Petition for permaculture

Since 2005 Richard Wallner has been developing 9 hectares of land in Charente in the west of France, following the principles of permaculture. In keeping with this he would like to construct a home and other farm buildings on his land so that he doesn’t need to use energy to get to work. He is supported by local politicians, including Françoise Coutant, the Green vice-president of the Poitou-Charente regional council. But the mayor of Wallner’s commune refuses to grant planning permission.  If you support his efforts to create an organic farm, producing and selling ecologically friendly eggs and vegetables, you can sign a petition here.

If you understand French and have a few minutes to spare, there’s a lovely video of Richard Wallner explaining how he cultivates his land, the joy he feels in working with nature to do this and his aims to create an ecologically friendly farm in all senses: to use renewable energy and ecological building materials as well as organic methods of food production; and to create a model for others in rural communities to follow.

In a world that is rapidly running out of fuel and cannot feed large numbers of its people, this kind of local initiative and example seems to me to represent the only sustainable future.

Breaking the rules

As I’ve said before and discussed more fully when this blog was in its other place a few years ago, I don’t believe that beef production is sustainable.  Unlike lamb, pork and poultry production, for example, which can be beneficial and necessary to the agricultural cycle (although I know it isn’t always), raising beef cattle is too wasteful of the earth’s resources to be acceptable.  So I don’t eat beef very often…..but rules are there to be broken and when the weather is as cold as it is now there is nothing like a beef casserole for providing much needed warmth.

Some of the juniper berries in my photo yesterday were for a marinade for some stewing beef.  I added them to some red wine, chopped carrots and garlic, a couple of bay leaves, some ground pepper and a sliced echalotte onion and left the pieces of beef in this marinade overnight.  Today I added some more wine and a little salt, brought it all to the boil and simmered for about two and a half hours, adding some black olives for the last hour or so.  It’s ready now to be re-heated and served with rice for supper tonight:


Today’s harvest

It has suddenly turned cold and windy and after some rain yesterday we didn’t need to water the garden.  We’d intended to eat our lunch there, but it was too chilly for that so we just did some work with the tomato plants – tying them and pinching out sideshoots because they are growing so quickly now – and picked vegetables.


A basket full of lettuce and chard ….


the chard again, some haricot beans and some last stragglers of mangetout peas, which are nearly over now.


And in just five minutes or so we picked nearly a kilo of griottes (sour cherries) from our neighbour’s tree, at his invitation.  I’ve put a few in a jar with sugar and Armagnac to leave in the cupboard for at least six months until they make a delicious fruit-filled liqueur which makes a good digestif.  We ate a few of the cherries for lunch, but although they have a good flavour they are quite tart.   Most of them went into a pan, stoned first, with the same weight in jam-making sugar to make three pots of jam.

Global food justice

Today Oxfam UK launched a campaign for global food justice.  I was alerted to it by Blipfoto, the photo journal site on which I post a daily image, when it was suggested that we should have a virtual global picnic to help promote the Oxfam campaign.  This was my contribution (and a very good lunch too):


All the food and wine in this photo except the slice of lemon (from Spain) comes from the village where I live or the nearby sea.  The global food and environmental crisis is something I think about a lot, and have written about on my food and gardening blogs for several years. In order to help change the world, we in western countries have to accept that our lives must change and that we cannot continue to exploit developing countries for our needs. As my small contribution to this, I try to eat only food that comes from within 100 kilometres of where I live and I grow as much of my own as I can.

We shouldn’t expect developing countries to grow the products which make our lives easier or more pleasant, at the expense of those people’s needs. An article in yesterday’s Guardian by Felicity Lawrence highlighted the problems of people in Guatemala who grow palm oil for biofuels so that people in rich countries can feel less guilty about driving their cars while the workers themselves are unable to feed their families properly.

Apart from concern about my carbon footprint, sustainability and my share of the earth’s resources, I have selfish reasons for eating local food – it tastes so much better if it hasn’t travelled long distances and especially so if it’s been grown in our own garden!

