Thursday, July 24, 2008

Scary Tree

We had some friends visiting a few weeks ago, they are a lovely couple who run a pubfir tree in the UK.

They were here for about a week and spent a lot of time in the garden, sitting, reading, sunbathing, wandering about and just generally relaxing.

One evening, we were chatting and the girl suddenly said "I love the garden but I'm not very keen on 'scary tree'!"

I wasn't aware that we had a scary tree so I pressed for an explanation. 

It turns out that the biggest fir tree in the garden was "scary tree".  It has some big limbs fairly low down and they come more or less horizontally out from the trunk.   In the photo, you can see one of them.

In the wind they move up and down a bit and appear to be beckoning - hence the name - scary tree.

I thought of this again the other day and mentioned it to another friend who is much more at one with nature and likes the idea of talking to the animals...

She said:  I think that tree sounds like a loving tree, with its arms outstretched and whispering sweet nothings in the breeze....

So let me know  -  is it Scary Tree or Loving Tree - I know which I have chosen!

Marché Gourmande d'Eyrenville

This was just a little local market.   Eyrenville is our nearest village and has a few houses and a church - that's it! About 100, maybe less, people live there.  We went with anpeople1other English couple and a French couple. 

There were just 8 stalls, all selling food which you could eat at the tables and benches they had filled the square with.  You took your own plates, glasses knives and forks, chose a spot at a table and then walked around choosing what to eat.   I guess about 300 people turned up.  I had a trio of things for ssnailstarter which we shared, 1/2 a small charentaise melon, with the seeds scooped out and replaced by the sweet dessert wine that is made here.  I also shared a platter of mixed patés and a lovely salad - yes of course the patés were all duck!!! and I at last did something I have not got around to before.  I had snails!!!!

This was the first time I had eaten snails.  I enjoyed them - funnily enough one of the guests I had gone with with asked me if I would share some with her because the smallest portion was 2 dozen and that was too many for her - so I said yes and we bought them.  I took a dozen and she took a dozen, out of the tub of 2 dozen, so then there was only about another 2 dozen left!

I chose PORK!!!! for the main course which was served  with delicious potatoes fried in pork dripping.  After that we just had dessert - fruit tart!!! There were lots of other things I could have had and it was fun walking round and looking at everything and chatting to the producers.  My friend Sylvie was there.  She owns a vineyard right here - In fact her land backs onto ours I think - and was selling her wine as well as water and bread.  And then after eating  we just sat in the sunshine and listened to the music - there was a good band but not my church1favourite one this time - acrowdnd finished the wine!

The square is in the centre of the tiny village with the church on one corner and  houses around the sides.   I sat looking at the church, my mind drifting to somewhere far away, full of good food, good wine and good company.   Quite suddenly, the whole of the church lit up as the bright golden evening sun reached a particular point where it had uninterrupted access to the white stones - the stone changed colour to a vibrant gold as I looked at it.  It stayed like that for about a half an hour and then the stones changed back to their normal hue as the sun set.

It provided a rather breathtaking end to a superb evening. 

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Basket Weaver's Fair





 P1010069 Basket Weavers from all over France and Spain came to Issigeac this weekend for the annual "Foire aux Paniers".   Each region of France was represented with "artisanale" weavers both weaving and selling their wares.
One of the exhibitors specialised in making baby cribs and prams.  The beautiful bassinette on the right, mounted on a rocking platform, as well as the pram above are both his work.  P1010067
P1010054 This is the first time I have ever seen a wicker pram!! Most regions had representatives actually demonstrating the old art of basket weaving with many different styles being produced.

 Hervé Charmarty is a local "vannier" from our region of the Perigord  He was demonstrating his skills making baskets and trugs using wicker and chestnut to produce some nice effects.

P1010050   This display, from the Dordogne departement is of good luck charms for the house.  Apparently, wheat, present in the house brings good luck and happiness.  These charms certainly brought a lot of happiness.
  Victor Dettinger was too shy to admit his age to me but he did tell me that he had been weaving baskets for over fifty years.  I spent quite a few moments chatting to this chap about the demise of this traditional skill. P1010066

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Some new potatoes


P1010042 Back on 13th March, I planted a row of potatoes, they had been chitting since the 3rd February in the workshop behind glass.  I had actually used about 10 small potatoes that had started shooting in the vegetable basket

Today, we dug them up!!

