After my last, sad post I thought I’d update you on some more cheerful potagère news. The weather has turned very warm here so, rather than contain them for the extra week advised by their seller, I’ve let the ducks go out into the poultry enclosure.
They of course had their friend the gosling to keep them company. The trio are forever together and sometimes it looks like the little goose is their surrogate mum. After the loss of the other gosling this makes me so happy to see the little chap have companionship.
Their first night outside I had shown them the old, plastic dog kennel that I’d filled with grass cuttings. It was like a soft warm bed that I kept catching them up and placing them in. Of course the others would be running around and at first this made whichever member of the foul family I had in there waddle out asap. Eventually I managed to get them all in and they seemed to like it.
The produce in the potagère is growing well. My surplus of lettuce is being shredded and fed to the poultry and I’m going to pot some up and take some to the neighbours tomorrow. The beds are kind of crowded you see and reading my month by month veg grower book I’ve started,to think about planting others things that will come to fruition later in the year.
This week we had our first meal with our own grown veggies; lettuce and peas. I waited until my daughters came home to pick them as I thought they’d be excited to do so. I was right. They chatted away as we selected leaves from still growing lettuce, leaving their stems to continue on their merry way. My youngest, seeing me shred leaves that had been nibbled by insects and throw them in with the chickens thought that was the point and was happily grabbing handfuls to give them, eek!
So we moved on to the peas, squeezing the pods to see if they were firm and plucking some that were from the stems. We had them in a salad and I’ve never seen my eldest eat so much green.
I’m still trying to figure out how and when to harvest them; do I just keep them on the vine until ready to eat, or collect and store them? I do know that to store them I have to leave their little ‘hats’ on.
I’ve already spoken of how carrots can be left in the ground even after a frost, but I thought I’d show you how they are popping up from the ground. Yesterday I could only see one group, but I swear that after today’s intense heat lots more seemed to have shown themselves.
The beets have at least one plant that are the size of a golf or tennis ball and others are growing well.
The spring onions have grown so well that I’ll definitely have to harvest some tomorrow. The bulbs on some of them are just lying outside of the earth on the ground.
The red cabbages aren’t ready, but I’m finding how they grow fascinating. You can gradually see the shape form, with the central leaves closing in on themselves and the outer ones spread out.
As I can make space in the beds I’m thinking of broccoli, leeks, more parsnips maybe and carrots too if I can get them (they can stay in the ground so long so can be used in the autumn and winter), as well as Brussel sprouts -maybe even some pumpkins?
The markets here don’t just sell good food, you can buy veggies and some fruit ready to put in the ground to continue growing. I’m going to go with the girls and choose some more things to go in.
To hear the birds sing as you tend to, select and eat your own grown food. Yes, this is life pre fall in Eden. I don’t know why I’ve been blessed with this, but I’m so grateful. To think this was God’s plan for all of us. It still is when His Kingdom comes.
I’ve been out gardening today and I thought I’d share how it and the potagère is coming on.
Firstly I want to post some pictures of our beautiful roses. Their perfume is gorgeous!
I’ve been putting some herbs in pots outside the window where the kitchen will be. The left hand one is a lemon tree and the right hand is a cherry tree, but it shouldn’t grown more than 2ms. I don’t think it will stay in that pot, we’re going to be doing some rearranging in the garden come autumn. I’ll update you later.
By the back door is a wisteria that I planted last year and it’s already growing significantly.
A lot of things, but not everything, is growing well in the potagère too. In the below series of pictures you can see that the potatoes, sugar snap peas and peppers are all growing well. So are the weeds around the pots, ha, but they got scooped up after and fed to the chickens who love them.
In the following you can see the central bed with spring onions, red cabbage, beetroots and parsnips all growing well. The red cabbage keeps getting eaten by slugs though. There are also sweet potatoes there that are growing more slowly, but I think that’s normal.
The right hand rectangular bed has celery, which is growing well, and red onions that are too.
The left hand rectangular bed has the carrots, red lettuce, and more red onions which are all coming along nicely.
This is the bed with beans and cucumber in. The cucumber doesn’t seem to be doing well at all and the beans are struggling. I have cucumber in other places too, so it’s not the bed – though evidently I didn’t clear this one out enough as it’s got lots growing in there. Oh well, I said that this was a trial year.
