Amanda on November 14th, 2009
Autumn Vives

Autumn Vines

Welcome to deep, deep autumn in the rain-washed Quercy.
In years to come people will talk about the long hot summer of 2009 and remind one another that it truly lasted from April to October. But it’s November now and the bitter Northern winds have swept across the landscape, turning the shivering vines scarlet and bringing driving rain in their wake. For the first time in my life I really don’t mind. The countryside is parched and gasping, wells and waterholes have been dry for months and the gardens are in desperate need of a good drink. Meanwhile the autumn pruning has been done, winter wood has been cut and stacked and all the leftovers piled high on the bonfire. The last of the wild harvests have been gathered too. Pinecones for the fire – pinecones make superb fire lighters – are piled in six capacious boxes on the lower terrace. Walnuts, still wet and unctuous, wait to be moved inside to dry out for the year, quinces await the preserving pans and bags of fat, glossy chestnuts will be roasted, peeled – what a fiddly job that is – and frozen for Christmas. Read More »

Autumn In The Quercy from French Life

Amanda on November 9th, 2009
Orleans Reinette

Orleans Reinette

That’s what I’ve been doing this week, a new word for an old pastime.  There is nothing quite as satisfying as planting a fruit orchard and no pleasure quite as dreamlike (alright so maybe there are one or two exceptions but not that I’m going to discuss here) as looking forward to that far-flung day when you are picking more fruit than will feed the village in a year, it’s a good five or six years away, but I really look forward to that.
One of the problems with planting an orchard in southern France is that it’s not really apple country.  They do grow here, of course they do, but the old English varieties, and especially the sharp culinary apples are just not available to buy.  Fortunately I found a saviour in Deacons Nurseries on the Isle of Wight.  Not only do they grow absolutely every apple I’ve ever heard of and many more into the bargain, they are willing to ship them to rural France.  And so I chose six-of-the-best.  Bramley and Lane’s Prince Albert for the culinaries.  The delicious Lord Lambourne for a fairly early dessert.  Wonderfully aromatic Ashmead’s Kernel and crisp William Crump for the mids and the indispensible Orleans Reinette for my late keeper. I had them all grafted onto a semi-dwarfing rootstock and received an exciting, damp parcel last week.  Honestly – the things that get me excited these days.
Meanwhile down on the orchard terrace six enormous holes have been dug, with a certain amount of grumbling, a pickaxe and a pneumatic drill, by the beloved.  The white stone of the Quercy has been blasted with good muscle and sinew, then sifted and enriched with compost and topsoil; it looks like we’re in business.

Orcharding in the Quercy from French Life