Monday, March 29, 2010


I'm a great believer in lists!

Lists for everything... shopping, birthdays, house work and of course gardening jobs.  In my house, the lists tend to have a certain life of their own.    For example, the shopping list, like everyone else's, is a simple list of things that need to be bought.   Again, in my own case, this list is very simple, having two halves, the top half for things I need to buy at the weekly market and the bottom half for my weekly shopping trip.  The bottom half gets torn off and taken with me shopping, leaving the top half to be forgotten on the day I go to market.   And so it goes, on and on, week after week.   This list lives on the door of the refrigerator in the kitchen, so that any item discovered to be missing or an item of which I am selecting the last one, can be added immediately.   In fact, this list is always a source of mystery to me.  I tear off the bottom half and head off to the shops and only when I get there do I even glance at the list...  Which is always a mistake, because every week there is some urgent message not to forget...  but I digress.  After all, this is a gardening blog...(I think).... so shopping lists are not what it's about.

I have a list for my gardening jobs. 

Jobs on the gardening list usually take about half an hour and I try to complete about ten a day...  I must add, if I'm gardening, as, sadly I can't spend 5 hours a day, 7 days a week gardening!   Things get added to the list as they crop up and in the evening, after I have eaten my meal I try and settle for a few moments and review "the list", crossing out those tasks that are completed and adding any that I think of that haven't already got added during the day.  And there you have my problem....  Any that haven't already got added during the day.

Take today as an example.  After breakfast I headed out into the garden with my list.   In the case of the garden, the list sits on the table of my terrace with a pen so that whatever happens it's there when I stop for a break, lunch or the odd cup of tea...

So list in hand, I sat at the table, finishing my breakfast coffee and was happy to count just ten items for today.  A very pleasant workload and one which wouldn't cause stress or problems.  There were some bigger jobs, but they were balanced by a few smaller ones....

Moving stone was the biggest job on the list.... but that has been and will be on the list for several days yet.   I live near a limestone quarry and so have access to limestone ballast which I use as a base for paths and parking areas.  The lorries from the quarry drive along the road at the end of my garden and the other day one of them stopped and delivered the ten tonnes of stone that I had ordered.   Sadly, the lorry driver just tipped the entire cargo in one spot and it was up to me to move it and spread it to do the job for which it was ordered.  So each day I move a little bit more.  Each day because by the time I have loaded about a quarter of a tonne into my little trailer by shovel, carted it off to where it needs to be.. then tipped it and spread it.. and then gone back and done it all a second time....  I've had enough for one day....

But, again I digress, after all, the title of this piece is "Lists" not "Stone from the quarry".

So, once I had finished my after-breakfast coffee, I headed out into the garden and the sunshine, happy with my list of ten things to do.  I pottered about and before I knew it, it was time to stop for lunch.

Feeling somewhat satisfied with my morning's work, and truly enjoying the spring sunshine which has arrived here, I again sat at the table on the terrace and casually picked up my list, crossing off the six jobs I had completed.  Feeling very happy, I counted down and found that 6 from 10 left.... just 8 jobs still to do!!!

Like I said, those lists have a life of their own....

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring is here

Spring has at last broken the hold of winter and is bursting forth here in the Kitchen Garden in France.

This winter has seen some harsh weather across France, particularly along the Atlantic coast, but, at long last, down here in the south west, we are seeing more bright skies and sunshine than we are seeing the cold days of winter.  For the past few days my thermometer, set well into the shade on the north face of aforsythia3 pillar, has not dipped below 10°C (50°F).   Around the garden the Forsythia is bringing a welcome splash of intense yellow and the plum trees are just breaking forth with blossom.  However, the winter has been about a month longer than usual. This is a picture of one of my Forsythia and it could have been taken today.  It was in fact taken on February 22 in 2008, a whole month ahead of this year.  

In the vegetable garden things are beginning to stir as well with both the Rhubarb and Artichokes pushing their heads above ground for a look at the new year.

The winter vegetables are plodding on with lots of brassicas still in the ground and the autumn plantings of garlic and leeks are now showing their mettle.

