The Bienale d’Aquarelle comes to town!
Originally posted on la petite maison bijoux:
Our nearest town, Brioude, is usually very quiet and sleepy. It has a population of just over 6,500, and whilst it does attract some tourists in the summer, it’s not exactly swamped.
All that chamges for a fortnight every other year, during the month of July, when Brioude hosts its biannual watercolour festival – the Biennale d’Aquarelle. It’s a truly international affair, this year featuring artists from countries including Japan, Poland, the UK, Switzerland and Slovenia, as well as all parts of France.
The town has got the bunting out, and it’s crammed with people browsing the exhibitions, admiring the newly-restored cathedral, attending workshops, painting in the street, and enjoying a coffee and a chat outside the cafés.
I tend to associate watercolour with hobby painters turning out pretty views (probably very unfairly), so I’m always amazed by the incredibly diverse range of styles and techniques on display…
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We are just coming out of a heat wave here with the temperatures hitting a high of between 36c – 41c (96F – 105F) on most days for the last three weeks or more. The garden is therefore not looking its best with a lot of scorched areas and plants. We also now have water restrictions and our water butts ran out about a fortnight ago. Luckily we have had a couple of heavy thunderstorms lately and they are now full again.
However the squash and courgettes have thrived in the conditions and we have nursed most of the plants through.
We have left some ares of the orchard to grow wild and have been rewarded with many wild flowers. The star of the moment though is this enormous thistle which the bees love.
Partly due to wanting to lose some weight and to keep my fitness up over the summer, I’ve started walking around 2 miles every morning after breakfast. Always after breakfast, I’ve tried walking before and my blood sugar must be really low as I never feel very good.
This summer has been so hot that long walks and cycle rides have been out of the question and a lot of lounging around watching the Tour de France has occurred. So the walks are to compensate for this and I’ll probably continue even when it gets a bit cooler in the autumn.
I usually walk up the road from our house to the next hamlet, then down a track leading to a woodland chapel, but turning round after a mile is recorded on my iPhone walking app. The wildlife about early morning varies, though this morning was particularly good for wildlife spotting. I saw two buzzards (Buse Variable), a green woodpecker (Pic Vert) heard a black woodpecker (Pic Noir) and saw a fox heading across a field. Not bad for a 40 minute walk! This morning was bright, sunny and 15C, though we a due a high of 33C. If you look carefully at the last photo you can see the parched yellow fields due to this July canicule (heat-wave, literally “dog days”).
We are in the middle of a heatwave here in the Auvergne and water restrictions are now in operation and we can only water between 8pm and 8am. Its around 29C (84F) today but heading back up to 35C (95F) later this week. However that is still a lot better than the high of 40C (104F) we hit last week.
The leek bed is looking particularly verdant and green though, in contrast to the parched grass around the raised beds. That is possibly because we have had enviromesh over the bed, giving some protection from the searing heat.
So gardening is restricted to early mornings before the temperature gets over 30C and we retreat to the relative cool of the house, it’s electric fan and the Tour de France!
It’s been a very warm and dry June this year and everything in the garden is growing away madly. We have had our first new potatoes “Belle de Fontenay”, though I’d like them a little larger, so I’ll wait a couple of weeks longer before digging any more.
The strawberries have had a fantastic season, and we have had strawberries to eat every day for most of this month and I’ve made about ten jars of jam.
The red and black currants are now nearly over, but the blueberries are just ripening, so we will still have some soft fruit. We made red currant cordial with some of the currants which is excellent in water and lovely in prosecco or cremant.
In the vegetable garden the rocombales are setting nicely and the jerusalem artichokes are appreciating being moved into a sunnier spot.
Lots of flowers at the moment though the stars are the Foxglove “Alba”.
It’s been a very dry May here and we have had to water the plants on many occasions due to the heat. The picture above shows the Belle de Fontenay early potatoes at the start of the month, the difference today can be seen in the picture below.
All the main crops are out now with only the borlotti beans hardening off to be planted up next week, though we have the bed and canes all ready for them.
Many flowers are now in bloom and the currant bushes are laden with fruit. A lovely site every year are the egyptian walking onions as their strange bulbils develop at the tips of the plant.
The main problem of the month has been Voles! In particular the “Campagnol Terrestre” (Arvicola terrestris). They looks cute, but inflict terrible damage in the garden. They have taken over an old mole run (caught by our cat…) in the garden and have been burrowing into the raised beds and eating our leeks, broad beans, lettuce and jerusalem artichokes from below. Our cat has been helping as she has been killing about three or four a week and I had tried some non lethal methods to discourage the voles. All to no avail, I don’t like killing things but living off a small pension we do depend on being able to grow most of our own vegetables. So a lethal “piege” has been purchased and placed into one of the underground runs. We have killed one so far on its way to the leek bed and so far the leeks are now undamaged. We will move it around the chambers to protect the other beds as required.