Friday, 30 January 2009

This long cold winter / Cet hiver long et froid

I know it's still only January, but this winter does seem to be going on for a long time. The cold weather started early, in November, and we haven't had nearly as many bright sunny days as we usually do in winter.

Je sais que ce n'est que janvier encore, mais cet hiver durent longtemps. Le temps froid a commencé tôt, en novembre, et nous n'avons pas eu moins de jours de soleil que d'habitude en hiver.

I can't wait to start sowing seeds ready for spring, but it's hard to imagine that anything will grow. Salad plants usually grow through the winter here but some celery seedlings, from seeds which Kate brought and which were sown in October, have been in a kind of suspended animation - still alive but not growing - for months. They are just beginning to respond to a bit of sunshine and the longer days.


J'attends avec impatience le temps pour semer les semences de printemps, mais c'est difficile d'imaginer que les plantes pousseront. Normalement ici les salades poussent pendant l'hiver, mais des petites plantes de célérie, des semences que Kate a apporté en Octobre, ont été dormant pendant des mois. Elles commencent enfin à réagir à un peu de soleil et les journées plus longues.

A trough of mizuna and lettuce seedlings are finding it hard to get enough light and some are collapsing weakly in spite of being brought indoors at night and having a home-made cloche to protect them when they are out during the day.

mizuna   lettuce_1_1 cloche_1_1

Des plants de mizuna et de salade n'ont pas assez de la lumière et quelques uns écroulent faiblement bien qu'ils passent la nuit à l'intérieur et qu'ils soient couverts le jour au balcon.

The vineyards are still winter brown, dotted with figures of growers who slowly work their way along the rows pruning the vines ready for the spring growth. The air in the distance looks slightly hazy because of the fires which burn the trimmings.

vines - jan_1_1

Les vignes sont toujours d'un couleur brun hivernal. Les viticulteurs tailles les vignes afin qu'elles soient prêtes à pousser en printemps. L'air est un peu brumeux de la fumée des feux qui brulent les brins taillés.

There's some hope, though. The mimosa flowers - the first sign of spring in the Midi - are beginning to appear. / Il y un peu d'éspoir - les fleurs du mimosa, le premier signe du printemps dans le Midi, commencent à apparaitre.

mimosa buds_1_1 mimosa 2_1

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

No calm for some / pas de tranquillité pour certains

I've mentioned in this blog before the violent destruction of the symbol of peace, the olive tree, in Palestine. While we in the Midi are experiencing the calm after the weekend's storm, in Palestine the destruction of the past few weeks has been much, much worse than we can imagine. Families have had their homes and livelihoods - their olive trees - obliterated by war and young children, who cannot be blamed in any way for the conflict, are living in the open air in the middle of winter.

In Britain, the BBC refused to broadcast this appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee. Please watch the video and, if you possibly can, help the DEC.

J'ai déjà parlé sur ce blog autour de la destruction du symbole de la paix, l'olivier, en Palestine. Pendant que nous dans le Midi vivons cette semaine la tranquillité après la tempête, en Palestine la destruction pendant ces dernières semaines a été beaucoup pire que nous pouvons imaginer. Les foyers des familles ont été anéantis et leur gagne-pain - les oliviers - aussi. Des milliers de petits enfants qui ne sont pas responsable pour le conflit, doivent dormir en pleine air en pleine hiver.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Winter haiku / haiku hivernal

cypresses after the storm_1

cypresses sharpen

the skyline, their silhouettes

still after the storm

les cyprès affilent

l'horizon, silhouettes calmes

suite à la bourrasque

Sunday, 25 January 2009

After the storm / après la tempête

The storm which rushed across southern France and northern Spain, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, yesterday was the worst for ten years, with winds of up to 150 kilometres per hour. We were warned to stay indoors and high-sided vehicles were forbidden from using the roads. Sadly, at least 15 people were killed during the storm, by falling trees and buildings, including four children in the Catalan town of Sant Boi Llobregat.

La tempête qui a fait rage à travers le sud de la France et le nord de l'Espagne, de l'Atlantique à la Mediterrannée. hier éatit la plus forte pour dix ans, avec des rafales de vent de 150 kilometre par heure. On nous a conseillé de rester chez nous et les grands camions étaient interdits sur les routes. Malheureusement, au moins 15 personnes ont étés tuées pendant la tempête, y compris quatre enfants à Sant Boi Llobregat en Catalogne.

