It’s chilly and rainy, and the clocks have gone back – definitely Autumn now

But until this week-end it still felt like summer.

Sunshine in Coat Noz forest:

Fly Agarics (Amanita muscaria) in the field close to home:

Evening sunshine at St Maudez:

Sunset at Balanou:

Porcelain fungus  (Oudemansiella mucila) on beech at the Gorge de Corong:

And something lovely on rotten wood. My guess is that it’s some kind of mycelium from some kind of fungus…Answers or suggestions on a postcard please!

Autumnal delights.

I scoured my normal mushroom places yesterday – feeling sure that the conditions were right for a mass emergence. Almost nothing. This morning I went back to the exact same spots and…Voila! Boletus edulis, Penny Bun, Porcini, Cepe de Bordeaux….€28 a kilo – call it what you like, I found loads!

Newly planted in my garden: Camellia sasanqua ‘narcissiflora’. Flowering in October when everything’s starting to give up the ghost – and with that elusive scent (like violets) that is delicious but so hard to describe.

Horse mushroom with oak leaf for scale!

Peacock butterfly looking for shelter.

Borlotto bean – Lingua Di Fuoca – the beans taste as good as the pods look.

And Summer’s back again – briefly?

None of the normal oranges and yellows of Autumn in this post. Instead it’s straight back to Summer with magenta, pink and crimson.

This has been the best year so far for chestnuts! There’s a 20 cent coin there for scale – about the size of a 5p.

Zinnia California Giants. This has been the first year I’ve grown them. Everything says they need a good summer to succeed. And this has probably been the best Summer since 2006. They have been amazing.


Asters continue to impress…

This apple variety is ‘Florina’. Still not ready (quite) to eat. But it’s one that is best eaten straight from the tree and so I don’t try to keep it. Juicy, crisp and a beautiful colour.

And yesterday I went down to the Atlantic Coast to the Bay of Audierne. And found a complete contrast to the gentle tides that characterise my local beach of Plestin, still in the Channel, with its rock pools and shallow waters.

This was strong currents, big surf, dunes, pebbles made round by the tumbling action of the seas being launched at my ankles by the waves as they came onto shore and then receded. A vast expanse of fine, pale yellow sand, an intense raking light and an immense blue sky.

And the reason for the trip… la Chapelle de Notre Dame de Tronoen. Not so much for the chapel – which was locked. But for the Calvaire next to it. Dating from the fifteenth century, it’s the oldest in Brittany. Despite restoration it’s not in that great condition. But having spent several hundred years in the wind, salt and rain that’s hardly surprising.

Originally the characters in the frieze would have been quite brightly painted. Now it’s the lichens and weathering that create the texture and shadowing on the granite, or ‘Kersanton’  – a stone particularly linked with the geology of Brittany and much used in the religious sculpture during the sixteenth century. Apparently it’s easily carved when newly quarried, but ‘sets’ as hard and resistant and impermeable as granite as it ages; and fifteenth century is pretty old!

This postcard shows how it looked in the 50’s/60’s:

Here’s how it looks now:

The Calvaire’s function was to act as a kind of visual aid or illustration of the life of Christ, and other Biblical stories. So, for example on the bottom row of this side is Joseph presenting Jesus at the Temple and the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. The upper tier has Jesus carrying his cross on the way to his Crucifixion, followed by the two felons.

Autumn finally arrives…

Misty morning looking out over the field from the garden…It’s raining now. I’m listening to the rain clattering on the roof lights and the wind is gusting. It possibly sounds more dramatic than it is as it’s dark out there. Today has given us the first rain for at least a month. Yesterday it was 24 degrees and beautifully sunny. It’s forecast to be fine again tomorrow, but the ‘summer’ temperatures have ended.

I’ve harvested a fair amount of seed whilst it’s been so dry. Normally I don’t succeed with things like lettuce – the seed pods get mildewed and mouldy and the seed isn’t viable, but this year has been good. I’ve a load of ‘Oreille du Diable’ (Devil’s Ear) – which I use as a loose leaf picking lettuce. I first came across it three or four years ago via my Seed Exchange group and have been  sowing it every year since from the same batch of seed. I’m pleased to have renewed the stock – and I’ll have extra to take back and exchange again this year too.

The rain will (fingers crossed) have reminded all of those mushrooms out there that it’s time to rise and shine. It’s been a very poor season from point of view of fungi so far. But, if I had the choice to swap the amazing weather that we’ve had recently for an abundance of Boletes instead, I know I’d say ‘no’. But I’m quietly anticipating the pleasure of visiting all of my secret spots and seeing what’s occurring in the days to come…

But, for today, here’s what’s lovely:

The ‘Mare aux Fees’ ( Fairy Pond),  Huelgoat. Rain just begin to fall.

More tomatoes…

A mix of ‘Conference’ and ‘Louise Bonne de Jersey’ pears. The latter is a variety that I grafted onto ‘Conference’ – the scion came from my tree in Walthamstow. An excellent harvest this year. I doubt that I can use them all up in the tiny window of when they’re just perfect. Not complaining!

A leaf from Amelanchier canadensis – Snowy mespilus.

Back to the butterflies…

Letting the photos speak for themselves….

Peacock butterfly.

Swallowtail on Verbena bonariensis

Speckled Wood on Bracken.

Swallowtail Caterpillar getting ready to wander off and pupate.

