Mas des Brun, where we moved to last week.... and where the seagulls sing (or maybe that's the neighbor's chickens?) Photo by Michael Moss, taken in December 2008 after an exceptionally rainy November (we hear the grass is not usually this green!)
: to settle in
On s'installe tout doucement au bord de la mer. We're slowly settling in beside the sea.
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
It's day six at our new* home and we are settling in nicely. On s'installe tout doucement, I keep reminding Jean-Marc, who seems to want to have every box unloaded hier, yesterday. I understand his excitement, but I also know about the need for some endurance: some sprinting, a little jogging, a bit of catch-your-breath walking—and we'll soon make it to the finish line. Then we can twiddle our thumbs.
After the initial flurry to get each major item in its place (the kids' beds, the armoirs, the canapé, nightstands, dogs, and télé, we are now taking our time to déballer the rest. As I type, Jean-Marc continues a steady stream of industriousness: putting in wifi receptors, hooking up the telephones and, just now, dangling over the balcony to prune a giant, fruit-laden figuier. I watch as he takes down just enough branches to reveal a Mediterranean mosaic: from our bedroom window, I now see an olive tree, a cypress, an amandier, and several pines. Soon we'll see the meadow with more centuries-old oliviers, in groves.
Walking Jackie halfway to school this morning, I noticed the ground outside is covered with pine needles. The scent brings me back to my childhood, to weekends spent at Kohl's ranch in Arizona. Exploring these new stomping grounds, just as I explored the Arizona forest, I am as delighted as that 9-year-old, by the unexpected discoveries: the thousands of asparagus that carpet this Mediterranean floor (hello les omelettes d'aspèrges)—and there are enough fallen leaves from the old olive trees to start a mulch factory (oh happy potager! But do olive leaves make good kitchen garden soil? Maybe the fig leaves would be better... I see Jean-Marc has built piles of them!).
Another bright discovery is all the cactus growing here. After ignoring the nutritional value of those cactus pears that dotted the desert landscaping of my enfance, I can now experiment in the kitchen with the figues de barbarie that are nestled in around our new property (a YouTube search reveals that the cactus pads are edible too. Let's make nopales stew or even cactus couscous!). Having learned the hard way, I will wear gloves this time, when harvesting—to avoid being stabbed by a thousand invisible, hair-thin needles. It was no fun tossing and turning, during a noon time nap, only to discover the needles had followed me all the way to bed. Aïe aïe aïe!
Trial and error. It is all part of the adaption process. Off now to harvest some cactus for lunch. Will wear gloves this time.
* "new" home: this mas dates back to 1875.
on s'installe tout doucement = we're slowly settling in
hier = yesterday
le canapé = sofa, couch
la télé = TV
déballer = unpack
le figuier = fig tree
un amandier = almond tree
un olivier = olive tree
une omelette = omelet
une asperge = asparagus
le potager = kitchen garden
une enfance = childhood
la figue de barbarie = cactus pear
nopales = a vegetable made from the pads of a prickly pear cactus
aïe aïe aïe = ow ow ow
How are the dogs getting along? Just fine! They sleep inside at night. By day, they have good shelter in this former cabanon de cochon, or pig hut. Don't tell Braise, but we'd love to put a few chickens there...
Some chaos and our 17-year-old, who started school today. He'll be at the lycée in la Ciotat.
The kitchen and some swiss chard, or blette. There are maraîchers on every corner! Have you ever had a swiss chard smoothie?
Thanks, Caroline, for taking this picture of the ceremonial "opening of the new house". Caroline and Thomas, who bought our home in Ste. Cécile, were with us on this special day. Handing me the keys, were Maggie and Michael Moss, who sold us this memory-filled home. It was a tearful and exciting moment and I am so happy these women thought to make a ceremony of it, for I would not have thought to. Thanks again Caroline and Maggie! Michael Moss also took photos of this scene, as well as the gorgeous opening photo, at the top of this post.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety