Two seasons in one



This morning I could see snow on the mountains to the north and mimosa flowering in the sunshine below the church in the village. Two seasons in one, the distant snow tangible in the cold wind and the first sign of spring in the yellow blossoms.

Pruning of the vines goes on through this month, next month and into March. It’s a cold job for the viticulteurs. An experienced vine grower can prune 500 vines in a day. This one has been pruned and is ready for the new spring growth when it comes.


Mimosa buds already

This morning after a cold night and an early frost on the roofs in the village, the sun felt warm, the birds were singing and some seemed to be nesting in a bay tree on the edge of the village.  This mimosa tree, whose flowers are one of the first signs of spring here, is already covered with small yellow buds that should open into flower in about a month’s time.

mimosa buds

With our family arriving tomorrow for New Year celebrations, I wanted to try the Lactarius deliciosus mushrooms I pickled a couple of weeks ago.  I simply took a few slices out of the jar, poured some olive oil over them and added some chopped parsley.  They were very good and would probably be even better with a little chopped garlic – definitely something we can offer to visitors!

pickled mushrooms

>Time to sow more broad beans


Today and tomorrow are said to be good days in the phases of the moon for sowing broad beans.  Conditions in the garden were good for this too, after rain at the weekend and the horse manure we’d spread over the bean bed the previous weekend.  We sowed the rest of a packet I bought last year of Sevilla broad (fava) beans, as well as some we had saved from last year’s crop.  The plants sown in the autumn are doing well and don’t seem to have suffered from the cold as they did in last year’s severe frosts.



The rosemary has been in flower all through the winter, the garlic is growing well and there is bright green new growth on the olive trees following the pruning.

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The chard and spinach plants seem to be starting to grow again, the red cabbages are hearting up and a few small turnips were ready to eat for lunch today.




In most of the vineyards around the village there was a lot of slow, cold work going on.  Each vine has to be pruned by hand, one at a time, between November and March, when the viticulteur/euse chooses which are the best shoots to bear this year’s crop.  In the picture below, these old vines (probably about 50 years old) have not yet been pruned.  In the background there’s an olive grove and a mimosa tree in flower.  A typical view of early spring in the Languedoc.


>Mimosa: the first sign of spring


Mimosa flowering in Bessan today. 


We saw several other mimosa trees with blossom in Roujan too, a couple of weeks earlier than last year and the year before.  Mimosa is usually the first of the spring blossom to appear here.  It is not indigenous to the Mediterranean but was brought from Australia and seems to have adapted well to the conditions and become a natural part of the spring colour in this region.

>Mimosa in the rain, and winter again



The weather isn’t very spring-like this week, but the mimosa is still flowering despite heavy rain which lay in puddles between the rows of vines, and filled the ditches and the cistern at the top of the hill above the garden.  We hope that soon the stream will start to flow again so that we can get free water for the garden when the weather gets warmer.

At the market this morning there were a few snowflakes in the air and a biting north wind.  Apart from leeks and cabbages and a few salad plants we have little in the garden at the moment, so we bought some vegetables and fruit from the market stall.


Now it’s time to sow our tomato and pepper seeds – we’ve put out the seed starter box from last year ready to use again and Lo Jardinièr is making some small cloches that we can put the germinated seedlings in, in the sun on the balcony (more on these later).  Last year we found that our pepper plants germinated very quickly but then we couldn’t keep them warm enough so the seedlings went into a state of suspended animation for weeks.  This year we’re hoping to keep them warmer.


>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.

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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.

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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.

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