Short but sweet

March 2017

It’s been only six weeks since February half term and we end the month of March with another two weeks of school holidays. In the interests of tourism and traffic flow, France is divided into three zones so that the school holidays can be staggered. It means the kids will have a really long, final term to endure before the summer holidays, but it’s just how it falls this year. Hopefully we can get out in the garden and enjoy our first barbecue of the year, with an abundance of fresh ‘Merveille des quatre saisons’ lettuces, 18-day radishes, ‘Perpetual’ spinach and ‘Black Tuscan’ kale at our disposal.

We are certainly putting our polytunnel to good use this spring, there are potted seedlings everywhere. I’ve got around forty purple broccoli plants on the go, cauliflowers, red and white cabbages, beef and cherry tomato plants, sweet corn, runner beans, lettuces, cucumbers, courgettes…oh and three, pesky cats that treat the polytunnel like it’s a giant cat litter tray and love nothing better than to chase each other on the roof, often digging their claws into the polythene, as they slide down the arched sides, leaving me cursing at them from inside. If anybody has any tips how to keep them off the roof, I am listening! As a matter of urgency, I must get Pete to build me a fenced gate for the doorway to stop them getting inside. An insect net, attached to a simple wooden frame should do the trick. Hint hint.

Outside the polytunnel, Pete has prepared a new bed where we will be growing sweet corn this year.

The locals deem it strange to grow sweet corn for human consumption as it is regarded as animal feed around here, and pesticides are often used for a higher yield. We feel that organically-grown corn on the cob would not only be a welcome addition to our home-grown produce but it will hopefully offer some necessary shade to the polytunnel which becomes intensely hot in the summer months.

The straw mulch and humanure compost we put on our empty vegetable beds at the beginning of the winter have been mixed in with the soil and the beds are ready and waiting to receive some plants, once the last frosts have been and gone (the ‘Saints de Glace’ fall on 11th to 13th May this year). The potatoes are busy chitting, the fruit trees are blossoming and the downstairs bathroom is looking better each day, although it’s not quite finished.

The kids recently went on a ski residential to Le Lioran in the Cantal for four days of husky riding, cable cars, indoor climbing and pyjama parties.

The older school kids had ski lessons despite the evident lack of snow, but they all seemed to have a great time. Back at Chez TêteBlanche, we appreciated the peace and tranquillity…for the first three days without the children, but I was excited to see them and relieved to have them back safe and sound on Day 4. It is the first time they have been away without us, although I think I missed them more than they missed me! I made the most of this spare time to work out at the gym and plant tomatoes in the polytunnel. Since there were no distractions, I decided to give guided meditation another go and I’m really glad I did. I have experienced a decrease in stress levels and an improvement to my well-being, on a physical, mental and emotional level. If you’re interested in trying it out too, there’s a highly recommended App called ‘Insight Timer’ which works wonders for day and night relaxation and stress relief.

I’m afraid that’s all I’ve got for this month as the garden demands a lot of my spare time at the moment, but next month I will hopefully have some garden projects to share with you as well as some photos of my gardening efforts both inside and outside the polytunnel. It has to be said, whoever made permaculture out to be an easy option is telling porkies. It takes a hell of a lot of time and effort to put the initial permaculture design principles in place, which is what we’ve been working on for the past two years, but we are literally learning as we grow. Yes, it can be physically draining at times…but is it worth it?
Of course it it! I can tell you that creating a flourishing vegetable and fruit garden from nothing is, without a doubt, an incredibly rewarding and satisfying experience. Now I think I will just have to stop myself there, for fear of sounding too much like Monty Don on Gardener’s World!