Panier of Plenty

November 2012

Chestnut trees line the road

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.

Higher up the mountain

Towards the Col d’Ouillat

Canigou just visible

Climbing into pine forest

Beech forest

Col d’Ouillat

Entering the pine forest

After recent rain

View towards Spain

Sun reaching into the forest

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.

First encounter with a salamander

About to be repatriated

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 the first frost, wild rosehips

Straining juice through muslin

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
mushrooms…

Lactaire délicieux and wild thyme

Panier 14th November

20th November, at altitude

Often completely hidden

More, an hour later in our forest

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.

Pale violet, with a delicate flavour

Pale violet, with a delicate flavour

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.

Protecting the olives

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.

Roses budding

Exploring The Region

11th November. Post: Beacon

A magnificent clear day dawned for a visit to the Gorges de Galamus and
a hike to the summit of Mt Bugarach.

Sant Llorenc de Sous

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.

panorama Espagne

Post : A change of scene

Snow in time for Christmas, and the official opening of some of the
local skifields…

At Home

The Mas and Canigou

Morning light, driveway

Shutters now closed for winter

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…

Lactaires délicieux au four

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).

Pain d’épices with orange zest

Salade de chèvre chaud

Salade de chèvre chaud

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.

Preparation

Ready to go mushroom hunting

Mina has been accompanying me on walks into the forest, and around
the mas in the morning…

Exploring the garden

After greeting Canigou

Visitor in the driveway

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…

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