olive trees are notoriously tenacious. in their home territory around the mediterranean basin, they will send up shoots and suckers all the way around the circumference of their trunks if they are not pruned annually. part of maintaining an olive tree is simply damping down its mediterranean enthusiasm for life: yes, i know, olive tree. life is a beautiful thing. i know. i want to grow in all directions too. yes, the sun feels wonderful. but listen. you have to just calm down. you have to . . . no listen. just take a deep breath, and calm. down.
p.s. i did successfully find a usb cord today in montpellier. but when i went to download my images, they were all gone. i must have inadvertently deleted them while trying to see if i had wi-fi or not. in any case, i am back up and running, and back at it tomorrow.
olive tree sucker
i keep a folder on the desktop of my laptop labeled “in case of emergency.” it has STILL outtakes that simply haven’t make the cut. they are there in case a day gets away from me, and i can’t get a STILL photo made before the sun goes down. it is quite amazing, but in almost five years of doing STILL, i have very rarely, if ever, had to use it. (i am inordinately grateful for the relative life stability and calm implied by this fact, but i digress.) every now and then, i go look at the contents of the folder, and decide that indeed none of them are STILL-worthy, and delete the whole lot. well, today i had to use that folder! somehow, we still can’t explain how, the usb cord that lets me download photos from my camera to my laptop went missing. we have turned the house upside down searching for it. i composed and shot a STILL photo this morning, but it is currently locked inside my camera like gold inside a vault. we are driving to montpellier tomorrow to search out a replacement cable. wish me luck, and enjoy this squirrel-gnawed parasol pine cone. i didn’t know this until we spent time in the mediterranean, but the pine nuts we are mostly familiar with in the u.s. come from this species of pine. they are hidden near the core, with one nut for every “leaf” of the pine cone. i just hope that i never have to work as hard as this squirrel to get a handful of pine nuts for dinner.
red squirrel eaten parasol pinecone
the place where we are currently living is a very specific wine region called faugères. faugères is known for full bodied, deeply fruity mediterranean wines. but mostly it is known for its substrate of schist, which flakes and shatters and splits like what you see in the image above. the roots of the vines feel their way into those cracks, and dig deep for water in this dry region, and pull up lots of flavor and mineral character. sometimes we feel we are digging in deep here too, and pulling up some very authentic flavors, that will make it hard to tear ourselves loose, and head back to minnesota.
they keep predicting the end of the mushroom season here as soon as “the cold arrives,” but we haven’t gotten below freezing yet, and there’s been plenty of rain. take your time, end of mushroom season. we can wait.
a colleciton of mushrooms from the garrigue
these are little bundles of vine stems that get tied together, and placed inside the wine vats during the fermentation process. they are positioned right behind the faucet that lets you drain the liquid from the vat. without these twigs as a filter, the grape skins would clog the faucet, and you couldn’t drain the vat. when they are removed they are stained with red wine, and smell like fermented grape must. there was a pile of them in the corner of the balliccioni winery after the vendange was over this year. “do you want those?” asked véronique. “you can use them for grilling and they give off a scented smoke.” not even steve’s french was good enough to express just how much, indeed, we wanted them.
grape vine trimmings