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.




The promise of seeds

Seeds from the garden: broad bean, lilac poppy, pumpkin, pea, and pot marigold

Happy New Year!  The daffodil leaves are green salutes pointing tall out of the snow and this evening as I closed the gate I spied a little burst of yellow, the first crocus.    Spring isn’t here yet, but I’m starting to think about what I might plant on the windowsill come February.     My box of seeds is a jumble of store-bought seed packets and re-used envelopes stuffed with seeds  harvested from the garden: coriander, pumpkin, courgette, butternut squash, lettuce, poppy,  pot marigold, french string bean, fennel, pepper, and aubergine.

Seeds from our Halloween pumpkin

There’s invariably a tray of seeds drying out somewhere in the kitchen.  I have difficulty throwing them away.  It’s the promise they hold that gets me.   And all the different shapes and sizes.   The seahorse-like tails of pot marigold.  Brown broad beans like dice in my hand.  The translucent pearly sheaths on squash.   The hairy pods of love-in-a-mist.   Friendly collections waiting.

Love-in-a-mist seed pods

I was discussing seeds with our local organic market garden farmer, who supplies vegetable baskets to our community, and she told me it’s illegal in France for her to harvest her own seeds.   She has to buy them each year from a catalogue.   Score one for the corporate seed lobby and its success at trumping common sense.

Plant seeds – our source of food production and an integral part of biodiversity – are increasingly owned and controlled, with laws proposed that would limit who can produce seeds.

If you want to find out more, check out the not for profit organisation Grain and get tips from the Soil Association on saving and swapping seeds.

Meanwhile, for want of a gardenable garden and the fact it’s too early for planting seeds on my windowsill,  I’m going to try and restore order to my seed filing box and its gazillion potential plant lives!