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Our "Potager" in Southwestern France

Sep 06, 2010

This summer of 2010 has been full of joyful gardening. We are not new to growing our own food and flowers, and we are still learning with each season, searching books and the internet for new information and answers to questions. We live in a country famous for great food and wine, France. Here in our life, the importance of delicious and healthy food is of great importance to everyone. At noon every day, the shops close, commerce takes a break, workers lay down their tools, tractors are left in the middle of the fields and traffic on the main roads thins down to a trickle. For two hours, families and friends relax around a table to enjoy conversation and a delicious meal of several courses.

Our market day is Saturday. Baskets brimming over with cheese, olives, freshly baked bread, fruit and vegetables, we stop at the café on the market square for a hot chocolate or coffee and to chat with friends. We are lucky to have beautiful homegrown vegetables from small producers all through the year. Planting a vegetable garden or potager as it is called in French, is not a necessity. However, one sees a beautifully tended potager in nearly every back yard.

This year my partner Mark and I decided to make a kitchen garden with our neighbors. I have had many gardens throughout my life but this was the first time I had shared a garden with friends. Without any real discussion we found that each one of us had some special garden chore they enjoyed the most, and without discussion each person gave that part of themselves that made them the happiest. There were moments during the season that I felt the plants were growing ecstatically. Did the joy of the gardeners influence the vegetables? Hmmm, I wonder. We made a small area next to the garden with lawn chairs and a table, and often someone would arrive with a cooler full of cold drinks and snacks. The garden became an area of relaxation and immense joy, friendship and the sharing of recipes and harvests. As the nights grew warmer, we pitched our tent just near the garden to sleep under the sky bright with stars.

This year, I found myself in a wheelchair for a short time. The garden is not close to the house but we could reach it by car. Mark would lift me down onto the path among the vegetables and there I would spend the morning, lost in the jungle of plants. I would scoot backwards very slowly brushing on tomatoes, mint, rosemary, thyme, parsley, basil and onions. The perfume from each plant lifted my spirits. The evident joy of this garden helped me to get through these difficult days. I would sit for as long as I wished, watching ladybugs or thinning carrots. Like this, I found the first signs of caterpillars marching in formation to attack the broccoli. Fortunately we were able to save the crop with a garlic spray. I have decided to always spend time in the garden either sitting or laying among the plants. Why have I always been too busy thinking about weeding and watering?

This year I felt deeply the importance of close contact between plants and people. I felt deeply how the garden not only nourishes our bodies but our spirits. I had time to meditate on the gifts of the garden, not only in the food that we harvest, not only in the beneficial physical aspects of gardening, but the relationship of the earth, the plants and the people involved. I have read about it, I have realized it before, talked to friends about it, but this year I felt it on a deep level.

Comments

Your illuminating command of the English language is facinating to me, who only speaks Texas English with a smattering of Texmex. The photographs are indeed lovely, and you appear comfortable with your life. If I ever have to be wheeled to the garden, I will certainly remember this writing, and sit or lie among the beloved plants. My dogs will surely join me and assist any way they can. If you don't, you should consider contributing to a garden and lifestyle publication, but please stay with KGI for all of our benefit. Stay natural, David
I whole heartly agree with David. Wonderful photos, a great garden & a place to sit , to take in the veiw. I speak southren slang English in South Carolina, my wife learned French in school. I enjoy hearing her speak the language, but do not understand most of what she says. Thank you for this short trip to your home.
Hi Joel, So happy to get such a nice comment from you as well.
Hi David, Thanks so much for your lovely comment. It's the first time I have tried blogging anywhere but I love gardening, and this site, so decided to dive in. I look forward to enjoying other blogs, recipes, etc.
I think that one of the most important things in a garden is a chair. I have an old metal one, recycled from two rubbish skips. This allows you to sit, rest your back and view the fruits of your labours. Very nice pictures!
Yes, I agree with you. Maybe two chairs!
Beautifully written Suzanne, I could feel the joy as I read your story. I like the chicken on your shoulder too.
The chicken is JOLO. He is a banty rooster, the only one to hatch out and way too early. We raised him in the house so he is very tame, sleeps at the back door, comes when he is called. Thank you for your comment. It has been a joyous summer.
I was surprised to know that France been a developed country ,people still find time in afternoon to relax ,socialise and and enjoy mid day meal. Your way of writing is soo heart warming.I wish you health and happy gardening for many years to come.
Hi Salma, I enjoyed reading your profile. It is obvious that you are very close to nature and loving your life. In our part of France, the family, nature, friends, are very important. I think these qualities exist in many developed countries but often television, magazines and newspapers don't show this part of life . It's quite encouraging to read the kitchen gardener! Thank you for your wonderful comment. I also wish you health and happy gardening!

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