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Friday, September 4, 2009

Fruits of My Labors

It appears I've really adapted to the French pace of living. I've been in my tiny new house for two months now: the wallpaper has been torn off in some areas but by no means all; the paint has been applied in some areas but nowhere near all; I need an electrician (the first one decidedly did not work out, and I procrastinate, fearing technical speak in a language I can't yet speak); the faucets in the shower, kitchen and bathroom sinks continue to leak, as does the kitchen sink trap despite my efforts with wrench and Teflon tape; there is still no kitchen to speak of although at least a thoughtful neighbor in the next village who's a professional builder wired up my stove this week as a courtesy while we stood chatting about my kitchen ideas (he's going to install whatever cabinetry I buy); and my food remains stocked haphazardly on the floor in crates. So it's pretty much life as usual here in rural France. At least no one seems to think there's anything out of the ordinary. It definitely takes the pressure off.

One thing I have managed to get up and running, so to speak, is my garden. I've finally constructed 3 four-foot-square raised beds with the help of my neighbor Christopher (well, okay, I held the wood while he did all the actual work). As I prepared to level them, I suddenly realized I no longer owned a shovel. Sighing, I resigned myself to digging out the trenches with nothing more than a hand trowel. Hands bruised and aching, I sat back to survey my work. Well, at least the beds were now level so I didn't have to worry about water pooling in one end and drowning my future seedlings.

I lugged 13 large bags of topsoil, compost, aged horse manure and peat moss (the latter the only item that didn't feel like it weighed 50 kilos), home from the local Bricomarché (France's sub-equivalent to a Home Depot) and dumped them, along with the entire contents of my brimming compost heap, sheets of clean newsprint saved from my packing materials, and as many garden scraps as I could scrape up, into the beds, creating a combination lasagna/square-foot gardening-style setup. I felt a sense of accomplishment far outweighing the actual magnitude of the work done.

Thus, today, during brief spells of sun broken by mad dashes of pelting rain, I've managed to seed one of the three beds with a fall crop: 32 garlic, 32 radish, 16 spinach, 62 arugula and 64 white onion. Elsewhere I have existing two dozen young leeks happily reaching upward--donated by an elderly French woman whose garden vastly exceeds my own; eight tomato plants; various herbs; and a pattypan squash plant that was here when I arrived, and which seems content not only to engulf my garden and patio but has apparent designs on most of my village. I'd write more about it but, frankly, "Little Shop of Horrors" was more entertaining. Only today as I gingerly pushed aside immense prickly leaves in search of squash to harvest, I discovered that, buried beneath, next to the equally dwarfed thyme bush, I have chives growing. Who knew?

Recent days have been spent storing massive amounts of fruits--my neighbor has lots of fruit trees--vegetables, and the ensuing sauces and soups, inside my little freezer to the point where I can hear it groan every time I approach it with yet another container in hand. All this with nary a kitchen to speak of and no work surface beyond a cutting board propped atop two burners. (Thank you for those gratifying gasps of awe. They make it all worthwhile.)

Well, enough boring tales of kitchen garden miscellany. There's a vat of tomato sauce on the stove that's calling my name, barely audible above the wails of the freezer....

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