Panier of Plenty

April 2013

Welcome to this month’s visual diary from the bergerie of Mas Reste…

From The Forest

River after April showers

River after April showers

Downstream

Downstream

The dam

The dam

Base of the dam

Base of the dam

Tiny wildflower clusters

Tiny wildflower clusters

Lining the river's edge

Lining the river’s edge

Ficaire (Ronunculus ficaria)

Ficaire (Ronunculus ficaria)

Wild apple blossoms

Wild apple blossoms

Apple tree and Canigou

Apple tree and Canigou

The mas, from the field

The mas, from the field

Tuesday April 9th. The field that marks the beginning of the
‘wilderness’ and forest is now filled with bees as blossoms open…

Wild blossoms, the field

Wild blossoms fill the field

Sloe berry bushes

Sloe berry bushes

The forest border

The forest border

The mountain road blooms

The mountain road blooms

Golden morilles

Golden morilles

Sunday 21st April. A chevreuil (European roe deer, Capreolus capreolus)
was at the river as I walked along its bank, freezing in my sights in
a magical instant, before bounding into the forest with the strangest
braying sound – such a rare sighting, the first since we have lived here…
now etched in my memory…

Saturday 27th April. The peaks are covered with snow and the
afternoon temperature is 3º with the car sounding a warning for ice…

Monday 29th April. The roads are flooded and temperatures still 20º
below the ‘average’ for the season… providing the main topic of
conversation, as France is once again experiencing ‘exceptions’ that
challenge meteorological predictions. Canigou is no longer dominating
our view with his snow capped peaks, for all the mountains in the
Pyrenean chain (that stretches across the horizon) have a fresh layer
of snow.

In The Garden

Sweet peas climb

Sweet peas climb

Pensee

Pensée

Pansies

Pansies

Angel

Angel

Tuesday 9th April. Sitting in a painted wooden garden chair, surveying
the progress while trying to write with a cat on my arm, as Mina also
enjoys the sun. After days spent weeding and planting there is a sudden
burst of new growth, helped by frequent ‘April showers’. Deep purple,
lilac and crimson pansies form a new border, with wild violets tucked
amongst them. primroses circle the base of the almond tree and decorate
the pond and new raised garden…

Primroses under almond tree

Primroses under almond tree

Above the pond

Above the pond

…Wild garlic has been moved to its new home, to mature in rows
before the grass is mown. Each day now there are more sursprises
as shoots push through the earth and reach towards the sun. Many of
the herbs that died with the frost are coming back and the tarragon
is already over 60cm high. Lettuces have been planted, and the potato
patch is ready, with a new weeping willow barrier woven from sprouting
cuttings that will continue to grow to form a windbreak. The sweetpeas
have been relocated from their spontaneous locations and have a new
hazlenut wood support to climb on. The hollyhock beds are flourishing
and will hopefully bring flowers this year, as they have steadily grown
from seeds planted last year, surviving winter…

Morning mist, 11 April

Morning mist, 11 April

Hazlenut windbreak

New plot evolving daily

Woven willow windbreak

Woven willow windbreak

…The grape vines have tiny leaf buds forming and the raspberries
have already wandered outside of their stone surrounds. The many
flower seedlings that have also ‘jumped out of their beds’ have been
put into pots, ready for the annual plant exchange in May. The compost
is sifted for the next round of work in the potting shed, as the vegetables
are prepared. Rose cuttings are now taking root and the olive tree is
thriving after its recent pruning. Birdsong fills the valley as the river
provides the base note for their joyful spring symphony… it is a
pleasure to be lost in reverie and to take time to notice all the
‘little things’, like the lavender that is opening its waving heads
and the tiny yellow cistus that smother the bank in this season. I can
just see the cherry tree reaching over the wall, now starting to bloom,
weeks after the wild ‘merisiers’ in the forest…

Flowers crowd their bed

Flowers crowd their bed

Rebuilding stone edges

Rebuilding stone edges

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms

Wednesday 10th April. ‘Semis’: A day of sowing dozens of seeds, saved
from last year’s harvest – now tucked into in trays the shed. I have
planted rows of mesculin mix, radishes and mache in the newly created
plot that is now taking shape. The sun has shone long enough to finish
the day with a ‘sundowner’ on the bank, sitting on a cut log, overlooking
the walled terrace. The bank is the wilderness area, left uncut so
wildflowers are free to roam above the rockery wall, which retains the
rise. The aquaduct and old stone wall rise to above three metres in places,
enclosing the potager on the right, as the view to the left dips down to
the wide grassy terrace and then plunges to the swiftly running river
before soaring up to the forested ridges that mark the the Spanish border.

