Fort de Chartres Heritage Garden

Un journal d'un Jardin Potager du Pays des Illinois

Tag: printemps (page 1 of 2)

Neige de printemps

American Bottomland

American Bottomland Late Winter

16 Mars 2014 Dimanche (Sunday)

31 F, Snow

14 mph NNE wind

Snow. Four days until the arrival of spring and winter is reluctant to release its grip in the Illinois country. We continue to endure the temperature extremes with accompanying precipitation and await a steadier course of warm weather truly heralding the change of seasons. Late winter has offered a limited number of days suitable for work in the garden and just as one despairs of the weather, welcome news arrives lifting one’s spirits.

First, the glad tidings. This year marks the fifth season of the Fort de Chartres Heirloom Garden project. I am very thankful for the support of fort staff, Les Amis de Fort de Chartres (The Friends of Fort de Chartres), friends, and visitors who have shared in the eighteenth-century French-colonial garden adventure. leaffork_with_text_580_0KGIIn celebration of this milestone, I applied for a Kitchen Gardeners International grant on behalf of the Fort’s l’habitant jardin potager under the sponsorship of the Save American History organization. Notification has just arrived that the Fort garden project has been awarded a $500 grant from KGI’s nonprofit community of over 30,000 people who are growing some of their own food and helping others to do the same.  The Sow It Forward grant program received 910 applications from 24 countries and 160 grants were awarded. We are extremely thankful to be chosen for this grant and promise to continue sharing heirloom seeds, education, and enthusiasm with visitors to the Fort de Chartres jardin potager. In addition, Les Amis de Fort de Chartres and Save Illinois History organizations are matching the grant amount which will enable the garden to expand, repair, and further the garden project and its outreach to those interested in history and gardening. These organizations have given wonderful patronage to Fort de Chartres, and we are appreciative to be included in their support. Merci.

Renea, Toni, Nick, and Cecelia

Renea, Toni, Nick, and Cecelia

Returning to the needs of le jardin, work has begun in earnest, despite the uncertain weather.  Late February’s annual garden weekend at Fort de Chartres was spent in great companionship and weather with my husband Nick, mes amis Toni, John, Renea, and Cecelia. Time in the garden involved weeding and clearing beds, pruning fruit trees, and late winter plantings of late heirloom Monstrueux de Viroflay spinach, Long Scarlet radish, and French fields poppies. Sample heirloom seed packets and information were shared with the weekend’s travelers to the fort and a few visitors even chipped in by weeding and clearing beds-wonderful fun and a much needed respite from the sévérité of winter.

And in parting, soon the time will arrive for the annual Fort de Chartres April Colonial Trade Faire Musket and Rifle Frolic -April 4, 5, and 6. Mark it on your calendar and we hope to visit with you then!

Vers la fin du Printemps

7 May, Tuesday

76 Degrees F

Sunny, Windy

The morning sky was dark and gray, threatening clouds overhead, as day dawned on the Annual Les Amis de Fort de Chartres Kid’s Day. The skies soon gave way to a steady rain, not an auspicious beginning for the day of scheduled 18th century family activities. But soon the rain subsided and the sun peered through the fog, as mists rose from the road leading to the fort and from the fort grounds. Families began arriving and the annual event sponsored by the volunteer organization (Friends of Fort de Chartres) was soon underway. With cannons firing, the fort’s volunteer event featured games, archery, rope making, dancing, singing, and an artifact display. In the garden, our visitors used the native hoe, learned about the 1700s French kitchen garden, and adopted our donated native pecan trees. The heirloom cabbage, carrots, lettuces, peas, onions, and turnips were growing strongly and it seemed one could stand and watch the asparagus grow in front on one’s eyes. From the rain cooled temperatures of the morning, the day soon warmed and the jardin potager welcomed all who visited.

22 May, Sunday

87 Degrees F

Sunny, Windy

Continuing this May, the garden grew in pace with the wet and cool conditions. As temperatures rose and fell and continuing rain, every moment the sun shone was an opportunity to plant and work in the garden. Preparing beds and nurturing the emerging plants, struggling beets and spinach weakened as this wet season moved along.  The day was very warm and mon ami Toni accompanied me to work in the squash and melon bed. Earlier in the week, the large bed beyond the garden fence was tilled and prepared for planting. Our day’s work this afternoon included measuring, creating mounds, dibbling holes for the seeds, then planting. Once planted, we watered the mounds thoroughly and took a moment to do some quick weeding in the other beds as well as watering the new fruit trees. Very productive afternoon’s work, accomplished with the help of a friend.

