Monday, 31 January 2011

Time to sow more broad beans

Today and tomorrow are said to be good days in the phases of the moon for sowing broad beans.  Conditions in the garden were good for this too, after rain at the weekend and the horse manure we’d spread over the bean bed the previous weekend.  We sowed the rest of a packet I bought last year of Sevilla broad (fava) beans, as well as some we had saved from last year’s crop.  The plants sown in the autumn are doing well and don’t seem to have suffered from the cold as they did in last year’s severe frosts.



The rosemary has been in flower all through the winter, the garlic is growing well and there is bright green new growth on the olive trees following the pruning.

IMGP6082 IMGP6097 IMGP6091




The chard and spinach plants seem to be starting to grow again, the red cabbages are hearting up and a few small turnips were ready to eat for lunch today.




In most of the vineyards around the village there was a lot of slow, cold work going on.  Each vine has to be pruned by hand, one at a time, between November and March, when the viticulteur/euse chooses which are the best shoots to bear this year’s crop.  In the picture below, these old vines (probably about 50 years old) have not yet been pruned.  In the background there’s an olive grove and a mimosa tree in flower.  A typical view of early spring in the Languedoc.


Saturday, 22 January 2011

Light and, best of all, manure…

The sun is still very low even at mid-day, but the low light looked beautiful through the climbing rose and passion flower leaves on our garden shelter, and through the olive trees, this morning.

IMGP5776 IMGP5781
IMGP5785 IMGP5786

We collected a trailer load of horse manure from the paddock where our friend whose grapes we picked keeps her horses.  It will be great for the garden, as it’s well rotted, and we spread it on some of the beds that we’ve cleared.  In a week or so we’ll go and fetch some more.


Modern communications in a wild landscape


We sometimes complain about what modern innovations are doing to the environment and we’re certainly not happy about the housing development next to our garden.  The electricity pylons are unmissable, eyesores perhaps, but necessary, and next to the one on the left are two mobile phone masts which mean that finally there is reception for our mobiles in the village – everyone welcomes that!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Mountains, a small bird and soup from a giant pumpkin


We had a good view of the Pyrenees from the hill between here and Magalas this morning.  They are about 150 kilometres away and not always visible if the air isn’t really clear.  When they appear, it’s always a shock to see how huge they are.  There doesn’t seem to be much snow on the mountains at the moment.

Walking around the village this morning I saw this small bird on a climbing rose and have since identified it as a Goldcrest.  The crest is clearly visible in the pictures, top and bottom right, below.

IMGP5711 IMGP5715
IMGP5716 IMGP5717

And spicy pumpkin soup

IMGP5703-1 IMGP5707

This is the biggest of the pumpkins we grew last season.  It was too big to go on the scales but we think it must have weighed about 15 kilos.  Lo Jardinièr made a wonderful spicy soup with part of it, for lunch today.  The recipe is on the Mediterranean cuisine blog.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Mimosa: the first sign of spring

Mimosa flowering in Bessan today. 


We saw several other mimosa trees with blossom in Roujan too, a couple of weeks earlier than last year and the year before.  Mimosa is usually the first of the spring blossom to appear here.  It is not indigenous to the Mediterranean but was brought from Australia and seems to have adapted well to the conditions and become a natural part of the spring colour in this region.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

A hint of spring?

This morning for the first time for weeks the sun felt hot and it was 16 degrees C in the garden.  I know the winter’s not over yet – we’re not even half way through January – but there was a suggestion in the air that spring may arrive eventually.

The garden in January

Just for the record, this is what the garden looked like this morning.

IMGP5395 IMGP5394

The rosemary has been flowering all winter and there were bees on it today.  The broad beans look much better than they did this time last year and don’t seem to have been affected at all by the cold nights we had last month.

IMGP5385 IMGP5393

Olive pruning

IMGP5286 IMGP5305 IMGP5343

I spent some time pruning the second of our two olive trees, the Lucque,  not too drastically as it is still a very young tree that we planted only five years ago.

IMGP5381 IMGP5382
Before (left), during (above) and after (right)

The main aim when olive pruning is to open out the centre of the tree so I pruned any branches that were growing inwards, and I cut some of the straggly branches at the top.  It’s growing into quite a nice little tree and it produced some good olives last year.

And a cauliflower


We picked this cauliflower – probably our last for this year, but there are still plenty of leaf vegetables: lettuces, red and green cabbages, spinach and chard, as well as some turnips, to feed us for the rest of the winter.  The garlic and onions we planted in the autumn are all growing well too.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Cold harvest and warming onion soup

There isn’t much to harvest in the garden at the moment.  There will be more cauliflowers soon, and there are red and green cabbage leaves, but the chard and spinach seem to be waiting for longer days to produce new leaves.  All through the winter, though, we have lettuces and we picked one today:


This will make a couple of good salads for us, with grilled goats’ cheese on toast, une salade de chèvre chaud, or with charcuterie.

Today we felt like something more warming, and Lo Jardinièr made this onion soup, cooking the onions in olive oil for over an hour so that they tasted really sweet and adding home-made chicken stock.

IMGP5050 IMGP5053

With a garnish of chopped parsley and garlic and accompanied by Aveyronnais bread and rustic paté with mushrooms, it made a delicious lunch on a cold, grey day.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Oysters for new year


We opened these, added a dash of white wine, a little cream and some grated cheese, then grilled them, to eat at the start of an evening at home with friends that saw us at midnight toasting 2011 with Blanquette de Limoux – a methode champagnoise wine from the Aude which I think is as good as champagne – and Cava, a similar and equally good Catalan wine.

Happy new year!

Blwyddyn newydd dda!

Bonne année!

Bona annada!

To complete the Occitan new year greeting, I’ll wish all you gardeners Bona annada, plan granada (a happy new year, full of fruitfulness, or literally with many grains or seeds).

I was excited to find yesterday that my food photos, submitted for the December assignment, are reviewed on the Guardian Camera Club website here