Monday, 21 October 2013

la vendange

Last week saw our neighbours grape harvest come to an end for this year.

It was the first time I have participated in a French vendange.  Hard work (all that bending and scrunching into weird postures to make sure you get every grape), but a lot of fun also.

We picked red and white grapes.  Jean will turn them into wine - or more likely they will end up as Pineau, a local speciality.

I took home some of each and made grape jelly....... well, what else do you expect from me?

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Autumn Abundance

Life has been a bit busy lately.  Firstly, we had family here for a month, so that was fun.  No time for blogging though as any spare time was spent in the garden.

In fact, quite a few days I had them helping to prepare the bounty of the garden into winter stockpiles.  Well, I say they helped... but in fact my Mum seemed to eat as much fruit and green beans as she prepared..... hmmm.  All good though as we had more fruit and veg than we could cope with.

My arriere cuisine is filled to the brim with jars of compote, stewed fruit, jams, sauces, syrups and condiments.  The cellier is stockpiled with parsnips, potatoes and carrots, with more potatoes in one of the dependances.

 In one week I lifted over 130kgs of potatoes!  This does not count the potatoes I have lifted for eating over the summer.  A bit of a shock as it did not look like that much on the ground.  I had 2 rows like the one pictured.  Next year we may just put in one row I think.  Thank goodness for generous neighbours with tractors and potatoe lifters!

We did buy a second freezer, and it is cram packed with veg from the garden.  I have prepared enough green beans, courgettes and kale to last us till next harvest.  Also lots of blackberries, mirabelles, plums, raspberries and other sweet treats filling the shelves. 

Just waiting on the pumpkins to ripen and I can bring them in to add to the collection.  There are some citrouille and butternuts, along with something else that I have fogotten the name of.

I feel a little bit like a squirrel hoarding food away for the winter.

There have been a few fails.  For some reason the rhubarb and peach compote did not want to remain in the pots, and proceeded to ferment and fizz all over the shelf.  Really upset about that one as I adore rhubarb and peaches.  My first batch of tomato sauce did not work either.  It was simply pressed tomatoes with fresh herbs.  Think the herbs needed to be cooked or blanched before adding to the sauce.  I threw them in whole as it looked pretty, and so I wound up with mouldy sauce - even though they were put through a water bath.  Oh well, live and learn.

I do think I have done alright though considering I did not have a big steriliser and have been processng in small batches on the stove.  A huge time saver was my lovely pressure cooker which was an early birthday/Christmas pressent.  So nice to cook things in 30minutes instead of 6hours.

Now it is time to prune the plum trees, and tidy up the rest of the garden.  The apples need to wait till later, so at least the pruning is a bit more spaced out this year.

About 150 bulbs have gone in to the ground so far, with another few hundred to go.  My lawn is looking nice and shows real promise for being lush and verdant next year.  I have been attending gardening workshops at a local nursery, and have quite a few cuttings quietly sprouting away, ready for planting next spring.  Next week we look at dividing plants, so I will increase my stock again.  We have a real liking for grasses, geraniums and lavenders, so they are going to be the main plants, with others scattered amongst them for interest.  Photos will have to wait till next year though as nothing to see now.