Although Gabian was only just outside the red alert zone, we were lucky here and suffered little damage. When we went to the garden this morning we were surprised to find it just as we left it before the storm. It was a beautiful, calm, clear day - hard to believe what the weather had been like only 24 hours earlier!

Bien que Gabian soit juste dehors du zone d'alerte rouge, on avait de la chance ici, et il y avait peu de dommage. Quand nous sommes allées au jardin ce matin, nous étions étonnés de trouver tous comme avant la tempête.

shelter _ passion fruit_1_1 passion fruit_1_1

The passion fruits were still ripening on our shelter. We had worried that this shelter might have been damaged by the wind, but luckily the whole garden is sheltered from the north and north-west (the direction of the storm) by trees and 4-metre high bamboo.

Some of the palm leaf fronds had been woven together by the wind:

woven palm leaves_1_1_1

rosemary flowers_1_1 garden plan_1_1

The rosemary was flowering and we sat in the sun making plans for the coming seasons in the garden.

Le romarin fleurait et nous avons passé du temps assis au soleil en faisant des projets pour les saisons qui viennent.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

It's Thursday, so it must be oysters / les huitres


A sustainable supper

We're so lucky here in Gabian that the coquillage van comes to the village twice a week bringing fresh shellfish from Bouziques.  Oysters seem to be one of the best foods we can get from the environmental point of view ... and they're delicious and very good value.

In the Guardian newspaper last Saturday Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was encouraging readers to eat oysters, raw or cooked.  He gave some recipes - including one for oyster and chard fritters, which I want to make sometime soon, and another for oysters with chorizo.  This recipe was for six oysters to serve six people as a starter - well, here in the Midi we eat oysters in larger quantities than that, but the recipe sounded very tempting.  I had a nice chunk of chorizo which I'd bought from the charcutier at the market yesterday and realised that I could combine this with one of my favourite ways with oysters - huitres gratinées, putting them under the grill with white wine and cheese.

We started with some of our leeks, and onions, sautéed in olive oil and then served with shavings of parmesan.

leeks_1 leeks   parmesan_1_2_1

Les poireaux sautés aux oignons et l'huile d'olive.  Servir au parmesan.

Oysters gratinées with chorizo / Huitres gratinées au chorizo

oysters   chorizo_1_1

We added chopped garlic, olive oil, white wine and grated Cantal cheese to the oysters in their shells and put them under the grill for about 5 minutes until the cheese began to brown.  In the meantime we cooked the diced chorizo in olive oil, then served it with the oysters and poured the spicy oil from the frying pan over the oysters.

We finished this Thursday evening feast with some of the lovely Spanish clementines which are in all the local shops and markets at the moment.


We felt we deserved all of this after a few hours' hard work earlier on, spreading another trailer-load of goat manure on the garden.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Feeding the land / Nourrir la terre

Our garden needs a lot of organic material to improve the soil and to help it retain water during the dry summer. This morning we went a few kilometres into the hills to the Mas Rolland goat farm to collect manure. It's a beautiful drive, around hairpin bend after bend climbing between slopes covered with garrigue and holm oak trees (the Mediterranean evergreen oak) and rocky limestone outcrops.

road to montesquieu_1_1

Notre jardin a besoin de beaucoup de matière organique pour améliorer la terre et pour aider la retention de l'eau pendant la secheresse de l'été. Ce matin nous sommes allées quelques kilometres à la ferme de chèvres de Mas Rolland pour chercher de fumier. C'est une belle route - des virages en épingle à cheveux montent entre les collines couvertes de garrigue et de chênes verts et les affleurements de calcaire.

We took a trailer full of manure back to the garden and spread it on some of the beds we've cleared. / On a apporté une ramorque pleine de fumier au jardin et l'a mis sur la terre qu'on a nettoyé.

trailer of manure_1_1 muck spreading_1_1

muck spread_1_1

The garden after our morning's work / le jardin après notre travail

Good peasant food / un bon repas paysan

This was hungry work so we went home to eat a hearty peasant lunch of haricot beans cooked with salted belly pork which I'd prepared yesterday. / On est rentré chez nous pour manger un bon repas paysan - des haricots cuits avec de la poitrine salée que j'ai préparé hier.

haricot beans_1_1

The recipe will be on the Mediterranean food blog.

