July 01, 2005
Weather Report: Up early with the birds in this long village of canal and river on a cool start to July. June’s solstice flame already baked the wheat fields, spurred the sunflowers into yellow crowns and ripened the first coeur de boeuf tomatoes in the potager. Today’s respite from a too-strong sun prompts DuPont to take me for a walk along the towpath to survey our neighborhood- the farms and orchards of the Garonne River Valley.
Geography Lesson: The Garonne River Basin sprawls across southwestern France from the Pyrenees, north and west to Bordeaux and gathers in dozens of rivers such as the Tarn, Gers and Lot as well as numerous small but significant streams like the Ciron that feeds cold water through Sauternes to induce the noble rot-infused fog. Finally, the tidal Garonne disgorges herself (La Garonne) alongside the Dordogne into its estuary, the Gironde, and on to the Atlantic. Picture the palm of your hand threaded with lines and veins that water our potagers, gardens and farms. Your wrist is the muddy estuary ebb and flow where pibale (bébé eels) and sturgeon live. Your arm is the Gulf Stream that brings our predominate weather from the southwest and the Bay of Biscay or Golfe de Gascogne. The Garonne runs at a fast clip five-hundred meters from my French Kitchen; the Canal de Garonne flows just underneath me on the Julia Hoyt. I write with my feet rooted in water.
Farm Report: It’s pretty quiet out there this morning. Dupe and I walk the towpath that perches above the valley floor, a man-made dyke to keep canal in and river flooding out. We pass a wheat field flattened in its prime by an excitable summer storm. A lone deer nibble at the edges keeping one eye on DuPont as he runs ahead of me. The kiwi vines are flushed out and form a dark canopy punctuated every now and then by a male plant dominating over his fecund ‘harem’. Two orchard workers ‘summer prune’ the semi-dwarf apple trees—chanteclers, I think. Young friends, Penelope and Julia, gather a hand full of wheat from the field next to Camont. They thresh the golden kernels by hand, grind them in the mortar and pestle then use the coffee grinder to make 2 cups of fine fresh whole-wheat flour. We’ll make a buttery crust for an apricot tart later.
Posted by Kate Hill at Friday, July 01, 2005