Olive Oil Tasting at Concours in the Var

After several years of training at “Degustation” sessions with the Var olive growers association, we were invited to be part of the Olive Oil tasting juries at two recent Concours, at Draguingan, which Gerry went to last month, and at the annual Brignoles Agricultural Fair, which Mark went to last week. This was a first time for us both, and, frankly, we were worried we knew enough! Actually, it was most enjoyable, we acquitted ourselves with élan (!), there was lots of chat about olives, we knew several people and a long morning’s tasting ended, as always at such venues in France, with a quite decent lunch! Next year, we shall present some of our own oil to these Concours in the Var. In the photo are the dark brown sample bottles from each olive oil producer, the blue flasks in which each oil is put to warm up, the little white spoons for the tastings, the white cups for spitting into (!), and small bits of bread and green apple to eat between...

Birds! Very beautiful Eurasian Hoopoe on the track

Driving to the village, we both separately saw this very pretty bird flitting about near the Virgin statue on the high corner which overlooks the village. (see the Wikipedia entry Bird, an Eurasian Hoopoe).

St Andrew’s Cross spider

Still on the bug route, we found this splendid-looking spider hanging motionless in her web among foliage on a restanque wall. Needless to say, her hunting technique is vicious and effective but her venom is not dangerous to humans. It’s common English name comes from its habit of hanging upside down with its legs together in pairs, making a cross. Argiope bruennichi (Scopoli, 1772) See notes in Wiikipedia and a BBC article on the movement of this spider northwards from the...

Wasp and beetle

  While we were spraying clay on the trees in the Vallon (against the olive fruit fly) we found an enormous wasp. This is the Megascolia Maculata, in contrast to its fearsome appearance, it is a mild-mannered harmless creature whose sting is insignificant to humans. It spends its time trying to find and lay its eggs in the larvae of large beetles like the Rhinoceros or Staghorn beetles (this one photographed on the back wall of the house) and, therefore, because these beetles are endangered, so is this impressive wasp.       These last few weeks, we´ve had various other fascinating encounters with some of the animals around the house – and there have been lively exchanges on our Olives en Provence Facebook page www.facebook.com/pages /Olives-en-Provence/119137098166930  ...

Pol Pot passes on!

In 2007, we got our first brood of hens. In fact we ordered 1 cockerel and 4 hens but when we went to collect them, the hens had allegedly killed and eaten their cockerel that very night! This butchery earned the hens the names of Adolf (Hitler), Boadicea, Jo (Stalin), and Pol (Pot, the black hen in the photo) and a tough lot they proved to be. Sadly, on the 14th July, Pol who was the last of this merry band, died of old age in her sleep in the coop. Despite their violent beginnings, we developed a soft spot for these hens as they were after all our very first, and Pol’s passing marks the end of another chapter here at les...

Bees: two new swarms from near Aix-en-Provence

Late afternoon, we drove to a small village north of Aix-en-Provence to pick up two new beehives for Gerry’s new venture into beekeeping. The expert breeder wanted us there at dusk when the bees are back in their hives and quietened. He was meticulously careful taking them out of his hives and putting them into Gerry’s, gently scraping the insects clinging to the sides back into the box. One swarm is called “Provencales” because they are quite easy going and he called the others “Formula One” because they are much more energetic and protective of their...

Rollier d’Europe

We saw a couple of these birds which are migratory, visiting this par of France in spring and summer. They are a bright, striking blue and increasingly rare. See the article and photo in the local paper...

Path to village

  This is a view towards the house from the little path to us from the village. The house is under the cliffs. It’s a lovely walk to explore, running down the valley through olive groves near the...

RCT win Heineken European Cup !

We know this has absolutely nothing to do with olives, well not really, but we went to Dublin to see the final of this season’s Heineken Cup and the Rugby Club de Toulon won!  Jonny Wilkinson is the Captain, known to all his French fans as Sir Jonny, and the team beat Clermont Ferrand by one point, 16 to 15. A nail-biting match but a wonderful day out to see the RCT become the European...

Wisteria

  The wisteria looked wonderful flowering on the stairs to the gite on the top floor, and the purple flowers of the cercis...