Terribly House and Garden


For the next few weeks our living room will make me think of ‘Design for Living’, a song by Michael Flanders and Donald Swann – which is worth listening to, or revisiting if you want to be amused by their wit (it’s the third song in this link, about 6 minutes in).  Our house, even at this time of year when it is full of newly germinated seedlings, is a little more restrained than no. 7B, but as from today we’ll have the heated seedling box under the bookshelves.  At the moment it is gently warming trays holding nine varieties of tomato seed:


St Pierre

Coeur de Boeuf

Andes long



Gabian breakfast (this is a variety that we unwittingly created from saved seeds last year – we’re not sure what will come from the seeds we collected)

Red cherry

Yellow pear

As soon as these have germinated we’ll start the pepper seeds.  I love this time of year – so exciting starting the new season’s crops!

My post about the heated seed starter is here, first posted on my old blog so the photos may not fit properly (it’s also a reminder for me of when I had time to write my blog in French too!).  The box works well and this will be its fourth season.

And it’s International Women’s Day.  If you’re interested, please have a look at the Newington Green Action Group’s website to read about the campaign to commission a sculpture to honour Mary Wollstonecraft.


>Dry / Sec


Usually, after a dry summer, we have rain here at the beginning of September. This year we’re still waiting. The garden needs it. / Normalement, après un été sec, il pleut au début de septembre. Cette année on l’attend toujours. Le jardin en a besoin.


Will it rain soon? Maybe not. Clouds come over from time to time, but no rain falls. / Pleuvra-t-il bientôt? Peut-être non. Les nuages passent au-dessus de nous de temps en temps, mais la pluie ne tombe pas.

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The plane trees / Les platanes

Day after day we’ve heard the chainsaws and seen the lorries taking away the felled, healthy trees. There is an emptiness where they’ve been cut down which I can’t bear to photograph yet. Everyone we talk to is upset about it.

Jour après jour on a entendu les tronçonneuses et on a vu les camions en emportant les arbres sains abattus. Il y a un vide à coté de la route qui je ne peux pas photographier encore. Tout le monde dit que ça les fait mal.

We think the chainsaws disturbed a hive of bees, as a swarm passed frighteningly close over us in the garden the other day. It‘s not the usual time of year for swarming. / Nous pensons que les tronçonneuses ont troublé une ruche d’abeilles, parce que un essaim sont passé très proche au-dessus de nous au jardin. Ce n’est pas la saison pour essaimer.

We’ve found that shield beetles are attacking our tomatoes. There doesn’t seem to be an effective organic way to get rid of them. We are starting to pick some good tomatoes again, though, and luckily the flowers in the garden are a more cheerful sight. / Nous avons trouvé que les punaises attaquent les tomates et il semble qu’il n y a pas une façon biologique de les tuer. On commence à ramasser encore des bonnes tomates, et heureusement, les fleurs au jardin sont plus joyeux à voir.

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Two morning glories which seem to glow with their own light, and a pelargonium.

>After the thunderstorm / Après l’orage



The sky above the garden this evening. /  Le ciel au-dessus du jardin ce soir.

We had thunderstorms yesterday and the night before, but not enough rain for the garden, and it hasn’t really cleared the air properly.  /  On a eu des orages hier et la veille, mais il n’a pas plu assez pour le jardin.

So this evening we had Campari sodas and then barbecued sardines while we watered. / Donc, ce soir on a pris des Camparis et puis des sardines grillées pendant qu’on arrosait.

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The tomatoes are still ripening very slowly – last year in August we were picking at least 1 kilo a day, but today there were none ready to pick.  It’s very strange, since we have had so much sun.

>Drought, sunshine and tomatoes slow to ripen / La secheresse, le soleil et les tomates qui murissent lentement


Most years here there is a thunderstorm and heavy rain around the middle of August, traditionally on the 15th which is a holiday.  It hasn’t happened yet.  We haven’t had any real rainfall since the beginning of June, the stream which runs from the spring at the top of the hill above the gardens, La Resclauze, has been dry for weeks and the reservoir at the top of the hill is very low.  We have had very hot weather, too – 37 degrees C in the day and 23 at night.

Normalement il y a un orage et de la pluie forte vers le 15 août.   Ça n’est pas arrivé cette année.  Il n’a pas plu depuis le début juin, le ruisseau qui coule de la source au sommet de la colline au-dessus notre jardin, La Resclauze, est sec depuis des semaines et il n’y a pas beaucoup d’eau dans le bassin au sommet.   Il a fait très chaud aussi – 37 dégrees le jour et 23 la nuit.



The water is about a metre higher than this when the reservoir is full.  /  L’eau est vers un metre plus haut quand le bassin est plein.

Why won’t the tomatoes ripen? / Pourquoi les tomates ne murissent pas?

It’s strange, but this year in spite of very hot weather and long sunny days, the tomatoes are ripening very slowly and there don’t seem to be as many of them as usual.  The other gardeners have found this too. 

C’est étrange, mais cette année, malgré le temps chaud et les journées ensoleillées, les tomates murissent très lentement et il semble qu’il en y a moins.  Les autres jardiniers ont trouvé ça aussi.



