>La Fête vigneronne at Faugères

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Sunday morning wine tasting in a village of balconies and bunting:

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A theatrical entrance to the old village whose narrow streets were filled with the stalls of wine producers, cheese makers, biscuit, cake and honey sellers, charcuterie producers and throngs of people tasting all this in the heat.  We found and bought some familiar produce – goats’ cheese from Mas Rolland – and tasted wines we’d not tasted before from Domaine du Météore at Cabrerolles and  Domaine Alquier at Faugères and bought rosé from Domaine Ballicioni at Autignac and Chateau des Peyregrandes at Roquessels (next door to Chateau des Adouzes where we buy wine regularly, but we’ve never ventured here before).  A completely new discovery, to us, was the Saffron syrup from the Tarn region of south-western France, which can be added to white wine to make Saffron kir and can also be used in cooking gambas or duck.  The kir we tasted at the stall tasted wonderfully spicy.

 

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Crowded narrow streets and, right, a traditional still making fine de Faugères.

Our own harvest, and promise for the future

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From the garden this morning:  Aubergines, a bell pepper, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet onions, courgettes and beans.  And, right, a small pumpkin on a huge plant, just beginning to grow.  Aubergine and courgette slices fried in olive oil and sprinkled with thyme and chopped garlic went well with Mas Rolland goats’ cheeses for supper.

>Garlic, aubergines, tomatoes …. summer’s here!

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I’ve plaited most of this year’s garlic into tresses for storing (and our neighbour reminded me that it still needs to be stored upside down, not hanging as in this photo), although since we eat quite a bit of garlic this won’t last long.  My plaiting needs a bit more practice before the tresses look anything like as pretty as the ones made to sell to tourists!

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Good insects and bad on the aubergines – we left the ladybird but killed the nasty looking shield beetle which was eating the leaves.

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From left to right, Coeur de boeuf, ananas and longues des Andes tomatoes, all growing well but nowhere near ripening yet.

>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.

>Biodiversity in Haiti

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I know everyone wants to help the shattered lives and economy of Haiti following the earthquake there earlier this year, but I’m afraid that, having been alerted to this by Gaiashope, I find it hard to trust the motives of Monsanto in ‘donating’ corn and tomato seeds to the farmers on the island.  According to the Food Freedom website, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, spokesperson for the peasant farmers’ movement, has called Monsanto’s involvement “a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds…, and on what is left [of] our environment in Haiti”.  Monsanto have responded to criticism by saying that they are not supplying genetically modified seeds.  However, Food Freedom reports:

The hybrid corn seeds Monsanto has donated to Haiti are treated with the fungicide Maxim XO, and the calypso tomato seeds are treated with thiram.  Thiram belongs to a highly toxic class of chemicals called ethylene bisdithiocarbamates (EBDCs). Results of tests of EBDCs on mice and rats caused concern to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which then ordered a special review. The EPA determined that EBDC-treated plants are so dangerous to agricultural workers that they must wear special protective clothing when handling them.

It’s hard to imagine that in the difficult circumstances following the earthquake farmers will have the training and protective clothing to handle these seeds.  Also, hybrid seeds are not suitable for seed saving, so the farmers will become dependent on Monsanto for future years’ seeds, which presumably will have to be paid for.  As one Haitian farmer told Food Freedom: “People in the U.S. need to help us produce, not give us food and seeds.  They’re ruining our chance to support ourselves.”   Haitian farmers have threatened to burn the seeds when they arrive.  I hope that they can be given seeds by more philanthropic organisations, so that they can re-establish their agriculture without the influence of a large commercial organisation which is known all over the world for trying to make profits out of small farmers.

First garlic bulb and a tiny first aubergine

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I pulled up our first garlic bulb this morning – it’s not very big, but it’s a lot bigger than the ones we’ve grown before!  We’ll leave the tiny aubergine to get bigger than that.  And the Luque olive tree is covered with flowers like these – a good sign for the autumn crop.

>Apricot buds and a new cold frame

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One of the good things about writing a garden blog is that I can check back and see how this year compares with last year and the year before.  Spring seems to be late this year, but looking back to last February I can see that the apricot buds are at about the same stage this year, although the daffodils are certainly later.  Last year we had daffodils in flower in time for St David’s day – that won’t happen this year.