On this side all the lettuce is growing because of the shade. Most of them are getting a lot bigger, although you can see where the shade from the rhodedendrum bush and shed hit as those are a lot smaller. I learnt something about leaf lettuce this week that’s made me realise that I’ve definitely over planted these – but I can always share them with the neighbours.
This bed has the tomatoes and courgettes in. The latter are certainly doing a lot better than the cucumbers! I chose this wall because of the amount of sun it gets and that seems to be paying off. You can see the courgettes are blooming.
When I took the photos the potagère was full of weeds and the girls and I came and grabbed handfuls the day afterwards to give to the chickens who love them. They all stand at the fence now waiting to see what we’re bringing them.
On average now we get three eggs a day. Apple still is in shock I think from the Bertie attack, although she can definitely see out of one eye and her other one is half open. I believe she can see out of that too, but I can’t be certain.
I’ve just done their coop and the lawns whilst my hubby is away and used up all the grass cuttings on the floor of it. They love it, as well as when I use it to line their nesting box. It’s free too -so another bonus!
Although I regularly find poor little Lady Jane in the nesting box sat on an egg. I think she really wants a baby 😞. I was trying to explain to my 7 year old that unless we have a cockerel than she won’t be able to have one. Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere huh?
As Belle likes to fly over the top of the enclosure, but wisely never goes out of the potagere where Bertie is, I let all the girls out to roam occasionally – which they seem to love.
We’ve just gone to take them back in for the night and my youngest ran to sit on the rock that’s in their area. I’ve had to train her to hold my hand and not run around like a mad thing trying to grab hold of them.
I pick one of them up and give them to her as she sits there and she hugs and kisses them (😦). I try and stop her doing the latter, but at least her holding them is better than the former.
Tonight it was Apple’s turn and Lilly kept pointing out ‘eyes’, ‘’ertie’. She remembers.
We had a good look around and they’re excited by what’s growing. Nevertheless I realised that I didn’t know when to pick the produce. So I’ve done a little research and this is what I’ve found out.
You can apparently eat the green tops of beetroots when you’re thinning out the rows. I didn’t plant mine in rows, and I don’t know if I’m meant to be thinning things out 🤷♀️. So, that’s going to need a little extra looking into. However I have found out that the size are really a matter of taste and they’re ready any time after you see the shoulders protruding at the soil line. I think there’s long way to go yet.
I’ve read the cabbage head will feel solid when gently squeezed and need to be harvested when they reach maturity or they’ll continue to grow and split open. It seems other veggies are able to stay in the ground a little longer
Carrots are apparently hard to judge – as a novice gardener that’s sending me straight to YouTube. What did people do before?
The tops of the carrots show at the soil line and you’re meant to gauge when the diameter looks right according to your variety. Unfortunately i didn’t know any of this and I don’t think I kept the card to know the variety 🤦♀️.
I think it will be necessary to pull one out when we’re on target. Luckily, unlike cabbages, they can be left in the ground once mature, so I don’t need to worry about spoiling them if I wait to long. Even a light frost is meant to improve and sweeten the carrot’s flavor, so I’m thinking of using them as and when I need rather than harvesting them in one, massive lot.
Cucumbers and Courgettes
My cucumbers are definitely not doing well as they’re described as ‘racing to the harvest’. I can’t even detect the leaves on mine.
However the same is meant to be true of courgettes or zucchini. The advice is to check daily and take then out quickly when they’re firm and smooth.
I got all leaf lettuce, which you treat differently to head lettuce. With these you need to let it grow to about 4 inches in height and then harvest the outer leaves, leaving the younger, inner leaves to grow. They can go on like this for most of the summer. Like I said – it’s obvious now I’ve overdone it!
If you look at the pictures above two seem ready to go. My pops is coming over on the weekend and I’ll ask his advice then.
With onions I’m looking for the tops to fall over, which looks something like this….
The greenery needs to go a bit yellow too. Then I need to allow them to dry in the sun, before storing them.
Parsnips, like carrots, are said to taste better if left in the ground until after a frost or two. This is great news as I like them and carrots roasted with a Sunday lunch or in wintry stews.
I’ve read if I mulch them I can leave them in the ground over the winter and harvest in spring. I love roasted parsnips though, and unlike the lettuce I only got a couple of plants. They’re not going to l’as The that long!
Next year I’ll be buying more and harvesting throughout the winter.
Peas are said to be sweeter if harvested before fully plumped and they need to be tasted to determine if they are sweet enough. So that will be a job for the girls then
I ran out of room with my potatoes and I think I only planted new ones. So I’m looking for the tops of the plants starting to flower which is when I can harvest them.