Male Brimstone on Verbena bonariensis

It’s not all butterflies! The dahlias have been good this year too. And the Asters are beautiful now.

Apples and pears in abundance this year.

Tomatoes:  (clockwise) ‘Join or Die’, ‘Caro Rich’, ‘Evergreen’, ‘Indigo Rose’ and ‘Lemon Plum’. 

I love the warm yellow of this Sunflower. The bees love the pollen, and the birds will love the seeds.


Out of sorts, but there is still some good stuff…

A version of Rumtopft. Except not really as it was all put in on the same day in a bid to use a mixture of fruit that isn’t jam or chutney… The fruit with the star shape is actually a tomato.

Brown Turkey figs have cropped well – and grown exponentially. Masses of little ones that won’t come to anything in this climate, but it’s been great to have the abundance of enough ripe ones to be able to slice a few and eat them with a mild ewe’s milk cheese, add them to fruit salads, eat them straight from the tree and even drop a couple into the bottle above! (and seeing that this is about positive things I’m not going to dwell overmuch on the quantities that the cheeky mice have been attacking. I know this for a fact as they can’t eat a whole one in one sitting. But their teeth marks are there as evidence. I just shut my eyes and finish off whatever they’ve left.)

‘Lemon Plum’ tomatoes. There’ll be more tomato stuff on my next post. But I’m loving the ‘lemon’ look of this variety.

Fishing this week finally produced a proper catch. Here’s a Garfish/Aiguillette (right), a Chub Mackerel/Maquereau Espagnol – not as good eating as a standard one, but huge and powerful, and finally, on the left, my first ever Gilthead Bream/Dorade. I wish I liked eating them all as much as I enjoy catching them!

Damsons. Not from my own garden. I have a neighbour who’s rarely here to get the benefit from his trees…but doesn’t mind that I do. I’ve dried all these in a dehydrator and jarred them up for later. I know Damson jam is lovely, but I haven’t eaten my 2015 jars yet.

Boletus erythropus. Syn. Boletus luridifomis now called Neoboletus luridifomis. Common name in French – bolet a pied rouge (red-foot bolete). Whatever…It’s a very pretty mushroom, that turns a disturbingly bright blue immediately on cutting. It needs to be well cooked to avoid digestive upsets. So, although I could, I’ve never really felt inclined to eat it!

Hissy cat

No matter how many photos I post, they won’t capture the essence of this most beautiful, (although I once may have said she was ugly) cat. She turned up here one day and decided to stay. Bit by bit she dug herself in until she became, perhaps, the most important part of my being here. I will treasure every day that she was around.  She enriched my life immeasurably. She was the Hissycat. I loved her and I miss her more than I can explain.

Not another butterfly post…..?

How could I resist this Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) on ‘Royal Red’ Buddleia? Despite the heat I’ve been surprised that the Painted Ladies have been so scarce. This is just the second so far this Summer.

But in the garden there are also:

My new ‘companion’ who sits at my feet and waits for whatever scraps fall in its direction. Cheese, croissant crumbs, berries…..they all disappear. No idea if it’s a male or a female until it loses its juvenile plumage in the Autumn.

My constant companion – apart from when she’s got something better to do – showing a distinct lack of road sense.

My newest neighbour and her mum.

And at last something that’s been rarely sighted so far… This has been the poorest summer for fungi that I can remember. I picked this just after the day of heavy rain we had last Sunday. Russula virescens. Not especially common here. (At least I don’t find it often.) Edible and good. However one solitary mushroom didn’t provide much of a meal! I’d thought that there would be more on their way but it became too hot again, too quickly and they all stayed underground…

….And overtaken by Summer

How have I managed to have written nothing for so long? Loads of garden stuff to mention, but it’s really the butterflies that are the stars of the moment.

A Marbled White. As always I’m pretty happy when these start appearing – they signify early summer for me. June flying and abundant this year in the meadows nearby.

A perching Comma. So called for the little white ‘comma’ on its wing. This one obligingly posed for me. There are lots more, but this year the absolute highlight, so far….has been my encounters with His Imperial Majesty : the Purple Emperor.

Last year was my first serious attempt to spot them. I was convinced that they should be here. There’s everything they want and need: oak trees aplenty – they live up in the canopy of the tree, feeding on honeydew and oak sap. And for egg-laying the females/caterpillars need sallow close by. The meadow and ‘prairie’ alternate oak, sallow, oak….

The problem is that they stay mostly up in the tree-tops. They don’t really need to come down to the ground at all. But the males will be tempted by the mineral salts they can take from a muddy puddle, or from less pleasant things like fresh fox poo, or apparently rancid fish paste. When the weather is so hot and dry muddy puddles are in short supply, but poo is available(!)

Having drawn a blank last year I wasn’t actually looking, but Fate was smiling on me…

And just when my cup runneth over, something made me look twice at this ‘small’ Tortoiseshell and take a quick photo. It’s actually a Large Tortoiseshell – extinct now in the UK other than as captive-bred and released, or a rare migrant. It’s not uncommon in the rest of Europe, but another first for me.

And I’ve not just been looking at butterflies. I nearly trod on this little chap – a bit early to be out of its nest perhaps. No tail feathers yet.

And finally my new friend. I’ve never come across such a fearless blackbird. One of this year’s nestlings. It’s spending increasing amounts of time sitting next to me under the parasol. Hissy doesn’t seem to care (yet.)