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“You live in a charming village…where the inhabitants respect their surroundings perfectly”

31 Aug Justy dans la voiture

This is what a passer-by said to us last night in perfect French, (then perfect English), as we sat on our porch preparing the evening meal entirely from our potager garden (bar the essential ingredient of Thai Curry paste). This was such an enchanting comment we decided to head our long overdue blog post with it. We are happily ensconced in Le Barry in Mas Cabardes, and have been delighting in a Summer adventure complete with a heatwave comparable to Wagga Wagga weather, two dramatic storms (l’orages), wild  boar visiting our garden for a midnight feast of figs and meeting our delightful neighbours and residents of the Montagne Noire. Progress on the restoration is proceeding apace, with us celebrating the flow of hot water from our solar panels, and the laying of under floor heating on the lower floor. Justy as you can see here broke the ice by turning on the l’eau chaud for the first time in years.

Justy turning on the heat

Carol, Jeanot and Justy have been furiously barrowing cement as the bathroom takes shape and we plot the position of the appliances. Tiles are poised ready to be laid and the hardware catalogues are being scrutinised….decisions, decisions….

Jeanot, master builder extraordinaire at work

Justy plotting the kitchen layout

As well as the building activity, the other favourite pastime has been harvesting the booty from the garden to share with all and sundry. The following sequence of pictures tells the story of last night’s meal which attracted such a flattering compliment from the French passer-by. Recipe: French inspired Vegetable curry. Ingredients: Swiss chard, basil, potatoes, tomatoes (4 varieties), courgettes, aubergines, mint, French beans, carrots, green pepper and the odd dab of Thai Curry paste and of course some vin blanc.

Garden booty

Le chef

Cooking on our camp stove


Other news, Justy’s birthday was cause for party decorations and a decadent cake made by Carol. As Justy has reached such an age, she has been driving around the countryside as if on a Rolls Royce rally, doing a very good imitation of Toad of Toad Hall. So will finish this post with some pictures of inhabitants and their repectful respective perfect surroundings, and sign off for now from Summer in the Montagne Noire,

M and J


Carol and Justy (with chocolate lipstick)

Justy’s birthday bonanza!

Justy dans la voiture

Justy (a.k.a. Toady) dans la voiture


Picnic at La Pradelle

‘Our Village’ Mas Cabardes with Summer potagers


Last of the summer garden

1 Oct

Dear friends,

We all woke up an hour later today in the southern hemisphere. It’s Eastern summer time and we thought it apt to bring you the last rays of summer sunshine from Le Barry. In the early days of Le Barry, the world was wild and only hunting men and their delicate lady folk could brave the jungle beyond the pigsty.

This is the garden the first day we saw Le Barry

But brave they did, and tame it they did until all that was tall and thorny became black.

Jeanot burning in the garden

Just imagine this pigsty transformed into a hot coal bath house!

Flash forward to April and two princesses arrive from Wagga Wagga central to see their garden full of seedlings, ready for the big girls to eat.

Girl plus fork in garden

The first seedlings in Spring

Jeanot's pergola just waiting for the wisteria to grow. Tres romantique!

Just an average lunch in the garden. Big cheeses.

Here's the beanstalk...where's Jack?

The last pumpkins at Le Barry

Village exemplars!

At the allotments...Mags, Ben and Rosa - our wonderful neighbour and gardener extraordinaire!

And we’ll leave it there for this week nos amigos and get back to our garden in Wagga Wagga.

J and M x

How long do tomatoes take to grow?

4 Sep

Hello everyone,

We know it’s been an age since we posted any news of Le Barry, so long in fact that we forgot how to log in and post! Never fear, we are back and there is indeed some good news from Le Barry… The reason you have heard absolutely nothing from us, is that we have been waiting for our tomatoes to ripen!

And here they are…Carol has harvested 15kilos of fruit from 3 plants from the veggie garden at Le Barry. Look tasty don’t they…so ripe…so full of flavour…just a shame we are in the wrong hemisphere for the tasting! Don’t worry though Carol is bottling them and when you go and stay at the house you can try them for yourselves!

Now cast you minds back to late April and that stunning pointing work Margaret did on the kitchen wall. Couldn’t possibly be finished you’re thinking?? Well, you’re right! but Carol has made it around the corner. bravo mum. For the facebookers out there – if you want to comment on Carol’s wall…post a comment here.

