Monthly Archives: May 2013

Up and at ’em

Surprisingly, the only thing that seems like it’s growing at the moment is grass. My baby plants are doing well though, but I’ve not planted many out yet. I’m far too afraid of frost, since there was one only 8 days ago. I suspect this week will see a lot more going in, especially when it’s a bank holiday week as well. I’m pretty sure there will not be another frost, since we are only eleven days away from the last frosts recorded in France.

Yesterday, I put in another row of red onions and some Swiss chard.

Swiss Chard Rainbow

The ‘brassica’ bed has now got cauliflower, kale, Swiss chard and onions in it. Today, I’m going to put another row of onions in and then the Savoy cabbage and red cabbage. There are two rows of kale down now – I figure if I have too much, I can always give it to my kale-mad friends. It’s like a kind of kale fetish round here. I guess it’s a superfood with lots of positive habits concerning your insides. It’s also great as part of a detox diet.

In the main root crop bed, the beetroot are beginning to show their first leaves and the Brussels sprouts that Marcus transplanted are doing fine. I pickled a lot of beetroot last year and the vinegar was sharp enough to set your teeth on edge. I need some more gentle vinegar this year. I think I used cider vinegar, but it is so harsh it makes me cry when I eat them.

The baby leeks still look like small blades of accidental grass. There’s kale in there too that was transplanted. The other seeds and onion sets haven’t put in an appearance yet, but I guess they will soon. It’s been damp and warm – the best combination.

The potatoes have now all but broken through the soil and I’m going to earth them up today. In the bean patch, I’ve been putting lettuce seedlings in but the beans are a little disappointing this year. Funny that last year was such a bumper crop. It was so cold so long that even the broad beans didn’t fancy it. The runner beans I started off in pots however… wow! They’ll be ready to go out in the next couple of days. I staked them already and they are HHHHYYYYYUUUUGGGGE. I’ve made hazel trellises for them to grow up, but I seriously forgot how massive they get. I’ve got some hazel and willow that I’ve coppiced and I’m planning on building a couple of raised beds with them. I stole had an idea that will mean I can use more portable beds to house all the big things that take up a lot of space. I’ve also got to get a handle on some weed suppressant – I spend far too long on everything besides the vegetable plots.

A lot of the raised beds on the internet are just not very big. They’re more like big planters. That seems like too small a space to me. I need B-I-G! Today I’m going to plan out a quick bed and have done. It’s getting a bit crowded around there, but I need somewhere near the water, because there’s nothing worse than trekking miles up the garden with a watering can, like Jean de Florette. In fact, I’ve had a good idea as I’m writing and I will see how I get on with it.

Today, I’ll also be putting down some more seed – parsnip this time – and planting up my geraniums. I had cuttings from last year and I’ve put them all in pink pots. Nothing says summer to me like geraniums. It’s a lot cooler today, so I should be able to get more done. I did a bit on the big patch that’s going to have all the summer crops – tomatoes, aubergines and peppers – but I need to crack on with it.

Hope your day is as productive as I need mine to be!

Caught beneath the landslide

By way of another Manchester band (well, I’m on a roll and it would be rude not to…) today’s Much Love Monday is brought to you with the laid-back Manc swagger of Oasis with Champagne Supernova. 

This is the sound of post-Smiths Manchester, where we’d all stopped the ironic sarcasm of The Smiths, the shoe-gazing of the Inspiral Carpets, the drug-fuelled craziness of the Happy Mondays and seriously believed we were the best in the world. My sister and I went to see Oasis in about 1996 at the old Manchester City stadium… I think you’d be hard-pushed to find a band who had bigger egos or more self-confidence. Sometimes, we all need a little bolshy self-confidence to get us through a Monday. Amazing to have gone from Morrissey and his epic ode to shyness and coyness, right the way through to Liam Gallagher’s overwhelming lip-curling arrogance. I seem to recall he had a hissy fit back in 1996 and Noel had to sing a few of the songs. I could be wrong. My memory is appalling.

So, what do I have Much Love for this Monday, apart from the wonderful phrase ‘champagne supernova’?

Sadly for me, my divine helpxrs have gone on to a nearby vegetarian spa. I’ve been up past the place a couple of times, and drop Living Poitou-Charentes off there. It’s an amazing place and the owner is a complete inspiration. You know how you just meet people and you wish they had a blog and you’re really sad that they don’t? I wish Nikki did. I’d be an avid reader and she’d have about a million regular readers. Her place is 27 acres (I know… mine is just a small garden at an acre!) and she has turned it from a kind of ruin to a tranquil haven. She’s just one of those people who you spend some time with and you feel a hit of energy. I love friends like that. Funnily, about a couple of miles away is another lady who would also make a great blogger and also makes me feel like I need to get productive and creative. Neither of these ladies ever seem stressed or uptight… the life is good over Cellefrouin way, obviously!

Much Love, then, to Marcus and Shannon, who have put up with my weird English habits, my love of caffeine and my terrible swearing. I wish I were 20 and travelling around Europe. I think I might never have settled down. Ironically, given my current lifestyle, I wanted nothing more to be in employment and to be ‘adult’ when I was around that age. I wanted a regular pay-cheque and a reliable job. In the end, it was a great decision because it gave me skills that allow me to live out here.

I took Marcus and Shannon into the big city of Angoulême on Saturday night (for anyone who knows Angoulême, you know this is a joke, because my French friends call it ‘une ville morte’ or a dead-town) which is a shame because it was totally beautiful. The bars around Les Halles and up through the old town make it a fairly laid-back, mucho-relaxed kind of place and we went for big walks around the ramparts after filling up at the Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet. I guess that’s the nice bit of helpx and schemes like that – you end up with friends. It does make it awfully hard to let them go, though.

The next helpxr is arriving in two weeks, which gives me a little breathing space. I’m such a solitary odd-bod. I would be quite happy never to see or speak to anybody. Is that weird?

We went to a huge bric-a-brac jumble sale thing yesterday – seriously the biggest I’d ever been to. I’ve scored some totally hot stuff to help celebrate Eurovision – or at least get us in the mood. I almost gave myself a hernia trying to reign in the tears of joy. I also scored some less usual varities of heirloom tomatoes at a troc for plants – and at 80 cents a pop, I am pretty pleased with myself. Going to Nikki’s also gave me some more ideas for raised beds. Sylvie and I share a love of the old tyre and I’m well jealous of her raised beds – but Nikki’s are a bit more manageable in that they don’t involve spirit levels and tape measures. I’m chronically rubbish with tape measures and spirit levels. It’s given me some ideas about how I can do some quick-and-dirty raised beds for all of those curcurbits that love to crawl all over the place. This year, I have melon, squash and pumpkin, along with cucumbers and gherkins, and not a one of those things likes to stay in one spot.

I think that’s the nicest thing about having an extra pair of hands – being able to plan and undertake projects that you wouldn’t have got round to otherwise.

Anyway, enjoy Oasis and hopefully you find as much inspiration from the people around you as I do from the people around me. It is definitely one of the perks of living out here – finding so many like-minded ladies and gentlemen. Seeing previously-ruined houses restored and renovated in interesting and unusual ways is also a massive bonus. Maybe one day my house will inspire someone too. I’m off to work on my garden. Glorious day and glorious weather for planting!