I am rarely the first person up in our family, I leave that badge to Roddy or the youngest girls. I prefer to remain in bed a few minutes longer where I like to lie and gather my thoughts; often Gigi will come in for a snuggle and I will plan my day, but yesterday I broke my own rules and I was up and out before the rest of the family had stirred. I wasn’t going anywhere special, there was no important meeting in my diary, I just wanted to capture the early morning light. I’ll do this every now and then; everyone wonders if I am feeling ok, but once in a while it’s fun to be the first to rise. I unlock the front door and open the french windows in the kitchen and let the cool morning air rush in.
I pour myself a juice and wander out onto the terrace. All is silent, it’s just me and the dogs. And the sun; big and yellow, still quite low on the horizon where she’s stretching and yawning; I can already feel her warmth on my skin. I might be joined by a cat too, the stillness is intoxicating and the light is magical. As the sun rises a little higher so the birds awaken to form a dawn orchestra; an array of blackbirds, starlings, tits and finches, with the bass-line comprising a selection of collar doves and our pair of wood-pigeons. They practice a few chords and then the ensemble bursts into a delicious medley of sound. The odd rooster around the village crows in the distance, adding a few dis-harmonious chords to a symphony already in full flow. Everything else is still silent.
I wander down the garden, everywhere is so dry, the grass, what is left of it, crunches under my feet. The lawn is brown and brittle. Most of the original plants in the flower beds are surviving without water; they have adapted to the region’s dry summers and were planted here accordingly, long before we arrived. But even with their roots going deep into the soil in search of water they are looking slightly sorry for themselves, their leaves wilting a little. Thankfully the hollyhocks, the hibiscus and the mirabilis provide fantastic pops of colour in an otherwise parched landscape.
I stop for a few minutes by the pond which we built last year from old stone that was already here; we wanted it to look natural and appear as if it had always been a part of the garden. It is now home to a few fish and a great many frogs. Whenever anyone passes, les grenouilles leap and dive into the cool water, disappearing under a lily pad.
Our simple watering system (me with a hose) is managing rather well. Thanks to our seemingly limitless well, the potager is thriving and so are the tubs on the terrace. It’s a nightly task at this time of year and a long one at that. I crank up the old electric pressure system from the 1930’s, turn a time-worn tap here and pull a knob there and the system noisily grumbles into life, and I can hear the water gurgling through the ancient cold iron pipes. It’s a routine that has no doubt been practised for nearly a hundred years, albeit originally with the help of a manual pump worked by a giant hand wheel. The aubergines are just about ready and I pause to pick a couple of tomatoes and eat them while surveying the rest of our vegetables. The tomatoes always taste best like this, fresh and warm from the sun; I gorge on them greedily, their juices running down my chin.
I pass more than just a cursory glance over the grapevines as we have a little fungus on some of the leaves and it needs careful watching. It’s nowhere near as bad as last year’s attack. We were adamant that we wouldn’t deluge our vines in the usual copper sulphate spray, a sludge traditionally used to ward off all sorts of disease here in the vineyards. The sulphates turn walls and everything else they touch quite blue. Our bunches of grapes are growing by the day, soon they will start to ripen and turn purple; for now they are happily flourishing without any interference.
My next stop is the chickens, and as I approach the coop I can hear them chatting away inside. They know it’s ‘that’ time of day and they’re anxious to get out. One of the grey hens is always the first through the door. Fritz, our little rooster, usually comes second or third, doing his morning dance around the other girls as they each appear in turn. He flirts outrageously as if he has only just met them despite the fact he is in their presence 24 hours a day!
I open up the hatch of the little Silkie babies and then the Frizzle bantam chicks, the latter now two months old; they appear to possibly be a male and a female, which would be a perfect result, so we’re keeping our fingers firmly crossed. I so wish they could roam free with the other birds but they are still too small, and I wouldn’t trust either of our cats. I’ve seen feathers on the lawn on enough occasions from a melange of blackbirds, thrushes and pigeons to know what our two hunters are capable of when they fancy a change of diet.
Wandering back towards the house, I glance over at our guest cottage; all is quiet; no one is awake there either.
I pass our giant fig tree, which is bursting with fruit; we pruned it hard in the winter and I was worried we might have a lesser crop this year, but no, we have more than ever; just another couple of weeks and we will be eating our first figs of the year.
I turn and meander up the driveway, where the flowering hedge which borders one side is flourishing; it’s a haven of colour and pollen for insects. For a few seconds I watch the bees at work, it is totally fascinating, and through the magnified lens of the camera I can see there is pollen everywhere, overflowing, covering the bees almost entirely.
As I reach our front door, the dogs have beaten me to it and have taken up their usual positions, content for a while to enjoy the sun before it gets too hot. As the day gets underway they’ll slowly drift towards a shady spot when the heat becomes too much to bear.
That was yesterday.
This morning I was awoken by an unfamiliar sound, something I had not heard in a while; rain. I am not normally a fan of rain, and I hate grey skies and endless wet days, but we haven’t seen a drop in so long that for once I welcomed its presence. For the second morning in a row I leapt out of bed ahead of all the others. I ran downstairs and once again opened the doors, I could smell the moisture and I could sense the earth sighing in gratitude, the plants nodding sagely; finally their parched leaves and stalks were being sated. Tomorrow the forecast is for more sun, but for now I’ll happily take one wet day.
If you, like me, enjoy the simple pleasures that life offers us, I think you might enjoy Penny’s blog. She is a blogging friend of mine and I urge you to go over, have a read and follow along. www.enjoyingthesimplethings.com