Clay powder to produce organic olive oil

A lot of producers have very few olives this season, the second bad year in a row which will make life very hard for some, and we heard that this is probably due to two or three weeks of very hot weather during the flowering period which roasted the small olive flowers before they could set to fruit. And it’s true we have very few olives on our Aglandau trees, but fortunately different varieties flower at different times and later at higher altitude (we are at 300 metres ASL), and some of our trees are protected by the cliffs from the drying Mistral wind. So in fact it looks like we may have a decent harvest with our Bouteillans, Cayet Roux and Brun varieties, which we are busy protecting with an organic treatment of clay powder which distracts the olive fruit fly and stops her laying eggs in the fruit,  (see photos), which of course allows us to produce organic olive oil.                       Before the treatment of clay powder…           After the treatment…           And more in the area we call the Feu Bas…...

Beekeeping! Checking for new queens…

Spring is a fantastic time of year, even though it is a little cooler than normal and the bees are frantically busy collecting pollen. Gerry felt she had to see what was happening in the hives, and found the Provençal bees, so-called because they are quite mild and laid back, had pretty much filled all but one frame in their hive, and the Formula One bees, so-called because they are very energetic and rather aggressive, had filled everything. She put some more half frames on top of the Formula Ones and stepped back! She also found that the frames were temptingly heavy with...

Spring flowers around Provençal cabanon

After a really grim winter when it rained like in Wales all December, January and February, this spring is turning out to be lovely weather, not as warm as it could be but it’s wonderfully sunny and clear. Here the purple flowers are on the Judas Tree (Cercis Siliquastrum). Bees love these...

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...