Don’t know what to do in the garden?

First snowdrops of the year.

If you’re new to gardening, or just don’t know where to start when you step out into the garden, here’s a useful resource: it’s a free guide on the website of the Biodynamic Agricultural Movement of France  called “a faire au jardin”, or “to do in the garden”.    It’s in French, but there’s always Google translate for those  getting to grips with a new language.  Directed at gardeners in France, it provides suggestions on what to do in the garden every day of the year.

I still have lots to learn about what biodynamic agriculture is – you can read up on it on the British Biodynamic Association website – but what stands out for me is the fact that it takes into account the waxing and waning of the moon to determine when to work with different plants and carry out different tasks in the garden.     There are days that are considered more beneficial for working with and/or harvesting  plants where the root is important (i.e. carrots, potatoes, turnips, etc.), days that are more beneficial for working with fruit-bearing plants, days for plants where the leaves are important (lettuce, spinach, etc), and days for plants where the flower is important (brocolli, roses, etc.).   There are also days when it isn’t recommended to do any gardening at all (time to nap!).  I reckon if the moon can move tidal waters, it stands to reason it would have an impact on water in plants.   There’s a lot more to biodynamic agriculture than that – essentially it’s about gardening in harmony with nature and includes an organic approach – but the moon aspect I like, because it helps give me a focus on any given day in the garden.

On a warm un-winter-like day last weekend, I followed the guide and scraped the lichen off my apple, cherry, plum and pear trees, and pruned their branches.   It was fantastic to be in the garden, and to know that with the new year, the days are getting longer and we are heading ever so gently towards spring.




Hazelnut foraging


It rained all weekend, and I could feel the ground gulping it down after weeks of dry heat.  No sign of mushrooms yet, but if it’s hazelnuts you like, now is the time to get out there.   They are in abundance this year and have started falling on the ground.   The kids can pick them up while you reach for the higher branches.


Hazelnuts in their shells remind me of Christmas.   We always had a big brightly patterned shallow dish full of them mixed with walnuts and brazil nuts when I was a kid.  But we didn’t live where we could pick them for ourselves.  Now we have hazelnut and walnut trees growing in the garden, and hazelnut trees, one after another, lining the pastures  up in the Jura behind our neighbourhood.   There’s a glut of food up there at the moment, a few odd blackberries still around, rose hips, and bright red hawthorn berries. I get such a thrill foraging for food, and living somewhere where so much plant life described in the books I read and songs I heard growing up are found so near to home.   Like that Christmas carol “The holly and the ivy”.   They are on my doorstep!

If I can get my motivation up, I’ll have a go at making some chocolate hazelnut spread, put it in the traditional oval jar with golden lid, and see if anyone notices!


Vegetable basket – go for it!

Our village’s community-supported agricultural scheme at “Les Jardins du Renard“, which comes in the form of a weekly organic vegetable basket, has just started the 2016 season.    The association that acts on behalf of the farmer is taking on members.     You sign up for the year and can pay in monthly installments.    Each week  there’s a basket of freshly picked vegetables ready to take home.  No, you can’t choose what you take, but ever heard of a varied and balanced diet?!    We have been huge fans for the past five years and highly encourage all you local readers in the Pays de Gex and Meyrin/Vernier part of Geneva to have a try.   In addition to getting fresh, organic produce, with zero food miles, where you and your children can see for yourself where it’s come from, you are supporting a family in your community, keeping agricultural land chemical-free, and promoting biodiversity.  A no-brainer!

Here’s a film my other half made, to give you an idea of what it’s all about:

Go for it!

Rain flowers

rain on my poppy heart
rain on my poppy heart

I never appreciated rain as much until I had a garden of my own.    A boyfriend once told me he loved rainy days most, and now I understand what he was on about.   Everything is so lush.   Last year’s July heatwave was devastating, but spring showers have completely transformed and renewed the garden.

rain flower sweet pea
tears on my sweetpea
rose bowed to the rain
rose bowed to the rain
drops in foliage love in the mist
love in the mist
purple petal rain
purple petal rain
stamen antennae silliness
water on leaf
the best rain catcher: Lady’s Mantle (Alchemmilla Mollis)

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!


Mulching the Christmas tree

Something I had imagined for several years came to fruition last week when I mulched the Christmas tree.  I have a new wood chipper, a birthday gift extraordinaire.   How satisfying to turn woody waste into a water retaining, weed suppressing, wonder product.  At the rate I’m mulching,  and the trips saved to the municipal dump, I’ll have amortised my green machine in no time.

xmas tree dried up
From dead tree taking up space…
mulch machine
…down the shoot they go
xmas tree mulched
…to mulch extraordinaire now strewn across the raspberry patch



Local home comforts and a warm cuppa

A little piece of loveliness has landed in the Pays de Gex in the village of Collonges: a modern design interior decoration shop and café called La pause déco.


A friend and I went recently to investigate.  Such a great surprise.   The kind of place I missed leaving urban-land, but need miss no longer!  Everywhere you look there’s a loving attention to detail, right down to the curved brushed steel handle at the entrance.
A wonderful palette of colours greets you when you enter,  patterned ceramics, wood and metal bar stools and Eames-style chairs, light fixtures, paintings, textiles, and more.
Think Orla Kiely and Scandinavian design with the added yes! factor that this one-woman enterprise also features the owner’s own “Lulu la chouette” textile creations and paintings, including stuffed sleeping clouds and this jolly owl.
When we arrived, the owner was sat in her “atelier” next to the coffee bar, at work sewing her next creation.  What a great set-up.
Hats off to the owner for having the guts to set up her own business, and offer something beautiful to her local community.    There are so many good reasons to support local business: it puts money back into the local economy and with less transport of goods, there’s an environmental argument to be made as well.
What’s more La pause déco is family-friendly with a corner for kids to play and a large toilet room equipped with changing table.
You can enjoy a hot drink and a piece of cake, cocooned in design comfort, the light streaming in through wide, arched windows.
It’s local, it’s hand created, it’s full of design love, with a warm cuppa to boot!

The wonder of seeds

I made an amazing discovery this week.   A massive, homegrown forgotten courgette-turned-marrow had been happily sitting outside on the balcony for months, then for a couple of weeks inside in the hallway when I noticed the top was starting to rot and I got the push I needed to cut it open and prepare it for roasting.


As I emptied its innards to harvest the seeds, I used my nail to remove some bits from individual seeds.  Then I took a closer look and realized those “bits” were actually shoots!   And when I carefully removed some of the orange guck surrounding the seeds I realized the tangly white strands were roots!!


A whole lot of the courgette seeds had germinated INSIDE the marrow!!!   Blew my mind.   The tricky part had happened.  New life was already in the making.


I plopped them straight into some soil, and three days later, voila!


A week later and I now have 14 happy green seedlings on my windowsill.



Amazing how life will find a way.