‘Au cas où’ you need some wood, or a bag of fruit.

We’ve been getting in touch with our inner Ariègeois(e) today.

Our foraging country in the Ariège

We spent six years in France, living in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the Ariège, a département where almost everybody still had firm roots in the simple self-sufficient lifestyle of their forbears.  Nobody that we knew would have considered installing, as David Cameron recently has, a faux shepherd’s hut in the back garden.  Instead, most people had a serviceable shed, built of bits of this and that and adapted to personal requirements.

Nobody that we knew ever bought firelighters for their wood burning stove.  Instead, we’d all hang around as the weekly market packed up, rescuing the wooden fruit boxes, now empty of peaches and pears, which when broken up provide perfect kindling material.

Everyone we knew never left home without an ‘au cas où‘ (‘just in case’) bag, to fill with wild mushrooms, or walnuts, or sloes, or chestnuts, or apples, or any free food that came their way.

Foraging in the Ariège…..

That’s been us this week.  We don’t need a garden hut.  But we have got a wood-burning stove.  And today we’ve been re-purposing the wooden casing that our delivery of logs came in.  It’s soft wood, so we know we can only use it sparingly on our stove.  But it’s there – and we will use it.  So here we were, sawing it into manageable lengths, sorting and storing it.

We’re the odd-bods who gather the discarded fruit boxes at Ripon market. We’ve been breaking those up today too, for kindling.


Malcolm does a fine job of sawing up some wooden pallets.

And yesterday, our friend Gillian had us over to raid her plum trees.  We came back with a pail full of greengages, and a pail full of czars. Today was the day when we started to convert this ripe fruit into chutneys and cakes and hooch and crumbles.  Our French friends would definitely approve.


Author: margaret21

I'm retired and living in North Yorkshire, where I walk as often as I can, write, volunteer, and travel as often as I can.

17 thoughts on “‘Au cas où’ you need some wood, or a bag of fruit.”

      1. There’s loads of plums, ripe and likely to rot on the tree! But even if I only take from the overhanging branches I’ll hardly be subtle with a stepladder and a pole rigged out of a long stick, an insect net and some gaffer tape.

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  1. Wonderful harvest! So nice to be able to convert it all into preserves and other comestibles. Our greengage fruited for the first time this year and the plums were so sweet we just ate them straight from the tree!

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  2. A Suffolk link here Margaret – greengages being named after Sir William Gage of Hengrave Hall near my home town of Bury St Edmunds who introduced them into this country.
    I’ve only ever seen them on a restaurant menu in Suffolk too.
    Our apple and plum trees are weighed down with fruit this year if you are interested…………..but the pear tree looks very poorly.

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    1. Of course I’m interested – and in your history lesson too – but it’s a bit far to be practicable. The pears don’t look too good in this part of the world either. I wonder why?


      1. Durr, Penny, you must think I’m barmy. Of COURSE you’re near enough. I was getting your comment muddled with that of a Suffolk ‘virtual’ friend! We’ll talk fruit later then …..


  3. Yes, well, all more enjoyable when you choose to do these tasks, rather than have to do them. Cameron is a bit silly with his faux hut, of course, and we should all recycle as we can and make good use of resources as you do, but a subsistence childhood of sweltering summer days harvesting vegetables and then canning them over a hot stove has made me thankful for small luxuries, including fire starters. Even still, I would love to be there to help you make the chutneys and cakes and hooch and crumbles, and enjoy again the camaraderie of working together in a kitchen to make the most of summer’s sun-kissed fruit. As you say, there is much to admire in a simple, self-sufficient lifestyle.

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    1. Indeed there is. But at the same time, it’s, as you say, so much more fun when it’s just an enjoyable celebration of nature’s bounty rather than a necessary slog to make sure there’s food to get through the winter.


  4. We’ve been picking blackberries since mid July – really early. In the hedge opposite the house are two wild plums – one red, one yellow. Everyone has ignored the yellow but it tastes delicious, just like a greengage (maybe it’s a bullace?) and has made a jam that’s not too sweet. Like I need more jam!

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    1. Could the yellow one be mirabelles? They grew wild and prolifically where we lived in France, and were, as you say, delicious. Here, blackberries are only just kicking in.


  5. Lots of hedgerow fruit seems to be early this year, we’re inundated with blackberries (which makes cutting down the brambles climbing into the cherry tree far more enjoyable) and Him Outdoors has just come in with a big tray of our Bramley apples, too. I wish I was closer, we have lots of luscious dark plums, but hopefully Penny will be able to help out! Lx

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