Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why do I garden?

It’s been a cold, wet miserable sort of day here today. The temperature has struggled to get above 10C(50F), the sky is completely filled in with grey clouds and it’s been raining on and off all day.

As I look out of the window I can see my cherry tree in blossom with much of the blossom now blown to the floor, where, in it’s damp state it has stayed. Several other trees in the orchard are also in blossom now and when they can survive the winds the bees are out and about fluttering from tree to tree doing their little piece of nature’s magic.

I have getting on for 30 trees in my small orchard with a mix of cherry, plum, apple, pear, peach, fig and walnut. Every year they blossom and then produce some fruit. Some years a lot of fruit, other years not too much .

So, what do I do to pay them back for this largesse? Well, actually, not a lot! I bought the property about 4 years ago and the orchard was already largely in place. In between the trees there is meadow. My maintenance of the orchard simply comprises cutting the grasses when they get too long. I don’t collect the cuttings preferring to let them drop back on the ground and become a natural mulch etc.

In the spring I need to prune some of the branches out but again this provides some nice scented wood for the barbecues we’ll have during the summer.

And then throughout the summer, I get to pick all sorts of fruit. Some, like apples and pears, fall and I collect them quickly from the floor to use in a sauce or a pie or a salad. Occasionally I make a fruit chutney to store for those long winter nights when, sitting around our wood fire, we can enjoy a snack of homemade bread and preserves.

Some days I decide to make jam and will pick the fruit, first thing in the morning so that the jam can be made, bottled and set aside before the end of the day.

This next year, hopefully, I will have my first harvest of kitchen vegetables to go with that fruit. I’ve added tomatoes, onions, garlic, beans, lettuce, cabbage, pumpkin and strawberries and am still hoping to find room for some squash. I've got seeds for radish and spring onions for catch crops and some carrots, beetroot and parsnips.

And then there are the best days in summer. Those are the days when I can take a book out under the shade of one of the fruit trees and simply sit and enjoy the garden. Sometimes, people walking or cycling along the road will call and I’ll wave back, other times no-one will pass and I’ll enjoy some precious moments of undisturbed peace.

Why do I garden? For sure, it is fun to plant a seed and watch it mature into an integral part of a meal. Picking fruit and preserving is also very pleasant, especially when, in the depth of winter you can open a new jar of fruit or of jam. And, of course, I know where my food has come from, but that’s not really an issue in this part of France. No, I think I garden so that I earn the right to sit there and watch the world go by.

And that I love to do.

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