The grapes have been picked in the vineyards of the Touraine and at village fetes throughout the area Bernache, a bubbling, still fermenting grape juice is offered by good humoured stallholders, while local musicians play in nearby cafes to help celebrate another successful harvest.
Here in central France the people are in touch with nature in a way I haven’t seen since my childhood in Cornwall. Although there are more than a few commuters from Paris in the area, everyone seems to be involved with the land in some way or another and the seasons are keenly followed.
At the moment while many are preoccupied with the wine, pigs are being prepared in the old way: family and friends getting together to turn an animal into delicious pates, sausages, and hams for preserving and storing. There are mushrooms to be picked from the Oak woods and meadows at the weekends, dodging the hunters who are out with their dogs after game. Deer, wild boar and anything that flies are persuaded out of hiding by scores of dogs, nearly as wild as their prey. On the river banks the fishermen are in place as usual, perhaps snacking from the fallen fruits of a nearby Walnut tree as they wait for a bite at the end of the line.
Gardening too is a seasonal affair and I am working hard to clear the overgrown wilderness around our house. When we arrived there were complaints that snakes had been seen coming from our property into the street, so the removal lorry had hardly been emptied before I was out with the strimmer tidying the front. Since then I have worked through front and back gardens removing brambles, young trees and chest high grass in an effort to tame the jungle.
I have planted a few shrubs I brought from the UK, an easy task in the light sandy soil with which we are blessed. On the other side of the town the influence of the underlying limestone gives much heavier, limey clay soils in which corn, sunflower and maize do well, but closer to the river and especially in the Sologne to the north of us, the soils are acid and much less fertile. These are the areas where grapes, strawberries and asparagus are grown and in gardens, Camellias and Rhododendrons thrive.
Once the weeds have been controlled I will be able to begin the planting of our garden in earnest. The plan was prepared a year ago but has been changed several times since. For someone who designs gardens for a living and has seen over 1,000 completed, I have found my own very hard to finalise. I hope you will enjoy following its progress as much as I will.