Planting Hope for the Future

Planting Hope for the Future

Carol’s growing orchard on her idyllic olive farm in south-east France leads to new friendships.

It is midsummer. Our century-old Italianate villa with its peeling walls is full to the rafters with guests. Friends, family, friends of family… The phone never stops ringing – ‘Hello. Is there a bed for… ?’. There is always a bed. Heaven knows how we fit them all in, but we do. All ages holidaying together. They doze on sunbeds around the pool, slop wet feet in and out of the summer kitchen. From my library, my writing room, I hear the fridge door opening and closing. Our loved ones are in search of chilled beers, glasses of fizzy water clunking with ice cubes, flavoured with lemon zest from our four-seasons citrus trees. Michel and I remain indoors at our desks, beavering away, hiding from the heat. Work or play, we love this rundown Olive Farm and the calm it affords us. We delight in welcoming everyone to our corner of south-east France.

Work and Play

Last year, we built a pergola. This spring we roofed it in willow, which we decided would be more resilient than bamboo. It is almost the size of a train station but it affords us plenty of shade with a longer table for our ever-expanding family. Lazy lunches, afternoons in wicker chairs, dozing, reading, imbibing the French Riviera view. Most days when I have completed my writing, I slip outside, settle beneath that willow canopy and stare contentedly out towards the glittering sea. Until the hours of labour begin…

Repairing our drystone walls – it’s a never-ending task to shore up the sagging terraces. Night creatures – badgers, hedgehogs? we’ve never seen them – burrow deep, rooting beneath the earth’s surface, causing the mighty stones to fall and roll under the strain.

Then there’s planting trees: this year, bergamots, lime, unusual varieties of lemon, more almonds and delicious dark-fruited cherries. Next will be pistachios. Our greenhouse is chock full of pots of greenery. Michel is growing a future forest from oak saplings. I collect the acorns from the foot of our hill. I squirrel the oaknuts out with my earth-encrusted fingers when I spot them nestling beneath the masses of wildflowers too numerous to identify.

The beautiful view from Olive Farm © Carol Drinkwater

We have six avocado trees in pots, grown from stones. They are so tall, they brush the glass roof. Soon, I’ll gift them to friends. Our own mighty avocado commands a whole terrace. It thrusts itself heavenward, shamelessly taking all the room and sunlight. There seems no end to its expansion. Each autumn, it produces delectably creamy fruits. Every year I am amazed, astounded by this gift of nature. In a world of endless sadness and need, producing organic food has become a passion of mine. And the bonus is that in spring, two seasons earlier, the farm is a profusion of fragrant blossoms and honeybees promising autumn delights.

A Fruitful Friendship

I cannot save the world. I doubt I’ll change it even a weeny bit but when I am long gone, others will sit beneath these heavenly-scented fruiters. They will take shade from the ever-increasing heat and pick sustenance from these branches, and, I hope, they will marvel at these miracles.

We have a new friend, a local mayor, who takes the greatest pleasure in making limoncello, vin d’orange and eau de vie. He lives north where citrus can’t be farmed so I deliver him bulging cartons of lemons, bitter oranges, and now bergamots. These, he transforms into lemonade and alcohol and returns to us sufficient bottled litres to stock the fridges and keep our guests happy. As I write, I hear a cork being drawn, ice tumbling into glasses, laughter, and someone is calling, singing out, ‘Carol, is that the telephone?’

From France Today magazine

Lead photo credit : The Olive Farm is a wonderful spot in which to relax and soak up the scenery, although there is always plenty of hard work to do as well © Carol Drinkwater

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Carol Drinkwater is an award-winning actress and the best-selling author of The Olive Farm series. Her latest work is An Act of Love, a story of bravery and courage in WWII France.

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  •  Edwin Rennell
    2022-12-18 09:28:24
    Edwin Rennell
    I read all of your articles in FRANCE magazine. I am curious why you are no longer there.


    • CD
      2023-10-18 10:29:03
      The magazine no longer exists, Edwin. It was bought out by the people who publish France Today who I have been writing for since around June 2022. I hope this helps. Thank you for your enquiry Carol Drinkwater