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Apéro fried ravioli and marinara sauce dip (v)

Quick and easy. AND tasty! Fried ravioli is kind of a finger food staple for as long as I can remember. It’s cheap to make, quick and is sure to please everybody around the apéro table. What’s more, measurements are not really necessary, because you can’t go wrong. We use sunflower (tournesol) frying oil, but you can use whatever you’re used to, use a deep fryer or a pan like we d0. You can also use any fresh ravioli you like, stuffed with cheese or other things.Ingredients and preparation – fried ravioli with marinara sauce (vegetarian) 1  or more bags of fresh ravioli from the supermarket breadcrumbs eggs marina sauce – make your own or buy at supermarket as you wish spices: paprika powder, dried parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper – no set measurements, use them liberally sunflower or other frying oil and paper towel for draining …

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Préfou de Vendée – garlic bread (v)

Making Préfou from scratch surprised me! Until this moment we had only ever bought the pale préfou at the supermarket… well… never again! This homemade garlic bread, a Vendéen delicacy although we’re relatively sure that the term delicacy in relation to loads of garlic is a total oxymoron, is scrumptious. Until now we had only been familiar with the Italian garlic bread which we now realise is like the “milquetoast” version of REAL garlic bread. (Milquetoast is a word that has been around since 1925 and means ‘meek’). So, what is préfou and where does it live in Vendée history? In the countryside near Fontenay-le-Comte, long before we had the modern convenience of thermostats to tell us when the oven was hot enough to bake, Vendéen bakers had the clever idea to throw a piece of bread into the oven to check the temperature. Once the bread was pale but …

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Apéro alligator pull apart bread (v)

Ridiculously easy and delicious It’s very simple…. think of your most beloved melting cheese(s), nuts, and ingredients that work well together. Stuff it all randomly into a loaf of bread, bake it and voila. Not only is it super pretty (we called it alligator bread because it looks like the back of an alligator), but it goes well with any apéritif, the children will love it, and just like pizza, you can do a half and half. In our house that works well as we don’t necessarily enjoy the same cheeses. You will enjoy this so much. It’s versatile for guests too… ask them ahead of time which ingredients they love and make one just for them to share. Finger foods made to order. We love that idea!Ingredients and preparation – Alligator pull apart bread (vegetarian) 1 small round brown sourdough PAIN BATARD bread (not sliced) – or another type …

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Apéro-time Empanadas

The appetizer that works every time! Empanadas are the Central -and South American version of pasties, crescent-shaped, savory pastries filled with a variety of ingredients. They are usually fried, but we prefer baking them to golden perfection. They are quite versatile and can be filled with meat or even made in a delicious Caribbean-style vegetarian version simply by replacing the meat with boiled and shredded  (sweet)potato and carrots. Even better… you can make them ahead of time and freeze, so you always have something to serve unexpected guests that is (almost completely) homemade and thaws/ reheats/ bakes quickly. When we have a party or for any fancy occasion like Christmas -or New Year’s eve, these beef-olive-raisin empanadas are on the menu as a favorite finger food. Hope you enjoy!Ingredients and preparation – Appetizer Empanadas For about 40 appetizers 175 gr lean minced beef – for this recipe, minced turkey or …

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Chickpeas and Kale (v)

In the Kale-for-Winter post I had already described how I typically stock up on this healthy treat before winter by blanching in broth and freezing for soups and stews. This vegetarian (or vegan with just a small change) recipe is an example where I use one of my ‘treasure packages’. I call them that because I love this ‘green gold’ that much. Kale is a superfood with many health benefits. Like Popeye and his spinach, I feel stronger when I consume it. This is where my work before winter pays off because this recipe is so tasty and easy to make, and all I have to do to finish it is to drop one of my kale-frozen-in-broth packages into the pot at the very end. If you really don’t like kale, another potent green vegetable will work too, including spinach. This is not a chickpea stew, nor is it a …

