Thursday 27 June 2013

"If you have a garden..."

We had a garden. But our little veggie patch is no more. 

Compared to the destruction all around, the loss of life, of possessions, of livelihood and the months of disruption that lie ahead, it seems almost shameful for me to be weeping over a few lost potatoes.

But I feel so heart-broken at the knowledge that our seedlings are now under a mess of mud and stones, that our potatoes are now bobbing about in the Atlantic.

I found pottering in our garden so restorative and therapeutic, and had been looking forward to continuing throughout the summer season.

Cicero said, "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."

We might not have a garden any more, but we still have each other, and a roof over our heads. Which is a darn sight more than some people in our valley right now.

And besides, I've also still got a heap of books by my bed just waiting to be read.  

Tuesday 25 June 2013

the flood

It's hard to know what to write just now. A devastating flood [une crue] hit the valley a week ago, ripping out roads, washing away houses, leaving three people dead.

We've been without power, electricity and water for the last couple of days.

The waters have receded now, power is restored and the road out of the valley is safe once again. But the village looks like a war zone. There are police and soldiers everywhere, helicopters flying over head.


Even the French President has been to visit, to survey the damage, to shake people's hands, [toca maneta] as the old people say.  

There is only one subject of discussion on everyone's lips. But I'm finding it a bit hard to take it all in just now. So if you don't mind, I'll leave it there for now...

Friday 21 June 2013

the longest day

Linger on paths, on the hillside, in the meadows. Soak in all the sunlight, turn not a ray away. 

It's the day we've longed for since the Winter Solstice. The longest day. 

We planned to spend ours elsewhere. In some unknown city, somewhere down there. Soaking up the rhythms of the Fête de la musique long into the night. 

But instead, we shall spend it here in the valley, with the swollen Bastan still roaring by and the streets still covered in mud. 

Trying to make sense of it all. The devastation but also the compassion of strangers. The strength and the solidarity of the community. The power of Mother Nature in reclaiming what is hers.

There will be many hours in this longest day. Sometimes, I imagine them to pass quickly, like water in a rushing stream. But I've had enough of rushing water for the time being. 

On this Longest Day, I want to savour every single one of these sunlit hours as they lead up to those final golden ones, the hours we have reclaimed from the night. 

Monday 17 June 2013

snow, rain, flood warnings

A hot, sticky weekend gave way to a cool and wet evening. Conked out to rain, woke up to rain. Thunderstorms all last night and then Tuesday arrived all grey and soggy. 

Flash flood warnings are up in the valley. The Bastan and the Gave de Pau which gush down from the Col du Tourmalet and le Cirque de Gavarnie respectively are known to spill over their banks in the Spring time, sending streams of water across low-lying roads and driving us into convoluted detours to avoid its overspill. There was one such flood [une crue] last Autumn, the weekend we were due to drive up to the UK. The gorge road was flooded and our only way out was up into the mountains and the across the Tourmalet pass. If the rivers flood again this week there'll be no such luck this time; the Tourmalet is still currently under 3 metres of accumulated snow.  

Just before dinner, we slipped on jackets and wellies, grabbed an umbrella and tramped across the village to see if the Bastan is behaving itself.

We could smell it before we could see it: a powerfully pungent earthy smell. 

We could hear it before we could see it: the gnashing and grinding of boulders in the river bed.

We could feel it before we could see it: the ground was trembling as we approached the riverside. 

The whole of Luz also seemed to be out inspecting the Bastan, which has transformed from an insignificant torrent to a mighty river of mud hurtling down the mountainside. Already some houses with river frontage are flooded and others are being evacuated. 

What started out last evening as a bit of rain, seems to be getting a bit serious...

Saturday 15 June 2013

meltwater, Pont d'Espagne

 Spent a restful afternoon outdoors at le Clot near Pont d'Espagne. Nico was rock-climbing with a friend. I spread out a picnic blanket at the foot of the crag and enjoyed my book amid Spring flowers and sunshine. 

On our way back down, we briefly paused at Pont d'Espagne to marvel at the white water gushing down the waterfall from the Lac du Gaube. None of us have ever seen the waterfalls so swollen, nor so much melt water. 

It was beautiful, but also slightly unnerving, to witness the full force of Mother Nature hurtling through the narrow canyons.  

Thursday 13 June 2013

planting potatoes

We spent the afternoon sowing potatoes. There is something so incredibly satisfying about plunging our hands into the warm, moist, living earth, planting the seed potatoes, watering them in and then covering them back up. I could hardly believe how wonderfully our little earth-worm friends have worked the soil for us this winter, how easy it was to plant compared to the concrete soil that surrounds our patch.

I can hardly contain my excitement as I wait for the little shoots to start bursting from the ground.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

farmer's market

Warm sun, bustling market place, full basket. Spring has well and truly sprung and our Organic veggie producer once more comes up to Luz's weekly Farmer's Market. Let's celebrate the end of the cabbage season with a salad!

Thursday 6 June 2013

down beside the river

With longer days bringing more sunlight, signs of Spring are finally starting to appear. One rainy afternoon this week, we headed down to one of our favourite summer swimming spots, Pont de la Gauntau, with scissors and foraging basket. 

We got soaked to the skin rummaging around in the bushes beside the gave, searching for nettles, lungwort and wild garlic. The latter was sadly non-existent, the bulbs must have been washed further down the river during the floods last autumn. 
Still, we returned to the homestead with plenty of nettles and lungwort, that we put straight into a veggie lasagne (the latter is just like spinach, although it tickles your throat a bit more).  

Wednesday 5 June 2013

our garden

This is our garden. It's our first attempt at growing a garden together, and at altitude. So we're not trying aiming for anything too complicated. We're growing potatoes, onions, raspberries, strawberries and rhubarb and soon there'll be lettuce, carrots and cabbages to plant out too.

Our garden is on an allotment just out of the village, bordered by workshops and a small torrent. All the gardens in the allotment are individual, with a different look on each. Right now, you could spot our patch a mile off, it's the only green one on the whole allotment, the only one teeming with growing things. Not because we're ahead of the other gardeners. But because all through the winter time, we've  been experimenting with a perma-culture approach. 

We're new to this hippy-dippy approach to gardening, so it's a great big adventurous learning curve. In the autumn, we tucked up our soil with a big old pile of leaves from the forest and saw dust from our wood pile and then let Mother Nature do the rest. Every one else in the allotment left their plots uncovered. As the last ground snows started melting, we've hardly been able to contain our excitement as the first signs of life have been pushing their way through the mulch: lovely little green shoots of clover and mustard to cover our patch over. Our neighbours probably think we're mad. Or that we don't know what we're doing. After all, why would anyone encourage weeds to grow in their veggie patch? 

But now it's our turn to think they are the mad ones. As we've been watching them in the past few weeks breaking their backs digging and rotavating the soil, pulling out all the weeds and turning over their earth ready to sow and plant. 

In many ways, our plot, just like my preference for long, billowing skirts, seem to be a metaphor to our approach to life: defiantly unconventional and slightly baba cool*. But it suits us just fine.

*baba cool = hippy, in French