>World Food Day


There are serious food issues affecting developing countries and many parts of the world where people do not have enough to eat. According to the United Nations one-sixth of humanity is undernourished. In the developed world the issues are more to do with over-consumption and waste of the earth’s resources. Sometimes it seems as though there is little that an individual can do. But I think that growing as much as we can of our own food and buying food that is locally produced are important small steps that each of us can make, to conserve the earth’s limited resources and to minimise exploitation of people in the developing world. You can find out more about World Food Day here.

Big commerce is bad for food. This is my 201st post on this blog and, on World Food Day, I would like to make it a celebration of local food. In our village we’re lucky to have a weekly market, an excellent épicerie (grocer’s shop), a small supermarket, a boulangerie (baker’s shop) and visiting vans which sell meat and shellfish.

DSC09355 The charcuterie stall at the Wednesday market. DSC09433
The butcher’s van on Friday morning.
The boulangerie – bakery.
The épicerie – grocer’s shop, full of good food and friendly advice.

We, and anyone else who lives here, can buy all we need in the village. It is excellent quality, good value and much of it is produced locally. We find we need go to supermarkets only to buy toiletries and Italian coffee. In Roujan, a larger village 2 km away, there are two excellent butchers who sell an enormous range of good meat and, best of all, will advise on how to cook it, as well as other friendly small shops.

But the small shops in Roujan, and maybe Gabian too, are threatened by the construction of a supermarket there.

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This is the site of the planned supermarket where, as in Gabian, more plane trees have been felled to make another new roundabout at its entrance.

This is bad news for food. In the UK it has been shown that when a supermarket is built on the outskirts of a town it sucks the lifeblood from the centre. The food sold in supermarkets is mass-produced and generally of lower quality than that in small shops. It is transported long distances, wasting resources and causing pollution. Because of their centralised distribution systems supermarkets cannot support local food as well as small shops can. And the profits made leave the area, feeding big business rather than being ploughed back into the locality.

And local wine …


This evening we went to a tasting to celebrate the arrival of the primeur wine at the Cave Co-operative at Neffiès. The vin primeur is the first of the year’s wine to be ready to drink, a light wine which takes only three weeks or so to make. It’s a good reason for a party and the tasting at Neffiès was fun, with roasted chestnuts (another seasonal local product) to eat with the wine, and live music. The cave at Neffiès has recently amalgamated with the one at nearby Alignan-du-vent (a sign of the times and the economic crisis in wine-making), but we were pleased to hear that some of the high-quality wines from Neffiès such as their Cathérine de Juery will continue to be made.

Hot roasted chestnuts to accompany the new wine.
Tuning up for the music and wine tasting.

And home to a local supper

We came home from Neffiès to a supper of roast saddle of lamb, bought in one of the butcher’s shops in Roujan, and aubergines stuffed with tomatoes, both grown in our garden. A delicious local supper! We marinaded the saddle of lamb with rosemary, garlic and lemon juice for a few hours, then roasted it, adding a glass of white wine to the roasting dish, until it was just done and still a bit pink inside. We served it with halved aubergines topped with chopped tomatoes, garlic, thyme and olive oil and baked in the oven.


Bilingual blog / le blog bilingue

Over the next few weeks I shall not have time to write my blog posts in French as well as English. I’ll resume the French version as soon as possible, but in the meantime I apologise for not being able to produce a bilingual blog.

Pendant les semaines qui viennent je n’aurai pas le temps pour écrire les articles sur ce blog en français. Je reprendrai la version française aussitôt que possible, mais pour le moment je m’excuse de ne pas produire un blog bilingue.

>Carbon footprints / Empreintes de carbon


There’s a campaign in the UK and the rest of the world for everyone to reduce their carbon footprint by 10 per cent by 2010. It something small which we can all do for the future of the planet, even though I believe that politicians have to take a much bigger role in this.

