>Water, at last, and some spring sunshine

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After all the rain we’ve had during the last couple of weeks we were glad to see that the stream which runs down the hill past the gardens is full again.  We hope it lasts until we need to water the garden.

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The crocuses were flowering too in the garden ….

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Over the hill on the other side of the village, this ruined mazet was looking brighter in the sunlight, half hidden by a Pistacia lentiscus shrub and with its interior full of brambles.

 

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We picked cabbage and leeks in the garden and came home to a lunch of cabbage with lardons, garlic and crème fraiche (a recipe suggested by our son) and a glass of wine.  I didn’t used to like cabbage much until we grew our own.  This was delicious.

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Peppers and tomatoes

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While the tomato seedlings were benefiting from the sun on the balcony – and the temperature in the mini-greenhouse was 25 degrees C – we sowed our pepper seeds and put them on the heated seed starter box.  We’ve sowed ten varieties:

Piment d’Espelette: slightly spicy paprika pepper from Espelette in the French Basque country, seeds from a string of peppers I bought in Espelette last September.  This is the only pepper I know which has an appellation d’origine controlée, like wine, so I’m not sure whether any peppers we grow can be called piment d’Espelette as they will be grown out of the area!

Chorizo pepper: a spicy rather than hot paprika pepper, seeds from a string of peppers given to us by our friend Drew in Navarra.

Chilli pepper: seeds from chillies we grew last summer.

Longue d’Espagne: a long sweet pepper, seeds from our neighbour José.

Italian Red Marconi

Kolasca: a Hungarian variety.

Kandil dolma: a Turkish variety for stuffing.

Lipstick: sweet red variety.

Nardello: an Italian long red variety with a spicy flavour.

Corno di toro: a long red variety.

The last six mentioned are seeds left over in the packets I bought last year from Kokopelli.  Last year they all germinated well, but we failed to encourage the plants to grow quickly enough, probably because we couldn’t keep them warm enough.  This year we’ll try again, put them in the mini-greenhouses and give them some fertiliser.

>Impersonation – Kokopelli’s name misappropriated

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I’ve had an email from Kokopelli warning of misuse of its name on the Internet. The Association Kokopelli is an organisation pledged to maintaining plant diversity and organic standards in seed and plant production and distribution. It has been the target of law suits in France by commercial seed producers who do not want it to continue its work. Now it has been targeted again by the seed company Bamaux which has bought the rights to the name ‘kokopelli’ so that if you enter the word into the Google, Voila and Orange search engines the first item to appear is one of the Bamaux strains of tomato seeds. Websites and blogs which have Google advertisements will also find that Bamaux appears rather than the Association Kokopelli.

Kokopelli registered the name of the association when it was founded in the Ardèche in southern France in 1999, but, as the email says:

D’un point de vue éthique, nous avons refusé de déposer en avril 1999, en tant que marque commerciale, le nom Kokopelli qui est un symbole culturel millénaire chez les Amérindiens.

[From an ethical point of view, we refused to register as a trademark the name Kokopelli which is an age-old cultural symbol of the American Indians.]

Now it seems that Bamaux has registered the name as a trademark and its ‘tomate kokopelli’ has the registered trademark sign next to its name on the website. Big business and big money appear to have trampled over this small organisation. Association Kokopelli so far does not suggest how it can fight this e-threat. It simply wants to warn unsuspecting Internet users that others have hi-jacked its name, and I am passing this warning on. It’s difficult to see what can be done, as the Kokopelli e-mail concludes:

Il est donc clair que le “pacifisme” a des limites! De même pour la tolérance. Que peut faire un tolérant face à un intolérant? C’est l’éternelle question.

[It is therefore clear that ‘pacifism’ has limits! And so has tolerance. What can a tolerant person do against an intolerant one? This is the eternal question.

You can read more about this (in French) on the Association Kokopelli blog here.

>Potting and pottering / Repiquer et bricoler

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There seems to be so much to do in the garden at the moment … watering, because the weather is suddenly hot and we’ve had very little rain for weeks, planting out lettuce seedlings, sowing other salad plants, preparing the ground for the pepper and tomato plants, having lunch … and so on.

Il y a beaucoup de travail au jardin en ce moment … l’arrosage, parce qu’il a commencé de faire chaud et il n’a pas plu pour quelques semaines, repiquer les salads, semer les autres salades, préparer la terre pour les poivrons et les tomates, manger le déjeuner … etc.

I’ve repotted over 60 tomato plants (more than we’ll need, but they’re growing very slowly, so maybe they won’t all survive) and some of the courgettes which already have quite large root systems.

J’ai repiqué plus de 60 plantes de tomates et quelques uns de courgettes qui ont déjà des longues racines.

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Over the past couple of weeks the garden has become a very noisy place as the bees buzz around the rosemary and the broad bean flowers. / Pendant les semaines dernières le jardin est devenu très bruyant avec les abeilles qui bourdonnent autour des fleurs du romarin et des fèves.

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And on this broad bean flower there’s one of the big flying black beetles which are very common in our garden.

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The second (February) sowing of broad beans are coming up well.  I’m specially pleased with these as they were seeds we saved a few years ago and had forgotten about!

