Building frames for raised beds

And now in a break from our scheduled programme, we bring you news from the farm.

Yes, a late night check of my emails just before bed last night prompted me to act. Alice has been logging on daily waiting for her update. And I have spectacularly failed to produce.

So instead of doing my usual – up early, clear out ash, lay fire, light fire, make coffee, eat breakfast, read The Guardian newspaper online, feed birds, feed cat, walk….

I bring you this.

I will walk later.

I decided two years ago this month to start a daily first thing in the morning power walk. And it has been fantastic. I’m fit, healthy (scrawny), have stamina, a bit of brain space and purpose. It’s addictive.

I have circuits that are generally 5km, 6km or a daring 8km loop that is fun. But it does eat into one’s morning chores.

My favourite one (which delights me with views like this) is currently off limits as the dog I was trying to control at the chateau decided to reward me with my patience and fortitude by attacking me from behind and taking a good small chunk of my pride and thigh last month.

I miss that walk. But having been forced to explore other options I’m building up quite a portfolio of forest trails.

But what you need on a morning walk is a chance to build up a bit of speed, plan your day and not worry about random dogs springing at you from the farms you pass.

My standard circuit takes me round our mountain and the one further south in a good sweeping loop. A good mix of forest trail, a stride uphill past the Eco Hamlet (no dogs), a west facing panorama (one can have a surfeit of the same mountains) but also trippy roots hidden under the carpet of fallen chestnut leaves to keep you alert.

Yes, yes, but you promised a farm update.


New structures in the potager. I have decided that the hail net system I put up last year just didn’t suffice. Stiff hose bent over in a curve and secured to the raised beds with sunken reinforced concrete rods just didn’t keep still. They either bent in strong winds, weren’t uniform, or didn’t hold the nets in place.

So taking advantage of the mighty Etienne, I asked him to build me some proper upright supports.

The wood was leftover from the building project.

At first he made them one metre high because he assumed that not knocking my head when bending into the bed to weed or plant or harvest was paramount.

But we gardeners know that aesthetics also play a role. And as I stood back from the potager I could see that the proportions weren’t quite right. They were too tall. Out of proportion to the raised beds themselves. I think they are only 80cm high and of course visually lower as I have mulched so mightily with gravel. Plus you can see the ground slopes from left to right. The beds at the left hand side look positively titchy.

So with a theatrical sigh and the ‘client is Queen’ he cut down each upright and muttered darkly and teased me whenever I approached.

But I’m glad I went for the lower look.

We have done three of the beds to start. And Etienne has rounded the edges nicely to save me braining myself on the corners.

To complete the look I’ll put up the galvanised steel grill netting I need to buy. There was some leftover from yet more of the building work – put up in the roof to stop the pine Martens munching through to the new ceiling.

But I calculate I need about 25 more metres to make the beds secure. It’s only to protect the crops from a direct hit of a nasty hail storm that can wipe out my veg in minutes.

I like it because it is very strong but also rather discreet. Aesthetics, again.

But I’m excited to think I now have a more permanent structure to drape netting to keep out the cabbage moth butterfly. And even get the cucumbers and climbing beans a more solid platform to climb.

I love winter. You plan and plot and pretend everything will work brilliantly in the vegetable garden in a few months time.

Okay. Now my conscience is clear, I can stride out and go tripping over some tree roots and plan and dream.