>Sunday lunch in the garden / le diner de dimanche au jardin


For the past few weeks it’s been too hot to do much work in the garden, just watering (a lot), tying up the tomato plants and harvesting the produce. In a couple of weeks’ time we’ll have to start sowing the autumn and winter vegetables – lettuce, turnips, carrots – but it’s too hot now.

Depuis quelques semaines il fait trop chaud pour faire beaucoup de travail au jardin – on ne fait que l’arrosage (beaucoup) et la récolte de légumes. Dans deux ou trois semaines on commencera à semer les légumes d’automne et d’hiver – les salades, les carrots, les navets – mais en ce moment il fait trop chaud.

The garden is still a good place to entertain friends for a meal, though, as we did yesterday. / Le jardin est toujours un bon endroit pour inviter des amis pour manger, comme on a fait hier.


plenty of shade and a paddling pool borrowed from a neighbour / beaucoup d’ombre et une piscine qu’un voisin nous a preté.

We started the meal with prawns and aioli (I posted the recipe for this when I made it last summer – here). The only difference is that now I make it with an electric whisk – much easier!

Nous avons commencé par des crevettes accompagnées d’un aioli – voir la recette ici.

Grilled quail / les cailles grillées

For the main course we cooked something I’ve wanted to try for a long time: quails wrapped in vine leaves and cooked on the barbecue.

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I put a garlic clove and a sprig of time inside each one, rolled them in olive oil, salt and pepper, wrapped them in vine leaves and tied the parcels with thread. Lo Jardinièr cooked them for about 20 minutes over a wood and charcoal fire. The vine leaves blackened, as you can see, but inside the quail were tender and delicious.


With the quail we had baked vegetables – aubergines, courgettes, peppers, onions and tomatoes – garnished with basil and a squeeze of lemon juice and served cold, and Marseillette rice with coriander, cumin, onion, raisins and pine nuts.

We had a Roquefort and St Nectaire cheese and then a mirabelle (small plum) tart made with our neighbours’ fruit and recipe. The recipe will be on the Mediterranean cuisine blog.


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At the end of the afternoon, after a long lunch, we visited our friends’ garden where there is a beautiful old mill building which has been converted into a garden shed. And back in our garden to clear up, I noticed this butterfly on the dahlia. Another perfect Sunday!


>Taking shape / Prendre forme


The summer garden is taking shape as we’ve done a lot of planting during the past week or so.  We’ve planted out 62 tomato plants (20 Roma, 19 St Pierre, 8 Ananas, 8 Coeur de Boeuf and 7 Yellow pear).  Yes, we know that’s probably too many, but the seedlings were too good to throw away!  We’ve planted out 4 melons, 4 cucumbers, 16 peppers, 3 chilli peppers and 5 aubergines.  Now we only need the sun and a lot of water!

Le jardin d’été prend forme.  On a fait beaucoup de plantation pendant la dernière semaine.  On a planté 62 tomates (20 Roma, 19 St Pierre, 8 Ananas, 8 Coeur de Boeuf et 7 Yellow pear).  Nous savons que c’est probablement trop, mais les plantes ont été trop bons pour jeter!  On a planté 4 melons, 4 concombres, 16 poirvrons, trois piments et 5 aubergines.  On n’a besoin que de soleil et beacoup d’eau!

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and peppers

We added manure and compost to the ground for the peppers and aubergines and made irrigation channels alongside the rows.  Three of the pepper plants and all the aubergines are grafted onto tomato roots.  This makes larger more productive plants.  We’ve grown grafted aubergines before but this is the first time we’ve tried the peppers.

On a ajouté de fumier et de compost à la terre pour les poivrons et les aubergines, et on a fait des gouttières d’irrigation près des rangs.  Trois poivrons et tous les aubergines sont des plants greffés sur les racines de tomate.  Ça fait les plants plus grands et plus productifs.  Nous avons cultiver les aubergines greffés l’année dernière, mais c’est la première fois que nous cultivons les poivrons greffés.

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A view of one side of the garden: aubergines, climbing beans, courgettes, lettuces, peppers, tomatoes.

Une vue d’un côté du jardin: aubergines, haricots grimpants, courgettes, salades, poivrons, tomates.

It’s so exciting to see all the plants in place – I love this time of year!