I'm not sad to see winter going away this year and will set it firmly behind me when I change my clocks to xynthia2summertime tonight. This winter has seen me spending far more time than I wished away from the garden as I recovered from some health issues in the UK.  Then, just as I returned, Hurricane Xynthia hit the west coast and I drove the several hundred miles south through appalling weather.  Although, the problems for me pale into insignificance when looked at against the devastation caused in the Vendee region and the plight of the families of the numerous people who lost their lives.

Even after arriving home my problems were not yet behind me as a freak electrical problem on the local supply network caused everything in the house that was plugged in to have almost double the normal voltage thrown across it.  This caused the irreparable failure of the central heating, phones, internet connections, satellite tv receiver and even some light fittings.  In fact, it seems the only thing that survived was an old tungsten lamp which has not yet been replaced by it's low energy cousin.  So much for progress.

So yes, I'm pleased to be warm again as daytime temperatures raise to the very pleasant 20's°C (70's°F), pleased to be cheered by the vibrant colours of shrubs and trees returning to the landscape and pleased to see that those delicate little plants I introduced to the world last year have sensibly, hidden away from the harsh winter and can now raise their heads and enjoy the bright spring days.

And I'm right there with them, enjoying the bright spring days.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Another week??

I can't believe that another week has passed.

Most of it has still been spent dealing wqith things domestic and also, our first guests of the 2010 holiday season.   They arrived last Tuesday and, luckily, that was the day when the icy cold weather suddenly turned much milder.

I'm still having to resolve problems caused by an electrical fault which is also taking a lot of my time.

However, I have at last been able to start to get out into the garden and attack a few projects. 

The bed where I had sown broad beans back in November, has now been turned over and all the dead beans worked back into the soil.  I'm hoping to sow some new beans in a day or two.

I've also been taking cuttings of my Forsythia bush in the hope that they will produce some new young shrubs for me.  I took cuttings last March and now have three healthy little spurs of Forsythia, all of which have flowered

I didn't do too well with my geraniums over this winter.  I took them in as I always do but they mostly seem to have given up on the quest for life during this past hard winter.   I have sown some marigold seeds in the hope they will grow.  I've never managed to grow Marigolds but I am an eternal optimist, so, of course, I just know these two pots will thrive

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Back at Last

After several months away from the garden I'm pleased to be back on familiar terre.

However, I chose to return from the UK on a weekend when France was being battered by severe Atlantic storms causing extensive damage up and down the west coast.  Before leaving the UK, I had seen mention Aiguillon sur mer of the storms on national TV news but it was only once I was in France and able to pick up the French TV news services that I realised the true extent of the damage with some parts of the west coast being completely flooded out.  One of my favourite areas, and, I think, one of the most beautiful parts of France, the Vendee, was looking very sad as mile after mile was awash with the results of the storm.

However, closer to home, here in the Kitchen Garden in France, most things seem to have survived the awful weather and I was even able to pick some leaves to eat for dinner on my first day back

The plastic tunnel I had put over a few things for the winter was however blown to pieces and there was quite a bit of tree damage, particularly in the old walnut trees, which had shed some large old branches.  But there again, that's what Walnut trees do in winter!

The storm had somehow managed to break the cold frame with one of the glass covers being shattered.   This was quite an achievement as the cover was actually open and strapped back tdead beanso the wall...

Broad beans usually over winter here but this year, the repeated swings in temperature have proved too much for the ones I planted back in November

I've had to spend the rest of the week, mostly, working in and around the house trying to bring back to life the property which has lain empty for just about fouIMG_0682r months.  In particular, the local field mouse population seems to have found doors in to the property that I never knew existed and have been having quite a party.

Still, at least on this trip away, the mice seem to have been kept out of the few seeds I had left.

And finally, I'm pleased to see all the signs of spring bursting out around me.  M. Gary, a local farmer, tends a small field I own, and he was out preparing the land for planting...  The forsythia is in bud and I expect that by next week it will be a bright yellow splash of colour which is  my true indicator that spring really has arrived.