March 2011


My word, spring is everywhere and I hardly feel the year has begun.

Those of you on my Olive Farm Facebook page will know that my feet have barely touched the ground this year. Directly after Christmas, I was in London for the France Show at Earls Court where I met many readers, some of whom have become longstanding friends now. On the Saturday, a lunch was arranged and thirty or so of us went off to celebrate together after my talk and book-signing that day. It was great fun. I am sure that another such event will be organised at some point in the near future so if you want to be included, please join the Facebook page and introduce yourself. Continue reading

December 2010

The holidays of Christmas and the New Year are almost upon us and I am hardly aware of them. Of course, I know these days of rest and merriment are creeping towards me, bringing with them blizzards, sack-loads of fallen snow, shoppers bustling to and fro, office parties, coloured lights in the streets, but such images are hard for me to picture while I am travelling in southern regions wandering through olive groves. Continue reading

October 2010

It is dark outside. The world is still asleep. Beyond the windows, a terrestrial silence, above which Jupiter hangs like a brilliant bulb in a black sky. For the present, it is a solitary illumination. It is seven am and not an unreasonable hour to be at my desk, but autumn is upon us, the days are growing shorter, it feels as though it is the middle of the night and I the only being on the planet. Continue reading

August 2010

Summer is here and I have just arrived back in France after a three-week book tour in Britain and Eire. RETURN TO THE OLIVE FARM has been, as we say in Ireland, launched and I hope that you will be encouraged to rush out to the shops and purchase a copy. The early reviews and feedback are proving to be very positive. I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who attended one or other of my talks and, in certain cases, to those of you who came along twice! The events were made joyous by your presence and enthusiasm. Continue reading

May 2010

This is a little late and I apologise for that. It has been a long and rather difficult winter for many people. I am aware of that. Down on the farm, the months have been wetter than usual and we experienced two bouts of snow, one fleeting and the second that stayed and settled on the trees. Only now am I able to begin to assess what has been killed off and what is surviving. Our Jacaranda, carried by Michel as hand luggage all the way from Mexico and planted up on the terrace near the Magnolia Grandiflora because they both blossom at the same time of year, looks like a stick skeleton. Continue reading

December 2009

I have recently returned from a month in Australia and a few days at Tauranga Bay in New Zealand where I was appearing at the bi-annual arts festival there. If you attended either of my Tauranga events, thank you so much for coming. They were terrific and I met so many readers. I felt really high when I flew back out again to Sydney. Continue reading

September 2009

Wild olive tree, Wellington, Western Cape, South Africa

There are few moments that match the sense of release I feel after my latest book has been delivered and an email comes winging back a few days later from my editor with the message, ‘LOVE it!’  Hooray!

My new book is about living off the fruits of the land and the challenges of sustainable development – respecting Nature’s needs as well as our own.  Return to the Olive Farm recounts my experiences back at Appassionata beyond my Mediterranean travels and it will be published in 2010. Continue reading

April 2009

Young olive grove where the trees have been pruned

We have been pruning in our olive groves these last few weeks, pruning back thirty of the big old fellows and every single one of the juniors and these now number over two hundred and forty, I think. It is backbreaking work, but it is also extremely satisfying, particularly if the weather is kind. Earlier this year in

February, Michel and I signed ourselves up for a day’s training in the skills of pruning young olive trees. Fundamentally, it is not that different from the cutting of the older boys except that the youngsters are still forming and the cuts will make a difference to their structure, to the silhouette of the tree. Continue reading

January 2009

A section of the trunk of one of the ancient olive trees in Lebanon, scientifically dated at 4,000 years before Christ.

The days leading up to Christmas were not the happiest for me or our olive farm. I had spent November in Africa, visiting the magical rainforests of Madagascar before travelling briefly through Kenya and then on to South Africa.

Before leaving for this trip, which was to keep me away from the farm for almost five weeks,  I was keeping a watchful eye on our olive trees, aware that our olives had, yet again, ripened early. We did not spray last summer and I was determined that this winter we would bring in an organic harvest. It was too early to gather them before I left and I calculated that the opening of the harvest season would only marginally precede my return from Africa. So, we decided to leave the fruits on the trees until December and I asked our loyal gardener, Mr Quashia, to make everything ready while I was away – the laying of the nets etc. I was meeting up with Michel in Johannesburg for the very last week of my trip, and the plan was that we would set to work as soon as we were home. Continue reading

September 2008

I feel that silent shift, the interstices between the changing seasons, when the burning heat of the sun has lessened, before the trees change colour, before leaves begin to drift earthwards, when the grapes and figs are fat and ripe and juicy and the olive harvest lies ahead. On my rambling walks over the land I have been counting the olives. Well, not literally counting, but observing how many are resting on the branches and what percentage has fallen. Why? Because we have not sprayed the trees this year. It has been a hot dry summer – a magical one, but more about that shortly – and the dreaded olive fly has been in evidence, but I put my foot down. We still have plenty of oil left over from last year, so if needs be we could survive until next autumn without harvesting and pressing this November. Continue reading

April 2008

Close to midnight last night I strolled out onto our top terrace to stretch my legs after a long day in front of the computer, completing the very final touches to my new book, The Olive Tree. It had been raining heavily and the air was hanging damp and misty in the valley between the hills. Choruses of frogs were congregating down by the stream just south of our land boundary. It’s spring and their low-horned trilling is a tell-tale sign that they are preparing to mate. I love the sound; they prelude the far less sedate screech of summer cicadas. Continue reading

May 2007

The final days of May are upon us and the south of France, the Midi, is buzzing with the prospect of summer while those who have crewed the 60th Cannes Film Festival are rolling up the famous red carpet for another year. It has been fun to catch up with friends who stayed with us and others who drove up into the hills to dine with us.

The weather is warm, the garden is full of flowers and nightingales; there are young shoots everywhere, the grass is overgrown and dotted with red poppies and the olive trees are in blossom once more, promising us an excellent harvest later in the year. Continue reading

Autumn 2006

Summer is over. The tourists have all returned home and the south of France is settling back into a more familial rhythm. We, like most other olive farmers, are beginning a venerable annual ritual, preparations for our upcoming late-November harvest, which looks set to be a reasonable one.

While all this autumnal activity is taking place, I am slowly travelling north towards England for the launch in October of my new book, The Olive Route. Continue reading

Spring 2006

Spring is here. Its arrival is always uplifting yet I cannot help feeling that this year it is more lovely than any that has preceded it, but when I say to my husband, ‘Is it always this beautiful or are we blessed with particularly glorious displays this time?’ He laughs and replies: ‘Chérie, you eulogise the end of winter and the fireworks of nature every April.’ Continue reading