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American-style Meatloaf

Meatloaf or meatbread can be found in many cultures around the world! Meatloaf is typically something we like to eat in fall and winter as it’s so delicious with mashed potatoes and other winter veg. But it’s just as good in the summer too, as a sandwich on toast with spicy mustard and mayo, perhaps a pickle to accompany it, and with an ice cold beer to accompany it. The concept of turning a large amount of minced meat (ground meat) into a large loaf to feed a family, is not new. From Austria to Vietnam and everywhere in between, many countries around the world have some version of meatloaf in their cuisine. Pinpointing the origin is not easy, but we can be quite sure that the tradition for meatloaf is rooted in frugality. To feed a large number of people with just pennies to spend. When I was a …

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Château de l’Hermenault and Garesché: connecting Vendée to world history

Chatting with the current châtelaine of Château de l’Hermenault, it came to light that the person who sold the beautiful castle to her forefather in 1806 had been Daniel Garesché, mayor of La Rochelle in 1791-1792. In our pleasantly lengthy conversation, the kind châtelaine said “Garesché family is fascinating. You should look it up.” … So, we did. We found in Daniel Garesché a man who was part of a veritable dynasty. A family that, to put it mildly, left their at times muddy boot prints on the history of France, Haiti, and the United States of America. With the motto “Jamais sans Espérance” (Never Without Hope) to lend a strong hand, it is the story of close-knit family built on patriarchal opportunism and survival spanning centuries, and touching the Vendée along the way.To truly understand the opportunistic make-up of this family it is necessary to travel back to the …

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Orangette No-Bake Cheesecake

Cheesecake anybody? Yes, please! What I don’t have to bake it? NOPE! This cheesecake is something I adapted from an old recipe that my mother had, but with significant changes. In fact by the time I was done revising the recipe, there wasn’t much left of the original. I have found that letting it set in the fridge for 4 to 5 hours, as my mom’s recipe suggested, it not enough. There are two fixes for this: OR you make the cheesecake very early in the morning to serve in the afternoon for coffee, OR you can use gelatin sheets to help it along. I chose the first option, and it worked out just fine. After ample time in the fridge (or even overnight!) the filling is the consistency of a baked cheesecake… like a mousse. Very yummy! And husband approved. His favorite candy is orangettes, and he’s my favorite …

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Baked salmon roll with endive and leeks

Leeks and endive are two veggies that we love at our house. Growing up, they were regularly served in one way or another and even as a child, I loved it all. Both leeks and endive are vegetables are incredibly versatile. If I could have had one Euro for every time that a cashier in the U.S. asked me these two strange vegetables they were ringing up for me and how to cook them, I would sit behind this keyboard with heavy pockets. How could I possible answer that question anyway. The meals you can make with them certainly do not begin or end with leek soup or endive au gratin. THIS recipe surprised even me. It is incredibly delicious. Silky… lemony… With the Holiday Season coming, this salmon roll with endive and leeks baked in a delicate sauce can be the star on your festive table. A little background …

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Easy banana bread

Is it time to use up the overripe bananas in your fruit basket? Yes? Great timing! This banana bread recipe is so easy you can do it with your eyes closed. The hardest part about it is that it will be in the oven for an hour or more and that the aromas floating through the house will have you mouthwatering for at least half of that time. And your spouse and children and grandchildren, if you have them, will be hovering about with impatience. Because… who doesn’t love banana bread?Ingredients and preparation Easy Banana Bread For 1 large loaf (TIP: please don’t use an electric mixer for this – use a wooden spoon to make the dough) You will need: 2 mixing bowls large cake/bread form butter to grease the form preheat the oven to 160C or 320F download conversion chart 2 cups self-rising flour 3 large overripe bananas …

