Sunday, October 26, 2008

Foire aux Potirons

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

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 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.

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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.

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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.