Panier of Plenty

October 2012

From The Forest

Ferns return, acorns fall

Dance of the water spiders

The river, mirror calm

Walking through a chestnut grove

Chestnut stars

Panier of chestnuts

A basket of wild chestnuts which had fallen, jumping out of their
outer casing on impact (otherwise the prickly green case is prised
open with a stick, or thick leather gloves).

Outer shell removed

Inner skin scraped off

Preparing wild chestnuts, which are rarely large and round – they are
more like segments – is a delicate operation. Firstly the outer shell
is removed with a small sharp knife (starting with an incision helps),
then they are placed in boiling water for a few minutes. Picking out
one at a time, the inner skin can be scraped while still hot, yet there
are many ‘folds’ (hybrid or commercial varieties are smoother), so much
patience is required. (Alternatively they can be roasted in the fire
or oven).

The first coulemelle

After rain, life has returned to the forest and as chestnuts fall,
mushrooms start to appear. Our menu changes to reflect what is
‘harvested from the wild’, following the weather conditions that
determine ‘what grows where and when’ as new varieties pop up daily
and the forest becomes the foraging ground for locals, and those
from further afield.

General consensus is that even though we have now had much rain, the
dry spring and summer already indicated the mushroom harvest would
be small this year – they were not able to ‘démarre’, or find the
conditions necessary to ‘spark’ into life. Initially there were signs
of unedible varieties in the forest only where there was high humidity
– in the river bed, or hollows with decomposing wood, but as October
has progressed, cèpes, lactaire déliciéux and rosé des prés have joined
the coulemelles and cariolettes abundantly available here.

Cèpes, 30th Oct

A mix of tête de nègre – cèpe bronzé or boletus aereus – and cèpes de
Bordeaux (not looking too appetising but still a treasure, once cleaned!)

Post: Earlybird

A variety of pleurote

Emerging from the riverbed

Growing amongst firewood offcuts


Dead wood comes alive

Recording different stages of growth…

Amanite tue-mouches emerges

Next stage of growth

Voila! The perfect toadstool

Whilst ‘not for the dinner table’ I study all the varieties, watching
how they emerge and where they chose to grow – they appear and
disappear so quickly, and have many fascinating forms.

A spongy variety

This one is the ‘odd man out’, not growing in the wild but nestled
amongst the flowers in the garden…

Arbusier in flower

Strawberry tree

I discovered a few fruit left on the strawberry trees in the forest,
they are finishing to ripen as the bushes burst into flower – the rain
has come too late so there is no ‘harvest’ for jam.

Botanical illustration, Arbusier

As October draws to an end, we have had the first frost and rosehips
and sloe berries can be picked…

Wild rosehips


Of course there are also animals in these wild surrounds, and Clementine
is the donkey that protects wandering cows – who walk the forest paths –
at liberty to eat the fresh grass that is now abundant. This month’s
highlight was seeing young foxes playing by the side of the road, and
an encounter with a snake ‘most memorable’. I’ve always been a bit wary
(having lived in Australia) and when I nearly stepped on a fine black
one in the chestnut grove, got quite a shock, but it stayed fixed
to the spot with no intention of attacking, and then eventually just
slithered away (along with my fear) – I realise I don’t need to worry
here as they rarely attack, even if it may have been a viper…

In The Garden

Cosmos greet the day

Garden alive with bees

View to garden gate

October sky

Ipomee, happy with cooler temperatures

The morning glory is flourishing as it continues to climb – clinging
to the pergola, cabin and trees as well as the natural ‘sculptures’
and arches that are a feature in the walled vegetable garden.

An October posy

The roses are starting to come back to life.

Belle de Nuit pink

Belle de Nuit yellow

Belle de Nuit lilac

Belle de Nuit, that self-seeds each year continues to bloom as colours
mix with their neighbours creating variegated flowers.

Gift from a recent wedding

Flowers open to greet the sun

Rock garden blooming

Unlike the Belle de Nuit, which opens morning and evening, the
flowers in the rock garden close at night and appear only when
the sun approaches its zenith.

As it is unseasonally warm, many flowers that had already finished
have produced new plants, including the sweet peas and pansies.

Picking framboises each day

The olives start to ripen

Many of the vegetables have now finished (nearing the end of October)
and others are ‘taking off’ – the artichoke is finally happy. The cabbages
are ready to harvest and we are eating blettes (like silverbeet).

