It looks like we are finally heading into Spring, just in time for the clocks to go forward, the sun is shining and the birds are singing, what a difference it makes.
We have had so much rain over the last few weeks, 1 pair of wellies was not enough!
I can say that I just love living in this wonderful part of the world, don’t get me wrong, I love Scotland and I do feel that there are a lot of similarities here and maybe that’s why it feels like home.
We had never been to France as a family before I took the plunge, and after only 3 days of living here I felt ‘at home’.
We are lucky that we live on the outskirts of a small village a wonderful rural location, lots of trees, hills and water. France can be very flat with nothing on the horizon for miles, so when you are travelling through it can be very unappealing. However here in the Loir Valley we are lucky to have lots of forests, valleys, hills and wonderful vineyards.
It makes such a difference for everyone and the garden with the sun shinning. The fruit trees in the orchard are full of buds and blooms, it is looking positive for a great year with the apples and plums.
We have a wonderful orchard, apples, pears, plums, apricots, quince, walnuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts. Especially good later in the year when we have cooking classes on and we can just wander up into the orchard and see what is ready for enjoying.
The walnut trees started producing nuts 2 years ago, only 6 the first year and maybe 20 each last year, so I am hoping for a few more this year, I am told they only start fruiting when they are 8-10 years old, it was very strange the first year, as being a ‘townie’, I knew what a walnut looked like, but not while it was still on the tree, I thought I was a lucky lady with a huge lime tree, but alas it was not a lime tree but a walnut tree (well 2 of them). Good on one hand, but not when I thought I had 2 lime trees.
Another great asset we have in the garden and surrounding hedgerows are the brambles, they are fantastic at the end of the summer, most of our friends spend so much time pulling and chopping them down, however we allow the brambles to run wild here, using them again for some of our recipes, millefeuille, pavlova and pork and bramble sauce, to name but a few.
When I arrived in France, I had no appreciation for the variations in the weather temperatures, I assumed that we would enjoy warm temperatures all year round. Of course coming from Scotland it had to be warmer :-).
I arrived on 16th December and the temperature was -10, I thought I had come to the wrong place. It did get colder that year down to -18, it was a dry cold, not damp like Scotland, and as long as I wrapped up, then it was good. Lots of bright sunny days, but cold and not so much snow. Perfect combination for the vines in the vineyards, unfortunately not mine.
We are in a micro climate, we have seen temperatures vary between -27 and +40, (in the same year) with the average in the winter of -6 and the summer of +40 sometimes higher than that.
2014 was an exceptional year for the high temperatures, with it reaching +50 here in the garden, too warm even for a sun loving Dutchman (hubby). However going back to the vineyards, the producers were very happy as the summer was hot and lots of sunshine and they had a very good year, after all, 2012 was a very bad year, with a lot of humidity and they lost 70% of their crops that year.
During the summer and when we have guests here, we often arrange visits to some of the local vineyards, my favourite being Gigou in La Chartre sur Loir, a family run business, producing white, rose and red wines, famous for their sparkling red and their Jasineres (white wine). They are one of the main producers in the area, keeping with the traditional methods of wine production, their wines are exported as far as Japan and America, although they see most of their sales in Europe.
It is a real pleasure of mine taking a tour through the cave seeing their production processes, listening to the passion from the family and of course enjoying the ‘tasting’ at the end of the visit. I do have a favourite their ‘La Bulle Sarthoise‘ a red sparkling wine, made with their red pineau d’aunis grapes and fermented a second time using traditional champagne techniques, it is perfect as an aperitif or with dessert, especially chocolate.
I think I need to pop a bottle in the fridge and think about the menu for the weekend, that will do this wonderful wine justice.
Spring has most definitely sprung, we can look forward to a wonderful few months when the temperatures are rising and we are no longer confined to the 4 walls of the house, but we can enjoy the wider part of the house out onto the terrace and garden, and I hope you can tell that we are really looking forward to the summer arriving, we are so lucky to live and enjoy this fabulous part of France.