Next year when I have more beds I intend to plant more and store them.
My daughter is especially looking forward to the tomatoes, which are her favourite. We were out tying them back tonight and smelling our hands afterwards as that lovely, tomato scent remained.
I can’t wait until they’re red, slightly soft and you can pull them easily from the vine.
I’m so disconnected from the earth that I didn’t know that bell peppers are often from the same plant, just left to ripen longer.
I’m not a fan of green peppers, so I’ll be waiting for them to turn. If the hubby is in disagreement I can tell him that not only are they sweeter they have increased vitamin C content as well. Being a mega cook he probably knows that though.
The advice is to make a clean cut with a knife or secateurs, being careful not to topple or otherwise disturb the plant in order not to knock off any fruits that are still developing.
I’d read it was important to blanch celery to stop it going bitter, but didn’t know what that was. I found this helpful video online and I’ve embedded it here.
My celery is just starting to show it’s top, so that’s a job for the next few days.
I’m loving it. I can’t tell you how much joy it’s giving me. Walking round our little patch, discussing the growing plants with the girls, their excitement evident. Heaven.
In my last potagère post I spoke about speaking to my pops about where to plant the veg I’d bought – being a newbie I had no idea. I started planting on his advice and then I looked around; evidently I’d bought too much! I looked into extending the growing space but realised that there was no way this would help. Yikes!
I came up with a two pronged solution; extending the planting area and looking into complimentary planting. You can do this based to make the most of your space and on enable your plants to grow better. I quickly got confused by it all. However these are some of the sites I found helpful in trying to work out a planting plan.
This was one of my favourites; a good sized list of veggie soup in a basic format. I found it really helpful as I’d bought a large selection and this meant I could get quite a bit of information quickly.
We have a seperate, pre existing herb garden, but eventually I want to move them into the main potagère. With its focus on herbs I’ve bookmarked this for future reference.
After the research this is what I came up with.
On the far bed I’m growing red lettuce as it’s a little shadier there. As the lettuce grows mainly above ground I’ve added carrots – which grow predominantly below ground and are good companions – as well as onions, which grown below ground too but seem to grow at different times and at take up a different space below ground. I kept double checking whether onions were ok to grow with these two as they can, apparently, affect what grows around them.
The middle bed was interesting to lay out. I’ve mixed red cabbage in with beetroots – one grows above ground and at a different time than the other. Additionally parsnips and sweet potatoes (towards the front of the picture – I’m hoping I’ve spread them out enough 😟) and spring onions are intermixed throughout.
Planting onions was the most difficult thing in terms of planning. I bought three trays; red, yellow and spring. They don’t look like anything much, but actually the growing distances really spread them out so it takes some thinking through. Particularly when added to the fact that they affect other plants.
This one has celery interspersed with red onions – largely based on the fact that celery can grow with onions. This is an afternoon shot, but it’s actually one of the sunnier beds.
I’ve put these pots all along the wall – eventually I’m going to do another dry stone wall. We have to have a door put in an internal wall which will result in sufficient stone, perhaps towards the end of the summer it will get done. In the meantime there are cucumbers with potatoes (these grow we’ll together) and mange tous. I was originally going to put onions with the mange tous, but they’re not a good match.
Above are some beans and cucumbers too.
All down the side where some bed’s that had had hydrangea that needed digging out, the sides of which weren’t very high. In addition further along was the area where many of these rocks came from (you can see all the befores here) and I so wasn’t looking forward to this as my body was achingly from all the work. Then Pops came up with the genius idea of just laying bags of compost there.
Not the best photo, as my hand is in the way. You can see where I’ve grown plants that need deep roots (tomatoes and courgettes) I’ve used two bags. I cut a hole in the top of one, then in the bottom of another before placing that over the other. Then I cut holes in the top bag and planted.
The other bags, which have lettuce in them, are only one deep.
This saved so much time and if I have enough rocks post doorway I’m just going to build up the sides and use the dirt here rather than digging out again.
I bought waaaaaay too much and ended up giving some veggies to my Pops. In fact I’ve planted hardly any potatoes due to space and so I’m going to put the rest in the cool larder in the garage. Perhaps when I have the bigger beds next year I can plant more, but I’m already thinking of removing some more of the hydraenga to make some more room in the exterior beds.
My cucumber plants seem to have died already ( 😞). I’ll see how they go, but this is just going to be a learning year I think.
