And finally….. Apricots – 29/6/16

Its hard to believe that my last blog was over two weeks ago (nor that we have now been here for six weeks), I am not sure where time goes and each day feels like two as they are so long.  For the last couple of weeks we have pretty much continued to work from 6am, although with the appalling weather a couple of weeks ago I think we managed to work every combination of hours possible (now also incorporating Saturday’s) except a night shift.  Summer is apparently here however -despite a storm currently brewing outside with some incredible thunder and lightening – not really that surprising when it is between 32 and 35 degrees at 5pm in the shade – 6am is nice though, like an English summer day … Roughly 18 degrees 🙂

My relationship with rain has definately changed since we started working here as each time it rains all I think of are cherries … (To be fair I was dreaming about them at one point) they are vulnerable little things and you can’t pick them, pack them or do anything with them if the are the slightest bit wet …. believe it or not, they use a massive hairdryer to blow the trees to dry them off before picking.

With the weather being quite varied over the last couple of weeks we have done a mixture of work, a lot of time spent on the vine and two Saturday’s ago we started on the Apricots.  Apricots like I have never seen Apricots before, being novices to this farming lark, neither Keith nor I had any idea that there were so many varieties of Apricot,  Florian and Josette have at least nine that they currently grow, the first type being Californian Orange-Red’s which vary in size, but the ones we were picking were the size of tennis balls and full of flavour.  Apparently the reason behind having so many different types of Apricots is so that they don’t all ripen at exactly the same time, making it slightly easier to harvest and for us to get a nice balanced diet.  Apparently two more fields will be ready later this week ….Apricot crumble here we come 🙂

On the food note the last couple of weeks has expanded our efforts to incorporate Apricots as well as the production of the most expensive brownie yet …. Using Valrhona Chocolate, cherries and nuts ….. A success.  Keith has also been trying his hand at Tortillas (although they need to be a bit thinner if we are going to eat them with Fajitas) along with making creamed honey and as it is so hot, randomly we have started to eat cold porridge for breakfast (Oats soaked in milk, water fruit and cinnamon overnight) which is actually a nice alternative on a hot day at 5am 🙂

 

Despite the ridiculously hot weather we have managed to find a bit of time on a hot afternoon to venture up into the surrounding hills to take in some of the vinyards and the beautiful views

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Stopping off briefly on the way home to cool down in another of the local vinyards’ tasting rooms to try their selection of white and reds from the region ….. Always looking to learn and soak up a bit of culture 🙂

On Sunday we set off to a little village on an island in the middle of the Rhone, La Roche de Glun which is roughly 8km from us to watch the French semi-finals of ‘Joute Barque’ or in English ‘Boat Jousting’ …. You have to see it to believe it, but it has been going for over 100 years and there are roughly seven different versions in France and Florian (our boss) used to be the champion.

Flexibility and core strength are key as it starts with two jousters on the back of two seperate boats heading towards each other …. Note the pretty impressive splits position he is holding

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They then lower the lance and aim at their target…. The boats are powered by an engine in case you wondered so a fair bit of force behind them

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With the objective being to dismount (if you can say that about a boat) the opponent, whilst remaining on your boat ….

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Quite a nice tranquil way to spend a Sunday afternoon, a picnic, a few beers (Florian was working in the beer tent) and sunshine – we are now experts in Joute Barque, although it is a bit harsh on the limbs so we will be staying well clear of participating.

We have got a nice group of people who we are working with and as it was my birthday on Monday and Florence’s birthday on Tuesday we decided to do a big Bar B Q last night which as always highlighted everyones’ inability to make small quantities of food.  We can’t complain though as it was all delicious – and just means that several people don’t need to cook for a couple of days 🙂 – all washed down with some lovely local Rose and Red wine, finished off with a bit of a sing song as Florence plays the Guitar and Eukalale and Gill (one of the other girls) sings and raps…. Just a shame we had to get up at 5am this morning ….

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It’s Friday, it’s five to five….it’s not crackerjack – 12/6/16

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I am afraid something that only those of you who watched children’s TV in the UK between the mid 1950’s and the 1980’s would get …. Unfortunately for us, five to five was in the morning, not the evening and it was the sound of the alarm going off and the accompanied bird song rather than a husband and wife team dressed up in school uniform ….. If you didn’t see it have a look here as it really was quite something and brings a smile to most people’s faces when the phrase is mentioned 🙂

So, yes…. 4:55 the alarm goes off, it is still dark, the birds are just waking up – noisily, it is very calming and apart from the birds, quite tranquil (unsurprisingly) and enables us to get to work for a 6am start. The hours have changed as it started to heat up last week, at 5am it is already 16/17 degrees rising to 30+ in the sun during the late afternoon, which when you are pruning the vines in the full sun it’s a bit much so we have switched to 6am – 1pm and it definitely caught up with me by the end of the week.

The last couple of weeks have just disappeared as our days have been full between work and chores. The week before last week gave us a fair bit of rain -although thankfully it was mostly overnight – finishing the week off with an amazing electric storm last Saturday, over the last week the temperature has risen but apparently it is set to change again tomorrow when the rain will start to fall again ….. Because we definitely need more rain down here……Not.

Work-wise we have now got into a routine and the work has been split between working the back breaking and knee creaking vineyards and the neck wrenching cherry trees …. Nothing a good run or a bit of Tabata hasn’t loosened up though.

We have expanded the cherry recipes to include Chocolate Fridge Cake (with fresh cherries rather than glacier) – apparently so good that the owner of the farm has made some this weekend – we have also been roasting the cherries in the oven thus removing some of the juice and find they go very well in porridge…..

Continuing our weirdness, we have now bought a French TV box so that we can watch French TV wherever we go ….. How we are going to decide which we watch when we are not in France or Spain I don’t know, but thankfully for now the French TV is going to show most of the Euro Cup so at least we don’t need to switch between French, Spanish and UK TV….. For now, at least.

It hasn’t all been work and food …. Well possibly mostly food to be fair, we have managed to explore a little further, taking advantage of the surprisingly nice weather last Sunday to walk up to Mercurol and then on a circular walk through the vineyards – beautiful.

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And today we cycled down the Rhone to Valence which is roughly 20km away before heading back to our favourite little chocolate shop to select some rather special chocolate for the next batch of brownies this week….. Possibly the most expensive batch we will make, but we did buy a kilo so it should last a while 🙂