July 2015

As I keep losing, misplacing my work book I thought I had better start putting online so I always know where it is. This probably won’t be exactly fascinating reading for anyone else

23rd July

Thym Serpolet- tried tip cuttings, clipping off long stems with roots, and separating plants- will see which is the best.

Carnations- Little Pinks, up potted the 12cm pots to medium sized black pots, hope they will be ready and in flower for Autumn.

Clipped back the Rau-Ram, Persicaria oderata,  mother plant and popped all the cuttings into Orgasyl usually close to 100% success rate if kept moist

Stock pulled out the dead plants and saved the seeds

Harvested the coriander seeds for planting in the Autumn.

Harvested the Anethe seeds for planting/ selling ? next year.

Harvested Roma and Miel de Mexique toms and Long Anglais cucumbers for lunch

24th July

Tied up Loch Ness brambles.

Finished re potting the Lavandin Grosso

More verbena cuttings

Thyme Serpolet, thymus serpyllum,  re potted finshed

More carnations up potted

Cars packed ready for markets

29th July

Up potted range of basils ands parsley

Carnations nearly finished

Separated out Salviae Elegans

Up potted Sauge Sclaree

Sorrel suffering in the sun, so moved to a more shady spot

Sage officinale planted up in the circle in kitchen garden



La Ferme des 8 vaches

La Ferme des 8 vaches is a fascinating new project here in the high Corbieres. Maëlle Sirou arrived in Les Corbieres in 2010, she worked as a nature guide and holiday centre manager for Canton of Mouthoumet  at the canton’s development association ADHco centre at Borde Grande where she met and worked with Annaig Servain and Mathieu Vaslin as they set up La Rove des Fa, an organic goat herd from which they produce cheese, yogurts and meat in the commune of Laroque de Fa.

ferrandaiseShe has been looking at various projects to launch herself and after 18 months of working through ideas with ADEAR, the development association linked with the Confederation Paysanne,  has finally settled on raising a small herd of organic  Ferrandaise cattle. The Ferrandaise race is a cow of French origin, predominantly raised in the Puy de Dome and ideally suited to the Mouthemet environment, like most traditional varieties it slowly disappearing from farms in France.


Maëlle will transform the milk into cheese using the same workshop as La Rove de Fa, as well as selling veal meat and calves to other producers.

Maëlle has already locates 70 hectares of land in the canton of Mouthoumet, 50 rented from the commune and 20 hectares of privateky owned land. The idea is to start with a small herd of 8 cows and slowly build up the size as the business grows.

What she needs now is some investors to help her with the set up costs. To that end she has launched a crowd funding initaitive to allow interested folk whereever they may be to add their support to the project. If you speak French all the details of the project can be found at http://fermedes8vaches.weboo.org/index.php/le-projet/ including a detailed budget for the farm des 8 vaches.

After writing on the sad development of Lezignan Corbieres it is great to see refreshing projects such as this. The High Corbieres in recent years has seen a number of new projects, from wine growers converting to organic production, market gardens,  mushroom raising, honey makers; safron growing,  sheep and goat herders, organic bread makers, even organic herb growers. There are now small local summer markets at Laroque de Fa, Solagté and Montjoi, a local producers shop in Villesrouge – Terménés and a local producers shop in Lezignan. There is a real sense that things are moving in the right direction.

Part of the responsibility for these positive developments is the work that the small team at ADEAR have put in helping turn ideas into reality, another is the very emptiness of the High Corbieres. Land here is some of the cheapest in France which helps cut down start up costs.It feels like we are slowly aproaching a critical mass allow us to build up the infrastucture so sadly lacking. That is not to minimise the problems of an unhelpful State, a Chambre d’Agriculture  stuck in the last century, or isolation from profitable markets but on the whole I feel things are picking up. So good to to the Ferme des 8 vaches project and all the other ideas that are slowly turning into real agricultural start ups.

Lezignan Corbieres market musing

Going to the Lezignan Corbieres market for the past three years has got me musing about the changing nature of markets and town centres.marche

Public markets and town centres have taken a huge hit over the past 50 years. It all really started with the spread of that beastlie energy gobler- the domestic fridge. Perishable and fragile foods no longer had to be bought on a daily basis. A weekly shop could be kept in good condition in the home. Profiting on the spread of the fridge the idea of a single stop shop for all the home’s needs came into it’s own, the super market was born. As it is difficult to carry a week’s shopping parking, not often found in plenty in town centres, became a necessity. So the supermarkets moved out of town centres onto the ring roads where land was cheap and access by car easier.

Markets struggled on while the town centres in which they were traditionally held slowly died, local shops slowly close down unable to compete with the single mass buying power of the large supermarket chains. The character of town centres and indeed town life changed.

