DERNIER MOT - LES POTAGERS
I quite like gardening. Particularly in the winter when there’s nothing to do except dream of summer, and leaf through a few seed catalogues. (I especially like flowers labelled “facile à réussir”.)
But I’m a slow starter when it comes to the actual digging. It’s so masochistic to start wielding a garden fork when we’re still chopping wood and hauling coal. Not that this deters our neighbours. I mean spring has barely sprung and they’re already at it.
Marie-France’s husband has filled the back of his Renault 4 with fertiliser from the local sheep farm and as I sit in here typing, he’s out there wheel-barrowing it into his allotment.
A determined expression on his face, he’s shovelling for all he’s worth. I know because Dolly the dog and me saw him this morning when we were pootling about beside the river looking for the first violets (so nice crystallised and served with little cups of coffee).
He’ll be asking Jean-Robert for a lend of his rotivator next. He should be so lucky. J-R has already done his muck-spreading and we saw him yesterday tinkering with his plough attachment, so he he’ll be keeping it to himself until he’s got his own “potager” turned over.
By the end of the month the village gardening enthusiasts will all be out there at dawn, forking those sods and tilling away for dear life - and I’ll be watching them from the terrace where I’ll be potting up a few primroses and pondering the merits of plastic sunflowers.
A week later they’ll all be out there putting in peas, radishes and early lettuce and before we know where we are JR will be wandering round the village displaying his edibles to anyone willing to admire them.
It’s not competitive gardening, precisely. It’s just sharing the satisfaction of having a particularly large courgette.
And as the summer ripens, it’ll be aubergines, peppers, melons and of course, tomatoes. Jean-Yves grew one that weighed more than a kilo last summer; a man from the local paper came and photographed it - so grotesquely swollen and pendulous that it needed a prop.
My own efforts are pathetic in comparison. By June, when the schools are at their last gasp, the Junior Members will be gainfully employed watering and weeding vegetable gardens for neighbours who are away on holiday - but I’ll be lolling in the strawberry patch, hidden from prying eyes by waist-high grass, checking each and every fruit to see if it’s perfect.
Needless to say, at the end of this procedure there won’t be enough strawberries left for jam-making. Perhaps a basket-full for the Juniors, but not enough to involve the purchase of five kilos of preserving sugar. So I won’t have anything to give in return when kindly neighbours drop in with a jar of jam, a frilly lettuce, a carrier bag of green beans or an outsize cucumber looking for a good home.
But I have a cunning plan. I’m going to buy some rose bushes. Early-blooming ones. Then I can crystallise the petals as return-gifts. I have a book which says this is child’s play. In fact, I might even be able to bribe the Junior Members into action with the egg-white and the castor sugar. Because, yes, as you’ve guessed... I’ve got no chance of beating the outsize-vegetable growers and absolutely no intention of joining them. Dolly and I will be spending “la belle saison” drifting about smelling the roses.
Why else do you think we moved to France?
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