I haven't touched the garden for weeks, except for planting a few bulbs and taking cuttings. We've had a few sunny days when I should have been outside, but it seems that when I've days free it rains for days.
I used this photo to show our globe artichokes - still green and growing well. Normally these die down completely in the winter and I have to protect them because the chickens soon peck all the new growth once it comes through in early Spring. This year they've not been affected at all by the frost and should get away quickly in the next few weeks - providing we don't have really hard frosts.
It's nice to have early vegetables especially Artichokes which are so French, so sophisticated (and so easy!) but it's a bit worrying too because I've never had Artichokes stay like this through the winter before. The rhubarb started to sprout in the middle of January and the Chilean potato vine solanum crispum album (You can see that on the screen at the back of the chicken shed in the photograph above) that I bought as "not frost hardy" has stayed green all winter too.
I bought the mother plant from a show run by Philippe Burey at "Les Jardins de la Brande" 24380 Fouleix - tél. 05.53.07.47.85 He runs a garden centre with unusual shrubs, winter-flowering plants and a forest garden open to the public. He regularly organises groups of people who sell interesting and unusual plants and I try to make it to at least one a year.
This Solanum flowers for a long time if it's in a sheltered spot in full sun. This was one of five cuttings I took in late summer 2006. I lost two to either dogs or chickens, I gave two away, and the other is now doing really well on the terrace. Here's a SLIDESHOW of the progress of the cutting I planted in June last year.
As you can see from the photos, the chickens do a wonderful job of clearing the ground - there are no weeds at all in the raised beds and the earth is rich and dark for a good 40cms. I'll wait until the sun warms it up a bit, and then cover it with a thick mulch. The goats need the heat of their bedding straw that I use for mulch under their bellies for a few more weeks, it's still damp and the nights are very chilly here.