Figs and dates

The figs I hung up to dry in the kitchen last month are dry now and only a few have fallen down during the weeks they’ve been there.  I tried one today and it was sweet and not too dry, as I’d feared they might be.  I haven’t stored them before, so I’m hoping they will be all right in this tin for a couple of months.


It’s raining at last!  It makes the day dismal and grey, but the rain is very welcome for the garden where we’ve been unable to make our usual autumn sowings of broad beans and peas because the earth was just too dry to work.  In the rain, the dates on this palm tree seemed to shine in the gloom.


The dates don’t mature into edible fruits here, as they do in North Africa, but they look bright and colourful on a rainy day.  I noticed an invader too – this small plant was growing between the old leaf stems on the trunk of the palm.


>From a frosty garden


We’ve had a couple of very cold nights, below freezing with frost in the garden.  Not nearly as cold as further north, and no snow here at all, but it’s still been quite wintry.  There were a few olives left on our Lucque tree, that weren’t quite ripe when we picked the others, but they seem to have gone rather mushy as though they’ve been affected by the frost, although I’d be surprised at this since some varieties aren’t harvested until January and there are almost always freezing temperatures before then.

Red cabbages and cauliflowers
The artichoke plants will soon recover
IMGP3790 Lettuce, which will also recover, we hope. IMGP3791-1 This little radicchio plant looks completely unaffected by the cold.
IMGP3798 The frosted aubretia  leaves looked pretty in the sun. IMGP3799 The broad beans have been protected by the layer of bamboo leaves.
Frost melting on the palm leaves.
IMGP3802 Low sun sparkling through the fence.

And the building work goes on

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Above right, two big machines and a lorry…. it’s very noisy in our garden now.  Above left, you can see how close the work is to the garden.

>Clearing away the summer


This morning the sky over the garden was cold and grey with the sun trying to break through the clouds.  The sun did come out later, but it was time to clear away the Roma tomato plants anyway.

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Some of the tomatoes will ripen, the others we’ll use to make green tomato jam which we’ve found goes very well with cheese, especially goats’ cheese.


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The broad beans and peas are coming up well.  We put the straw over the rows to conserve water, but I don’t think it’s really necessary any more.  Although we haven’t had a lot of rain lately the soil is very damp.


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A friend went to the Spanish border at Le Perthus and brought us back this bunch of over 100 Spanish sweet onions to plant.  They should be the first onions to be ready to eat in the spring, before the local Lezignan sweet onions.  The excitement of planting these and seeing the peas and broad beans coming up compensates a bit for the sadness I always feel in autumn as the days get shorter and the weather gets colder.

We’re lucky here, though, to have a second spring in autumn, when it rains and plants start to grow again and to flower after dying back during the dry summer.


DSC09920 The rosemary is covered with flower, although the pyracantha looks quite christmassy! DSC09922


DSC09937 DSC09933 Our little palm is a Washingtonia, which is hardy here so it doesn’t need to be wrapped up for winter.  There are new leaves growing from the centre (above).

>After the storm / après la tempête


The storm which rushed across southern France and northern Spain, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, yesterday was the worst for ten years, with winds of up to 150 kilometres per hour. We were warned to stay indoors and high-sided vehicles were forbidden from using the roads. Sadly, at least 15 people were killed during the storm, by falling trees and buildings, including four children in the Catalan town of Sant Boi Llobregat.

La tempête qui a fait rage à travers le sud de la France et le nord de l’Espagne, de l’Atlantique à la Mediterrannée. hier éatit la plus forte pour dix ans, avec des rafales de vent de 150 kilometre par heure. On nous a conseillé de rester chez nous et les grands camions étaient interdits sur les routes. Malheureusement, au moins 15 personnes ont étés tuées pendant la tempête, y compris quatre enfants à Sant Boi Llobregat en Catalogne.

Although Gabian was only just outside the red alert zone, we were lucky here and suffered little damage. When we went to the garden this morning we were surprised to find it just as we left it before the storm. It was a beautiful, calm, clear day – hard to believe what the weather had been like only 24 hours earlier!

Bien que Gabian soit juste dehors du zone d’alerte rouge, on avait de la chance ici, et il y avait peu de dommage. Quand nous sommes allées au jardin ce matin, nous étions étonnés de trouver tous comme avant la tempête.

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The passion fruits were still ripening on our shelter. We had worried that this shelter might have been damaged by the wind, but luckily the whole garden is sheltered from the north and north-west (the direction of the storm) by trees and 4-metre high bamboo.

Some of the palm leaf fronds had been woven together by the wind:

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The rosemary was flowering and we sat in the sun making plans for the coming seasons in the garden.

Le romarin fleurait et nous avons passé du temps assis au soleil en faisant des projets pour les saisons qui viennent.

>Water, water …

>Weve had an unusual amount of rain here in the past week – three whole days and nights. Its very welcome, filling the reservoirs, garden water butts and most importantly topping up the water table which is under stress due to global warming and a rapidly increasing population. The Languedoc is the area of France with the fastest growing population and even a small rural village like Gabian isnt immune to these changes. From the point of view of water the problem seems to be that many of the incomers (as well as some local people) want to have lawns in their gardens – which will need a huge amount of watering for most of the year – as well as swimming pools. Holidaymakers want golf courses, which are equally unsuitable in this climate. Its a different way of life from that of the inhabitants of small village houses with their more modest needs. There are plans to build nearly 100 houses on land next to the gardens … we hope that this wont have too disastrous a long-term effect on the water table.

In Vailhan, a small village nearby, they still use the old irrigation system for their very neat gardens. A central reservoir overflows through pipes and ditches to the gardens and metal gates in the channels can be moved across to divert the water from one plot to another.

The water course along the path through the gardens at Vailhan.

Metal gate which can be moved to divert water along another channel.

In Gabian we have an informal version of this, with a stream flowing down from the spring at the top of the hill, the Resclauze, and gardeners using hosepipes to take water to their plots. For the last few years this stream has dried up completely for months on end and weve had to rely on the metered mains water. Recently the water has started flowing again (see the picture at the top of this post), so we hope it will continue through the summer this year.

Shelves… what have these to do with the garden?

In the garden were always conscious of water use and future shortages. Our new shelves for the study arrived this week and were pleased that the loose-fill packaging which Vitsoe ( used in the cartons is compostable and seems to soak up and hold a lot of water. Ive put some of it straight in to trenches Ive dug for broad beans and peas, watered it well and mixed it with manure, then put the soil back on top. The rest of the packaging will go on the compost heap.

This is the second sowing of broad beans and peas – the beans I sowed in November are already flowering, I was surprised to see.

We’ve also unwrapped our palm tree from its winter protection. Since November we’ve been protecting the growing point in the centre from sub-zero temperatures as it was its first winter in the ground. Its leaves unfurled slowly in the sunlight and it now looks almost back to normal, with new leaves growing well. We haven’t had many frosty nights this year. If there’s any more cold weather forecast we’ll wrap it up again, but it seems as though winter is over now.

Palm leaf

and the radicchio which has given us salads all winter.

All the blossom seems very early this year. The almond is always the first and that’s over now. Our nectarine and apricot trees are in flower already – the apricot a month earlier than a couple of years ago. One of the worries when they flower this early is that there won’t be enough insects to fertilise them, but this bee seems to be doing what it should. Now we just hope that we don’t get any strong winds – last year we lost a lot of small fruits that way.