The huge bonfire which, with the addition of the old hedge trees, looked as big as the Primrose Hill fireworks night pyre has been sitting waiting for a suitable day. As bonfires are forbidden in France one is obliged to get special permission from the Marie. This recent rule is an attempt to stop pollution in addition to avoiding fires that may get out of control during the dry season. It does seem a crude, and in some ways ineffective, tool to save the planet since everyone has now invested in trailers and takes their rubbish to the local ‘dechetterie’ for recycling; while this is good in principle if, like us, you have a large volume of rubbish it can mean many trips to the tip which would involve a considerable amount of petro-carbon pollution. The French are very good at making rules and then doing their own thing anyway; so, although there are a lot of cars with trailers making their way to the tip we also see evidence of bonfires and are told, with a gallic shrug, that permission has not been given. As new-comers, English to boot, and with the fields beside the road being highly visible we decided against flouting the rules. Having identified that last week was going to have a couple of rainy days we duly obtained our permission from the Marie. Not wanting to have to avail ourselves of the services of the local ‘ pompiers’ we planned the best way to do it safely. On a day when it poured we ran the hose out to the site so it could be turned on and douse any stray sparks; as the original heap was so huge and would make an enormous conflagration we carefully made a separate and smaller pile that we lit and gradually added to. The fire was very powerful and took more than 10 hours to burn; despite pouring for most of the day it was very hot and we worked in lightweight tops that were continuously dried by the heat. We had a working lunch and tea was stored under umbrellas. Although completely exhausted and filthy we had a great time, being reminded of our Auntie Eileen who, if we weren’t at home when she arrived would invariably light a bonfire to while away the waiting time. All the locals driving past pooped their horns and waved – our reputation for working hard but being a bit nuts maintained. One fantastic side effect was that the huge ash pile smoldered for the next five days and we cooked supper in it each day – very tasty; we also have lots of ash for the garden.
We plan to have chickens, they will be marvellous at clearing up our leftovers and will provide great manure for the ‘potager’, not to mention eggs. After much searching we finally found a suitable chicken hutch which is now assembled and is waiting for it’s new occupants. We visited a local man who has a passion for all things poultry, he has various types of hen which he enthusiastically showed us. He is retired now and he spends his time breeding hens which he is careful to handle so they are biddable – well, as biddable as hens can be. He also has various beautiful pheasants, peacocks, geese, quails, peahens and a bronze turkey. As if this wasn’t enough he there are goats and Camaroon sheep – on the day that we visited he had a two day old kid, lovey! There are some young hens, not quite ready yet, but he will call us when we can collect them; we are waiting impatiently.
We went to the market in Montcuq on Sunday. Montcuq is near where we holidayed last year, it’s about 25 minutes from us and has one of the best local markets in the region. The markets here offer every type of product, they invariably have good quality fresh produce, fabulous cheese stalls, local meat and very fresh fish. To our surprise they also offer many other good quality items – garden plants, clothes – lots of good linen, great hot food, local artists and even haberdashery stalls so it is very easy to while the morning away. We found a stall that sold locally grown lentils, which turned out to be delicious, and local flours, both wheat and einkorn. After a hard morning shopping a drink, and sometimes lunch, is a good idea. Fortunately Montcuq has a very good restaurant, The Café de France, where Patrick makes everyone welcome and serves delicious food at a reasonable price. Mind you on market day you must get in early as tables go fast.
After our pre-lunch drink we drove towards home. We usually take the opportunity to do a bit of exploring, turning down small lanes and unlikely looking tracks. We found a lovely spot for lunch surrounded by softly whispering wheat fields and orchids. We ate our Morrocan stuffed flatbreads followed by a sweet shortbread reminiscent of Greek ‘kouribiades’ all washed down with Montcuq cold pressed apple juice. Delicious. We dozed under the luminous azure sky and watched soft puffs of white candy floss drifting by – we know it sounds very poetic and too good to be true, but really it’s like that here. We were watching the birds when a lemon coloured tissue paper bumbled past. Looking again we saw several, they flew a little like the runabout on Red Dwarf and looked the size of a small thimble, they were quite slow and seemed to have weird triangular wings. Eventually we saw one land and to our surprise it had normal shaped wings, the strange shape we had seen was the result of transparent distal wings combined with opaque lemon parts at the proximal end – near the body; the transparent part of the wing was invisible when it was flying but once landed it caught the sun glinting, opalescent and very delicate. Liz took some photos and we researched it when we got home. It turns out to be a rare flying insect which has localities where it thrives and our lunchtime stop turned out to be one. It is a Sulphur Owlfly (Lebelloides coccajus) known in French as ‘Ascalaphe soufré’.
Several of you have been in touch and asked when the gîtes will be ready. This won’t be till next year, and much as though we would love it there is no room to offer hospitality in the house at the moment – the exception being close friends and family that don’t mind ‘camping’ amongst the boxes. However, for those of you that would like to discover our new home and this beautiful area, there is a gîte over the road where we initially stayed whilst the hot water was sorted out. This belongs to our local ‘white horse’ Remy and his wife Lawrence. There are actually two gîtes, both can sleep four – or at a pinch five. If you feel like coming drop us an email and we can find out price and availability.
Need sign off now as the hose needs to be moved to the yews; then we are off to our Scottish friends who have an open garden next weekend which we will help out at. More of that next time.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator color=”custom” accent_color=”#deead0″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Perhaps you would like to know…
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