Tag Archives: tips

Wicker Basket Plant Protection

Don’t you just hate it when your perennials collapse half ways the season? Mid winter or early spring I can’t wait to see my beautiful arranged flower beds to pop out of the ground for a new season of colorful surprises. They grow proudly till the first heavy rain or hail breaks the perennials and gone is the order. Multi-stalk perennials literally fall apart, stems flopping in every direction to expose the ugly bare center. It’s chaos. I know plants do that in nature and I whould just give in if I don’t want overpriced flower support structures or bamboo sticks sticking out all over my lovely garden.

I was desperate untill I watched the first episode of The Edible Garden with Alys Fowler. Here she explains how easy it is to create your own flower supports from willow twigs.

Now being a rather handy man and having a few willow trees in my garden I thought: “Let’s try and creating some of my own.”. I’ve designed these three types after what I saw. Type 1, the Whisk, has an open and flexible top to leave space for the perennial to grow within some borders. Type 2, the Basket, is exactly that, a basket, keeping the plant straight up. Type 3, the Fish Pod, is a trial for perennials that grow higher than 1,5 meter like Aster and Rudbeckia.

wickerbaskets

Since it’s winter time I have time on my hands to give it a first try and see how it goes. This step by step manual by Jonathan Ridgeon will help me get through the first basics.

It didn’t work out so smooth as I hoped it would. But this is the first basket I’ve made. More to come. Keeping you posted.

Home made Wicker Basket

My first home made Wicker Basket

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Perennials Rule

It’s been four years now that we’ve been working in this garden. The first year it was a war zone destroying the nettles and getting some shape in the garden. The second year we enjoyed the sowing and found out the hard way that the power of weeds are much stronger than that of delicate seeds. In the third year we started to reconsider our approach with planting in open soil. With the amount of unwanted seeds and roots in the soil, we needed to do something dramatic.

Now it’s year four and we start to see some final shapes. Perennials rule. We’ve created 9 unique flower beds with each it’s own theme. From Brunnera to Bingerden, from white to red and from Spring to Autumn. Only 2 to go and we’re ready for the seasons.

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The view on the flower garden from the orchard

The yellow bed

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Learn how to apply polypropylene fabric the hard way…

Side garden Probably you do know people who don’t like gardening. I guess everybody does. So, so do we… the previous owners of our water mill. They neglected 90% of the garden because of this. They mowed a tiny lawn and planted fast growing perennials around it in the specific French manner.  This means; all as solitaires with no recognisable pattern. This also led to a ‘certain’ disregard of the rest of the garden and a prosperous growing nettle field.

When we bought the mill in 2009 over 4/5 of the garden was one big impenetrable bush of nettles and thorns. We seriously had some work to be done. (Read: Back to Basics) Still it was not till last year when we decided to move to some heavier methods. The nettles just kept coming back. We needed Weed Control! Polypropylene fabric was the answer. (Read: We Didn’t Start this War.) We placed it where we replanted the beds and covered it with woodchips. #fail. We learned how to apply polypropylene fabric the hard way… these are the 7 rules: Continue reading

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10 Tips for People Who Want to Buy French Property

As you know from reading this blog, we’ve been through a lot of stuff to buy our French mill. I thought it was nice to turn some of our experiences into tips. If you’re interested in a little French place to spend the next level in your life at, read these carefully…and then do as you please. 🙂

1. Target wisely.
France is HUGE. Compared to the Netherlands or Belgium or even other European countries, France is simply enormous. So be very specific about where you’d like your home. This sounds logical but-–trust me–-a distance that feels a bit far away the first time does NOT get any closer. Use a pair of compasses to divine a range.

2. Check distance.
Calculate whether you could drive the distance on your own. Your partner might not come with you every time and you might need to drive to and from in one day or overnight. Four to six hours is OK. Over six to eight hours is stretching it. Over eight hours is crazy. You can fly, but you never know how expensive that might become in the future.

3. Check route.
Some places, even within the logical distance, take much longer to drive to. For instance: passing Antwerp on a Friday means one hour extra. Also, yet of a different order, check whether there are more ways to get there. Driving by Charleroi is NO fun. It’s an ugly town and the route is not the most pleasant. (We prefer to drive by Namur; this means green landscape until our front porch.) The route should be relaxing. You drive there when you need some extra peace, not to arrive stressed because the traffic kills you.

4. Make up your mind.
What kind of house are you looking for? What will you use it for? Do you plan to share it with friends and relatives or just use it yourselves? There’s a large variety within types of houses to buy. Make a checklist of things you like to do in and around your house. Do you feel like doing nothing at all for the next 10 years? Then buy a small house without a lot of land. Do you want to entertain friends at your place? Buy something with an extra room, and make sure there’s some sightseeing within a 50-km drive.

5. Seek out peace (in yourself).
If you’d like to find peace in France, make sure the house offers it. A sweet, hidden place in the forest might look serene, but it’s remote and available for anybody–meaning unwelcome strangers–to pay a visit. There’s nobody to check. We preferred a place that is within walking distance from a town. Why?  Because everybody knows the property and will know you and your car. The French do check who drives into and out of their village. This neighbor patrol might be unwanted by some, but it’s also keeping an eye on what’s happening when you’re NOT there. Your French house should give you peace, not fear and worry.

6. Go there more than once.
The French and the real estate people want you to decide quickly. “Listen, you are the first to see. I have other people waiting. Blah blah.” Don’t buy it–it’s just a way to pressure you. If it’s true, then bad luck for you, but most of the time it’s bullocks. Try to lengthen your decision period. Going there more than once gives you a better insight of the house, the sounds, the town, the light. You don’t want to wake up next to a railway that you really can’t see but definitely can hear (at night).

7. Spend money on advice.
I guess this goes for everyone buying property. If you’re not a regular buyer of properties, ask someone to come and check your future house. Ask an independent and impartial French/English speaker to help you negotiate. This person should not have any chauvinistic feelings towards the French, nor should they have a relationship with any of the other participants. It can be a building constructor with an eye for the construction or just a businessman with a nose for saving you money. Everybody will tell you a different story. You need him/her to get the message straight.

8. Do not agree on any price before you’re sure.
The French really don’t like you to come back on a deal. Nobody likes to hear: “Wait a minute, we’d like to renegotiate.” Sometimes it’s inevitable, like when we discovered our land floods twice a year. They forgot to tell us: yeah right. So back to the table. We got 10% off in the end, but we surely didn’t make any friends. Also, you could make a wish list of what you like and be so direct to add that list to the requirements for the deal. We added the permission for a tennis court and swimming pool. Granted.

9) Ask around.
We found a chambre d’hote in the area where many people with the same mission stayed over. That helps BIG time for multiple aspects. A) During dinner you can ask who’s who in the area, B) find property for sale that’s not being listed yet, C) make friends close to your property who are dealing with the same issues.
It also doesn’t hurt to have some information on the property itself that does not come from the owners. They–including attorney, agent, and whoever else is involved–-will not tell you everything. We used our French advisor to call the mayor and some neighbors to get the full picture.

10) Follow your heart.
If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. Stones do have a vibe.

Off the record: Learn French! 😀

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