Il y a une campagne pour la réduction d’émissions de carbon de tout le monde par 10 pour cent avant 2010. C’est quelque chose que tout le monde peut faire pour l’avenir de la planète, mème si les politiciens doivent prendre un role plus important.

I used the calculator on the website Carbon footprint to calculate our footprint and found that Lo Jardinièr and I are each responsible for 4.74 tonnes of carbon emissions per year:

House 0.41

Flights 0

Car 1.16

Bus & rail 0.06

Secondary 3.11 (food, entertainment, clothes, etc.)

J’ai calculé sur le site Carbon footprint et j’ai trouvé que chaqu’un de nous deux, Lo Jardinièr et moi, sommes resonsable pour 4.74 tonnes d’émissions de carbon par an. La moyenne pour la France est 6.2, mais il faut réduire ce chiffre pour le monde entière à 2 tonnes pour sauver la planète.

Our problem is that we already lead a comparatively low-carbon life, so that it’s difficult to find ways we can reduce it further. The average for France is 6.20 tonnes, for the UK it is 14 and for all industrialised nations it is 11. We can’t let these figures make us feel complacent, though, since the target – what we must do to save the planet – is 2 tonnes per person.

There are some suggestions for cutting emissions on the Guardian website – here. I’ll be reading through them carefully to see what we can do. / Il y a des suggestions (en anglais) pour réduire les émissions de carbon sur le site du Guardianici.

While I’ve been writing this it has started to rain! We hope it will be enough to make a difference to the garden, as we’ve had no proper rain for three months.

>August harvest and preserving tomatoes / La récolte d’août et conserver les tomates


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Yesterday’s harvest. The Borlotti beans are infested with some kind of grub and we had to throw away about a third of them. I cooked the good ones and put them into a tomato sauce which we’ll eat cold as a salad tomorrow. I’ve made the Roma tomatoes into tomato purée, using the method I used last year. It saves space on the shelves since two big trays of chopped tomatoes were reduced down to five jars.

Le récolte d’hier. Les haricots Borlotti ont une sorte de larve dedans et on a dû en jéter un tiers. Je les ai cuits et les ai mis dans une sauce tomate pour manger fraiche comme une salade demain. J’ai fait de la purée de tomate avec les Romas, la mème recette de l’année dernière.


I made chutney with the courgettes, using a recipe from MaryAthenes’ blog, which you can eat with meat or cheese like a vegetable. I just cut the courgette and onion into pieces, added spices – cinnamon and paprika – and sugar and a jar of last year’s tomato passata, covered with red wine vinegar and simmered it for about an hour, then put it into sterilised jars. I made a similar chutney using the aubergines.

J’ai fait du chutney en utilisant la recette du blog de MaryAthenes, qu’on peut manger comme un légume avec de la viande ou du fromage. J’ai fait un chutney pareil avec les aubergines.

Chillies / Piments rouges

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The red chillies are hanging in the sun to dry. / Les piments rouges sont suspendus pour secher au soleil.

Mussels again / Les moules encore

Tonight we had mussels with Roquefort cheese. We cooked them as usual in a little white wine with some sprigs of thyme and savory, then added chopped Roquefort, some chopped garlic and crème fraiche. They were very good. I had red wine from Roquessels with them, Lo Jardinièr had rosé wine from Gabian.

Ce soir nous avons mangé des moules au Roquefort. Nous les avons cuites comme d’habitude avec un peu de vin blanc et des brins de thym et de sariette. Puis nous avons ajouté du Roquefort coupé en petits morceaux, de l’ail haché et de la crème fraiche. C’était très bon.


For dessert, the melon in the photo above, with a glass of muscat wine. / Pour dessert, le melon dans le photo dessus, accompagné d’un verre de vin de muscat.

