Forest firelighters

Start as you mean to go on: today being the first day of good intentions I turned both compost bins. Virtuous and warm work on this gorgeous sunny but cold day. We went for a two-hour walk and had lunch on the terrace in the sun. It can’t have been more than 5Celsius, but with the views and the great feeling of satisfaction from walking down the valley, up the other side and back round the little road we felt well warmed.

Then it was back up to the forest to hunt for pine cones. We find they make wonderful little firelighters. So on this cold dry day I collected two sacks full for the rest of the chimney and fire season.

I wanted to explore the leaf mould situation up there as well. There are lots of oaks, but also pine trees in the forest and the entire floor is carpeted in thick leaves from all the chestnuts that have fallen. So would it be a good soil conditioner? I think not yet. There may be too much acidic soil from all the pine needles. But I’m definitely going to nick the soil around the water source: it’s chocolate brown and well crumbly.

Water sources are the topic of choice around here. We went to a party last night and everyone mentioned how challenging it is to have so little water in their springs. The town water pipes freeze because they haven’t been buried deep enough. Our poor neighbour Jean Daniel has no water at all at the moment. Everyone is waiting for rain.

Our water supply is fine. But we want to check that nothing is blocked further up the source. So we will set to with spades and forks tomorrow. And I will have the wheelbarrow nearby for all that lovely excavated soil.

I potted up twelve extra broad bean seeds into a tray of loo rolls. Insurance in case the mice discover the ones planted yesterday in the ground. They are sitting with the sweet pea seeds on the first floor of the guesthouse; right underneath the skylights. It’s about the only sort of cold frame I have at the moment and it should do the trick. I will check again at the end of the month to see if any have germinated.

Today was also a lower vegetable garden day. I weeded, raked and removed all the last remnants of the monster radishes. And put down the weed proof fabric on the path. It is disconcertingly pale. But as thick as felt. If only I could get my hands on some bark chips as I do in the London garden. After a few months the bark chips fade to the same colour as the soil and you can’t tell there is any fabric at all. We passed the saw mill on our walk this morning at St Michel de Chabrillanoux and I was lingering lovingly by the bark bins. They don’t do retail apparently; but I must investigate.

Then in the fading light it was time to launch into the strawberry bed; mightily weedy. The worst are those annoying weeds that put down deep tap roots and take ages and a few fingernails worth to get out. At least I am getting them when they are junior in size; some of the ones up at the top vegetable plot were the size of parsnips by the time I had yanked them out. We need more strawberry plants. As well as more herbs. I envisage a mighty plant shopping trip at the end of this month. Hurrah.

Tomorrow must throw some water at the newly planted figs and blackcurrant bushes.