The first two out of the ground made promises that the rest of the crop couldn't deliver.  I was a little disappointed at the crop of just over 2 kgs (about 5 lbs.) but the real benefit was the huge improvement to the soil in the bed.


I guess, for a few potatoes that were destined for the compost heap, 5lbs of nice looking new potatoes and a lot of good soil isn't too bad a deal.

We're going to eat the first ones at a dinner on Tuesday night, I'll tell you what they are like!!!

Bottling Time

It is wine bottling time here in South West France.


The vats in which the new wine has been developing since last September/October now need to be emptied in order to get them ready for the grapes which will be picked in September.

And the easiest way to empty the vats of the now finished wine is to transfer it all to bottles.

Across the region pallets of empty wine bottles can be seen gathering outside chais (the place in a vineyard where the wine is actually made) and in vineyard car parks.

Cork trees through out this part of the world will have been stripped of there produce and about 13 billion wine bottle corks will have been made.

Cork is grown primarily on cork oak trees in countries around the western Mediterranean. It is harvested from the bark in a steady cycle.  It is a truly renewable resource. The trees are managed to provide cork for about 200 years.

The first cork is harvested from saplings that are 25 years old.  The tree is then left to regenerate the cork bark for between 9 and 12 years. The second harvest then occurs and the tree is again left to regenerate cork for another 9 - 12 years.  This next harvest, 43 or more years after planting a new tree is the first harvest of cork suitable for wine bottle stoppers.

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Wine bottling machines are quite expensive things, so at this time of year an interesting beast takes to the roads of this part of the world.  It is the mobile bottling plant.  These are rare and are only used for a month or two.

The whole wine bottling process has been developed onto this one truck which is then driven to the vineyard where the bottling is to take place.

Wine is fed in at one end, bottles are fed in at the other and presumably, somewhere inside the machine there is a vast store of corks although I didn't see that.

The machine works at a fairly swift speed and everyone else has to run to keep up.  There is a man transferring bottles from pallets to the bottle store. There is a man overseeing the bottling itself and making sure the wine and the corks are going in the bottles

There is another man packing the now full bottles into boxes and then a couple of guys are running about stacking the boxes, each of 12 bottles, onto pallets and finally, a fork lift  truck is working away, taking the pallets of bottles to the back of the truck and taking the pallets of finished boxes away, out of the way.

I happened to pass one of these machines on Friday and went back to take pictures.

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All the guys working the machine were happy for me to photograph it and bring this piece of La Vie Français to you.

You all will realise that these photos are far too good to be of my hand.  I would like to thank Cassie of How Does Your Veggie Garden Grow for the loan of a much better camera.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Issigeac En Bodega

Bodega came to our local village of Issigeac on Sunday night and I went with some friends.  It started about 6 pm and was only just beginning to warm up when I  left at about 10:30. The whole village had been turned into a festival and all roads in were closed.  There was a small admission charge
of only €2.50 which is about $US 4.00
So what is a Bodega? Apparently, Bodega is the Spanish word for the wine cellar.  The Spanish influence in this part of France is very strong with less than a three hour drive to the border.
However, in this instance, Bodega, is a particular type of festival usually held in open air in the summer.  In the case of our local village it simply means getting as many different local organisations as possible to take part,
providing drinks, food or entertainment.  There were stands selling beer, wine, coffee and all sorts of other drinks. There were stands selling sandwiches, plated salads, bowls of delicious looking mussels, oysters, hot dogs and virtually any other food you care to mention - I don't remember anyone selling Burgers though!  And I might be exaggerating but every food stand - and there were probably 100 - seemed to
be selling the obligatory "frites", (french fries).  We walked around for about an hour and took in the whole scene before deciding to go and find something to eat.  I say find, but really it was choose as the array was quite spectacular. We finally decided on roasted breast of duck in a 
baguette with a carton of frites, which was delicious. All the local bars and restaurants had set up tables out in the street and everywhere bands played. There were singers, guitarists, rock bands, the whole gamut of popular music and jazz.  I stopped for a while to listen to a brilliant jazz singer and then wandered on and found a four piece band supporting a wonderful pop singer. Sadly, none of the bands said who they were so I can only mention one!!
My favourite local band, Les Touristes, were performing on the main stage.  At least I guess it was the main stage.  It was set up against the walls of the chateau facing into the main square and was populated by different bands all evening.  They were all
bodega excellent.  Les Touristes were the band I talked about a couple of weeks ago when I told you about the Marché Gourmande at the local vineyard. They do a marvelous tribute to the Blues Brothers.   And then, on top of all this, there were
marching bands roaming the town but never seeming to collide -there was a magnificent drum corps who were being led by a remarkable guy who managed to conduct and hold the corps together whilst dancing around and playing a drum himself.  There was a marching band playing some excellent music dressed in spectacular blue and white costumes and another playing very different music dressed in traditional orange and black.

