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Fresh asparagus

Posted on March 24th, 2011

Two hundred metres to the west of our house eighty-five year old Monsieur Thédonat grows grapes and asparagus.  Vines on taller trellises are muscat for the table while the lower trellises support grenache sent to the co-operative at Lumieres for vinification. White asparagus is grown in heaped soil, deprived of sunlight, while green asparagus grows above ground.  The plants can be harvested year after year, but the spears grow very fast.  The soil rows were built up on 5th March and the first white asparagus harvested fifteen days later.  The rows are covered with plastic to conserve moisture and they run north-south to deliver balanced harvesting on both sides of the earth mound.  Each spear is harvested by hand and Michel, our gardener, helps…

Mystery houses

Posted on March 7th, 2011

The Lacoste Woods around us are steeped in history.  Signs of earlier habitation are everywhere – walls, terraces, pathways, citernes for water storage and puits (wells).  Numerous dry stone bories can be seen, some dating back over five hundred years – used by bergers (shepherds) and farmers for protection.  Yet the higher areas of forest are now almost completely abandoned, the old vineyards and terraces overgrown, the troupeau (flocks of sheep) long gone.  Not far from the house, but in opposite directions, stand the remains of two substantial houses.  The house to the east of us probably dates from the late 18C and sits on a hillside.  Built from local limestone, much of it pierre de taille, or cut stone, the construction suggests a…

Goult cemetery

Posted on March 5th, 2011

Most cemeteries  in France are multi-denominational, separate from local churches.  Goult cemetery is typical, but what sets it apart is an extensive array of topiary dating from 1906. French graves carry memorial plaques from wives, husbands, parents, children, cousins, friends and neighbours. Most have mementos from clubs or work.  Some have plaques from former colleagues in the resistance or military. Often there are proud memorials to those who died at war.  Emmanuel Deflaux fell in June 1915, attacking Metzeral in the Vosges Mountains of Alsace.  The battle was won by French troops, but the village of Metzeral and the Fecht valley were left in ruins. In the First World War, French troops in their bright blue and red uniforms made easy targets for the…

A short history of religion

Posted on March 1st, 2011

Just fifteen minutes walk from here lies the Prieure de St Hilaire, overlooking the Petit Luberon. The priory was founded during the 1240s by a community of brothers from Palestine, who occupied an earlier convent on the site. It is a remarkably beautiful and peaceful place. It was not always peaceful here. The priory witnessed much religious violence and cruelty that plagued the region for centuries. About the same time as the Priory was founded, a Catholic splinter group, known as the Vaudois, had emerged as the forerunners of Protestantism. The Vaudois believed in biblical poverty and thus challenged the massive wealth, power and corruption of the Catholic establishment, who excommunicated and declared the Vaudois heretics. In 1211 more than 80 were burned at…