The age-old fig tree
We installed our barbecue and table in the shade of the old fig tree on our courtyard. It was fresh and pleasant under his leaves in times of intense heat during summers in Provence. He was part of the family, you could say. Overhearing our conversations, dropping a fig when he doesn’t agree. I have sketched him many times, our éminence grise, while wondering how he came here.
He’s impressive in every way. We found his colossal roots in the cellar some 15 m from the huge trunk and no doubt they extend much further. At his foot you could still see the stones that used to be the foundation of the wall he must have pushed over in time. But when? This tree was so exceptional that I started digging further in the history of the house and surroundings.
The oldest part of the farm dates back to 1781 and was build by two brothers. They were wine growers, like most people in Provence in those days. The house was more of a cabin (cabanon in French). It served to stock material and provide shelter against the fierce mistral winds. Only years later it would become a permanent habitation. The tradition was rather to plant a plane tree on the south side to provide shade for the farm. Not a fig tree. They appear in another tradition I got to discover recently.
Winegrowers would plant fig trees to check if the soil was any good. As we discovered in the basement, fig trees have an aggressive root system that help them survive in the most inhospitable areas. They can grow in nutritionally poor soil.
Vines share the same character! So if the fig tree they planted wouldn’t grow, the place wasn’t any good and the farmers moved on. Vines and figs are connected in even more ways. I found this short movie in which a winegrower explains how his age-old fig tree serves as an indicator on when to harvest the grapes.
All this could say that our proud tree goes back to a fine day in the late 18th century. Since then, he has overlooked the vineyards of Oppède for more than 200 years. I’m speechless in front of this biblical tree.
UPDATE, we moved on from that beautiful place in the meantime. It is now clear that this fig tree has planted his roots in our minds too. Trees, one of the most inspiring creations of nature.