Post a comment on Carol's wall!

So now that the tomatoes have ripened and the wall has turned a corner, all that’s left is to reveal our Vide Grenier purchase of the day. It’s….a bar!!!! for the garden. How civilised. It’s made of iron, has 6 rings at the bottom to hold your champagne, a table area to mix cocktails and a rack for the glasses…cheers darlings!

Garden Bar extraordinaire!

Until next time, Au revoir nos amis!

Greedy femmes en France

10 May

As M is tucking in to yet another little cheese we are sitting down with 2 days left of this trip, to write our first live blog from France. We are about  to report our progress to date:

Morning visits to l’epicurie de Mas (the village shop).

Croissants, pain au chocolat and fromage (lots and lots of fromage). Fat strawberries.

Several all-day lunches at Carol and Jeanot’s (Duck, wild boar, deer, salmon). Ben and Helen and Colin and Lorena all ate as much as we did…and drank more of course. Not a drop has passed these lips (for at least an hour). There have been guests galore, friends, aperetifs, garden parties and house inspections in Mas. We have even entertained with outdoor soirees at our house, including Mag’s super cooking on SYLVIA our 120 year old wood stove, and a number of trips to the Friday night wood-fired pizza van (bois du feu). That is now our new business idea.

M’s all day birthday feast, including lunch by the lake (with a pair of frogs legs), candle-lit evening dinner in our garden (cassoulet, birthday cake, 20 year old champagne we found in the garden), duty-free Cointreau.

Hours and hours of work on the house – chipping away old plaster from the kitchen walls and re-pointing to perfection (M has re-found archaeological skills from her youth).

Watched the Royal wedding (with french commentary over the ‘I do’).

Mazamet market. Ate lots of strawberries.

Wandering around our village. Chatting to Jesus and Mary Magdalene at Easter time (see photo with Justy’s brother Ben in conversation).

Lots of mountain walks on old trails around Mas Cabardes and discovered- at the end of one long ramble –  a great  cafe serving crepe with marron (chestnut) and chantilly creme. Of course we didn’t eat one (them…)

Collecting pine cones for the fire from Le Terry  mountain garden.

We snatched some bargains at the Vide Grenier, including even more Cassoulet dishes. How much cassoulet can one girl eat? a great table for the cocktails back at the house and a tres chic bathroom cabinet. Mags has also finalised the design for the ‘bar’ in the lounge. Now you just don’t get classier than that.

oh, and sleeping – most of the time. And reading. And did we say eating…

Alas, Paris tomorrow and today a tour of hardware shops in Carcasonne. A Bientot x x x x J and M

Fungal fantasies and other myths

19 Mar

Some of you (James and Sarah) might cast your minds back to a conversation we had in France about mushrooms. Okay, maybe we did exaggerate slightly when we suggested that there is only one single ‘mother’ mushroom in the world, which spreads it’s spores beneath the earth and pops up wherever it is so inclined. Imagine an extra ‘fungal skin’ beneath the soil (but above the bubbling lava) which intermittently shoots out a new field of edible snacks. Due to the disbelief of various friends, and the fact that we found a glorious stand of field mushrooms recently in the grounds of ANU (Australian National University) we feel it’s time to dig a bit deeper towards the truth of the fungal matter (and it’s been 1 month since our last weekly post).

It turns out we may have misunderstood (in translation of course) the myth of the single spore and the mother mushroom of the Montagne Noir.

Mushrooms have memory. They also have spores. And they are quiet. They wait patiently in the dark, damp soil of their foremothers until it’s time again to break through the earth and sing some sort of funny songs in the forest (or grassy verge at ANU).

But then there’s the issue of the alzhiemers. They can’t always remember where they popped up last time. Hence the distinctly French pastime of ‘mushroom hunting!’

At Le Campmas, this often starts under cover of darkness due to the highly competitive ‘tracking’ undertaken by other village members in search of the highly prized cep (a delicious and very expensive in the streets of Paris kind of mushroom – but not a mushroom-spore). Jeannot assures us that there is in fact only one living mushroom in the whole of the Montagne Noir. We cannot argue with a french man.

We offer a variety of evidence in support of the ‘one mother mushroom myth’ and a host of other fungal delights we found in the region. Plus two miraculous events: 1) The cep God threw down the bank for Justy to find in the first 10 minutes of hunting, and 2) the giant cep Justy scored from Jeannot’s uncle Tonton later that day last summer after a very long and inibriated lunch!

