An away day

CondrieuThe garden didn’t get a look in today as we were off on our annual wine buying adventure.   Our destination was an hour and a half north of us on the Rhone river.   The famed Cote Rotie.   A teensy village and a teensy patch of land which insists on making amazing wine. Shiraz only – Syrah to you – and it is incredible.

But I tend to be a little sceptical about monocultures. You needed to have been in Tajikistan in the early nineties to understand that one.   They only grew one crop – cotton – and when the empire collapsed they had nothing to live on.   The soil was exhausted, they were pumping fertilizers onto the land to keep up absurd Soviet quotas.   And when the Soviets stopped coming, the fuel for the tractors stopped flowing and the fertilizer couldn’t be bought the country became a dustbowl.   And I mean a dustbowl.   And with farmers trained and collective farms only equiped for one crop, their lives crumbled.Cornas

I wish I didn’t have these flashes as we cruised up the valley by St Peray, Cornas, Tain, Mauves and eventually with a bit of sneaky motorway driving, Ampuis.   But I did.   Vines clinging to the hillsides all the way are quite a feat of engineering and dexterity. I thought planting my grasses on my steep banks were a challenge. But I bet they use climbing harnesses to prune some of those steeply planted vines.

Still. As you can see, the sun shone and we ate well and we even managed to get back home and go for a long lope in the forest to work off lunch and a day of inactivity.

douglas and oakWe found a new bit of the forest today which was a thrill. You can see how neglected it is.   Here a douglas fir (Scotch pine) is growing so close to an oak and fighting for sun and light that they seem to have locked branches.

Work is definitely needed here.   And we have lots of cutting back to do.   Now some people see box hedging and think of neatly manicured small plants neatly in rows and preferably framing a garden bed.

For us, this is our box hedging.   Previous centuries they used to plant the box on top of the stone walls.   Or if I think about it, just cleared away the ubiquitous plant from areas either side of the walls they built.   That way they could see the boundaries easily from afar; just follow the box forest.   The box we have is over fifteen feet high, and dense as a forest. We clear as much as we can. But we will never win.   It has never been shaped or pruned. Just allowed to do its thing. box hedging

The only revenge you can have against such a thicket is to think of all the practical implements you could make. Apparently box is the best wood for lead pencils. Where’s my chain saw?