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  • Writer's picturePaula Dalton-Kirby

Is Autumn on its way?

Hello and welcome. I hope this blog finds you all safe and well and coping with the constant changes. I think Autumn is actually on its way. The leaves are gradually crisping and displaying such beautiful colours. We love how the seasons here change and the beauty each one brings. Spring is my favourite time of year, but it is very closely followed by Autumn and its colourful displays and crisp air. The nights are gradually cooling which has been welcomed by many due to the very hot year France has endured. I managed to squeeze in a visit from the UK to France in August however have had to endure a 2 week quarantine on my return. This blog sees me on day 10 of 14, so let me use it wisely and update you about life at Finders Keepers France.

Fresh eggs for breakfast

I believe I may have drawn the short straw when it came to who would do what when setting up the business. I ended up as the 'Admin Lady' as Darren fondly calls me, left to develop an Instagram, Twitter, Facebook account and a website. As a technophobe it has been very interesting and a very steep learning curve; however, to date, I am actually loving it. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to start their own business, give it a go. It may take you twice as long as everyone else and may not look as professional but we are very proud of how it has turned out. The best feeling is when you get your first booking through the website itself. This year we welcomed 3 visitors direct so we must be doing something right.

We have seen an increase in last minute bookings due to COVID, especially from our French and German clientele. It has been great to see the guests using the facilities as we had hoped. Swimming daily in the lake, reading from the library, playing games in Shady Rest, photographing the wildlife and relaxing around the grounds. Enjoying their mask free holiday with only each other in sight. Pure bliss. It is lovely to hear laughter fill the air and we feel very proud of what we have achieved.

This years guests certainly had a weather treat. Hot, Hot, Hot, reaching 42°C at its highest, phew. It was so hot the table tennis bats melted onto the table itself. Darren was not a happy man seeing his lawns turn to dust plus the added job of watering the plants double time to keep up with their thirst. Yann and Annie, two of our regular guests who are now very good friends visited this year with their drone. It was great to see Finders Keepers France from above however very sad to see what had happened to our beautiful grounds. They say July this year has been the hottest in 60 years.

Due to the extreme hot weather the potager has suffered badly. Firstly Darren was not able to obtain the seeds required due to COVID and when he did he just couldn't keep up with the constant watering. Accepting defeat in September we opened up the gates to some very excited chickens who now have the task of clearing and weeding ready for this years developments.

The Chickens. Well if you have never had chickens we suggest that you do. They make the most incredible pets and are so much fun to watch. Ginger, our largest chicken, has taken to launching herself over the fence once a day to go for a walk around the grounds, much to the annoyance of the other chickens. Despite being the largest chicken, she is the only one who has managed to escape and is very proud of this fact. They carry on laying fantastic eggs which are going down a storm in the honesty stall. So well in fact that we are looking to do a second rescue spring next year. This year will see new developments happen to their garden and coop area. I have just received a chicken swing from my work colleagues so we are very excited to plan a play area for them plus a much larger dust bath.

The formal rose garden is in full swing. All plants have been removed and relocated, the water fountain is in and the paths are down. The soil has been covered by weed protector and the planting has commenced. So far we have approx. 20 roses with an expected 30 more to buy. The paths are going to be lined with lavender to add to the already beautiful fragrance. We are so excited to see what May next year is going to bring. Fingers crossed we will finally get to show the grounds off at the open gardens (Jardins Ouverts). Here is this months rose that has been added to our collection.

Due to the hot weather and visiting wildlife Darren has left various containers of water around the grounds which is proving very popular, especially for our little frogs. So popular that Darren has had to design a frog habitat and relocate them safely. They are loving it and can be seen regularly basking in the sun on top of their water fountain.

Bookings continue until mid Oct with a Halloween party planned for the latter end of Oct in Shady Rest, therefore all major work will not start until November when we will see Darren redesigning the Potager and building a potting shed prior to starting on Walnut Grove.

Very excited to see work commence on our very first Glamping tent which will be located in Walnut Grove. Planning is currently underway on the portable ECO showers and dry composting toilets. Lots to do in preparation for the opening in June, which will test Darren’s skills and stress levels to the max. He is also planning to redesign Shady rest plus erect a decking around the dipping pool. I just wish we could grow extra hands to help out, and find that money tree.

Living in grounds of 16 acres makes you realise the importance of doing regular cuttings. After 4 years of purchasing plants from the local garden nursery we have come to realise that it is not only a slow process but a very expensive one. Last year we decided to try cuttings for the first time. We were pleasantly surprised at how well they turned out and we were able to plant the wall of Marcadis Gite with the lavender plants we grew. So here we are again, 200 completed with more to follow. Keep your fingers crossed. This will also free up the money to purchase trees for the expansion of the Fruit and nut orchard.

Last years buddleia tree cuttings for butterfly meadow are doing fantastically well. The butterflies are loving them already.

As you can see we have had a very busy year despite COVID and it will continue. Thank you for listening. Take care everyone and stay safe. I will be back in a few weeks with the ongoing Walnut Grove project. Very Excited.

Wish us luck.

Prenez soin de vous, restez en sécurité et à bientôt

Darren et Paula

Bonjour from Alfie

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