A simple lunch and more spring flowers

mussels

Mussels bought from the van that comes to the village from Bouzigues, the bigger ones – à farcir (for stuffing) – cooked in a glass of white wine until the shells open.  Discard the empty half of the shell and add to each mussel a teaspoonful of fresh breadcrumbs, some chopped fresh garlic and some chopped oregano.  Grind some black pepper and pour some olive oil over them and put them under a hot grill for a few minutes, until the breadcrumbs start to brown.  Serve with lemon quarters and a glass of white wine.

Up on the hill above the village this morning I found this old shelter built into a wall next to an olive tree.  It would have given a goatherd or a shepherd refuge from the hot summer sun or the cold winter rain.

olive shelter 1

olive shelter 2

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A natural death?  I suspect not – I think this snail shell may be part of the remains of someone’s picnic lunch.

wild sweet pea

A lovely red and white wild sweet pea, growing against the wall near the shelter.

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And a wild salsify flower, tragopogon porrifolius.

Wild flower time

On a short trip into the hills just north of the village this morning I saw that, in spite of a cold north wind, spring is definitely in the air for the wild flowers. 

The asphodel flowers are just beginning to open:

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There are pink cistus and lavender flowers growing out of the rocks, it seems:

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and white cistus too (it’s not called rock rose for nothing):

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thyme growing between a rock and a hard place, at the side of the road:

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and common broom flowering next to Spanish broom which is about to flower:

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With the vines beginning to sprout fresh green leaves and the few deciduous trees in the valleys now in leaf, the countryside is beginning to change, to look more spring-like.

Spring festival

The tradition here in the Languedoc on Easter Monday is to go out into the garrigue to pick wild asparagus then light a fire to cook an omelette with it out of doors.  Like other traditions at this time of year it must have pagan origins and it is one that I’m very happy to observe.  We find wild asparagus in our garden, so it’s quite easy to collect enough for an omelette, which we did at lunchtime today.

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The mangetout pea plants are growing well and I put up their supporting netting this morning.  There are small broad beans coming now, but I’ll leave them for a few days longer.  And the haricot bean plants I sowed on 19 March are coming up too.  Other signs of spring in the garden today were: the Rose banksiae flowers

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the apple blossom

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and the cherry blossom

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I love this time of year!

New broom and a lizard

The signs of spring seem to be accelerating.  The broom is flowering up the hill from our garden, next of one of the ruined mills that used to grind flour but sadly have been left to tumble down.

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And I saw my first lizard of the year out in the sun on the garden shed.

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Other hopeful signs were the tiny leaf buds on the pomegranate tree we planted last year and were worried about during the cold weather, the apricot tree now covered with flower buds just about to open and grape hyacinths flowering.  At the house, we’ve been amazed by how quickly some of the tomato seeds having germinated – some of them taking only four days.

>Artichokes and a lot of spring flowers

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I picked three more artichokes this morning, making 9 in all this year, so the plants are doing much better than they did last year and there are plenty more still growing.

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It’s the most colourful time of the year in the garden and in the garrigue because all the plants flower now before dying down again when the weather gets too hot and dry for them from June onwards.

IMGP9374 IMGP9404 Cistus (left), poppies (above) and irises (right). IMGP9388

And because the irises look so lovely now and won’t last for long I took a lot of photos of them this morning:

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>Planting out the first tomatoes

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We’ve planted out 12 Roma plants (left) and 18 Languedocian plants so far….many more still waiting.
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The cistus flowers (left) each last only a day before the petals fall, but there are plenty of buds in the garden and in the wild in the garrigue.  The irises last a bit longer – these (centre) are in our garden, but they’re often planted along the edges of vineyards too.  The orange poppy (right) is in the garden too, and all the rough patches of ground between the vineyards are covered with the flowers of the red, wild ones.

>Spring flowers, new vine leaves and another lizard

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The vines are sprouting new spring growth in all the vineyards. We passed these near Roquessels this morning. And on the hillsides in the garrigue the asphodels, cistus, broom and thyme are all flowering.

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In the garden, the apple blossom is nearly over, but we had borage flowers to decorate our salad of broad bean leaves, rocket and mint. I can’t see any small fruits on the apricot tree, although there are lots of leaves, so I think that the sudden cold weather we had in March must have killed off the fertilised flowers. We had a lot of blossom in February on the apricot tree, and insects buzzing around the flowers, so we expected a reasonable crop, until the surprise snow arrived at the beginning of March.

A lizard in the sky

This lizard run up the wall of the shed and onto one of the supports for our shelter to bask in the sun.

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It’s been good weather for lizards. After an unusually cold spring, with that snow, it’s now unusually hot for April – up to 30 degrees C at midday in the sun – and very dry, although the stream is still running well down the hill past the gardens so we have plenty of free water.

Preparing to plant out the tomatoes

We have prepared most of the tomato beds and put up the cane supports for the plants. We’ve planted lettuce seedlings in between what will be double rows of tomatoes – the lettuces will get watered with the tomato plants, which will shade them a bit, and we’ll have eaten them by the time the tomato plants grow.

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The tomato plants on the right have been in the mini-greenhouse on the balcony and are now desperate for more space and light, so we’ll be planting them out in the next day or so.

>New broom

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Wild broom growing on rough ground near the garden

Wild orchid

The first vine leaves

Reservoir at the top of the hill, full for the first time this year
but swimming not allowed

Gabian, from the hill near the gardens

Potato update : 4 weeks since we planted the potatoes, the day after the last full moon, and it looks as though they are coming up more quickly than last year, with most of them now good-sized plants. Is it the influence of the moon? There are other variables – we’ve had more damp days this spring, more rain and these days have been interspersed with days of hot sunshine, making ideal growing conditions. But I’m willing to believe the moon has had some effect.