5 June 2007

The bottles are filling up with fruit and the garden's filling up with summer Veg

We've been working flat out getting our summer veg in, gathering soft fruit and collecting Girolles while we can.

This is a jar of wild cherries which we've filled over the past two days then covered with Eau de Vie, which is a distilled alcohol we make from figs or any fruit we have enough of, gathered at its peak and stored in a barrel until the man come with his still.

We're still filling the wild strawberries and the raspberry jars, little by little. It's great being able to just plop them straight into the Eau de Vie when we come in with a handful. It's a very easy, and very delicious way of storing fruit and if the jars are stored somewhere cool and dark, they'll last at least a year...well in theory anyway. We serve the fruit with coffee, or as a dessert with cream or use it as a cake filling. It's always delicious and a real treat.

We're under a lot of pressure, because Fabrice's uncle comes out of hospital tomorrow. His health has been deteriorating for the past few years so he has to rely on us, his sister and the nurses who visit twice a day to do everything for him. It's very humbling to think that he was once a big strong man who could cut down a mature tree with an axe in just a few minutes.

So, I've managed to plant out almost all the summer veg and cleaned up the garden ready for planting extra veg to extend the season. All the herbs and soft fruit are doing well and with the rain we've had, there's no need to water except when things have just been planted.
Early June organic vegetables in the potager
We let the chickens free range all over the place, but the price we have to pay for their cleaning and weeding the garden is that we have to work at protecting our newly planted veg with sticks - at least for the first two weeks or so. I re-use the sticks for the second round of planting once everything is growing well.

The chickens don't do a lot of damage really. (Although they do break my heart sometimes.) They grub up and eat a tremendous number of insects and slugs harmful to our plants, and they really throw the earth around and make it a lovely crumbly texture and of course they add their own nitrogen rich droppings as they work, so it's well worth the effort to let them get on with it.

After everything has settled and is growing well, I cover everything with mulch - the dry bedding from the goat shed, and the sticks keep the mulch (complete with goat droppings) away from direct contact with the stems of the plants.

I know you're not supposed to put fresh manure on, but goat droppings are dry and I find that the mulch doesn't heat up and do any damage because it's airy with lots of straw. This system suits us, because we empty the goat shed every year around this time (once the goats start sleeping outside) and it gives us the shed time dry out completely over the summer.

Emptying it now keeps the chickens busy eating the woodlice and other insects they find in all the crevices in the shed and they usually stay away from the newly planted veg until it's strong enough to withstand real life in our potager.

Courgettes are best when they're tiny - too big we give them to the pigs We've been eating lettuce for a few weeks now and had our first courgettes yesterday, the beans are almost in flower and the Borage is perfect for decorating new potato salad made with home made and very yellow, (thanks to the chickens' free ranging) mayonnaise.

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