>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.

>September days / Les jours de septembre


The nights are getting cooler and the days shorter even though it is still hot during the day – up to 30 degrees C and we still haven’t had any rain! We’ve given up hope for the tomatoes as they just will not seem to ripen – maybe we can make something with green tomatoes. A couple of years ago Lo Jardinièr made green tomato jam which went very well with goats’ cheese.

It upsets me to spend too much time in the garden at the moment with the sound of the chainsaws felling the plane trees down the hill on the main road.

Les nuits deviennent plus fraiches et les jours plus courts, mème si il fait chaud encore pendant la journée – 30 dégrées C et il n’a pas plu. Les tomates ne mûrissent pas, mais peut-être on peut faire quelque chose des tomates vertes. Il y a deux ans Lo Jardinièr a fait de la confiture de tomates vertes qui accompagnait très bien le fromage de chèvre.

Ca me peine passer trop de temps au jardin en ce moment, en entendand le bruit des tranconneuses qui abbatent les platanes au fond de la colline.


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This morning I cut the basil and ground the leaves with olive oil, pine nuts and grated parmesan cheese to make pesto which we’ll eat with pasta. I’ve frozen some of the chopped leaves so that we can make pesto in the winter.

Ce matin j’ai aceuilli le basilic et j’ai moulu les feuilles avec de l’huile d’olive, des pignons de pin et du fromage parmesan pour faire le pesto pour accompagner les pâtes. J’ai congelé des feuilles hachées afin qu’on puisse faire du pesto en hiver.


We had one radicchio plant which didn’t get eaten by the snails and we ate some of it yesterday with salmon and courgette rice paper parcels and some today in a salad with the last cucumber of the summer.

On avait un plant de radicchio que les escargots n’avaient pas mangé. Nous l’avons mangé hier avec des nems de saumon et de courgette et aujourd’hui dans une salade avec le dernier concombre de l’été.

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And the vendange goes on / et la vendange continue

All around the village there are grape-picking machines in the vineyards and tractors pulling trailers full of grapes back to the domaines and the caves cooperatives. Winemakers are bottling last year’s wine to make room in the vats for this year’s new grapes. It’s an important time of year here.

Autour du village il y a des machines qui ramassent les raisins et des tracteurs qui tirent des remorques pleins de raisins aux domaines et aux caves cooperatives. Les vignerons misent en bouteilles le vin de l’année dernière pour faire de la place dans les cuves pour les raisin de cette année. C’est un moment très important ici.


A lorry with bottling equipment outside a cave. The wine is bottled inside the lorry, the bottles are corked, labelled and then packed into cartons to emerge on the blue conveyer belt, and the 2008 vintage is ready to sell.

>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 (www.vitsoe.com) 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.