In the rest of the garden / dans le reste du jardin

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cistus3_1_1 The cistus are flowering, inspite of the rain today. /
Les cistes fleurissent, malgré la pluie aujourd’hui.
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The olive trees are about to flower / Les oliviers sont à la pointe de fleurir.
The vine leaves are growing – nearly time to make dolmas! / Les feuilles de vigne poussent – c’est presque le temps pour faire les dolmas!
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We’re picking lots of broad beans – the longest was 31 cm.
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And this evening we’re going to eat our first potatoes of the year. / Et ce soir on mangera les premières pommes de terre de l’an.

water_1_1 Luckily the stream from the Resclauze spring is running well, so there is plenty of water for all our plants.  /  Heureusement le ruisseau de la Resclauze coule bien, donc il y a assez de l’eau pour tous les plants.

>Lemons, courgettes and morcilla / Citrons, courgettes et morcilla


Our own lemon tree has produced only three fruits, but lemons are cheap at the moment – 4 for 1 € in the market on Wednesday – so I bought eight to preserve, using two recipes from Catalan gardener’s blog. So it’s not my recipe, but I couldn’t resist putting the pictures on this blog – such a lovely colour!

Notre citronier n’a produit que trois fruits, mais les citrons sont moins chers en ce moment – 4 pour 1 € sur le marché mercredi – donc, j’en ai acheté huit pour faire les citrons confits selon les deux recettes de Catalan gardener.

I sliced five of the lemons, salted them and left them to drain overnight in a colander (left, below) / j’ai coupé en tranches cinq citrons, j’ai ajouté du sel et les ai laissé pour la nuit dans une passoire (à gauche).

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I quartered the other three lemons and rubbed salt into the cut surfaces, put them in jars and used Tomás Graves’s trick with the olives, a couple of bay leaves and a bay twig to keep them under the boiling water which I added to the jars. / J’ai coupé en tranches les trois autres citrons, j’ai mis du sel sur les surfaces coupées et des feuilles et brins de laurier sauce pour les garder au dessous de l’eau bouillante que j’ai ajouté aux bocaux.

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This morning I put the slices of lemon in jars and topped them up with olive oil – the two recipes produced four colourful jars for the preserves shelf. In a month’s time we’ll be able to start adding them to tagines. / Ce matin j’ai mis les tranches de citron dans les bocaux et j’ai ajouté de l’huile d’olive – et voilà, quatre bocaux aux couleurs vives. Dans un mois on pourra les ajouter aux tajines.

Sowing courgettes / Semer les courgettes

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Lo Jardinièr came up with another great recycling idea for the courgette seeds. The seeds are in compost in card centres from toilet rolls, held upright by plastic pots and then the pots are put inside 5 litre water bottles which have been cut in half to make a mini cloche for each pot, which can be put outside on the balcony when the seeds germinate.

Un autre truc de recyclage de Lo Jardinièr pour les semences de courgette. Les semence sont dans le terreau dans des centres des rouleaux de papièr hygiénique, et puis dans des pots que nous avons mis dans des bouteilles d’eau 5 litre, coupé en moitiés pour faire une petite serre individuelle.

And morcilla for lunch … / Et la morcilla pour déjeuner

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It was a nice surprise to find Spanish morcilla with pine nuts in the village shop this morning, so I made a warm salad of potatoes, sweet onions, spring onions, pickled garlic and sun dried tomatoes, with slices of fried morcilla, for a very good lunch with a glass of rosé from Domaine des Pascales in Gabian.

Une bonne surprise à l’épicier du village ce matin – la morcilla espagnole aux pignons. Donc j’ai fait une salade tiède de pommes de terre, oignons doux, oignons verts, ail confit aux tomates séchées, avec des tranches de morcilla poelées – un très bon déjeuner, avec un verre de rosé du Domaine des Pascales à Gabian.

Garden panorama / panorama du jardin

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>Some signs of spring / quelques signes du printemps


A few signs of spring in the garden today / quelques signes du printemps au jardin aujourd’hui:

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the first daffodil / la première narcisse

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a bee on the rosemary flowers / une abeille au fleurs de romarin

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apricot flower buds / des boutons d’abricotier

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red squid from the market, barbecued to eat in the sun / encornet rouge du marché, grillé pour manger au soleil

. . . . and not so good / . . . . et moins bon


the sounds and sights of building work over the garden wall / le bruit des machines du travaux à l’autre coté du mur

And, at home, the tomatoes are germinating / Et chez nous les tomates germent

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a small beginning to the gardening year!

