Heirloom Produce Saturday-jardin d’été.

Summer in the Illinois country has been hot but the summer crops are producing and being harvested in the Fort’s kitchen garden. Heirloom cucumbers, squash, beans, and carrots are growing aIMG_3431pace of the season. You are invited to the next Heirloom Produce Saturday in the Fort de Chartres kitchen garden to be held Saturday, July 30, 10 AM-1 PM. We happily will share some of the jardin’s produce, offer tips on preparing for the fall garden, and have available free heirloom seed packets for fall plantings. Join us as we celebrate summer in the jardin potager! Let’s meet in Fort’s garden on July 30th at Fort de Chartres State Historic Site, 1350 IL Route 155, 4 miles west of Prairie du Rocher, IL 62277. Call (618) 284-7230 for more information.

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Début de l’été

Jardin Potager 2016 (CK)

Jardin Potager 2016 (CK)

29 juin, 2016 mercredi

85 degrees, Sunny

8 mph, SSE wind

Postings to this chronicle of a French colonial Illinois country kitchen garden have been sporadic this year and this writer begs your indulgence. Though writing of this garden’s progress has suffered, actual work in the jardin has not. The hectic pace of early summer has given away to a slower rhythm in the extreme heat of recent days. Summer in Upper Louisiana shimmers in the extreme warmth then steams as the countryside is finally awash in long awaited rains. All efforts in the recent kitchen garden have been focused on watering raised and melon beds while controlling weeds, nurturing the May and early June plantings of the summer crops of bean, corn, cucumber, summer and winter squashes, melons, and watermelon. Eighteenth century garden advice for late June and early July not only directs the succession planting or transplanting of crops but also advises “draw up by the roots all your weeds[1]or “if the weather is dry, gather up your herbs again for winter, such as lavender, rosemary, sage, mint, sweet marjoram, thyme, etc.  Take special care to preserve your plants from the scorching sun:  stir up stiff ground: continue to destroy weeds:  and give your plants gentle watering about their extreme fibres, which should be done at close of day.”[2]

Paintings (1769-1774)  A. N. Duchesne and the History of Cucurbita pepo (1770)

Paintings (1769-1774) A. N. Duchesne and the History of Cucurbita pepo (1770)

Reflecting on the first half of this garden year, the jardin potager has been keeping apace through the seasonal changes as late winter melted into spring and now the summer season has arrived in a tide of heat. The garden marks the season’s ebb and flow from its seeding through harvests, beginning with  late winter,  preparing the raised beds and the pruning of fruit trees, followed with the sowing of peas, spinach, and field poppies. March brought the sowing of heirloom beet, cabbage, carrot, kale, leeks, lettuce, and radish seeds, while April saw the first harvests of spinach and lettuces and radishes while succession planting throughout. To review this year’s  garden list of heirloom plantings, view the Jardin Layout page of this blog. And as our focus shifts to the garden in mid-summer, we prepare to handle the upcoming harvests and the preserving tasks awaiting us in this season’s duties. And by the end of the next month, once again we will be clearing space in the jardin, this time for the fall garden. These comforting waves of garden cycles annually await us, timelessly undulating in the winds blowing across the meadows and in the fields of golden grain billowing in the countryside.

Illinois country wheat.

Illinois country wheat.

The garden waits for no one, as its schedule it set by the vagaries of nature. We can only ready ourselves to be at its disposal, portending the signs it gives, reading its temperament as best we can. Just as it is in nature, politics often reflect the same patterns and the current model is no less demanding and confusing. One could compare heat paralyzing a region, bringing crops to a standstill as helpless farmers/gardeners watch their work burn in the fields where they were sown, to politicians in the midst of a budget crisis, freezing state funds, threatening the fabric and underpinnings of society. Both instances potentially wreak havoc in their wake. As an antidote to the state budget crisis, much time has been spent by volunteers at Fort de Chartres State Historic Site this season, volunteering to support the Fort and raising funds nurturing a historic site vital to the preservation of the cultural legacy of entire region. As part of these efforts, a fundraising effort has been undertaken by the not-for-profit Les Amis du Fort de Chartres, the Fort’s support organization and a longtime supporter of the Fort de Chartres Heritage Garden Project.

Kid's Day 2016 Rope Making

Kid’s Day 2016 Rope Making. (EJ)

Just as many of us are unable to resist the lure of unplanted garden beds, Les Amis is not content to stand on the sidelines and watch our site sit idle. They have agreed to sponsor the 2016 Special Events held at Fort de Chartres, keeping the site alive with activity and growth while bringing thousands of visitors to the Fort and the surroundings communities. Please support their efforts through their crowdfund campaign at RESCUE Les Amis du Fort de Chartres 2016 Special Events! To keep updated on the Fort’s special events in 2016, please check the list of events on the Evénements page of this blog or though the Les Amis du Fort de Chartres Facebook page. We ask that you visit and share in our history and excitement, helping our site grow!

