Plants ! Not Flowers !

From the living room A few Peter started earlier Standing room only Nearly as big as me The centre is coming along Ready to add the rubble Before After
Click on the thumbnails for a larger picture Preparing the next round Drilling the holes The beams in place William, one of our apprentices A wee pause for a drink At the end of another day

Ground level - going down

April 2009

Having taken a few months off for the festive season and the unusually severe winter for these here parts Peter was up and ready to get his borders finished and the house side edge of the Canche river reinforced.

The Canche is an interesting experience at its source - you can stand on it. Oh to be sure you need to keep moving a wee bit and it tries to suck your boots off, but it is solid enough for a days work.

The objective is to sink a line of two metre posts along the bank to ensure that, should the Canche breach its banks during one of these flash storms we seem to see more of these days, then the water will be pushed towards the garden rather than into the basement of the house.

This is sound thinking as beer bottles can go mouldy, whilst plants, well let's face it plants are there to be sneezed at. And besides, a drop of water never did mangrove swamps any harm.

Knocking posts into mud is not as easy as one might think. The smallest pebble or even the mud itself is enough to push the point out of alignment and once it is in the mud the post is not coming out again after the first few whacks with the sledge.

It didn't take Peter and I long to realise that the entire bank had been used as a tipping ground by the old café and needed to be dug out before we could continue. We recovered old bottles and stacks of slate tiling.

After that we sorted out a system; Peter on the river digging out an emplacement for the next post whilst I remained up on the bank at the top end to knock it into place.

Peter had the job of trying to maintain the post upright and in position whilst I thumped it into the ground: when I nod my head: hit it. The first few blows of the sledge were easy enough but as the post sank into the mud I had to get lower and lower to be able to hit it and the last few blows were delivered from a kneeling position.

The main section along the river has been finished and we spent another happy day clearing out all the rubble that we had thrown up from the river and levelling off the area between the posts and the house so that they can put in a pathway.

Sandra and Peter have been collecting bags of rubble for years it would appear and at last they were getting to use some of it. For the most part it would be true to say that Champion heavy duty shopping bags live up to their name. Despite years outside and filled with rocks and bricks most were still in a solid condition.

I need to make it clear right now that personally I feel that rock breaking is not something that should be inflicted as a punishment. It is way too much fun. I did have moments of getting carried away when I had to be reminded that the path needed stones as a foundation not brick dust.

The final section of the bank has to be finished but that is going to need preliminary work under the roadside drainage system which simply pours into the river from a spout - which is eroding the river bank.


Basement - roots

The next task was to put in a border for plants along the entire length of the cow barn opposite the house. The farm belongs to the Maire and he was quite open to the idea of providing the village with something a little more attractive than a rough parking area. He'll have to keep his tractors off it now though.

Jean-Jacques came over for the day to give us a hand and the four of us managed to prepare a metre wide band all the way along whilst Sandra (Under Peter's strict supervision of course) put the plants in.

Us boys got on with moving soil around the garden to build up some of the future flower beds. Most of this soil was from the area of the bank that we had dug out in November - so in true service style I got to move it all, again. It wasn't quite filling the hole back in again, but was more akin to a cousin once removed as opposed to an aunt who had emigrated.

The following week we were back again to put in the fencing planks around the pond sector. The gardening season is upon Floyd in France and so their time for working at home is become severely limited another factor being that Peter has the plants and they need bedding in.

The greenhouse area still looks grossly over engineered with its plastic greenhouse but I am assured that a real one will eventually make an appearance. To compliment it Peter wanted to put in a very solid wooded fence made up of three heavy beams. JJ and I levelled out a trench and we set about drilling holes through the beams for reinforcing rods that would pin the beams to the ground.

This was the first snag as you can't drill through that amount of wood in one go and keeping the holes aligned without factory machinery was nigh on impossible. So we compromised. The bottom two beams are pinned to the ground and the top two, to each other.

We had two wee lads, Gwenaël and his younger brother William from the village giving us a hand with putting sawdust on the beds. Hilary has a barn load from over the years and the two lads (who are only 11 and 9 years old) spent an hour or so shovelling up a trailer load before coming round and bringing it down into the garden in buckets. Peter and I had visions of the Sorcerer's Apprentice but this was way over their heads.

It was a very hot afternoon and we were all beginning to wilt. Jean-Jacques was down in the ground digging out a hole big enough for a water filtration tank for the three ponds. He found himself battling with as many roots as I had had digging out the bank months back.

I was only marking out the edge of the borders and putting in short posts to produce a rustic curved effect but even that was trying work as the spade kept bouncing off roots. Thankfully nobody thought of taking a photograph as I found that the solution was simply to saw along the line I wanted. First time I have ever tried to saw up a garden.

There is still work to be done but the ensemble is beginning to take shape. Give the plants a few weeks to settle in and it will be a pleasant area to spend the evenings.


See also

Adding the enclosure

Clearing the garden

Hilary spins and knits a Tommy

Sheep shearing