The change is not just economic but social as well. Thriving town centres and their markets play an important part in fixing the social glue that hold communities together, it is not just about talking to producers and resellers who understand their wares and produce, they are also meeting points to catch up with friends and neighbours. A brief hello over a charged trolly in Tesco’s is not the same as a good gossip over a cup of java or pint in a local tea shop or pub. Not that there are many tea shops left, just loads of franchised coffee chains.

The empty town centres of traditional market towns are sad reflections of the shift in consumer patterns. Thirsk town centre where I grew up is a ghost of its former self, the hand full of shops and market stand holders is a sad memory of the bustling chaos that was my happy youthful memories.

I was reminded of the changes I have seen in Thirsk a couple of weeks ago in Lezignan Corbieres market. I arrived as usual at 6.30am to find my spot covered in blood, apparently there had been an altercation between a group of lads and a kid, the kid ended up the worse for the encounter, upon finding out what happened to his son the father, I was told, came into town and stabbed three of the group. Lezignan Corbieres, when we arrived in 1999, had one friendly shabby old Champion and a badly run, dirty Intermarche. We now had a Lidl, Aldi, Dea, Netto three new ring road shopping centres and a virtually dead town centre. More and more of the local businesses are closing up, some taking space in the commercial centres but increasingly just giving up as sons and daughters have no wish to take over, or revenues have dropped off to such a low level that the business is no longer sustainable. Evenings are apparently a tad hazardous at times, while official business is on the decline unofficial tobacco sales and heavier drugs are becoming more open and bring with them the associated turf disputes.

Some of my more elderly clients tell me they leave the house rarely, to visit the doctor (Nothing bar a nuclear war, or rain, will stop the French confirming their deeply held belief that a painful and unusual illness is just around the corner) and to come down for the market. On Wednesday’s market day they can combine buying their veg with discussing with friends in minute detail their latest terrible symptoms and show off the small haversack of various medicines the Doctor has prescribed in perfect security. We stand holders have a vested interest in a safe market place.

The irony is of course is that while the town centre is slowly decaying the town itself is rapidly expanding, as well as the new commercial zones, an extension of the college, the new lycee, the building of a new media centre the walled bungalow lotissements are reaching out into the vines at an amazing rate. When we arrived back in 1999 Lezignan Corbiere had 8, 266 residents, by 2012 they had swollen to 10,866 according to  Lezignan Corberes Wikipedia page so I reckon they will have passed the 12,000 mark and be racing towards the 13,000 record in the near future

The political response has been muted, the new Socialist/Communist administration as well as holding off a resurgent Front Nationale were elected on a programme of town regeneration have got it half right, the new lycee being built will help a little, the plans to re furnish some of the centre will have some benefits if they are properly instituted. One great initiative was the launch of the Lezignan Corbieres local producers market on Saturday, Wednesday’s market will remain the largest but it is great to see some support for local farmers and an acknowledgement that producing and re selling are different activities. The former creates local sustainability, employment and keep money local; the latter exports money to distant suppliers and does little to create a vibrant local economy.

Right rant over time to sort the plants out for the market in Lezignan Corbieres tomorrow

More intelligent people than me at the new economics foundation have done a lot of work on revitalising local economies- Clone Town Britain is definitely worth a read.

French Organic market

The organic market in France is rising steadily, in 2013 it amounted to 4.38 billion euros up from 3.17 billion in 2012. (Source Agence bio) The UK organic market for 2014 in comparison is estimated by the Soil Association to be around 2.61 billion euros.

More importantly from my perspective is that the local organic producer numbers and the amount of land certified organic or in conversion is also increasing. At the end of 2014 1.12 millon hectares of agricultural land in France was certified organic or in transition to organic. In total that means 4.14% of all agricultural land is now under organic use.

Organic Land  France

Source Agence bio

The highest concentration of organic produce is here the South.

Midi-Pyrénées (145 409 ha),

Pays de la Loire(115 570 ha), OK not in the south I admit

Languedoc-Roussillon(100 789 ha),

Rhône-Alpes (96 331 ha)

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (93 184 ha).

Contrary to expectations wine does not lead the charge even here in the South, of the 1.12 million hectares of organic land just under 55,000 is vines compared to 193,000 hectares of cereals and dried vegetables.

Of the 26,466 organic farms 19% grow vines, 41% produce fruit and/or vegetables. 61% have pasture land, and only 7% have aromatic herbs.

Organic vs industrial farming by Department

Source Agence bio

If you read French the full facts abd figures are available at the Agence bio report http://www.agencebio.org/la-bio-en-france

The two maps used here are from the Agence bio report