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We’ve potted about 50 plants, with the Marmande and St Pierre still to do when they’re ready.

And small two lemon trees we’ve grown from seed we found sprouting inside a lemon a year or so ago were ready to go into bigger pots.

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The pepper seedlings aren’t quite ready to go into pots yet:


And paella for lunch…

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>After the full moon / Après la pleine lune


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This morning as the moon set behind the hill at 7.45 a.m., it was clearly waning, slightly less than a full circle of light above the Mediterranean pines.  According to the Gardeners’ Calendar, today was a good day to plant potatoes.

La lune s’est couchée derrière la colline à 7.45 ce matin.  On a pu voir qu’elle décroit, elle était un peu moins qu’un plein cercle de lumière au-dessus des pins mediterrannéens.  Selon le Gardener’s Calendar, aujourd’hui était du bon temps pour planter les pommes de terres.

We had already prepared the ground, so we planted most of our potatoes.  There are a few left to plant later.

On avait déjà préparé la terre, donc on a planté la plupart de nos pommes de terre.  Il y en restent quelques unes pour plutard.


Last night friends came to supper and I made ragout d’escoubille, an Occitan stew of pork, chicken, sausage, vegetables and olives.  I used the Lucques olives we were given by these same friends in November, which are now ready to eat.

Hier soir nous avons invité des amis et j’ai préparé le ragout d’escoubille, un plat occitan du pork, poulet, saucisse, légumes et olives.  J’ai ajouté les olives lucques que ces amis nous ont donné en novembre qui sont prêtes à manger.


We served the ragout with oak-aged Chateau des Adouzes 2000 red wine – a good strong-flavoured accompaniment for this dish.  The recipe for ragout d’escoubille is on the Mediterranean cuisine blog.

On a servi le ragout avec du vin rouge du Chateau des Adouzes 2000 veilli au futs de chêne.  La recette du ragout d’escoubille est sur le blog Mediterranean cuisine.

Our first ever lemon! / Notre premier citron!

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Today I picked our first ever lemon.  It’s small, but wonderful, and two slices of it went very well in gin and tonics this evening!

>Making a cold frame / construire une petite serre


It’s hard to believe in the cold weather we’re having that we should be sowing tomato, pepper and courgette seeds very soon. Some of our neighbours have done this already. In preparation for all this spring activity, Lo Jardinièr has been making a cold frame.

C’est difficile de croire qu’on doit semer les tomates, les poivrons et les courgettes bientôt. Quelqu’uns de nos voisins l’ont déjà fait. En vue de toute cette activité de printemps, Lo Jardinièr construit une petite serre.

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Some friends gave us two crates, one of which we decided to use as the basis of a cold frame, and a couple of weeks ago we trimmed the bay tree in the corner of the garden so that it won’t shade the finished frame.

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Now all that needs to be done is to fill in the sides with planks of wood and polythene sheeting. We’re especially pleased because it has cost nothing at all to make – we’ve used only recycled materials that people have given us or that we had lying around, things …

handle_1_1 …like this piece of metal salvaged somewhere by Lo Jardinièr from a previous life as a curtain rod holder. It makes a very good handle for the top of the cold frame.

Another one for Melinda’s Buy Sustainable challenge, I think.

Soon, we hope, the cold frame will be full of thriving seedlings!

Bientôt, on éspère, la serre sera pleine de plants à croissance rapide!

Lemons at last! / Des citrons enfin!

Our three lemons – our first ever – have ripened very slowly during the cold weather, but at last they are turning very yellow, rather than yellowy-green. Very soon I’ll pick one, slice it and add it to a gin and tonic!


>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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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lemon flowers/ fleurs de citronnier
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the Vinca has flowered all winter/  a fleurit tout l’hiver
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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!

>La Sainte Cathérine


On the French calendar, provided for us each year by the local fire service, today 25th November is Sainte Cathérine’s day.  And the saying which everyone here repeats whenever tree-planting is mentioned is: À la Sainte Cathérine tout bois prend racine.  On Saint Catherine’s day all wood takes root.  This is the season for planting trees and shrubs.  We’ve already planted two cherry tree cuttings, a fig tree and our lemon tree.  Today on this special day for planting we put in a Pyracantha coccinea shrub, which will have red berries.

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Pyracantha coccinea
Pyracantha coccinea_1_1 Pretty red stems and dark green leaves

Aujourd’hui, la Sainte-Cathérine, en suivant le dicton ‘ À la Sainte Cathérine tout bois prend racine’, nous avons planté un buisson de Pyracantha coccinea.

The lemon tree seems happy in its new sunny corner, the flowers are opening and the fruit is ripening.  We’ve covered it with a sort of ‘tent’ for the next few days as cold nights are forecast.

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Le citronier va bien dans son coin ensoleillé.  Les fleurs ouvrent et le fruit mûrit.  Nous l’avons couvert d’une sorte de ‘tente’ pour les prochains jours parceque des nuits froids sont prévues.

Today’s harvest / Le moisson d’aujourd’hui

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Leeks, turnips, rosemary, oregano and sage

poireaux, navets, romarin, oregane, sauge

>Last of the peppers and more olives / Les derniers poivrons et encore d’olives


Today we picked all the remaining green peppers, most of them quite small, but any night now the temperature may drop below freezing and we’d lose them all. I’ve pickled the smallest ones whole in a mix of 1 cup white wine, 1 cup red wine vinegar, 1 cup of sugar, with bay leaves and thyme. I’ll fry the three bigger ones with some onion and tomato as a vegetable dish for our supper tonight.

