elderberry cordial, from bush to mug


We have made cordial!

Originally posted on la petite maison bijoux:


We have a large elderberry bush in the garden, and we’ve been watching it closely for the past couple of weeks. The berries have been formed for a while now, and it’s a fine balance between them being ripe enough to pick, and birds stripping the bush. Yesterday we decided it was time to harvest.

We got a good haul from the lower branches, but we did leave plenty higher up for the birds. Our plan was to make elderberry cordial, but in the event we got enough to make some jam too. Those have gone into the freezer for another day.

We follow a recipe from James Wong’s book Grow Your Own Drugs. He recommends taking a spoonful to ward off winter coughs and colds, but we prefer to dilute it it with hot water and drink it by the mugful. It’s a bit like hot Ribena, but with…

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pom poms and ice cream


Trying to escape the heat…

Originally posted on la petite maison bijoux:

The square at La Chaise Dieu The square at La Chaise Dieu

It was another very warm afternoon yesterday, so we decided to take a trip out to La Chaise Dieu. It’s at a higher altitude than our house, and often seems to catch the breeze. It also has a magnificent, and very cool, abbey, and a patisserie that sells wonderful ice creams, so it’s a good choice on a hot day.

I’m always vaguely surprised when it’s busy, as we’ve often been there and found tumbleweed blowing down the streets. It’s another one of those places that only really comes alive in July and August, and there are even craft shops that just open for those two months each year.  I’m not sure what the pom-poms on the fountain signify (if anything).

And here it is; the all-important ice cream.

I chose raspberry and this one is myrtille, which I would call bilberry, but I think most people would…

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Brioude en fête


The Bienale d’Aquarelle comes to town!

Originally posted on la petite maison bijoux:

Brioude Brioude

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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July Calendar 2015

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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.

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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.



Morning walk

early morning sun and trees

early morning sun on the road to La Pelouche

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”).

view over the doulon valley

view over the Doulon valley towards Domeyrat

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looking towards the Mageride from the hamlet of La Pelouche