Monday, August 13, 2012

Halcyon Days in the Garden

The past weeks have served up the most perfect weather and with that, a most glorious sense of well-being. Augusts are usually rather quiet in our business, as most of the French are at the coast or in the mountains, and family events are seldom planned for this month of the year. We have the occasional visitor, someone generally breezing through on their way south or west. Thus, it has been the perfect opportunity to work and play in the garden. Although the plants get a bit leggy and tired, there is still much pleasure to be had amongst the borders.

I planted borage from seed this year, intending to use the pretty flowers to garnish my plates for clients. I love the rosy, hairy stems and the perfect blue star form of the blossoms.

Emily and her family stopped in Montmirail on the first leg of their extended vacation. We bought a badminton set and Quinn had his first go at it. It's not easy for a three year old to find the coordination to whack a small birdie with a relatively small racket, but Quinn managed to make the two connect a few times, which gave him great satisfaction.

He has no lawn space in Paris, so while he has enjoyed playing with hoses in his city garden, he had never run through the sprinklers before. He found it exhilarating!

One of Quinn's favorite activities, no matter where he is, is to build roads and then drive his toy cars over them. Can you see the board he found to create a hilly track amongst the plants?

Zinnie is beginning to crawl and she enjoyed playing in the grass as well.

Last year this space was used as a large vegetable garden, which of course was very nice, but the lawn provides us with so much more real estate for romping and relaxing. I love the green expanse and since March, we have only watered twice. This is the perfect climate for grass.

Sometimes we have thought that it would be much more convenient if our garden were adjacent to the house, but we have all come to the conclusion that having it at a little distance makes it seem more magical and special. The walk is only about five minutes and along the way we enjoy greeting neighbors; the lady who decorates the church with flowers twice a week, gave us a fushia branch yesterday morning, the little old lady at the end of the lane sprouted a peach pit and proudly gave us the baby tree to plant in our garden, M. Villette always greets us and chats about the weather, garden man gave me a huge compliment the other evening when he said our garden was "pas mal" (not bad). He is the village gardening expert and his comment, though typically not too effusive, was given with genuine appreciation for what we have done. It stayed with me.

Here's a view of the garden as it looked last year, before we put in the lawn or planted the hedge. We have a corrugated iron shed that had been added onto in three other sections over the years. Not so well constructed, I must say, all tumbly down and basically unusable. Our latest project is to tear down the extra sections, preserving the original structure and building a deck and an indoor/outdoor room  in the enormous space that we gain.

We have gotten as far as the deconstruction/demolition. We are currently rebuilding the back of the shed. We are able, so far, to reuse the old materials for the reconstruction. Even the nails, which are, in some cases, enormously long and thick. Next we will tidy everything up and begin to make our construction design plans. We move rather slowly, as we are doing it all ourselves and we have to wait for quiet days. Still, it moves ahead at a steady pace and hopefully by next season we will have a wonderful space for outdoor meals and relaxation.

In the process of demolition, we uncovered this bit of stone carving...the top of an old column, which had been used as a foundation support. It is made of limestone and definitely carved, not poured. I have no idea how old it is, but it seemed remarkable to me that anyone would bury it in the ground for a pier. It makes a nice low seat, and I put it in the rose bed.

I have been weeding every day and for some reason it has been the most perfect of activities. It has put me into a kind of sweet reverie, and in my mind I have relived some days of my youth when my brother and I would poke among the trees and shrubs of a wooded lot near our childhood home in Palo Alto, California. I recapture those childhood feelings of joy and trust in the here and now, all is exactly as it should be and I want nothing more than this moment. As I pull weeds by hand, there is the satisfying ripping sound as strong roots disengage from soil, the smells of tomatoes and dill surround me, the feel of damp grass is beneath me and the sun shines down upon my shoulders and back. I meet little creatures under the plants, who seem much less interested in me than I am in them. There was a fat and shapeless toad who hopped away, cramming his form through a small crack in the stone wall, and a lizard not much bigger than a match stick who wiggled through the grass, scaling the blades as if they were giant trees.