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 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.
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.
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 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.