It is the Toussaint weekend, or Halloween in English, and the Hautes Corbieres is full and noisy. The kids are on holiday, and with the bank holiday on Wednesday many people have profited by taking a long weekend. If they were expecting the Corbieres to be our usual tranquil selves they are in for a bit of a shock. The rave started on Friday night, and it is still in full flow as I write this on Sunday morning. The bass beat is bouncing off Mont Tauch and resounding through the valley. It is a huge hunting weekend to boot, so the sound of over excited hunting dogs and badly aimed shots add to the racket. (For what I think of the hunt see Thoughts on the Chasse au Sangliers) The roads are full of badly driven converted trucks, dodgy 4x4s and terrified camping car drivers that really should look at a map before setting off.
But why not, if the raves are well organised, fire aware and clean up after themselves the Haut Corbieres is ideal, half the folk up just need to take out their hearing aids and they will not be disturbed. The problem is that some of these raves are neither responsibly organised, nor the ravers sufficiently savvy on respecting the countryside. Only two years ago a non authorised rave at Tailaran led to the death of three ravers, see Rave party mortelle dans les Corbières audoises près de Villerouge Termenès In contrast returning from a night market in Laroque de Fa a few years back I got stuck in a traffic jam between Davejean and Maisons. This rather unexpected hold up was due to a ravers truck breaking down, so instead of honking our horns I got a table out of the van, bottles of wine were opened and a jolly time had by all, apart from the Toulousans who tried to drive their car through the crowd and ended up rolling themselves down the hill. No one was injured thankfully but they looked rather sheepish as we righted their car for them. That rave was organised by a crew out of Carcassonne, they gave every raver a fire proof pouch for their butts, they had a creche, dry loos, a fire crew on stand by, and loads and loads of free water available. everyone had a great time and the site was left impeccably clean.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have some responsible tourists? Caroline was talking to her placier, the person responsible for ensuring market stand holders are in the right place, and collecting the money. He was telling her about how he is a member of an association that cleans up the area after the tourist season is over, every Autumn they clean up Gruissan beach, an amazing 16 tonnes of rubbish is collected every year. I remember in Ribaute the Mayor used to organise a truck, and lots of gloves, we used to clean the river banks, the amount of rubbish we collected was staggering, and I am not even going to start to describe the litter we had to remove. I will just say that month old used condoms rival soiled nappies in their disgustingness. Thank goodness we all got rewarded with an apero afterwards to trade war stories over a pastis.
On the upside the weather is utterly amazing, the grey mornings are quickly being burnt off by the sun, and while it is not exactly hot it is beautiful. There is something magical about Autumn light, it is much more nuanced than the blazing heat of Summer. The changing colours of the forest make Autumn a really special time here in the Corbieres. Much more visually appealing than the burnt yellow of full July and August.
On the home front the nights are drawing in and the electricity is popping out, may be time to eat the freezer and the annual fridge holiday to commence.
Incredibly the Saffron that we planted less than a two weeks ago is already up and in flower.I can’t believe how fast it has grown, I have been looking at a great little saffron website, Safran du Quercy, to find out how to harvest and treat it. It seems you cut the entire flower off, as low down the stem as possible, you do this first thing in the morning to maximise the weight of the stigmas. Carefully you then pull off the red stigma and pop them in an oven and heat for 20-30 minutes, at 35C. The dried stigmas are then popped in a jar and kept in the dark to preserve their flavour. About 180 flowers, that give around 540 stigmas will give you around I gram of this precious flower as they lose around 80% of their weight in the drying process. So that is tomorrow morning’s work sorted out. Next year I might try the method used by the Le Safran de Bize, an organic saffron producer over in Bize Minervois, who dry their flowers in a wood burning oven. Sounds all rather wonderfully organic hippy dippy, just my thing.