The fruit trees are in full blossom, the magnolia has flowered and the sun has finally arrived! It’s 27°C outside and although I should be tending to my seeds, I figured I would be better off seeking refuge in a cooler spot by the computer. We are at last beginning to make progress and the garden is taking shape. Hurray!
Thanks to my dad and my sister’s help, the three of us managed to make the herb spiral in one day, using some of the old stones from the ruin and some soil taken from the edge of our land, where we’ve started uprooting some of the grass. We decided to try out the same principle as the Hügelkultur by putting logs and branches in the bottom of it, with cardboard mulch underneath. We have nicknamed it our ‘Hügel-herbal spiral’ – now try saying that after a few drinks!
Our neighbour, Gérard, kindly gave us the lilies and irises, which my sister quickly planted in a newly made flowerbed by the entrance to our property. My dad constructed some flower boxes from reclaimed wood and Pete built some shelves for his workshop (at the opposite end of the chicken house).
Yet another French air traffic control strike meant my dad and sister got to spend an extra two days with us, so we put them back to work! A huge thanks to you both, it was a great couple of weeks and you’ve helped us no end.
Their departure, saw the arrival of our good friend, ‘Chef’. It was good to catch up with him and relive the old days, over a few drinks of course! The hot weather meant a DIY barbecue was promptly built and a good time was enjoyed by all. Cheers Chef!
My seeds are coming along nicely and I am starting to put them outdoors in the daytime, to get them acclimatised. I have over 40 tomato plants, including varieties of ‘Coeur de Boeuf’, ‘Gardener’s Delight’ and ‘Cherry’. I have all the herbs I need for the herb spiral and I managed to get some great lavender plants on offer in Aldi. My sunflowers are already planted outside, around the chicken house, and are coming on a treat. The only plants not taking to their new home are the nasturtiums, which I mistakenly planted in the trough. I now think they would have done much better directly in the ground, next to some of the vegetable beds.
Speaking of vegetable beds, we can only assume that the local farmer who offered to remove our top layer of grass with his tractor has forgotten about us, and so this week, not admitting defeat, and probably three weeks behind everyone else, we made a start…manually…with a little help from a rotavator, which Pete bought second-hand on Le BonCoin (the French equivalent to Gumtree or the like).
However, despite a lot of progress, we still have a long way to go! Within the next couple of weeks and as a matter of urgency, we have at least five more vegetable beds to manually prepare, before the planting can even begin, and a chicken run to complete, so we can finally get our chickens. Mine will be called Rosemary, Madeleine has chosen the name Lola for hers, my dad wants his to be Geraldine (which just happens to be the name of Madeleine’s teacher), my mum has gone with the very original name of Henrietta, and as for Pete and Alexander, we’re not too sure what theirs will be called yet. Needless to say, we have decided to get six. We’re a little concerned about predators, especially foxes, as we’ve already seen the odd few, and we’re not too sure how our dog, Gypsy, will take to them.
This week I saw a rabbit in the garden. Far from thinking it was cute and lovely, I am already starting to fear for the future of my lettuces! We have never been successful at growing lettuce in the past, but that was down to insects, not rabbits. Pete wants to set some traps so we can capture them, for food. I’ve never been fond of eating rabbit, so for now I’ll leave it to him. Not that he has much time for making traps these days…His work contract has been extended yet again, and there’s talk of him going back in September on a longer or permanent contract, after the summer closure. I’m so proud of him for working so hard and supporting his family. We couldn’t have got this far without him.
I’m still looking for work, and the seasonal jobs are just starting to come up. I should be able to secure some teaching work and English workshops in the local community from September, so a summer job would be ideal to keep me going until then. We always knew it wouldn’t be easy, quitting our jobs and starting a new life for ourselves in the French countryside, but we’re doing ok. With Pete working full time, I’ve had to practically teach myself to cook, so we’re definitely eating well (I must have gained at least 3 kilos since Christmas, which to anyone who knows me for my small frame, is quite something!). The kids have settled in well at school and I’m starting to get to know people in the village that bit better. All is good ‘Chez TêteBlanche’…no regrets. Infact, for anyone who has the slightest doubt about following their dream, if I had to give you any advice based on our experiences in the past four months, it would be from this old Chinese proverb: