twelve year old joseph is starting to fall in love with fishing, which is an event his father has been waiting for, sometimes patiently, sometimes not, for a number of years. one of joe’s stated goals for this trip for france was to go fishing on one of our favorite rivers, the endlessly beautiful orb, which winds between wooded banks from the hills behind us, down onto the coastal plain, before emptying into the hérault river and eventually into the mediterranean. there are trout in most of its upper reaches, and steve and joe climbed into the river together one morning last week, true fishing buddies for the first time. it was an auspicious moment, and we all would have considered it even more so, if we had recognized that the deeply veined leaves of the small trees lining the bank of the river next to us were alder leaves–the same tree that lines the banks of most of steve’s favorite trout streams in michigan and minnesota. no fish were caught that day, but two days later the boys went out alone together, and, on the verge of giving up, they caught a small brown trout from behind a rock in the middle of the stream, and had, at last, successfully fished on the orb. i’m afraid i’ll be seeing less of both of them over the next few years.
alder leaves (feuilles d’aulne)
orb river, le bousquet d’orb, languedoc, france
i don’t know what this grass is called, despite a very nerdy effort this evening via google and a guidebook called “la garrigue, grandeur nature” (thank you sonia!). the little woolly seed heads of this plant are bobbing everywhere right now along the streets of our village and along the rural roads of the languedoc. all i can think of is the fact that i am 52, and despite spending most of my life feeling pretty sharp, i sometimes feel as empty headed as this seed fluff: what was that place called? where did we go that year? who was that guy, you know, that guy . . . with the hat? and the . . . you know . . . at that place?
abundant roadside grasses
autignac, languedoc, france
steve found this wild hop vine while trout fishing with our son joseph today on the river orb, which is one of the most beautiful rivers in southern france. they were looking for a new fishing spot, walking along the edge of a vineyard, when they ran into a tangle of wild hops. grapes for wine. hops for beer. mother nature clearly had a plan for this part of the world.
hops with flower cones (humulus lupulus )
bouscet d’orb, languedoc, france
The most dramatic and thrilling plant here right now is probably wild fennel, which is about 4 or 5 feet tall along almost every rural roadside. it is a potent symbol of this place, and in our case, a potent reminder that we are no longer in minnesota. but it has competition for most common and striking roadside plant. the challenger is this “carotte sauvage,” which displays a mass of white flowers while it blooms, and a complicated broom head of seeds afterwards, and which is, in fact, the very familiar queen anne’s lace. unlike fennel, it grows along almost every minnesota highway in summer, the only difference being that in minnesota it rarely if ever looks out over rolling hills of vines.
carrotte sauvage (daucus carota)
autignac, languedoc, france
not technically a thistle i’m told, but that strikes me as a distinction without a difference. lots of people think of southern france as crowded beaches, sunny warmth, lavender fields, sunflowers, and the casinos of monte carlo. but we’re on the west side of the rhone, and here southern france means mostly thorns. ok, there are lots of fish, yes. the mediterranean, sure. tomatoes and garlic. of course. but if you’re out foraging for still blog samples, our corner of southern france is made up of thorns first, and everything else second.
le chardon roulant, ou le panicaut champêtre