Wednesday, December 31, 2008

When Icicles Hang by the Wall

WHEN icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail;
When blood is nipt, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl
Tu-whit! tu-whoo!
A merry note!
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all around the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian's nose looks red and raw;
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl
Then nightly sings the staring owl
Tu-whit! tu-whoo!
A merry note!
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.....(W Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost)

I've spent the last day of the year doing some of the above...

gardenTom wasn't about, so I had to bring the logs into the hall myself.....
The milk wasn't quite frozen when it came home....
But the blood was certainly nipt, earlier this morning....
And Joan wasn't here either, so I also had to keel the pot myself when I made the potage.

It's been quite cold here, particularly overnight and early in the mornings when temperatures have dipped to -5C (23F), although, as I write this, at about lunchtime, it's a very pleasant 19C (66F).

I'm still not able to spend too much time in the garden although I have managed to collect some wood for the fire and wander around looking at things and planning for the year to come.

broad beansI've spent many hours thinking about what I might grow next year.....  I certainly want to grow tomatoes again and I have some seed saved from last year which I hope to use.  I ended up with about 20 plants last year, growing in various places,some in the ground and some in pots.   I think this year I shall probably go for 30 plants, all growing in the ground.    I can't decide whether to grow them all in one bed or whether to plant two or three different beds.

I also grew some beans which weren't very successful, but I'm going to try again.   Patrick over at Bifurcated Carrots has given me some more Dog Bean seeds and I have high hopes for this year.

leeksBefore winter really bit.....  and my foot fell apart.....  I planted some broad beans and they are doing really well, standing up to the cold well and now standing almost 150mm  (6") tall.

Back in September, whilst Kate from Hills and Plains Seedsavers was here on her Vegetable Vagabond tour, we planted leeks, onions and fennel all of which are showing good promise for 2009.   I also planted some broccoli seedlings but I have been constantly fighting a battle to stop them being eaten and during the past few weeks, whilst I have ben laid up, the eaters have got the upper hand...  I'm not defeated yet, but I have  suffered a heavy setback.  I have left one of my Chinese leaf plants go in the hope of saving some seeds.

I also sowed some peas under a mulch of about 150mm (6") of dead leaves in early November and I was delighted this morning to see the first few plants pushing their way through the mulch and finding the light of day.

chinese leavesElsewhere in the garden, things are coming back to life with lots and lots of buds appearing on various plants and shrubs.

Some of you will know that I am planning some significant changes here during the course of 2009 so it is a time of excitement for me as I look forward across new horizons.  In particular, I am proud to be hosting the first Kitchen Garden International Global Event in September 2009.  One of the many things I am truly looking forward to.

I wish all of you a very happy New Year and a wonderful and productive time in your garden.   Remember the Growing Challenge and try to grow an extra crop this year.   One thing that you haven't grown before.   I haven't decided yet, but I'm very tempted to try and grow cucumber.   When you're as new to growing vegetables as I am , then this particular challenge is not so very taxing .....  but I do wholeheartedly endorse it.

Have a great Year

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Walk in the Garden

It's now almost 3 weeks since I had my operation and today, I'm pleased to say, I was able to take my first tentative steps back out into my garden.

I'm still not very strong and only managed to walk for about 10 minutes but I was out in the fresh air and enjoyed it a great deal.

It's been particularly wet here in November and December and I was very surprised at the number of mushrooms flourishing under the trees.

It was raining gently and I soaked up the feeling of at last being able to, once again, enjoy the garden.

A red squirrel played as I walked.

It's going to be a few more weeks before I can actually get out and do any work in the garden but it was nice, today, to get out there again and start to plan for 2009, a year of change for me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Little Victories

Some months ago my good friend Kate over on Hills and Plains Seedsavers wrote a piece about Little Victories and over the past couple of weeks, whilst I have been unexpectedly hospitalised, I have thought about that piece and about the Beccy Cole song, which I adore, a great deal.

Kate says how important Little Victories are to life and happiness and I have measured, and continue to measure my illness and subsequent recovery with Little Victories.

I had a serious operation on my foot under a local anaesthetic where just the lower half of my body was anaesthetised and my first Little Victory, was, in the recovery room when I, at last, was able to move one of my legs a little again.   Then, subsequently, I had the Little Victory of regaining movement in both legs and being returned to my room.

I particularly remember the Little Victory on the day the nurses took out the IV from my wrist, freeing me to move without trailing a rack of bottles behind me....

And then, after another few days, I had the Little Victory of being discharged from hospital into a convalescent home.

I was taken by an ambulance car and on the way I remember the Little Victory of having a nice chat with my driver...  Of course, he didn't speak any English so we conducted the chat in French, which is still a foreign language to me.

Then the convalescent home decided I was well enough to go out each day for a couple of hours and I started to come back home, although some days there was hardly time for a cup of tea before I had to return but it was nice to be out in the world again.....another Little Victory

And yesterday, I was discharged from the convalescent home and I returned home...the biggest Little Victory for me....

I'm still not fully recovered and will have to take things very easily for another month or so.  However, I will try and get back to walking in my garden and to writing about it.

I would like to thank Kate for posting the piece to let you all know where I had gone and also for writing about her Little Victories and introducing me to the Beccy Cole song.

A line from the Beccy Cole song goes:

You can see the Little Victories shining in their eyes..

Well, it's the Little Victories that have helped me feel whole again and are shining in my eyes

Thank you Beccy Cole and thank you Kate

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Stay in Hospital

Ian has asked me to put a post here explaining that he is in hospital, recovering from a recent operation on his foot. 

It has gone well but recovery is expected to be slow. Consequently, he may not be able to post for a few weeks or until French hospitals and health  centres get wi-fi! 

Now, I wrote before about the lack of clocks in airports...well, it is a disgrace that French hospitals don't have do they expect bloggers to carry on with their lives without it?

All the best Ian..... take care and come home soon.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I missed the Market

I'm on a small vacation at the moment and so didn't get to make my usual trip to market.

I find France an amazing country to live in.  The history, the culture, the pace of life are all so very different to that I have known for most of my life, which was spent living in the United Kingdom.

Every Saturday I go to the little village market at Villereal where I buy my fresh produce for the week  I buy a lot of my produce off the same man called Laurent and chat with him about Rugby...I came to France from Wales...and rugby is the national sport of both countries.market_hall

Of course, Laurent and I, are often rivals on the sports field and that friendly rivalry often overflows to the market stall.

