From The Forest
The forest is starting to change colour; as many of the trees are
evergreen there are ‘patches’ of Autumn. After recent storms more
chestnut trees have fallen, or are now clearly dying, as they finish
their cycle of growth – never fully adapted to this region and
introduced as part of an initiative to provide wood for stakes for
the wine industry, their bare branches reach through the canopy.
Salamanders have been on the road after heavy rain, and sadly,
many end up squashed. This is the first I have seen ‘up close’
– rescued in an envelope and then placed back in the wild.
The last chestnuts have now been harvested, higher up the mountain
where giant trees produce much bigger ‘marrons’. As frost arrived
to tenderise the wild rosehips I picked two kilos…
After explaining I had made rosehip syrup from wild hips harvested on
the border of our forest, the French response is ahhh… “grate-cu’.
Unsure of the history I looked it up on the internet and it seems
that the aborinines have good reason:
“Anyone using rose hips for cooking should remove all the seeds.
They are covered with sliver-hairs that, when ingested, irritate
the digestive system and cause what the aboriginal people call
“itchy bottom disease.”
Visiting my secret ‘corner’ every few days, it is still producing
The last panier for November contained pied bleu, from the same spot
as last year but a liitle later than expected. Coulemelles, which were
abundant and enormous last November have been scarce. As cold weather
draws in the season will now come to a close.
In The Garden
As nature is taking care of most of the watering, there is much less
to think about. Tomatoes are still ripening – protected in the cabin.
We have just planted red onions and échalotes. Cabbages are ready,
blettes, celeriac and the beetroot are finally growing. Leeks that have
been in the ground for months have finally reached a size large enough
to harvest. The sage has become ‘a bush’, very happy with the cooler
weather. The artichoke is the current champion – after languishing in
the summer it is growing rapidly.
It became evident that waiting for the olives to ripen wasn’t working
as birds attacked them as soon as they reached maturity – the tree is
now swathed in netting.
As the other roses finish, spectacular red and orange blooms are still
appearing on the old rose that climbs the stone wall of the mas.
Exploring The Region
A magnificent clear day dawned for a visit to the Gorges de Galamus and
a hike to the summit of Mt Bugarach.
On the 18th of November, I took part in a ‘working bee’ in Spain,
to clear the surrounds of a monastery that is being restored.
Completely surrounded by the mist that clung to the mountain,
40 volunteers from France and Catalunya Sud worked while rain
fell and the temperature dropped to 8ºC. I didn’t have my camera
(not much of a problem given the conditions) and found this photo
later on the internet, admiring the view from the site on a clear
day. Spirits were high as we enjoyed grilled chorizo and a hot
mushrooms fideua under arches in part of the ruin that offered shelter,
and the Catalan contingent started singing, as voices offered warmth.
Snow in time for Christmas, and the official opening of some of the
With touches of reds, orange, yellow and russet that match the
stones of the mas, the view is still very green as the grass
continues to thrive. The mas will stay closed until next summer,
too large to heat efficiently (with flagstone floors and open
fireplaces). Our little rented bergerie is warm however, and as
the wood fire burns, soup bubbles away and the smell of baking
comes from the oven…
We are enjoying mushrooms while they last – baked and added to a
casserole of sanglier (wild boar) that simmered on top of the fire,
the lactaires délicieux held their texture and form (it was an
experiment that worked).
The menu now combines market produce and whatever is left in the garden
or has been stored in the cellar. Oranges and clementines are in season,
Granny Smiths are crisp and perfect, and lettuces still abundant.
Mina has been accompanying me on walks into the forest, and around
the mas in the morning…
Cows from a nearby farm have found the grass greener here, this one
managed to duck under the barrier that blocks the drive, twice, and
then nearly brought the fence down on her exit…