Cherry Madness, Storms & Asses
The third week of June has arrived and so has the madness of summer.
Here in our little rural corner of the world it’s a slow, hot start mostly filled with an overabundance of fruit, butterflies and random storms that make you appreciate the kindness of neighbors. But there’s also brief glimpses of normality, a window back into an almost-forgotten pre-Pandemic world. Facemasks are dropping like flies (for better or worse), folks are making vacation plans and little signs are popping up for events here and there. It’s a small, but palpable shift in the air. A kind of relaxation and deep exhale that everyone is sharing as one.
Of course not everything is opening up.
As summer starts and the tourist spots come alive, local businesses (at least in our area) will soon start closing up shop. The next months are always hit and miss as everyone takes off on their yearly vacay. It used to frustrate me no end when I first arrived and the local shop had a “fermeture exceptionnelle” sign, or our vet suddenly disappeared for a few weeks, but I’ve come to deeply appreciate the life-balance of things here.
The seasons are not just for weather, but also for work and rest, which really makes so much sense for mental health and longevity when you think about it. You learn to live with it, and even look forward to it over time. So as the madness of summer approaches we slow down, and plan, and think, eat our weight in cherries, and feel deeply thankful for everyone around us….even the ones that are asses.
I had never so many on a single tree.
We have two big red cherry trees at our house as well as a ton of wild cherry trees, but it’s not always a given whether we get any fruit. Some years we get a ton of flowers, only for frost to take them before they can develop into fruit. Other years we get cherry worm (basically the larvae of the cherry fruit fly Rhagoletis) which manifest as maggot-like worms in the middle of your fruit. There’s no way to know you have them until you open up the fruit, and let me tell you from experience…they aren’t much fun to bite into.
But then there are years like this, when you get a flowering wonder followed by branches so heavy with ripe, delicious, run-down-your-cheek-juicy cherries that you wonder how it’s even possible for one tree to produce so much.
We’ve eaten a ton of course, pounds of them I would say and tried just about every cherry recipe we can think of. The French like to make something called “Clafoutis” which is basically cherries baked in a crepe-like base. It turns out a bit like a cross between a cherry flan and bread pudding in texture; surprisingly light and not overly sweet. Tradition says you leave the stones in when you make it, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I kept having horror flashes of chocking Paul and dad to death with my cooking, having to live forever after with cherry PTSD. “but the French recipe said to keep the stones……!.”
And of course there’s the laxative thing.
Cherries, if you don’t happen to know, are natural bowel-movers. In small quantities it’s not a big deal, and might even be a welcome relief for some. But in larger quantities…..well….let’s just say that unless you want to re-enact the explosion of Mount Vesuvius from your derrière, it’s best not to go there.
So this week we decided to give away the rest of our crop, as many as could to as many neighbors and friends as we could, before they started fermenting and the birds got them. Around 15kg has been doled out so far with around the same still left on the tree. By next week it’ll all be gone, one way or the other, and the cherry madness will be over.
Next up; apricots and plums. We’re going to have to give those away like candy too.
Neighbors Who Rock
“Est-ce que tu sais que tu as un arbre qui est tombé et bloque la route?” (do you know you have a tree that’s fallen and blocking the road?)
It was news to me. I’d been at another neighbors place looking after some cats and had just spent 20 minutes frantically getting them all inside before the lightning that I’d seen on the horizon suddenly transmogrified into the-mother-of-all-storms at the house. We’d had a few minutes of pre-warning when the wind picked up, always a suspicious thing on a calm day, and then it was here. Rain in giant sleets, wind that slammed the shutters and lightning that seemed to shudder the earth. Just 30 minutes later it was all gone, so quick that you almost wondered if you’d imagined it.
Until I got the phone-call that is.
