Humans one

caterpillar in pineCaterpillars nil.   I love this pine tree. It is growing out of a rock all on its own on the upper terrace.

When we first bought this farm I saw it as a teensy seedling growing in the wrong place. I was strimming at the time and contemplated cutting it out.   But I didn’t. And look at it now. It does lean a bit, but it is easily four feet tall.

But it has an enemy within its leaves.   The dread pine processionary caterpillar. That’s thaumetopoea pityocampa to you.   And pity you if you have them. They cause an incredible allergic reaction if you touch them or get near their hairs on their bodies.   And some people get incredible reactions just from being in the forest near them as they shed hairs all year.

They weave the most fantastically strong nest to over winter in.   How strong? I couldn’t pull it away even yanking hard on the branch. So I was forced cut out quite a bit of the tree just to get the two little nests off.   pine on rock

Our woodcutter friend Michel said that the only way to kill them once they have spun this nest is to shoot them with an air rifle when the temperature drops below freezing. That way they freeze to death inside their cocoon.   But if I can reach the nests they get cut out.  Michel can no longer work in many forests as he has become incredibly allergic to them and swells up and can’t breath just from being near them. Poor man.

caterpiller cookingAnd what do I do with them? Sorry Dad, all god’s creatures and all that. But they cause so much damage to the pine trees. And there are plenty of the nests too high up the trees for me to reach.

So that was my destructive start to the day.

The rest of the day was spent doing good in the soft fruit orchard. I have weeded like mad, put the hoe to energetic use around each bush, raked the existing mulch, and then added more.   weeding soft fruit

weeding soft fruit 1It’s always the way; I never have enough. I only bought five bags, and with two going to the village garden bed, I only managed to get some cover sorted.   But it’s fine. And the mulch is cheap, so I just need to get a dozen more bags next time I go to Castorama.

The trees are gorgeous in their autumnal colours.   That’s this mild weather for you. Actually I thought it might rain today, it was very overcast and blustery.   But I didn’t get wet. And in fact I’m going to have to water the grasses and a few other garden beds tomorrow to make sure they get a bit of moisture before the weather turns very cold.

mulching soft fruitAnd then I had a rush of blood to my head.   Nicolas left a pile of stones beside the orchard for a future project. Why not build a mini wall?

Well I won’t be putting any stone masons out of a job. But it’s cute and it puts a good full stop to the edge of the terrace.

Just a year ago this was a sloping area that teetered onto the terrace below and was held up with brambles.   I weeded, put all the compost onto the edge, covered it with weedproof fabric and didn’t pester it for a whole wall

stones to moveAnd now it’s soil. Alchemy or what? So up came the fabric, and I need to add just a teesny bit more soil (about three or four wheelbarrow loads I think – which means six or seven half loads for me).   And then the mulch.

Next year.

So more fun things to tick off my list.   If I get time tomorrow I’ll start on the top vegetable garden.   I’m going to need mostly gauntlets up there.   The brambles are growing up through the wire fencing.   And I need to change the weedproof fabric on the paths.   And add the comfrey to the compost bins. So many things to do. tiles on gite roof

But first I need to get a lesson in tile repairs on our guest house roof.   Bring it on.