Spring salad / salade du printemps

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Rocket, wild rocket, oregano and sorrel leaves / les feuilles de la roquette, la roquette sauvage, oreganum et oseille.

Wild asparagus / les asperges sauvages

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A friend had given us some spears of wild asparagus she had picked and we added some spears from plants growing wild in our garden.  Wild asparagus is thinner than the cultivated variety, with a herby, more concentrated flavour.  It grows in the garrigue, especially where there has recently been a fire so that it has less competition from other bigger plants.  Here the tradition, especially on Easter Monday, is to go for a walk in the garrigue and pick asparagus and then make omelette with it.  We did this in the garden today.

Les asperges sauvages poussent dans la garrigue.  Elles sont plus fines que la varieté cultivée et elles ont un gout concentré.  Il y a une tradition ici d’aller dans les garrigue le lundi de Paque pour ramasser les asperges et puis de faire une omelette aux asperges.  On l’a fait au jardin aujourd’hui.

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Pepper germination / germination de poivrons

We’ve had very high germination rates for most of the varieties we’ve sown.  All these seeds came from Kokopelli except the Long d’Espagne which our neighbour gave us.

Corno di Toro: 100 %    Italian Red Marconi: 100%  

Lipstick: 100%             Kolaska: 100 %

Kandil Dolma: 60 %      Nardello:  100 %

Long d’Espagne: 10 % (but these seeds were a few years’old)

Yellow cornos (from Kate) and chilli peppers (our own saved seed) were sown later and have not yet germinated.

The problem with the peppers now is to keep them at a consistently high enough temperature and give them enough light.  Today we put some of them out on the balcony under polythene, but some of them got a bit too hot and dry.  I think they’ll be OK.

The apricot blossom is over now, and the cherry blossom is here … / Les fleurs d’abricotier sont finis maintenant, et les fleurs de cerisier arrivent …

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Cherry blossom opening on a tree near our garden – the tree is on public ground, so we’ll keep an eye out for the fruit in May.
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>Snow and thoughts of spring / La neige et des pensées de printemps

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Last night snow settled in Gabian – something we’ve never seen here before – just a light icing on the cars, roofs and plants in pots outside the windows. By the morning it had almost all gone.

Hier soir la neige est tombée à Gabian et elle est restée sur les voitures, les toits et les plantes dans les pots à l’éxtérieur des fenêtres. Ce matin elle est presque disparue.

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Although it was still cold, after the snow melted and the sun came out our thoughts turned to spring seeds and planting. We want to try some new varieties this year so from Kokopelli we ordered some pepper (capsicum) seeds which we haven’t grown before: Kandil Dolma – a Turkish bell pepper suitable for stuffing – and some long red varieties for salads and grilling and perhaps for drying: Italian Red Merconi, Lipstick, Corni di Toro and Kolesca. And from Seeds of Italy (Franchi) we’ve ordered Cavalo Nero (recommended by Michelle at From Seed to Table, Radicchio orchidea Rossa, Borlotto bean Lamon, some French beans – a dwarf Purple King and a climbing Smeraldo – and Raperonozolo Rampion. I’m especially excited about the last of these, the rampion, lo reponchon in Occitan, as it grows wild in the garrigue here and is mentioned by Max Rouquette in his poem, ‘La Lenga s’es Perduda’.

Bien qu’il fasse froid encore, après la neige s’est fondue et le soleil est revenu nous avons pensé des semences de printemps et de la plantation. Nous voulons essayer des nouvelles varietés cette année, donc nous avons commandé de Kokopelli des semences de poivrons que nous n’avons pas cultiver: Kandil Dolma un poivron turque qui est bon pour farcir, et des autres varietés pour les salades, pour griller et peut-être pour secher. Nous avons commandé aussi des semences de Seeds of Italy (Franchi) y compris Cavalo Nero (recommandé par Michelle de From Seed to Table) et Raperonozolo Rampion. Je suis ravie de trouver cette dernière varietée – le raiponce, lo reponchon en Occitan – qui est une des plantes de la garrigue, le nom de laquelle j’ai trouvé dans une poème de Max Rouquette, ‘La Lenga s’es Perduda’.

I can’t wait now for the seeds and the spring to arrive! J’attends avec impatience l’arrivée des semences et du printemps!

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And we have a lovely box full of vegetable seeds we’ve saved or friends have given us, some which Kate brought us and some Mizuna left from the packet Laura sent us. But any other suggestions are welcome. I learnt a new Occitan greeting this week – ‘Bon anada, plan granada!’, which means happy new year and may you have seeds for a good year. I think we have!

>Seedsavers – Kokopelli’s work at risk

>The French seedsaver organisation Kokopelli, based at Alès, is dedicated to preserving biodiversity in seed varieties and to helping sustainable agriculture in developing countries. Theyve lost a case against a commercial seed producer with the result that they will have to pay a huge fine based on the number of varieties which they stock. Anyone who appreciates the value of traditional varieties of plants and can see the benefit of biodiversity and preserving the ecosystem from destruction by big business, as far as we can at this late stage, should support Kokopelli. To sign their petition Libérons les semences [Free the seeds] go to http://www.univers-nature.com/signez/?code=cat

The English-language website about their work is:

http://www.kokopelli-seed-foundation.com