Olive grove

Sunshine at last. Waking up this morning I vowed to spend the day mostly outdoors as Thursday felt like house arrest: painted all day. Did not step one foot outdoors for the entire day. And here is the result.

First task of the lovely sunny Friday was to plant up the four little olive trees I bought from the large St Peray garden centre Jaquet on Wednesday. They were in the sale section of the huge nursery; a snap at three euros each (Olea europa Cipressino). And I found some more small pots of the sedum Autumn Joy and a few plants of the Anemone Honorine Jobert variety, which I am sure will go well in the shade garden. No design yet or planting plan, but I’m reading and pondering and making tentative lists.

I thought the little olives (variety, promises to be able to withstand the cold) would do well next to the large established olive tree down below the plum trees in front of the house. There is a bank just made for it; here is the before shot. And in went the trees. Rich and lovely soil. All soft from the endless days of rain. Naturally this is going to be a devil to keep weed free in the spring. I hope I come up with the solution before the strimmer has to penetrate the usual thicket. I did put down a mulch of river stones directly around the trees. but will need to either mulch with more stones later, or put down some weed proof fabric. Wheeling up to the small stone store at the end of the property brought back memories of hauling stones in September, but luckily it didn’t take long.

I used the excavated soil from the olives as fill in behind the wall at the pool. There is a rather vast amount of soil that needs to be added to this wall area before we get the grasses planted up. I had hoped that falling chestnut burrs and leaves would build up the levels but there is about a foot of soil to go.

Lots of trudging of the heavy wheel barrow up across the lawn. Nicolas was busy building the little retaining wall in the sunshine. Note the t-shirt in this early November day.

And I found myself peeling layers of fleeces and hats as the day went on. Especially as there was wood to bring down from the top of the property and into the Calabert. Most impressive amount of wood now that the stack has been built.

As I was trudging I noticed that the olive tree below the house is still full of fruit; out came the ladder and up I went a-harvesting. There is now a whopping two kilograms of the fruit ready for me to soak in brine for weeks and weeks. One day we will hopefully have a bumper harvest large enough to press. Home grown olive oil. Who would ever imagine it high up on a mountain in the Ardeche.

Up in the potting shed (which is getting crowded already) the garlic is coming along nicely. I really need to think about getting them into the ground at the end of the month. But that will involve digging over a quadrant of the lower vegetable garden and it is still sloshily wet.

I have done a little plan of the future rotation of vegetables for 2009. It’s fun to see how simple it is compared to this year’s ambitious artistic attempt. (The drawing is tiny, but I’m obsessed with small note paper at the moment.) Bernard finished four more cloches today (only with three curved struts which may be a bit risky in high winds) so there will be six cloches for all the vegetables to hide under. Imagine; no more cabbages peppered by cabbage moth butterfly larvae, salads unmunched by Daisy, and Swiss chard extant all through the season. Speaking of which, the slugs in this incredibly wet weather have appeared. I found a few living under the weed proof fabric below the winter cloche. That will be next year’s drama; if the pests don’t come from above ground, they will come from below.

Leaving for a few weeks is hard: the stipa grasses are safe so far in the shed, but will they suffer from a cold snap? And with all this blazing sunshine it’s hell to go away. I wish I could get up into the potting shed flower garden and dig over the soil; move the sedums grown from seed, and weed, weed, weed. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have that side of the shed as clear and lovely as the other?

I did have fun measuring the east garden and the bits that I have missed from the original scale drawing of the property. Ate three figs I found still on the tree as I was whizzing past with measuring line (marked off at every five metres), tape measure, paper and pencil with odd figures and diagrams. I have promised myself to make an updated garden plan by the end of the month. Watch this space.