The Grape Harvest : Vendange

The Grape Harvest by Léon- Augustin L'hermitte, 1884.
The Grape Harvest by Léon- Augustin L’hermitte, 1884.

Their faces are blushed and tanned, their long skirts lifted, and brown arms bare. Their sweet laughter drifts on the early autumn breeze as they deftly move between, and along the vine row, using their pruning knives to cut away clusters of warm red grape, then handling them gently into willow or wooden baskets. The men tease, and take the ‘cutters’ baskets to fill their own larger ones swung over their backs, then to the barrel on the cart, which when full is pulled by the donkey to the chateaux winepress. The workers toil all morning, row by row, basket by basket, until they hear the midday ‘Angelus’ bells ring from the village church that tell them it is time to rest. They make their way to the cabane de vigne, a small stone cabin at the edge of the field. There they eat, talk and sleep, until it is time to resume their work.

Relics in the vineyard

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Under a stone shelter an old farm cart rests. It was just the right size to carry a barrel of grapes, and hay too.

Across the road, a metal crane rusts from time and misuse. It once was useful, during the early years of industrialised viticulture, to load wooden crates of grape onto a trailer, to be pulled by a tractor.

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Cabane de vigne

In every the vineyard, a little house remembers,
The vineyard workers, sheltering from the sun and rain,
Eating saucisson and bread, washed down with a swig of red wine.

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NB   If interested, you can find a little more to read about the history of wine              agriculture here, and winemaking there..

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épi de faîtage : finial

I wonder, where did the ‘épis de faîtage’ originate; those decorative ‘finials’ on roof tops, that I see on old houses hereabouts?

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These particular ones date to the late nineteenth century, when interlocking roof tiles crowned with decorative ‘épi de faîtage’ was quite the fashion.

But I’ve learned, that since the thirteenth century, a turned upside down clay pot was used to protect the wooden key post of a roof, and that it was quickly refined into a very decorative ornament full of symbolism and significance. Also, that a house owner could order an original design that he favoured, or one that informed onlookers of his status, wealth, politics or profession.

Yet if I look more closely, I see the finials resemblance to a ‘bouquet’, and then recognise it as the beribboned sheaf of wheat our ancestors placed on top of the wheat cart at Harvest, and then on their thatched roofs, believing it would ward off malevolent spirits, and attract good fortune and well being. The sheaf of wheat symbolised so many things for them; the roof over their head, the home, the family, their sustenance, and by its fatness, their wealth.

It pleases me that our house carries ‘épis de faîtage’ of its own. As in tradition they were made in three parts. Their base, as a ridge tile (faîtage) with a flattened top, on which the central pieces form the vase, and finally the crown or épi (ear of grain).

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Les Abeilles de Rimons : The bees of Rimons

See there, beside white Lily floating,
Under scented shade of Arcacia bloom,
Lies the citadel of les Abeilles;
And within these walls, with industrious duty,
Les Abeilles sacrifice for Queen and young,
Alchemic transforming of flowers divine.

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Watch how les Abeilles bustle in blossom,
Forage deep within fine Chestnut forest,
Labour lucidly midst camphoric Lavender,
And resolutely gather from Rosemarys flower.

Then ask Les Abeilles,
“Will you share with us your harvest?
Not too much, yet just enough,
Of liquid gold, Gods gift of nature,
Sweet fragrant taste of summertime,
And in return we promise you,
Honour, and love, and protection too”.

Family snapshot.
Family snapshot.

Medieval garden

“A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up.”
(Song of Solomon)

By the Middle Age, the science of harnessing the curative essence of ‘simple’ plants had reached its prime. The knowledge of which plant healed a particular ill, where it grew, its preparation and application was carried by Healers, Monks and Hospitallers across Europe. Many common medicinal plants could be gathered from meadows, forests and the immediate environment. Those that were more rare, or that came from foreign soils were cultivated in the Medieval garden.

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The Medieval garden was organised in harmony with Christian religious symbolism, and social and cultural custom. It was orderly as plants were placed in accordance to their species; the orchard, bouquet flowers, herbs, vegetables and healing plants. Many of these plants were cultivated in small fenced or hedged plots in a grid formation. Two paths cross sectioned the garden forming the cross of Christ. Often a water well, both useful and symbolic of eternal life was positioned at their intersection. The tree of knowledge held a prominent place, and all this enclosed within a rectangular or square perimeter that represented the Bride of Christ, or the womb of Mary, inspired of the ‘Song of Solomon’. In all, the Medieval garden served food, water, healing and a place of contemplation

A garden such as this once grew in La Commanderie de Sallebruneau, built by the Knights of The Order of Templar, sometime in the thirteenth century, later becoming The Hospitaliere de St-Jean de Jérusalem. Through several centuries, the soldier Monks offered protection, respite and healing to the pilgrims that walked ‘Le chemin de Jaçques Compostella’.

Today a simple garden has been re-established next to the ruined Commanderie. Healing plants and herbs are cultivated to show and educate visitors.

