When a landscape turns into a vineyard…
This live land remembers... One can imagine the expression on the face of this land when man extracted all of his natural resources from its hard soil, up until the last quarter of the 19th Century.
On the plains and the best lands of the valleys, wheat was everywhere. A solitary windmill/ molin de vent at the top of a Pech, a water mill in a river bed … they all remind us of the bountiful wheat production of yore. In each village, the oat/civada fields made it possible to feed the horses up until the machine age and the global use of tractors changed the face of agriculture. On top of the crucial fountain, many villages kept a drinking trough.
Honey from the beehives replaced sugar everywhere, olive plantations/oliveta provided the necessary oil, both for human consumption and as a fuel source for lamps. The rabbit warrens (traps built with dry-stone) made it possible to add something extra to everyday life. The olive/l’oliu culture slowly started to fade until the frost destroyed a great many century-old olive trees back in 1956. From 1850 onward, vineyards started to replace the wheat/lo blat fields. Up till then, the vineyard/lo vinhal was only to be found on the hillsides whereas the quality land was reserved for the wheat, but that started to change and the gardens would be pushed back into the garrigues.
With the development of the railroad, agricultural products started to be transported to markets further afield. This gave way to the appearance of certain regional specializations which marked the end of the food crop cultures (lentils, peas, broad beans [US: fava beans], etc.). The garrigue gardens were progressively abandoned but continued to be cultivated close to the springs and the rivers.
Sheep/las fedas and goat/las cabras farming was an integral part of life in the Corbières and Minervois. From the Middle Ages onward, wool-producing sheep farming became one of the main industries in the Corbières region. The number of flocks started to wane when the wheat and straw cultures disappeared. The transhumant flocks, moving from the Béziers region to Andorre, no longer traversed the Corbières once truck transport appeared in the 1940s. The great many sheep folds, capitelles and dry-stone walls, in ruins these days, scattered all over the country, show us how important breeding used to be in the past. More for the meat production than for the wool industry, at the beginning of the 20th Century, each sharecropping farm had its own flock.
La cabra senha de sa barba l’erbilh la pèira e lo folhum E carreja entre sas banas dieu lo paire plen de lum, l’ora de la pregària sus las ciras de la cima esperlonga la montanha, D’una carba en clar de luna e dins l’aire çai degruna un rosari de mercès
- Joan-Maria Petit
With its beard, the goat blesses the grass, the stone and the leaves, and it carries the light of God the Father shining between its horns. At the hour of prayer, on the snowy heights, it extends the mountain in a spray of moonlight and recites a rosary of thanks.