From The Forest
I tried harvesting rosehips and dried them to make an infusion, but in
researching all their uses, I found they are best harvested after the
first frost, so decided to wait before making jam. Here they are known as
cynorrhodon – they grow wild in the fields and in sunnier parts of the
forest, and vary greatly in size. We discovered strawberry trees or
‘arbousier’ while following a little-used path to another mas, the berries
were just starting to turn from orange to red, and are also used to make jam.
In The Garden
The garden shed is finished, thanks to Frédéric’s skills as a handy man or
‘bricoleur’. We now have a place to store seeds and protect the garden tools,
as well as a potting bench and room to grow seedlings – a mini ‘serre’ or
hothouse that will be warm enough in the summer months due to its clear
plastic roof. It is recycled – made entirely from old wooden pallets,
each one pulled apart so the planks could be used – and a window and
door that had also been thrown away. It follows the angle of the stone
wall with its inbuilt aquaduct sytem, and for the moment, encloses the
strawberries that grow in it – they love the warmth the stones retain.
The Pumpkin Harvest
Our first pumpkin harvest produced four and we were so proud, until we
saw the fifty or so that Frédéric’s uncle and aunt produced. They are
more common as animal feed here, but everyone has now been introduced
to pumkin soup and changed their opinion.
As a result of ‘getting carried away’ when planting seeds we had a
fine lettuce patch and gave many away, as they were all ready
around the same time. This year we plan to add more varieties and
stagger their growth.
As the melon season is finishing elsewhere, ours are ready and as they
ripen they detach automatically. We planted cavaillon and they are
juicy and perfumed – a little smaller than when grown commercially,
but nonetheless very rewarding. They are often halved and served as
an entrée; the recess of the deep orange coloured interior filled with
muscat de Rivesaltes.
An Abundance of Tomatoes
The sweet cherry tomatoes make a quick and easy pasta sauce – cooked
whole with garlic, échalotes and fresh herbs (I also add lemon juice)
they store well in sterilised jars, or in the freezer.
Exploring The Region
Taking advantage of the warmth as ‘the holiday season’ ends we head to
the coast with our snorkels and fins (ou palmes et masques). The warm
waters team with fish, and scaling the cliffs down to a ‘crique’ (une très
petite baie, a very tiny bay) we can enjoy a tranquil haven for the day.
Cadaqués, Costa Brava, Spain
I never imagined we would swim in the ocean at the end of September.
We crossed the border into Spain to fill our gas bottle, and as the
weather was so lovely, kept driving to Cadaqués – a picturesque haven
on the Costa Brava with its rambling pedestrian streets and sheltered
bays, gleaming white, with bougainvillea and embellished with fine
ceramics – its architecture has long held me captive. I sketched a
waterfront villa in September 1998 (very rough drawings in my travel
journal) and was happy to discover it newly restored as we followed the
stone path that now hugs the sea – Catalan barques bobbing with the
current and the breeze.
Mina has decided she prefers the comfort of indoors when she is not
following the sun, even scaling several metres to climb in the bedroom
window when the room is being aired – so we find her curled up in
the bed, on a chair under the tablecloth, or on the cushions…