>Old walls and spring growth / Vieux murs et la croissance de printemps


Archaeologists have found the remains of medieval walls on ground near the gardens where building work is scheduled to start soon.  The walls are part of the system of water mills and streams on the hillside.  Maybe the find will delay the building work … who knows?

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Les archéologues ont trouvé des vestiges des vieux murs mediévaux près des jardins où le lotissement va être construit bientôt.  Peut-être cette découverte retardera les travaux …?

Sowing tomatoes / Semer les tomates

Even when we’re away from home Lo Jardinièr can’t stop picking up recyclable materials.  In Uzès after the market on Saturday, he found on the pavement some polystyrene cases which had been used to carry shellfish.  He couldn’t resist picking them up and bringing them home – they’ll be very useful for sowing our tomato and pepper seeds in.

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Toujours le recyclage.  Après le marché à Uzès, Lo Jardinièr a trouvé des cartons de polystyrène sur le trottoir.  Il les a apporté chez nous pour semer les tomates et les poivrons.

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We divided one of these into four sections with thin strips of  wood(recycled, of course!) and sowed Roma, Coeur de Boeuf, St Pierre and Ananas tomatoes.  The Ananas seeds were from our own tomatoes last summer.

Next we’re going to make a heated seed starter box, using instructions from Mother Earth News – more on this soon.

Allotments in the UK / Les potagers en Grande Bretagne

Good news from the National Trust in Britain in today’s Guardian newspaper online.  The National Trust, the body which looks after historic buildings and land in the UK, is campaigning for an increase in vegetable growing and will be offering some of its land for the creation of 1,000 new plots.  I know that the effects of the global financial crisis can be tragic for some, but perhaps it will lead people back to their gardens and to valuing home grown vegetables, not just for economic reasons but for simple enjoyment of gardening and for the future of the planet.

More truffles / encore de truffes

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pommes de terres gratinées au truffe

Gratin of potatoes – pommes de terres gratinées – is one of our favourite dishes and last night I made one of the most delicious ever, using some of the truffle we brought back from Uzès.  I only wish I could include the scent of truffle in this photo!  Potatoes, butter, crème fraîche and truffle … it was wonderful!  The recipe will be on the Mediterranean cuisine blog..

>A weekend away and some rare treats / Un weekend de petits plaisirs


We spent the weekend in Uzès, near Nîmes, a beautiful old town of narrow streets and turreted buildings. One of the highlights of our stay there was the Saturday market in the arcaded place aux Herbes.

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Nous avons passé le weekend à Uzès, près de Nîmes, une belle vielle ville de ruelles étroites et de tourelles. Un des points forts de notre séjour était le marché à la place aux Herbes.

Under the arcade in one corner of the place we found La Maison de la Truffe – Uzès is a centre for the sale of truffles which grow under oak trees in the surrounding hills. I was shocked when I asked the price – over 700 € a kilo – but they are very light, so we were able to afford a couple of small ones as a treat.

Au coin de la place nous avons trouvé La Maison de la Truffe – Uzès est un centre de la production de la truffe. J’ai été étonnée quand j’ai demandé le prix – plus de 700 € le kilo – mais les truffes sont très légère, donc on en a pu acheter deux petites.

more truffles than we could afford
…. and one that we could
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thinly sliced (beautiful patterns)
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and added to pasta with melted butter, a treat when we got home.

And there’s still one small truffle left which I’m going to use in other dishes, and I’ll add a small piece to some olive oil to make truffle oil.

Vegetables stuffed with artichoke purée /

Les légumes farcis à la purée d’artichaut

We had some excellent meals in Uzès and one of the vegetable accompaniments which inspired me to experiment at home was a yellow pepper stuffed with a purée of artichoke hearts. In the summer I’ll make this with our own vegetables from the garden, but when I found a stall in the market selling ready-made artichoke purée – caviare d’artichaut – I couldn’t resist trying it with some courgettes and serving them today with olive bread from an organic bread stall.