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Stuffed cabbage

Winter veg! In France, the changing of the seasons in nowhere more apparent than at the weekly outdoor market and even in the supermarkets. One of the things I love the most about our adopted country is the very fact that people cook or eat with the seasons. This means more opportunity for local producers to sell their goods, which is epically better for the environment. I must admit, cabbage is not a staple in our house. Sadly, I’m the only one who eats it. BUT, recently while visiting my mother, her cousin brought a couple of homegrown cabbages from her garden and, well, I saw a carpe diem moment like none other. I’m happy to say, not only was my dish cousin and cousin’s husband approved (I made two dishes, one for us and one for them), but also mother-approved! I’ll tell you right now there IS some measure …

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Pumpkin Tart (v)

Pumpkin pie … Just one of the things to look forward to each year for Thanksgiving for 24 years of my life! Along with sweet potato pie and my sister-in-law’s wonderful squash casserole. Yummy! But guess what. My husband HATES any of these things. It’s decidedly un-American. So… this year I have devised my very own recipe for a pumpkin pie. It’s more tart than pie, so I’m calling it a pumpkin tart. Listen. You don’t have to try it. But I challenge you to. The test-kitchen for this recipe happened to be at my mother’s house. My mother who also doesn’t like pumpkin pie. I’ll tell you what was left of this 4-person pie after it came out of the oven… 1 wedge. One. Which is how I know it’s as delicious to eat hot or cold. I can’t wait to serve it my pumpkin tart to my husband, …

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Prepping kale for winter

Kale is one of my favorite vegetables. When I moved here from the United States, I was sad to discover that it’s not such a prevalent thing here. In Belgium, butchers use it to decorate their displays. Or they may sel it in pre-packed bags as salad – which is fine if it weren’t chopped to bits with toughest of the stems left in. In the UK, from what someone told me, it’s considered livestock feed. Lucky cows! In the Netherlands you can get it everywhere, being that one of the national dishes is Boerenkool Stamppot, a cabbage hodgepodge of potatoes cooked and mashed with kale. In France, it’s a different story again. Apparently I wasn’t the only person shocked by the sparsity of it in France… New Yorker Kristen Breddard, who’d moved to Paris years before, started a website called The Kale Project – essentially a mapping and information …

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Recycling wine corks in France

Are you one of those people or families that save wine corks in a gigantic vase? We’ll join you in raising our hand. The reason for doing so can range from good intentions (upcycling projects), to proudly displaying just how much you have embraced living in the land of the Wine River. Saving corks seems for many to inevitably result in an overflow, while the unique ecosystem of the cork oak forests suffers from climate change, overharvesting, and other damaging activity.What is cork and why participate in a recycling program – Cork is a natural and biodegradable material made from the bark of the cork oak trees (Quercus suber L.) that predominantly grow in a narrow geographical range of the Western Mediterranean basin of North-Africa, Spain and Portugal. Cork is removed in sheets from the trees when a tree is 25 to 30 years old and about 60 cm in circumference at breast …

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Crispy broiled Kale Chips

Fancy an unusual and unusually healthy apéro snack? Kale chips fit the bill just perfectly. They are incredibly light, airy and super crispy. Finish them off with a sprinkling of Vendée fleur de sel and prepare to ‘wow’ your guests! Kale is a superfood with many health benefits but it is not that easily found in France. Apparently I wasn’t the only person shocked by the sparsity of it… New Yorker Kristen Breddard, who’d moved to Paris years before we did, started a website called The Kale Project – essentially a mapping and information project of where we kale enthusiasts can find our precious fix in France. Yes, you can report your kale findings and have them mapped.Ingredients and preparation – Crispy broiled Kale Chips A few handfuls of kale leaves Kale Fleur de sel or coarse sea salt Garlic powder Good olive oil Method Prepare an oven dish with wax …

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Broccoli Pie with Vendéen Jambon Blanc