The Guardian environment blog has returned to the question I linked to last week, of whether organic food is nutritionally better than non-organic. After this evening’s supper I am even more convinced than ever that locally grown and produced, sustainable food tastes better and that, as well as the effect of what I eat on the environment, is what matters to me. No food which was full of pesticides and had been transported around the world could ever taste as good as these local mussels, local cheese, local wine and fruit we grew in our garden.



Following our problem with too many courgettes a couple of weeks ago, we now have another nice problem – a lot of aubergines!  /  Suite à notre problème de trop de courgettes il y a deux semaines, maintenant nous avons un autre bon problème – beaucoup d’aubergines!


They’re difficult to photograph … / elles sont difficile de photographer …

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but on five plants we have about 45 aubergines of different sizes.  /  Mais sur cinq plants nous avons vers 45 aubergines de differents grosseurs.

They’re the tastiest we’ve ever grown and we’re eating them fried, frittered, barbecued and puréed to make baba ganoush.  Now that the tomatoes are ripening we’ll be making jars of ratatouille or chichoumeille to store for the winter.  /  Elles sont les plus savoureuses que nous avons jamais cultivé et nous les mangeons poelées, grillées, en beignets et en purée pour faire le baba ganoush.  Les tomates murissent maintenant donc on va faire la ratatouille ou chichoumeille en bocaux pour garder pour l’hiver.

DSC07501 The cherry and yellow pear tomatoes look good in a bowlful of Occitan colours!  /  Les tomates cerises et jaune poire sont bonnes dans un bol plein de couleurs occitanes!



Last week I picked our first Borlotti beans to add to a salad (the recipe is on the Mediterranean cuisine blog).  I think I picked some of them too early, though, as the beans hadn’t developed their speckled appearance.

La semaine dernière j’ai ramassé les premiers haricots Borlotti pour ajouter à une salade (la recette est sur le blog de la cuisine mediterranéenne). Mais je les ai ramassés trop tôt,

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The pods should look like the one above rather than the greener one below.  / Les cosses doivent être comme celle au dessus, pas plus verte comme l’autre.

One thing we won’t be doing with any of our produce is wasting it or throwing it away.  Our friend Drew who comments on this blog sometimes has sent me a link to a horrifying collection of photographs on the Guardian website which show some of the food which is thrown away every day.  What a terrible waste!  Anything we can’t eat we give away, freeze or preserve in some way.  One photo which made me exclaim out loud showed tomatoes, courgettes and peppers thrown out by an organic shop in Sussex – ‘Why not make ratatouille?’ I shouted at the screen!  I think that especially when you grow your own food you value it more because you know the effort that has gone in to producing it.  But it’s ingrained in me – my ancestors on both my parents’ sides of the family were poor country people who couldn’t afford to waste food.  I still have my great-grandmother’s wooden bread board with the words ‘Waste not’ carved around the border.

>Another Cuban link / Un lien cubain encore


I’ve mentioned before the amazing efforts that Cuba has made to develop self-sufficient organic agriculture due to the economic isolation it has experienced since the collapse of the Soviet system in 1990.  Cuba has had to make the sort of adjustments to industry and agriculture which we will all have to make as oil production declines over the coming decades.  Putting political arguments aside, there is much to admire here.  The country has progressed from reliance on imports and industrialised, chemically fertilised agriculture and horticulture to locally based organic fruit and vegetable production.  In the capital city, Havana, 50 per cent of the food needed for the population is produced within the city in community gardens and roof terraces.  In smaller towns 80 to 100 per cent of food is grown within 5 km.

Depuis l’effondrement du système Sovietique en 1990, Cuba doit développer un système d’agriculture biologique et autosuffisant.  À Havana, la capitale du pays, ils produisent 50 pour cent de la nourriture dans la ville, dans les jardins communitaire et les terraces.  Les villes plus petites produisent entre 80 et 100 pour cent de leurs besoins alimentaires.

