Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Autumn in the vineyards and in the garden


The vine leaves are just beginning to turn to autumn colours.  Whereas in summer all varieties of vine have the same colour green leaves, in autumn we begin to see the patches of different varieties, some which turn yellow, some brown, some red.  It’s the most beautiful time of year here.

And in the garden …

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The olives are ripening and we’ll be picking them in a few days’ time.  The ones on the left above are Lucques, which seem to ripen later than other varieties.  The ones on the right are a different variety, but I’m not sure which one.  It’s a tree we bought in the first excitement of having the garden and we just wanted an olive tree, not worrying too much about what kind it was.



I’ve harvested some of the dried lavender flowers which I’ll use to make lavender bags to put in the linen cupboard.



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The lettuces we planted last week seem to have settled in well and there are still a few small aubergines growing.


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We’ve planted out some of the tiny spinach seedlings which weren’t growing very fast on the balcony, and we’re protecting them for a few days with some plastic covers our neighbour gave us.




The nights are getting colder – down to 8 degrees C – but it was still very warm in the sun for our lunch in the garden.



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Lo Jardinièr cleared the cucumber and melon plants, so we have a space next to the artichokes which is ready to cover with goat manure in the winter.  We’ll probably plant tomatoes here next year.  And, once again, this time this may really be the last butterfly of the season.  Although, with temperatures in the 20s, the bees were still busy on the rosemary flowers today.

Monday, 26 October 2009

A festive demonstration

On Saturday we went to Carcassonne for the Anem Oc! demonstration in support of the Occitan language and official recognition of the fact that it is spoken over the whole of southern France, into the alpine valleys of northern Italy and in the Val d’Aran in the Pyrenees, in Catalunya – the only place where it is an official language.  The atmosphere was lively, festive, noisy and fun and there were about 25,000 people on the march through the streets of Carcassonne and up to the Cité, the old medieval town.

DSC09658 DSC09631 There was a wonderful mix of fun and politics – women on stilts, Occitan, Breton, Basque and Catalan flags, and banners demanding liberty for the language and an end to fascism.
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There were traditional Occitan music groups who marched with us through the streets, the bangs of fire crackers and the cheerful shouts from the crowds of people of all ages from small children to young people to the middle aged and older.  It was an exciting and inspiring event.

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It took several hours for the last of the demonstrators to reach the Cité.  There is a connection with the issues I usually write about on this blog, too. 

DSC09684 The movement for Occitan language and culture is connected closely with campaigns for the environment in this part of France, and this has been so ever since the early 1970s when there were protests against the proposed extension of a military base on the Larzac plateau.  These historic links were represented here by some demonstrators who carried flags depicting the cardabela, the carline thistle, symbol of the Larzac where it grows, and the present-day links were there too in the campaign literature of the Partit Oc (the Occitan Party) demanding the protection of the locally based agriculture and food of the region, as well as more Occitan schools and a better TV service.

There are more photos on Flickr: here.

DSC09759 Back home in the garden we found that the plants had benefited from the heavy rain we had last week and now the warm sun has returned to bring the second spring we usually have at this time of the year.  We’ve sown broad beans, Spanish habas and peas, and planted cabbages, lettuces and cauliflowers which are all settling in well.  And the warm weather has brought out more late blooms, including these passiflora flowers.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

After a storm

In the garden today …


a raindrop caught in a passiflora tendril …

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a mantis crawling among the weeds, …


and the sun trying to come through the clouds and our neighbour’s almond tree.

We planted out cabbage and lettuce and harvested more late tomatoes, some red and some still green.  It will be time to clear all the tomato plants soon but there is still a chance some more will ripen if we get sunshine next week, as forecast.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

It (almost) never rains …


Believe it or not, this photo was taken in the middle of the day … and so were these:

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The rain will be good for the garden, but for today it means we can’t do any gardening.



It’s time to eat comforting autumn food like this rabbit and chorizo casserole, with some of the last courgettes of the season, and a glass of red wine.






This may have been the last butterfly of the summer, in the garden last weekend when we were sowing broad beans and peas.