Tiny birds are active and the air is filled with darting insects catching
the sun’s last rays as it dips behind the trees surrounding the mas,
its stone ramparts dominating the horizon, as the welcome pause ends
the ‘working’ day…

On the 'table'

On the ‘table’

The last rays of sun

The last rays of sun

Afternoon, Tuesday 23rd April. The wind has calmed after days of strong
gusts and turned, bringing warmth again. We ate a juicy melon with goat’s
cheese and salad on the terrace by the tulips that are just finishing.
The cherry tree has exchanged its white blossoms for leaves, and
everywhere I look the vivid yellow-green of new growth is establishing
its hold. Mina is curled under the olive tree, nesting in the mulch
under shady leaves. Tonight’s lapin (rabbit) has been bubbling away
and now sits infusing, as the flavours gain depth. Planting has ceased
for the moment as the coming full moon changes the rhythm, and weeding
is still a priority. Spring onions, parsnips and carrots (the soil
carefully sifted for stones) are now in the new plot. The radishes are
the first seeds to sprout and new flowers are now filling the shady
corners. Sage, basil, thyme and chives are about to flower.

Borage and Dicentra (Coeur-de-Mairie)

Borage and Dicentra (Coeur-de-Mairie)

Magnificent violet flowers that we planted as young seedlings (after
admiring them in the sun garden of Villandry last year) are in full bloom
– Centaurée in French, with buds that form a scale pattern like serpent
skin. The fig has its first ‘little hands’ opening and pumpkin plants
are spontaneously germinating (from seeds in the compost?) all over
the potager garden. In the potting shed the seeds planted in the last
weeks are starting to race each other, gaining height each day and
claiming their ‘terre’.

Centaurea bud

Centaurea bud

Fine petals burst open

Fine petals burst open

Mina's throne

Mina’s throne

The very long grass has been cut, giving the potager definition as
the dense clumps of roots are removed where they have invaded the beds.
The quince is smothered in blushing pink blooms and raspberry tendrils
are wandering and taking hold…

Blushing bud

Blushing bud

Quince flowers

Quince flowers

Irises later than usual

Irises later than usual

The sycamore unfurls

The sycamore unfurls

Fascinated by the form of the leaves unfurling, I have been following
their rapid progess…

Garden pest

Garden pest

Slugs and moles usually keep us on our toes, but at the moment it
is Mina who is the largest ‘pest’ – trampling in newly planted beds,
rolling in seedlings and chasing lizards, she is over-enthusiastic
in her playground and in her eagerness to be close to all activities…

Exploring The Region

Port Vendres

Port Vendres

Morning market above port

Morning market above port

A change of weekend market, enjoying the Mediterranean coast and
fish markets at Port Vendres (La Côte Vermeille).

At Home

Early morning, terrace

Early morning, terrace

Breakfast panier

Breakfast panier

Spring menu

Spring menu

'Snowflakes'

‘Snowflakes’

The first bluebells arrive

The first bluebells arrive

Easy ginger beer

Easy ginger beer

Bottled

Bottling

Bottling

As yet, ginger beer is not to be found locally (while very popular
in Australia and New Zealand), so recalling childhood days I am
making batches. Rather than keeping a ‘bug’ (a yeast, powdered
ginger and sugar starter that is fed each day), I have found a
simple recipe that ferments in the bottle, cellared for three days,
using lemons as a base… a refreshing drink for gardening days…

The last jar of tomatoes

The last jar of tomatoes

Lapin (rabbit) cooking

Lapin (rabbit) cooking

The preserved tomato sauce has lasted just until the first tomatoes
are available in abundance at the market.

Banana and chocolate tarts

Banana and chocolate tarts

Mina arriving for breakfast

Mina arriving for breakfast

Cherry tree on driveway

Cherry tree on driveway

The mas, late afternoon

The mas, late afternoon

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