden is now being shut down for the winter, with only leeks and our tuscan kale left for picking. Last year the kale lasted us all through the winter into spring.
The blueberry bushes and our pear tree are putting on a fine display of autumn colours at the moment and in the flower garden we still have a few roses blooming and the cosmos never seems to give in, even after a couple of frosts.
It was a very dry September this year, with some record breaking temperatures. Combined with the dry summer it meant we had a very meagre potato crop this year. The earlies got blight and the main crop were very small. The courgettes and squash have been excellent again this month and we have apples on two of our trees.
The star flowers at the moment are the asters and the never ending morning glory.
We are just emerging from another minor canicule with temperatures in the mid 30’s centigrade. So not much work has been done in the garden except for early mornings before it gets too hot. But the weather has definitely suited the Morning Glory flowers and the pattypan squash!
And its good weather for drying off the onion crop.
We have had a very hot and mainly dry July, excepting a couple of dramatic thunderstorms. So everything has galloped ahead, especially the courgettes and pattipan squash. We should be having our first squash risotto this week, in fact.
We have dug and eaten our first new potatoes and have finished the peas which were again very disappointing this year. The herbs and flowers are also know looking fantastic, especially the hyssop and fennel and the jerusalem artichoke’s are as usual, reaching for the sky.
The first couple of weeks of June were very wet here and slowed down our progress in the garden but not our plants or the weeds! We are now experiencing a dry warm period and it’s good to see all the plants progressing.
Red and blackcurrants are ripening and since moving the rhubarb it’s been the best year for it. The onions suffered some hail damage but are now – in the last few days of heat and sunshine – fighting back.
At the moment we are into a strawberry glut and are picking a bowl a day.
The wild flowers in the garden continue to impress and the new border is beginning to settle in well.