Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Primroses, tree lopping, ladders and sore fingers

Something I've never noticed before when over in Brittany, but which we saw in abundance this March, was wild Primroses flowering in the grass verges alongside the road and embankments of the autoroutes.

I'm used to buying Primroses in the UK from the garden centre and admiring their colour each springtime ... and then remembering to overlook the bedraggled clump of Primrose leaves in the flower bed for the rest of the year - more than one of our Primroses in the past have been pulled up and thrown away because they were mistaken for weeds in the garden after they'd flowered!

But in Brittany it appears that wild Primroses are flourishing and loads of places we saw clumps of them flowering away and brightening up an otherwise ordinary roadside. They were pretty much all a pale yellow variety (presumably the original wild flower variant before we started propagating and cross-breeding them into the garish colours you find in a garden centre), but there was a one or two white ones I saw as well.

Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of them.

A job I had to tackle this holiday was the height of some of the pine trees bordering our garden. I'd taken the tops of them out before, but obviously not enough, as several of the trees were now a few feet above the height of the telephone cable that runs along one edge of the garden, and they were now starting to approach the height of the electricity cable that was suspended a metre higher up the pole.

I've heard of other French residents receiving letters from the marie instructing them to cut the offending trees down to size, and as we're not over there that often I thought I'd better get onto the job myself.

Turned out to be somewhat harder than I thought it would be as the branches were some 12 feet up and just about at the maximum reach of our 5-step ladder with me standing on the top with the long-handled loppers. Cutting the 1-2 inch branches wasn't easy either and I ended up with sore arms after spending a few hours trimming the first tree.

After an overnight rest I decided to tackle the remaining branches of the last two trees and set the steps up again on the roadside verge, and climbed up with the loppers.

Hooking the loppers over a tall branch I took a firm hold and braced myself to pull down on the loppers and cut through the thick branch.

And of course as should have been predicted, the ladder slipped forwards on the wet grass verge and down I tumbled off the top, bouncing backwards past all the steps, and landing on my back on the grass. Ouch ouch Ouch.

The step ladder came off worst with a broken leg so has now been retired from active service, and I came out with a bit of additional stiffness and a few bruises.

After I'd recovered I used a proper ladder propped up against the tree with one of the kids on the bottom to brace it, and a two-handed saw to cut through the remaining branches, some of which turned out to be 3 inches thick and for which the larger saw proved to be much more up to the job.

I've now got minor nicks cuts and skin abrasions all over my fingers from the saw and the tree, and the wood store (for the open fire in the Gite) is now somewhat fuller of pine tree branches.

Job done - but somewhat painfully it has to be said!



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