Fort de Chartres Heritage Garden

Un journal d'un Jardin Potager du Pays des Illinois

Tag: vegetables (page 1 of 4)

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.

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!

Le jardin février

Illinois country

February in the Illinois country.

dimanche 1 février 2015

41°F, Cloudy

11 mph, WNW

As the winter days march onward and Le Fete des Roi, the Feast of the King-Twelfth Night is now past, Mardi Gras hovers on the doorstep, soon to herald the start of the Lenten season. With its approach, can the traditional renewal of Easter, both spiritual and seasonal, be far behind? The lack of snow in the Illinois country gives hope and a promise of spring. But the new season seems suspended in the future just beyond one’s grasp, swinging between the rise and fall of the temperatures. It seems to be in our nature to believe the seasonal vagaries of the elements are exceptional and unique to our time and place, but it is interesting to read an early account from a Jesuit explorer and historian remarking upon the unpredictable winter weather in the Illinois country:

Charlevoix, 1744

Charlevoix, 1744

“It is true, it was quite otherwise at Kaskasquias some days ago, when I left it; but I have since learned on my way hither, that the river was at first frozen over in such a manner that people crossed it in carriages, not with-standing it is at that place half a league broad, and more rapid than the Rhone. This is the more surprising, as for the most part, excepting a few slight frosts occasioned by the north and north-west winds, the winter is in this country hardly sensible. The river has not been frozen wherever I have been, but as I was obliged to remain all the day in an open boat, and consequently, was exposed to all the injuries of the weather, and had taken no pre-cautions against a cold I did not foresee, I have suffered very great hardships.”

Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix, Journal of a Voyage to North America, 1721.

Still life with basket, peas and turnips, 18th Century, by anonymous French artist

Still life with basket, peas and turnips, 18th Century, by anonymous French artist.

While reconciling ourselves to the cold as it lingers, a slow hum of excitement builds with the lengthening of light-filled hours each day. The temperature and precipitation might prevent active work in the garden, so time is now well spent sharpening tools, starting seeds, and planning the jardin potager bed layouts. Later this month the serious work in the garden begins, pruning fruit trees, turning and amending the soil in the raised beds, and planting the seeds of late winter crops. Mid to late February is the appropriate time to sow cold-tolerant seeds of spinach, cabbage, leeks, kale, and peas. Effort and care are taken to grow vegetables in the jardin potager that mimic the types and varieties that could have been sown by the eighteenth-century French habitants. Firsthand accounts of the travelers in French communities of North America remarked on the general types of vegetables grown and this garden endeavors to follow and reflect those narratives. Where eighteenth-century heirloom types no longer exist, the effort is made to grow more recent heirlooms that reflect the look and taste of produce grown during that era. These late winter varietal seed names themselves intrigue the imagination: Glory of Enkhuizen cabbage, Cavolo Nero kale, Blue-Podded Capucijner peas, Long Scarlet radish, and Monstrueux de Viroflay spinach.

Jardin potager.

Jardin potager.

The 5th annual Fort de Chartres Jardin Potager Weekend to be held February 28 and March 1st will be spent accomplishing garden tasks as a few habitants recreate the experiences of the colonists of the eighteenth-century Illinois country, readying a French colonial kitchen garden for spring. You are welcome to visit both Saturday and Sunday, from 11 AM to 3 PM and on Sunday, March 1, at 1:30 PM, meet in the Fort store building for a special discussion about French Colonial gardening in the mid-eighteenth century and information will be shared concerning the direct sowing of seed. Throughout the weekend, work will begin in the garden preparing beds and planting seeds appropriate for late winter. Heirloom seed packet samples and informational flyers will be available for those joining us to celebrate the new gardening season ahead. This event is free and open to the public. For more information call (618) 274-7230.  Salut le jardin février!

Jardin Potager Weekend, Février 2012

JMA Primitive ToolsAs winter continues its journey, dreams of the upcoming garden season are quickly becoming reality.  Jardin seeds collected throughout the previous growing season are catalogued and set aside, ready for planting as the temperatures begin their steady rise.  New seed varieties to be tried in this year’s garden are ordered and are beginning to arrive in the post.  Winter has been mild and kind, and we anticipate finalizing garden plans and the work preparing and amending the raised beds.  By late February the beds will be turned and the early crops of peas, kale, lettuce, and spinach will be direct sown with beets, cabbage, leeks, radishes, and turnips to follow quickly behind if the temperatures remain constant.

On Saturday, February 25, 10 – 4 PM, come and visit our jardin potager at historic Fort de Chartres.  Join in our historic journey and watch us begin the annual work of gardening in the Illinois Country.  Volunteers as habitants, prepare kitchen garden beds with reproduction tools and plant heirloom seeds of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, all heirloom varieties that might have been grown in Upper Louisiana. We celebrate the approach of spring with the age old activities that bring the promise of future harvests of the spring, summer, and fall seasons.

Thank you once again to Silvertree Forge, Jas. Adams, Proprietor, for offering to replace the wooden handles of newly donated period garden hoes and pitch fork.  (Thank you, Shawna Kadlec, for the donation!)  Mr. Adams has been kind enough to create our most excellent reproduction primitive garden tools used in our heritage garden.  If interested in participating or for more information about period garden tools, please visit the Participer page of our garden blog.


Fall Sunset through the Ghostings

Wednesday, 23 November

50  Degrees F

Mist and Clouds, Slight Wind WNW

Time, like the cool wind and rains moving along the valley, marks the swift change from autumn to winter. The jardin has fallen into a slumber, with the final harvest of this past season’s bounty to take place this weekend. In honor of Martinmas and fall feasting celebrations, our humble contingent of la Milice de Ste. Genevieve will be in residence at Fort de Chartres, recreating the experiences of the colonists of the Illinois Country in the 18th century. The Martinmas (St. Martin’s Day) celebration originated in France in the 16th century and spread throughout Europe.

Fall Jardin Potager

Fall Jardin Potager

Traditionally this holiday marks the end of harvest time, accompanying winter preparations, and the final planting of winter wheat. Feasting and bonfires combine with hiring fairs, as workers look to the end of autumn and the natural beginning of winter. Work moves indoors as the winter sits on the doorstep.

Beginning on Friday afternoon, November 25th, a grouping of some four to six families from the Milice will be in residence at the Fort through the holiday weekend.  We will be enjoying a brief sojourn within the comfort and security of the Fort. The stone bake oven and a large hearth will be used throughout the weekend to provide meals and baked goods, while the inhabitants engage in a number of out-door activities including some informal shooting contests.

Turkey Roasting on Hearth

Milice and Schuetzen Target

Traditional regional and 18th century recipes will be prepared throughout our stay and I have posted a few on the Recettes page, with more to follow. The remaining bounty of leeks, lettuces, radishes, turnips, and winter squash in the garden are yet able to provide sustenance and decoration for our comfort throughout the weekend.  Regardless of the weather, one can glimpse life in 18th century Upper Louisiana. Visit with us as we celebrate the bounty and blessings of the past season.

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