I want to begin by introducing you to our new member of the Olive Farm family. His name is Samson. He is a Tibetan Mastiff and has jaws like an alligator. I heard about him through my Olive Farm Facebook page where I saw a photo of him. He was in a refuge over on the other side of France, had been there for three months and this was a last call for a new home for him before he was to be put down. His face spoke to me immediately. I said we’d take him even before we had met him. He weighs 45 kilos, is eight years old, born on a Christmas Day, and is a gentle, handsome giant.
Michel and I took two days to cross France to collect him and drive him back. He seemed very subdued, a little traumatised I think as he had just undergone an operation for castration. However, within three or four days with us, he grew into himself. He is loving, loyal creature. He barks a lot (!), tries to eat the food of the other dogs as well as his own so has to be fed separately, but I wouldn’t be without him for the world. Although we know nothing about his past, we assume he lived in an apartment because he loves being put on a lead and walked to and fro on the land even though he is perfectly at liberty to run about where he likes. He also takes great delight in smelling flowers. A naturalist at heart!
Here he is attempting to enter one of the guest rooms by the window because he is not allowed inside the bedrooms:
I am writing this from my library at the Olive Farm. The sun is shining and it is a very beautiful June morning. However, there is an air of autumn about this morning, these recent days: longer shadows, a heat with a touch of freshness about it. Elsewhere in France, towns, villages, are under deluge. Our other home outside Paris to the east, which I have christened the Mad Old Chateau, sits in a hamlet about twelve kilometres from a small town where the school has been flooded out. Its parking deep in water with the cars sunk below the surface. It has been one of the wettest years on record.
I have friends, English friends, holidaying near Cahors in the southwest where their supplies, electricity, water, have been cut off. Others I know in Tuscany have also complained of unseasonably wet days and relentless thunderstorms.
This year our fruit trees are without fruit. That is not one tree, but all of them. A massive snowstorm in the late winter, early spring, sat on the trees’ branches for a week, almost eight inches deep. Many trees fell in winds that followed the snowstorm. Our weather patterns are in crisis.
Chris Packham, the British Naturalist, is talking of an “ecological apocalypse”. It has certainly felt like that on the farm here this year.
I am at a loss as to how to shout louder about our urgent need to protect our planet. I am constantly asking myself what I can do to alleviate these problems. Please think about switching from pesticides, don’t put any form of chemicals on the land, even small patches of grass, and plant wherever you can, every tiny corner can feed the bees, butterflies, help the wildflowers and wildlife.
Here, we are trying to eschew plastics, but what a hard task it is. Everything is wrapped in something. I try to buy only foods that are not wrapped in any kind of plastic coating. It is not easy and I spend more time shopping than ever before, hunting for healthier options. Recycle and keep the plastics separate.
It is a tough battle we have before us when some of our leaders are in such denial about the crisis the planet is facing.
Fortunately, our olive trees are laden with flowers. Look at this sapling, four years old.
Work! I have recently delivered a new novel. Rather a different tale. Its title is No Time To Die. I will, of course, let you know of its progress through editorial to publication date when I have a better idea of it myself. While I await the next stage, I am taking a few weeks off.
In the meantime, if you are looking for holiday reading, both THE LOST GIRL and THE FORGOTTEN SUMMER are available in paperback and as e-books. The reviews for both are really terrific. If you haven’t read these novels, I hope you will enjoy them. Both are perfect for those lazy days.
If you haven’t chosen where you are going for your holiday this year and you fancy France, we have our pretty little cottage at the foot of the Olive Farm for rent. As well, we have renovated a beautiful timber-beamed, seventeenth-century house on our land at the Mad Old Chateau. It is fifteen minutes from the Champagne region and about 80 kilometres from Paris. Look for photos on the website and send me an email to email@example.com
I always enjoy meeting my readers.
Have a wonderful summer, or winter if you are reading this from the other side of the world. If you can, take some time to enjoy the great outdoors, planting for the bees and birds and pollinators. If you don’t have any patch of your own, I bet there is a bit of land somewhere near where you live that would benefit from a few plants. Have a look! Or try some window-boxes.
Love to you and thank you for reading this.