On the Guardian gardening blog today I found the link to this film about what is happening in Cuba: The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.  It’s quite a long film – about 50 minutes – but it’s worth watching because it shows what can be done by people faced with the energy crisis which all developed and developing countries will certainly face very soon.  Most importantly, I think, the film shows the importance of communities, of people working together for each other as well as themselves.  As Patricia Allison, a permaculturalist, says in the film:

It’s not the technology, it’s the human relationships …

I hope that, if one good thing comes out of the current economic crisis, it will be an end to the culture in developed countries where people get into their cars and drive to a supermarket to buy their food, and that more people grow their own food or buy locally produced sustainable food, helping and supporting each other, as they do in Cuba.

Sur le blog du jardinage du Guardian aujourd’hui, j’ai trouvé le lien pour ce film autour de l’agriculture en Cuba: The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.  C’est un film long, mais ça vaut la peine parce qu’il montre ce qui est possible dans une crise de l’énergie et surtout l’importance des communautés dans lesquelles les gens travaillent ensemble pour les autres ainsi que eux-mêmes.  Patricia Allison, une permacultrice, dit dans le film:

Ce n’est pas la technologie, c’est les relations humaines ….

J’éspère que la crise economique va apporter la fin de la culture d’aller aux grandes surfaces en voiture pour acheter la nourriture.  J’éspère que encore de gens cultiveront leurs jardins et acheteront la nourriture locale et durable, comme ils font en Cuba.

>Local food again / La nourriture locale encore


Lo Jardinièr and I spend a lot of time talking about and eating local food. We try to eat food which is produced as locally as possible, and much of it comes from our own garden. We do try not to get obsessional about it, though, and Lo Jardinièr often points out that some trade between communities and between countries is essential. It’s unrealistic to expect people in the twenty-first century to have the way of life which was common in rural areas during the nineteenth century. We’ve both read an interesting book by Gillian Tindall, Céléstine, about life in the Berry region of central France 150 years ago. Tindall discovered from letters written at the time that people in the village of Chassignolles very rarely went to the nearest town, La Châtre which was only 7 km away. The only things they needed to buy there were needles for sewing. Everything else was produced in the village. This kind of self-sufficiency is almost impossible to imagine now.

Nous essayons de manger la nourriture locale et beaucoup de légumes qu’on mange vient de notre jardin. Mais, le commerce est necessaire. En outre, vivre comme les gens du dix-neuvième siècle c’est peu réaliste. Nous venons de lire un histoire d’un village dans le Berry il y a 150 ans, Céléstine, de Gillian Tindall, qui raconte la vie du village de Chassignolles donc les habitants ont visité la ville de La Châtre très peu, seulement pour acheter les aiguilles. Tous leurs autres besoins étaient produit dans le village.

Kate at Hills and Plains Seedsavers has recently been writing about local food, too. With the eyes of someone new to French markets she has remarked on things which we sometimes take for granted, like the fact that almost everything you buy here is marked with its département of origin. In the markets here in the Languedoc very locally grown fruit and vegetables are marked ‘pays’, meaning the countryside around, or even the name of the village or small town near which they were grown, like the grapes from Clermont l’Hérault.

Kate a écrit sur le blog Hills and Plains Seedsavers au sujet de la nourriture locale. Une australienne en France, elle a remarqué des choses que nous ne remarquons plus, comme les départements d’origine de tous les produits qui sont indiqués sur les marchés.

Our aim is to eat mostly food which is produced within 100 km of Gabian, but to allow ourselves some foodstuffs, most importantly coffee, which come from further away. Sometimes during the winter I can’t resist buying an aubergine which has come from the south of Spain and we eat citrus fruits from Valencia and dried fruit from north Africa, which I tell myself is almost local, just the other side of the Mediterranean. We’ve always eaten a lot of rice, occasionally Basmati rice from India, but since we’ve been living in Gabian mostly from Spain and Italy and the Camargue (about 100 km away), which I thought was the nearest rice production area. So I’m very excited to have found an even more local rice producer in Marseillette which is only 80 km away.

riz de marseillette_1_1_1 rice marseillette 1_1 Duo of red and white rice, cooked

Je suis ravie de trouver un producteur de riz qui est très proche – 80 km de Gabian à Marseillette dans l’Aude.