This conversation normally takes place in the market square alongside the covered market hall which was built in the 12th Century, during the hundred years war.

This market hall, in the centre of a Bastide Town has survived, mostly intact, from that day to this... Through many wars, the first and second world wars, the hundred years war itself and of course, the French Revolution.  I has seen times of tranquility and times of huge change.  It was created as part of what was probably the first urbanisation of Europe and has quietly sat there as, over the years traders and customers have come and gone.

Even now, those very Bastide towns themselves, created all those years ago, are coming under threat from different forces as the inevitable winds of change blow through rural France...the very farmers on whom this place has relied for hundreds of years, being uprooted in favour of agribusiness.

Sometimes I stand there and remember all this and am held in awe as I think back through 900 years and try to imagine the activity that has gone on in this market hall....this same place where I am now standing and then I wonder what stories it will have to tell, long after I have gone...In fact, what stories it will have to tell 900 years from now..

Thursday, November 20, 2008

lunch at the old porch

I went out to lunch the other day, to a lovely restaurant not far from here called the Old Porch.

I've been there just once before, a couple of months ago,  when a friend and his wife rang me to invite me to join them.

We were welcomed into a lovely dining room of an old hotel with about 20 tables set out.   Only 2 or 3 tables were occupied though, when we arrived at about 12.15.

We took a table near the door to the kitchen and were rewarded with some very pleasant cooking aromas as we started to study the menu.vieux porche

Once we were all seated, our waitress arrived with a basket of lovely bread and a carafe of red wine and I realised that wine must be included in the price.....which the menu quickly confirmed...

As we discussed the menu a few more people drifted in and the room began to take on a convivial atmosphere with the buzz of people enjoying themselves.

The first course was a vegetable soup.  Home made from fresh vegetables and thickened by pureeing the vegetables and adding creme fraiche.   It was delicious and the large tureen that was left on the table for us to help ourselves from meant that those with a mind to, could have a second bowlful.....The assorted breads in the basket went wonderfully well when dipped into the soup and four very clean bowls went back to the kitchen at the end of that course.

Next we were served with a platter of crudités and some cold meats, 2 or three different hams.   The traditional French crudités were freshly prepared and included grated carrot, grated celeriac, cherry tomatoes, grated beetroot and just a little sweetcorn with each vegetable prepared in an appropriate, light dressing. The wealth of tastes was amazing and we all sat and happily chatted and munched our way through it.  During this course I looked around the restaurant and realised that every table was now full and, in fact, the waitresses were just adding an extra table to accommodate two more people waiting.  Again the various breads were nice to eat with the different dressings and the basket needed refilling before we had even got to the main course......

For that course we had been able to choose from a selection of dishes and around the table we selected the whole range.  I had cous-cous and others had confit de canard, roast chicken or steak.  Now I know some of my readers will be astounded that I didn't choose the canard (duck) as it was offered...but I'm only really writing this to show that I do occasionally eat something else!!!!!

Confit de canard is a speciality of the Perigord region and is also one of my favourite dishes.  Duck is preserved in it's own fat and then gently warmed until all the duck fat has dripped away and you are left with the most tender and tasty duck I said, I do love confit de canard....

The cous-cous came as two separate dishes, a bowlful of just cous-cous, beautifully cooked, loose and light and a separate bowl of a broth containing chicken and pork and a some large chunks of vegetables. I didn't finish all the grains but no vegetables or meat went back to the kitchen!!

Next there was a choice of cheese or dessert and I chose cheese....Another marvelous dish with four great regional cheeses served with just a few walnuts.  Walnuts grow around here, I have three trees in my own garden, and they are used a lot as a simple accompaniment....  I'm told the creme brulee was also delicious.

Coffee wasn't included in the set meal price so we paid the extra and enjoyed a cup of rich, thick, dark, espresso to finish off the meal.

We were also the last table to finish... after eating a truly memorable meal which had cost us just €11.50 ($14.50)($AU22.35) with an extra €1.00 for the coffee.

Thank you to the Vieux Porche for making a Wednesday lunchtime so very enjoyable.

I'm on vacation and may not be able to post for a few days...depending on whether I find Internet access or not....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Starting out on Saving Seeds!!

I've decided to try and save some seeds this year and then to grow them on next year.  I really don't know what I'm doing so I thought if I posted this piece here, describing what I have done, along with what I am intending to do, then it is likely that someone will read my piece, throw their hands up in horror and say...."OH  NOOOOO!!!  Don't do that whatever you do!!!"  and if it really is my lucky day, that person will then leave a comment saying what it is I shouldn't do and exactly why!!!!

So to start...


Ok, I have got some seeds from my tomatoes.  I chose just one variety of tomato, a simple red cherry tomato and kept about a dozen fruits from the six plants.    I then cut open the fruits and separated out the seeds and the pulp in a bowl of water.   Next, I collected the seeds together and discarded the pulp, and placed all the seeds in a paper coffee filter to dry.   Once they had completely dried, I transferred them to another coffee filter and sealed it.

Next I did lettuce......this time I let a couple of plants bolt and produce seeds, then I picked them and separated out the seeds from the chaff before putting them into coffee filter papers and sealing.

I was given some green sweet peppers by a friend who I know grows only open pollinated seeds so this time, I just harvested the seeds when I used the peppers.  I was also given some Charentais melons which again, I know, the farmer concerned only grows from kept seed, is completely organic and, in fact, grows them on my land.....So again, I just harvested the seeds when I prepared the melons....again drying them in a paper coffee filter before sealing the packs.

My intention is to grow on all of these seeds next year.   If I am successful, then I shall do the same again in the autumn 2009 and then, maybe I could offer some of the seeds to exchange....  It would be a start.......

Thursday, November 13, 2008

beans and garlic are through

About a month ago I sowed some broad beans as my contribution for 2009 to The Growing Challenge.

I'm pleased to say that they have all started to grow, pushing out of the ground and today they are standing about 75mm (3") high.

A few days after sowing the beans I planted out some garlic and covered it with about 100mm (4") of dead leaves as a mulch.  The garlic has also started to grow and is now poking it's heads above the mulch.


I've had some guests staying here with us for the past couple of weeks and that, coupled with the weather, which I have commented on elsewhere, has limited my time in the garden.  It was good, when today, I managed to take a walk around the periphery of our land and observe what was happening.  Our land is only a couple of hectares, (about 4 acres) and taking only about 10 minutes, this walk is not hugely significant as a route march.  However, it did hold some special significance for me and I enjoyed to make the effort. I don't very often go to the periphery of our land....