La recette sera sur le blog de la cuisine mediterranéenne.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Mussels - sustainable food / Les moules - la nourriture durable

mussels 1_1_1

Each time we eat mussels - and that is quite often since the van from Bouzigues comes to the village twice a week - I become more convinced that mussels and oysters are a sustainable food for those of us who live near where they are farmed.

Chaque fois que nous mangeons les moules - et c'est assez souvent car le camion de coquillage de Bouzigues arrive au village deux fois par semaine - je deviens de plus en plus convaincue que les moules et les huitres sont de la nourriture durable pour ceux qui habitent près des etangs où elles sont cultivées.

The British website gives a lot of information about which fish to eat and which to avoid, not all of it applicable to the Mediterranean. The website is definite about mussels and oysters, though. So long as they are farmed or hand-gathered from the wild, they are OK. It states that:

Shellfish farming is an extensive, low-impact method of mariculture and high quality water standards are required for cultivation of shellfish for human consumption.

As I've pointed out before, the high quality of water needed is a benefit as the producers have a vested interest in keeping it unpolluted. So it seems it's all good news as far as both food and the environment are concerned.

Le site web britannique donne des renseignements de quels poissons sont bien à manger. Si les coquillages sont cultivés ou ramassés à la main, ils sont durables. Et la necessité d'une très bonne qualité de l'eau est un avantage parce qu'il es dans l'interêt des producteurs de garder l'eau saine.

For us, living near the Bassin de Thau where mussels and oysters are farmed, shellfish seem to be the ideal food - fresh, tasty, environmentally friendly ... and cheap: only 3 € a kilo.

Mussels with tomato and fennel sauce / Moules à la sauce tomate et fenouille

mussels   tomato sauce_1_1

We hadn't thought of having mussels for supper last night, but when we heard the announcement that the coquillage van had arrived we made a spur-of-the-moment decision and Lo Jardinièr went to the place and bought a kilo. We had some fennel we'd bought in the market on Wednesday, so I made a tasty tomato sauce with it. The full recipe is on my mediterranean food blog.

La recette pour ce plat est sur mon blog cuisine mediterranéenne.

PS Michelle at From Seed to Table advises US readers to consult the Monterey Bay Acquarium site for information about which fish to eat:

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Organic vegetable growing in Cuba / La cultivation bio en Cuba

Today's weekly email from the Gardeners' Calendar talks of organic gardening in Cuba, where they grow vegetables on patches of waste ground in Havana.  The produce is then sold to local people, so the carbon footprint is minimal.  This Youtube clip is from Monty Don's BBC series Around the World in 80 Gardens and shows what can be done even in a built-up area:

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Winter sun and light / Le soleil et la lumière d'hiver

Today has been a perfect Languedoc winter day.  The light is so bright here when the sun shines and the air is so clear in winter that everything looks in focus.  Even though it may be only 12 degrees C, the sun feels hot on your face, so long as you're sheltered from the north wind.

light   sky_1_1_1

Aujourd'hui il a fait du temps parfait de l'hiver languedocien.  La lumière ici est si éclatante quand le soleil brille et l'air est si clair en hiver qu'il semble que tout est au point.  Mème qu'il ne fasse que 12 dégrées, le soleil sent chaud sur ton visage, si tu es à l'abri du vent du nord.

Good weather for working in the garden, so we cleared some more ground. / Du bon temps pour le travail au jardin, donc on a nettoyé encore de terre.

croustillous   salad_1_1 daurade_1_1

It was market day, so for lunch we'd bought a croustillou (pork rib) for me and a dorade (sea bream) for Lo Jardinièr to eat with freshly picked spinach, rocket and sorrel leaves and a glass of red wine from Domaine de Montesquieu.