I fell in love with this incredibly tasty broccoli pie from the very beginning but adding the beautiful Vendée (white) ham makes it extra special. It’s a lovely meal on it’s own, served with a salad in summer or with buttery mashed potatoes in fall/winter. With store-bought dough so inexpensive and readily available, it’s also super easy but of course you can make your own. If you’re intimidated making the roux, don’t worry. If you follow the recipe to the letter, you can’t go wrong. And if you wish to make it vegetarian, simply leave the ham and switch chicken broth with veg broth.Ingredients and preparation Broccoli Pie with Vendéen Jambon Blanc For up to 4 people Pâte brisée – 1 pie crust (or 2 because you can make it prettier by creating a lattice to cover the pie with) 750g of broccoli florets cooked for 3 minutes in salt …

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Safe and sustainable mushroom foraging

Mushrooms are beautiful and mysterious organisms that live mostly as a mycelial mat in the soil. The functional structure we see growing above ground is the reproductive, spongy structure that grows by soaking up water and disperses spores. Mushroom hunting is a beloved autumn activity in France, one that without the proper knowledge can be dangerous  and also destructive to future harvesting.The etiquette of mushroom picking – That there are (or should be) common sense rules when it comes to the harvesting of food resources in the wild, we don’t only mean that when it comes to identifying edible mushrooms some knowledge is required. It also means leaving something for the next person that comes along… A courtesy that runs so much deeper than what’s right in front of us. In 1833, the British economist William Forster Lloyd wrote about the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’, a citation that to this day is …

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Out of the pan into the pan-demic

The sun shines through my window overlooking views of the picturesque medieval town of Fontenay-le-Comte. The warm weather of the summer recently passed and is replaced by a crisp autumn sky. I’ve been here one month now and, on my way to fully integrating myself in the ‘vie français’. Let me introduce myself; my name is Liam, I am 28 years old and, like many of us, have taken the somewhat brave decision to leave my native land, family and friends, job security, house, and pub, in favour of new life in the Vendée. After completing my degree and PGCE in music I joined the teaching profession and taught in secondary schools in Buckinghamshire. I ran choirs, rang bells, joined a band, whilst keeping the thought of moving to France in the back of mind for a later date. Fast forward to the 23rd June 2016: 52% of the country …

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What makes the Vendée Globe the world’s most extreme Yacht Race

Founded by experienced French yachtsman Philippe Jeantot in 1989, the Vendée Globe is the only solo, non-stop, and without assistance sailing race round the world. It takes place every four years, begins and ends in les Sables d’Olonne and takes around two to three months. In 2017 skipper Armel LeCléac’h finished the race in 74 days 3 hours and 35 minutes, a new record. The 9th edition of this unique and challenging sporting event departs from the Vendée shores on November 8th 2020.What is Vendée Globe? In theory, the interpretation of the Vendée Globe is simple. It is a solo, non-stop, without assistance sailing race in which the skippers circumvent the globe. That’s 40 075 kilometers (21 638 miles) in a sailboat measuring 18.28m or 60ft long, the most powerful in the world. In theory.  Reality is much more complicated. On a personal level, the skippers spend months alone on a …

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Castles to see in the Vendée

Not all châteaux in the Vendée are open to the public. In fact, most are privately owned, sometimes with holiday accommodations available. The selection of twenty Vendéen castles in this article represent those accessible to view in high-season or year-round, or those which are open for sightseeing, reenactment spectacles, medieval festivals, and adventure parks.Is the Vendée paved with castles? – Yes and no. From medieval, to renaissance or neo-renaissance-style castles, and even some art-nouveau style ones, the number of chateaux in the Vendée is quite astounding. But most of them are private residences tucked away in sleepy villages or seemingly endless forests. You may run into them quite randomly or look for them in the 3rd weekend of September each year, when many have events or an open house in light of the European Heritage days (Journées Patrimoine) It’s all about the medieval – If you know just a little …

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Carnitas

Tender deliciousness the whole family will love! I’m not sure in how deeply Europeans are familiar with Mexican food. What I mean is, homecooked, not from a pre-packaged, processed starter-kit you can find at the grocery store. Having spent a lot of time in Mexico, and having had a lot of Mexican immigrants touch my life at one point or another, and having eaten anywhere from Mexican ‘hole in the wall’ takeaways, to Mexican restaurants where live-Mariachi bands perform Johnny Cash at your table, to Mexican cuisine restaurants with a star chef at the helm… both my husband and I are quite unanimous that Mexican food is the best food in the world. It’s possibly also the most time-consuming to make from scratch. Since living in France and learning to make it myself, I’ve also come to the conclusion that appreciating the food and loving the people you’re cooking for …