Earlier in the week, the native Three Sisters Garden area was hoed and weeded by Dennis and Jeremy. One afternoon before the rains came, a quick trip to the fort was in order to create the mounds and plant the corn in the center of each mound. We were excited this year to try the native Bear Island Flint corn, which features dried yellow, white, red, some speckled, and occasionally all burgundy ears. This Native American variety reportedly makes good corn flour, slightly pink, and we hoped that the hardness of the cobs would deter the raccoons. Scarlet Runner beans were planted on the outer rim of the mounds and the winter squash in the spaces between. Sophie, the new feline fort mascot, kept me company and surveyed the completed garden area. It is hard to tell if she approved of my afternoon’s work, but it was nice to have the company none the less.


17 April, Sunday

74 Degrees F

Sunny, Light Winds

Traveling to the fort today, through the winding roads in Illinois farmland,  the air truly felt like spring. In the weeks since the last posting, rains have been frequent, with temperatures swinging from cool to warm and back again. Luckily, today’s work in the garden was to be accompanied by warm winds. Perfect weather to plant our new fruit trees that have been in a cool storage location for the last two weeks awaiting the right planting conditions.

While we waited for these warmer temperatures, our long range l’habitant jardin plans were reviewed and discussed. The plans referenced descriptions of typical French residences, as from former Governor Thomas Ford’s History of Illinois. He resided in the Illinois Country in 1805 and reminisced, “These houses were generally placed in gardens, surrounded by fruit trees of apples, pears, cherries, and peaches; and in the villages each enclosure for a house and garden occupied a whole block or square, or the greater part of one.” A beautiful new addition to the l’habitant jardin is a period reproduction bench created by Zack Huber, a local Eagle Scout candidate from Prairie du Rocher.

Blight and disease had damaged some of the existing fruit trees in our habitant garden and removal was begun the week previous by Gerry Franklin, a member of the fort staff. Earlier this year, the following tree varieties were researched, ordered and now ready to be planted

  • Snow Apple (Fameuse), France, prior 1800. One of the oldest and most desirable dessert apples, a parent of the aromatic McIntosh.
  • Summer Rambo (Rambour Franc), France, 1535. Large red fruit, bright striped. Breaking crisp, exceptionally juicy, aromatic flesh.
  • Calville Blanc, France, 1598. This is a gourmet culinary apple of France. Uniquely shaped medium ot large size fruit, yellow skin with light red flush. Banana-like aroma with more vitamin C than an orange.
  • Anjou Pear (Beurre d’Anjou), France, prior to 1800. Large, conical short-necked fruit, light green when ripe with some russeting.  Mild, melting with white flesh with delicate aroma.

Volunteers Jeremy, John, and Nick, along with Dennis, a fort staff member, were assisting in the garden work today, digging holes and planting trees. The pear trees were placed just outside the garden fence; the apple trees planted inside the garden fence in an alternate order to be espaliered as they grow. Immediately the trees were pruned, wired to their supports, and watered in. Jeremy and Nick (with John’s assistance) placed the wooden pole supports for the Painted Lady Runner Beans in the first of the garden beds and the beans were planted around their bases. The last two beds to be sowed with spring vegetables were planted with differing varieties of peas (Blue Podded and de Grace Snow Peas). Branches were pushed into the garden beds to act as supports for these climbers. As peas grow, they will climb through the branches that hold the supports in place and upright. Also planted among the turnip rows were Tom Thumb bush peas, saved from last season’s successful crop. Again beds were watered as tools were gathered, cleaned, and put away-preparations for the travel home. Winding our way home, we once again reflected, dwelling on the day’s accomplishments and the work yet to come.  We look forward to the projects of the season ahead, including our new compost bin being created by Justin Detering, a local student, as it nears completion.

Please note: An upcoming family event at the Fort de Chartres , will be the annual Kid’s Day on Saturday, May 7, from 10 AM-4 PM. It’s a  free event that features yard games, period board games, rope making, dancing, King & Queen coronation, gardening, free trees, artifact display (arrowheads, etc.), and a puppet show. Come out to the fort and enjoy the morning or afternoon with your family and immerse yourself in fun activities pertaining to our region’s 18th century history.

Trade Faire Gardening

3 April, Sunday

80 Degrees F

Sunny, Gusty Winds

After a busy weekend enjoying the Fort de Chartres annual Colonial Trade Faire and Rifle/Musket Frolic (sponsored by the Chasseurs du Datchurat), Sunday morning brought bright sunshine and rising temperatures. As we basked in  the warmth relaxing in our camp, we looked beyond and the garden beckoned. Toni and Renea quickly set to work weeding the asparagus bed and I began to prepare a few beds for planting. It was remarkable to reflect that just a few days earlier, strong winds brought air that was quite cool and damp and just the week previous we were experiencing thunder-snow! This morning our hope was to finish preparing and planting the beds that we were unable to work on due to the earlier snows. After hoeing and weeding, we planted St. Valery and Tonda Di Parigi carrots, Crapaudine and Early Wonder beets, Navet des Vertus Marteau turnips, and Red Wetherfield Onion sets. These heirlooms are seeds/sets of the 18th century and are close to the type of vegetables that might have been grown by les habitants of the Illinois Country, full of flavor and valued for their many uses-fresh or preserved. The newly planted seeds were well watered, as well as the other parts of the garden already planted. Gooseberry shrubs were pruned, joining the grape vines already so prepared by fort staff memebr Dennis Thomas and volunteer John Guilfoy. Walking the garden, the cabbage transplants appeared to be settling in nicely and the lettuces, spinach, and radishes seedlings were beginning to emerge. These cool weather crops were not bothered by this uncertain weather, thriving and growing, using the current warm air to fuel their growth. A morning spent in garden work under the sun warming rays was a pleasant way to end to a weekend of camaraderie and friendship. In the weeks ahead, as we near our last frost-date milestone, the next seeds to be planted will be runner beans and peas. Other garden projects include new heirloom apple and pear fruit trees which have been ordered and delivered. These new fruit trees are provided by Les Amis de Fort de Chartres, the fort volunteer organization. As we prepare work on our garden layout and design, we welcome the onset of spring!

