August Potager

Isn’t that evocative? Well it is to me. I decided to start my exercise walk just as I was about to hand water the jostaberries up at the top potager. It took 1.2kms and 59 minutes of my time.

Slower in blue is obviously me with a heavy watering can. Faster is when I ‘nip’ back down to the water barrels and reload.

Did I promise not to mention Heatwaves? I won’t. Let’s just call it Exceptional Event Number Four this summer. (Egad, it’s a bit like calling something a Special Operation rather than a war…)

And now that I am shamed by the horror that is happening just a few countries over in Europe, dare I devote a page to vegetables and flowers?

Sadly, yes.

I’m in the distractions business.

I went away for a week and came back to find the potager…


The courgette leaves are so lush they have hidden the vegetables in a nice bit of shade, and the bean canopy of leaves overhead have meant I have lovely Swiss chard, spinach and basil all ready for lunch and harvesting and freezing.

These permaculture beds are doing really well without watering more than once a week and in a blasting 30 – 33C weather every day.

The not-so mulched beds at the top are suffering more. I need to attend to those this winter when sweat doesn’t pour off my hat every time I step outdoors.

It’s the ones at the far left at the top that aren’t happy.

I’ve given up on some of my helichrysum plants for the dried flowers. And some annual flowers I sowed, planted out and hoped to harvest are just too dessicated to really bother watering now.

Surprisingly the two beds which were dug up by the mole rats at the top earlier in the year are actually rather good.

The aubergines / eggplants are all untouched.

No more dahlias or sunflowers have been felled. They even gave me a good crop for the market flowers.

The lack of water for these flowering beasties is entirely up to me, so of course I was confronted with fried dahlias when I came back. But I had enough to do bouquets.

But how marvellous that the roots and rhizomes are intact in those mole rat beds.

I actually think I know why I have no mole rats in this bed anymore. And it is because I have a resident heart attack inducing shock botherer in my midst.

A snake.

A big bloody scary snake. Living under the house.

This cladding hides a cool damp space where the overflow pipes from the roof work their way through my poorly designed irrigation system. Some flows into the barrel and the rest goes underground to the potager.

See that big fat red one? If you were so inclined and designed, you could slither in there from the potager, come out into the cool rocks and work your way up that slope to a blue bucket that has a perfect permanent water supply from a drip in the pipe.

Stay the night. No one will disturb you. And when the sun warms up you can ooze out to the steps to warm up and head onto the hunting grounds for rodents, mole rats and ankles. Whichever take your fancy.

I could say more. When my heart rate pulse comes down to normal. Just typing the word ‘snake’ sends my watch into that ‘stress alert, your heart rate is way above normal, please consider slow breathing exercises to relax’ or something like that.

I do my gentle exercising in the mornings round the mountain while its cool and quiet. No stress alert then.

Try ambling out to the potager in your sandals and walking down the stone steps to the potager and almost stepping on a two foot long snake! Draped across the step so afterwards you can measure it and, yep, more than two feet long. It’s head and tail oozed over the stone step sides.

I was so shocked I shrieked (really shrieked) and naturally by the time I thought to whip out my camera and snap a shot of it, it had slid down into the potager itself and disappeared.

How on earth can two feet of fat brightly coloured reptile just disappear? Believe me, I have looked very, very carefully. I have no idea where it hides. Deep in the rocks of the back potager wall? Ugh.

And no, I don’t know what species it is. We tried to find it on images of Snakes of the Mediterranean and France, but just the images sent me into a sick free fall.

Orange yellow with stripes is all I recall. And it doesn’t need to be poisonous because I know that the fear of finding it again will induce my heart rate up into the stratosphere. And that sort of things is as a bad as a bite from even a non-venomous couleuvre.

Don’t blame me. Blame my Australian childhood growing up on a farm where we had way too many brown snakes, red belly black snakes…. And were a forty minute drive from the anti-venom injection shot in the local district hospital. The fear of snakes was drummed into us so early and often that it scarred us for life.

We even had a special boot room so we could put on our boots and shoes without worrying something was curled up inside.

Since making the mordant discovery I lace up my shoes of a morning (indoors), stomp about every loudly on the wooden deck, creep down the steps and harvest very, very fast.

At least it’s an excellent year for the tomatoes. And luckily I kept most of the leaves on the plants (being lazy) so they aren’t all sunburnt from the heat.

I have changed the words slightly but this is the best bit of summer in the potager.

Give us this day our daily….

Even the basil hasn’t bolted in the heat and lack of water. If only I had a spare buffalo to milk and make mozzarella….