What’s exciting is that we are now getting about three eggs a day! We had to stop Lilly going in and picking up Lady Jane Grey as she’d stopped laying. But the only one not laying now is Apple, who I think is suffering from PTSD after the dog attack 😧. She’s doing a lot better though.
Yesterday the girls and I took four eggs each to our neighbours who seemed thrilled and were really excited we have chickens, which is sweet. One of our neighbours was asking about the porch and saying how lovely it was. When she asked where I got it from and I told her leboncoin she was really impressed; apparently they’re very expensive. It’s nice to know we’ve had a bargain!
I’m off to water the tress at the front now, God bless!
In my last post I spoke about my joy at having completed some of the huge stone beds in our potagère and how, in celebration, we’d bought some chickens. Wowee! That opened up a can of worms, if you’ll pardon the pun.
The girls were so excited when we went to Jardiland on our way home to pick them out; I’d spoken of a surprise all day. As we went in the shop Lilly was eager to see the chickens in the enclosure there. She always loves to go and look at them; just a year ago she would scream blue murder whenever I had to eventually haul her away. She’d literally stop the shop! She’s growing up so much as, although she was happy to see them, she wasn’t behaving, well, manically, around them.
However, when the woman came over to get them and Lilly realised something different was happening she became so ecstatic. She was literally jumping up and down on the spot. She couldn’t get any more words out except for ‘This, this, this’.
As I took the trolly to the cash register everyone in the vicinity was laughing, delighted at her delight. She was climbing on the bars of the trolly to take a look in the boxes, in little girl heaven.
We managed to get them home and I had to sort out the food, water, nesting box etc before putting the cluck clucks in the coop. Here’s a video of their introduction….
Then as I shut the door to the coop disaster struck. The uprights holding the gate and wire fencing are made of concrete, but they were evidently too old as when I closed it one broke. I couldn’t believe it. Two chickens in a broken coop!
I managed to temporarily fix it and we all went in, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that I didn’t sleep at all that night. Fear of the cluck clucks being taken by some fox in the middle of the night gripped me. How would I explain that to the kids? Ruby’s set of Role Dahl books with their fantastic Mister Fox took on a whole new, sinister meaning.
I’d been praying all night for an idea to mend the coop when I found myself wandering into the spare room. There was an unused iron bed base and I realised it was the size of the door space.
For the next three days I lugged that bed base between the coop and the shed, trying to work out how to use it as a secure gate. There were many trips to the bricomarché I can tell you.
Each night, desperate to keep the chickens safe and for some sleep, I had to move the chickens from the weakened coop to the bathroom in the studio apartment we have next to our house.
During our first such transportation Ruby watched me pick up the chickens to take them inside. She was fascinated by my holding them and after some time she plucked up the courage – maybe she would try holding them too? Just as I handed her to her Lilly let out one of her excited squeals and the chicken, frightened, flapped her wings.
The opportunity was gone. Ruby had decided, no, holding a chicken was not for her. “Maybe, Mummy, when I’m your age I’ll hold a chicken.”
Closing the door on the chickens in the bathroom I couldn’t help but remember the stories of my grandfather’s set of chickens, given to him by an old lady on his milk round. They lived in the bathroom too, and their feet had grown deformed from clinging onto the side of the bath.
Was history repeating itself? Would I too psychologically damage my children for life serving up their favourite chicken for Sunday lunch one week?
“I want a leg Dad.”
“I want a leg too Dad.”
“There’s only one leg.”
Ours are layers, not cookers.
As the days wore on and I dragged the bed base around the garden some more, my body becoming more and more tired, along with the same process each night. Pick the kids up from school. Walk them home. Get them dinner. Go into the garden to get the chickens in. Chasing round the garden to grab the dog, to keep him away from the chickens. Being surprised by the reappearance of the dog, let out by Lilly, as I held a chicken in my arms. Trying to get the dog back away from the other chicken with my feet, original chicken still in my arms.
I won’t tell you how chickens express fear. You can guess.
Then, on another half hour drive away to Bricomarché, I came across another dog. A Yorkshire terrier was in the road, obviously lost and tired. I’m English, I couldn’t leave her there. So I had to chase her down and as the Maire was closed she joined the circus that had become my life.
Finally the dog was given to the Maire, the coop was completed, the chickens were permanently placed inside and I managed to sleep.
Ruby’s talking about a black chicken now. And some ducks. I need a drink.