>Lunch in the garden while the tomatoes ripen ….

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It was too hot to do much apart from water and eat lunch in the garden today – up to 35 degrees C.

DSC04774 Cucumber, Longues des Landes peppers, arbequina olives and Catalan fuet DSC04777
Grilled courgettes and aubergine
DSC04824 Goats’ cheese from Mas Rolland with thyme and olive oil

Some of our Languedocienne tomatoes are showing signs of ripening.

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A swallowtail butterfly

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DSC04793 DSC04795 It was hard to photograph as it flitted from one lavender flower to another.

 

A conversation about a locust

DSC04828 Chaiselongue: There’s a locust – I’m going to photograph it and then I want you to kill it.
Click, click.
Lo Jardinièr: It’s only a small one….
Chaiselongue: And how do you think they get bigger?
Lo Jardinièr: By eating our aubergine plants.
Chaiselongue: Exactly.
Crunch.
I’m so glad he can kill them, as I don’t like doing it – they’re very crunchy!

>Garlic harvest

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DSC04273 Most of our garlic crop for this year (the bulbs we haven’t eaten fresh). We’ve made a drying rack out of two fruit crates and put it under the shelter so that the garlic doesn’t get too much sun….. or rain! When it’s dry I’ll plait it into tresses for keeping, but not for long as we’ll get through this amount quite quickly. Passing through Lautrec, the centre for l’ail rose, this long-keeping, pink-skinned variety of garlic, in south-western France, we once saw barns full of garlic bulbs drying like this on racks .

Tomatoes, a cucumber and a locust

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The locust was enjoying our habas leaves – I don’t mind so much if it eats those as they are nearly over and I picked most of the last beans from them today, but I didn’t want it eating the aubergine plants (which they love), so this one was crushed between two rocks by Lo Jardinièr. There will be others, so we’ll have to watch for them all summer.

>Home again!

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We’re home again after a wonderful week visiting family in Wales.  We had hot weather in Wales and we’ve returned to hot weather here.  Luckily we’d asked our neighbour to water our garden and everything has grown well while we were away, especially the tomato plants.  The lettuces we planted in between the tomato rows are ready to eat now, having benefited from the water given to the tomatoes.

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There was a thunderstorm just after we arrived home yesterday evening and there is still plenty of water in the stream running down from the spring at the top of the hill.

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DSC03784 The tomato and cucumber plants have start to flower, and need a lot of work, tying them to their supports and removing the sideshoots on the tomato plants.  The olive trees are covered in tiny flowers, many of which we hope will grow into olives.

The courgettes are also flowering – only male flowers so far as usual at the beginning of the season, so we made fritters with a few of them.  A delicious treat with salad leaves from the garden and a glass of rosé from the Domaine des Pascales in the village.

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We’ve picked far more broad beans and mangetout peas than we can possible eat, so we’re putting a lot of them in the freezer.  Unlike some other vegetables – courgettes especially – peas and beans freeze very well.  We at some of the mangetouts, and for supper I made a chilled broad bean soup, my version of a recipe in Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish’s Movida Rustica: Spanish Traditions and Recipes.  It’s made with raw broad beans liquidised with garlic cloves, olive oil and some bread soaked in water.  I added a sweet onion because we have so many in the garden now.  After chilling, the soup is served with a garnish of cured ham, a few peeled broad beans and some herbs.  Frank Camorra suggests mint, but I used oregano because I’d forgotten to pick the mint.  Any fresh herbs would give it a good flavour.  It was wonderfully creamy and a good  first course for a hot evening.

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>Plane trees update / Les platanes – mise à jour

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At a meeting in the village this week the mayor and the technical staff involved in the project to cut down the plane trees seemed willing to compromise at least. They are willing to consider keeping the trees on one side of the road, while felling those on the other side so that there is room for a pavement and a central reservation in the road. This last ‘improvement’ is said to be necessary to slow down traffic and protect cyclists, but some of us think that there are other, less destructive ways of doing this.

À un réunion cette semaine il a semblé que le maire et les responsables techniques étaient prêts à faire un compromis – de garder les platanes à un côté de la route et d’abattre les autres pour faire un trottoir et un terre-plein au centre de la route pour faire ralentir les voitures.bien que quelques uns entre nous pensions qu’il y a des autres moyens moins destructifs de faire ça.

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It will be sad to lose half of the remaining trees, but better than losing them all. Although some say that they are dangerous because speeding drivers crash their cars into them sometimes, I would say that is not the fault of the trees. In fact it has been found that when the trees are felled drivers go faster because the trees provide an illusion of speed which makes drivers slow down.

Plane trees are not native to the Mediterranean region, but they do adapt well to the dry conditions and shade the roads in summer.

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This plane tree at St-Guilhem-le-Désert not far from here is said to be the biggest in France. I took this photo a few years ago when we visited the village. / Le plus grand platane en France à St-Guilhem-le-Désert.