Elsewhere in the garden today I have been clearing up, moving herbs and other things into my workshops for overwintering and where it will be easier to keep an eye on things over the coming months.

Plans for next year are still fluid but the few winter crops I have are doing ok.  The red cabbage has been very successful and I'm hoping to have some nice bits and pieces to bring into the kitchen in the early spring.   One firm plan I have for next year is to get a lot more out of the garden and I am looking for crops that will mean I can harvest something every day of the year....  I don't know if I will achieve it, and maybe it's a tall order for my second year...but the help and support I am receiving is making me very ambitious....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Boeuf Cherhomme

boeuf cherhomme We have had a couple of family guests staying with us here in the south west of France over the past two weeks and whilst they were here we decided to throw a small party to allow our friends and neighbours to meet them.

As the weather had turned cool I decided to serve a hot dish amongst our party fare and after much discussion in the kitchen I was designated the task of making a dish I particularly like.

In our household we refer to this dish as Instant Moussaka..... but I have to admit, I decided that I really couldn't call it that now I am writing it up on the blog.....

boeuf cherhomme1

You see, Moussaka is traditionally made with minced (ground) lamb but I make this dish with beef..... and traditionally, Moussaka has aubergine as a constituent part but I omit the aubergine...and of course, traditionally, Moussaka has a Béchamel sauce topping.... I use potato....  So, as you can see it's not really Moussaka....

We had quite a long discussion about this and eventually agreed that we would adopt a name which obliquely referred to it's origins... so in the future it will be known as:

boeuf cherhomme2

Boeuf Cherhomme

I took1kg (2lbs) minced (ground) beef and sauteed it in olive oil with a large onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, adding into the mix, some herbs de Provence, Italian herbs and of course, a glass or two of red wine.    Once the mix had cooked well I added tomatoes.   I used a tin of tomatoes as, at the moment, I don't have any of my own.
Once this had all cooked down nicely, I covered the bottom of  a large dish with a layer of pre-boiled potato and then spooned half the mixture over them.  I then added further layers of potato, meat and a top layer of potato and cooked the whole dish in the oven for about 20 minutes.

After sprinkling cheese over the top I grilled the beef and then served immediately....

marinated carrots

We also made a marinated sweet and sour carrots dish that I love and which was enjoyed by our guests.


All this cooking activity for the whole day meant we didn't really have time to prepare our own meals so about mid afternoon, we all stopped for afternoon tea in the British tradition.....  I had a French pastry - a "Religeuse" or Coffee Nun, a very tempting piece of choux pastry stuffed full with coffee cream and then topped with coffee icing.  It certainly made the cup of tea taste better..........

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunshine at last

After a period of two weeks which feels more like two months, the sunshine has finally returned to south west France today.

closlecastellau This morning we got up to a pleasant, clear day and by lunchtime the sun was shining bright in the late autumn sky.  Sadly, it didn't have enough strength to chase away the cold which has enveloped us here for the past couple of weeks but temperatures rose to almost 20C (68F) although they never quite reached that peak remaining stubbornly a couple of degrees below.

It will be good news for my friend Bernard though, who I saw on Friday when I called in with some guests to bnoblerotuy a bottle of his sweet white dessert wine, Monbazillac, and who was telling me that this year's vendange was being quite problematic because of the poor weather.

When making Monbazillac wine, the grapes are left on the vine until they get attacked by the fungus, botrytis.    Moist conditions are required for an infestation of botrytis on the ripe grapes but then the grapes need to be exposed to drier conditions which concentrate the sugars.   This process is known as noble rot and is the essence of production of sweet white wines such as Monbazillac, which will keep for upwards of 60 years after a particularly good vintage.

However, if the botrytis infestation occurs and the weather then remains wet, the rot quickly turns to grey rot which can destroy the whole harvest.

Because of this requirement to select fruit which are at exactly the right state of infestation, the grapes are picked by hand and several passes through the vineyard need to be made.   Monbazillac is a sweet dessert wine made from 80% Sauvignon, 15% Muscadelle and 5% Sémillon grapes.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Making Marmalade


The weather this week has continued to be poor and I have, pretty much, been unable to get outside and do any of those jobs that are getting increasingly pressing as winter descends on us here in South West France.

The result of this has been a move to sorting out some of those pressing jobs inside the house that need doing...

One job I tackled earlier this week was to clear out a kitchen cupboard which had some odds and ends in it's deeper, darker recesses....where, waiting to be rediscovered, was a can of Seville

orange fruit purée, just perfect for making a batch of orange marmalade.

The can was not particularly old but I had completely forgotten it was there.

It had got put in the cupboard after I received it as a gift about a year ago and , I remember, at the time, I thought I would make a batch of marmalade with it.

Making jam also gives me another opportunity to use the rather beautiful copper preserving/jam


pan which I was given a couple of years ago.   This

is a French style confiture pan which has low sides and a wide mouth.

It is great for making jam but I have to admit, I am still learning how to use it as I tend to fail to remember just how fast the mixture reaches setting point and also how fast the evaporation of water occurs, when using this pan.

The recipe for the marmalade was pretty standard, simply adding just water and sugar to the purée.

I brought it to the boil fairly slowly and then added a knob of butter to reduce the froth.

After the mixture had boiled for only a few minutes, I carried out a setting test and found it had already reached setting point

I bottled the marmalade in the jam jars I love which are, originally, used by a French jam maker who produces some of their jams in this part of France.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

From Garden to Kitchen

I have not managed much in the garden this week.  It has been raining a lot....quite a, I guess it's an awful lot...  Every Sunday morning I check my rainwater gauge and log the rainfall for the preceding week...  It was actually raining, but only very lightly, when I checked it this morning and recorded 125mm (5inches) of rain since last Sunday......  Like I said a lot of rain.

"From Garden to Kitchen" really refers to me rather than any of my produce...although I did harvest the ends of a few things.

I also managed to sow a pot of batavia lettuce which I'm hoping to persuade to grow even though winter seems to be arriving early this year with temperatures already having dropped to 2C (35F) overnight.

salmon and roasted vegetables

"From Garden to Kitchen" really refers to me rather than any of my produce...although I did harvest the ends of a few things.