La Rizière de l’Etang de Marseillette

Laurent Malis grows long grain, red grain, round grain and whole grain rice in what was once a salt water lagoon which was drained at the beginning of the nineteenth century. His website has all the details (in French) of the area, the range of rice he grows and recipes. And, best of all, the rice is delicious!

Laurent Malis cultive le riz à Marseillette, sur un étang qui a été asseché en 1808. Le site Internet a des renseignements sur la gamme de riz, le terroir et des recettes. Et le riz est délicieux!

Lamb and aubergine casserole with rice / Casserole d’agneau et d’aubergine au riz

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I made a casserole with some pieces of breast of lamb, onions, garlic, white wine, paprika and tomato passata. When it was nearly ready I added some reconstituted dried aubergine slices which we grew last summer, and served it with the Marseillette rice.

The recipe for this casserole will be on the Mediterranean cuisine blog. La recette sera sur le blog Mediterranean cuisine.



This was a very local dish. We made tapenade with some of the olives given to us in November by friends who live about 4 km away. We cured the olives and they are now ready to eat. You can add anchovies to tapenade, but this is a simpler recipe. We removed the stones from the olives, leaving about 300 gm of olive flesh. I chopped 3 cloves of garlic and some parsley in the food processor, added the olives and processed them, then added the juice of half a lemon, a couple of tablespoonfuls of olive oil and some salt. Et voilà! Serve the tapenade with lemon wedges and crusty bread or toast. These olives give it a lovely reddish colour.

>Dydd Gŵyl Dewi / St David’s Day / La fête nationale du pays de Galles



Today we’ll be celebrating by serving the Welsh dish cawl (a soup or stew of lamb, leeks and potatoes) to a party of our Occitan friends.

Aujourd’hui on fête la Saint-David en servant le plat gallois cawl (le ragout d’agneau et des légumes) pour nos amis occitans.

cawl 1_1_1

The main ingredients of cawl are meat, leeks, onions and potatoes. In the hills of west Wales, where my family comes from, it is usually made with ham or with lamb. The high land there is so poor that it can only be used for raising sheep, and all smallholders would have kept a pig as well, as a way of recycling waste. Potatoes, leeks, carrots and onions would have been grown in the garden or in a small field. This is the ultimate sustainable food – as most peasant dishes are, the world over. In more fertile areas of south Wales, where the land is good enough for dairy farming and cattle-rearing, cawl is made with beef.

Les ingrédients principals du cawl sont la viande, les poireaux, les oignons et les pommes de terre. Sur les collines de l’ouest du Pays de Galles, d’où vient ma famille, on fait le cawl avec l’agneau ou le jambon. Le terrain haut est si pauvre qu’il ne supporte que les moutons, et tous les paysans élévaient des cochons aussi – un façon de recyclage. Les pommes de terre, les poireaux, les carrottes et les oignons poussaient dans les potagers ou dans les petits champs. C’est la nourriture durable, comme la plupart de plats paysans autour du monde. Dans les régions plus fertile au sud du Pays de Galles ils font le cawl avec le boeuf.

The recipe for cawl is simple: just put lamb (or ham), potatoes and carrots in a large pan, cover with water, add salt, pepper, bay leaves and parsley, bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour. Take out the lamb and remove the meat from the bone. Cut into 2 cm chunks and return to the pan. Add chopped leeks and simmer for a further half an hour. Serve, garnished with chopped parsley, with a good tasty farmhouse cheese and some crusty bread. Quantities depend on how much meat you’ve got – this is a good dish for making meat go further as you can use less meat and more vegetable. Some of the meat should be on the bone as this makes a better stock, and some of the meat should be quite fatty – to create a ‘starry’ effect on the surface of the cawl.