This whole project of road ‘improvements’ and tree felling will have to be watched carefully to make sure that no more trees than is necessary are destroyed. We need to keep these old trees which were planted over 100 years ago – for the sake of the environment and the character of the village. It is an old village and some of the older inhabitants have long memories of these trees. Most of us do not want a ‘suburban’ look imposed on a rural wine-making village.

Summer harvest / La récolte d’été

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We’re harvesting a lot of tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers and aubergines now. We’ve made ratatouille to preserve for the winter. / On ramasse beaucoup de tomates, courgettes, concombres et aubergines maintenant. On a fait de ratatouille pour garder pour l’hiver.

The biggest courgette in this photo was hiding under the leaves so we’d let it grow too big – it was almost a marrow, but still sweet and tender. Lo Jardinièr cooked it this evening: cut it up and roasted it with sweet onion, roughly crushed the pieces, added thyme, garlic and cubes of feta cheese and put it back in the oven until the cheese browned. We ate it with tomato and basil salad. A delicious supper!

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Courgette, cuite au four avec d’oignon doux et du fromage feta et du thym, et servie accompagnée d’une salade de tomates et basilic.

>Spanish breakfast in the garden / Un petit déjeuner espagnol au jardin

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The tomatoes are ripening and the best time of day to work in the garden is the early morning before it gets too hot.  This morning in the garden we picked tomatoes straight from the plants to make the breakfast we’ve had in Catalunya and in Andalucia: peeled, chopped tomatoes with salt and olive oil on bread.  A wonderful start to the day!

Les tomates murissent et la meilleure heure du jour pour travailler au jardin est le matin avant qu’il fait trop chaud.  Ce matin nous avons ramassé des tomates pour faire le petit déjeuner que nous avons mangé en Catalogne et en Andalucia: des tomates pelées et hachées avec du sel et de l’huile d’olive sur des tranches de pain.

Today’s harvest / La récolte d’aujourd’hui

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Haricot beans, courgettes, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and aubergines.  The Ananas tomato on the left above weighed 430 grams.

Plane trees update / Les platanes – mise à jour

There are rumours that it may be even worse than we feared and that the felling of plane trees in the village is part of a wider plan to cut down all the plane trees in the Hérault and Aude départements.  There will be a meeting next week to discuss the situation and what we can do about it.

On dit que peut-être c’est pire que nous avons craint et qu’il y a un project d’abattre tous les platanes dans l’Hérault et l’Aude.  Un réunion aura lieu la semaine prochaine pour discuter ce qu’on peut faire.

>Destruction

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Like many villages in southern France Gabian has avenues of plane trees lining the roads leading into the village.  They are beautiful and they provide much-needed shade in summer.  Some of the trees are also very old – many over a hundred years old.  Last week in Gabian we lost some of these plane trees to needless destruction.

Comme beaucoup de villages dans le Midi à Gabian il y a des platanes aux bords des routes qui mènent au village.  Cette semaine nous en avons perdu quelques uns à cause d’une destruction inutile.

At the public meeting when the plans for the new housing development were presented we were told that four or five trees would be felled to make room for a roundabout.  Last week workmen began to cut down healthy trees … and more trees … until a demonstration of inhabitants stopped them, for the moment.  Nineteen trees now lie at the side of the road as sad piles of logs.  The remaining trees now have posters stapled to them demanding a referendum and saying ‘Don’t touch my plane tree’ and ‘I am more than 100 years old – don’t cut me down’.  I hope that the protest will change the minds of the mayor and the municipal council, persuade them to keep their word and stop this massacre of our trees.

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In the garden / dans le jardin

We’re harvesting aubergines, peppers, courgettes, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes and our neighbours’ plums which make wonderful jam.

On récolte les aubergines, les poivrons, les courgettes, les concombres, les tomates cerises et les tomates Roma.  Et on cueille les prunes de nos voisins qui sont très bon pour la confiture.

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>Beetles update / Mise à jour des scarabées

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Most of the beetles have disappeared, just a few tiny ones remain, and the Borlotti beans look fine and are growing fast. / La plupart des scarabées sont disparus et les haricots Borlottis sont biens et poussent vite.

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Maybe these beetles were good ones / Peut-être ces scarabées sont bons.

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The haricot beans are growing well too / Les haricots verts poussent bien aussi.

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A salad from the garden today: courgette, cucumber, Lezignan onion, garlic and oregano, and today’s harvest of courgettes and beans. / Une salade du jardin aujourd’hui: courgette, concombre, oignon de Lezignan, ail et oreganum, et la récolte d’aujourd’hui: courgettes et haricots verts.

And something I can’t post on the blog – last week we heard a single cicada in the almond tree in the next garden. Since then we’ve heard their summer chorus all around the garden and in the plane trees along the roads.

Les cigales ont commencé à chanter.

If you haven’t heard them before listen to the sound here:

Cicada / cigale A group of them in a line of trees make a very loud noise! It’s the sound of the south which they are said to make when the temperature is above 26 degrees C.

>Summer’s here! / L’été est arrivé

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Olive flowers / les fleurs d’olivier

At last, after a long cold spring, summer has arrived, with the temperature in the high 20s centigrade, and of course the need to water every day. / Enfin, après un printemps long et froid, l’été est arrivé, la temperature monte et on a besoin d’arroser chaque jour.

