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