Friday, 27 July 2007

An al fresco lunch

We enjoyed a splendid lunch costing 12 euros of beetroot salad for an entrée, coquilles de mer (crab in a scallop shell) with potatoes in filo pastry for main course, and a yummy chocolate and ginger patisserie for dessert.  The warmth and ambience of the sunshine setting encouraged us to linger long at our meal. We were replete. Then we headed for the sales, visiting the ancient churches and magistrate courts on our journey. Whilst enjoying liquid refreshment at a pavement cafe bar, a young French man asked if we were the "madames de nature". Somewhat surprised we replied in the negative. Immediately, a lady waving a nature magazine led him towards her table with other women. He clearly had found his "ladies of nature". It was lovely to be out and about with a female friend.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Cautiously does it

Oooh, how quietly exciting. This is such a surprise to start the blog on gardening matters.

Gardening has never been my forté. However, in previous homes and gardens, I have always gained pleasure from the necessary attack of mowing the lawn, weeding out the unwelcome plants, pruning the hedges and trees, attending to plants and re-arranging the pots in a courtyard garden. The pleasure of seeing a neat and tidy garden after the chaos of nature has attempted to take control is satisfying. Getting grubby with Mother Nature and then cleaning oneself is also therapeutic. The physical action of gardening and the emotional enjoyment of watching the cycle of life and death is good for tackling depression. I love to see the appearance of colourful flowers, beautiful insects and listen to the birds. Over the years my attitude to gardening has changed.

Our garden is exposed to the elements. It is clay. Beneath the shallow top soil there are stones which wriggle their way to the surface. We have dry stone walls and wire netting fencing which divide the garden into sections. Half of the area is a field, which, for some of the year is grazed by our neighbour's flock of sheep. Last year the same neighbour's tractor ploughed part of this field and helped us to create our vegetable plot. Last year after the rotovator had reduced the troughs made by the plough Captain Sensible did the back breaking work of digging in our newly made compost. I could hardly dig. This year, with improved physical health after the operation of two years ago and with Captain Sensible's support I have been able to dig. We shall need to dig in plenty of sand, manure and compost in the winter. Sadly, a vintage garden fork that I once inherited and have owned for more than 34 years, has a broken wooden handle.

We were cautious in digging up the land. We required a veggie plot that was not too big and not too small. However, because our potatoes have taken half of the available plot we need a little more space to rotate the crops correctly.

I feel I have come "full circle" since many years ago when "the good life" and "self-sufficiency" was first attempted. It was then an impossible dream because we kept no animals, as well as for a variety of other reasons. Years later it is now fun though hard work. The physical exercise keeps us fit and active, yet, even if we are worn out, and we enjoy eating what we grow.

I must calculate the distance covered when walking behind the lawnmower. I pruned the overhanging branches of the cherry trees and plum trees to make it easier to manoeuvre the machine. The wind has broken the fruit-laden branches of the Reine Claude plums belonging to our neighbour, so we were lucky recipients.

It has been a tiring but fruitful day.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

July 2007 Feeling cautious in starting a blogsite

Well... here we go... as I breathe deeply and evenly and start to publish personal thoughts about our life in France.

Today, whilst Captain Sensible is chaux plastering the newly made exterior walls for the "abri de l'hiver", the garden room that we intend to use in the winter, I learned how to trim the baby leeks and plant them in our "petit potager". It was so easy! First of all you trim the roots to about 1cm of growth and then you cut the leaves until the plants are about 20 to 25cm in length. Dib a hole about 15cm deep and drop in the leek plant. Plant the leeks about 10 to 15cm apart. Pour water in the holes and press the soil gently around them. Voila... little green leafy plants all in a row. Marvellous! So... 50 plants cost 4. 80e . Une botte de poireaux (a bunch of leeks) normally costs about 1.50e , although we cannot remember exactly how much. With some luck we might make a small saving!! However, the fun is in the fact that we have prepared the soil, broken our backs and can look forward to home grown leeks on our winter plates!

We had to dig up our Charlotte potatoes and store them. They are ready much earlier than last year's crop which perhaps were not the same variety! Many people in our locality have had potato and tomato diseases in their gardens and their crops are ruined. So we feel lucky! Our cherry tomatoes are doing well but not the other varieties which were planted later. We were lazy on account of not wishing to "garden in the rain". When Claude Debussy wrote "Jardins dans la Pluie", a pretty pianistic piece, which I used to be able to play, I am sure he never envisaged the amount of waters that France and especially England have seen this year.

Now ... I have completed my "test writing" and finished this "posting", so being courageous, I hope that achievement and success will be experienced on this new venture.