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  1. I am not sure about the mists but there is no doubt about it, the season of mellow fruitfulness is upon us.  Since late August narrow tractors have been trundling along our roads, the distance between their tyres a perfect fit to proceed between rows of vines. If you are unlucky you might come across a giant mechanical harvester like this one, wide enough to straddle the rows.

    Grape harvester


    Some domaines may still harvest by hand , but these big brutes are a common sight nowadays.  Looking at a field of harvested vines , the large number of shrivelling grapes that had been left behind were a sad sight.



    The harvest continues throughout September as great trailers are filled with grapes and usually taken to be tipped at one of the many cave cooperatives  throughout the area. 



    But this is not the only harvest that is going on now.




    Last week, as we were returning home we spotted a number of vehicles in our valley. As we mounted the forest road we looked down to see a large ladder lying between the rows of olives and a small group of strangers. It was clear  that our neighbour's olive harvest was underway. Around here the olives are picked by hand, and not shaken into nets as we have seen elsewhere. There are two small scale olive growers in our village, and every year we buy our supply of oil from R. He takes his olives to a cooperative, but unlike some producers, he knows that the returned product is from his own olives. It is golden, slightly peppery and delicious. Anxious to know whether he could supply us again this year, considering the long dry summer, we were relieved to learn that  the 'rendement' or harvest is good and there will be enough oil for us. The harvest of his green olives is complete. These olives will make a stronger more peppery oil, higher in antioxidants and polyphenols.  In November his whole family will be out again helping gather in the the black olives.




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  2. September , that month of transition between the heat and dryness of summer and the cooler, wetter days to come, has much to commend it. After all the kids are back in school and yet there is still much to enjoy. We decided to spend a couple of days on our boat, and as we left port for a petite 'balade en mer' we breathed a sigh of relief. Wheras in August one had to dodge the many comings and goings of motor boats and noisy jet  skis, the sea scape was now  relatively empty save for a few yachts  on the horizon and  a large tourist boat offering 'vision sous marine' to the remaining  mainly elderly tourists. We briefly headed south towards  the Pyrenees which appeared in a haze before us, and then turned back towards the tiny fortified island of Brescou which lies just beyond our port of Cap d'Agde. "Poor kids," I commented " having to be in school on a lovely day like this." I used to dread September as a teacher and couldn't help but feel some sympathy. "It's where they should be," commented B. ironicallly "with their noses to the grindstone." But then we saw them. Those flotillas of tiny little trainer yachts that had dominated the shoreline throughout the summer. We hadn't expected to see them again after 'la rentréé'  But there they were, hugging the coast.

    We  re-entered the harbour walls and decided to moor close by for lunch at our favourite port side café. As we tied up we watched as the children returned to port too, all strung together in a line behind their  leaders. They  made a beautiful sight with their single sails, green, red and white catching the wind as the tiny flotillas curved around towards their base. But  best of all was the sound of children's voices on the air, filled with chatter and excitement.What better place to learn, be it academic, social or practical skills than in a sailing boat on the open sea.

    I reflected how rumour had it when I was a teacher, that educational leaders in France knew what every child throughout the country would be learning at any given time. What poppycock.  Given the obsession with health and safety regulations in the U.K. there are far fewer educational trips taken nowadays, while strings of happy motivated children are a common sight when out and about in France. I know for sure what leads to better educated and better motivated pupils.