Docking the Bay

It seems strange now to remember how we used to try to persuade our little bay tree to grow in a pot on the terrace in Wales.  Here bay trees grow everywhere, like weeds, and we use the leaves in cooking every day.  One huge bay tree grows in our neighbours' garden and overhangs the fence just where we want to build a cold frame.  They were there today so we asked if they minded if we cut one of the branches.  'Coupez, coupez!' was the answer, so Lo Jardinièr sawed it down.  There's still a lovely big tree left, but it won't shade our cold frame now.

cold frame_1_1 sawing bay 1_1_1
sawing bay 2_1_1 On a coupé une branche du laurier sauce qui donnait de l'abri au coin où nous voulons construire une serre.

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

A few hours early, here are some flowers for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day:

lemon flowers jan_1
lemon flowers/ fleurs de citronnier
vinca - jan_1_1
the Vinca has flowered all winter/  a fleurit tout l'hiver
doorstep plant_1
Osteospermum on the front doorstep / au seuil
pansy on the balcony / pensée sur le balcon

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

PS Our order arrived from Seeds of Italy today, so we must get on with making the cold frame!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Spring in the air? / Du temps printanier?

January often does this - makes me feel as though it's spring when it's too early.  But I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts.  The sun felt hot today at midday, although the nights are cold and clear with temperatures below freezing.

abricotier   blue sky_1_1

apricot branch and a clear, blue sky

C'est souvent comme ça en janvier - il semble que c'est le printemps, mais c'est trop tôt.  Mais je vais en profiter pendant que le beau temps dure.  Au soleil à midi aujourd'hui il a fait chaud, bien que les nuits soient froides et claires, et les températures au dessous de zéro.

The mangetout peas are growing well and today we put netting up to support them.  / Les pois mangetouts poussent bien et aujourd'hui on a mis une grillage en plastique pour les supporter.

peas and netting_1_1

And we picked a salad to accompany our barbecue in the sun - lettuce, spinach, parsley, sorrel and oregano - so much flavour in the middle of winter!

Et on a ramassé une salade pour accompagner notre grillade au soleil - des feuilles de laitue, épinards, persille, oseille et oreganum - tant de gout en plein hiver!

jan 11 salad_1_1 

Cauliflower problems

Another of our cauliflower plants has produced a tiny cauliflower - has anyone got any ideas about what we've done wrong with them?  Last year they did well.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Snow and thoughts of spring / La neige et des pensées de printemps

Last night snow settled in Gabian - something we've never seen here before - just a light icing on the cars, roofs and plants in pots outside the windows. By the morning it had almost all gone.

Hier soir la neige est tombée à Gabian et elle est restée sur les voitures, les toits et les plantes dans les pots à l'éxtérieur des fenêtres. Ce matin elle est presque disparue.

Gabian snow 7-1-09_1_1 snow 7-01-09_1_1

Although it was still cold, after the snow melted and the sun came out our thoughts turned to spring seeds and planting. We want to try some new varieties this year so from Kokopelli we ordered some pepper (capsicum) seeds which we haven't grown before: Kandil Dolma - a Turkish bell pepper suitable for stuffing - and some long red varieties for salads and grilling and perhaps for drying: Italian Red Merconi, Lipstick, Corni di Toro and Kolesca. And from Seeds of Italy (Franchi) we've ordered Cavalo Nero (recommended by Michelle at From Seed to Table, Radicchio orchidea Rossa, Borlotto bean Lamon, some French beans - a dwarf Purple King and a climbing Smeraldo - and Raperonozolo Rampion. I'm especially excited about the last of these, the rampion, lo reponchon in Occitan, as it grows wild in the garrigue here and is mentioned by Max Rouquette in his poem, 'La Lenga s'es Perduda'.

Bien qu'il fasse froid encore, après la neige s'est fondue et le soleil est revenu nous avons pensé des semences de printemps et de la plantation. Nous voulons essayer des nouvelles varietés cette année, donc nous avons commandé de Kokopelli des semences de poivrons que nous n'avons pas cultiver: Kandil Dolma un poivron turque qui est bon pour farcir, et des autres varietés pour les salades, pour griller et peut-être pour secher. Nous avons commandé aussi des semences de Seeds of Italy (Franchi) y compris Cavalo Nero (recommandé par Michelle de From Seed to Table) et Raperonozolo Rampion. Je suis ravie de trouver cette dernière varietée - le raiponce, lo reponchon en Occitan - qui est une des plantes de la garrigue, le nom de laquelle j'ai trouvé dans une poème de Max Rouquette, 'La Lenga s'es Perduda'.

