jeudi 6 octobre 2011


Beneath you can read the excellent text of my host blogger Deborah Lawrenson on the lavendar distillation of the olden times. Today we went to visit some modern day installations.

First we saw The Rosan cooperative distillery. They distill mostly lavender and some salvia, the major productions of the region. The proportions are quite impressive.

Today it is possible to distill the lavender directly in the ben where it is put in the fields and brought to the distillery.

After the cooperative we went to a more traditional farm (if interested, you can find them here on the net) where they produce plants, gather wild plants and distill them.

They have two alembics, one in copper, the other in stainless steel. It depends on the material to distill which one they use. They have a large range of essential oils and floral waters.

The alembics were made of second hand material and artistically assembled by a local artisan.

ps. Don't forget to enter the giveaway beneath if you haven't yet!

jeudi 29 septembre 2011


I have great news today, « super nouvelles ». In plural !

To begin with I think I’ve located a piece of land I could start my little farm on. It’s not big but the most lovely, lushious prairie, allmost too pretty to be turned and made into an ordered nursery garden. Pity my phone wouldn’t cooperate to get at least a little picture of it. The photo above is from the little village nearby, Rivières.
And secondly, I received (some time ago allready but I’ve been a bit busy with my school project) the new book by the British author Deborah Lawrenson. Her book had allready appeared in the UK but the US launch was a few weeks ago and her American editor, HarperCollins, very generously not only sent me a copy but wants to give two of them away to my lovely readers ! How great is that, my first ever giveaway !

To wet your appetite I wrote a little review of the book that you find below. To try your chance and win a copy of the book send me a commentary with an adjective that best evokes Provence to you. The innocent hand of one of my neighbour’s children will draw the two lucky winners. Good luck to all !

ps. You have a week, hurry up!


In her new novel Deborah Lawrenson tells us two histories entwining, taking place on the same old farmhouse in the Luberon region, but decades apart. There is a young, foreign couple that just met and bought the crumbling farmhouse. They spend a long, hot summer trying to fix the place while the young girl starts to wonder if they really know each other that well. And there is a French family, trying to make a living on the farmstead in the beginning of the 20th century.

Critics praise and rightly so Deborah Lawrenson’s way of conveying colours and sounds, flavours and smells of Provence. She also gets behind the scene, past the « touristy » stuff, the cliché images of Provence and shows the life after the visitors who only know it’s summery face are gone but which I know so well. The quietness of the streets after the summer’s buzz, the mistral howling on the hills and the old houses creaking, the frosty mornings the sun tries to warm with its hesitant rays.

But I must admit that what touched me most personally reading her book is the research Deborah has done about life and labour, history, customs, hardships and poverty of the country in early 20th century, before it became the playground of the rich and famous, the Parisians and the foreigners.

If you like a good thriller that keeps you awake the whole night you will do well with this book. Or if you like to immerse yourself in other cultures and know about other countries, it will do the trick too. In any case it’s a good read and gives a good image of Provence.

dimanche 25 septembre 2011


Waiting for a little surprise this week I wanted to give you a faint glimse of my summer and schooldays.

En attendant une petite surprise je voulais vous donner une petite aperçue de mon été et de ma formation.

One of my working experience farms, Jardin de Mazet in Monoblet, the Gard département

The autumn has officially started and of course the temperatures have fallen though it seems next week will be fine. The nights are chilly but the afternoons can still be hot, though not the days it's raining.
The farm of Mazet is terassed: all plots are small and they cascade from the top of the hill down in multitude of terasses. They grow many medicinal plants. On the background you can see their séchoir, the plant dryer house.
Thyme and cornflower drying inside the dryer .
It's the time of year there hovers in the air a smell of the "day after a good night of wining" as stated one of my collegues. The roads are filled with tractors getting their cargo of grapes to the wine cellar. We at the agricultural school have the "gos fortune" of having a cave coopérative, cooperative cellar just behind the school house, so that we really find ourselves in a constant atmosphere of grapes becoming wine...
The other day we made a visit at the organic agriculture fair in Valence and saw a lot of lovely tractors.
I've also been working in a plant nursery, the Pépinière du Grand Plantier at St. Ambroix, also in Gard.

One wednesday we were at the producers' market in Uzès where I saw this alembic for distillation of rose water.
We've also been a lot outside, doing botany lessons with our professors.
Now we have essentially exams and the finishing of the professional project in store 'till mid-october. At the same time I'm looking for a piece of land to start farming allready next spring. I'll keep you up to date.
Have a nice autumn - or spring if you happen to be Down Under, where the Rygby World Cup has just kicked off. And no, I'm not backing the French team, les Bleus, I'm All  Blacks all the way.
Bon début de l'automne officielle à tous mes lecteurs!

mercredi 31 août 2011


I’m so very proud and excited about this, the first ever guest post on my blog ! It is true, a new post here has been long time coming but now it is even better than normally.
My guest is the very talented British writer, Deborah Lawrenson. She has a new book out, The Lantern, and on this occasion she has graciously given me a glimse of her writing and some nice photos. I’ll be writing more about her book here later but for now let us immerse ourselves in the world of lavender perfume.

