Le Langon

I stopped into the pharmacy and noticed a poster for a dog show, one focusing on obedience and agility. Jacques and I had to see that, so on the appointed day, off we went, to the outskirts of a lovely village, Le Langon.

Sure enough, there was a little demonstration of obedience and one of agility, an event more or less for the students, their friends and family. It was most encouraging to see, because the dogs behaved only slightly better than Jacques does, with no training at all.

We being neither students nor friends nor family, we lasted about ten minutes and headed off to explore the village itself. Ten photos, I said to myself. I can do that.

This is the city hall. Why they felt they had to add bright blue window frames is beyond me. The basic building is a grand old pile. Back when there was a lot of money in agriculture, a whole lot of it seems to have been made in Le Langon. Le Langon is now a bywater, a suburb of Fontenay-le-Comte. Buildings like this tell you it used to be a center of importance, all on its own.

Here is the primary school. Apologies for the tilt. The road does slope, but the building shouldn’t.

The church appears to be in regular use, which is unusual around here. Until his death some years ago, Vendee was lucky to have a well-known stained glass artist in residence. This church has two of his windows.

The housing stock is above average and generally quite well kept. Le Langon was once noted for its horses. As you can see — as I wish you could see better — many locals are working to maintain that reputation. This horse, apparently some breed of draft horse, was immaculate. I’d like to tell you more about the rider, but I was too busy coveting his leather boots, also immaculate, and looking to be worth about as much as my car.

And finally, the pharmacy. That little sign on the door says, “Fermeture Definitive.” Le Langon does have a post office and a train station. Not every village can say that, especially regarding the train station. When it comes to businesses, though, it’s not exactly bustling. I found a convenience store and not much else.

And that’s the town. It’s charming, more so than most, and with an air of affluence. Folks are doing their shopping somewhere else, though. Otherwise a sweet little building like this one, right at a major intersection, would not be sitting empty.

Birds and Bats

I need to apologize to those of you who have been waiting for more before-and-after photos of the house, pretty shots of the utterly charming surrounding villages, etc. They are coming, I swear. But I’m going through a city kid’s “wow, countryside” phase. I’ll get over it, probably pretty soon.

Right now I’m enjoying my first extended — okay, two weeks, but for me, that’s long — stay in the house in good weather without contractors or emergencies. It’s great fun. No wonder I bought this place.

This is the owl that got into a barking match with Jacques the other day. I remember being surprised that he stood his ground, rather than fly off home. I wondered whether he was home. Now I think he probably is.

The Barn Owl Trust tells me my new resident is a Little Owl and is diurnal. He probably has a mate, not that I would be able to tell them apart. For all I know, he actually lives in one of my barns. If he chased out the pigeons, more power to him. Long term, my plan is to bird-proof the barns, so I have to figure out where to encourage him to move. I’m afraid I bird-proofed myself out of the swifts that nested here last year. I thought they would nest under the eaves, like the swallows in California, but no. Clearly more research is in order.

I had been thinking I would need to build owl houses, then hope for the best. I am delighted to see that this is not so. However, when I saw a bat house in the local garden center, I snatched it up. Here is Jacques, disapproving of the bat house.

To him they are all just little beasts, invading his turf. To me, they are all vermin catchers and, as such, to be encouraged. So the Bat Conservation Trust and Habitat for Bats are going to help me get those mosquito eaters in here. It can’t happen too soon.

Eye of the Hurricane

I am certainly grateful for my life at the moment. The world is going nuts, with extreme havoc being wreaked for the pettiest of reasons. Sometimes I can’t believe what is happening, even just outside my gates. Inside, though, I garden away. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to do.

Jacques and bulldozer

Here is Jacques, just outside the wall, playing Tiananmen. The dozer, when it did move, went in the opposite direction, fortunately.

They are putting curbs along my little country lane. For the moment they stop at my property line, but for how long? And why are they going in in the first place? Julien tells me sometimes projects happen simply because money is available.

