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24 June 2013

Chateau June 2013

Blog,  22 June 2013

The clouds are hanging low over the valley this Saturday morning, and its cooler.  We don’t mind, but our deprived neighbours are not happy, they were enjoying the sunshine so much.

A young neighbour!

During the last two weeks of good weather, the local farmers have been working non stop making hay, helping each other.  Tractors and loads of hay are roaring up and down the road past our house continually.  Its an abundant, wonderful crop, but so hard to get it in dry.  Shortly before we arrived some of them were forced to put their Charolais cattle back into their barns, as the fields were so sodden, the cattle were sinking in up to their shoulders and damaging the pasture.  Then there was the problem of feeding them.  I guess a farmer's life is never easy, so much depends on nature and the weather. 

It was mid summer’s day yesterday, and all over France, towns, villages and cities held their annual music festival to celebrate.    We went into Cluny (about 5kms) after dinner, and strolled around amongst the crowds to listen to every kind of music imaginable.  Every corner we turned, had a stage featuring bands playing Memphis, pop, rock, jazz, spunk, classical, or choirs singing acapella and acrobats with lively shows.  Cafes and bars were spilling out on to the narrow cobble stoned streets jammed with people, and in the squares and parks groups set up their own ‘buvettes’ - sandwich and drinks stalls.   So it was a lively evening and people came in from the villages around the 12 gates of the old town of Cluny.   After an initial stroll pushing through the crowded streets, we settled on the grass at the amphitheatre, just inside the medieval monastery walls, listened to music and watched the sun go down, sipping a glass of red.

  Children were kicking footballs in the park, or rolling down the grass banks and generally having a wonderful time.  Wine and beer were E1.50 a tumbler full, and it was all very convivial.  An interesting observation is that there are no drunks.

We drove home under a full moon in a clear sky, the countryside unfolding with shadows and light.  At home we quickly settled on the galerie for a nightcap of beautiful malt whisky enjoying the full moon.

Last Saturday was the village ‘randonné nocturnal’, an evening walk of 8-9 kms around the valley on a beautiful mild, warm evening.  We started with a group of about 35 at 6.30pm, and soon spread out walking up hill and down dale with magnificent views across the lush green valley.  Wild flowers everywhere, and beautiful evening colours and shades.

We climbed up the narrow steep track to the church to admire the new roof on the 10th century tower.  The tiles were replaced with similar tiles to the original, called louzes.  Each one has to be hand carved out of stone, and extra strong beams inserted to hold the huge weight of stone tiles.   A wonderful sight, and the effort to maintain the heritage very much to be admired.

Some of the tracks were very wet, almost running streams, so we got wet feet!   However, it didn’t seem to matter as we arrived with extremely muddy boots at the parking area where there was an excellent bbq set up.   Wine, beer, pork cutlets, sausages and frites, a hearty meal after that long walk.  We both thought we would be a bit stiff and achy, but not too bad at all.  However, it was not an easy walk home, climbing slowly up the hill in the dusk after it was all over.   We slept well for the first time in a week! 

On arrival, it’s all a bit overwhelming to see the weeds and the state of the courtyard and the house surrounds.   Our gardener had the grass cut and my veggy patch dug, so that was a help, however everything else required a lot of work.  We got to, and fortunately the ground was still quite damp, and it didn’t take many days to get it all clear and looking sooooo much better.

The roses get better and better!
It’s a wonderful season for roses after so much rain, and every time I look at them I am filled with wonder ….   The perfume as I pass by, and the gentle colours and full blooms are magnificent.

I have planted the usual in the veggy patch: tomatoes, aubergine, courgettes, salad, carrots, and onions.   We have also planted an apple tree, a gift from my birthday last year.   We don’t know the names of different kinds of apples in France, so a bit of guess work involved.  We wanted a fairly mature tree, so didn’t have a huge choice.  It’s completely the wrong time of the year to plant, but with good soil, manure and watering, hopefully it will survive.  The fig tree looks healthy after I trimmed all the dead branches, but unfortunately the first figs rotted with too much rain.   I don’t know whether we are going to get any cherries, the ripe ones now are very high, but perhaps we’ll manage to pick a few.  Too much rain in spring and not enough sun.
Repairing the internet connection
I am picking a bowl of wild strawberries most days – and they have made a good ground cover amongst the roses. Heaps of berries everywhere, gooseberries, red currants, black currants and jostaberries, so a big harvest anticipated!   My wild rose at the side of the house has gone mad, soooo much growth, and the honeysuckle has twisted amongst it, using the rose for support.

I won’t dwell on the fact that we had no internet for the first week, except to say that we went to a kind neighbour’s house twice a day to use their internet.  It was very efficiently repaired by ‘Orange’ – used to be France Telecom – and we are very happy to be fully efficiently connected as a result of the new fibre network going past our house.

Otherwise our first two weeks have been fairly sociable with visits too and fro for meals with neighbours.   The rain has produced enormous Burgundian snails – very popular cuisine here, but July starts the season, and no one is allowed to harvest them until next week!

We are always happy to discover birds nesting here, and a family of red starts seem to have successfully launched their young from a little stone house under our galerie. 

My neighbour who prunes our vines, also cut osier canes for me to make baskets, and now I am starting to sort them out and will have a go if I have time.   I must concentrate on writing and researching women of the middle ages.

So far have made green olive tapenade, walnut paste, chicken liver paté, and many other tasty bits and pieces.

So now to have a tour of the garden and see what has happened after overnight rain.
Lots of enormous snails perhaps?

On Sunday we decided to take a long walk - approximately 2 hours - up the hill through the forest along the crest, descending eventually and walking along the bottom of the valley to home. 
We had climbed about 100 metres, when a car stopped and it was our Dutch/Canadian friends who were on their way to a 'puce' (flee market) in the village of Mary, about 30kms away.  They persuaded us to jump in and go with them.  So off we went on a little adventure.   Mary is perched on the top of a hill and the wind was bitter, howling around us.   Not a bad puce, as they go, I nearly bought a very pretty spinning wheel, but was sensible, and there was some good linen too.   We were glad to climb back into the car out of the wind and set off for our second destination - St Gengoux le National, where there was an exhibition of old Orgues du Barbary - I guess in English - barrel organs, for playing in the street.
When we got there we discovered it didn't start until 2pm, so decided we had better have lunch.  Went into a restaurant in the main street, and had a wonderful Menu du Jour, 4 excellent courses for E19. 
Terrific value and very pleasant.

After lunch we took to the streets again, thank goodness the sun had come out so it was more pleasant.
Great fun wandering around the little ancient cobbled streets with organs of every shape and size, with their proud owners singing while turning the handle and feeding in the punched cardboard strips. 
Back home at the end of the day, what a very pleasant Sunday!  
photos below..
Hard Work turning the handle!!

It must be a love song..

A little Orgue du Barbary goes a long way!

He had a selection of bells to ring in time with the organ.

Serious stuff.

Marc admiring the roses.

note the name of the shop..

The weather has become so much cooler, and our first visitors arrive tomorrow,  so we will be busy well into July.  Must tie up the vines in between guests!!

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