Early summer, dill and carrots setting seeds while sheltering the companion planting of beans.

Early summer, dill and carrots setting seeds while sheltering the companion planting of beans.

Finally, on Saturday, July 30,, at 10 AM-1 PM, join us in the kitchen garden for a Heirloom Jardin Potager Saturday event, harvesting summer crops, sharing information on preparing for the fall garden, and offering free heirloom sample seed packets for fall plantings. Let’s celebrate the summer garden while anticipating the bounty of the fall season!  For more information and for current garden updates, visit the Fort de Chartres Jardin Potager Facebook page.

[1]  A Treatise on Gardening: By A Citizen of Virginia, John Randolph Jr. (1727-1784)

[2] “Encyclopaedia Britanica; or, a Dictionary and Arts and Sciences, compiled on a new plan. In which The different Sciences and Arts are dicussed in distinct Treatises or Systems; and The various Technical Terms are explained as they occur in the order of the Alphabet”. Vol II, 1771

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2016 Fort de Chartres Annual Jardin Potager Weekend

Author gathering herbs.

Author gathering herbs.

20 mars,  2016 dimanche

41 degrees, Cloudy

11 mph, NW wind

Neige-snow! This morning’s snow doesn’t scare the seasoned gardener, we just look at it has an opportunity for gentle moisture to nurture the newly planted early spring seeds and the emerging seedlings. We understand and are thankful-it is nature’s way to provide moisture and snow to insulate the seeds and seedlings from the colder temps expected overnight.

Heirloom seed packets.

Heirloom seed packets.

We can’t wait for next weekend’s Fort de Chartres Annual Jardin Potager Weekend, occurring Saturday & Sunday, March 26 & 27. Celebrate rebirth and life in the garden and Easter at Fort de Chartres! Let’s meet both mornings at 10 AM in the fort’s guard room and talk 18th c and spring gardening. Heirloom sample seed packets and garden flyers will be available to help you in your garden this year. Don’t forget-as part of the weekend’s events, on Saturday March 26, a special maple sugar demonstration will take place at the fort from 9 AM-4 PM. Weather promises to be beautiful and temps in the 60’s!

Engraving, Martin Engelbrecht (1684-1756),

Engraving, Martin Engelbrecht (1684-1756),


Hand-colored engravings with stippling Martin Engelbrecht (1684-1756),Harte Müh und saure Garten Arbeit [Garden Work — Planting],Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of your brow shall you get bread to eat.”

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2016 Saison d’hiver

The FdC jardin potager. chicken, and garden shed from levee. Flood 2016, Jennifer Duensing photo.

The FdC jardin potager. chicken, and garden shed from levee. Flood 2016, Jennifer Duensing photo.

5 Février, 2016 vendredi

44 degrees, Partly Sunny

1 mph, ESE wind

This Illinois country winter has been generally mild but currently the season’s temperatures, if charted, would show a rise and fall equal to the surrounding land featuring the Mississippi River bluffs and bottomlands. Temperatures were mild in November and December before we finally received our first real snow mid-January. Now it seems each week brings a near record temperature only to quickly drop below seasonal norms. I would be remiss to discuss this winter without mention of the area’s flooding due to torrential rains which occurred in the week between Christmas and New Year. The Fort de Chartres site was closed and inaccessible for a few weeks while waters receded. Thankfully the site was spared from flooding and the standing water in surrounding fields and valleys has almost dissipated.

leaffork_with_text_580_0KGIRinging in the New Year, the fort’s garden has much more to be thankful for than receding flood waters. Thanks to the kindness of family and garden friends, we reached and exceeded our minimum KGI SeedMoney crowdfund goal of $400 for the Fort de Chartres Heritage Garden Project. And the good news doesn’t stop there-the jardin was one of the first of 75 garden projects to reach its $400 goal which qualified us for the additional $400 Challenge Grant portion of this crowdfund event sponsored by the SeedMoney Garden Challenge. The total amount raised for Fort de Chartres jardin potager through this event totaled $890.00. This support enables us to buy our heirloom seeds and begin the replacement of some our garden’s decaying raised beds-giving continued life to the Fort de Chartres jardin potager .

Garden volunteer, Jennifer Duensing working in the winter jardin.

Garden volunteer, Jennifer Duensing working in the winter jardin.

