>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

>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 lunch in the garden on the shortest day of the year / Déjeuner au jardin au solstice d’hiver


Today is the winter solstice with the sun at its lowest. And it was the warmest day we’ve had for weeks! At midday in the sun it was about 15 degrees C. A good day for lunch in the garden. A celebration!

Aujourd’hui c’est le solstice d’hiver avec le soleil le plus bas de l’année – et le meilleur temps du mois! A midi au soleil il a fait 15 degrées. Du bon temps pour déjeuner au jardin. Une fête!

bamboo blue sky_1_1
bamboo against a cloudless sky …..
tomato canes_1_1
and beneath, next year’s tomato canes growing

But first we gave the lemon tree some light and some water.

Mais d’abord on a donné de la lumière et de l’eau au citronnier.

sun for lemon tree_1_1

And then the barbeque / et puis la grillade


merguez (North African spicy lamb sausages) with onion skewers

we bought the merguez from the excellent butcher’s shop in nearby Roujan, run by Bernadette and Franck Perez, and while we were there we ordered some pigeons for lunch on Thursday.

green salad_1_1

green salad from the garden: lettuce, spinach, rocket and oregano

sunday lunch_1_1

lunch in the sun and wine from nearby Domaine de Montesquieu

cheese course_1_1
Gavach cheese from Lacaune with green tomato jam ….
and coffee, of course

Gavach is the Occitan word for ‘mountain-dweller’, which is why it’s the name given to this cheese which is made in the mountains around Lacaune.

Gavach est le mot occitan pour quelqu’un qui habite les montagnes, donc c’est le nom pour ce fromage fait dans les montagnes autour de Lacaune.

It’s good to know that from now on the days will get longer and the sun higher. The plants already sense it – the climbing rose has tiny new buds on it and the daffodils are coming up too.

C’est bon que les jours deviendront plus longs et le soleil montera plus haut pendant les semaines qui viennent. Les plantes déjà le devinent – la rose grimpante a des nouveaux petits bourgeons et les narcisses montent aussi.

daffodils ready for spring_1_1

>Winter salad / la salade d’hiver


I may have given the impression in my recent post on the changing shape of the garden – the garden changes shape – that there wasn’t much growing in the vegetable garden at the moment. But it’s just that winter crops grow lower than summer tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, they huddle near the ground for shelter, making the garden flatter. This morning it was cold, 3 degrees C, but we still managed to pick the ingredients for a salad from our garden:

winter salad_1_1

Salad of lettuce, rocket, chicory, spinach, sorrel, mizuna and oregano, all fresh from the garden today.

Une salade de laitue, roquette, endive, epinards, oseille, mizuna et oreganum, ramassés du jardin aujourd’hui.

Even in winter, we eat something from the garden every day. In the last week we’ve eaten leeks, turnips, chard, spinach, red cabbage, green cabbage, lettuce and mizuna.

Même en hiver, on mange quelque légumes du jardin chaque jour. Pendant la semaine dernière on a mangé: des poireaux, des navets, des épinards, des choux rouge et vert, de la laitue et du mizuna.

chard / blettes
rainbow chard_1_1 rainbow chard
mangetout peas
spinach / épinards
broad beans_2_1
broad beans / fèves

Some of the vegetables which are thriving in the garden in spite of the cold weather / quelques légumes qui poussent bien malgré le temps froid.

peas germinating_1_1
the peas are germinating / les petits pois germent
leeks 2nd crop_1_1
2nd crop of leeks doing well / 2ème récolte de poireaux poussent bien
the radishes taste good /
les radis sont bons
red cabbage_1_1
and the red cabbage leaves are beautiful / et les feuilles du choux rouge sont belles

I love the summer vegetables best – tomatoes, aubergines, artichokes, courgettes – but even in December there are still plenty of good things in the garden!

J’aime les légumes de l’été – les tomates, les aubergines, les artichauts, les courgettes – mais même en décembre il y a plusiers de bonnes choses dans le jardin!

>The garden changes shape / le changement de forme du jardin


At this time of the year the garden seems to change shape. It has lost the structures, the uprights, the tall tomato plants, peppers and aubergines, the spreading courgette plants of summer. There’s a lot of flat space – looking uninteresting perhaps, but waiting for spring and a new cycle of crops.