We had some guests come to stay so I bought a small whole salmon from the fishmonger and on Friday evening prepared a very simple Baked Salmon with Roasted Vegetables....I think baking the salmon, just wrapped in a little foil and adding only a few herbs allows all the natural flavours to be retained.  The vegetables were drizzled with olive oil and then roasted to make a delicious meal, served with some of my homemade multigrain bread.

This morning we took the guests to the weekly market at Issigeac. As I said, it was raining, so the market was virtually empty

strawberries We were able to park easily and buy all that we wanted without queuing.   There were some beautiful local strawberries, still available, which we completely failed to resist and which we shall be eating a little a later for supper.

As the cold weather is drawing in now I pulled all the tomato plants out during the week and saved the last few tomatoes.  Mainly they were green with just about a dozen or so tiny red cherry ones which went into the salad bowl.

I used the green tomatoes to make my own version of Green Tomato Chutney. 

green tomato chutney

I love Green Tomato Chutney, and bottled chutneyusually manage to make a few jars of it at the end of every tomato season.  This chutney is traditionally made with green tomatoes, apples and onions but for my version I also add figs, sultanas, banana, courgette and garlic.

I simply fill the slow cooker crock with as much of the mixed  vegetables as I can manage, add some sugar and vinegar and then cook for about 12 hours.  I find that the slow cooker allows the chutney to develop a beautiful ,rich, deep, colour.  We have just a couple of jars of last years chutney left so by the time this batch is ready, in a month to six weeks, we'll have completely run out....


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Foire aux Potirons

Today was Issigeac's annual Pumpkin Festival....

IMG_0273 IMG_0275 IMG_0276

 Issigeac is a very beautiful Medieval village dating back to the time of the hundred years wars, when much of the present village was built but actually going back even further than that to the Gallo-Roman era and is very popular with tourists and locals alike.

IMG_0278 IMG_0280 IMG_0281

What I really like about these special food festivals is that they bring out lots of people and because of that lots and lots of traders turn out as well.  The local apple grower was there today with his array of apples all grown within a few miles of here.  The florist was selling locally grown Chrysanthemums and the basket man was there with his woven selection.

IMG_0283 IMG_0284 IMG_0288

The regular Oyster man was there selling his oysters raised in the Marennes-Oleron basin,  just a couple of hours drive north of here and the walnuts are the famous Franquette, (Noix du Perigord).  Of course, no Pumpkin Festival would be complete without the garlic man....

Actually, all these pictures were taken rather late in the day.  When I first arrived I was unable to get any photos because there were simply too many people....but too many people to take photos gave a great buzz to the festival and I enjoyed my few hours there.   There are more PHOTOS here

Those leeks and so on that Kate and I planted out together

Kate left a comment on yesterday's post asking about "those leeks and so on....."  I thought rather than just answer the comment, I'd write this separate post and put in a photo.

leeks and onions Kate and I planted out leeks, spring onions, fennel and broccoli whilst she was here at the end of September. In the photo, you can see the leeks and onions and some broccoli.  If you look carefully, you can just see one of the fennel plants, in front of the red cabbage.  The leeks, onions and fennel are all doing really well, but I always have trouble with my cabbage....   I just never seem to be able to get it to do what it should be this case it's being eaten by something again...  I'm spraying diligently with my recently purchased insecticide and since Kate's visit, I'm now making a new mix every time I use it... She suggested that, as they were living organisms, it would be better to mix if fresh rather than keep it for a couple of days....

I think the only answer is to be even more diligent about protecting the cabbage.  At the moment, I have them surrounded with coffee grounds, which seems to be deterring the snails and slugs, but I wonder whether a little sand pile would do a better job???

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Funny Week

It's been a funny week in the garden, this week.   Every day I've got up and over breakfast thought about what I would do today, but then, at the end of each day I seem to have done a lot of other things but not the job I actually assigned myself.

IMG_0271We had some visitors here at the beginning of the week and they were keen gardeners so  they set to potting on some of the seedlings I had, cutting back geraniums so  that I could save them for next year, repotting some flowers and generally tidying up.  They pruned several large shrubs and did copious amounts of weeding.  This was on Monday. ...   I had intended to sow some peas.  I have prepared a bed for peas and beans and sown 1/3 of it with broad beans as I talked about the other day.  The next section was to be sown with the peas.... but at the end of the day I seemed to have just collected together all the various prunings that they had generated etc and made a big pile ready to burn... but not actually burnt it....

Tuesday came and it was celebration day so over breakfast I planned my day.... go to the fish market and buy some fish which I would cook for dinner, then , during the afternoon get rid of the pile of weeds and prunings with a bonfire and then in the evening prepare a special supper.... Simple.  After breakfast we went shopping and selected some lovely salmon from the fish market.  I decided to grill the salmon with a red cabbage and peppercorn crust and serve it with some roast vegetables.  I had the vegetables... and for the starter I had decided to prepare endive grilled with blue cheese.   As it happened, we got back from market, and I laid down for ten minutes.   When I woke again, about 30 minutes later it was raining heavily... so the garden work was put on hold and I simply got on with preparing our supper...

Wednesday morning came, I would try and burn all the rubbish if it hadn't got too wet in the rain, and, hopefully, before it rained again....Once that was done I could get on with quickly preparing the ground and sowing the peas....

The prunings etc had got wet but not too badly and I eventually got them burning.... I also decided to burn some other stuff from around the garden whilst I had a fire going....I stopped for lunch, but carried on shortly afterwards and by the time it went dark, I felt I was starting to make some inroads into all the stuff around but had not finished!!!!!  Still no peas sown....

Thursday morning I had lots of paperwork to sort out so decided to have a morning clearing all that and then sow the peas in the afternoon.   When I stopped for lunch Sylvia asked me if I'd run her over to her French lesson and pick up a few bits and pieces from the store whilst she was there....  I went and did that and by the time we got back it was time to prepare dinner, roast chicken with carrots in yogurt and cream.

Friday over breakfast I decided to finish some outstanding work on the pool deck..  It would only take an hour at the most and I wanted to get it done before winter really sets in.... after that I could look at the peas....  I went straight out after breakfast and got on with finishing the fence around the deck which was the major part of the job.... It should have been easy but there were one or two problems and eventually I finished one section (there are two that need doing) as the light failed at the end of the day.....

It's Saturday today, so this morning we had for our weekly visit to Villereal Market.  The market has been quite quiet for the past couple of weeks but today it was back to normal.  I took coffee at our usual bar where we were joined by a couple of friends, but apart from that I remained fairly focused and picked up everything I needed and was back home well before lunch...  I decided to write this blog piece, which is drawing to a conclusion now, then get some lunch and then , this afternoon, I think I'll sow those peas.....

