Glutton for punishment

Molinea and grassesThere I was, all set for a catch up of this blog at the Eurorstar lounge in Paris. But no. I gorged myself of lots and lots of newspapers and magazines instead. I have been away from the creatures for almost two months. So now it’s the last leg of the train journey and I must, must, must catch up on the news.

Sometimes you need to step back from the garden in order to assess what you need. And lots of ideas came to me on the first leg from Valence to Paris. (Yes, another two hour window where I could have written the notes).   I had thoughts on the walnut path leading from the courtyard to the top road. A hedge of molinea caerulea –  transparent grasses perhaps. The one that Andrew gave me is just starting to flower. And the panicles are the most airy purple. Hence the name purple moor grass I suppose. I will ponder and plan. I ended up with almost two pages of must do notes before we arrived in London. Almost as good as actually doing them.

News on the last few days of the garden included very little physical activity. Did my back again – lifting a deceptively heavy sack of cement (I know, I know, what was I thinking? But it was disguised in a shopping bag and didn’t look more than a few kilos).   So I was reduced to the first day hobbling about in the kitchen making plum jam.Darios plums

Dario, our friendly builder, came by with a box of plums. He calls them quetsch, but I am no closer to the variety. They are wonderfully oblong in shape, and perfect for jam as they are slightly underripe. He said he pulled almost 70kg off just one tree. What a bumper year for fruit this continues to be.

Cooking plumsSo on with the jam. Wonderful colours and hopefully a very tasty end product. I made 11 pots. Or was it nine? Can’t quite remember. It actually looks like twelve in the picture. Right now I can’t lift the box of finished products to check, so they will have to wait the final audit. And they are still not labelled, so they can’t go into the larder to be admired. But they look deep and dark and jewel-like; shame I can’t give any away. Everyone is in jam glut by now.Plum jam

And I couldn’t even contemplate eating more grapes. Showing off I know, but it has nothing to do with me. All I did in spring was to prune these courtyard grapes. No watering, no nurturing, no pruning later in the season. These beasts are grown to provide lunchtime shade and the edible fruit is a bonus. For a mad moment I thought of making grape juice.

Grapes for juicingBut once I had put a few kilos through the mouli (thank you Jean for that good advice), I ended up with the sweetest, sickliest product I’ve ever sampled. Worse than just grapes as there you at least have the distraction of skins and a few pips. Drink a glug of this for breakfast and you would be tripping in no time.

So I did what everyone else does right now. I give kilos away to neighbours when invited round to dinner. That way they can’t refuse. Actually Jean-Daniel’s grapes are apparently that hallucinogenic variety that is banned in France. So his are definitely only grown for shade. And to turn the wasp and hornet population doollally.

Pause there. This post is very purple in tone. Time to get to the other end of the grape scale. The vineyard. As a spot of physical therapy I decided to hobble down to the bottom of the property and see if there are any more grapes there. Glutton for punishment or what?Vineyard September

Grapes in vineyardAnd there are actually some clusters of grapes. Took me a while to find them. And recover from the very steep steps down onto the vineyard terrace. Thank goodness for self-sown chestnut seedlings that act as a geriatric and physiotherapy hand rail. Not enough for any sort of harvest. And I am still pondering what we shall do with this plot of land. Keep it as a vineyard? Plant trees. We are going to need water if that’s the plan. I am learning that to my cost in this dry summer for the apple trees I planted last autumn. They need a hose to reach them once every ten days or so to survive.

Weeds in vineyardBut something makes me wonder if there isn’t an underground supply of water here. Aren’t these catmint weeds coming out of the ground up the top of the vines? Well, you can probably only see yet more blasted fern fronds. But down low there are mint plants. And that usually is a sign of good moisture somewhere.

We have been discussing the water issue at the top of the property. All week our big concrete tank that holds the spring water is getting a long overdue clean. Only thirty years of accumulated attack on the concrete. But it is surprisingly clean which is a relief.   Acidic water will do wonders for many things. But it does corrode old iron pipes. We found these right at the bottom of the tank when it was cleaned. Ours now has shiny plastic ones. And here’s hoping it will taste better soon.

Well, as soon as it rains again. Very dry again. We were talking about the need to get a water diviner in. Everyone vaguely recalls someone who can wield the two water divining rods. But can’t quite give me a name. I even rang the mayor and asked him. A sourcier or a sorcier, he asked? I can offer you plenty of wizards and witches around here came his snappy reply. But don’t know any diviners.

Maybe we will have to do it ourselves. Time to chop up a metal coat hanger and have a go.strimmed below vineyard

In the meantime while I witter away, marvel at the weed-free field below the vineyard. I do, it’s bliss.

And while I was gazing I spotted a lovely rake that Nicolas must have left behind. It looked too shiny to have been M. Reinhardt’s the previous owner. And by now I think I have unearthed all the tools he left behind in the brambles and leaning rakishly (sorry) against trees. Some were quite overgrown with ivy and brambles and quietly returning to the earth.

Path in forestBut this one was perfect for leaning on to get back up the steps. And then in a mad moment of autumn-ness. I raked a few of the leaves that had fallen from the chestnuts onto the path. What was I thinking? One can’t rake a forest. But with so many leaves dropping early from parched trees, this felt like the right thing.

And for an encore I raked the grass next to the swimming pool. The monster birch tree is shedding like mad as well.fallen birch leaves