Blog Header

Blog Header

Monday, 25 August 2014

Fruit frenzy but going quieter on the bug front

It's certainly harvest time and that means time to preserve some of this bounty, especially the fruit. I'm only spending time jamming and chutneying the fruit that needs to be cooked from fresh, so raspberries and blackberries are in the freezer and can be made into jam and jelly respectively later on. Freezer space is at a premium at this time of year so I also had to make some tomato sauce to make a bit of room in my chest freezer. I've still got three huge plastic bags full of frozen tomatoes and loads more ripening, despite the cooler weather.

I'm keeping busy..... the Mixed Fruit Chutney has damsons in it as well as tomatoes,
and the Sweet Aubergine Preserve is a middle eastern recipe and amazingly delicious.

The rain that came over two weeks ago was just in time for the plums; however many of them split open or completely burst because they'd been dry and were then subjected to rather a lot of moisture all at once. Of course that's letting in rot so the greengages are spoiling at a rate of knots, but I managed to make my jam and it's the first time in three years I've had enough fruit for jam from the tree. The purple plums have also started rotting but there's only so much one can eat or preserve anyway, and just when you need some handy neighbours to take some off your hands, they all go away on holiday!

Greengage, known as Reine Claude here in France, and an unknown purple dessert plum.

Autumn fruiting Raspberries 'Zeva' and thornless cultivated Blackberries (with a Dock Bug).

Everyone loves blackberries! Dock Bug (Coreus marginatus) nymph left and (I think)
the Cricket is a male Speckled Bush Cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima).

We usually see juvenile Green Woodpeckers in summer pecking away at the ants' nests in the lawn, and since taking these photos recently I've been seeing and hearing them regularly. They are loud!

A male juvenile Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis).

Male juvenile Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) again looking a bit fluffy.

It was time for my OH to do some varnishing but when he went to unhook the bedroom shutters he found about a dozen bats roosting behind one of them. Some flew off but he had to close the shutter carefully to protect the rest of them, so no varnishing for that shutter that day! Now I missed what came next but I'm kind of glad that I did. As he was varnishing the window frames and the other shutter, a bat came back and started circling around. My OH retreated slightly and started to close the windows so that it could go back behind the shutter, when all of a sudden out of nowhere came a Sparrowhawk who caught and flew off with the poor bat! Oops.

I assume they are Pipistrelles which are common bats but they look bigger in the photo, but I think there were several of them all grouped together here. I couldn't do any better than a silhouette and was trying not to think of the drop as I leant out of the window!

Bats roosting behind the bedroom shutter!

Here are a few tatty creatures seen recently. Summer feels like it's really coming to an end with the cooler, more cloudy weather and there are far fewer butterflies than I'd expect at this time of year. Hopefully it will pick up in September.

I'm not sure what the bee is, possibly a Bombus sylvarum.

Most of the butterflies I'm seeing are Browns or Whites - here's a Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)
 feeding on my Garlic Chives - another odd thing about this year because this plant is usually
covered in bees, flies and some butterflies, but it seems fairly unpopular this year.

And still the only 'Blue' I've seen here in my garden this year - this is a female Holly Blue
(Celastrina argiolus). They don't normally open their wings when resting or feeding,
so I was lucky. Apparently they only do this in weak sunshine.
Weak sunshine is what we are grateful for right now!

Female Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus).

I nearly didn't take a photo of this bug as I thought it was a Sloe/Hairy Shield Bug - luckily I checked because I'm wrong. I then spent half an hour IDing it only to find when I was keywording my photos that I've already seen and logged this species this year - it would have been quicker to do a search for shield bugs in my photo library! Judging by where I live in France, then using this guide I would hazard a guess at Carpocoris purpureipennis, but it's too difficult to say, so let's just say it's one of the Carpocoris species.

Carpocoris sp., an interesting bug with little info about it on the internet.
Obviously it likes running around on hairy arms. :-)

Carpocoris sp. doing the 'biz', seen back in June.

There appears to be an exchange of fluid going on here -
looking at my other photos that droplet disappeared, so I hope it went where intended! ;-)

The eight day weather forecast looks dismal for the next week, although I will appreciate whatever rain we may get today as the garden is already drying out.

I may go quiet for a while and that's because I have a new desktop arriving this week - and not just any old desktop. I'm jumping ship so it's bye-bye Microsoft, and hello to the world of Apple and iMacs, which could be interesting for a few days weeks? until I get used to it! :-) 


  1. Just reading this tired me! Loved every word, as always :-) You're living country life to the fullest!

    I especially enjoyed reading about your bats. I see many at home every evening and had one spend the night in a corner of my patio. Have you considered putting up a bat house? I would love to but community regulations wouldn't allow it. Bat guano can get quite smelly! However, I hear it is primo fertilizer !