The Roma tomatoes are doing well and we’ve made a lot tomato purée with them.  / Les tomates Roma murissent bien et nous avons fait beaucoup de purée de tomates.



And the cherry tomatoes are good too.  We’ve let them ramble across the ground as tomatoes do naturally.  /  Et les tomates cerises sont bonnes, aussi.  On a laissé les plants grimper à la terre comme les tomates dans la nature.


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But the St Pierres are ripening very slowly and there are not many of them higher up the plant.  /  Mais les St Pierres murissent très lentement et il n’en y a pas beaucoup en haut sur les plants.


This old Languedocien variety has tasty fruits, but very few of them.  They seem to be drought-resistant, though, as you’d expect from a local variety.  /  Cette variété languedocienne a des fruits très saveureux, mais très peu.  Les plants resistent la secheresse.

DSC08172 DSC08199 We’ve planted some lettuce for the winter and shaded them from the sun with bamboo.

>Sunday lunch in the garden / le diner de dimanche au jardin


For the past few weeks it’s been too hot to do much work in the garden, just watering (a lot), tying up the tomato plants and harvesting the produce. In a couple of weeks’ time we’ll have to start sowing the autumn and winter vegetables – lettuce, turnips, carrots – but it’s too hot now.

Depuis quelques semaines il fait trop chaud pour faire beaucoup de travail au jardin – on ne fait que l’arrosage (beaucoup) et la récolte de légumes. Dans deux ou trois semaines on commencera à semer les légumes d’automne et d’hiver – les salades, les carrots, les navets – mais en ce moment il fait trop chaud.

The garden is still a good place to entertain friends for a meal, though, as we did yesterday. / Le jardin est toujours un bon endroit pour inviter des amis pour manger, comme on a fait hier.


plenty of shade and a paddling pool borrowed from a neighbour / beaucoup d’ombre et une piscine qu’un voisin nous a preté.

We started the meal with prawns and aioli (I posted the recipe for this when I made it last summer – here). The only difference is that now I make it with an electric whisk – much easier!

Nous avons commencé par des crevettes accompagnées d’un aioli – voir la recette ici.

Grilled quail / les cailles grillées

For the main course we cooked something I’ve wanted to try for a long time: quails wrapped in vine leaves and cooked on the barbecue.

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I put a garlic clove and a sprig of time inside each one, rolled them in olive oil, salt and pepper, wrapped them in vine leaves and tied the parcels with thread. Lo Jardinièr cooked them for about 20 minutes over a wood and charcoal fire. The vine leaves blackened, as you can see, but inside the quail were tender and delicious.


With the quail we had baked vegetables – aubergines, courgettes, peppers, onions and tomatoes – garnished with basil and a squeeze of lemon juice and served cold, and Marseillette rice with coriander, cumin, onion, raisins and pine nuts.

We had a Roquefort and St Nectaire cheese and then a mirabelle (small plum) tart made with our neighbours’ fruit and recipe. The recipe will be on the Mediterranean cuisine blog.


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At the end of the afternoon, after a long lunch, we visited our friends’ garden where there is a beautiful old mill building which has been converted into a garden shed. And back in our garden to clear up, I noticed this butterfly on the dahlia. Another perfect Sunday!

>More tomatoes and courgettes / Encore de tomates et de courgettes


The tomatoes seem to be ripening more slowly than last year and our records confirm this.  We have picked 35 kilos so far.  By this time last year we’d picked 48 kilos, but the Monte Carlo plants which we grew last year were more productive than the St Pierre we are growing for our main crop this year.  Today’s harvest was 6.5 kilos of Roma tomatoes.  I used about 4 kilos to make four more jars of tomato purée, using the same method as I did last year.

Les tomates murissent plus lentement que l’année dernière.  Nous avons ramassé 35 kilos au lieu de 48 kilos au mème temps l’année dernière, mais les St Pierre de cette année sont moins productives que les Monte Carlo de l’année dernière.  La récolte d’aujourd’hui est 6.5 kilos de tomates Roma.  J’en ai fait de la purée de tomates avec 4 kilos, la mème recette de l’année dernière.

I’ve cut some of the others in half, salted them and laid them out on kitchen paper in a fruit box to dry in the sun.  Last year this didn’t work as the air wasn’t dry enough, but the next few days are forecast to be hot and dry, so I thought I’d try it again.

J’ai coupé des autres tomates en deux.  J’ai ajouté du sel et je les ai mises sur du papier de cuisine dans un cageot, pour les secher au soleil, parce qu’ils annoncent des belles journées sèches et ensoleillées.


I’ve also got a bowl full of aubergines and another of courgettes, but I’ll be using these tomorrow to make chichoumeille (ratatouille) for a lunch on Sunday when we’ve invited some friends to join us in the garden (more on this meal in a few days’ time, I hope).  I used a few of the courgettes to make a very simple dish for our lunch today:

A simple courgette recipe / une recette simple de courgettes

Cut two or three courgettes into long pieces and roast in the oven in olive oil, mixed with some oregano and salt.  When they are nearly done (after about 20 minutes) add some lardons (small pieces of bacon) to the pan.  Cook some pasta and add the courgettes and lardons and some finely chopped garlic and mix.  Serve with pepper and grated cheese.

