From The Forest
With little rain for months, only one river flows in our forest
– the others are now completely dry. Last year the rainfall on the
plains of Rousillon was around 50mm (average for July) and this year
only 7mm has fallen – surpassing previous records for this period.
Hazlenuts are falling early, unripe, as the trees lack water and lose
their fruit. The grass, in the surrounding fields that lead into the
forest, is crispy and dry – golden like hay. Wild pears lie under
the tree, also discarded before they have had the chance to develop,
yet the hardy ‘prunelles’ or sloeberries are nearly black, and berries
are also forming in clusters on the sureau bushes. The many wild
blackberries are fruiting, still green.
This weeks fire is not surprising given the conditions that led to its
swiftdeparture, raging uncontrollably for three days, statistics reveal
that 10% of ‘Catalonia Sud’ (à l’Alt Empordà) has been lost…
In The Garden
As July progresses, temperatures continue to reach over 30 degrees
each day. Many of the flowers that flourished at the beginning of
the month have now finished leaving seed pods, which we have started
to cut and save for next year.
Currently harvesting: dozens of cucumbers, four varieties of round and
long courgettes, orange squash (a mystery), patissons, green beans,
beetroot, carrots, onions, echalottes, cherry tomatoes, yellow pear
and ‘black’ Crimean tomatoes,rocket, mesculun, lettuces, strawberries,
raspberries, basil and many summer herbs, and three varieties of potatoes.
Melons, watermelon, pumpkins, corn, runner beans, coco rouge, capsicums
cabbages, celery, celeriac and aubergines are all growing well in the heat.
Bunches of grapes are ripening but the black and red currents (planted at
the same time) are struggling. We have picked a large panier of wild
mirabelles (tiny yellow plums) to cook, smaller this year and more acidic.
Exploring The Region
Each Thursday night throughout summer, Perpignan comes alive as the
streets are filled with musicians, theatrical performances, acrobats
and displays like the traditional Catalan castell (human castle) and
A new pergola offers a shady dining area adjacent to the potager, yet is
also sunny and sheltered at breakfast time – Mina has been quick to claim
the new space, made with chestnut branches and planted with jasmine
and deep crimson clematis.
I tested my new copper/brass basin (a fleamarket purchase), making
mulberry jelly, with berries picked from a friends magnificent tree
while on holiday in Provence. In France they are known as mûres,
named like wild blackberries, and the flavour is similar, but they
are much juicier and softer.
As July draws to a close, all is calm in the mountains. We have had
many challenges: the ‘clearance’ of cows; fires and then the wave of
aerial bombardment to contain them; a search and rescue helicopter
that woke us as the valley resounded with its engine and lights, looking
for lost hikers; and now, wild animals digging up the garden… a badger
and a catlike ‘fouine’ are the likely suspects…