I was looking over the pictures to add to this blog and found them all to be rather dull. Is it the photographer? The season? the subject? Or the fact that I can barely see the computer screen here in the London office from the low sun glinting off the snow.
Oh yes, snow in London and all the accompanying dramas. But out in France last week it was just cold and sunny and perfect landscaping weather.
We arrived to find that Nicolas has used up the very last of the stones that were removed from the living room wall. There is an hour more of work to do before it’s complete, so the picture isn’t very revealing but this is the eroded piece of wall outside the house and near the fig tree. It was crumbling away with heavy rain, so I’m delighted that now I won’t have to worry about the fig tree sliding down the hill.
And I think this means that all the wall building is complete. Have I said that before? Probably. But things look tidy and a touch elegant and everything has been recycled. Nicolas must have run out of rocks, because I noticed that the steep bank just above the lawn is now tidy too. No more boulders lurking halfway down the slope threatening to flatten the grass. So bravo for him to hauling them about.
My rock contribution was not to haul but to clear. Christmas day and I took out my toys and worked away at rocks directly in front of the house. How direct? Well they hold the house up. The stone farmhouse is built on stone. The huge bedrock that juts out of the front in a wonky but hopefully solid fashion. They had been covered in weeds and neglect for too long. So along came the secateurs for the brambles, the trowel for the soil and the wheelbarrow to take the lovely rich topsoil away.
It was lovely work in the sun and the illicit knowledge that for the first time in my life I could garden on my own plot of land on Christmas day. There is more to do (in the form of round up of the weeds in spring to really see them off) but it’s a good start.
And where to put this rich dark soil? Some to fill in the gaps just beside the rocks and in front of the olive tree. But I had other more ambitious plans.
There was a hefty divet (sorry, divot – you can tell I’m not a golfer) just in front of the steps near the lower vegetable garden. The sort where the lawnmower lurches into it and threatens not to come out the other side when you are cutting the grass. That was the first candidate for repairs. I will need to sow grass seeds in the spring over the top of the new area. But for now at least it is more walkable.
And I needed to add more good topsoil to the little wall in the vegetable garden. Rich chocolate cake look to the future planting area. I think this might be where I plant out the flower seedlings I am aiming to grow. I won’t be able to protect it from hungry deer, but I won’t feel as bereft as losing a row of radish.
But the other idea became the project du jour. I notice that if I can lawn mow the paths around the garden during the growing season then things are in control and tidy. If they are hard to access and require a strimmer and a good sense of humour (you do have to work on a steep slope), then they get neglected. And the slope under the plum trees is a perfect example. The old terrace has eroded over time. I don’t have the energy, desire or funds to build it up properly. And indeed there is no need. But to get it the same level as the neighbouring lawn path required a bit more than soil. I started off by filling in with stones to get a bit of height (sorry this is so dull, it’s the theme of the entire story).
And then more and more soil to get it mowable. I dug entire clumps of grasses (not the exciting varieties, more weed than anything else, but bracingly binding for slopes) from the area behind the calabert I am working on. And after about ten loads of wheelbarrow work, I have a better looking orchard.
It may all fall apart in a heavy downpour before the grass seeds push through. But right now we are expecting heavy snow and freezing weather, so it shouldn’t shift just yet.