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Aujourd’hui nous avons ramassé tous les poivrons qui restaient. La plupart étaient petits, mais à cettte saison la température peut tomber au-dessous de zéro et nous en perdrions tous. J’en ai conservé les plus petits entiers dans un mélange d’une tasse de vin blanc, une tasse de vinaigre de vin rouge et une tasse de sucre, avec des feuilles de laurier sauce et thym. Je vais sauter les trois poivrons plus gros avec d’oignon et de tomates pour notre dîner ce soir.

More olives! / Encore d’olives!

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Lucques olives
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Small olives – could be Tanche (Nyons variety) or Arbequina (a Spanish variety)

Some kind friends have given us several kilos of their olives, mostly Lucques and a bowlful of tiny black ones which may be Tanches – the variety which is grown in Nyons in Provence – or Arbequinas, a Spanish variety of small olive. They are all soaking in spring water while we look for enough big jars to pickle them in.

Des amis très gentils nous ont donnés quelques kilos de leurs olives, des Lucques et un bol d’olives noires très petites qui peut-être sont des Tanches – la varieté de Nyons en Provence – ou des Arbequinas, une varieté espagnole d’olive petite. Je les trempent dans l’eau de source pendant qu’on cherche assez de grands bocaux pour les conserver.

Lemon tree / Le citronier

In the garden today I sowed peas while Lo Jardinièr made a space for our lemon tree in a sunny corner of the garden. It was getting too big for its pot, so we’ve planted it in the ground in a sheltered spot with stakes around it so that we can easily cover it to protect it from cold weather. I hope it will be all right – it has our first three lemons on it, one of which is ripening!

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Aujourd’hui au jardin j’ai semé des petits pois, pendant que Lo Jardinièr a arraché les mauvaises herbes pour créer une place pour notre citronier dans un coin ensoleillé du jardin. C’était trop grand pour le pot, donc nous l’avons planté dans la terre dans un endroit à l’abri du vent. Lo Jardinièr a mis des pieux autour du citronier pour le proteger du temps froid. J’éspère qu’il va bien – il a nos premiers trois citrons, un de lesquels mûrit!

According to Hugh Latymer in The Mediterranean Gardener, the lemon tree is much less hardy than the orange tree and can stand temperatures down to only -3 C. It can get colder than that here occasionally, but we hope to be able to protect our tree by wrapping it when very cold weather is forecast.

Selon Hugh Latymer dans The Mediterranean Gardener, le citronier est moins résistant au froid que l’orangier et peut supporter une température de -3 C. Il fait plus froid que ça ici de temps en temps, mais on éspère de le protéger avec de la voile d’hivernage quand il fait très froid.

>September storm / orage de septembre


Gabian, 2130h, 4.9.08

Yesterday evening the big thunderstorm which has been threatening for a few days finally arrived. For over an hour, just after dark, the sky was full of flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder, rain and hail fell, battering the windows so hard that I thought the glass would break.

Hier soir le grand orage qui nous a menacé pendant quelques jours est enfin arrivé. Pour plus dune heure, juste après la tombée de la nuit, le ciel était pleine déclairs et de roulements de tonnerre. La grêle et la pluie battaient les fenêtres si fort que jai pensé que les vitres auraient cassées.

We worried about the vines in the area. The vendange (grape harvest) has started, but most of the grapes are still on the vines. Hail can damage them. This morning at Domaine des Pascales we were told that the damage had not been bad around Gabian, but perhaps was worse further up in the hills at Fos, Neffiès and Faugères.

On avait peur pour les vignes de la région. La vendange a commencé, mais la plupart des raisins restent sur les vignes. La gréle peut les abîmer. Ce matin au Domaine des Pascales on nous a dit quil ny avait pas beaucoup de dommage à Gabian mais peut-être cétait pire sur les collines à Fos, Neffiès et Faugères.

There was less damage than wed feared in our garden, too.

Heureusement il y avait peu de dommage dans notre jardin.

The rainbow chard was a bit battered, but it will recover:

There are more big tomatoes ripening, which will be ready to pick in the next day or so:

Our three lemons are still on the tree / nos trois citrons restent sur le citronier:

And a pepper is ripening – we’ll have to make sure the thief doesn’t get this one / et un poivron mûrit – il faut nous assurer que le voleur ne le prenne pas!

Not so good for the grapes, perhaps / pas très bon pour les raisins, peut-être

But it’s been nice weather for frogs – mais il a fait du beau temps pour les grenouilles:

>Planting summer

>The chard has had to go, the first sowing of peas too. Theyve both been productive – and this year weve had the best crops ever of broad beans and peas, perhaps because the spring has been relatively wet. But the chard is about to bolt, the peas are all eaten or in the freezer and we need the space for the summer planting.

Weve planted 40 tomato plants so far, a mix of Carmelo, Montecarlo, Coeur de Boeuf, ananas (a new variety for us, but an old traditional one which is popular here), and Roma, which we found last year was very good for preserving. Weve also planted 18 pepper plants of different varieties, some cucumber plants and courgettes. Weve still got to find space for chilli peppers and cherry tomatoes. We’ve had to buy a lot of these plants as the ones we sowed grew so slowly in the cold spring we’ve had. We’ve planted the tomatoes and peppers in long beds with a raised dyke around them to keep the water in, and support frames made from the bamboo which grows at the edge of the garden.

This iris flower was opening as we ate our lunch in the garden today.

The lemon tree is covered in flower.

This cistus flower lasted a day … it was there yesterday, petals like crumpled tissue paper, today the petals lay on the ground around the plant. There’ll be more soon.