Thursday 16 May 2013


The chateau of Azay le Rideau is clearly worried it has a clothes moth problem. Tucked under a chair in the Biencourt's morning room is a triangular trap, made of folded card. These inexpensive little items feature a sticky base and are known as blunder traps, as insects (and occasionally small mammals) simply walk across them by accident. They get trapped on the sticky surface and the curator or conservator checks the trap regularly to count the victims.

The traps are for monitoring, not for control. They are to indicate the presence or absence of insect pests to the collections care staff. They can give an idea of relative abundance or rarity, but no real quantitative information. In this case they will be monitoring for clothes moth and their larvae, known as woolly bears. The carpet is old and woollen -- a favourite target of clothes moth caterpillars. The woolly bears can be difficult to spot, as they are often covered in fibres from the carpet and totally camouflaged.

If the staff find the numbers being caught are increasing they will take action to eradicate the pest. The carpet will be thoroughly cleaned by vacuuming both sides and inspected minutely by a conservator. It may also be laid upside down on a sheet and gently beaten to dislodge dirt and bits of organic waste that could attract or harbour pests, or otherwise damage the carpet. Any other objects in the room that might be susceptible will be checked and cleaned. Nooks and crannies that insect pests like to hide in will be investigated and cleaned. If necessary objects will be wrapped in plastic and put in a freezer or a sealed CO² chamber for a few days, killing off eggs, larvae and adults very effectively and without risk to the object.

It is unlikely the curators will use any sort of chemical pesticide, as it may adversely affect historic objects. For example, the woollen pile of the carpet will be dyed with natural substances. There is no way of knowing how such dyes will react to being sprayed with a pesticide -- they are often not fast, and could run if the wool gets wet. For some types of pests though, they may resort to slightly more sophisticated blunder traps, with pheromone impregnated sticky bases. These can be used for control, but are only useful against the single species that is attracted to the particular pheromone used.
Orchard News: More than half of the potatoes I planted are up. The blossom has just about finished, with only the apples still with any flowers. The strawberries are flowering well, but no fruit yet. The grapevines have lots of leaves, but still too small for dolmas. The grass is mid-thigh height with gently waving seedheads. Insects of all sorts love this, as they can drift amongst the shimmying grass in camouflaged protection. Our orchard neighbour has mowed paths between his walnut trees, but otherwise none of us have mowed yet. I was impressed to see he has mowed around his substantial Lizard Orchids, now sending up huge fat flowerbud spikes. The much smaller young Lizard Orchids in our orchard are going to flower too. The orchids in the potager have turned out to be two different species, Bee and Early Spider. Yesterday I disturbed a Western Whip Snake in the potager twice (I assume two different individuals).

The Bee Orchids have just started to flower in the orchard.
General News: We are having a rather trying time at the moment. Neither of us is feeling all that well (seasonal and weather related) and it is one of those periods when money seems to be flowing out of the coffers at a considerably greater rate than it is flowing in. We went to visit Claudette over in the lair of the Great Wizard of Chateauroux on Tuesday. The good news is that he has got her to the stage where she passed her CT (roadworthy). The bad news is that to do so she was fitted out with two brake drums from Jean-Louis' private stock, as the new ones he bought for her are not round. This is the same problem we had with Célestine. Unfortunately, there is only one manufacturer of Traction brake drums. Jean-Louis doesn't know if they have just unloaded a crummy batch on the retailer we use, or if they are all now like that. He will be on the phone and having some strong words to say. We can only have his brake drums temporarily, and hopefully he is going to be able to negotiate some mutually acceptable solution with the manufacturer. Anyway, armed with the new CT and all the other documentation (including a cheque...) we are off to Tours today to finalise the transfer of ownership and get new licence plates for her.

Adding to our woes is the dishwasher having decided to invoke its overflow / anti-leak mechanism. All it will do is flash lights at us. So far as we can tell it needs to be pulled out of its slot under the bench and tipped forward to reset the sensor. We don't know what set it off in the first place -- it appears to have neither leaked nor overflowed, and is not full of water. Naturally it is out of warranty. We are hoping that Stéphane, who has moved to Paris, is coming down for the weekend, as Simon needs an assistant to get the dishwasher out, and Stéphane is the man who got it in there in the first place so may remember what the trick is.
Loches Market: Yesterday we shopped at Loches market, one of the best in the area and one we take clients to a lot. We noticed that the horse butcher, Jean Michel Daveau, had goat meat for sale (he also had lamb). There were cutlets, chops (labelled 'ragout'), boned leg and boned rolled shoulder, all for half the price of the lamb. We bought a kilo of the 'ragout' for €8.20. Curry goat coming up -- when we got home I made up a batch of Jamaican curry powder and the goat meat is now rubbed and in the fridge overnight for cooking tomorrow. I asked him why it was so rare to be able to get goat meat here, when there are so many goats, but he didn't really have an answer.

We also bought an excellent piece of Brie de Melun from the wonderful cheese van, a baguette from our favourite baker, some forest honey from a producer based between Chatillon and Loches, more green asparagus from the strawberry and asparagus woman, potatoes (baking and new) and some huge rhubarb stalks from the market gardeners across the river in Beaulieu-lès-Loches and a bag of canellés (rich little cakes that are toffee on the outside and custardy on the inside).


GaynorB said...

I sympathise with your feelings about money leaking out more quickly than it drips in. We've had a few months like that. Hence I won't be retiring in July!!

Looks like you has a productive day in and around Loches with some delicious food to follow. Enjoy...

Tim said...

Susan and Simone... our thoughts are with you... hope today's sunshine helped!!

Susan... didn't you use that first fotygraff recently when refering to Azzy chat and pest control in passing in a post... or am I just being woolly minded?

Nice to see it fulled out...

Ken Broadhurst said...

Could your dishwasher problem be as simple as a clogged filter? That happened to us once.

Susan said...

Gaynor: Bummer not to be retiring!

Tim: I have used one of the photos before, but on the LVTT blog.

Ken: I don't think so. I cleaned the filter and the flashing lights are still going. (Unless there is some hidden filter that I don't know about...)

lejardindelucie said...

Les mites n'épargnent pas les beaux tapis, mais la surveillance permet d'en limiter les dégâts et les moyens non chimiques que vous avez décrits sont efficaces.
En France on a peu l'habitude de vendre de la viande de chèvre.
Superbe photo de l'Ophrys abeille.
Bonne fin de semaine!

Susan said...

Lucie: you are right -- the insects have no respect for history, but good housekeeping sorts them out.
It's always been a mystery to us why there isn't more goat meat for sale -- it's excellent, and if you eat lamb, why not goat? I'm making curry goat right at this moment in fact.
I'm glad you like the Bee Orchid. It was the pinkest one I have ever seen I think.
Have a good weekend yourself!

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