Six days on and my fingernails are still not clean. That will teach me to play in village dirt.
I had three visits to the village last week. None of them planned. And they ate up hours and hours of what I had selfishly considered my own gardening time.
But I was gardening for the good of the commune and that earned me a pat on the back, if not clapping and cheering and a round at the bar.
Yes, we actually have one in our tiny village – population 358. That sounds like a lot of people for a titchy place in the middle of the La France Profonde. But we are spread out far and wide in a huge forested and mountainous area. And we usually only come together when summoned.
Here’s the view of our farm from the village just to give you an idea. We are the one on the right. And thank goodness you can no longer see my garish potting shed further left now that the verdant growth is here. And the tree below the village conveniently shields the view.
The other farm belongs to Jean Daniel. And where Artur resides when he is not mooching about the garden with me.
The white dot you see in the field to the left of his house is probably a horse. Being all greys, they do tend to stick out.
Okay, here’s a more close up shot just to distract you while I pick away at another fingernail.
I have written about our village before and how it is still sticking to its communist ideals. Very Ardèche. When we first moved here it took quite a bit of adjusting. The mayor and all the committee don’t take any wages – they donate the funds back to the coffers of the village. They fundraise like mad with four festivals a year. And yes, donate the funds back to the village.
So when your mayor (who is incidentally our neighbour on the lower side of the mountain) says, Garden Committee, 8am Saturday. Turn up.
You do. With plants, sacks of compost, loppers and secateurs.
We are all volunteers. Shirking not allowed.
And everyone meets at the fountain which is just a few feet away from this magnficent Revolution Tree.
Most villages have those. Planted just after 1789 and either growing lustily and forming a handsome focal point for the tourists. Or falling to bits with limbs shedding in alarming degrees of danger.
We have two Revolution Trees. And the other one is a health and safety nightmare. Bound around its trunk with a sturdy chain. Quite the talking point.
[Thank you to this website for the shot: rando-evasion.over-blog.com]
Luckily it hasn’t tried to kill anyone at one of our (too) many festivals. Think whomping willow from Harry Potter.
[this picture from mesmontagnes.over-blog.com]
Yes, our village likes to party. I tend to do the background stuff like making it pretty in May, and then bidding a hasty retreat. Some years I don’t even do that. Just send my plants. Bad citizen. But I am just not a mingler.
If the wind is in the right (wrong) direction I can still hear the music from the other side of the valley, so I like to think I’m not missing out.
Now this does sound curmudgeonly of me. It’s the main social life of our region after all. Spring and summer in tiny villages all over France you can expect to hear the sound of people partying.
But I prefer to think of my village like this:
rather than this.
So we prettied the square. And I got to plant some rather daring eragrostis grasses right next to the fountain.
We’ve tried for years to come up with something that is tolerant of neglect, dogs lifting their legs, and being scuffed by walkers and cyclists when they collapse on the bench and refill from our rather delicious mountain spring water. It flows all year round.
So we will try these grasses which I unceremoniously yanked out of the pool bank. And see.
The main work the committee did however was not in the central square at all. (I like its quite spare and peaceful setting and just avert my gaze from the stone troughs of garish geraniums.)
No, it’s the entrance to the village from the plateau that needed work. And particularly around the church.
I drew the short straw on that one. Everyone planted beautiful anamanthele lessonia grasses (stipa arundinacea as once was) and gaura. And weeded and hoed and turned a spare bit of weed infested wall into something lovely.
And I turned up late (yes, a hanging offence, but I had to go to town to the train but I went over at 8am and made my excuses, and shoved sacks of composts at the committee) and found there was only the churchyard that needed ‘a bit of work’.
Too much for one person. There was a lovely woman who used to do it. What was her name? Juliette? I recall being shocked that everyone used the more informal address of ‘tu’ to her, even though she looked to be in her 80s. But it was the ethos of the village that everyone is equal and we don’t need any of that linguistic hierarchy here, thank you very much.
I guess I should be relieved I’m not addressed as Comrade.
I concentrated on the rather sorry looking cross that marks the entrance to the fetching but falling to bits 13th century church. It felt like something I could achieve in a few days.
Pebble dash was not big in the Middle Ages, but the village hasn’t the funds to renovate it properly. It’s only in Victorian English novels where the Church Restoration Fund is heavily promoted by village volunteers and earnest vicars.
Goodness that’s a bad shot. But it was the only ‘before’ I took.
I don’t even think there is a vicar. Both the Protestant church at the other end of the village and this Catholic one only gets a service once a month. And the heavy footfall around the churchyard is usually reserved for funerals.
But something needed doing. So I weeded like mad (couch grass) and then trasplanted iris from other parts of the churchyard, and planted more eragrostsi and my favourite purple sage.
You can’t even see them in this mass of dwarf conifer hell. And the neglected lavenders.
But I sorted it out, and came back another day for a mass mulching and deep watering. I won’t get a round of applause for this design, but at least I was able to stagger home relieved it was over for another year.
Until bulb planting in Autumn…
And the weekly watering rota…