    1. lol Marianne I do spread out the preserving 'chores' but I'm still harvesting some fruit or veg most days. I have never thought about a bat box and will have to look into that. I know there are Pipistrelles here (tiny cute ones) as I see them quite commonly at dusk and dawn flying around the garden - and occasionally coming inside through an open window, which is fun. I wouldn't mind bat guano at all - after all I've dealt with smelly ducks. Or is it worse?! :-)

    2. I'm guessing your area has lots of places for bats to roost but they need our help here. I attended a lecture given by a wildlife conservationist who stressed how much bat houses are appreciated in urban areas especially. He talked about how important they are to our environment especially in mosquito control. Anyway...he gave us some directions on making a house ourselves. Found directions online. Please send pics if you build one!

    3. Thanks for the link and info, Marianne. I've been reading about bats for the last hour or so; there are 29 different species in France, many of which have vulnerable status. As well as the Common Pipistrelle there are other species of Pipistrelle, and many species are tiny anyway! So really I have no idea which species I am seeing here.

      I can now see having looked at bat box plans how the space behind my shutters is perfect, nice rough stone for them to hang off and it's south west facing, near the line of a hedge for navigation and near water. It's not the first time I've found them behind shutters but I know it's not a permanent roost as I was shutting those shutters most afternoons during July to keep the sun out. And talking about guano I forgot to mention that after the bats left, there were dozens of little poos similar to mouse droppings over the wall where they had been. Not how I had imagined gooey guano! :-)

  2. You sure have been busy Mandy! You have a lovely lot of bottled goods to enjoy when there is nothing growing in your garden!
    We have bats flying over here but they don't nest anywhere around where we live.

    1. Thanks Kim - one of the best things is having our own tomato sauce instead of having to buy tinned tomatoes and it tastes so much better! I have no idea where our bats normally roost (they don't roost/nest/live behind the shutters as a permanent place, they were gone the next morning and didn't come back). I need to look into bat boxes like Marianne suggested but it's possible they roost in one of the old barns around here.

  3. Love all the photos, esp the baby pecker and the holly blue. Loads of fruit and veg here too- I shall be freezing toms soon, so far I've been able to keep up with making from fresh sauces etc. Lots of rain here today as well. Good luck with the mac- my ma has one and swears by it x

    1. Thanks CT - yes baby pecker is cute and I'm just grateful for the Holly Blues, which were more abundant in the spring here than summer. Today it has poured down but it's good for the garden. :-) Good to know about your mum and her Mac - it will be a steep learning curve for me but my OH has one so it makes sense really and I'm so fed up with my old slow pc!

  4. Hi, Mandy.. Made a few jars of Greengage jam, going to use it with sponge pudding, its very sweet. Lots of lovely bugs in your post and great photos, when I get chance I'm going to put all my Sheild bugs photos together. I had never seen one before this year and it has turned out to be my faviouret insect.
    Amanda xx

    1. Thanks Amanda! Greengage jam is sweet but I don't find it as sickly as (my) strawberry jam. I'm sure it would be great with sponge pud. I look forward to seeing all your shield bugs - they are great little critters! :-)

  5. You seem very organised with your produce and jam/preserve making Mandy, looks great too. My OH (Lizzie) is following your bog now as she also makes and bakes. In fact she was telling me that she was told if she wanted to sell any preserves (she doesn't really) she MUST buy new jars...something about health and safety!

    You may have noticed a decline in bugs but that unusual one is a real beauty! Love that one and how you have photo' it too. Strange how you are seeing Holly Blues and I am not, but I am seeing lots of Common Blues!

    Well done on that bee picci too-I avoid bees usually because I struggle to get decent pictures for some reason..really should persevere I guess.

    1. Damn! Following your BLOG...not bog ;-)

    2. Haha I write bog all to often too, so I had a chuckle there but I knew what you meant! Poor Lizzie isn't going to find too many posts on baking etc but if she looks at the sidebar I do have some labels for 'baking', 'preserving' and 'recipes'. I forgot to put a link for my Mixed Fruit Chutney using damsons which I shared here in 2012 on this post:
      I'm not surprised about having to use new jamjars

      Re. the bugs, I actually meant insects in general rather than true bugs. Still seeing plenty of them around. Forecast is looking much better from 1st Sept so hopefully some interesting butterflies will come out of the woodwork!! And thanks JJ. :-)

  6. We have the same plum tree in my dad's garden - it was labelled as a damson plum tree.
    Love your woodpecker photos!

    1. Hi Caked Crusader and thanks for that info. I find it confusing because the tree that I call my damson (not in any pics here) has tiny and round blue black fruit like sloes which are tart tasting until they are really ripe but are never 'sweet' - maybe it's a bullace? But this tree's fruit is much bigger, is purple, has stones that pop out easily and is really nice and sweet and ripens later than the one I call damson, so whilst it looks like oval damsons in some google searches it doesn't seem to fit the description! Neither does the small fruited tree fit the description for bullace regarding ripening time!
      Who knows, it's very nice in a crumble or for eating raw. Thanks for visiting! :-)

  7. Great low level shot of the Green Woodpecker Mandy.
    Glad to see you have 'wised up' and joined the ranks of the Mac users.{:))

    1. Thanks Roy, it was actually downhill to the woodpecker so I wasn't lying down in the grass! I'm loving the Mac screen except that my photos look completely different colour/contrast etc to my old PC, so wondering whether one or the other is not calibrated right..... presumably it's not the iMac's fault! :-)