No rest for the wicked

In the run up to our party, our poor garden suffered horribly; weeds have taken over most of the potager, smothering lettuces and strawberries and making it almost impossible to get between rows of tomatoes. Plants on the banking have died, simply because I didn’t have the time to water them and next to nothing was picked for nearly two weeks. Fortunately, since it has only rained once in the last two months, the grass has given up growing, so hasn’t needed mowing.

This week we’ve tried to get back on top of things; not easy as with the current heatwave, it’s impossible to stay out past 10am, but we’ve picked the last of the courgettes, 10kg of aubergines, heaps of beans and tomatoes and our ridiculously huge crop of onions.

We defrosted the big freezer in preparation for the filling season; bags of caponata and courgettes Provençal, trays full of yellow beans and sliced aubergines and ready meals of stuffed round courgettes. The dehydrator is running 24 hours a day – found the right food dehydrator reviews on time, great – full of plum tomatoes and black figs from my neighbour, our white figs will soon be ready along with apples to prepare and freeze. I planted rather too much Swiss chard, have given bags and bags of it away, but I think I’ll have to start blanching and freezing that too. Nick’s started a batch of a blackberry aperitif, that we hope will be as good as the cherry one he made last year.  The next job is to plait the onions so they can be hung up in the cabanon.

Work on the house is on the back boiler for the time being, until we can get out of the kitchen.


Pendant les semaines autour de notre fete, notre pauvre jardin a souffert horriblement; les mauvaises herbes ont repris la majeure partie du potager, étouffant les salades et les fraises et ce qui rend presque impossible d’entrer entre les rangées de tomates. Quelques plantes sur le talus sont morts, simplement parce que je n’ai pas eu le temps d’arroser pendant près de deux semaines. Heureusement, car il n’a plu qu’une seule fois au cours des deux derniers mois, l’herbe n’a pas poussé, la tonte n’est donc pas nécessaire.

Cette semaine, nous avons essayé de revenir au-dessus des choses; pas facile car avec la canicule actuelle, il est impossible de rester dehors après 10 heures, mais nous avons ramassé les derniers des courgettes, 10kg d’aubergines , tas de haricots et de tomates et notre ridiculement énorme récolte d’oignons.

Nous avons décongelé le grand congélateur dans la préparation pour la saison de remplissage; sacs de caponata et courgettes provençal, plateaux pleins de haricots jaunes et les aubergines en tranches et des plats cuisinés de courgettes rondes farcies. Le déshydrateur fonctionne 24 heures par jour, plein de tomates italiennes et figues noires de ma voisine, nos figues blanches seront bientôt prêts avec des pommes pour préparer et congeler. J’ai planté un peu trop de blettes, j’ai donné des sacs et des sacs de loin, mais je pense que je vais devoir commencer à blanchir et de congéler aussi. Nick a commencé un lot d’un apéritif de mûre, que nous espérons être aussi bon que celui de la cerise qu’il a fait l’année dernière. La tâche suivante consiste à tresser les oignons afin qu’ils puissent être accroché dans le cabanon.

On ne fait pas des travaux à la maison pour le moment, jusqu’à ce que nous pouvons sortir de la cuisine.




Our big bun fight

Last weekend was our 60th birthday-cum-housewarming party. We’d been preparing for it for months, though hopes that the house would be finished, or at least habitable, faded a few weeks ago.

Gemma flew in from Australia, her case full of bunting and other decorations, followed the next day by Alex and her two daughters from England. The place was starting to fill up. It wasn’t without incident, however, as two guests who arrived a couple of days in advance missed the drive, put their camper van in the ditch and had to be towed out by a friendly farmer neighbour.

On Thursday we went to the market to buy heaps of melons, lettuce and other necessities and Hervé brought us 13kg of home grown tomatoes. On Saturday morning I picked up two huge sacks of bread while Nick went to collect the croustade, a delicious local dessert,

Everyone was put to work, cleaning, preparing food, installing the tables and chairs we’d borrowed from the village and the gazebos lent by friends. Gemma decorated the cake while Karen, who’d flown in from Northern Ireland, created beautiful table decorations from anything she could find in the garden. Didier brought the red wine and Jacques the white and rosé, as well as the armagnac, without which no meal is complete here. Maithée did a bit of everything, from washing up, to making toasts, to cleaning the new kitchen till it sparkled.

Twenty-something people sat down to lunch, grateful for the shade afforded by the gazebos, as it was a hot day under a clear blue sky; then we set to to prepare for the evening. We coloured sand to put in little jam jars, borrowed from everywhere, to use as night light holders, and wrapped them in ribbons. We made 300 toasts and various other aperitifs. We poured wine into carafes. set the tables and hung fairy lights. Francis not only lent us crockery, cutlery, glasses and an industrial dishwasher, set up in the back garden, but also made a magnificent paella for eighty people for the evening. Adrian and Jacques brought and set up a sound system for the bands.

Suddenly it was nearly 7o’clock, time for a very quick change of clothes before people started to arrive.

The evening passed so quickly. Hervé brought us a cremaillère, which is a piece of metal, traditionally hung in the chimney in the kitchen, from which you hang a cooking pot over the fire; the French phrase for housewarming is pendre (hang) la cremaillère. Once you’ve done that, the house is really yours.

Between eating, we played Irish music with EtCelterra then later moved on to some rock classics with a band put together for the night. Ade and Thierry were our lead guitars, Didier on rhythm, me on vocals and Kerri, the daughter of one of my students, who was here on holiday, played base. We’d never all played together before and hadn’t managed to find a drummer, but both Gemma and Alex had a turn as drummers. Perfect it may not have been, but it was great fun and all our guests seemed to enjoy it.

We brought out the cake, a fruit cake in true English style as most of the guests were French and had never tasted one; but as we started to cut it, the table collapsed under it! Incredibly, the cake landed right side up on its board, totally undamaged!

By the time we got to bed at 4am, we were absolutely shattered, but happy as everybody seemed to have had a great evening.