White stonecap-leaves and stems can be applied externally to reduce inflammations, particularly recommended for haemorrhoids.
The leaves and stems of the White stonecap were applied externally to reduce inflammations, particularly recommended for haemorrhoids.

 

One of its common names-Donkeys herb, prescribed to stimulate the heart.
The tall Acanthe, or one of its common names, Donkeys herb, was prescribed as a heart stimulant.

 

Wild fennel- given as a tea, tincture or food flaouring, treats indegestion, colic,flatulence, reduces fever and pain, antidepressant, stimuates milk flow in nursing women.
Tea of Wild Fennel seed treated indigestion, colic, flatulence, also reduced fever and pain, was an antidepressant, and even stimulated milk flow in nursing women.

During our visit this day, a sad slug eaten plant caught our interest. It was the Mandrake. We learned that its roots resemble the human form, sometimes male, or female, and is the part of the plant used in medicinal treatment. Its anesthetic and soporific properties meant that it was ideal for surgeries, for example dental. But it became a poison that led to delirium and madness if over prescribed. It was considered an aphrodisiac and a charm for aiding women to become pregnant. Its associations with witchcraft led to its use being forbidden by the Church.

The gardener at the Commanderie told us that someone had presented her with four seeds from the fruit of a mature Mandrake plant, that she had successfully nurtured one to leaf, and was waiting patiently for its flowering.

Mandrake.

It was such pleasure to wander around a Medieval garden that contains herbs and simples, with their odours and colours, exploring and learning a little about the ancient art and science of using medicinal plants. And with no effort I fell under the spell of its history, and charm.

T’was a Pilgrim passed by,
body fatigued, administered,
with Plantain for blisters,
while, requesting,
Gods love, and a bed.

I referenced Wikipedia for some information and illustration, and the website of l’Association Recherches Archéologiques Gironde.

Potters Market

The Potter

The elements of nature and literature inspire me. I am compelled to perpetual study of attitude and movement in life forms. My imagination extends through my fingers, or the tool in my hand, which molds the medium. Tints of tree bark, lost feathers and lichen, colour and deepen my mood. And my spirit breathes life into my creation. My universe takes shape and gives birth. I am the Potter.

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Castelmoron d’Albret is the prettiest village for a Potters Market each June.

Pottery next door to the Pottery shop.
Pottery next door to the Pottery shop.
Pottery in the Park.
Pottery in the Park.
Pottery workshop for children.
Pottery workshop for children.
Under the Market hall.
Pottery under the Market hall.

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Poterie d’Albret is the only business in this small village, and the Potter is the man responsible for organising Le Marché des Potiers, bringing ceramists together to expose, and customers to enjoy and buy.

Where the Roses grow

Everyone must love Roses, for they grow everywhere; in villages, gardens and even vineyards..

Our very own Rose bush is tall and round. She has a thick trunk and a broken branch, but she produces a spectacular show of thousands of pink Roses every summer. Maybe it has something to do with the old pigsty nearby..

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Bringing colour in the village..

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Rambling in a back garden..

Blooming alongside the river Dropt, where the old watermill stands..

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And there are still a few old vineyards where we see evidence of a former custom, which was to plant a Rose bush at the end of each row of vines. It looks very pretty, but in fact served an essential cause. Being susceptible to mildew, the Rose gave an early warning of the disease in the vineyard, so prompting the viticulturer to act quickly, and protect the vine with a copper treatment.

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Rose sonnet

 I wander aimlessly
through monochrome
when suddenly I glimpse
a fiery glow,

Your light penetrates
in burning stimuli
your warming rays to me
a path is drawn,

To touch compels me
closer to your satin petals
feels like soft skin,

My face bends o’r yours
nuances of fruit orchards
inhaled pleasures mine.

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Cornflowers, Daisies and Poppies

Rippling grasses tickle,
A breath of air caresses,
Unseen crickets call,
In swaying white daisies,
And I’m chasing meadow butterflies,
Just to catch a dream.

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Gather poppy petals,
Cloth of scarlet silk,
Delicately stitched,
Black threaded garment,
To wrap in love,
Remembered.

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Once upon a time Cornflowers, Daisies and Poppies fluttered in the fields like the tricolours of France. But the Cornflowers have all gone.

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Old postcard.

‘Les Bleuets’ was the nickname given to the young soldiers conscripted in the lead up to the Second Battle of Ainse, World War 1, who were wearing the new blue uniform. It became a name used frequently in propaganda songs and poems, and conjured images of blue cornflowers, that continued to grow and bloom in devastated battlefields.

“These here, these little ‘Bleuets’
these Bleuets the colour of the sky,
Are beautiful, gay, stylish,
Because they are not afraid.

Merrily, go forward,
Go on, my friends, so long!
Good luck for you, little ‘blues’
Little ‘bleuets’, you are our heros.
(Alphonse Bourgoin 1916)

Head nurse Lenhardt created a blue cornflower badge in tissue paper, to raise income for the rehabilitating soldiers she cared for, and by the 1920s, ‘Les Bleuets’ badge had became a national symbol.

Referenced Wikipedia for information and poem.