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April 1st, 2006:

Paying the price

A busy couple of weeks to get the season underway. Lots of jobs done in the garden, the paddock finally cleared and another hedge layed. Asparagus planted, Jerusalem artichokes planted, garlic bed weeded and nine new trees put in to replace the bits of old ones we’ve chopped up and/or burned over the winter. The Vines got pruned as did the Apples, Pear and Peach trees. We learned a tough lesson last year as we lost one whole mature peach tree due to being overloaded with fruit and a couple of bigger branches from other trees. That won’t happen again.

Two of the new trees planted (a Doyenne du Comice pear and a Reine de Reinette apple) got planted in what now forms a little ‘espalier walk’ at the end of the orchard, pics to follow soon.

A last trip this morning in what I hope to be quite some time to the decheterie. The man from the commune now recognises us by name and is always particularly helpful after first telling us that we can not throw anything away there! In the skip today, an old boiler, a heinous antique bed and a couple of tubs of scrap metal… all the remnants of clearing out the last of the ‘atelier’ at the side of the house. I’m not quite sure yet just what we’ll do with these workshops but for now they’re handy storage for old wine barrels, garden tools and the like.

And paying the price? Well today is my first day in four days without having to resort to painkillers whilst feeling hopelessly crippled by back-pain. Oddly, I seem to have sustained the muscle strain whilst up a ladder doing some pruning and reaching skywards into one of the mirabelle trees.

A thought did cross my mind that with an old 220 litre oak wine barrique, some steel pipework and a splash of Fred Dibnah ingenuity I could easily craft a firebox and a cold-smoker. Seems like a reasonable use for just one of the Atelier rooms I think. Only snag of course is that this would necessitate raising some bacon to smoke in it.

Not quite the Cheshire Smokehouse, more the Charentaise Smokehouse? Hrm…

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