A year for cherries.

June 11, 2013

quite a year for cherries

Sometimes the big great mystery hears your cry… and replies.


Inspired by more space to do the things we love, we’ve moved again. Our new house has an extra room for yoga, a workshop for Alain and a yard with garden, grape vines and a cherry tree. I feel as if I stepped into a 1950’s standard life. The French series Le Petit Nicholas comes to mind. So much for a life of few possessions.

When we moved in a couple of weeks ago the cherries were newly formed. Our tree was heavy with them and I thought it would be fun to watch a set ripen. My point and shoot camera is no good for landscape shots, but it has a nice close-up setting. Each morning I went out to the backyard to photograph two perfectly positioned cherries.

One evening I sat on the upstairs balcony admiring the fruits from high, when a black bird landed on a branch just in front of me. I watched him eat a cherry, bit by bit, leaving not a crumb on the pit still attached to the tree. I thought, that’s okay, I can’t reach that cherry anyway, and there’s enough for everyone. It was fascinating seeing the bird harvest the cherry, so expertly.

Little by little more and more birds came to harvest our cherries. But I wasn’t worried, because surely there were enough cherries for us all. Then one of my cherries disappeared. But I still had the one to watch and photograph. And then, someone ate it too. And when I went to harvest some cherries for myself I saw that there were none left, maybe a handful of pitiful half-ripened cherries from the whole once-abundant tree.

It made me sad. It should be funny, but it made me sad. Because I’d approached the fruits with such trust, knowing there would be enough for everyone. But they were devoured, every one of them. And I learned the lesson that there isn’t enough, and if you don’t take what you want, well…

The sun is pouring down here where the eastern Pyrenees meet sand. And it’s October!  We’ve been eating dinner outside on our new grand patio every night. Yes, I said new. The nomad in me stirred and we’ve moved yet again. New address: Sorede, France at the entrance to La Valee Heureuse. Happy valley it is. Olive groves and grape vines, mountains crumbling to the sea, big full moon rising over water.

Since selling the cafe in 2007 we’ve moved nine times. So it’s official, I’m a hunter and gatherer. Following that tune I’ve spent these past few weeks harvesting and savoring. First with an edible plant cooking class at Can Rigall and later with those as-promised fallen almonds.

Following are some pics of the edibles to be had around here. But first, let’s welcome Mom who’s here for a year. We picked her up at the Barecelona airport on October 4th and went directly to the beach! Look for guest posts from her very soon.

I think I'm gonna like it here.

Borage and begonias, among other edibles used in our cooking class with Leila.

Kitchen activity at Can Rigall. Soon our new website will promote all our events like this recent workshop "Cooking Plants with Passion".

Almond groves in late afternoon light.

Fresh almonds!

The extent of my hunting skills.

Limes and figs are coming to an end. The vins primeurs will be celebrated real soon. Olive harvest coming in November. And then, it may just be time to move again! Catch me if you can 🙂

It’s been a surprisingly cool summer. Lots of rain. The sweater I only wore one or two times in winter in the Everglades is now ragged from use. But I’m not complaining. David Abram in his beautifully inspiring book The Spell of the Sensuous quotes a Koyukon elder (people of northern Alaska) who believes in “accepting the weather as it comes and avoiding remarks that might offend it. This is especially true of cold, which has great power and is easily provoked to numbing fits of temper.”

Abram’s book is a celebration of humanity’s ancient roots in nature and simultaneously a lament of our current disconnect from it. Among many other things, it’s inspired me to accept the seasons as they choose to unfold.

It’s late summer now here in the eastern Pyrenees. The days have grown warm with afternoon thunderstorms building up over the presiding mountain Le Canigou. The farmer on the ridge just above our village of Arles sur Tech cut his fields last week. Alain and I passed him on his tractor hauling an overflowing load of hay for his cows to eat this winter. Two nights ago we drove my friend Isabelle home from the train station in Perpignan. A big orange moon rose up over the Alberes mountains, their night outline fading far toward the sea. Alain said, “Les jours racourcissent vite maintenant.” The days are quickly getting shorter now.