À cette saison le jardin change sa forme, il me semble. Il a perdu ses structures, ses hauteurs, les plantes grandes de l’été, les tomates, les piments, les aubergines, et les courgettes qui grimpaient le long de la terre. Il y a beaucoup de l’espace plate – sans intérêt peut-être, mais la terre attend le printemps et un nouveau cycle de culture.

space 1_1_1_1 space 2_1_1

A few months ago these plots were full of tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and courgettes. Now the ground has been cleared and the tomato plants have gone on the bonfire:

bonfire_1_1 dec sky 1_1 A good, still day for a bonfire, with a few feathery clouds.
cabbage leaf 2_1_1 cabbage leaf 1_1_1 cabbage leaf 3_1_1

I love the colours of red cabbage leaves / j’aime les couleurs des feuilles de choux rouges.

red cabbage   herbs_1_1

Red cabbage and pancetta / Choux rouge et pancetta

red cabbage   pancetta_1_1

I picked 4 or 5 of the outer leaves of the red cabbage to cook with pancetta. I cut the pancetta into small pieces and fried them in a heavy cast iron pan with a little olive oil, then I added the sliced red cabbage, a chopped clove of garlic and a little water and steamed them for about 10 minutes, until the water had evaporated. Serve with crusty bread. This simple dish is delicious when made with green cabbage too, a recipe first suggested to us by our son.

>Walking to the garden on Buy Nothing Day / Une promenade au jardin la Journée sans Achat


Today is Buy Nothing Day. The politicians want us to buy them out of the crisis by going shopping from now until Xmas, but it seems that we got into the crisis partly because people wanted to buy too much, so today we’ve bought only bread, nothing else at all. And to celebrate a day off from consumerism we left the car at home and walked to the garden. Inspired by Gintoino at Jardim com gatos in Portugal, I thought I’d take you with me past the old mill and up the hill [click on the photos to enlarge them]:

Ajourd’hui c’est la Journée sans Achat. Les politiciens veulent que nous achètions pour terminer la crise économique, mais il me semble que la crise est arrivée parce que les gens ont voulu acheter trop. Donc, aujourd’hui on n’a acheté que le pain. Pour fêter une journée sans consommation on a laissé la voiture chez nous et on est allé au jardin à pied. Inspirée par Gintoino du blog Jardim com gatos au Portugal, je vous invite de m’accompagner en passant le vieu moulin et en montant la colline [cliquer sur les photos pour les agrandir]:

garden walk 1_1_1 garden walk 2_1 garden walk 3_1_1
millstone_1_1 garden walk 4_1_1 garden walk 5_1_1
roses in winter_1_1 garden walk 6_r1_1_1 sedum on wall_1_1

At the top of the path … / en haut …

a winter view of the village / la vue de Gabian en hivergabian winter view_1_1

garden in winter_1_1_1

and our garden in winter / et notre jardin en hiver

I like the different ways people use to secure their gardens / j’aime les façons differentes de clôturer et proteger les jardins:

corrugated iron_3_1 rusty padlock_1_1
green door_1_1_1 red door_1_1

and the plants growing by the old stone walls / et les plantes qui poussent près des murs en pierre anciens

artichoke wall_3_1 garden steps_1_1
lichened roof_2_1
and the lichen ….
plane leaves_1_1_1
and the plane leaves.

>A winter miscellany / une collection diverse hivernale


Winter soup / La soupe d’hiver

All through the winter we have soup made from vegetables from the garden for lunch nearly every day.  It was cold this morning so we weren’t tempted to go out to the garden but I found some courgettes in the freezer from a summer glut.  I simmered them, with a chopped onion, a couple of bay leaves, a couple of cloves of garlic and a teaspoonful of salt, in water to cover for half an hour.  Then I added some white haricot beans and liquidised them all into a delicious soup.  I fried some lardons (bacon pieces) until they were crisp then added some cubes of bread and a chopped clove of garlic to make croutons, then served the soup with these and some bread from the boulangerie around the corner, made with unbleached flour from the Aveyron.  A good hot lunch for a cold day!

