If photos speak volumes, then I have rather a lot to say this month. The school holidays have flown by and although we didn’t manage to get away on holiday this year, we’ve spent some great times together in the garden and discovered some new places closer to home. Way back at the start of the month, we decided to take the kids camping…Chez TêteBlanche! Ok, so it was only thirty metres away from our house, at the bottom of the garden, but we might as well have been hundreds of miles away. At bed time, we told the children to grab their bedding because we were going on an adventure and we set up camp outside, much to their delight. I haven’t seen them that excited for ages! We toasted marshmallows in the open fire and watched the stars until the early hours. It was perfect!
Now in case you are wondering why we didn’t go a little further afield, it made more sense to stick around here so we could keep an eye on the animals (currently two kittens, two dogs, eight chickens and a rooster) and we can’t really abandon our vegetable garden mid-summer, not even for one night!
Other discoveries within an hour’s drive, included a family visit to the beautiful village of St Cirq Lapopie in the Lot, with my sister, followed by a paddle in the river and lunch at the campsite brasserie, and a short but enjoyable walk around Peyrusse Le Roc, a bit closer to home. We also went to La Fête de la Lumière in Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, where we enjoyed watching lanterns float off into the sky, a very loud percussion concert by the group, Les Tambours du Bronx, and a pretty impressive firework display. A couple of days ago, we went to Lac de la Roucarié in the Tarn, which was the ideal place to cool off with the air temperature reaching a scorching 36° and the water temperature settling at a very comfortable 26°! And of course, when the weather is too hot to bear, you simply can’t beat an afternoon down by the River Aveyron in Prévinquières, only a 10-minute drive from our house.
Back at Chez TêteBlanche, we’ve also been rather busy, gathering fruit!
As well as rescuing our cats, as they discover the joys of tree climbing.
And Pete’s been extremely busy during his summer break from work, with a spot of wood carving…
Creating unique, custom-made furniture for the lounge, with a natural theme…
Being very bold when it came to painting the lounge…
And he even had time to insulate what will be the children’s bedrooms upstairs!
Outside, in the garden, we finally decided to cut our losses with the unhealthy-looking tomato plants and ripped them all out of the polytunnel, before replenishing the soil with, you got it, humanure humus…the best you can possibly get! Who’d have thought that pooing in a bucket would eventually give us this? I couldn’t quite get over the number of worms in it! Fantastic!
We managed to harvest a total of 57 kilos of potatoes from five beds…not bad for a trial year, but we have decided that ‘no digging, last minute mulching’ is not necessarily the best idea, and so we are going to do things differently next time. The plan is to stick to autumn straw mulching, leave it on the beds until late winter, and then once the ground begins to soften up in early spring, mix it into the soil, along with our ready-to-use humanure compost. We had a surprising number of failures in the vegetable garden this year, and a lot of it came down to the ground simply being too hard, and the straw mulch being way too thick. The seeds just didn’t germinate and come mid-August, instead of us staring over a vibrant abundance of juicy green vegetables, we were instead faced with several empty beds! So, in the heat of the summer sun, all permaculture principles went out the window as we tried desperately to get something to grow in our garden! First we removed the thick straw layers from the empty beds, then we loosened the soil (which was effectively, rock hard) and passed over the empty beds with the rotavator. Then we planted established broccoli, cauliflower and red cabbage plants (ashamedly bought from the garden centre) and sowed kale, spinach, beetroot, radish and carrot seeds, before crossing our fingers that that we will be blessed with an extremely long summer season this year! But we’ve learned from our mistakes and in case it helps, here’s what not to do…
Here’s a few pics of our garden in August, highlighting our strengths and weaknesses this month:
And as August draws to an end, I can tell you we’ve had an action-packed month and I’ve loved spending every day of it with Pete and the children. So, we might not have made it to the beach, or the mountains, or on a boat or a plane, but there are times when we sit out in the garden, enjoying the countryside views, the hot weather and the peace and quiet and we have to remind ourselves, we’re not actually on holiday in a gite somewhere in rural France, we are at home, Chez TêteBlanche, and that beats a holiday any day in my book!