Friday, 16 October 2009

World Food Day

There are serious food issues affecting developing countries and many parts of the world where people do not have enough to eat. According to the United Nations one-sixth of humanity is undernourished. In the developed world the issues are more to do with over-consumption and waste of the earth's resources. Sometimes it seems as though there is little that an individual can do. But I think that growing as much as we can of our own food and buying food that is locally produced are important small steps that each of us can make, to conserve the earth's limited resources and to minimise exploitation of people in the developing world. You can find out more about World Food Day here.

Big commerce is bad for food. This is my 201st post on this blog and, on World Food Day, I would like to make it a celebration of local food. In our village we're lucky to have a weekly market, an excellent épicerie (grocer's shop), a small supermarket, a boulangerie (baker's shop) and visiting vans which sell meat and shellfish.

DSC09355 The charcuterie stall at the Wednesday market. DSC09433
The butcher’s van on Friday morning.
The boulangerie – bakery.
The épicerie – grocer’s shop, full of good food and friendly advice.

We, and anyone else who lives here, can buy all we need in the village. It is excellent quality, good value and much of it is produced locally. We find we need go to supermarkets only to buy toiletries and Italian coffee. In Roujan, a larger village 2 km away, there are two excellent butchers who sell an enormous range of good meat and, best of all, will advise on how to cook it, as well as other friendly small shops.

But the small shops in Roujan, and maybe Gabian too, are threatened by the construction of a supermarket there.

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This is the site of the planned supermarket where, as in Gabian, more plane trees have been felled to make another new roundabout at its entrance.

This is bad news for food. In the UK it has been shown that when a supermarket is built on the outskirts of a town it sucks the lifeblood from the centre. The food sold in supermarkets is mass-produced and generally of lower quality than that in small shops. It is transported long distances, wasting resources and causing pollution. Because of their centralised distribution systems supermarkets cannot support local food as well as small shops can. And the profits made leave the area, feeding big business rather than being ploughed back into the locality.

And local wine …


This evening we went to a tasting to celebrate the arrival of the primeur wine at the Cave Co-operative at Neffiès. The vin primeur is the first of the year's wine to be ready to drink, a light wine which takes only three weeks or so to make. It's a good reason for a party and the tasting at Neffiès was fun, with roasted chestnuts (another seasonal local product) to eat with the wine, and live music. The cave at Neffiès has recently amalgamated with the one at nearby Alignan-du-vent (a sign of the times and the economic crisis in wine-making), but we were pleased to hear that some of the high-quality wines from Neffiès such as their Cathérine de Juery will continue to be made.

Hot roasted chestnuts to accompany the new wine.
Tuning up for the music and wine tasting.

And home to a local supper

We came home from Neffiès to a supper of roast saddle of lamb, bought in one of the butcher’s shops in Roujan, and aubergines stuffed with tomatoes, both grown in our garden. A delicious local supper! We marinaded the saddle of lamb with rosemary, garlic and lemon juice for a few hours, then roasted it, adding a glass of white wine to the roasting dish, until it was just done and still a bit pink inside. We served it with halved aubergines topped with chopped tomatoes, garlic, thyme and olive oil and baked in the oven.


Bilingual blog / le blog bilingue

Over the next few weeks I shall not have time to write my blog posts in French as well as English. I'll resume the French version as soon as possible, but in the meantime I apologise for not being able to produce a bilingual blog.

Pendant les semaines qui viennent je n'aurai pas le temps pour écrire les articles sur ce blog en français. Je reprendrai la version française aussitôt que possible, mais pour le moment je m'excuse de ne pas produire un blog bilingue.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Garden bloggers’ bloom day

I haven’t participated in this for a few months, but this morning I noticed how many flowers are out in the garden at this time:

Salvia, and close-up right …
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A Himalayan plant - Ceratostigma griffithii - thanks Yvonne!
DSC09374 Savory DSC09375 Wild rocket
DSC09377 DSC09395 Dahlias, red and pink
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DSC09383 Morning glory … DSC09384

and another one clashing with the cotoneaster berries
DSC09387 Rosemary DSC09391 Lantana
DSC09399 A vegetable garden failure – radicchio flowers DSC09401 and late flowering passion – the last passiflora flower, I think, for this year.

Garden bloggers’ bloom day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.