Listening To The Land

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This land needs rain.

I wake up early to the sound of gentle drops on the windows, hoping it announces the end of a long  and very dry summer. The sky is leaden and there’s northern light. But this taste of the new season doesn’t last. By late afternoon all clouds are gone and the sun is back out.

Oh, to live in the countryside. It’s a new experience each season because you cannot predict what will happen. You think you’re in tune with the land. You learn to dig the earth, grow vegetables, plant trees, pick fruit and make jam. But then there’s a pest infestation or a late frost, a drought or excessive rain. You take for granted that nature’s gifts will always be there, but things can change in a blink.


When we meet our neighbours, the talk inevitably turns to the weather. They talk about the long dry spell and the likelihood of rain. And they talk about the arrival of the infamous box-tree moth in this part of France. This species is capable of total defoliation of box plants. In many regions the moth is a pest of ornamental plants and historic gardens. Here in the Causses, box is part of the natural landscape and the moth’s destructive caterpillar stands to permanently alter the character of the ecosystem. Farmers and hunters are grieving the change of their land, for themselves and for wildlife, and their worries touch me. Wabi sabi teaches me to accept and embrace nature’s course of action, so I try to regard this insect as a wayshower for a new landscape. One I cannot imagine yet.

On the harvest side, we’ve grown accustomed to growing an abundance of tomatoes. This year, they’re not even ripening on the vine. The hot days of August have sizzled our courgettes and the stonefruit trees have suffered too. Last year, we harvested devilishly sweet plums. Today, there are none.

But let’s focus on what we do have…
Because there’s so little of it, everything we pick feels like a sort of offering. Just enough cherries for a crumble in June! Six small jars of blackberry jam to make us smile through winter! And photos of a happy Thomas picking cherries and berries.


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