Come On Over

“Peaches, ripe for the picking,” my neighbour tells me from atop his tractor as he passes by. “We can’t eat them all.”

No need to ask me twice. This morning I headed over with an empty picking sack.

The peachy corner of the neighbour's garden, which was established in the late 19th century.

The peachy corner of the neighbour’s garden, which was established in the late 19th century.

I’ll be honest, in all the years I’ve lived next door to this farm, I thought they only had one kind of peach. Pêche de vigne, vineyard peaches, of which there are several types.

The one grown next door isn’t a pretty variety on the outside, it looks a bit rough, a cowboy peach that’s been out in the weather too long and smoked a few hundred too many cheroots.

Pêche de vigne.

Pêche de vigne.

But there are two heavily laden peach trees, and the second is bending with the weight of green peaches that look vaguely unripe, but are soft to the touch and ready for harvest.

The green-yellow peaches, soft and ripe.

The green-yellow peaches, soft and ripe.

I’m happy to say I took a few of them, too. Because while I have no idea what this kind of peach is called (there are over 2000 kinds of peach), it’s a revelation of taste.

Tangy peach scent with a hint of vanilla, and the flavour is crisp with an aftertaste of honeydew melon.

The first small plate of harvested peaches, the first of many.

The first small plate of harvested peaches, the first of many.

The scent of the pêche de vigne is completely different, a heady mix of sweet and rich red earth. The flesh looks like it’s been steeped in port wine, and that’s pretty much what it tastes like, too.

In the past I’ve made sorbet using these red peaches with a dash of port, and if I do say so myself, it’s not bad.

I was under the close supervision of this guy, who was sitting in the sheep meadow on the other side of the fence.

I was under the close supervision of this guy, who was sitting in the sheep meadow on the other side of the fence.

I foresee a large amount of peach jam, preserved peaches, peach pie and peach sorbet in my near future.

Thanks, neighbour!

Old Growth

Photo: PK Read

Photo: PK Read

Across the border in Switzerland, and over in the next county of Haute Savoie, there are dozens of large-scale commercial apple orchards, hundreds of perfectly pruned trees grown to efficient picking height, neatly covered in bird-proof netting. They make for tidy rows of white and pink blossoms in spring.

In my neck of the woods, though, there are only old ramshackle orchards. These aren’t orchards that grow for resale, or at least, not on any large level. The farmers here still press the apples for local cider, the apples are preserved and given away as gifts, stored over winter, and a few crates might make it to a local market.

The number of these simple orchards grows ever fewer as they make way for apartment houses and roads.

One orchard on my running loop gives me hope.

Over the past four years, the twenty or so gnarled trees there have been slowly replaced by young saplings, just a few every year so that there is a mix of old and new growth.

It might just mean that this particular orchard will remain intact, or at least, that the farmer planting the orchard has no immediate plans to sell the land for development. Why else go to the expense of slowly rejuvenating an entire orchard?

There are only three old trees left. I assume this year they will be replaced, so I’ve been taking the time to enjoy their gnarled branches and unruly cascade of blossoms.

Lazy Afternoon

It’s a lazy afternoon here – the rains have stopped (for now); it’s hot, but not too hot, a fluffy cloud kind of day to not do very much.

Here are a few shots from the farm right next door on a lazy August afternoon.

Phlox Photo: PK Read

Phlox
Photo: PK Read

This wall, the outer wall of a woodshed, is in a dormant state right now and looks like it’s just a place to hang wire – but during the harvest season, it is filled with shelves of squash, pumpkins, piles of string for binding together various vines.

Barn wall Photo: PK Read

Barn wall
Photo: PK Read

Out in the orchard, sheep were dozing against one of the woodpiles.

Sleepy sheep Photo: PK Read

Sleepy sheep
Photo: PK Read

Other sheep from the flock saw me from across the orchard and came running, hoping for a few chunks of old bread.

Eager sheep Photo: PK Read

Eager sheep
Photo: PK Read

I obliged. Who could say ‘no’ to those sheep eyes?

Begging sheep Photo: PK Read

Begging sheep
Photo: PK Read

Have a good weekend!