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Butternut pumpkin soup

The sweetness of autumn I do love autumn, don’t you? When the leaves on the trees have turned their darkest green and there is a little sensation of coolness on the morning breeze and the air smells just a little more earthy you know it’s time. Time to run a hand over a woolen jumper, time for boots, time for a cozy fire. Time for different pops of color for different flavors in the kitchen. Time to fall in love with a new season! Let’s head to my kitchen for the king of color … Butternut Pumpkin or Butternut Squash soup!Ingredients and preparation – Butternut Pumpkin Soup For 4- 8 people (I cook leftovers or prep a next batch for the freezer) 1 large butternut – cubed (set half aside) 1 large onions – roughly chopped (frozen also works) 3 cloves of garlic (or as you wish) – minced 4 …

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Carbonara-Alfredo fusion… with a French twist!

Of legend, World War II & Hollywood In order to tell you how I came up with this dish, I have a confession to make. I can count the number of times I’ve eaten ‘Fettuccini Alfredo’ (a staple on many Italian-American restaurant menus) on one hand, and truly enjoyed it maybe twice. The same is true for Carbonara. The best Carbonara I’ve ever had was in Nantes, on a balmy Friday night outside on a terrace, and the only reason I know it was the best is because that night I had a taste from my husband’s plate. He loves Carbonara. I seldom order it. I’ve never seen him order Fettucini Alfredo. But we do love cream sauces. So, when he asked me one day to make Carbonara, I came up with this recipe quite on a whim. I won’t lie. It is scrumptious. One might say sinful. Writing up …

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Journées du Patrimoine 2020: list of places to see in the Vendée

Welcome to the European Heritage days of 2020! The 3rd weekend of September ranks among the best weekends of the year for us! We challenge ourselves with a spring around our lovely Département du Vendée for the opportunity to visit well-known historical locations and monuments as well as sites that are rarely open to the public, for free or at a reduced rate. Join us for a list of options this year.Historically, how did the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine or European Heritage days begin? The French Ministry of Culture began the event  La Journée Portes Ouvertes in 1984. In the following year, at the 2nd European Conference of Ministers responsible for Architectural Heritage, the French Minister of Culture proposed that the project be internationalised under the European council. The Netherlands joined with their own Open Monumentendag in 1987, followed by Sweden and Ireland in 1989, and Belgium and Scotland in 1990. In 1991 the …

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Daytrip to Citadelle de Brouage

Founded at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in 1555 as Jacopolis sur Brouage, this village went from being widely known for its salt trade to being strategically important in the conflict between Catholics and Protestants, to being fortified and becoming a Naval port, and later a prison fort. Today, the fortified village is surrounded by marshland and oyster farms, and in 2017 achieved status as one of France’s famed ‘Plus Beaux Villages de France’. Located just 35km south of La Rochelle, we recommend le Citadelle de Brouage for a daytrip from the Vendée! Year-round!Star of the Marais-Charentais – The road leading to the star fortress situated between Rochefort and Île d’Oléron twists and turns through a low lying, windswept landscape covered in grasses that must be as beautifully green in spring as they are golden in late-summer. Located further north than Montreal in Canada, south-west France enjoys a temperate …

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Business opportunity!

