The upper terrace – linking the forest and garden

terrace sunsetI’m sitting here working in my office, head down and typing. But the view of the lower terraces and the incredible mountain range beyond can be a distraction.

In the foreground I get to see all the little birds we feed perched in the cherry trees waiting their turn.

I looked up and suddenly saw a huge swooping of raptor going past the window. Our resident bird of prey – a buzzard – just dive bombed the little birds in the tree.

She missed. But is lurking not far away in a tree on final top terracea lower stand of trees. Most buzzards will migrate, I believe, but we have one who lives all year round-up in the forest behind our neighbour Jean Daniel’s property.

It reminds one that this is a forest farm. Mountainous and shared by all sorts of wildlife.

So it’s a perfect moment to describe the upper terrace area of our land.  It links the wild forest above and the garden I have created around the houses and on the terraces below.

If you were showing off you could call it an arboretum. There are many specimen trees planted over these acres of steep sloping land.

None planted by me unless you count the new mirabelle plum I put in at the entrance to the upper terrace path.

1pineandrockThere are pines and oaks. And apples, a peach, and mystery trees which sucker like mad and make my life a misery when I try to keep the area clear of weeds.

My favourite pine is this one growing out of a granite boulder. I distinctly recall, back in 2008, when I had my strimmer machine in my hand and my secateurs in my back pocket and I saw a tiny pine tree growing out of this rock.

Will I cut it out? Will I keep it? I was amazed that any plant could grow in such inhospitable surroundings, so I decided to spare it.  And I love how I can measure the passage of time on this farm by just how tall this pine is growing.

2cleared upper tUnlike the lower terraces, this area is quite clear of brambles. Well the choking take over the farm sort.  I suspect it might be because there are only two stone walls. The happy home where bramble roots cannot be grazed or strimmed.

The first wall is just above the road and for the past eight years was fenced.  But I have just had it removed and what a difference that makes.

strimmed edge of roadApart from the joke of trying to keep it clear of brambles and broom and any other weed that chooses to take up residence at its base, it now looks more natural. (And boy was it choked with brambles.)

One’s eye flows better from the wall to the terrace above. (In my opinion. It was a huge job and I gushed with delight for weeks.)

The very top wall separates the farm from our chestnut forest and looms up there.  I don’t see it often. Unless I am going to inspect our water supply.

wildflowersWe have our own spring water here on the farm. For fifty years it was an open pond with all sorts of playful problems of supply, flow and the risk of contamination.

A few years back we invested in a proper closed spring. Dug three metres down and now safe from any passing deer or dying bird.

And it even could be called a wildflower meadow as I scattered wildflower seeds there once the bulldozer man had left and there was bare earth.

Verbascum fieldIt hasn’t lasted; but it was fetching for a few years. Now we just have the usual pioneer weeds of spanish broom (spartium junceum) which you have to cut young as they are a devil to remove once they take off.

And the bright yellow colour of its flowers (a prolific self-seeder) is hardly harmonious with the simple surroundings I am trying to maintain.

The verbascums try to get established too.

flying logsIn fact I don’t visit this part of the garden often. I’m just on hyper alert for verbascums in spring. And I give the area a huge strim once every two years.

But twice a year around the spring and 12 cubic metre holding tank for our water.

The one change I did make was to get a simple set of steps built above our guest house. That made the far right hand (eastern) part of the terrace accessible at last.

new stepsWe usually only use this area to throw firewood down from the forest and pile it up ready to throw one more time down to the east garden lawn. (We then wheelbarrow it to the barn.)

But there is a beautiful oak tree here. I have been gradually raising its canopy and clearing away the dead branches.

And the land around it, is relatively flat. Well sloping flat. But when you live on a mountain top, you take anything less than teetering as a bonus.  One day, I will build a bench or make some seating here, and park my weary self under the oak tree and marvel at the mountains across the way.

For now, I’m still taming the land and not idly enjoying it.

Partially strimmed picnic area