I immediately called Paul to reconnoiter and then rushed back to the house, where I found him trying to hand-saw the giant branch that had literally blocked the entire single-lane road to the village. It only took around 10 minutes before we both realized how idiotic that was, so we regrouped to re-strategize, which essentially meant we stood back and stared at the tree with zero clue what we were going to do. Where’s a bleeding electric saw when you need one?
That’s when our wonderful little community sprung into action.
The artist gal who lives down the way happened to drive up, stopped to chat and started phoning folks to help. The neighbor who’d originally called me had done the same. Then the Mayor’s wife showed up, who called her husband who’s literally the MacGyver of all things village. Within around 20 minutes we had a group of friends for moral support, and MacGyver himself hard at work sawing up the log for us. A short while later it was all done, and the road swept clean.
Having been city folk most of our lives, where knowing your neighbors mostly means saying “hi” in the elevator, all this is a brand new experience for us. I don’t know what it’s like in other villages in France, or even villages around the world, but I am truly blown away by how helpful and caring our community is. It’s like a walk back in time to when the things that mattered were the people around you, not pixels on a computer screen, and I’m thankful to be reminded of that. It’s just another of many reasons that we feel so darn lucky to have ended up here.
Maybe this was all part of the Universal plan….
But Some Of Them Are Asses
We first spotted them on the hill next to the Don.
Five of them, rather hairy if you ask me, rather rotund in the belly and all staring at us in a way that bordered on uncomfortable. Polly stopped dead in her tracks and barked in surprise, then returned the stare with all the doggie-intensity she could muster. They stood still, munching carelessly, almost mocking us, the equivalent of a French standoff quickly escalating between the two parties. This went on for hours, or perhaps 20 seconds or so and then they lost interest, rambling on to better pastures. Polly kept staring for at least 20 seconds more just for good measure, then snorted in satisfaction and continued on her walk. All was well again.
Yes, our new neighbors are asses, but I think we’ll manage to get along.
The Don told us they’re from the farm down in the valley that a young couple bought out a few years back, super nice 20-somethings who’re chasing the dream of making their life in rural France. They have a whole herd of asses, who need fresh pastures to feed which is how they ended up here. And from their milk they make cosmetics, soaps, lotions* and such that they sell from the farm and also in the local supermarket.
This week-end they had an open house at the farm which dad and I went along to. A low-key affair with music, a home-cooked lunch, rides and even a soap-making stand. It was truly nice to see their property and what they’ve done with it, and village life back in action again.
Even the asses here are pretty nice.
* Lait cœurs d’or make cosmetic products from Pyrénées Asses (an old race from the SW of France). They’re a super motivated young couple who not only make great products, but also happen to offer free RV camping (France Passion) on their property Check out their website HERE.
It’s Almost The Solstice
It’s almost 9:30PM and the sun is just about to set.
I may not like the summer heat, but I sure love these long days of light. We’re almost at the middle of the year now, and it yet it doesn’t feel that long ago that winter passed. I look at the hill opposite us, now a golden brown as the bright green grass that grew there in Spring fades away. I remember it white in winter, almost red in fall, or perhaps my memory is tricking me on that one? The seasons here pass in ways that are distinct yet meld together into one long photograph in my mind.
Tomorrow summer solstice will arrive, and I will be 2 weeks post-fully-vaccinated. Two significant events that probably have some deeper interconnected meaning that will come to me in a moment of inspiration after I’ve finished this blog post.
There’s freedom on the horizon there somewhere, and maybe even travel to foreign lands if our old Polly girl is up to it. Or maybe not. Travel seems so very long ago that I can still taste it, but only vaguely like a forgotten perfume, and some days I feel like I’ve grown into the ground here, much like the plants we tend so carefully. Is that what having roots feels like? It’s all so new to me this life; the cherry trees, village community and asses that I actually look forward to seeing, and surprisingly it all feels OK. Perhaps that’s all part of the plan too.
Happy Fathers Day my friends! To those that are, those that were and those that are yet to be. I hope this day brings special joy to all of you.SPONSORED LINK:
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