I can't wait now for the seeds and the spring to arrive! J'attends avec impatience l'arrivée des semences et du printemps!

box of seeds_1_1

And we have a lovely box full of vegetable seeds we've saved or friends have given us, some which Kate brought us and some Mizuna left from the packet Laura sent us. But any other suggestions are welcome. I learnt a new Occitan greeting this week - 'Bon anada, plan granada!', which means happy new year and may you have seeds for a good year. I think we have!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Garden anniversary / l'anniversaire du jardin

On 4 January 2005 we signed the contract for the purchase of our garden and became its legal owners.  That day we made a short visit to the garden before we had to leave to return to Wales.  Today, on the fourth anniversary, we celebrated by having lunch in the garden, and now we can stay in Gabian and don't have to leave.

Le 4 janvier 2005 on a signé l'acte du vente pour acheter le jardin.  Ce jour là on n'a passé qu'une demie heure au jardin avant de partir pour rentrer au Pays de Galles.   Aujourd'hui, on a fêté l'anniversaire quatrième.  Nous avons mangé là à midi et après le repas nous pouvons rester à Gabian.

winter shadow 05_1_1
winter shadows 2005 (left) and 2009 (right)
winter shadow_1_1

We had already been cultivating the garden since April 2004, with the permission of the previous owner, and had managed to grow a few salads while we were here for six weeks in the summer, to build the shed and plant an olive tree and a rosemary bush.

garden 4-1.0-5_1_1
January 2005
garden 4-1 2_1_1
January 2009, our first plant, the rosemary bush in the centre has grown enormously!
new year 05 lunch_1_1
New Year's Day, 2005
lunch 4-1-08_1_1_1
Today's lunch

Looking at these 'before' and 'after' pictures, I wonder how much we've done in the four years.  But then I remember all the wonderful vegetables we've had, especially during the last two and a half years when we've been living here all the time - 130 kilos of tomatoes in summer 2008, aubergines, peppers, cabbages, chard, spinach and so on ....  We've still got lots of work to do - there's always work to do in a garden - and now that the days are getting longer and spring isn't far away we'll be making a cold frame, sowing seeds and preparing the ground for planting over the next few weeks.  An exciting time!

En regardant ces photos d'avant et d'après, je me demande combien nous avons fait pendant ces quatre ans.  Puis, je me souviens tous les légumes merveilleux, surtout pendant les deux ans et demi quand nous habitons à Gabian tout le temps - 130 kilos de tomates en été 2008, aubergines, poivrons, choux, blettes, épinards etc. .... Il y reste beaucoup de travail - il y a toujours du travail au jardin.  Les jours rallongent et le printemps arrivera bientôt.  Pendant les semaines qui viennent nous allons faire une serre, semer les semances et préparer la terre pour la plantation.  C'est du bon temps pour jardiner!

olive2_1_1_1_1 Our first olive tree when we planted it in 2005.  It's still quite small now, but we have had 80 olives from it this year and we ate some of them last week in the garden.
weeds herbs
The first summer - 2004.  Mostly weeds!
garden may 08_1_2_1 Summer 2008

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy new year! / Bonne année

Best wishes for a happy and peaceful 2009 to all.

2009 2_2_1

olives and artichoke (leaves) / olives et feuilles d'artichaut

Happy new year! / Blwyddyn newydd dda! /

Bonne année / Bon an!

Some hopeful new year signs in the garden today: sunshine at lunchtime, the garlic, broad beans and peas growing well, a salad picked and eaten straight from the garden.

Des signes d'espoir au jardin aujourd'hui: le soleil à midi, l'ail, les fèves et les petits pois poussent bien, une salade ramassée pour manger en directe du jardin.

new year garden_1_1_1


09 salad_1_1

lettuce, spinach, rocket, parsley, mizuna and sorrel picked for a lunchtime salad - the thermometer registered only 13 degrees C but it was warm enough in the sun to have lunch outside.