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  • Writer's pictureJanetJoanouWeiner

Bees, Boars, Boulders, and Béals

While there's never a dull moment around here, this past month has been extra eventful. Often, I feel like I'm living in a French film which could be called A Year in Cévennes. (If you haven't read or seen A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle, I highly recommend it.)

We'll start with the bees. Over a year ago, a generous friend gifted us with a Flow hive. Created in Australia, these beautiful structures are especially good for novice beekeepers such as ourselves. Honey extraction is possible without opening the hive, meaning minimal disruption to the bees and people.

We've been waiting for the right moment to launch our beekeeping career. We planned to paint it for weather protection, find the perfect location outside, and then order some bees online (who knew you could do such a thing!)

Then, one fine almost-spring day a few weeks ago, some of us were working out in front of the château. One woman told my husband she was changing locations, as there were too many bees buzzing around. Bees? Swarming in the wisteria! A gift from God.

My husband and a colleague grabbed the (unpainted) beehive from our dining room and quickly donned beekeeping suits.

Someone's super excited!

Gently, they lifted branches full of buzzing critters and lowered them into the hive. The key to successfully transferring the swarm depends on ensconcing the Queen Bee in her new home. The rest will follow.

After several attempts, Dudley caught Queenie in a tube and gently lowered her into the new palace. Her drones and workers seem happily installed as well.

"Yep, I think she's in there!"

Carefully, we moved the hive to a corner of the château entryway. Within days, one of our wonderful friends painted the Flow hive without disturbing the bees. Isn't it cute?

Bee-envenue! Welcome Bees!

Lavender honey is the best!

Photo by Adonyi on Unsplash

As soon as we resolve our boar issue, we'll move the hive to a more secure location behind the château. I can't wait till the bees discover our lavender. It's so interesting how various flowers and seasons produce vastly different flavors of honey. Some prefer, like my husband, the stronger, more resinous flavors such as chestnut or pine. Give me lavender or mille fleurs (all the flowers!) any day.

Our Boar Wars is an ongoing saga. Over a month ago, boars broke down the back fence and rampaged the garden. Digging holes all over the mountain terraces behind us isn't a problem, but destroying our prepared garden beds is most definitely not okay.

The chickens share my dismay.

Weeks earlier, we'd purchased sheep manure from the local shepherd and spread it through all the beds. And see those tubes? My brand new irrigation system. Sigh.

We gathered as a team and headed up the mountain to close the breach in the rock wall. Over two afternoons, we lugged rocks and filled metal frames, called gabions (basket in Italian). As we have a limitless amount of stones on our property, they are the perfect solution for filling in the broken wall.

Add this to the list of things I never expected to do in my life! Actually, it was fun putting the gabions together.

Attaching and filling the gabions was quite the workout.

Getting there!

End of Day One celebration!

We finished the rest the following week.

So, now the wall is secure. Yay! Except there are ongoing signs of boars digging craters in the garden during the night. It turns out we trapped a boar family inside the now very secure wall. BIG SIGH!

We're working on getting them off the property. Upon advice from locals, and with their help, we've walked through the brush banging iron rods or pots and pans. The hope was to drive them out and up to the watchtower, where we had opened the door for them to escape. Not a peep from our intruders. They just snuggled into their hidey holes.

Other friends have come and caught one little one to take home and breed. Now we're working on catching the rest in a cage trap, with the plan to set them free in the wild.

They're kinda cute until you remember the destruction they inflict. The larger ones can ram you in the legs, ensuring a visit to the hospital, I'm told by an experienced local.

The irony is that previous owners built the surrounding rock walls in the 17th century for protection and for stocking game to hunt. Hmmm. Are we returning to the origin story of the land?

Old postcard of St. Hippolyte du Fort. I'm unsure of the date as a new friend shared it with me digitally. Beyond the arched viaduct is the Château and our walled property, including the watchtower in the upper left corner. The trees and vegetation are much shorter in the photo than they are today. Given the size, you can see why our little piggies have plenty of places to hide.

And now, for the béal, a name from Occitan, the original dialect spoken in the region. These narrow irrigation canals run from rivers to fields, ingeniously bringing water to grow food.

The Château de Planque originally included what is now the neighbor's house and lands to the right of us. Called Domaine de Planque, the former vineyard edges the river Vidourle.

The Domaine de Planque

The river flows into the béal from its entry point behind the clump of trees in the middle, just past the horses, and continues the length of her field before running under the street to our Château.

Château Cottage

The béal emerges from under the street in front of what was formerly a carriage house, which we call the "Cottage."

In the past, the basin served as a laundry. Today, we watch for the occasional otter sightings, and when needed, use it for a baptism!

Besides running through the Domaine and Château de Planque, the béal continues on over to the two water mills, moulins, which also used to belong to the owners of the Château de Planque. Currently, five of us own these various properties. Recently, the government decided to regulate water usage from the béal. All of us use it mainly for watering our gardens. Now, they'll charge us for going over the set limit. But no one seems to have a suitable solution for how to measure the flow.

We've had multiple meetings and have yet to figure out how to set this up. In the middle of a recent rather long meeting, we received a call from a group of locals outside our home, ready to help catch the boars. I ran home and let them in, dog crate and all, then returned to the meeting. Whew! It was worth it as they caught one of the little piggies that day and took it away to a new home and mate.

As I began with, never a dull moment! A huge blessing in all this has been getting to know neighbors we hadn't previously encountered and deepening relationships with others. We plan to have them all over for a barbecue once we've solved the problem.

And, finally ... my second Book is Born!

My second historical novel, The Light Shines Through, The Huguenot Resistance Series Book 2, is available on multiple platforms. The Château de Planque, the surrounding rock walls and watchtower, the Domaine de Planque home and vineyard, the Vidourle river, and one moulin are key places in the story. Boulders are littered throughout and the larger ones serve as places to hide behind. There's even a quick mention of the béal and the arduous task of washing and toting heavy linen sheets. No boars or bees appear. Maybe they'll show up in World War II era Book 3.

La vie est belle!

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