The news in Vendee is that the ground water is becoming depleted. This can happen because of drought. It can also happen because of urbanization. The subdivision just outside my walls is a fine example of this. The houses are required to channel rainwater runoff to the street. Thus the curbs, which channel the water to who knows where, probably the ocean. Needless to say, if the water is conducted entirely along paved surfaces, it is not sinking into the ground. So this ground water issue is largely of man-made origin.

I have an old house. I drain nothing to the street. The water that is channeled away from the house goes into an old well, the better to feed the water table. The neighbors don’t have that option and probably have not gone to the trouble to disconnect drain lines, to send the water to gravel sinkholes. As the countryside becomes suburbanized, things will only get worse.

As you can see, summer is happening. I think I may have been expected to thin those tomato plants, but I am still too amazed that things just grow here. This never happened in California. Maybe I’ll get around to it.

Right now I’m too busy weeding. I have begun to tackle the briar patch. Just this morning, the mess in there was quite dramatically brought to my attention.

Last night being quite warm, we slept with the windows open. At 6 AM, Jacques’ small but mighty nose and ears detected a cat invasion. Last night he got into it with a barn owl. I went out to find the two of them barking at each other. Who knew barn owls made noise? This morning, Comète, from across the street, caught the attention of my little protector. When I went out, Jacques had Comète pinned in the briar patch, snarling and spitting, but basically too afraid to move. I finally got Jacques on the side opposite the gate and the little sport killer made a run for it. I guess Comète decided it wasn’t so fun being on the prey side of the sport, because he didn’t stop. His owner came by later in the morning, asking about him. Well, when Comète finally returns home, I hope he spreads the word about the killer Westie down the street. Cats are another thing I want outside my walls.

It’s a cruel world out there. We are destroying the planet. We are forcibly displacing millions of people and harassing them when they become refugees. We rip children from their mothers’ arms, simply for political gain. Torture and human trafficking are bigger than ever, at least in my lifetime. It’s not that I do nothing about it, but any of those things seem proportionately so little. So I’ll deadhead roses and protect the lizards from the cats. Inside the walls — don’t say Maginot Line in this house, okay? –it’s safe. It’s a start.

Back in France

I have been to California. This time it was MM’s turn to accompany me. He did a great job. It felt good to be love-bombed by my friends for a couple of weeks. The photos and my thoughts await processing. When that is done, I’ll tell you more about it.

I have just gotten back to the house. While I was gone, it rained. We were spared the floods, fortunately. The Vendee is protected from the worst parts of any weather front and, as regular readers know, the Vendee is basically four-hundred-year-old infill, with well-maintained canals reliably carrying excess water to the adjacent Atlantic Ocean. Floods do happen, but to judge by house prices along the flood-prone coast, not often enough for folks to take seriously. I live half an hour inland and, thank you architect Drohomirecki, the house is raised on a roughly one-meter plinth.

Floods are not my issue. Weeds are. Julien hits the large areas with the mower and strimmer, but he leaves the handwork for me. That means weeding the flower beds and deadheading the roses, basically.

Some weeds are easy. On go the garden gloves, up come the weeds. But what do I do with this? I’m sure it’s wheat. With few exceptions, the farmers here grow wheat and corn. It’s all about the cash crop. What is the status of wheat in France? If I harvest this, is there any chance I owe Monsanto money? Can I save the grains and replant them? How much wheat is needed to make a loaf of bread?

It shouldn’t be such a quandary, but I am desperate to find organic produce that is not malformed or bug-ridden and which tastes good. Here in France, they have not yet mastered the fine points of organic farming. I have taken to growing things myself and here is this gift of wheat. What to do, what to do.

Deadheading the roses will have to wait. The ground is soft after so much rain and I want to keep it that way, so no walking around in the flower beds. Besides, I’m more of a wannabe than a real gardener. Am I pruning too close to the new growth? Leaving too long a stub?

I can uproot a few more weeds, but I think today is more for drinking tea, searching YouTube for rose pruning tips and taking care of Jacques. He thinks he helps by rolling in the burrs lurking in the grass, a kind of speed-weeding, but no, not really.