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The roses are out and so are the lizards / Les roses sortent et aussi les lézards.

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The borlotti beans are climbing and the cucumber plants are flowering / Les haricots grimpent et les concombres fleurissent.
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We’ve picked the last artichokes (a sad moment for me) and the new potatoes are ready to eat. / Nous avons ramassé les derniers artichauts et les pommes de terre précoce sont prêtes à manger.

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The tomato plants are doing well and the November sowing of broad beans are nearly over – we’re saving these for seed as the variety, Seville, has given us a wonderful crop.
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Our first courgette and first pepper have appeared. / La première courgette et le premier poivron ont apparu.

>Planting melons and cucumbers / Planter les melons et les concombres

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We try to grow as much from seed as possible and this year we’ve grown almost all of our 64 tomato plants from seed, some from our own saved seed. But we do buy some plants. This year we shall have to buy pepper plants. We sowed several different varieties in March and they germinated well, but the plants haven’t grown well. All the other gardeners we talk to in Gabian say their plants are the same. It’s been a cold spring.

Ce printemps il a fait froid ici et les poivrons ne poussent pas bien, ni dans notre jardin ni dans les jardins des autres à Gabian. Nous en devrons acheter.

This year, as usual, we’ve also bought Charentais melon and cucumber plants from a local producer, in the market in Gabian. The plants come from Fouzilhon, about 3 kilometres from here, so I don’t mind buying these. The same stall also sells other produce from the same farm: strawberries, chick peas, wine, and melons later in the summer.

Cette année, comme d’habitude, on a acheté aussi des plantes de melon Charantais et de concombre d’un producteur de Fouzilhon (3 kilometres d’ici) qui vient au marché à Gabian. Il vend aussi les fraises, les pois chiches, le vin, et plutard les melons.

Melons and cucumbers need a lot of water so we have put some effort into preparing the ground for them. In January we dug in some goat manure. Now Lo Jardinièr has made a wide bed for the melons, surrounded by a bank of earth so that it can be flooded.

Les melons et les concombres ont besoin de beaucoup d’eau, donc nous avons fait du travail en préparant la terre. En janvier on a mis du fumier de chèvre. Aujourd’hui Lo Jardinièr a fait une parterre large entourée d’un mur de terre afin qu’on puisse l’inonder.

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The plants are protect from snails by collars made of plastic water bottles. / Les plantes sont protégées des escargots par des colliers en plastique.

For the cucumbers we have made three channels where we will put drip-hoses for watering. Between the three channels there are two rows for the cucumbers, which will be supported by frames made from canes and wires. We’ll have eight plants – four we’ve bought and four we’ve grown from seed. The latter are not quite ready to go out yet.

Pour les concombres on a fait trois gouttières où on va mettre des tuyaus pour arroser. Entre les gouttières il y a deux rangs où des cannes et des fils soutiendront les plantes. Il y aura 8 plantes.

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Let’s just hope the snails don’t eat them! / On éspère que les escargots ne les mangeront pas!

Aren’t irises amazing? / Les iris sont extraordinaires!

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Yesterday – a bud with the texture of silk. / Hier – un bourgeon à la texture de soie …..
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Today – this huge flower /
Aujourd’hui – cette fleur énorme.

Iris Night Laughter

>More watering . . . and passion fruit?

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One of Gabian’s fountains

Gabian is lucky in having a spring, La Resclauze, at the top of the hill above the gardens. For centuries this has been used for watering the gardens and, of course, that is why the gardens are where they are. The stream which runs down from the spring also powered mills which ground corn and wheat for flour and olives for oil. These are all in ruins now, unfortunately, although the Mairie and the municipal council talk of a restoration project. A couple of hundred years ago there were rules about when gardeners could take water from the stream,and each gardener could take water only on certain days. Nowadays there is a reservoir at the top of the hill, which provides water for the village and its three remaining fountains. The overflow from it is regulated. For the past couple of years of drought there hasnt been any overflow and the stream has been dry throughout the year. This year, after the unusually wet spring, there has been water in the stream again.

collecting water from the stream

Today we installed a pipeline from the stream down to our garden to fill our water butts and to water the plants. It needs some more work on it to feed it into the irrigation system which we put in last month, but for the moment were pleased with our primitive system which involves only a plastic bottle, 50 metres of cheap hosepipe and a couple of connectors. The water is free, unlike the metered supply to the garden, and hasnt had chemicals added to it.


We have a climbing passion flower growing on the shelter over the terrace where we eat and this year, its third, it has really taken off. Weve had lots of flowers and now there are fruit, mostly green at the moment, but one is ripe and a lovely apricot colour. As this is an ornamental plant Im not sure whether we can eat them – they certainly look edible. Does anyone know?


Passiflora


and a ripe fruit

In the rest of the garden, the tomatoes are ripening


and today we made this salad


tomato, cucumber, green pepper, garlic, basil leaves and oregano flowers all straight from the garden