Saturday evening follow up:  I have sown the peas!!!!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Growing Challenge


Kate's recent  visit to Seattle brought me to One Green Generation and in particular, Melinda's Growing Challenge.   Melinda started this challenge back in January 2008 and it is still growing....errrrm... getting bigger!!!!!! today.

The challenge, basically, is to grow one extra item, from seed, each year and write a post about it.

So for this year my nominated extra item is going to be broad beans.    I love broad beans but have never grown them before.


I chose a variety which is recommended for this area, Feve d'Aguadulce and planted then following some complicated instructions given me by another vegetable grower....simply poke them in the ground and rake the surface flat, then water.    So that's what I did yesterday.   I prepared a small bed, 1200mm x 1200mm (4ft x 4ft) and pushed the seeds in about 50mm(2") every 100mm to 150mm(4" to 6").  The soil was raked level again and then they were watered and now I'm just waiting to see what happens....  I seem to spend a lot of time waiting....

I couldn't decide whether I ought to put a mulch over them or not so at the moment I haven't.... I shall take further advice from someone, and then decide.

Of course, as I have already mentioned, my aim is to grow these beans and harvest enough to both eat some and save some with the intention of being able to start to exchange/give away seed next year.   As I said, now I'm just waiting.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Planting Garlic

A couple of weeks ago I visited a neighbour who is a prolific vegetable gardener with many years experience here in the Perigord.  During our chat he advised me to plant my garlic on October 15th and as Wednesday was October 15th I decided to follow his advice.

I have spent a few days enlarging my small vegetable bed as I'm intending to grow more things next year and also looking to get some winter crops in.

Although, now, it is all one bed, I have created planting areas which are 1.2M (4ft) wide.  This means that all the plants can be easily reached from paths.  Kate from Hills and Plains Seedsavers visited me here a couple of weeks ago and advised me that my paths, made of broken roof tiles, were a harbour for snails and slugs.  So up they came to be replaced with dead leaves which will simply compost down.

In the expanded bed, I set aside a piece about 1.2M (4ft)square  for the garlic in the same area as the leeks and onions I planted earlier.


I was given several varieties of garlic by Patrick (Bifurcated Carrots), so I prepared the bed, split up the heads of garlic into individual cloves and dropped them into 2" (50mm) deep holes, 150mm (6") apart and then filled the holes back up with some compost.  Once that was all done I put about 200mm (4") of mulch over the top to shield them from the winter frosts.  For the mulch I used dry leaves, brushed up from around he garden.  In the photo you can see the leeks and onions and the area in front of them, covered in leaves is where the garlic is now.

I planted about 50 cloves in this patch.  I was surprised at the number.

Over on the far right of the picture, you can see the area where I am going to sow some broad beans, hopefully today... The only problem is that I have promised to join some friends for lunch and, well, this is the Perigord, food and eating is a serious business...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Saving for the future

It's over a week since I left Kate at C.L.'s house in the Languedoc but the repercussions of her visit are just beginning to show.   On her return yesterday, there wasn't really time to do much in the garden although we did finish a couple of small jobs.   As I said previously, we increased the size of the vegetable plot by about one third whilst she was here...  However since she moved on I have taken a look at all the things I'm hoping to grow both over the winter and next year and have realised that even 1 1/2 times is not nearly big enough..  So using the technique Kate taught me last weekend, I have now further increased the bed, but do remember I started off with a very small plot - 2.4m x 2.4m (8ft x 8ft) but now it is 7m x 3.6m (23ft x 12ft)

IMG_0257 The new bed is being prepared, initially, for garlic, peas, and broad beans.  The peas are some seed I bought last year and am hoping to grow again this year, saving some seed.  The garlic is some that Patrick, over on Bifurcated Carrots, gave me.   I've not met Patrick but I understand he grows about 100 different varieties of Garlic and I'm very pleased to have some from him to grow on and hopefully get some planting stock from it in the future.  Once I have saved the stock, I shall be happy to join Patrick in making it available to anyone who asks. Patrick gave me three varieties of Garlic,  Cuban Purple creole, Burgundy creole and Tuscan.  I was recently instructed "to plant my garlic on the 15th October" and as the guy who instructed me is both a neighbour and a very successful gardener himself, I shall be following his advice.

Due to an oversight, the broad bean seeds I was expecting didn't materialise so I have now bought a commercial variety which I will grow this year, save some seeds and then grow again next year...  As long as that is successful, I'll have some of those to give away as well...

Patrick also has given me some Dog Beans, a dwarf French bean which I'm hoping to grow next summer.  I grew these this year but had very little success with them...  In conversation with Patrick he suggested that maybe the problem was the seed, however, I have come to believe that the problem lies much more in my own garden with the amount of water, or to be precise, with the lack of water, I have been providing... 

Kate also brought me some seeds from Australia.  Cos Lettuce saved by Joy,  Chrysanthemum Greens saved by Kate and Capsicum Yellow Cornos saved by Kate and Cath, all of which I hope to grow, enjoy and get some seed from.  Joy, Kate and Cath are all members of the Hills and Plains Seedsavers group.

And then when I was down in the Languedoc, C.L. of Olives and Artichokes gave me some seeds for a Tomato  -  Ananas (Pineapple) which she had saved....

I'm saving my first seeds this year... At the moment, I have butternut squash, sweet pepper and Charentais melon.  I'm also planning to save seed from some of my own tomatoes this year.

So here I am, having been growing vegetables for under a year and I find my self entrusted with growing about a dozen varieties of saved seeds.....  I have no problems with growing the seeds I save myself.. If they grow that's good but if they don't I have only wasted my own time....  but now.... I feel a huge friends I've met and to friends I have never met... So Patrick, Chaiselongue, Kate, Joy and Cathy... I'll do my very best to deserve the trust you have put in me...  A big thank you.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A quiet Villereal

Villereal market was extraordinarily quiet today with very few people around.  There were vacant tables in all the cafes and everywhere we went we were able to buy with the minimum of queuing.  I don't know why, maybe the storms that have come through in the past couple of days or maybe the sudden cold that descended yesterday (2C overnight(28F))which felt very cold indeed...