The gift from God! Justy's first cep find. Beginner's luck!


Check out the anti leech rubber wristbands! nice

Guess who found the next two ceps!

The full bounty from our first hunt!

And later that day we found a field of cheeky chantarelles!

Uncle Tonton gifts me the giant cep he's been saving for a rainy day.

Mags' beady eyes scooped the lot at ANU. Mushrooms on toast that night...and lived to blog the tale.

Proof after all that there is just one glorious global spore connecting the entire world.

Progress slowed on the house. It is raining. The Orbiel river, like the Murrumbidgee has seen more water in it than it has in decades.

And lastly, we presented you with icicles at this spot last time, now a gushing torrent…

A new waterfall, where icicles once grew. On the drive to Le Barry.

Have a good week all, M and J x


May ice be your friend

15 Feb

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later…it’s not Sunday night any more and the post is late, late. late. In response to the flurry of emails we received in concern for our welfare and the progress of the Le Barry we have scratched this little post from the hard drive.

The thing is, it’s very cold at Mas Cabardes this week and the work has…shall we say…slowed down a bit.

The roof tiles have arrived (in a hundred pushes of the wheel barrow from the trailer to the site…slight exaggeration maybe) and you will see are beautifully stacked ready for some better weather. Apparently it’s not a good look so slip from an icy roof with a fist full of clay tiles. Can’t imagine why.

So the workers are working – stacking tiles, climbing trees and eating iciles on the drive back to their forest home.

Have a good week all. J and M x

Abundant foods

23 Jan

This is a ground-growing post only (the mushrooms are a whole chapter on their own – will follow in the next few weeks), so tales of small edible birds, gun-shot on the tongue, and chilled and potted wild boar cheeks can be seen next week…

We thought we would introduce everyone to the edible foods we found at our hilltop patch, known to us as ‘Terry’s mountain garden’ A.K.A. Le Terry! We have named this garden after Margaret’s father Terry, who was a long standing Francophile and who, we believe, would whole-heartedly have enjoyed this project. These images were taken in the summer of 2009 when the sale of Le Barry was still very much in full swing. Carol, Jeannot and I walked through Terry’s and documented the edible plants as we went. It’s also a great way for us to start learning the language in more detail. It’s all good stuff we can use at our Alliance Francais de Wagga Wagga classes (should we ever resume!). We (the family labour) are currently clearing and planting the food garden at Le Barry with food, food, food for the kitchen. So you can eat-a-plenty during your stay – and weed a plenty when all this tranquility and cheese is too much to bear. There will be many future postings on the progress down there. But for now it’s the dizzy heights of Le Terry for you!

That is, once we actually found the garden!

Ever so slightly overgrown…

Wild asparagus.

See – there was a garden here all along…

Does anyone eat lilac these days?

Good if we ever get the barrel-making operation up and going again!

A glass of fortified anyone?

And to finish off, we are offering a once in a lifetime opportunity to get your hands on Morgane’s Tarte Tatin recipe which was gifted to Mags upon their first meeting, Christmas 2007 at Le Campmas. For the full story behind the invention of the dish visit the Brotherhood of the Tarte Tatin website!

Morgane’s Tarte Tatin recipe

Short crust pastry:
hmmm, you’ll need to make your own (we just realised we didn’t get this part…)

150 grams butter (French of course)
170 grams sugar
1 sachet Vanilla sugar
4 or 5 apples

Skin/peel the apples and cut the apples into pieces. Meanwhile, begin to put some of the sugar and butter into a heatproof shallow pie dish and cook over the stove-top gas. When the butter and sugar begin to boil, put in the apples. Add the rest of the sugar and butter to the apples. Put the pastry on top of the apple and sugar mixture and then cook in the oven for 40 minutes (temp. gas mark 6 or 7 – you’ll need to look up the equivalent in C/F as we have no idea!).

Cooking the apples, butter and sugar on the stove top

Margaret and Morgane

Take out of the oven and flip upside down onto a plate to serve (good luck with that part).

Then, eat it all while it’s warm. Oh yes, it’s a little bit of butter for sure, but by the time you’ve been at Le Barry for a week you’ll stop looking.

More next week… J and M

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