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Saturday, 26 March 2016

Mary MoHo goes to the seaside

She has a name at last and I will explain all that at the end of this post. These pictures are from a day out at the coast nearly two weeks ago. We haven't got Mary out again since then but I see better weather coming soon so we might get to camp soon - but in the meantime a day out and a picnic by the sea is a good enough compromise.

This time we filled up with enough water to get the boiler going and check that the hot water runs (it does), but as we can't get near the house with it we couldn't use the new clean hose for water so K had to fill by hand as you can see!

One thing I can't get over is because you are sitting so much higher up than in a car, and being a van it has a huge windscreen, you get a much clearer view of the countryside and I am appreciating it so much more. The sky seems so huge too and it's going to be good for getting snaps whilst on the move. So long as we keep the windscreen clean, and no, splatted bugs is not my idea of fun insect photography!

We headed up to the stretch of coast between Cancale and St Malo, but sadly for some unknown reason the coastal road was closed halfway along with no explanation, so the beach I had planned to go to had to be changed. We ended up parking in a layby on the cliff top along with about five other motorhomes to have our picnic, but we did at least have a view of the sea. Afterwards we walked a bit along coastal paths and saw that we were really close to Pointe du Grouin where I find all sorts of interesting wild flowers and butterflies in summer.

Looking over at the semaphore station on Pointe du Grouin.

This coastal path is the GR34 - one of the Grande Randonee walks in France - this one goes the entire way around the Brittany coast.

Blackthorn was just beginning to flower.

Picnic time, so nice in comfort and warmth!

As we fancied a walk on a beach we headed for our favourite spot at Port Mer. The tide was out a really long way and we had a great time wandering on the beach. The few restaurants here looked closed but it is hard to tell because it was mid afternoon by this time and of course nobody is sitting outside in winter, so they could be open for lunch. Indoors.

It pays to check out that lone seagull you often see - as in this case it wasn't, it was a Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)! Not an uncommon sight these days, both in winter and summer.

These were so distant it was only because K heard their cries that we even noticed them - Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) on the beach. I haven't seen any in Brittany before.

I was nearly falling over trying to get down and take photos whilst squatting - could have done with waterproof kneely pads! Then I'm like an old lady struggling to get back up again!

But what are we taking photos of in the next two images?

These strange things!

They were totally fascinating and there were loads of them around the low tide area. When we came home I found out that they are Common Whelk egg cases! Here's some brief information from Arkive - more info about them on their page here. Whelks are of course edible and one of the things you will find in a Plateau de Fruits de Mer over here - but personally I think they are gross as I don't eat snails, whether from the land or the sea - though I have tried them. Never again!

"The sexes are separate; breeding takes place from October to May, and the eggs are attached to rocks, shells and stones in protective capsules. Each capsule contains as many as 1000 eggs, and the capsules of several females are grouped together in large masses of over 2000 (2). Only a few of these eggs will develop; most eggs are used as a source of food by the growing embryos (3). There is no free-swimming larval stage (4), instead, crawling young emerge from the capsules after several months (3). Empty egg masses frequently wash up on beaches, and are often mistaken for sponges (2). They are known as 'sea wash balls' because they were once used to wash with (3)."

On the walk back up the hill to the car park I saw these amazing summer flowers, still going strong in this sheltered spot where frosts are rare!

Then it was time for tea and cake in the warmth and comfort of the Marymobile. :-)

So, how did she get named? Well it seems you have to give everything a name these days, including your stoma (mine doesn't!). But I was starting to find it a bit irritating calling it 'it', 'the van', 'the MoHo' and felt we needed something a bit more interesting but easy to say. We'd played around a bit with names and I really wanted something to honour my late in-laws, as it was their inheritance which paid for it (yes I know I said I was going to buy it from the money I'm supposed to be receiving from my uncle but god knows when that is going to arrive, and by the time the lawyer has taken off his £130 an hour fee there will probably be nothing left!).

I liked The AlfandMaryMobile but that was too much of a mouthful, and K kept calling it the Winnebago. So we joked about the Mary Bago (as her name wasn't Winnie) and eventually settled on Mary for short. K was brought up on caravanning holidays around the British Isles with his brother and parents and I know they would have been thrilled to know that we had bought something like this with their money. In fact my brother and sister in law are talking about getting one too! I wonder what they will call theirs? :-)

The Wrinklies, as we used to call them, on their 70th wedding anniversary in November 2012. I'm so glad we were there for it.

Thanks very much, Alf and Mary. I miss you. xx

Monday, 21 March 2016

Various things over the last few weeks and out with the MoHo again

I can't think of a better title because this post is a mix of things as I'm catching up. These first few photos are from back in February, however the Heartsease is still flowering and the Calendula look like they will survive now, which means there will be an early display of flowers.