I must admit that we hurried around and finished our shopping as quickly as we could, although we did linger for a while over coffee and croissants.  Laurent, the vegetable man, did ask me why I had abandoned my new young  wife and gone back to my previous model....but I explained that the new one was only on loan for a few days.....(Kate from Hills and Plains Seedsavers accompanied me to the market last week and spoke impeccable French to Laurent, who immediately fell in love with her in the way only true French men can.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Maggie from Hills and Plains Seedsavers left a comment on here the other day saying that I should have more herbs, and her comments came back into my mind as I went to buy some Broad Bean seeds so I also picked up some chervil.

herbs I grow all my herbs in pots and don't have a huge amount of success with them but I manage to keep a few growing.   The pots are situated just off the terrace which is a few steps from the kitchen.  I'm thinking of creating a new herb bed right next to where the pots are at the moment and maybe I'll get that established over the next week or two....

At the moment I have garden mint, peppermint, savory, dill,  chives, basil and now chervil growing.  In the garden, there is also some purslane growing as a weed, which I need to start to learn to identify....  Kate showed me a patch of it the other day, whilst she was here....

IMG_0253All over my garden I have lavender plants.... Mainly French Lavender...  I have some growing alongside the terrace and a large bed of it a bit further away, down the bottom by the woodpile and compost heap.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gardening with Kate

Sunday was to be a day in the garden with Kate....

In preparation we had bought leek and small white onion seedlings at Villereal market.

But Kate was staying here so first it was a breakfast of grilled tomato, with sautéed red kidney beans and mushrooms eaten with some of my homemade bread and a cup of good French café au lait.....or Flat White, as I gather it is called in Australia.

My vegetable plot is not large, so the first decision was where to plant about 100 leek and another 100 onion seedlings. The Chinese Cabbage leaves are still being eaten as fast as I can mix up and use my insecticide, the red Cabbages are now very nearly ready to be harvested, half a dozen frisée lettuce have been picked and picked and picked and now there are just a few leaves left growing and then there is the volunteer pumpkin which has grown to about 10metres long (35ft) and has only a couple of tiny fruits on it...

After a lot of discussion, a fair amount of poking and prodding and a good deal of giggling Kate decided to sacrifice the pumpkin and the lettuces...who am I to argue??? so we set about pulling out those plants that had lost the right to live.

After removing the plants and the weeds we set about breaking up the soil to prepare the bed before making trenches, laying the seedlings in and then simply pushing the earth back over the roots and firming.   The whole thing took us about 3 hours including the discussion on what to do!!!!  I think this is the most productive way of planting out seedlings I have ever come across!!  A big thanks Kate.

All this activity during the morning meant that Kate had worked up quite an appetite and as it was now something past 1 in the afternoon we stopped for lunch.   Kate had already decided to cook a risotto for dinner that evening so lunch was destined to be a light affair... fortunately, we had some chicken in the fridge so everything was ok.

After lunch, it was back out into the garden to plant out some broccoli and fennel seedlings which I had raised from seed...  Yes...from seed!!!!   I had sown the seed about a month ago and all 24 plants had been hardened off and were ready to be planted out.   All the spare space was filled wit the seedlings until there were just a few broccoli left.

Next we discussed the 25,000 other things I wanted to grow... and decided that we had better extend the bed.

My vegetable bed is slightly raised and is contained with some wooden border fences.    It was a relatively short job to define the new bed size by moving fences and once that had been done we soaked the grass that the bed was now going to cover for about an hour....Next we smothered the grass with newspaper using the thickness of about half a newspaper, and then soaked that for another hour.  While that was soaking we collected a trailerful of compost from the compost area at the bottom of the garden.

We then added about 150mm of compost and soaked it all again.  Finally we spread a bog of commercial compost across the top before leaving the new area of bed to settle.

At the end of a long day we decided to  relax in the new pool for a few minutes before I dispatched her to make supper....

I had a great day, wonderfully relaxing and topped off with the best risotto I have ever tasted..


Thanks Kate.. Come again next year....

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Villereal, Kate and a day in Perigord.

Kate, of Hills and Plains Seedsavers, is spending a couple of days  here as part of her Vegetable Vagabond world tour.

Yesterday, Saturday, we went to Villereal for the weekly market.   The market has quietened down a bit from the business of the height of the season and it was nice for Kate to meet and chat to some of the traders that I regularly visit.... I just had my usual weekly fruit and vegetable shop to complete but Kate had decided to cook dinner for us on Sunday evening and happily bought mussels, ginger, limes, lemons and other bits and pieces for her chosen recipe.

Before getting back to start some serious gardening, we paid a quick visit to my friend Bernard's vineyard where Kate was able to taste our local Monbazillac wine....   Kate doesn't drink that much wine but she certainly enjoyed the sweet dessert wine and tried two or three different vintages before deciding which year to purchase.

Later, we visited another friend with a large kitchen garden and Kate spent about an hour and half chatting happily about fruit and vegetables, taking in the way we do things here in the south west of France and passing on the differences and similarities to her own gardening experience in South Australia.

Our friends Michael and Mary met Kate on Friday evening and invited us all to go along on Saturday so that they could prepare a typical Perigordine dinner for us.  Kate's love of food meant that this opportunity could not be refused so we ended the day at their house enjoying a great meal.

When we arrived we spent about an hour looking around her potager and fruit trees before strolling over to the "chook" house.    In their household, Mary does the gardening and Michael looks after the chooks.  Before we had been their many minutes Kate was inside the fenced enclosure moving about trying to get photographs for her blog while the chickens, and in particular the large cock, rushed about trying to avoid her whilst herding his girls.

Dinner started with a cocktail and Michael produced his cocktail "menu" for Kate to choose from.... a selection of 101 cocktails!!!

After the cocktail, served with duck boudin, home grown cherry tomatoes, prunes and apricots wrapped in bacon we moved to the table for dinner.  

First a thick creamy garlic soup....  Then a plate of local cold meats including sliced dried breast of duck, Foie Gras, duck saucisson and various other local delicacies.... Next a "confit de canard" served with local potatoes sautéed in duck fat.... A cheese board with 5 different cheese from the south of France was then followed by Kate's apple pie and cream, made to her own special recipe.

It was a great traditional French evening with lots of good food, lots of good wine and most importantly, lots of good conversation and humour.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Kate, Sarah and Michael

Chevreuil 013Kate has arrived for her few days in the Perigord and yesterday we spent a busy day, getting to know each other, visiting a friend, Sarah's, "potager" and having dinner with our friends, Michael and Mary.