DSC01890 DSC01892 The apricot tree should be in flower in a few days’ time.

I sowed some mangetout peas about a month ago and had almost given up hope of the plants appearing.  I thought the seeds had been washed away by some of the heavy rain we’ve had and today I decided to sow some more in the same place.  Luckily I had a close look first because I noticed that they’re coming up at last.  We’ve covered them with chicken wire because the birds seem to like them.

DSC01893 mangetout peas emerging and, right, the garlic doing well. DSC01906 DSC01901 But the daffodils are late this year.

We’ve already got two rustic-looking cold frames in the garden, but our neighbour gave us an old window so Lo Jardinièr decided to make another one – they’ll all come in useful when our pepper and cucumber plants need a bit of protection before being planted out.  He made a base of sand covered with old terracotta floor tiles, made walls with concrete blocks and rested the window on top – very simple.

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While he was doing that I sowed another double row of broad beans and a row of spinach.  We lost at least three sowings of spinach to heavy rain in the autumn, each time I re-sowed them there would be another storm and no sign of spinach plants, except for a solitary one which has survived the winter.  We miss having the young spinach leaves in our salads, so we hope to grow some now before the weather gets too hot and dry. 

Today’s harvest:

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Rosemary, thyme and bay, which the garden provides all through the year, whatever the weather, chard, which is just recovering from the cold weather and starting to grow again, and cabbage.

>Planting garlic

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According to the calendar of the moon, last weekend was a good time to plant garlic, but we missed it, so we did it today, in a bed which we put a lot of goat manure in last winter.

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Some of the garlic we bought in Villereal market when we were there in September – we bought 5 kilos, so we haven’t eaten it all yet!

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We’ve put a drip-feed hose along the middle of the double row so that we can water the garlic easily in the late spring and early summer when it needs a lot of water. After planting the cloves about 7 or 8 cm apart we covered them with straw to conserve moisture and to try to stop the birds pulling them out before they root.

Our leeks are growing well and we pulled the first two today. We’ll eat them tonight sautéed in butter with pancetta.

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DSC00166 Since we’ve had some rain and the ‘second spring’ has begun, the oregano has started to grow again, so I’ve cut some leaves to dry and store for the winter.

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There are a few small aubergines still growing – we barbecued two for lunch today, with a sweet onion. The aubergines should carry on growing slowly until the first frost which could come any time now, but isn’t forecast for at least the next week.

There’s still a lot of colour in the garden – roses, especially, and the leaves of the cherry tree in the garden next to ours:

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And we’re still harvesting green chillies although they won’t turn red at this time of year. I picked one today – there are more, but we don’t eat many hot peppers so I’ve left the rest for another time.

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>The longest day of the year / La journée la plus longue de l’an

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Just as we did on the shortest day of 2008, we had lunch in the garden. This time the shadows were a bit shorter but the coffee was as good. / Comme la journée la plus courte de 2008 on a mangé au jardin. Cette fois les ombres étaient plus courtes mais le café est toujours bon.

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Paella

One of our Spanish friends in the village says that paella should be cooked out of doors on a wood fire. So that’s what we did today. / Une de nos amies espagnoles au village dit que la paella doit être cuire dehors au feu de bois. Donc, c’est ça que nous avons fait aujourd’hui.

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Paella with mussels and chorizo / Paella aux moules et au chorizo.

Locusts / acacia-criquets

There are some things I find in the garden that I don’t photograph for this blog. Yesterday when I saw a locust on one of our aubergine plants I didn’t rush for the camera. I called Lo Jardinièr to come and squash it. Last year one of these huge insects at most of the leaves of an aubergine plant in one afternoon. I don’t know how we can deter them. One suggestion on the Internet was a mixture of chilli and paraffin, so I ground a couple of red chillis and mixed them with alcool à bruler (a spirit you certainly wouldn’t want to drink). I then painted this mix onto some of the leaves.

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I hope it works. I’m worried that it may damage the leaves.

** UPDATE: this burnt the leaves, so I won’t do it again. The best way to get rid of pests – locusts, beetles – is to squash them individually, we’ve found.

