Eight years ago today we signed the acte de vente, the contract for the purchase of our garden, although we’d already been using it for nearly a year with the agreement of the previous owner. It seemed a complicated process for such a small piece of land (and a very small price – the lawyer’s fees and taxes were nearly as much as the cost of the garden). Six of us had to sign everything several times, the two of us as purchasers, the mother and son who were selling the land and the two notaires, our chosen one and theirs. It was all worth it, though, and now it’s impossible to imagine our life without it. I’ve given the blog a new birthday header today, an image of the perfect winter sky above the bamboo this morning.
One of the first plants we put in the garden was an olive tree. It was tiny and I’ve even forgotten what variety it is (the Lucque tree came later). We cleared a small patch of earth and surrounded the tree with a circle of stones to keep any rain that fell near to the roots while they weren’t very deep. Since then, it has given us good crops of olives over the years and we’ve been enjoying our own olives over the past couple of weeks. It surprises me how much it has grown:
In previous years I’ve pruned it at this time of the year but after going on an olive-pruning course last spring I’ve learnt that it’s better to wait until March when the risk of cold weather that could damage the resulting new shoots is over. Today, with the sun feeling hot on my face and the 4-metre-high bamboo sheltering the garden from the north wind, it was difficult to imagine that we may still have very cold nights….but we may!
It was good to see the bamboo growing well, if rather invasively, to produce next summer’s tomato canes and other plant supports.
And the rosemary doesn’t seem to have stopped flowering all through the autumn and winter.
It’s two years this weekend since I started this blog. As I said last year, on the first anniversary, we’ve learnt a lot from becoming part of the community of gardening bloggers and have made many friends and even met some of them – Ian at Kitchen Garden in France and Kate at Hills and Plains Seedsavers and Vegetable Vagabond in Australia, who have both visited us here and who invited us to join their Kitchen Garden International weekend last September in south-western France. We’ve exchanged seeds with Ian and Kate and also with Laura at Mas du Diable, quite near us in the Cévennes, and with Michelle at From Seed to Table in California, where the climate is also Mediterranean. The blogs I read and from which I get enjoyment and inspiration are listed in the side bar, and there too many to mention here, but two which I read most often because they are by fellow Mediterranean gardeners, in a similar climate to ours, are Jan’s in Catalunya and Heiko’s in Italy. So, as well as our gardening neighbours here in Gabian who are a wonderful source of useful advice, we are benefiting from the knowledge and experience of gardeners and cooks all over the world. Thank you all!
Mid-February in the garden
It’s a quiet time in the garden, a time for planning the next year, but not for harvesting very much. Apart from herbs – thyme, rosemary, mint and bay especially – which we use daily, we’re picking only leeks and cabbages at the moment, with the chard and lettuces just recovering from the cold weather we’ve had.
It seems to be a late spring – there is no sign yet of almond or apricot blossom and their buds are only just beginning to swell.
Left, the still-bare branches of our apricot tree, and above, canes and flower of bamboo, battered by the north wind, but beautiful against the clear sky on a cold day.
After a cold walk back from the garden we warmed ourselves with a bowl of Lo Jardinièr’s flageolet bean and vegetable soup, with goats’ cheese and cured pork on toast and some red wine from Montesquieu.
Spring will come, though, and today we’ve sowed our tomato seeds and put them on the seed starter box which Lo Jardinièr made last year. We put the new mini-greenhouse on the balcony in the sun today to try it out and, although it was a cold day – about 6 degrees C – the temperature inside reached 22 degrees! So it will be good for the tomato and pepper plants once they germinate and before we take them to the garden to put in the more rustic-looking cold frames we have there.
It’s a year since I began the Olives and Artichokes blog at the start of the last gardening year. One of my earliest posts was about planting our potatoes on the day after the full moon in February 2008. Yesterday we did just that, again … the cycle of the seasons and the gardening year.
In my first post I hoped that the blog would be ‘a diary of what we learn’. Well, it has become that, and a lot more too. Writing the blog has been more involving – and taken more time – than I’d thought, but it has also brought unexpected rewards. I’ve become part of a worldwide community of gardeners and like-minded people. I’ve made friends, some of whom I’ve met, some of whom are still ‘virtual’ friends but no less real when it comes to exchanging ideas and advice.
Perhaps most importantly, writing the blog has encouraged me to think more about gardening, food and the environment. Lo Jardinièr and I are still gardening for the same reasons as we always have done – because we enjoy it, because we like good food and because we believe that local, organic food is better for us and better for the planet. But now we think through the issues and arguments more and we’re part of a ‘conversation’ that circles the world.
We’re looking forward to the next year of Olives and Artichokes and we hope that all our new and old friends around the world will continue to enjoy reading about our garden and food adventures as much as we enjoy learning about yours.
C’est le premier anniversaire du blog Olives and Artichokes et nous espérons que nos amis et nos lecteurs autour du monde continuent de apprécier l’histoire de notre jardin et notre cuisne autant que nous appécions les vôtres.
PS Looking back at last February’s posts shows how comparatively cold this year has been and how late this spring is. On 17 February I posted photos of almond blossom and apricot buds which were about to flower – there’s nothing like that yet this year.