Sarah grows enough vegetables to be able to operate a small "Vegetable Box Scheme" in the the Charente, and it was fascinating to tour her garden with her and feel her passion for the things she grows.

We then drove back through the Bordeaux rush hour traffic for a dinner the dinner with Michael and Mary.   Conversation over dinner was wide ranging but at one point Michael reminded me of his latest "catch"... a young deer in an area just outside our garden.   He let me have these two photos which I am happy to pass on.

This morning, we're off to Villereal after a quick tour of my garden.

Chevreuil 017



Saturday, September 20, 2008

Villereal 20/9/2008

Saturday has come round again and so, this morning we went off to the market at Villereal....

Local village markets in France, like the one at Villereal, are a trading post for all sorts of businesses...

There is a lot of food, stall after stall of delicious looking fresh fruit and vegetables, often being sold by the producer themselves, several fishmongers with their refrigerated display trailers and lots of very appetising looking fish and seafood....  This morning, one fishmonger was cooking moules marinière at one end of his stall and I stopped to watch as he poured a couple of bottles of Bergerac sec, the local dry white wine over a mountain of mussels and then liberally added hand fulls of roughly chopped flat leaf parsley.

The skillet was about 600mm (2ft) diameter and by the look of the sack and the pile of mussels I would guess he had about 5 kgs (11lbs) of cleaned mussels.. 

The word marinière in French simply refers to the method of cooking in dry white wine with garlic and some herbs....

There are also a lot of cheese stalls and today we bought some delicious goats cheese from a small producer who's farm is just outside Villereal and whose cheese we particularly like..

But as well as food, there are also lots and lots of other traders present.... During the week, working in garden I broke my watch strap, so part of today's visit was to see if the watch man could repair it for me....  Sadly, he couldn't as I had lost some pieces when it broke and he didn't have anything that would fit...  But he had a whole range of similar watches for very little money so in the end I settled for a rather nice large faced watch to replace the broken one...

One of the restaurant/bars which are in the market place was closed for annual holidays today so all the other bars were very busy but we managed to get coffee and some croissants at one of our favourite restaurants.....

Then I had to pay a quick visit to my bank before returning to the car to drive home...

Lots of people talk about excellent Farmers Markets where you can buy good fresh produce but here in France I believe we have the best of both worlds.  The farmers' stalls are excellent but a weekly visit to the market can encompass so much more than just buying fruit and vegetables

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A day at the beach

I've written a lot about Autumn arriving just lately...  Temperatures dropping into single figures.... early morning mist casting a softness across the garden etc....

My sister in law is staying with us for a few days and yesterday expressed a desire to go to the's about a 2 hour run in the car....

IMG_0184So we packed up a pic-nic and set off yesterday morning to one of my favourite local beaches near Lacanau on the Atlantic Ocean

As I have said recently, Autumn is fairly swooping in to this part of France, which is why at about midday I was able take this picture of a beautiful abandoned beach....  In fact the temperature was very pleasant and my sister in law managed a good couple of hours sunbathing and swimming.

This is not actually the Atlantic Ocean but is a beach on the largest lake  in France which lies just a few kilometres behind the dunes bordering the Atlantic and nestles in amongst the great pine forest of the Medoc region...famous for it's wine

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Villereal - 13/9/08

IMG_0171Last Saturday we visited Villereal market "comme d'habitude".    It was a beautiful day, not too hot but not too cold either.... I was wearing shorts and a tee shirt....

It was a relief after the crush of theIMG_0172 summer tourist traffic to have a moment to chat to the traders.... I fully understand that our economy, including my personal economy, relies so very heavily on the tourists arriving IMG_0176and spending some of their money here.... I don't begrudge them anything, as without them, the very things I enjoy wouldn't exist..... but it's nice when the time comes for them to go home again and we can return to a less frenetic existence.... 

We spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering around and this week I visited the cheese man, who had some beautiful Cantal regional cheese as well as these intriguing looking Torteau Fromage.

Laurent had his usual excellent range of fruit and vegetables..  .. the sign offers a 10kg sac of haricot grain for €25  (for the non metric readers.. 10kg is about 22lbs and €25 is about 35USD)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Autumn mornings

IMG_0159Autumn is rushing in to this part of south west France now that September has arrived and we are regularly seeing overnight temperatures drop to single figures (C  32 - 50F).  Last night it was 9C (48F) again.

The cooler weather is also bringing early morning fog to the garden...  I do love these light autumnal mists though.  They cover the garden in a delicious softening haze which makes everything look much gentler.  Photographers will often use a haze lens to soften the features when they are trying to capture a photograph of a beautiful young model, and that is an attempt to reproduce what nature does when it casts one of the autumnal mists across the gardenIMG_0157.

Autumn is also bringing a change in the leaf colours around the garden and, in the photo, you can see our horsechestnut tree, taken on that same misty morning, with the leaves already turned brown and falling.

In the vegetable garden, the tomatoes are coming to an end although there is still a lot of fruit which may or may not ripen on the vines.    I shall pick it soon and pull up the plants to make way for raising my winter vegetable seedlings.  I shall try and ripen any green tomatoes in a window and then will make green tomato chutney with the ones that don't turn red...I love that chutney and we eat it right through the winter bringing a flavour of summer in the depth of winter.

Starting to think about winter crops for the garden has got me to thinking about what I should do about increasing the size of the plot.   I started out earlier this year... the first time I had created a vegetable garden here and I set up two beds, one 8ft x 8ft (2.4m x 2.4m) and a second bed of 8ft x 4 ft (2.4m x 1.2m).  The second bed is now full of strawberries and will stay that way for a few years

The first bed has both red and Chinese cabbage  along with a large pumpkin vine and a few dregs of the summer crops which will be pulled out shortly.... There are some pumpkins forming on the vine....

I recently extended this bed to 10' x 8' (3m x 2.4m) to allow a path down the middle.   I'm not sure whether to create a new 10' x 8' bed or whether to simply extend this one so that it becomes 16' x 10' (4.8m x 3m)   I'm inclining towards extending it.

For my winter crops, I have some broccoli and fennel seedlings already on the go although I'm going to start a few more fennel, maybe today....  I'll sow some more cabbage, maybe the Chinese cabbage or maybe another variety and I would like to try some Brussels sprouts. 

I read Kate's piece on broad beans yesterday and have decided to grow those as well....  Kate's article reminded me how much I enjoyed broad beans and what better reason is there for choosing a crop....

