That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?"
(Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing ….. in case you're wondering, which of course you weren't …..)
- well, in fact February here has seen some really warm, sunny weather - although it is now ending cold and wet. We have seen the temperature bounce between - 1C and 24C …. quite a variation. It feels as if this Winter period overall has been noticeably milder than average. We have no real basis for this (because we're not organised enough to make recordings), but what we have noticed is the 'behaviour' of animals and plants. They are making appearances and are 'in action' three or four weeks earlier than 'normal'. Remember, we are at quite a high altitude here at 'Nichoir', at just on 500 metres, and so at lower levels, places like Albi, there will always be plants and trees that are ahead of us when it come to signs of flowering, blossoms and general "we've arrived!" behaviour. But during this month we have spotted in the garden a number of creatures we would expect to see in March/April, but not in February - bumble-bees, hummingbird moths, green frogs and woodpeckers:
Some serious work has started in the garden - in particular some hedging, taking back the outward growth along the hedges, cutting back to the original growth line, removing frighteningly ferocious brambles, cutting away ivy, and making sure that the rambling roses, honeysuckle, and wild pear have breathing space and the healthy trees are generally 'encouraged'. It is a long job (as I think I have said before, there is about 1.2 kilometres of hedgerow) but the results are really good - difficult to photograph the work 'before and after', but this is a section that has been done … and it is the brown area along the hedge that has been cleared back, so at least 1.5 metres depth and sometime a couple of metres - of course the downside is the very large amount of cuttings that then have to be dealt with!
There has been some time in January and February to take some trips around our region and to appreciate how varied it is and how in Winter it is a different place from the sun-soaked summer. One area we particularly like is the Monts de Lacaune in the Haut Languedoc National Park. It is south of where we live, an hour and a half's drive away, towards the Black Mountains and Pyrenees Orientale. It is not spectacularly high, with high areas of around 1400 metres, but has a beauty of its own, with rocky, sparse areas alternating with meadowland and softer, undulating hills. And there are some beautiful lakes, cold and serene in Winter. It is well worth a trip and perhaps a stay (there are wonderful walks) - perhaps in the town of Lacaune itself (well-known for its charcuterie products), where there is a truly delightful hotel, Le Relais de Fusies - we do not usually mention or recommend hotels or restaurants, but this one is well worth a visit:
So, in this world of post-BREXIT trade negotiations, COVID-19, American elections, and Middle Eastern atrocities we feel privileged to be where we are. But, with our new 'generation' of grandchildren, (we now have six, and two great grandchildren), we are aware that it will be the environment that will be at the centre of their future and we must support in any small way we can their ability to deal with that.
We wish anyone reading this the most peaceful and joyful of Springtime's!