As new plans progress for the jardin potager, so do the days of the winter season. January was spent pouring through seed catalogs, and placing orders from our favorite heirloom seeds sources-Monticello, Baker Creek, and Seed Savers, to name a few. The first month of a new year is a great time to start some of those hard to grow rare seeds indoors, sharpen and clean garden tools, and review this year’s garden layout, rotating crops from bed to bed. Crop rotation is as an important step today as it was throughout the centuries to maintain a healthy garden and retain plant “vigor” by helping reduce pests and pathogens in our gardens. As we enter February, the lengthening days herald the move to the outdoors as some of the raised beds are cleaned of overwintered debris preparing for the sowing of peas and spinach later this month. Fruit trees are pruned and it is a good time to accomplish any structural work in the jardin potager.

We turn from the quiet days of winter as anticipation builds for the new garden year. The fine tradition of French kitchen gardens of the 18th and early 19th century serves to inspire us as remarkable horticultural examples. Firsthand accounts and those of early Illinois governors and historians remarked on French gardening in the Illinois country.

“It must be awarded to the French, and particularly the ladies, that they expended much labor and showed much taste in making nice gardens. They received not only much profit and comfort of living out of their gardens, but they also enjoyed the pleasure of rearing and seeing the beautiful plants and flowers growing in their gardens, which is so congenial to French taste.”

Early governor of Illinois, John Reynolds, The pioneer history of Illinois: containing the discovery in 1673, and the history of the country to the year 1818, when the state government was organized. 1852

FdC heirloom sample seed packets. Knife, John Hancock.

FdC heirloom sample seed packets. Knife, John Hancock.

To celebrate the beginning of the new garden year, two new Fort de Chartres jardin potager events are announced for early 2016. The garden will proudly host an event on Saturday, February 20, as part of Les Amis du Fort de Chartres new monthly workshop series-Art de vivre (Art of life). From 10 AM-noon, an heirloom seed exchange and swap will take place in the fort’s guard room. Free heirloom seeds and sample seed packets will be available, so bring your favorite or extra seeds to the fort and let’s exchange and share our seed bounty with area gardeners! Bring a lunch and at 1 PM we will move into the kitchen garden and learn how to prepare raised beds for the upcoming growing season as well as prune the garden’s fruit trees, their most important pruning of the year. The annual FdC Jardin Potager Weekend will occur Saturday & Sunday, March 26 & 27. On Saturday morning let’s meet again at 10 AM in the guard room for a discussion about direct sowing seeds in the garden. Some heirloom seed packet samples and informational flyers will be available to share with those traveling to the fort. An added bonus this year during the garden weekend will be March’s Les Amis Art de vivre workshop as part of Saturday’s activities. Darrell Duensing will lead l’habitants in a maple sugar demonstration from 9 AM-4PM. Saturday afternoon and on Sunday we will also continue work in the garden preparing raised beds and sowing seeds appropriate for late winter. Please join us at the Fort de Chartres State Historic Site during for these special events heralding the beginning of the new garden year. Follow this link for directions: Fort de Chartres State Historic Site.

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La chance

WR jardin 4

Photo by Michell Baker, Winter Rendezvous 2015

13 novembre 2015 vendredi

56 degrees, Sunny

9 mph, WNW wind

Oyez. Oyez! The Fort de Chartres Heirloom Jardin Potager has been given the opportunity to compete for a $400 crowdgrant starting November 15th through SeedMoney 2015, a new grant program of Kitchen Gardeners International. With the state of Illinois historic site funding, your support is crucial in keeping the fort jardin potager viable. A huge thank you to Les Amis du Fort de Chartres, the fort’s not-for-profit volunteer organization, for agreeing to act as the sponsoring organization for this grant opportunity. All donations to the garden during this crowdfunding event are tax deductible. Keep an eye on the jardin’s facebook page for more details over the next few days. The grant event will go live between 1 PM and 2 PM CST on Sunday, November 15th and be active until December 15. The first 75 projects that raise their $400 in donations will receive a challenge grant from KGI for an additional $400. Your past support of the Fort de Chartres heirloom jardin project has been deeply appreciated and we hope that you will be willing to help us secure future funding to keep the garden alive and growing. More details to follow!

Photo by Renea Davis

Photo by Renea Davis

Update, Sunday, November 15: the SeedMoney Crowdfund Grant event has gone live: https://www.seedmoney.org/en/projects/25616-Fort-de-Chartres-Heritage-Garden

Monday, November 16: Thanks to the kindness of family and friends, we have reached and exceeded our minimum crowdfund goal of $400 for the Fort de Chartres Heritage Garden Project! It appears we are one of the first 60+ garden projects to reach that goal and should qualify us for the additional $400 Challenge Grant portion of this crowdfund event sponsored by the SeedMoney Garden Challenge. The final list of 75 Challenge Grantees will be announced on December 22nd.
Please note, additional donations to the Fort de Chartres jardin potager can be made until the end of this crowdfund event on December 15 and much appreciated. This support, along with current donations, gives continued life to the Fort de Chartres jardin potager and this gardener’s gratitude- reconnaissance du jardinier!

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