Couper deux ou trois courgettes en morceaux and les faire cuire au four melangés avec de l’oreganum, du sel et d’huile d’olive.  Quand ils sont presque cuits (après environ 20 minutes) ajouter des lardons.  Faire cuire des pâtes à l’eau bouillante et ajouter les courgettes et les lardons et de l’ail haché et mélanger tous.  Servir avec du poivre moulu et du fromage rapé.

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Lo Jardinièr made a salad with Ananas tomatoes, basil and garlic.  A glass of red wine too, and we had a delicious simple lunch.

Lo Jardinièr a fait une salade de tomates Ananas,  de basilique et de l’ail.  Un verre du vin rouge, et voilà!  Un déjeuner simple et délicieux.

>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.

>A perfect Sunday lunch / Un déjeuner parfait du dimanche


One of many, of course ….



A glass of rosé from Domaine des Pascales in Gabian, cucumber from the garden, carrots from our neighbour’s garden and olives (from a shop). / Un verre du vin rosé du Domaine des Pascales, Gabian, du concombre de notre jardin, des carrottes du jardin de notre voisin et des olives (achetées dans un magasin).

First course / entrée


Sweetcorn from our neighbour’s garden grilled on charcoal – the photo of the cooked ones didn’t come out very well, so here they are as they came off the plant). / Du maïs du jardin de notre voisin.

Main course / plat principal


Barbecued lamb chops and courgettes, cucumber and yogurt salad with red wine from Domaine Estève at Roquessels. / Côtes d’agneau et courgettes grillées, salade de concombre et du yaourt et du vin rouge du Domaine Estève, Roquessels.

Salad / salade


Borlotti beans, sweet onion and tomato salad. / Salade d’haricots Borlotti, oignon doux et tomates.

Cheese / fromage


Goats’ cheese from Mas Rolland, near Gabian. / Fromage de chèvre de Mas Rolland, près de Gabian.

And a little desert / et un petit dessert


A friend gave me the fruit from her small citrus tree – not a kumquat, but a bit like it – which I crystallised and dried in the oven. / Une amie m’a donné les fruit de son petit orangier – pas le kumquat, mais qui le rassemble un peu – que j’ai fait confire.

A very good lunch after we’d spent the morning bottling tomato sauce and making tomato purée for the winter. It’s nice to see the shelves filling up with jars again!

>Plane trees update / Les platanes – mise à jour



At a meeting in the village this week the mayor and the technical staff involved in the project to cut down the plane trees seemed willing to compromise at least. They are willing to consider keeping the trees on one side of the road, while felling those on the other side so that there is room for a pavement and a central reservation in the road. This last ‘improvement’ is said to be necessary to slow down traffic and protect cyclists, but some of us think that there are other, less destructive ways of doing this.

À un réunion cette semaine il a semblé que le maire et les responsables techniques étaient prêts à faire un compromis – de garder les platanes à un côté de la route et d’abattre les autres pour faire un trottoir et un terre-plein au centre de la route pour faire ralentir les voitures.bien que quelques uns entre nous pensions qu’il y a des autres moyens moins destructifs de faire ça.

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It will be sad to lose half of the remaining trees, but better than losing them all. Although some say that they are dangerous because speeding drivers crash their cars into them sometimes, I would say that is not the fault of the trees. In fact it has been found that when the trees are felled drivers go faster because the trees provide an illusion of speed which makes drivers slow down.

Plane trees are not native to the Mediterranean region, but they do adapt well to the dry conditions and shade the roads in summer.


This plane tree at St-Guilhem-le-Désert not far from here is said to be the biggest in France. I took this photo a few years ago when we visited the village. / Le plus grand platane en France à St-Guilhem-le-Désert.

This whole project of road ‘improvements’ and tree felling will have to be watched carefully to make sure that no more trees than is necessary are destroyed. We need to keep these old trees which were planted over 100 years ago – for the sake of the environment and the character of the village. It is an old village and some of the older inhabitants have long memories of these trees. Most of us do not want a ‘suburban’ look imposed on a rural wine-making village.

Summer harvest / La récolte d’été


We’re harvesting a lot of tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers and aubergines now. We’ve made ratatouille to preserve for the winter. / On ramasse beaucoup de tomates, courgettes, concombres et aubergines maintenant. On a fait de ratatouille pour garder pour l’hiver.

The biggest courgette in this photo was hiding under the leaves so we’d let it grow too big – it was almost a marrow, but still sweet and tender. Lo Jardinièr cooked it this evening: cut it up and roasted it with sweet onion, roughly crushed the pieces, added thyme, garlic and cubes of feta cheese and put it back in the oven until the cheese browned. We ate it with tomato and basil salad. A delicious supper!

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Courgette, cuite au four avec d’oignon doux et du fromage feta et du thym, et servie accompagnée d’une salade de tomates et basilic.



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.