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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Récoltes et Gratitudes

10 septembre 2015 jeudiphoto 3(17)

84 degrees, Partly Sunny

5 mph, NNW wind

Harvests and Gratitudes. The jardin late summer has been bountiful, with heirloom summer squashes, cucumbers, beans, eggplants, melons, and peppers continuing to bear throughout the summer months. Intermittent stretches of cooler weather and rains nourish the recently planted fall crops as the garden is renewed through succession planting as autumn approaches and as the late summer crops near the end of their production. There is something so fulfilling in our garden cycle of reaping and sowing, following the paths and knowledge of previous generations of gardeners and farmers. Walking and working those same agricultural paths of sowing, weeding, and harvesting, give a depth of meaning to the seasons beyond the enjoyment of photo 4(4)the elements and their effect on nature. One can imagining the habitants of the Illinois country going about their daily lives, the acts of harvesting and preserving not only meant a boon to their household but could mean a the difference between life and death in the Illinois country. And yet this matter of serious urgency was made beautiful by the women of the Illinois country, their gardens reflecting the French sensibilities of beauty and skill beyond what was necessary. No matter the depth of their skill, they must have been grateful for the years of bounty which could sustain them through the years of disappointment, nature’s eternal challenge. The Fort de Chartres jardin potager is an attempt to honor that history.


Darrel Duensing, Fort de Chartres Site Manager

As we are in our sixth year of the modern reincarnation of the habitant jardin potager, I often reflect on the bounty not just of the garden but of friends, volunteers, Fort de Chartres staff, and sympathetic organizations who have helped make the garden a living breathing homage to those eighteenth century habitants of yore. I can’t possibly name all involved but please accept this gardener’s gratitude. Toni, Renea, and Jennifer, your willingness to help over the years have given me hope in those moments when the garden begins to overwhelm. I cannot express enough my gratitude to all members of my family, extended family, and our reenactment family who have kindly given their assistance to keep this vision of an eighteenth century French kitchen garden moving forward.

Jennifer Presler

Jennifer Presler


Toni Hancock & Renea Davis

The fort staff and volunteers over the last six years have continued to support and encourage these efforts, even as state funding has subsided. Darrell, Dennis, John, Linda, Jerry, David, and the many seasonal workers have so often made the difference between success and failure. Organizations such as Les Amis du Fort de Chartres, Les Coureurs de Bois de Fort de Chartres, Kitchen Gardeners International, Save Illinois History, Save American History, and in the early years, the Prairie du Rocher Girl Scouts fueled the jardin with energy and funds when it was most needed. And who could forget my partners in song in last autumn’s infamous KGI’s Carrotoke contest? Nick, John, Toni, Renea, James and Ed, your crazy willingness to sing into a crossed pair of carrots awarded the garden a second place prize which garnered the garden project much needed equipment and financial assistance in the form of new watering hoses, pruners, baskets, and rotary push mower. Long hours spent in the jardin potager often feel like a solitary project but in actuality it is a gift of many. The rewards are to be found in the interest and support of the public who delight in learning the history of  everyday life sustained by the women of the photo(22)Illinois country and in the beauty of sharing the garden’s gifts of free heirloom produce and seeds. The Fort de Chartres Heirloom Jardin Potager Project promises continued exploration of a l’habitant’s garden in the Illinois country, its history and beauty, aided by nature and those willing to care and support its efforts. Merci.

Reminder: To keep abreast of the jardin’s progress throughout the year, please follow the Fort de Chartres Jardin Potager Facebook page.

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Joyeux Printemps, 45th Annual Fort de Chartres June Rendezvous

photo 2(10)2 juin 2015 mardi

62 degrees, Cloudy

4 mph, ENE wind

“Happy Spring!” This recent salutation from a friend is a fitting seasonal greeting and one to be shared with all. It is indeed spring in the Illinois country, running ahead in our garden paths with summer nipping at its heels. The mid-spring season bounty in the jardin potager has been fast and furious. The mostly cooler temperatures and rains have allowed a continuous harvest of our heirloom Monstrueux de Viroflay spinach, Long Scarlet radishes, Tom Thumb and Forellenschluss photo(21)lettuces, and asparagus. It has been a challenge to keep abreast of the harvest and ripening produce. Within in the past two weeks, the flowering and podding of Tom Thumb and Purple Podded peas and the maturing of Early Wonder beets are the new crops in our jardin. Hope lingers for a continued good harvest as we enter June and the inevitable warmer weather approaches. It is only natural to wish for a delay in the onslaught of heat about to overcome our region as is the norm. Those of us in the Illinois country often feel as if the season swings from early spring to mid-summer in the course of a day. For now, the spring garden can be enjoyed as it is thriving and full, demanding our full attention. The garden bed layout page on this blog has recently been updated so those interested can view the types and locations of heirloom varieties planted in the 2015 jardin potager.

But wait, the arrival of late spring in the Illinois country must also mean that it time for tn_fdcvous5068the Annual Fort de Chartres June Rendezvous held this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, June 6 and 7. This year marks the 45th anniversary of this amazing celebration. Each day features opening and closing ceremonies, parades of military units, music, vendors, and food-truly a feast for the senses as one experiences the gamut of the reenactment community. Please don’t forget to visit the FdC Heirloom Jardin Potager throughout the June Rendezvous weekend with a tour of our heirloom garden on the hour, heirloom plant sale, along with free sample heirloom summer seed sample packets and flyers under the garden tent canopy. At our table in the jardin will be Jennifer Pressler with information on the Prairie du Rocher Garden Tour and Farmer’s Market to be held that weekend. The FdC Heritage Jardin Potager is part of this tour and we appreciate the invitation. And with the additional presence of the Master Gardeners of Randoph County to answer your garden questions also present under the garden canopy, we promise a gardener’s haven. We welcome you to the jardin potager and come celebrate the approach of summer with us and experience the June Rendezvous garden style!

A quick note and plea: as this spectacular event highlights the importance of the history of photo 1(9)southern Illinois, please note-sonnez l’alarme, sound the alarm! The Illinois State historic sites are under fire and we ask that you please consider taking a moment to voice your support of Fort de Chatres and other Illinois historic sites to the politicians and departments within the state of Illinois responsible for its operation and of the many worthy sites within state borders. One can understand the severity of the budget shortfalls in the state of Illinois, but at the same time, the investment of time and money that has created and preserved these sites should not be allowed to be in vain. Allowing sites such as these to shutter and close in a

IL State Contacts

IL State Contacts

short-sighted attempt to solve a long term problem, would waste valuable resources and place in jeopardy the preservation of the history that once gone is not easily recovered. So all of us, whether staff, volunteer, or reenactor, who love and breathe life into these sites, sharing the history and lore of our shared past, request your help by asking you to contact the Illinois state legislators to voice your support. Let’s find a way to keep Illinois’s vibrant and significant history alive!

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