The weird and wonderful French summer
Summer is a time for the weird and wonderful in France. And I don’t mean things like Paris Plage where a beach is recreated in central Paris.
Or the Tour de France where people wait patiently for hours and hours to witness a ten second blur of cyclists hurtling by at high speed. Or the French penchant for all going on holiday at the same time in August and sitting in interminable traffic jams together in the baking sun and then cramming themselves together into the various overcrowded tourist attractions.
I don’t even mean rural France, where local fêtes abound with themes of tomates and pommes de terre (potatoes) or escargots (snails). Vides greniers (flea markets) spring up where you can buy everything and anything and you get concerts featuring vast numbers of accordéonistes.
I’m being more specific than that. I mean our farm.
Veggie-wise we have two very strange types of squash growing in the garden this year. The first of these is an old and regional specialty in this part of France, the Sucrine du Berry. It’s a figure eight-shaped squash. I read about it in a local paper a few years back and spent some time tracking down seeds for it.
Equipped with a polytunnel for the first time this spring, I planted seeds but only had a 20% success rate. However, that’s probably enough. The kids object to a heavily squash-based diet and I was really only growing them out of interest. My two plants are producing several sucrines each and I imagine the novelty will have worn off by the time we’ve eaten the last one!
The other wacky squash I’m growing is the courge blanche, which is apparently known as the custard or pattypan squash in the States. I’d never come across them before but was intrigued by the seed packet in the garden section of Bricomarché.
As I’ve found out after the horse has bolted, they’re much more like pumpkins rather than courgettes taste and cooking wise. They’re beginning to arrive in enormous quantities, but fortunately the pigs like them and our daughter has also come up with a delicious chocolate cake recipe that features a healthy quantity of pattypan squash!
More summer ‘weirdnesses’ are our three huarizos. These are llama/alpaca crosses, but specifically llama mother/alpaca father crosses. (The other way round parentally and they’d be mistis).
Brendan, our dark brown alpaca male, got into the female llamas’ and alpacas’ field just over a year ago and had a busy night. Fionn, Diarmuid and Setanta recently arrived (llama gestation takes eleven and a half months) over a period of three weeks, mothered by Katrina, Victoria and Lulin respectively. A few days ago a baby alpaca, Wiggo, showed up too, equally cute but not as unusual as the huarizos.
Huarizos are sterile, like mules, and generally resemble small llamas – i.e. a llama’s head on an alpaca-sized body. The coat tends to be more alpaca-ish, i.e. thicker and softer. Our guys certainly have incredibly lush coats and are probably the healthiest babies we’ve had bouncing around our fields. They’re also very handsome and will be making up a trekking team for the future.
So if you have the impression that France goes to sleep in the summer and nothing ever happens there, think again. It’s certainly all happening here!