Coming out

Since the start of this year, we seem to have had more gray or rainy days than sunny days – at least it feels that way to me! That said, we had very little rain last fall, so the rain we have had since the beginning of the year is somewhat reducing the rainfall deficit, which can only be a good thing for our area! Another side effect of the rain is that the spring flowers should be absolutely spectacular this year!

When the sun came out last week, I met up on Friday with a couple of friends for a two and a half hour hike. We met in Agel, in the car park behind the church. A signpost pointed across the river to ‘Le Pech’, the hill we were going to climb. There was a marked walk on Le Pech many years ago, but the markings are no longer maintained, so we relied on the knowledge of one of our fellow walkers to guide us.

There were wonderful views of the village of Agel as we climbed the hill:

We walked past beautifully maintained olive groves:

And we came to the ruins of the chapel of Saint Symphorien:

On we walked through dense pine forests, inhaling the wonderful scents from the pine trees and the rosemary bushes. We walked past vineyards, the vines neatly pruned and the ground carpeted with flowering wild rocket (arugula).

We came to a bit of landscape that looked as though it might belong somewhere else – Arizona or Utah, perhaps?

We walked past enormous bushes of flowering gorse, interspersed with some rosemary, also in flower, which diffused a wonderful scent.

Before long we came upon these strange looking mounds – made by ants?

And then the village of Agel came into view again – we were on the home straight!

As we got closer to the village, we came across a field that was sprinkled with anemones – such beautiful and cheerful colours!

Here is another view of the village from across the river:

And then we were back where we started. I’d packed some banana bread and a thermos flask with tea, so had a well earned picnic before I left my friends and headed back to Saint-Chinian again.

There’ll be more spring flowers and walks soon!! Have you been out walking lately?

Take the short way home

A few years ago I came across the concept of Circuit Court, which I think may translate as Locavores in English. It means eating locally produced food, and, in the case of Circuit Court, buying it directly from the producers. There was a regular spot not all that far away and at the time I made an effort to go on a regular basis, but somehow it all fizzled out for me. That was until about a month ago, when I was handed a leaflet by Valerie Tubau (of Le Jardin de Valerie) in St Chinian market. She’d managed to get a new venue organised in Agel, just a few doors away from where she lives and works. The mayor of the village had kindly agreed to lend the village hall for the markets every other Thursday, and an association was formed to run the project.

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I went along last week to check it out, and it is a very interesting project. The products on offer depend very much on what is in season, and what can be grown locally at the time of year – so no strawberries or French beans here in the winter! But there are many delicious vegetables to be had right now – and more! On the day I went, in addition to Valerie’s vegetables, there was organic wine from Domaine Gabelas, honey from La Caunette, cheese from Bois Bas near Minerve, bread from Ferrals la Montagne, cakes from Agel, fresh pasta from Ouveillan, safran from Bize-Minervois, olives and olive oil from Argeliers, charcuterie from La Salvetat, meat, syrups, pates,  jams and jellies, and more which I can’t remember. The producers may vary from one market to the next, but the common thread remains the same: locally produced food, to be bought direct from the producer. For some items, such as meat, stocks are limited and orders need to be placed in advance of the market.

The market takes place in the village hall in Agel (34210) every other Thursday from 5pm to 7pm. Future dates are as follows:

19 December 2013

9 and 23 January 2014

6 and 20 February 2014

6 and 20 March 2014

For information you can e-mail circuits.courts34@gmail.com – I’m sure the organisers would prefer communications to be in French where possible.

P.S.  The chocolate and caramel tarts were delicious!  Worth the trip alone 😉