Gardening Weekend, L’Habitant Jardin Potager-Neige!

Silvertree Forge

25 March, Friday

38 degrees F

Overcast, Light Wind

The air is cold and damp as we arrive at the Fort to prepare for the gardening weekend for l’habitant jardin. Immediately, canvas tarps are placed on some of the raised beds to prepare for the oncoming weather fast approaching. The tarps will keep new moisture from saturating the beds, as we hope to salvage planting later in the weekend once the forecasted snow has ceased. As this task is accomplished, we prepare the guard room for the weekend’s stay, enjoying the heat emanating from the newly lit fireplace. We light lamps and lanterns and prepare the bedding while the day’s light still holds. The table is laid for a simple evening’s meal of fish and bread. Sophie, the young cat newly in residence at the fort, has curled up in the bedding, taking advantage of the warmth beginning to steal across the room. Darkness descends and we know not what the new day will bring.

March Fort26 March, Saturday

36 degrees F

Snow, 5-10 NW Wind

As we awake to freezing temperatures, the skies are grey and the clouds ominous.  By midmorning, the cold and damp keep us to our duties inside. As we finish our late morning repast consisting of a warm tourtiere served with maple syrup, a startling flash of lightning is followed by a long slow roar of thunder. We run to the guard room windows and to our amazement, huge snowflakes are drifting downwards, melting as they touch the ground. After our initial surprise, we acknowledge no gardening will be accomplished this day; we venture outside to observe the falling snow. With flakes clinging to our coats, we gather the last of the greens from the winter planting and spring herbs for our evening meal.

Author gathering herbs.

Once inside, our attention is turned to tasks that can be accomplished in a warmer setting. Chicken bouillon is prepared and placed on the hearth to simmer all day with some of the gathered herbs. Others attend to long overdue mending and sewing. Another spends time using their lucette, creating cordage to replace broken and mended lengths. The snow continues to fall and begins to accumulate. Occasional bursts of lightning and thunder steal across the sky and continue to surprise. Garden seeds are organized and the jardin plot is reviewed.  Anxiousness accompanies this planting delay, as it is quickly becoming past time in the new year to have certain seeds sown this season. The continued snow and cold this early spring have prevented normal progress in the garden. We will need to make productive use of any good weather to prepare beds and plant.

Before long, the light is fading and our meal of bouillon, boiled ham, our gathered salad of lettuce, spinach, and salad burnet, are placed on the table along with bread for a satisfying meal. A fine evening of conversation and song follows, as we enjoy the warmth of the fire and companionship of close friends. We end the evening, thankful to be so well situated with the late winter storm still swirling just beyond the guard room door.

27 March, Sunday

42 Degrees F

Sunny, Light Wind

Snow-Laden CanvasTarps

Morning arrives heralded with sunshine, a chill to the air, and snow covering the ground. As we attend to our morning meal and duties, we await the sun’s rays to warm the world around us. Immediately after the table is cleared and dishes are cleaned, we observe and are well pleased with the sun’s progress upon the melting snow. We are drawn to the garden, anxious to remove the tarps laid earlier in the weekend. We pull back the snow-laden canvas and reveal beds that appear fairly dry from the weather the day earlier. Seeds can and will be planted this day! Those that need cool temperatures to emerge and thrive would not mature into much needed spring vegetables, replacing of the last of winter’s stores.

As we bring our supplies to the garden, the work is begun turning beds and adding dry compost. Beds are smoothed and prepared for planting.

Antoinette & Renea

We furrow rows and spend the late morning and early afternoon transplanting the cabbages, and seeding beds with heirloom varieties of kale, leeks, lettuces, radishes, and spinach, watering each as they are planted. We make sure we rotate the new plantings from the garden layout of the year previous, giving beds a time to breathe and frustrating pests overwintering in the soil. (The newly planted varieties for this year’s garden are listed on the layout page of this blog.) A great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment today-the new planting season of our jardin potager has begun. Perseverance and determination have prevailed this day, both traits that serve a garden well!

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