we learned within hours of our arrival in southern france that we had a swallow’s nest with babes under our terrace overhang; mama was trying to keep everyone fed, and it was clearly hard work. she was swo0ping in and out all day. apparently the urge to fledge has more to do with brain chemistry or the calendar than waiting for favorable meteorological conditions. because this guy decided yesterday was the day to start flying. but, as is typical here, the wind was slamming shutters and shaking tree tops. and so we watched with fascination and a little bit of horror as he launched himself into our courtyard, and then got caught in an eddy of wind which carried him from within centimeters of one stone wall and then another. at some point we turned away. it was like watching brazil against germany in the world cup. i didn’t want to watch. about an hour later our ten year old, joseph, found him/her on the garage floor looking very much the worse for wear, with wings stuck out at odd angles. we nursed it as best we could, and then gingerly placed it beside its nest so that mama could take over. we decided she is a much better swallow parent than we are.
in our courtyard, autignac, france
a collection of fruits in mid-july from jean-luc’s orchard: peach, fig, apricot, plum, quince, pomegranate, nectarine, apple, pear, and cherry pits (and notably absent is persimmon)
i am still getting teased for my slight overreaction to finding these silver dollar plant seed pods growing out of the top of a stone wall during a family outing. i gasped as if an intruder had just jumped out at me, and blurted, “seed pods!” in the middle of the street. my children have spent the last two days imitating me every time they walk by this plant in our living room. still, i mean, look at them. wouldn’t you gasp too?
money plant / monnaie du pape (lunaria annua)
saint-guilhem-le-désert, languedoc, france
the front door flew open this afternoon, and 10 year old joe came pounding up the steps. a jar. a jar. he needed a jar. he grabbed one and tore back down to the street. ten minutes later, he came back with a scorpion in a yogurt pot. i don’t know how he got the scorpion into the pot. i don’t want to know. i just know the scorpion in the jar became part of the family for a day, and we were treated to some extra dialogue and commentary from the young naturalist who had adopted this stray off the village street.
scorpion (rock scorpion?)
here is your mandatory lavender photo from southern france. like a sunset view over a minnesota lake, it has been done to death, and yet is never less than spectacular in person. i am smelling lavender on my hands as i type this. it does not smell like a cliche.
there is a large rosemary shrub on our terrace. it is the size of a small bathtub. the leaves remind me of the spruce needles back home in minnesota. do you happen to remember the spruce needle assemblage i did last winter? it seemed fitting this summer to do a mediterranean equivalent with a local evergreen.
along every roadside, everywhere we go here, two and three foot tall spikes of wild fennel are growing. the flower umbels are just pulling free, and in the next few weeks, they will all sport yellow flowers and lacy fronds that look like dill and smell like anise. we have also recently pulled off to the side of the road, and had the car inundated with the smell of the wild mint we had just driven over. we have passed thickets of wild thyme on a walk through the garrigue. we have seen a rosemary hedge the size of a minivan. and we have driven past stands of parasol pines, whose cones produce pine nuts. these are such exotic foods for a minnesotan, and so preciously expensive back home, that it is almost impossible to imagine a place where they are as wild and abundant as weeds. yet, here we are.
previous to this visit, we have spent two extended stays here in southwest france, but always in the fall. we’re used to seeing black olives, brown figs, yellow lemons, and indigo grapes. right now, they’re all green. already i wish we were staying a little longer.
a collection of july fruits: olives, fig, lemon, grapes
autignac, languedoc, france
they measure the rainfall here in southwest france in millimeters. when we left minneapolis, we were already over 400 mm, and it was still june. by our standards this is a dry and parched place. and yet, the abundance of fruit and flora makes us re-examine our assumptions. this is not desert. moist air from the mediterranean blows across the plains to the foothills just behind our village. it is dry enough to make the olives and grapes suffer, and yet moist enough to nourish kitchen gardens and orchards. there is so much humidity in fact, that the local charcutier must be located up over the foothills so that his sausages will properly age. so we all drive 20 minutes up over the hill to buy his dried sauasages and salamis. i suppose you could call that an inconvenience. but we don’t.
after 20 hours of travel, followed by 15 hours of sleep, this is the result of 1 single hour in the garrigue, the local mediterranean scrubland that surrounds us in almost every location where there are no vines. the abundance, for a semi-arid climate, is mind blowing.
early july assemblage from rural languedoc