The new diggers

The struggle to build a durable irrigation scheme for the kitchen-garden has been brought to a temporary halt . . . by rain. It’s the first we’ve had for many weeks, and should last  for several days it seems. It’s gentle and penetrative, fortunately – rather than violent and productive of floods and red clay mud-slides.

It means I can return to some websites and blogs I’ve book-marked recently, and grow a few ideas, indoors.

They all seem to centre around a pivotal idea propounded a year or two back  by Jeffrey J. Brown,  an independent petroleum geologist who posts regularly as westexas on  His ELP Plan in the face of Peak Oil and resource depletion: Economize; Localize & Produce :
By reducing  expenses now, while you can do it voluntarily, you will at least be better prepared for whatever the future may bring. A key way to Economize is to Localize.
Try to reduce the distance between work and home to as close to zero as possible and live in smaller, much more energy efficient housing, preferably close to mass transit lines.
Integrate yourself into your local community. Get to know your neighbors. Become involved in local government, etc.
Support local food producers, perhaps via Community Supported Agriculture, and support local manufacturing and businesses.

Produce  practical and useful items that serve to enhance the first two ideas. Grow as much food as possible. Mend, repair and recycle.

In this context it was interesting to find a fellow-blogger in the region,  posting about the CapitalGrowth initiative in London, in his own admirable blog  Un Jardin Potager en Languedoc .

His subtitle describes it well : Un cahier de semis en ligne pour me simplifier la vie mais aussi des observations sur l’horticulture dans un milieu méditerranéen, un témoignage sur la culture de légumes dans un jardin du Midi qui est, à sa façon, partagé, multi-générationel, semi-bio et même un peu politique …

One of Raphael’s brothers-in-law is involved with this new London scheme. Launched at the beginning of November 2008, the Capital Growth campaign is aiming to create 2,012 new food growing spaces in London by 2012.

Raphael  adds [my translation] :

On this subject [the ‘greening’ of London], we can speak about it because we are really miraculously lucky people: as newcomers to Montpellier, without the possibility of coming up with the price demanded by estate-agents for “leisure activity land ” and even less to have a house with its own garden in the city, we managed to find – thanks to flyers posted in  letterboxes around the city – somebody keen to help our kitchen-garden project and prepared to share land.
Without this miracle, we would have had to wait to qualify for one of the  few allotments of  Montpellier – or go into debt if we had managed to find something affordable at a real estate agency.

So – Come on : a small change in mentality, fellow citizens and elected officials! A weekend vegetable garden  for everyone! (for all those that want one, of course . . . )

Raphael is a  consultant Ingénieur en Géomatique whose potager is now up from 70 sq. m. to 240 sq.m. His approach is rigorous  :  we both are concerned by questions of water and irrigation – but he has researched the needs of various plants, and the variables in the soil’s ability to retain moisture.  But his anxieties about water remain : our region experiences long hot summers and the prevailing wind, La Tramontane [or Le Cers, as it’s known in our corner of Languedoc]  is strong and very drying. Most of the old and therefore successful potagers have tall thick wind-breaks to help combat the desiccation.

Nevertheless his results are impressive – and his photos are good too.

Here are some of mine – taken around our village recently. Every little village has such potagers – and while many are falling into disuse as an older generation retires, some are getting a new lease of life.


This walled garden at the edge of the village was started a few years ago by two middle-aged Moroccan vineyard workers. The pigeonnier is for the present, unoccupied.


Fava beans and artichokes have over-wintered well.


This plot has just been prepared by tractor – it was disused for years. There are two deep wells side-by-side that need cleaning out. And there’s a heavy old pump-engine in a hut that may require more than just a cleaning.

Below is the municipal allotment outside Lezignan,our nearby market town. It was once part of a grand domaine.


Below is the second half of the allotment. It’s mid-morning and all the men are of retirement age. Right next door is a riding school with stables – what luck!


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3 Responses to The new diggers

  1. matt says:

    This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

  2. Ruth says:

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  3. Rafael says:

    Bonjour Richard,

    merci pour les compliments !

    C’est vrai que la question de l’irrigation m’inquiète et m’intéresse. Il faut que j’y travaille un peu plus pour finir mes recherches et surtout que je mette les mains à la pâte pour tout mettre en oeuvre avant juin (il parait qu’il fera très chaud cet été).

    Pour l’agriculture, même si je partage le point de vue (en trois principes) de M Brown, est surtout une question d’identité, de lien (avec la nature, ma famille, les autres peuples), quelque chose de lyrique :-) Et si en plus, on peut participer au salut de la planète et se passer en partie de l’agro-business … c’est encore mieux !

    Bonne continuation!

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