Posted by: kathandroger | May 22, 2015

Meadows and mechanics.

Just up the road from our house is a neglected meadow. It must have been farmed years ago, I guess, but now is slowly being taken over by the oak woods behind. It only gets sun in the afternoon, and the soil is poor, so the land is never completely overgrown. It is a haven for wild flowers. I am no botanist, but love seeing all natures wonders and this field is an education. The orchids this year have been lovely, at least six varieties, and the pretty lady orchids have now been joined by this masculine figure!IMG_3057I can now spot most of the local plants, but this one eludes me-help please Susan.IMG_3059The flowers come from a very thick base and I have seen nothing like it locally.

Across the little lane is our own land. At the moment the Acacia trees are all in flower, and leaving their petals all over the patios for me to clean up. What an interesting and successful tree it is. Not natural to Europe, it was introduced from the Americas  and now seems to have invaded all of France. There are areas now which seem to be full of acacia blossom, and it seems to be one of the few invasive plants which have been both welcomed and thrived. The wood is hard, quick growing and very useful both firewood (it spits a bit, but no problem in a stove), and especially for fencing poles. Our acacia wood was planted about 60 years ago by farmer Travouillon, and is still providing for both those uses.IMG_3077The small trees in the foreground are young Catalpas which I have grown from seed half inched from our neighbour. They are now about 3metres high and I hope will flower themselves in a couple of years.

Plants are lovely soft and gentle things. Machines are hard, smelly nasty and expensive-but useful. Our big front cut mower recently blew up and I spent many hours installing a new engine. It worked well,despite problems with the cutting deck, and I was thinking what a clever chap I was having done the first few cuts of the big lawn in the orchard, when there was a nasty screeching sound from the engine, some smoke, and a grinding halt. I did not swear. All my favourite words have long been used up on that mower, and instead the trouble and strife was called to help drag the lump of uselessness back to the workshop. 700 euros on a faulty engine, now keep calm and see what has happened. Bugger, the new engine had an oil filter which rubbed on a bolt and made a hole in it,losing all the oil and causing the motor to seize up. Nobody to blame but myself. Back to U tube to find out how to free a seized engine-lots of advice about big hammers and different solutions in the spark plug hole. Nothing worked, even having taken the engine out, but I had heard somewhere about mixing acetone with hydraulic fluid, and tried that, using an old pipette from my now defunct medical kit. With the aid of an old oak spindle (things were so much simpler in the days when that was made!), attached to a pulley, the engine freed up at last.IMG_3079I am now looking forward to spending the morning putting the thing back together again. Why can’t the grass stop growing? I much prefer meadows to mechanics!


  1. Your orchid is a hybrid Lady x Monkey Orchis purpurea x O. simia. The other plant is Crested Cow-wheat Melampyrum cristatum (Fr. Mélampyre à crêtes).

    False Acacia Robinia pseudoacacia (Fr. Acacia) isn’t as welcome as it used to be. Beekeepers are very keen on it because it produces a very mild honey which is by far the most popular in France. (Personally I find it so mild you might as well be eating Golden Syrup and stop wasting the bee’s time…) However ecologists are just starting to notice that it is taking over and pushing native species out.

    One of the things it was used for in the past around here was wine barrels. In the old days, instead of bag-in-box or plastic bottles for bulk wine sales you had barrels which the winemaker did not expect to see again. As a consequence they were made of cheap disposable wood like acacia.

    • Thanks Susan, a fount of knowledge as usual!

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