Sunday 08 October – Family, Felling and Fungi

At the end of my last blog, I said that we had just welcomed Dave’s uncle and aunt and were about to welcome my own uncle and aunt who were staying with us with some of their oldest friends who were visiting from upstate New York.

It also said that I would write a blog last Sunday if I had the energy.  The lack of blog may tell you how I felt then (!) but also that, again, the vast majority of my project time was focused on the same thing – continuing to clear the old vegetable patch before the diggers arrive on Monday 16th to start the swimming pool build.

I mentioned too that at 5am on Dave’s uncle and aunt’s first morning, they had a rude awakening with water dripping down from the heater in the eaves, through their shower room and into the ground floor bathroom.  In those 2 weeks we have removed the old, holed, tank and bought, but not yet installed, a new tank while we wait for the wood to dry out and research solutions to prevent any similar ‘flood’ in the future.

This meant that, after a couple of nights in Priory where they had access to hot water, Dave’s uncle and aunt were happy to return to Granary and, despite offering hot showers elsewhere, they braved cold showers for their last 4 days! Brrrr …

With family here the last 2 weeks have been sociable and given us the excuse (if one were needed) to visit some of our local restaurants.  With American guests, we also wanted to give them some French, and Breton, experiences. As such one day we went for lunch at the ouvrier restaurant, the Auberge’In, between Sizun and Landerneau.

Ouvrier restaurants, which offer filling lunch menus at a low cost for workers (ouvriers) are common features in France and the Auberge’In is amazing.  It offers a huge buffet selection of starters; a choice of 5 mains; dessert buffet, wine (if wanted) and coffee all for less than 15 €.

Another night, which happened to be our American guests 50th Wedding Anniversary, we went to Chez Jannie, an amazing seafood restaurant in Roscoff.  It was a little further to travel but allowed our guests to enjoy an amazing Fruits de Mer – a must when in Brittany!

Dave’s uncle and aunt left us last Saturday and my uncle and aunt left with our American guests last Sunday who were replaced by Dave’s Dad who has come to visit for a couple of weeks, and that day the fun continued!

Mercedes closed her restaurant on the lake, Au Lac, after lunch service last Sunday, and was kind enough to throw a little party for her staff and invited guests which was a perfect opportunity for David’s Dad to catch up with a few of our local friends.

The last blog mentioned that, having felled some horse chestnuts, both intentionally and un-intentionally, the weather changed and I hadn’t managed to clear the wood.  Thankfully, since then, we have enjoyed dry, recently hot, days with very little wind which has allowed us to continue the clearance.

Much of it has been stripping the branches off the chestnuts to be shredded; taking the broken breeze blocks to the déchetterie (five round trips in one day); logging the felled trees and then actually doing the shredding.

The biggest change has come with felling the large, light absorbing leylandii that we have hated since we arrived.  Thankfully, the tree had grown with a slight lean in the direction that we wanted to fell it and, having cleared anything that may foul its fall, it came down like a dream – but led to more stripping, logging and shredding.

It has made the biggest difference to our neighbours as now they will have lots more natural light coming into their house, but has also highlighted just how weedy the sycamores are on the back, all of which are self-set and all of which we intend to fell.  As I can drop these onto the lane behind, there isn’t the urgency to get them done next week, although we will aim to do them before the winter storms arrive; but there is one ash that has to fall into the garden that we plan to do next week.

Turns out, felling the trees is the quick bit, clearing them up takes more time!  Having stripped the leylandii and added the branches to those of the chestnuts there was a mountain of shredding to be done.  So far, I have spent 4 hours on the job, generated 18 barrow loads of mulch but it doesn’t look like I’ve scratched the surface!

The work makes the back boundary look a little bare, and means we are now more overlooked by our neighbour’s house, but it is only temporary and give us an opportunity to plant other trees which are more in keeping with the location and are of greater interest either in the spring or autumn.  As we did when we felled lots of trees on our east boundary and replaced them with liquidambar trees a couple of year ago which are now starting to change colour.  Our holly hedge too has more berries on that we have ever seen and looks lovely.

Felling what we have will also allow much more light, and water, to get to the yews we planted 7 years ago to create a hedge but which have been competing for resources with the trees.  Hopefully, having survived this long, they will now thrive and catch up with others that haven’t been in as much shade previously.

The weather has been extremely summery for the last week, and reached 25 degrees during the days.  Yesterday, we took the opportunity to go to Morlaix market – the best we have found nearby but, being on a Saturday morning, one we can’t get to often.  Being a market the fruit and veg are very seasonal which now meant lots of different varieties of apple.

We then continued north to the coast and had lunch on the beach at Carantec at a restaurant we hadn’t used before but was good.  It was like high summer and the 2 restaurants which were open were rather inundated as people came out to enjoy the late heat.

Also being, technically, autumn, today was the annual ‘Fête des Pommes, Miel et Champignons’ which we visited for only the second time since we have lived here.  Previously it was held in both Saint Rivoal (apples) and Brasparts (honey and mushrooms); this year everything has been brought to Saint Rivoal and it has expanded a little with a producers’ market in the main car park.

The fête, as its name suggests, is a sort of celebration of apples, honey and mushrooms but is also educational – albeit a bit ‘specialist interest’!  There is a display of as many fungi, mosses and lichens as the organisers can locate – and there are many! – with explanations of what they are and, for the mushrooms, their edibility and toxicity.  I still wouldn’t want to go foraging in the forest just in case …

With the diggers arriving a week on Monday, the next 7 days will be completing the prep required on site and making sure we are ready to go.  We’ll get there!