While I'm mentioning her I'd just like to wish Kate "Bon Voyage" as she sets off on her tour and to remind her that I'll be at the station waiting for her....with lots of people to see and places to go.   The first place I am intending to take her is a couple of hours drive north of here, to Sarah, in Charente-Maritime.   

I had better get back out in the garden... I still have a construction project to finish and now have less than two weeks before Kate arrives on her "inspection tour"!!!  I'm really looking forward to Kate's visit and am hoping to have a lot of fun showing her things and learning from her.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

September's here

September has brought with it an autumn feel to South West France.... It's 9:30 pm and I'm sitting at my laptop writing this wearing a sweater for the first time for several months.  Overnight temperatures dropped to 9 C (49F) last night, the first time we have seen temperatures in single figures since April.

In my garden, the horse chestnut tree is always the first thing to announce the impending arrival of autumn as it starts to drop it's leaves quite early.    Today there is hardy a leaf left on it...

So it's time to start to think about what to grow over autumn and winter and as this is my first year I'm a bit stuck where to start.

I already have some Chinese Cabbages growing which look like they are going to recover from the caterpillar attack.  Also the red cabbages which have been in since the spring are looking nice and will be ready to harvest soon.

I'm going to try and grow some broccoli and some fennel.   Fennel is a wonderful herb which is native to the Mediterranean region although can now be found all around the globe.  I have become a convert to it since moving here to France.   In the last week, I have sown seed for both fennel and broccoli, although, I am still very new to growing food and my success with seeds is not brilliant, but I will persevere.  The fennel has peeped through the surface with a spindly little shoot which I believe is normal...  I have half a dozen broccoli, from a  sowing a couple of weeks ago and I have just sown a few more...

I also recently put some peppermint in which is just beginning to show and hopefully will be a nice addition to my mint pot.   In the herb pots, the mint is doing extremely well, the basil is also doing well now after a couple of false starts and the flat leaf parsley that was sown back in July is now developing well

I have a volunteer pumpkin whose vine has grown to about 8m (26ft).  It is in a 2.4m (8ft) bed and I am winding it up and down the bed trying to contain it.  I didn't know whether it was pumpkin or melon or quite what, but on Kitchen Garden day, one of our guests assured me it was pumpkin and as he is a commercial pumpkin grower, I guessed I should listen....

I am also in the process of deciding about extending the garden.  This year I have had a lot of successes but have really had too many varieties with not enough of any one thing.    I'm thinking of doubling the size of the plot, as I don't want to overwhelm myself and I am also going to grow next year's tomatoes in the ground rather than in pots, so that will need some more space...

I still have to make a decision on lifting, splitting and moving my rhubarb as well...  At the moment it is in a rose bed.. but is producing nice rhubarb and I hear stories of people losing the whole lot once they try and move them....The other problem is that the space I had earmarked for it has now been taken over by Strawberries....

I also picked up the first walnut before long, the annual race between me and the squirrels will start in earnest..

I think it's a good thing that I have got the swimming pool construction out of the way now as it seems I'm going to be busy in the garden for a while........

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Pool in September 08

IMG_0156At a huge cost in the way of chinese cabbages (chou chinois), I'm pleased to announce that the swimming pool is now  finished....

Construction work can now move on to building a timber deck which will serve the pool....

I'm thinking of calling it "Cabbage's Pool" in memory of events....

This is a picture of the first person to swim in it, one of our holiday guests.  The little yellow duck was actually the first to swim in it, so I included it in this picture

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Melon anyone?

It's common in this part of France for small farmers to increase the size of their farm by reaching an agreement with someone, who owns, maybe just one or two fields locally, to use their piece of land.   Usually, on it's own the land is not viable for farming, but by being rolled into a slightly larger operation it becomes useful.

We have just such an arrangement with a local farmer for one of our fields.   The farmer in melons question, who is in his mid eighties, uses the field for "kitchen garden" crops, growing quite an assortment of things....  He is often to be seen out in the heat of the day, working away with his hoe, shunning the more aggressive use of tractors and their paraphernalia...

One crop he has grown every year since we arrived here is melons...the small Charentais melon which is so delicious and juicy when eaten very fresh.   I personally think this is the very best melon to use either as dessert, or for aperitifs, when it is delicious wrapped in something like ham or smoked salmon.

Just look how inviting that deep orange coloured flesh is....

This morning, whilst I was in the middle of a long distance crisis, my door bell rang and I reluctantly put the crisis on hold whilst I answered it...  My farmer, who speaks a local dialect of French which I find very difficult to understand, was there, proffering a couple of these delicious melons...still warm from the field.

The familiar scent was irresistibly persistent and by lunch time all my resistance had evaporated and I cut one in half to eat, on it's own, as a starter.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Don't turn your back.....

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece, Back in the Garden where I mentioned that for a couple of weeks, my focus had been on constructing a swimming pool for our guest accommodation rather than gardening and indeed, the construction of the pool has progressed quite well but at a significant cost to garden progress.....

I keep fitting a few hours work into the garden around the time taken by the construction work and also the other things I do.... chores, like cleaning and maintenance of the property and pleasantries like emailing and chatting with friends... and of course, in this part of the world, attending parties....

IMGP4440 On Sunday it was KGDay, which you can read about below or at Kitchen Garden  Day 2008 France, then on Thursday, it was my birthday and some neighbours invited me for a surprise birthday party, where we ate a fabulous meal based around a Paella.  On Friday some friends from the UK arrived and we had arranged to go to a local restaurant for a meal, also to celebrate my birthday... so you can see, it's actually hard fitting in all these things and getting any work at all done....In fact, at the party on Thursday I was discussing this very problem with Michael, the guy who gives so many photos for me to use here on the blog, and he said hat he agreed and that life in Perigord was truly difficult these days................

So yesterday, I managed, for the first time for several days to get back out into the garden mainly to pull weeds and to lift my onions....




Before a single weed had succumbed to my fingers, I discovered that I had a serious problem with my Chinese leaves.... actually, the situation is so bad that maybe the problem is that I no longer have Chinese leaves.....

Whilst I had been busy building my swimming pool, caterpillars had been busy eating their way through  my Chinese leaves....

Some quick research turned up a product "Insectobiol J" which is designed for just this problem so I am about to prepare the insecticide and spray them to see if any of the plants can survive.   This is a photo of the worst plant affected......  Very sad....


However, I did also manage to lift some small but very sweet onions.

My lesson for August seems to have been, just because I am busy, don't assume everything in the garden is good....