In my spare time, I have been collecting ideas for day trips in Provence, the Drôme and Gard. We will do these outings between excursions to favorite Provencal markets, cooking, wine tasting and visits with family and friends. If the weather is bad, we'll just cozy up in front of a roaring fire.
We will visit family members I have known all my life near Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, and Montpellier. I know that may sound strange but let me explain. Two of our favorite relatives are André and Mauricette, a charming elderly couple we only got to know about 5 years ago.
André and Mauricette live in a small house near the railroad tracks on the other side of the Rhône River from Avignon just outside Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, home to Chartreuse de Val de Bénédiction and Fort Saint-André. Through André, I learned that his father Louis and his brother who was my grandfather Ulysses, married sisters.
|View down the Rhône River toward Avignon|
André worked for many years starting back in 1956 for the SNCF, France's national state-owned railway company. He loves to ride his bike, he has pedaled up the 1910-meter-high mighty Mont Ventoux many times, and he loves to work in his garden. André has a big green thumb.
Mauricette is a sweet lady, always happy for us to visit. Invariably, she offers something to drink and nibble, usually cookies or some type of fruit tart. Both André and Mauricette are artists, the walls of their little house are covered with their paintings. We have several hanging on our walls in Sablet.
|Me, André, Matthias, Mauricette, and Shirley|
As I mentioned, the cousins live in a small house bought back in 1959. The house is small, but they have a good size lot planted with fruit trees, flowers and vegetables except for a small chicken coop and several compost piles. Unlike here in the US, where most people fill their lots with lawn, André and many other French people use their lots for kitchen gardens.
As you can see from the pictures which follow, André has a kitchen garden or potager as they are called in France which is the envy of foodies like me who wish they had a large assortment of fruits, vegetables and herbs just a few steps from their kitchen.
André grafts eggplants onto tomato stalks because he thinks it increases the production of eggplants.
|Eggplant grafted onto a tomato plant|
We discovered as we visited Provencal markets that there was no kale for sale. It was hard to believe, given how widely used and available kale is in the United States. Then I read about Kristen Beddard, a 29-year-old American who has made it her mission to make kale as common as lettuce in France.
Shirley decided to help her and sent a package of kale seeds to André. As you can see below, kale grows as easily in France as it does in the United States. Now if only they could figure out what to do with it.
|Kale and lettuce|
|Beets and zucchini|
Like his cousin André, my father Daniel loved to garden. He was famous for his many rose bushes around the house. I don't think my father grafted vegetable plants or harvested seeds for planting the next year, all routine things for André. Do all French gardeners do this?
|Carrots and lettuces|
|Fountain André built to camouflage his water pipe and hoses|
Shirley doesn't believe me, but I wish we had a garden like André. We have a half a dozen steel water troughs, the kind used for cattle, which Shirley has turned into a kitchen garden where she grows tomatoes, lettuce, kale, zucchini, herbs, and eggplants which we enjoy throughout the summer and fall.
Here in Northern California, daffodils have bloomed, and the vineyards have new carpets of bright yellow mustard. The soil is not warm enough for planting vegetables, probably not in Provence either. But I know that André will be preparing the soil and getting ready for planting soon.
À bientôt André and Mauricette. Thanks for the inspiration for the garden. Have a great day friends. Chat soon.