Keeping up … summer in Provence

No, not with the latest shoe fashions, or with the celebrity gossip … I’m talking keeping up with the potager, the washing machine, and most recently the Tour de France!

The washing machine is the easiest. When guests leave. 12 machine loads later, using natural Provencal wind and sun energy, it’s all washed and dried. Sandra’s wonderful ironing lady will be out with her smoothing iron; and Sandra and her team will remake the beds, clean the shower rooms, and make everything perfect for the next guests to arrive.

But it’s not so easy for the potager – and all things garden and nature. If you’ve been following my occasional tweets or the Chateau Colombier Provencal facebook page  early in the season the worry are the escargots (snails … few slugs here, but the snails can be prolific and hungry). Not now. Now it’s the wild boars who, despite the discrete fencing (too discrete – you’d need barbed wire and Colditz to keep them out) seem to love coming to snuffle amongst the potager. I think this is natural, not vengeance for their domesticated piggy cousin who often ends up as a centre-piece for a table d’hote.

And having been promised a cool summer (they got it right for June, but not for July) I decided to go for planting salad leaves, courgettes, tomatoes. But cool does not mean wet. Though the recent heatwave has given us a couple of good storms. So watering has to be done. And we have to eat the lettuces before they bolt, as well as the frequent gifts of fresh salad leaves from Gerald my neighbour (and yes, they are better than mine).

Earlier this summer I rejoiced about my first ever proper crop of artichokes. But’s hard to eat 30 – 40 artichokes on your own. And they are not that easy to give away. Luckily, they are double value. Unlike salad, which when it bolts, it bolts … when artichokes go to seed – they provide you with beautiful flowers that you can dry.

And that’s now the keeping up in the potager. Watering the salad. Eating it (or trying to give it away … table d’hotes meals I prepare of course featured salad). Dead-heading the roses. And should I dry some for pot pourri? And I could make my own oris root powder perhaps from the Iris tubers. Harvesting the linden flower … a stress reliever they say. And I need to catch the lavender to dry at its perfect moment of blueness … Are the alium heads and stems dry enough to pick for dry flower arrangements? But if I leave them and the mistral blows they will be smashed to pieces.

Luckily I have a few weeks before the foraging for jams and jellies can start in earnest. Though I have prepared a jar of sour cherries in armagnac to see how well they work.

So much activity. So much to do. And all of that is probably why I spent many a hot afternoon in July doing the great displacement of watching the 100th Tour de France wend its way across France. And when it passed through Nyons en route to Mont Ventoux  and I hosted a cycling group from Australia for two nights here in Chateau Colombier yes, salad  and roast pork both featured on the menu!


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