17 Août 2014 Dimanche (Sunday)
77 F, Rain
7 mph WNW wind
August in the late summer season of the Illinois Country brings heat combined with periods of heavy rain. The summer garden is nearing its completion and the time has arrived to plan and plant for the fall jardin.
In a letter sent from New France in 1632, Father Paul le Jeune, of the Society of Jesus, remarked:
“All considered, this country here is very fine. As soon as we had entered into our little home, the 13th of July, we began to work and dig the earth, to sow purslane and turnips, and to plant lentils, and everything grew very well; a very short time afterwards we gathered our salad… You would be astonished to see the great number of ears of rye which were found among our peas; they are longer and more grainy than the most beautiful I have ever seen in France.”
The Fort de Chartres jardin potager is in the process of gathering the last of the summer produce, Long Anglais cucumbers, St.Valery carrots, Bull Nose peppers, seed heads of herbs and flowers. Soon the garden beds will be cleared and prepared for the fall planting. Most surprisingly, the jardin heirloom flowers have survived the neglect of recent months. Ageratum, Balsam, Cockscomb Celosia, Globe Amaranth, French Mallow, Fringed Pinks-their growth bringing beauty and hope. While the temperatures remain warm, it is time to plant peas, beets, kale, leeks, and radishes. Spinach can be started indoors, readied for transplanting into a garden bed once the heat diminishes.
Some time has passed since my last garden post, I beg the indulgence of those interested in the Fort garden’s progress. This summer has been spent in a different sort of nurturing journey. As my mother’s health waned over the past months, my energy has been focused on her path to a garden of serenity and peace. I appreciate the Fort staff and jardin volunteer, Jennifer Esker, for their assistance keeping the garden in a semblance of order. Their energy will smooth the seasonal transition to a fall garden making it easier than otherwise possible.
This gardener’s endeavors are a direct inspiration of her mother ‘s loving guidance. Earliest memories in our family garden, evoke the sights and smells of the many fruits and vegetables grown on crowded plots, bursting with produce and surrounded by flowers. We weeded, picked, and ate our way through the summer months, and dined throughout the winter on the preserved garden produce. Our family’s immigrant background was explored through the seeds and plants grown throughout the extended family, the taste of our heritage preserved in our food, drink, and baked goods. Family members shared seeds and plants from the old country, bathing my childhood in the glow of a communal memory. Gardening was a part of our everyday life, as natural as breathing, the efforts of this labor something to be shared and enjoyed. My mother, in particular, was a master nurturer and whether child or plant, she guided and protected, with amazing results. Often tucked away in her garden corners, she would casually have a plant slip rooting, a seamless effort which brought forth without fail, a new breath of life. I came to the love of the outdoors through both my parents, but my love of gardening, the nurturing of life from the tiniest seed or slip, grew from my mother’s loving hand. And as I transition in life from her loving presence, to a world suffused in the knowledge she imparted, I am forever grateful. Toujours dans mon cœur: “Always in my heart.”