winter courgette soup_1_1 

Winter courgette soup

Tout au long de l’hiver à midi presque chaque jour, on mange de la soupe de légumes du jardin.  Il a fait froid ce matin, donc on n’a pas voulu sortir au jardin, mais j’ai trouvé des courgettes dans le congélateur.  Je les ai cuites au feu doux, avec un ognion coupé, deux feuilles de laurier sauce, deux gousses d’ail et un peu du sel, pour une demie heure.  Puis j’ai ajouter des haricots blancs et je les ai mélangés.  J’ai sauté des lardons et j’ai fait des croutons.  Après ajoutant une gousse d’ail coupée j’ ai garni la soupe avec les lardons et les croutons.  Un bon déjeuner chaud pour une journée froide!


I’ve put the latest batch of olives in brine in large 2-litre jars for the big ones and a smaller jar for the little ones.  They should be ready to eat in a couple of months’ time.

olives in 2-l jars_1_1

J’ai mis les olives à la saumure dans des bocaux grands de 2 litres, et les petites olives dans un bocal plus petit.  Elles doivent être prétes à manger dans deux mois.

Chilli peppers / Les piments rouges

We moved one of our chilli pepper plants to the house so that it wouldn’t be killed by the cold and the chillies are still ripening in the sun on the balcony.

red chilli 2_1_1

Nous avons mis une des plantes de piment rouge sur le balcon pour la proteger du froid.  Les piments continuent de mûrir.

And some good news from further south … / des bonnes nouvelles de l’Espagne …

Renewable energy / L’énergie renouvelable

According to today’s Guardian newspaper, a new power plant is being constructed near Sevilla in Andalucia, southern Spain. It will use mirrors to reflect the sun towards a water tower which will generate enough electricity for 11,000 homes. Each of the 1,000 mirrors is half the size of a tennis court and all have to be angled carefully to catch the sun’s rays. This method of energy production, known as concentrated solar power, clearly depends on sunshine and availability of large areas of land, so it will not work in cloudier, more crowded areas of the world – but there’s a hope here for the future and maybe countries in Africa, as well as southern Europe, will be able to benefit from this innovation.

And in Catalunya, it seems, even the dead can help … in the town of Santa Coloma de Gramenet near Barcelona the town council has erected 450 solar panels in the cemetery – enough to provide power for 60 homes.

>A winter’s day in November / Un jour d’hiver en novembre


It’s only mid-November, but today was a perfect winter’s day, with a cloudless sky and a cold north wind.  This is the kind of day I try to describe when people who live in northern climates ask me what winter is like in the Languedoc.  It’s dry and bright and the sun still feels hot so long as you’re out of the wind.

sky view_1_1

C’est mi-novembre, mais déjà c’est une journée parfaite d’hiver aujourd’hui.  Un ciel sans nuages et un vent froid du nord.  C’est la sorte de jour que j’essaye décrire quand quelqu’un qui habite un climat du nord me demande: ‘l’hiver dans le Languedoc, c’est quoi?’.  Il fait sec, la lumière est éclatante et le soleil est chaud si on est à l’abri du vent.

sun   olive_1_1 sun   olive 2_1 olive sky_r1_1_1

The low light shines through the olive branches, silvering the undersides of the leaves against the dark shadows and the bright sky.

garlic terracotta pots_1_1

Today was the right phase of the moon for garlic, so we planted ours around the terracotta pots which Kate has written about on Hills and Plains Seedsavers, 7 cloves around each pot.

Nous avons planté l’ail autour des pots en terrecuite duquels Kate a écrit sur le blog Hills and Plains Seedsavers.

lettuce seedlings 2_1_1  We planted the lettuce seedlings from the seeds Kate gave us.
red cabbage caulifflower_1_1 The red cabbages and the caulflowers are doing well, but the mizuna is struggling a bit against the snails.

Les choux rouges et les choufleurs vont bien, mais le mizuna se bat contre les escargots.

mangetout_1_1 I love sowing peas and broad beans – the seedlings come up looking so sturdy and hopeful.  A good omen that spring will follow the winter. broad bean_1