Thank you so much, Deborah ! You can find Deborah’s creative posts on Provence here :

En attendant de reprendre le cours normal de mes messages ici je vous propose un délice inhabituel : un message d’une collegue bloggeuse très talentueuse, l’autheure britannique Deborah Lawrenson. Elle a sorti un livre de fiction, The Lantern, qui se déroule en Provence et à cette occasion elle me fait cadeau du message qui suit, malheureusement seulement en anglais.
Vous trouverez plus sur le livre de Deborah et son univers provençal ici :

The Lavender Distillery

A guest post by Deborah Lawrenson

Small lavender fields are woven into the landscape all the through the hills around the town of Apt. These are not the huge commercial concerns of Sault and Valensole, but smallholdings tended in the traditional way. When the sheaves of mauve flowers are picked in July, the distilling begins, sometimes in the field itself, and a heavenly scent is carried on warm evening breezes.

It was this perfume in the wild that provided the first, tentative descriptions in the notebook that evolved into my novel set in Provence, The Lantern. The book tells two interweaving stories, one in the present and one in the past, of the inhabitants of a crumbling farm hamlet in the Luberon. At its heart is a mysterious fragrance, Lavande de Nuit, created by a blind perfumer.

I tried to imagine what it would have been like to work the lavender fields seventy years ago, when the process of picking and extracting the essence would have changed very little for centuries. Then I discovered the Distillerie Les Coulets, near the village of Rustrel. As you arrive down a narrow country track, time stands still, and you enter the world of Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. Although Pagnol’s enduring stories were set further south towards the coast at Marseille, the same rural idyll really does seem to linger in every stone and corner.

An old still, once used to extract the essence from the lavender flowers, stands proudly outside the farm. This is a tiny, family-run business: Christian Borde & Fils. The lavender is grown in the surrounding fields and brought to an unassuming barn for the magic of scent distillation to begin.

The water in the still was bubbling merrily. At the table, one of the much older women known to us simply, namelessly, as Madame, was thrashing the head of a sheath against a box to break off and collect the flowers. Then with one deft sifting motion she showered the ground with any remaining remnants of stalk and leaf and an even more intense cloud of lavender scent exploded into the warm air.

From The Lantern

The alembic still is heated. Then, when steam has risen through the lavender flowers it is pushed up through the pipe that comes out of the top, and then down through the cooling cylinder full of cold water that coils round and round. At the end of the process, the liquid contains the essence of the flower, its oil and scent.

With this essential oil, the Distillerie les Coulets makes different strengths of lavender preparations, from the pure essence which must be diluted – with almond oil, perhaps – before it comes into contact with the skin, to soothing massage oils that Madame Borde makes up and labels in her workshop, which is barely larger than a garden shed.

It’s a truly charming enterprise, and the resultant natural oils have a deep and sweet, almost honeyed aroma, a world away from synthetic mass-produced fragrances.

In the lavender fields…

Men with pitchforks were throwing the stalks and flowers up like hay. Another stood on top of the shaggy load, shouting. Then, when it seemed not another petal could possibly cling on, and the mauve tassles were dripping in every direction, the order was given to sway off to the corner where the alembic had been pulled in by a donkey.

From The Lantern

More lavender, and a glimpse further into the past, can be found in the crossroads village of Coustellet, best known for its Sunday morning market, stands the Musée de la Lavande, the lavender museum, where these evocative old photographs from the 1920s and 30s hang on the walls.

It was back-breaking work, on an arid landscape and under an unforgiving sun at harvest time at the end of July. There were no mechanical aids for the cutting and gathering of the stems, just a hand scythe and a cloth bag worn over the shoulder. Here’s the kind of clothes the women would have worn:

I was given a bag, a small sickle and a starting place. Although he asked my name and nodded, he did not introduce himself. For several days afterwards, until I got to know some of the other girls and exchange information, he would remain simply the man in the waistcoat.

‘Watch out for the bees, and the vipers,’ he said.


‘They hide under the flowers.’

I put on my apron and pulled my cotton scarf up over my head. My eyes were already hurting from the relentless sun.

Nervously, I began. It was tiring work but I was keen to prove myself. The bag grew heavier and bumped against my legs. The scent was heavenly, all around in heavy fumes, so intense that after a while it seemed to pulse.

from The Lantern

Musée de la Lavande: Route de Gordes (D2), 84220 Coustellet
For their website click here:

vendredi 15 juillet 2011


I am amazed and gratified. This must be the first time my English Speaking blog has got an award! How is that for a summery surprise and I fear, a little unmerited, seen how little I have written lately. Sorry, will mend my manners after my working holidays in Finland.