I took my camera but everywhere was too crowded for me to get many photos.  I did get one of a band playing with all their equipment under plastic sheets as it had been raining on and off all day. I thought the weather would have dampened the attendance but all the car parks were full, the additional parking that had been opened up on all the car parks was full.  If you have ever been to a festival or market in France you'll know what I mean when I say, all the roads were full.

It was a great evening and I hope raised a lot of money for all our local associations.

Fresh Tomatoes

The sun has at last come to south west France and for several days now we have been enjoying temperatures in the lower to mid thirties.

My tomato plants all have plenty of fruit on them and the young tomatoes are now beginning to ripen in the sunshine.  Today, I picked my first tomato this year.  It is a local variety called Marmande.

This one is about 2" (50mm) diameter although there are some much larger fruit ripening on the vine.   I also have a couple of red cherry  tomato plants and a golden cherry tomato plant with a lot of fruit which will be ripening very soon.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Michael's Toad

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I was at Michael and Mary's again the other evening and after a very pleasant soirée, just as we were leaving, we saw Joli-Coeur, their cat, studying something outside, very intently.  Closer inspection found a Toad, which Michael was subsequently able to photograph.  Joli-Coeur, literally translates as "nice heart", but I gather it can also be used to refer to a ladies man! 

I don't know why they particularly told me that!!!

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Redstart - by Michael

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Michael has been out with his camera again.  This time he didn't have to go very far from home.

He has a covered terrace which runs the length of his house and is open on three sides. A redstart has built a nest in the eaves and has been busy bringing up the new family.

Michael was able to watch the father, regularly, fly out and then return with some food and, as a result, was able to capture these stunning photos.

Redstarts are generally on the decline in Europe now and numbers in the UK are dramatically reduced.  For more information on this beautiful bird take a look at:  


I was reading around the world in blogs this morning and I came across Kate's post in South Australia  A Country called Blog .  I read it and thought what a fantastic idea.  In the post she says:

Maybe we should all become a separate, virtual country with our own common sense laws which encourage the growing and cooking of food and the sharing of everything in the spirit of that beautiful song 'Imagine' by John Lennon. Maybe in this way we could instigate some overdue changes to show how a civilisation could be a place of collaboration and harmony, caring and sharing, all with an overarching theme of making the earth and the world a natural and life-enriching place to just be.....wouldn't that be wonderful!

Kate often says things that set my imagination rolling along, laughing and smiling or angry and sad, and this was definitely a laughing and smiling post .  There are so many problems throughout the world, yet here in the community of bloggland, a lot of us seem to be facing in the same direction regardless of national and international boundaries.  I reread the post and then went off in search of Patties piece which Kate had linked to.

Pattie is in Atlanta, Georgia, USA and her blog post   When All the Brokenhearted People Living in the World Agree  was on a similar theme, thinking about ways of that people around the world can connect.   Pattie had also linked to a truly wonderful video which really shows just what is possible if we each put our mind to doing something about it  Play the video on Patties post, I'm not linking to it here, because I want you to go off and read her piece.

Adelaide, South Australia,  Atlanta, Georgia, and here in Bergerac, France, right the way round the planet and we are all finding different ways of connecting with people, but the important thing is, that we are all connecting across the globe, that we are all facing in a similar direction, that we are all trying to find ways of treading lightly on this planet and leaving it a better place than it is right now.

I hope we are successful in spreading the word and that between us we make enough difference for our planet to start to recover.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The First Carrot

carrot 1-07-08

I pulled my first carrot today to see how they were getting on and to start to thin them a little.

I'm growing the carrots in a deep pot on a shelf to bring them above the 20" (500mm) which I believe is the maximum height that the carrot root fly can achieve.
It seems to be working and the carrots seem quite happy.

The carrot root is about 5" (125mm) long and the tops are full and very green.   I'm going to cut the carrots that I thin into a salad for dinner.