I had a surprise visitor in the downstairs loo, also in February! I think it is the same moth as I found indoors around Nov time in 2014. It's a Golden Twinspot (Chrysodeixis chalcites) and it must have come in on my geraniums like the last time, maybe as larva. This year as the geraniums were still flowering I kept them downstairs for a few weeks before transferring upstairs to a cooler room. The poor geraniums are not really having a dormant period this year.

Whilst on the subject of insects, here's a really interesting little video showing a Potter Wasp building its nest - remember the pics I posted back in January of the pot shaped nest K had found on a chopping board in the barn? Thanks to Ragged Robin for sharing it with me via Twitter.


Above are some pics of my ducks zoomed in through the kitchen window. The top photo shows two Mallard drakes with Dirk for size comparison. We've had a number of Mallards visiting regularly, both male and female, and they seem to get on ok with Dirk and Rachel (bottom pic is my two). When they see us however, they fly off and it's amazing seeing how they do an almost vertical ascent to get up over the trees to get away. With much quacking, of course!

Below is my wiggly hazel (Corylus avellana 'Contorta'), which flowers long after the wild hazel. The wild ones flowered really early this year, but it seems like spring has slowed down a bit and now certain plants are flowering at a more normal time.

These are the flowers on the purple leaved Prunus that is so common everywhere. I have very few flowers on mine this year.

The weekend before last was motorhome testing out time before we go real camping! We wanted to get out and about whilst the weather was dry and sunny and check out the water tanks, taps, boiler, heating etc. It doesn't look obvious from this view why it isn't possible to get it in here, but the slope is too much and the overhang of the van beyond the back wheels would bash on the ground getting up this slope. That's beside the fact there's nowhere to turn it around once up the drive! But at least there is room to park it outside off the road temporarily.

Hallie happened to be below me, checking out the emerging cat mint no doubt!

That afternoon (Sunday before last) we went off to check out a couple of lakes, to test the central heating and to have tea and birthday cake, as it was K's birthday. He always jokes about me taking him to lakes hundreds of kms away on his birthday only to see just one Mallard (this did happen once!). This particular lake has a bird hide, but the only birds coming anywhere near us were a lone Coot and a Great Crested Grebe. Yes, as usual, the birds were over the other side of the lake..... But I could just about make out the Grebes doing their courtship dance, although I didn't realise there were Shovelers there until I saw my photos. And in one photo I'd also captured a distant male Common Merganser, which is interesting, as we haven't seen any of them since Lake Geneva days. Worth checking out this lake again - it's the Etang de Chatillon at Chatillon en Vendelais, between Fougeres and Vitre.

Cormorants on dead tree branches in the far distance.

Well I ended up taking photos of the hide as bird photos were fairly impossible!

Here's the church in the village. We also checked out another lake near Vitre but it was getting late and we were more interested in putting the kettle on and getting out of the wind, so we just enjoyed ourselves sitting in the warmth. Although the central heating didn't work. K kept trying but it would go whir..... phut. Back home he RTFM'd and bashed his head with a big 'duh'. He'd forgotten there was a button he needed to push back in after draining the boiler previously...... easy when you are used to it but there is so much to learn at the beginning!

Back to home and this last week I've been attacking some neglected shrub beds. I'm not very in the mood for this sort of thing but nothing got done last year, so anything is better than none. I asked K to dig out the now overgrown clumps of Montbretia/Crocosmia, which promptly broke a wooden shafted digging spade, they were so tough! Most of them will be taken to the tip, but I am replanting a few of the now divided clumps as I really like them; both leaf and flower are attractive. I just hadn't realised how much they could spread. I'm now removing corms from right in under shrubs, which is really annoying.

I'm also taking this opportunity to add lots of compost and leaf mould to the soil. Afterwards it looks so neat and tidy, so I'm putting wire cages around everything to try to protect from cats and chickens, who just love digging in nice patches of bare earth.

Over the last few months our tidying up has produced tons of woody matter that needs to be disposed of - after numerous visits to the tip, I had a brainwave! The veg patch is an open area with bare earth (i.e. not lawn) where we could have a bonfire. It's just a weedy mess this year but if I use this patch again in the future it will have a nice lot of potash already added. One hour of burning has rid us of about five trips to the tip!

I saw this Thrush out of the window - is it a Song Thrush? I find it hard to tell, because it kept stopping and standing very upright, which I know Mistle Thrushes do. Anyway I thought it fun that there was a Green Woodpecker there too. Photos not very clear in places due to double glazing.

And because it is spring now...

More MoHo photos to come from a day out by the sea, but bear with me as I've been feeling really low ever since our outings, so sorting through photos and putting a blog post together is taking me ages. I'd rather sit in front of the fire and play games on my new phone as I am completely unmotivated. :-(