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Trying to think positively about building development / En essayant d’être optimiste quant au lotissement

I was upset to see that the building work on land around the gardens has now started. Trenches dug ready for foundations and services. We’ve known this has been planned for several years, but seeing it happening was a shock today. I’m trying to be positive about it. We should still have the same uninterrupted view from the garden and we’re sheltered by old stone walls and bamboo. I tell myself I shouldn’t be selfish – people need houses and why shouldn’t they live on the hill next to our garden. I like having people around me, that’s why I live in the village rather than in an isolated rural house ….. but I find it hard to accept that a small village like Gabian with 700 inhabitants, can absorb the increase in population which an extra 100 houses will bring without changing its character. We’ll see.

Les travaux ont commencé sur le terrain autour des jardins. Vers 100 maisons. J’essaye d’être optimiste, mais c’est difficile d’accepter qu’un petit village de 700 habitants peut se developper sans changer son caractère. On vera.

Organic local food – the only hope for the planet / la nourriture bio et locale – le seul espoir pour la planète

If you haven’t already read it, you should read Kate’s recent post on Hills and Plains Seedsavers about the cost to the environment, to the planet and to all of us of industrialised agriculture. As Kate reports, it takes 10 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food using ‘conventional’ agriculture, whereas Producing food naturally, in your own backyard or close to home actually produces 10 calories of food for every 1 calorie put in to its production. How can we afford not to eat organic local food? There need to be huge changes in the way societies agree to produce food. Organic local food should no longer be seen as elitist and expensive – it has this reputation in developed countries, although it is considered normal in many other parts of the world. I can only hope that the global economic crisis can help to put a stop to the progress of large-scale food production and GM crops and begin a return to more rational methods.

L’agriculture globalisée et industrialisée prend 10 calories d’énergie pour produire 1 calorie de nourriture. La production naturelle, locale et biologique prend 1 calorie pour 10 calories de nourriture. Comment peut-on refuser la nourriture bio?

>First anniversary / Premier anniversaire


candle_1_1_1 It’s a year since I began the Olives and Artichokes blog at the start of the last gardening year.  One of my earliest posts was about planting our potatoes on the day after the full moon in February 2008.  Yesterday we did just that, again … the cycle of the seasons and the gardening year.

In my first post I hoped that the blog would be ‘a diary of what we learn’.  Well, it has become that, and a lot more too.  Writing the blog has been more involving – and taken more time – than I’d thought, but it has also brought unexpected rewards.  I’ve become part of a worldwide community of gardeners and like-minded people.  I’ve made friends, some of whom I’ve met, some of whom are still ‘virtual’ friends but no less real when it comes to exchanging ideas and advice.

Perhaps most importantly, writing the blog has encouraged me to think more about gardening, food and the environment.  Lo Jardinièr and I are still gardening for the same reasons as we always have done – because we enjoy it, because we like good food and because we believe that local, organic food is better for us and better for the planet.  But now we think through the issues and arguments more and we’re part of a ‘conversation’ that circles the world.

We’re looking forward to the next year of Olives and Artichokes and we hope that all our new and old friends around the world will continue to enjoy reading about our garden and food adventures as much as we enjoy learning about yours.

C’est le premier anniversaire du blog Olives and Artichokes et nous espérons que nos amis et nos lecteurs autour du monde continuent de apprécier l’histoire de notre jardin et notre cuisne autant que nous appécions les vôtres.

PS  Looking back at last February’s posts shows how comparatively cold this year has been and how late this spring is.  On 17 February I posted photos of almond blossom and apricot buds which were about to flower – there’s nothing like that yet this year.

>Snow and thoughts of spring / La neige et des pensées de printemps


Last night snow settled in Gabian – something we’ve never seen here before – just a light icing on the cars, roofs and plants in pots outside the windows. By the morning it had almost all gone.

Hier soir la neige est tombée à Gabian et elle est restée sur les voitures, les toits et les plantes dans les pots à l’éxtérieur des fenêtres. Ce matin elle est presque disparue.