Actual image of portion of our stockIf you are looking to set up a business in France, this could be the opportunity for you. Due to impending retirement we are selling our stock of 15,000+ second-hand books in English. The stock includes everything from classics, novels and bestsellers, biographies and memoirs, self-help, cookbooks, children’s books etc. Note: the image left is a portion of the actual stock.  The shop has been open since 2015 and is currently based in an outbuilding on our property. For further info, please do not hesitate to contact Cindy via email – cindy.allen@hotmail.fr Until then, it’s business as usual and everybody is welcome to browse and purchase books! (Please note: the main image is generic and not representative of the inventory that is for sale.)Share this Post

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Where Vendéens can see Le Tour de France September 2020

Are you excited? WE ARE! At inthevendee.com we are fervent ‘course’ fanatics from the winter cyclo-cross season to the Classic Road Races to the big tours. Of course, nothing is as fantabulous as Le Tour and everything that surrounds moving this massive production across the streets of France. And yes, we know that’s not a word… but it’s a word at hour house when it comes to everything cycling. So, we will be gathering all possible information we can find because we want you and your guests to experience the circus that is Le Tour de France as well. Can you feel our enthusiasm? Yes? Good. Find updates here up to Monday 7th September. Because on the 8th and the 9th, we will be out of office! Dear readers, cyclists, caravan… the whole circus… See you somewhere along the route! See maps and local details below for stage 10 on …

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Vineyards and wine tasting in the Vendée

Since Roman times there have been attempts at growing grapes and making wine in the Vendée, but it wasn’t until medieval times that the activity became successful. The monks of the many abbeys around here didn’t only manage to turn the ocean into fertile land while creating the Marais, they also had a hand in the proper cultivation of grapes. Historically we owe the production of good wine to them and to the Cardinal Richelieu who In the XVIIth  century donated wine lands to the farmers of Luçon. Another reason for successful viticulture in the Vendée is the region’s temperate oceanic climate, with mild, wet winters and cooler summers. The oceanic climate is warmer than the continental climate but less warm than the Mediterranean climate.Vendee vineyards listed by region1. Brem sur Mer vineyardsCAVE PAJOT LAURENT *AOC. AOC Fief Vendeens Monday to Friday 11:00 – 12:30, 17:00 – 19:00 Saturday 10:00 – 12:30, 16:00 …

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Le Tour 2020 postponed until August!

Vendéens have another opportunity to experience Le Tour de France in 2020. Due to the corona-virus pandemic, the most beloved sporting event in the world had to be postponed to August 2020. Le Grand Depart is scheduled for August 29th in Nice. Le Tour is set to arrive in Paris on September 20th, 2020.  UPDATE RESCHEDULED TOUR – see below schedule and map: Stage 10 on 08/09/2020: from Ile d’Oleron via the Marais and La Rochelle to Ile de Re (St. Martin de Re)  Stage 11 on 09/09/2020: from Chatelaillon-Plage to Poitiers Dear readers, cyclists, caravan… the whole circus… See you somewhere along the route! Having just watched the live presentation of the Tour de France 2020 with all its stages, we at inthevendee.com are excited! How wonderful it is to live in a place where every year we have the opportunity to travel to the spectacle that is Le …

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Another drought! Prefecture decree ceasing unnecessary use of water in the Vendée

Summer 2020: The department has issued another decree to limit or prohibit all unnecessary use of water from August 10th due to severe drought. A drought is ‘a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall, leading to a shortage of water.’ Alert through 31st October.  EFFECTIVE as of Monday, August 10, 2020 at 8 a.m. Prefectorial decree n°20-DDTM85-494 of 7 August 2020 on the provisional limitation or prohibition of water withdrawals and uses in the Vendée departmentSOURCE: http://propluvia.developpement-durable.gouv.frSOURCE: http://propluvia.developpement-durable.gouv.frCarte Départementale des Arrêtés (Vendée) au 10/08/2020 (arrêtés publiés le 09/08/2020 minuit ) au 31/10/2020 Crise: zones of alert in the Vendée Maines, Sèvre Nantaise, Marais Breton, Boulogne, Vie et Jaunay, Côtiers Vendéens, Autizes superficieRead the OFFICIAL VENDEE DECREEDrought or not, the birds and the bees need our help!Honey bees use water to make honey and to cool the hive. Some tips to help our friends through this crisis! a shallow plate with …