Thursday, June 23, 2011

First tomato

With the severe drought and uncommonly high temperatures here this spring my work in the garden has almost collapsed to nil.

cobra tomato The drought has forced the local administration to impose severe water restrictions, and, whilst I fully understand the need to contain the supplies, I do find the practicalities bizarre to say the least.

At present I'm not allowed to wash my car at home.  Well, that's ok.   I'm not allowed to water my lawn.  Again, that's sad but ok.   I am allowed to drive to the local car wash and use it! Silly!  I'm not allowed to water my vegetable plot.  Which means I cannot grow my own vegetables but am therefore forced to buy farmed vegetable that have probably travelled thousands of miles to get to me.  Where, exactly, is the sense in that?

Anyway, all that aside, I today found a lone tomato luxuriating in the sun.   I got my tomatoes in the ground long before the water restrictions were imposed and I laid a mulch over them which is about 300mm (12 inches) thick.  They are struggling but surviving.

I'm glad to have this particular tomato, as it was a plant from my friend  the nurseryman, at Villereal market.   It was not a variety I had ever heard of called Cobra.  Searching on the internet, I could only find an F1 variety called that, but my man assures me it is not F1 and the seeds can be saved.  In fact, when  I asked him, he rather looked at me like I was stupid, and asked in return, "How do you think I get the plants?  I just save the seed from one year to the next!"  which, thinking about it, I know is true for everything else he sells!

So I now have a nice Cobra tomato, which at the moment I'm managing to resist the urge to eat, so that I will have seeds next year.

The only things I'm growing this year, apart from my permanent beds and the orchard, are tomatoes, beans and courgettes (zucchini).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Just Catching up

The lack of recent posts on here, coupled with quite a few appearing on my food and recipe blog (Ian's French Kitchen) reflect that for a while I've been unable to carry out much gardening.

There have been a variety of reasons including some health problems (again!) and also the drought.

A hard drought has hit south west France for the past few months and slowly, gardening has got tougher and tougher.  I've already written about the drought and until the last few days it has remained largely unbroken.

The ground has been drying out and I have huge cracks now right across the vegetable garden and orchard.   The cherry crop was prolific but fairly small compared to previous years.

However, a mild storm brought some rain in on Friday, about 1.5mm, and then we got a further 10mm on Saturday.  It has rained gently on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday as well and I noticed this morning that more rain has come in overnight.

Don't get excited for us though.  My rain gauge this morning is only showing 25mm since Sunday, which is a nice amount, but not nearly enough to turn the tide.  I mentioned in a previous post that Biarritz, just down the coast from here, normally gets about 135mm of rain during January but this year only 18mm fell. On top of that shortfall, the rains that should have fallen in February, March, April and May have been virtually non-existent.

But at least some rain has now come and my water butts have been refilled as the grass turns green again.

Sadly, one of the restrictions imposed by the authorities in an attempt to contain the water shortage has been to impose a total ban on watering vegetable gardens.  I understand the need to contain water and I agree that we must all do our bit.  I find it sad though.  I'm growing tomatoes and beans, both of which take considerably less water per kilo than say sweetcorn, a common crop here.  What's more, the tomatoes grown in my garden, and used in my kitchen use substantially less water than the tomatoes I shall now be buying, which were grown in Spain and transported.  Specifically targeting vegetable gardens seemed a very strange thing for a government to do and I am absolutely certain has no basis, whatsoever, in the desire to save water.

A farmer friend of mine, who runs a permaculture farm, tells me that he has had notice banning him for taking water from the river on his property, his normal source for all his irrigation.

Still, perhaps the rain now starting to fall will at least ease the situation and prevent the onset of the tougher restrictions being discussed where water will be cut off completely for a few days a week

I have been suffering from a problem with my leg and foot again and as a result have not been able to walk very far.  This has led me to spend a lot of time in the kitchen making all sorts of things.   My cooking blog has seen the benefit.

I'm hoping to get across to the vegetable patch this afternoon to check up on my beans and tomatoes, although, having had the total ban on watering for a couple of weeks now, I'm not sure what I'll find.

The latest e-coli situation rages on across Europe and further.

Day after day we hear new reports of what the supposed source of the bacteria might be, The German authorities leapt at the opportunity to blame Spanish cucumbers when the science was, apparently, very uncertain.  Subsequently, they have had to do a U turn and accept that the source is likely within Germany.   They then turned their attention to a bean sprout farmer within Germany and said, categorically, that was the source, until they again changed their minds.

The situation has been ongoing for so long now that it is likely the true source will never be found.

I believe that Germany made a deliberate attempt to muddy the waters and hide the failing of their own systems.   I also find it hard to believe that, when here in Europe, we have such good food traceability, Germany, one of Europe's leading countries, cannot trace an e-coli outbreak..... Oh, unless of course, they don't want to.

Now, the farmers in Spain and the farmer in Germany are demanding compensation for their losses.  I believe they are fully entitled to it.  However, the EU has stepped in and said it will pay.  This is NOT an EU problem, it is simply the result of an EU country, Germany, hiding the truth.  I have no doubt saying that the German government should be made to pay all the compensation and not spread the load across all taxpayers in Europe.  The taxpayers across Europe will have a big enough job salvaging the reputation of all our farmers around the world.  A situation only existing because of the callous failings of one nation.