‘Les Vendanges’ (harvest) will begin remarkably late for us this year, with picking beginning as late as one week from now. Yes we’re enjoying beautiful sunny days in these first few days of September, but the grapes are having a hard time ripening due to 2013’s fairly cool Spring and late Summer. Waiting waiting waiting. Benji’s getting those annual, pre-mens vendanges nerves and I’m keeping food on the table…
But even if the grapes aren’t all sweet and ripe for the picking, there is some ripe fruit to be had… After an evening’s inspection of the vignes (vines), we’ve been tucking into the wild mures (blackberries) out the back!…
When I’m on a roll and doing the right thing by my back (my G.P. freaked when I said I was discovering the merits of beer and wine over prescription pills to ease chronic pain), I get out and walk.
Up and down and around the numerous ‘chemins‘(paths) of our local village after dropping Lilas off at school – or if I’m at home, I lock the door behind me and head out for a wander around ye olde hamlet. There’s nothing better for head-clearing than getting out and enjoying the sights and smells and sounds from the viewpoint of your feet (I haven’t yet embraced the bike-thing, despite obvious inspiration from the many folk here in Frogsville).
And now more than ever – with the hunting season is officially over, I can walk panic-free.
It sounds crazy but believe me, there’s this dodgy period of the year, from September to the end of February, when delightful shots ring in the air and I freeze and cower behind some vines. The hunters are out. Crouching like a ninny, you wonder if your bulk in a huge brown puffa jacket ressembles more wild sanglier (boar) than human. Especially when you’re not much taller than a wild boar – and on all fours (ooh la la, I won’t start). Here little piggy.
I’m not joking, accidents happen all over France each year during hunting season. You can find any number of stats on the net, one of which claims 57 hunting-related deaths in the 2012/2013 season (up from 42 in the 2011/2012 year). But the stats, depending who is reporting them, vary: the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage cites for 2011/2012, 131 hunting-related accidents of which only 18 were mortal, for eg. And don’t forget the 9% concerning ‘non-hunters’…
It’s a topic charged with anger on both sides of the fence. I wonder which side this author is hanging on…
Yes I’m confused, and wary of the propaganda – but when you’re out there enjoying the cacophany of shots whilst stepping over colourful empty shell cases, I wonder what my odds are. I should maybe don a red beanie and have a plastic red rose held high, a la the travel guides shepherding their groups around the grand squares of Europe.
On the less extreme end, some groups simply argue for a ban on Sundays (most accidents occur on weekends)… This leads me to wonder why Wednesday (with Saturday and Sunday) is also nominated as an’open’ hunting day of the week – when it is, all-over France, the mid-week day-off for children from school? Can’t say I’m itching to take Lilas out for a walk when you can see the camouflage khakis and gun cocked on a guy strolling not that far from the kitchen door.
But hey, on the whole I have no problems with hunting if regulations are respected. It’s incredibly popular here in the Minervois and you see a big proportion of the villagers getting involved. It’s almost like a religion. And these guys are outside, enjoying the elements (and the odd bottle of red) and providing some of us meat-eaters with food on the table. Probably better than frozen nuggets, pot and a few hours of Playstation in a dark living room .
So onto those walks. Like I said, the season has offically ‘closed’ and the hunters are at rest for the next few months at least. The piggies et al can relax – and me too.
I woke up early this morning and was greeted by this.
How could I go back to bed with that.
I put the coffee machine on, bread in the toaster and had a wander outside.
As the sun rose and the sky brightened, you could see it would be a glorious morning – perfect for a morning walk. So after dropping Lilas off at school, Anne-Laure and I (where are you Mathilde!) set out on an old abandoned road, leading out of the village. I love these morning walks. With a dodgy back and all sorts of creaky things going on, I’m meant to keep up a minimum of exercise. Geez, I should be doing so much more, but I’ve never been sporty – so these ‘promenades’ are my small contribution to keeping me on my feet. We generally head out of the village without any idea of direction and just keep going as far as the route will take us. Sometimes it’s 40 minutes, sometimes you get lost and the route back takes a bit extra.
Feet stumbling in the rocks, you see beautiful centuries-old dry stone walls, remnants of old barns, local folk walking their dogs, vineyard workers, brand new views of the village from afar and wave after wave of vineyards. It is so good out here, I get completely addicted to it. Every morning has its beauty and I suck it all in and try and store it in some part of my head for the rest of the day. This time is a luxury and I am thankful to have it.
This particular morning Anne-Laure directed me along a road she knows well, with a special treat at the end of it.
This perfect, secret garden. A wonderful surprise ‘au bout’of the long lane.
We stood admiring it from outside its fence and then realised that its ‘proprietaire’ was inside, also standing and staring – at us.
He insisted we come in and visit.
It was the most beautiful vision of green – carefully tended boxes with row after row of salads, herbs, tomatoes, leeks, silver beet, gigantic-leafed plants to keep away the moles… He was happy to have us here and share his private space. The monsieur said he’d started growing his ‘potager’ around twenty years earlier and came everyday to work it. I asked him if with all this amazing produce he cooked – and he laughed heartily (with a cigarette dangling off his lip) and replied no, that it was to keep him busy after retiring and that, as he lived alone, he gave most of his vegetables away. We thanked him for his time and were handed a bunch of herbs. He then followed us out, locking the gate behind him and said it was time for his cafe. A great way to greet the morning.