14 August 2008

Les caprices de la nature

Tomatoes in the garden exactly four years ago today.

We had our first vegetable garden here in Saint-Aignan in 2004. It might have been the best one so far. The weather was good, and the ground must have been fertile. It hadn't been tilled in many years.

This year, we don't yet have any red tomatoes.

Grapes out back in mid-August 2004.

And the grapes out in the vineyard are just barely starting to ripen in mid-August 2008, compared to the nearly ripe ones you see above, in a picture taken on this date in 2004.

The nice plum crop of summer 2005

The 2005 garden was also very good, and it was also a year when there were a lot of plums. the summer of 2005 was probably the best one we've had, weather-wise, with constantly warm temperatures and a lot of sun. The garden was great.

The result of a few minutes of picking on one plum tree
15 August 2005

In 2008 we haven't had any plums at all. And no cherries either.

The 2006 garden wasn't bad either. We had tons of tomatoes and tons of summer squash.

Tomatoes from the garden on August 15, 2006

In June 2007 we had more cherries than we knew what to do with (but we figured it out). Plums too. Otherwise, it was a lousy summer. The vegetable garden was overtaken by weeds, and the weather was too wet for us to be able to do much about it.

Ripe purple grapes out back on 15 August 2007

But look at the grapes in mid-August 2007. They were nearly all ripe. The month of April had been really warm and dry. Everything got a good head start. But there was so much rain in May, June, July, and August that the grapes were full of water and kind of tasteless. Then in September it turned dry and hot, and thegrapes shrank a little. Sugars and acids developed. It was a good year after all.

September 2007's warm weather came too late for the vegetable garden, though. It was a bust.

Tomatoes from the garden (tomates farcies)
on August 15, 2006

This year, the vegetable garden looks good but the tomatoes aren't ripening. There are no plums or cherries. In the vineyard, the grapes are all still green. Our month of April was cold and rainy — that's why everything seems delayed, I guess — and we planted the garden late.

It's no wonder people whose living depends on raising fruit and vegetables turn to pesticides, greenhouses, and fertilizers to make sure they get good crops. Nature is capricious, and every year is different from the ones that went before. At least that's how it is here in the Loire Valley.


  1. If I told you about our disastrous garden this year, would it cheer you up? No, it would make us both depressed. (The rabbits and woodchucks are having a blast out there, so somebody is benefitting.)

    Over the years I've found that there are always some things that do well. If it's not hot enough for tomatoes or melons, peas, broccoli and greens flourish.

    Gardening life here took a turn for the better when we discovered Stupice tomatoes, a Czech variety that produces small early tomatoes with very good flavor. Before Stupice, some years we didn't get ripe tomatoes till August, which is when the nights turn cool and there goes the flavor.

  2. Have you ever considered selling your surplus at the local market? I bet the locals would just love your produce ... everything looks so fresh, natural and juicy. And the extra cash would help you 'arrondir les fins de mois'... :) Martine

  3. How interesting that you have documented the garden production for the past few years. This is the first year that my tomatoes have disappointed. My Early Girls are usually going great guns in early July. This year I have plenty of green tomatoes, but no red ones. The only red tomatoes I have are the roma tomatoes (this is the first year I've planted romas). Zucchini's are going great guns. Peppers are ripening, but are smaller than golf balls. I'm thinking that 2008 is a flop chez moi. Still have a few months to go, however.

  4. Martine brings up an interesting topic. Not that I imagine you vending at local markets or anything. But what does it take? Do you have to get licensed? Do you have to pay fees for a stall at the market? Is it hard to start up in an established market?

  5. Ch., Sue says her garden hasn't done anything this year either. I guess we should feel lucky to be getting zucchini, yellow summer squash, and eggplants at this point. We also have a couple of Roma tomatoes that are turning red, but the others (Romas and another variety but we've forgotten what it was called) are still all small and green.

    As for the market, I feel sure you have to have a license to sell and you have to rent space, but I don't know the details. You also have to have something to sell every week! Once in a while there's a vendor at the Saint-Aignan market who makes a limited number of appearances, but most of them are there every week, year-round.

  6. Louise, one of the best tomatoes I've grown here in the Loire Valley is called the Fireball. They're small, meaty, and round. I got the seeds in N.C. Now I can't find them. I'm going to make an effort to get some Fireball tomato seeds for next summer.

  7. Martine, we've never considered selling our produce. We don't get that much. We'd need a bigger garden. We give the surplus, when we have one, to friends who don't have gardens (but most people out here do have a vegetable garden in the summer).


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?