Blettes, artichaut, betterave, céleri-rave

Panier, 7th October

First corn harvest

The corn was mostly tiny as it was planted a bit late, and strangely
sticky when cooked, yet tasty when turned into ‘corn fritters’ with
baked tomatoes.

Panier mid October

Much of the produce in the panier is the last of its crop, yet the
tomatoes are still going, and those damaged by storms are ripening well
inside – in the window. The cabin/hothouse is still filled with potted
tomatoes and they have been well protected, even though it doesn’t retain
much heat overnight.

Saving what remains after a frost

October 30th, a few more ripening in the kitchen…

Exploring The Region

Flamenco evening, Le Boulou

5th October. The opening performance of the Vallespir Autumn Musical
Series was spectacular, with a theatrical performance from a Barcelona
flamenco group – filled with drama and passion. The closing concert was
also impressive – a symphony orchestra from the conservatorium in Girona
– mainly young musicians, performing in a local village.

Four à pain, Mas Bousquet

Following one of the unknown trails in the forest we ended up at the
ruins of Mas Bousquet, high on a promonatory overlooking the river gorge
that is directly downhill from our belvédère, as the crow flies.

High above the river gorge, Mas Bousquet

Chêne liege, cork tree, after harvest

In the mountains of Cerdagne (at higher altitude), the delicate blooms
of the Colchique d’automne are a wonderful sight.

Colchique d’automne, Cerdagne

October 20th finally arrived… as part of the theatre festival Les
Planches’ in Céret, our local group performed ‘Le Pourceau du Diable’
– a piece dating back to the inquisition…

Photos: Roland Tixier

Maitre Bousquet

Bosc de la Trinxeria

Tragi-comédie populaire , en pays catalan. La Troupe ” Els Traginers “.

Au XVII siècle sévit encore l’Inquisition jusque dans le moindre village.
Par vengeance ou méchanceté on dénonce bien souvent des innocents.
Depuis l’histoire s’est maintes fois renouvelée – dénonciations
arbitraires, délations – jusqu’aux époques contemporaines….de tristes
mémoires ! Haro sur les (étrangers) – étrangères, les “trop belles et
trop libres”, aux savoirs et mœurs différents, mises à l ’écart et
fustigées, telles des sorcières.

Priest performing an exorcism

Symbolising the inquisition

Fréderic Bachelier (Bosc de la Trinxeria),
Oriane et Jade, (Flore et Sarah, les deux Andalouses)
Mireille Mestre (Maria la bugadere)
Francine Garcia, (Dame Laula, la bigote coquette),
Jackie Lucas (Henriqueta, l’innocente, sourde et muette) ,
Ety Reste de Roca (Georgeta, la commère du village),
Roger Ribère (Le riche Maitre Bousquet),
Jean pierre Blésès (Monsieur le curé),
Josep Seilles (le bourreau),
l’Inquisiteur , le garde.
Décors : Gérard Simonneau.
Costumes : Paulette Seilles.
Musique : Vivienne Cole.
Auteur et metteur en scène : Micky Reste de Roca.

At Home

Corn, proscuitto and goats cheese salad

The last of the salad days pass, as warmer than usual October
temperatures are replaced by storms and the fire is lit…

Haricots coco rose, shelled

Simmering with stock and herbs

Friday 12th October. Post: Improvisation

Preserving quinces in wine and thyme for Winter – jars to be
stored in the cellar.

Grenade or pomegranate

Pomegranates now in season and shared amongst the theatre troop,
merci Roger.

Rabbit cooked in sherry, with chestnuts

Lapin, grenade et aïoli (de pomme)

‘Leftovers’ of the rabbit with chestnut stuffing were converted into
another dish – adding pomegranate and spiced white grape jelly.

Mousse au chocolat, avec framboises

Freshly picked raspberries are hidden in at the base of the chocolate
mousse, laced with brandy.

Mina seeking warmth

As we settle into Autumn, Mina tries every tactic to be let inside:
crying on the doorstep; scratching the door, and throwing herself
against it to climb and peer through the window, clinging onto it
by her claws… it clearly works!

Eyeing lunch… cèpes

Mina trying to steal saucisson

31st October. As the sun sets on October the rain clouds have passed,
leaving a magnificent light display in their wake…

Mas Reste

Les Albères

Clouds abate, towards Spain


3 thoughts on “October 2012

  1. Superbes photos en ce mois d’octobre 😉

  2. mesarapugs on said:

    So comprehensive! I feel like I’ve missed a whole lot of posts . . . ? More pix and information? Wonderfully colourful and inspiring! xx

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