I owe this pleasure and honor to Karon from So easy life. Karon is my idol and inspiration, as well as a blogger and a person and for her work with herbs, my favorite subject and hopefully soon my field of action, too.

As allways there are conditions with this award. The first is of course, naming seven other blogs that inspire me. If it had been somebody else naming me, Karon's blog would have been the first on my list. Still, there are many other inspiring blogs to choose from. Here you have a few of my favorite English language blogs:

Vicky Archer from French Essence speaks about the life in Provence and her lovely house near St. Rémy

Corey Amaro writes, Tongue in Cheek, and ads lovely photos (I would sell mother and father to take photos like hers)

Carla Coulson, another great (and professional) photographer shows her work in Carla loves photography

Liivia is a Finnish artist that publishes her photos from the road on Via

I don't allways understand everything that goes on in Ariane's blog but fortunately images are an international language and I do love Die Rose!

As to creativity Artemis Russell from Junkaholique has loads of it

and last but not least, Deborah Lawrenson, of whom I will be speaking more later...

And then seven little things you might not yet know about me:

I love Jane Austen (it didn't say it had to be original!) !

I love flowers but I prefer the jasmine - at least today.

I would like to rise early, as a good gardener, but unfortunately I was born a bat.

I'm fighting the urge for sugar but can't resist the spell of chocolate.

I don't hold my liquor, two small glasses of wine are almost too much for me.

And the wine is almost allways a rosé - or champagne.

I used to wear a lot of black but lately I feel the need of lots of colour. I especially love bright rose, shocking pink as Schiaparelli called it.

jeudi 14 juillet 2011


Good Bastille Day! Joyeuse Fête Nationale!

This blog will continue quiet for some time more because of holidays. If you are interested in  Finland see my other blog.

Ce blog va continuer silencieux un peu plus à cause des vacances. Pour des photos de Finlande voyez mon autre blog.

dimanche 8 mai 2011


I know, I know, I’ve been long gone and I appologise. The fact is my agricultural course plus all the other littlle and even bigger things in life are totally consuming my time and energy.

Fortunately spring - no, summer is here ! And with the warm days my hay fever which I’m treating the old fashioned way with antihistamine pills; I’m not far enough in my studies yet to believe only in natural remedies for this. The down side of the pills is I’m feeling a little weary.

But I need those precious little pills because I spend a lot of time outside, with the school, working experience periods and my own garden. And without the hay fever what could be better ? Lovely sunshine, everything around us green and lush, flowers everywhere…

Some quick glimses of what has been going on…

I've been to Die in Drôme, to a course on Biodynamic agriculture with a happy binch of my collueges from Nyons agricultural school. We had a lovely week, sleeping over in a country gîte, a farm accomodation, and visiting various biodynamic farms.

I've allready done two work experience periods at the Mazet farm in Monoblet, in the Gard département.

They have lovely terrassed fields growing with nearly thirty different plants, mainly medicinal. It's been hard work, weeding by hand (they cultivate organically, thus using no pesticides) but such a wonderful weather and marvellous surroundings.  
The house you see at the background is a natural dyer, séchoir. They do tisanes, herbal teas and homeopathic remedies based on their plant production.
We also had three savioury days with a lady who specialises in cuisine sauvage, cooking with ingredients found in the nature, wild salads, flowers etc. Very inspiring - and cheap: food straight from the nature!
I must admit that every time we do something new I'm captivated. I found biodynamic methods very interesting but little hard to follow, so I'm still thinking about implementing it. On the other hand I adopted right away the wild cooking, it's been wild salads ever since.
And then I've been working on our little green patch where we are planting little by little vegetables, aromatics, as well as flowers and some medicinal plants for this winter's herb teas.

Above the aromatics, below tomatoes etc.
Must fly, hope to be here sooner. Have a good springtime, wherever you are!

lundi 7 mars 2011


Today I started a one week course in olive tree growing. We started nicely by having a walk above Nyons, in a lovely olive grove. The weather was nice and we had a good guide with us. And of course this  was the day my hay feaver decided that the spring is here...

More of the olive tree and the olives when I have found some antihistamine tablets.

Aujourd'hui j'ai commencé un cours d'une semaine sur l'oléïculture. Le cours a commencé agréablement avec une promenade cet après-midi dans les oliveraies au-dessus de Nyons. Le temps était magnifique, notre guide était très prolixe et intéressant et c'est exactement cet après-midi que mon rhume des foins a décidé que le printemps était arrivé.

Plus  sur les oliviers dès que j'ai trouvé des comprimés contre le rhume des foins.