J’ai mis un mélange de piment rouge et alcool à bruler sur les feuilles d’aubergine dissueader les acacia-criquets de les manger.




And a butterfly / Et un papillon

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Lo Jardinièr found this Red Admiral butterfly which stopped just long enough for him to take this photo.

Courgettes and cucumbers / Les courgettes et les concombres

It’s a nice problem to have – what can we do with all our courgettes? Yesterday we picked 1.7 kg. I’ve stuffed some with meat and some with olives and onions, I’ve stewed them with some of last year’s preserved tomatoes and we’ve had fried courgettes, courgette fritters and stuffed courgette flowers. Luckily, we really love courgettes! And the cucumbers seem to grow as you look at them.

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Garlic grown from bulbs I bought in the market last autumn and planted around a terracotta pot watering system. / L’ail cultivé du ce que j’ai acheté sur le marché en automne.
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And a sunflower in the sun / Et un tournesol au soleil.

>Another beetle update / Mise à jour des scarabées encore

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The beetles were back this morning.  We put one in a jar and I took it to show our neighbour.  He immediately squashed it and confirmed what Gintoino said, that they attack cabbages.  So the others have now been squashed.  They were pretty but they had to go.

Notre voisin a confirmé ce que gintoino a dit – les scarabées attaquent les choux.  Il a écrasé le scarabée que je l’ai montré et nous avons écrasé les autres.  Ils étaient beaux, mais ils devaient mourit.

I’m pleased with our garlic this year, grown from bulbs I bought in the market last autumn and much better than last year’s.  It’s delicious chopped fresh on salads or the heads grilled whole on the barbecue.

L’ail est bon cette année. C’est delicieux cru est frais avec les salades ou les têtes grillées entières.

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Garlic fresh ……..
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grilled ……
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Wildlife in the garden / Faune au jardin

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a dragonfly /  une libellule
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and a marbled white butterfly / et un papillion marbré blanc.

But amid the sunshine and days spent enjoying meals in the garden, a reminder on the Guardian food blog today that there are ‘no gourmets in Gaza’ because the Israeli blockade is preventing basic food and fuel from getting to the population, including three quarters of a million children who are the most seriously affected.  According to Alex Renton’s post the UN says that

more than 10% of children are so malnourished their growth has been stunted. This proportion is growing rapidly. Anaemia due to lack of protein is another persistent problem – affecting 65% of children and 35% of pregnant women.

An inhuman collective punishment for an entire people.

>The garden in June / Le jardin en juin

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Today has been the hottest day of the year so far, over 30 degrees C at midday, so how is everything doing in the garden? / Aujourd’hui on a eu la journée la plus chaude de l’année jusqu’à ici. Donc, comment va le jardin?

The leek flower has finally come out / La fleur de poireau s’est finalement ouvert.

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We hope it will provide us with a lot of seed / Nous éspèrons que cette fleur nous donnerons beaucoup de semences.

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The olives are growing – these ones on our Lucque tree, the first year it has had olives on it.

Les olives poussent sur le Lucque. Ces sont son ses premiers olives.

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We have beans on the haricots (Beurre and Purple King) and the Borlottis (left above). / Nous avons des haricots verts (Beurre et Purple King) et Borlotti (gauche).

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The peppers and tomatoes are growing / Les poivrons et les tomates poussent ….

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and the grapes /

et les raisins.

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The garlic heads are small but better than last year / Les têtes d’ail sont petites, mais mieux que l’année dernière.

We’re eating courgettes every day and I stuffed some of the flowers with mint to cook on the barbecue. / On mange les courgettes tous les jours et j’ai fait des fleurs de courgette farcies à la menthe.

The stream from the spring is still running well, so we have plenty of water – we hope it continues. / Le ruisseau de la source coule bien toujours, donc on a beaucoup d’eau – on éspère que ça continuera.

Any failures? Well, yes. The pepper plants we grew from seed haven’t grown well at all and we’ve had to buy plants. Everyone here says the same. A lot of our bean plants, especially the climbing ones have been eaten by birds as they germinated. We’re protecting the new sowings with straw now and that seems to be working.

>Happy new year! / Bonne année

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Best wishes for a happy and peaceful 2009 to all.

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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.

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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.