This morning we took Lilly on our regular walk along a dirt road and pastures soon to be full of cows returning from high mountain grazing. The morning air was warm with late season smells of ripeness. We collected bags of blackberries and pulled hazelnuts from a tree not far from the river. We made note of a walnut tree nearby, its branches growing full of nuts to collect in the fall.

My tiny French freezer is full of peaches and strawberries. Last weekend we jarred tomato sauce and pickled yellow squash. All the vineyards in the region are heavy with fruit. The season is suddenly on us.

And so too is its end. But I don’t feel sad or rushed by such fate. The weather will change. I will  welcome it. I only hope it hears my good words.

Bo Plays

July 26, 2011

I have several drafts of posts in the works, but no time to finish any of them, ie to write anything meaningful. But who’s really reading them anyway? So without further ado, here’s one of the things I have in queue to share:

Bo was a pillar at JT’s, the organic restaurant I owned for seven years in Everglades National Park in Florida. He supplied our kitchen with organic produce, gave advice for our kitchen garden and played a bluesy sort of blue-grass once in a while for our dinner guests.

I’m too poor to upgrade my blog  so I don’t have video capabilities…or maybe it’s just that I’m too technically challenged to figure it out.  We’ll see what happens next.

Whatever the case, I’m posting a link here the old school way. It’s Bo and it makes me miss dearly those mosquito filled days in my native Florida.

I wear my Carhartt dungarees when I work up in the garden at Can Rigall. I'm known as "the American" round these parts.

You know you’re a southerner when warm night air and barefeet make you feel blessed to the core. I’m utterly content sitting here this eve with my windows wide open and naked feet kicked up on the porch railing. That’s how you say it in French, naked feet. They don’t differentiate between bare, as in exposed to the elements, and naked, as in hee hee you’re naked. Something funny about it to me. Must be genetic. My southern mother always laughed out loud to the Ray Stevens song It’s me again Margaret. If you’ve never heard it, let me explain. Imagine the following lyrics in an exaggerated drawl:

Well there once was a feller named Willard McVane

And he only had just one thought in his brain

Every evening about midnight he’s sneak off alone

And call the same lady on a pay telephone

‘It’s me again, Margaret…

(heavy breathing and goofy laughter)

Hello, is this Margaret?

You don’t know me Margaret, but I know you.’

Well this upset the lady and it gave her the blues

So she called up the polise, said ‘What shall I do?’

The chief of detectives came round to her home

And eavesdropped upon them on her upstairs phone

‘It’s me again Margaret…

(goofy laughter)

Hello, is this Margaret?

Margaret, I know it’s you.


Are you naked?

And so on. In the song they catch the guy and he uses his one and only phone call to phone up guess who?

It’s me again Margaret, are you naked?

Just wouldn’t be so funny if he’d said bare or nude.

Though it feels kind of naughty writing this post with naked feet, the real reason I’m sharing this story is because I got an email from a good and dear friend from Kentucky that read, “The last couple of things that I received from you had attachments that required an ability to understand French. Since I can only understand butchered English, I was at a loss to really understand what was going on.”

Just made me want to defend my status over here, to let you all know that I haven’t turned totally French and forgotten my roots. Though some things are different (like my windows open out on hinges rather than slide up over the top pane and I now know how to tell somebody off in French) I’m still the same me. Okay, I wear scarves now, but I still wear flip flops and only break out the heels under duress. The bottom line is I’m not a holier than thou world traveler. Though I’m writing for a travel magazine and have to keep up appearances on that front, I’m really just a small town Florida woman living in a small town in France. Believe me Kentucky friend, I’m just as baffled as you are on a daily basis. And foreign speakers of English with crazy thick accents often tell me my American is hard to understand!

But though my barefeet are rooted in the southern United States, I’m happy to let them go naked over here for a while. Some of the differences are worth soaking up, like the latitude that lets the sun remain in the sky until 10 p.m. Long summer nights mean you can plan picnics for dinner. Earlier this week I made my regular morning trek up the mountain to the stone lodge where I work. On the edge of the trail I came up on a small group of mouflon, wild mountain sheep with big horns curled back like strange ears. They were like nothing I’d ever seen before and they made my small town self feel even smaller in a big wide world. To call on another Kentuckian, John Prine’s lyrics seem apropos, Ooh baby it’s a big old goofy world.

You can see what those mountain sheep look like here: