Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

Cover up

March 18, 2008

Dust Bowl Languedocien,

This is an image of my neighbour’s field after he managed to scrape off every smidgeon of organic material. The word ‘Dust Bowl’ comes to mind.
Dust Bowl Languedocien,

Same windy day, one field over, my little allotment is the picture of extra-crunchy soil health. Even though it’s looking pretty bare compared to last year, I couldn’t be more smug.
The upper kitchen garden and its piles of organic material.

Competitive soil-fertility much?

debra at 1:43 | Comments (0) | post to

Local warming

March 5, 2008

Potager au feu, Occitanian kitchen garden is a hot mess
Potager au feu. The lower bit of the Occitanian kitchen garden is clearly a chic-free zone. Burn marks indicate the size of the original fire.

Yesterday in the lower garden I made an enormous fire. It was the first time in my life I was able to get it going in one go, normally it can take me the better part of an hour. The fire was so huge I feared I’d burn down neighbour Nadine’s cabane and explode the tires on my bike. I’d wanted to take pictures when the fire was really blazing high, taking up two rows of my winter-bare kitchen garden, but it was too dangerous to leave and get my camera until it died down. All the old guys were just standing around watching, maybe keeping an eye out, mostly talking about ‘le foot’. I kept thinking that this is the opposite of a Jewish environment, no one telling me to be careful, all that talking about ‘le foot’.

The lower Occitanian kitchen garden, before picture
The before shot. To be clear, (Dad) I didn’t turn the soil, just readjusted the canals and put that soil atop the sticks and weeds on the rows so that it could decompose.

It’s not particularly permaculture to burn things or till the soil, although nature doesn’t seem to mind a wild fire every now and again. But the woody weedballs and thick stalks from the Jerusalem artichoke, the bane of my garden existence, threatened to make the soil too chunky.

I was going back and forth deciding whether I should ’till’ my ‘no-till’ field, finally settling on setting the knotty bits ablaze and pulverising the rest with my hands into something the soil could digest on its lonesome. Very satisfying work. My hands now ache, but I love this kind of muscle pain. And I’m so tired that I’m going to bed with dirt in my hair, I love that even more. City lady turns Turnip lady.

Topinambour, ready for the urn, ashes in the Occitanian kitchen garden,
A heap of Jerusalem artichoke and other ashes

debra at 12:14 | Comments (2) | post to

Permaculture active

March 4, 2008

Salad foraged from the Occitanian kitchen garden,
Leafy greens foraged from under the brush

This year the Occitanian kitchen garden is very different than it was last year at the same time. The winter’s thorough frost followed by a long wet spell has killed all 5 of my chokes and most of what I had been treating as perennial loose-leaf brassica. But if you count the hours actually spent working in the garden in relation to the amount of food produced, kilo for kilo there is no question that I have the most productive garden here. It may look dead and empty, but in the middle of the Hungry Gap, this hot mess of permaculture produced 2 days worth of salad!

The Occitanian kitchen garden, upper bit, quite brown post-frost, but it’s all according to plan

Mind you, I’m not above eating a weed, or feeding a big bunch of weeds to my friends and telling them they’re exotic leafy greens. Last night we ate surprisingly unbitter chicory (thank you, frost), something dandelion-ish, the first mint of the season and some red chard sprouts that I cut off a bulbous root I’d thrown out. JT and KvR were utterly impressed with my haul, but the conclusion is that I prefer foraging to harvesting.

Horseradish appearing out of the recently thawed ground

debra at 13:38 | Comments (0) | post to

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