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Although it was still cold, after the snow melted and the sun came out our thoughts turned to spring seeds and planting. We want to try some new varieties this year so from Kokopelli we ordered some pepper (capsicum) seeds which we haven’t grown before: Kandil Dolma – a Turkish bell pepper suitable for stuffing – and some long red varieties for salads and grilling and perhaps for drying: Italian Red Merconi, Lipstick, Corni di Toro and Kolesca. And from Seeds of Italy (Franchi) we’ve ordered Cavalo Nero (recommended by Michelle at From Seed to Table, Radicchio orchidea Rossa, Borlotto bean Lamon, some French beans – a dwarf Purple King and a climbing Smeraldo – and Raperonozolo Rampion. I’m especially excited about the last of these, the rampion, lo reponchon in Occitan, as it grows wild in the garrigue here and is mentioned by Max Rouquette in his poem, ‘La Lenga s’es Perduda’.

Bien qu’il fasse froid encore, après la neige s’est fondue et le soleil est revenu nous avons pensé des semences de printemps et de la plantation. Nous voulons essayer des nouvelles varietés cette année, donc nous avons commandé de Kokopelli des semences de poivrons que nous n’avons pas cultiver: Kandil Dolma un poivron turque qui est bon pour farcir, et des autres varietés pour les salades, pour griller et peut-être pour secher. Nous avons commandé aussi des semences de Seeds of Italy (Franchi) y compris Cavalo Nero (recommandé par Michelle de From Seed to Table) et Raperonozolo Rampion. Je suis ravie de trouver cette dernière varietée – le raiponce, lo reponchon en Occitan – qui est une des plantes de la garrigue, le nom de laquelle j’ai trouvé dans une poème de Max Rouquette, ‘La Lenga s’es Perduda’.

I can’t wait now for the seeds and the spring to arrive! J’attends avec impatience l’arrivée des semences et du printemps!

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And we have a lovely box full of vegetable seeds we’ve saved or friends have given us, some which Kate brought us and some Mizuna left from the packet Laura sent us. But any other suggestions are welcome. I learnt a new Occitan greeting this week – ‘Bon anada, plan granada!’, which means happy new year and may you have seeds for a good year. I think we have!

>Garden anniversary / l’anniversaire du jardin


On 4 January 2005 we signed the contract for the purchase of our garden and became its legal owners.  That day we made a short visit to the garden before we had to leave to return to Wales.  Today, on the fourth anniversary, we celebrated by having lunch in the garden, and now we can stay in Gabian and don’t have to leave.

Le 4 janvier 2005 on a signé l’acte du vente pour acheter le jardin.  Ce jour là on n’a passé qu’une demie heure au jardin avant de partir pour rentrer au Pays de Galles.   Aujourd’hui, on a fêté l’anniversaire quatrième.  Nous avons mangé là à midi et après le repas nous pouvons rester à Gabian.

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winter shadows 2005 (left) and 2009 (right)
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We had already been cultivating the garden since April 2004, with the permission of the previous owner, and had managed to grow a few salads while we were here for six weeks in the summer, to build the shed and plant an olive tree and a rosemary bush.

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January 2005
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January 2009, our first plant, the rosemary bush in the centre has grown enormously!
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New Year’s Day, 2005
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Today’s lunch

Looking at these ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures, I wonder how much we’ve done in the four years.  But then I remember all the wonderful vegetables we’ve had, especially during the last two and a half years when we’ve been living here all the time – 130 kilos of tomatoes in summer 2008, aubergines, peppers, cabbages, chard, spinach and so on ….  We’ve still got lots of work to do – there’s always work to do in a garden – and now that the days are getting longer and spring isn’t far away we’ll be making a cold frame, sowing seeds and preparing the ground for planting over the next few weeks.  An exciting time!

En regardant ces photos d’avant et d’après, je me demande combien nous avons fait pendant ces quatre ans.  Puis, je me souviens tous les légumes merveilleux, surtout pendant les deux ans et demi quand nous habitons à Gabian tout le temps – 130 kilos de tomates en été 2008, aubergines, poivrons, choux, blettes, épinards etc. …. Il y reste beaucoup de travail – il y a toujours du travail au jardin.  Les jours rallongent et le printemps arrivera bientôt.  Pendant les semaines qui viennent nous allons faire une serre, semer les semances et préparer la terre pour la plantation.  C’est du bon temps pour jardiner!

olive2_1_1_1_1 Our first olive tree when we planted it in 2005.  It’s still quite small now, but we have had 80 olives from it this year and we ate some of them last week in the garden.
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The first summer – 2004.  Mostly weeds!
garden may 08_1_2_1 Summer 2008

>Happy new year! / Bonne année


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.