….. meaning phew!, or expressing relief. We’ve had some rain (68mm), and more is forecast in the next few days. We had to wait until the third week of the month, and until then summer continued, with another heat peak around the 15th. And now we are getting noticeably shorter days (equi nox), the mornings and evenings are a lot cooler, and right at the end of the month I lit the woodburner in the evening for the first time.
Although over the last four months we have had about 190mm of rain, two-thirds of the published local average for this period (see the paragraph on weather recording below), the ground has been very dry to quite a depth, and together with the several heat peaks this constitutes a drought for the land here, not good news for young trees.
The weather has to be the main topic of this month’s blog. It has been very dry, but we have also had heat peaks of just under 40°C. These have stressed my plants considerably, but it is the underlying dryness of the land which is the main concern; in sum, we have had three months of drought, and it will be interesting to see if we get any significant rainfall in September.
We have had 50mm of rain, but half of that fell in the last four days of the month, plus a further 11mm on the 22nd. We had a short canicule (Blog post, August 1st) during the second week of August, but after that it became cooler and by the last week it was time for trousers and shoes again.
I would like to dedicate this month’s blog post to James Lovelock, who celebrated his 101st birthday a few days ago. By any measure an extraordinary person, this independent scientist/inventor/engineer has been publishing original and challenging ideas on the future for our world and the planet for half his life (yes, 50 years), shows no sign of letting up, and just keeps on getting better! The paperback edition of his latest book Novacene (2019) – my bet is that the name will stick – was published on Thursday, and he is already working on the next one.
With two doctorates and innumerable awards over his lifetime, he was employed by NASA in the 1960’s inventing equipment for space exploration, and famously designed and built a ‘homemade’ gas chromatograph in three days (the Electron Capture Detector), a highly sensitive instrument which measures industrial poisons in parts per trillion, signalling the dangers of CFC’s in the 1970’s and revolutionising our understanding of the atmosphere and pollutants.
Summer is here at last, although for the first three weeks of June, I was beginning to wonder! Then the cool, wet weather we had been having turned warm and sunny just in time for the official start of summer, and the season has definitely changed. Despite the dull weather, we didn’t have as much rain as in May, around 60mm.
This month has exceeded all my expectations, since the wild flower census revealed no fewer than 60 different species! For me, on an area of just 3000 square metres, this is really astonishing! The photo above is of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), which seems to be coming in abundance this year, and which is for me the definitive wild flower, full of symbolism, resilient and yet capricious, producing hundreds of tiny seeds per plant, but fussy on where it establishes itself. Named for the Christian saint’s day at the start of summer, it represents long, sunny days and also an aid to good health, since it is an important medicinal plant. To see the full list of this month’s wild flowers, click on the button below.
One of the main reasons for starting a blog is to give a monthly update on the activities of the Sombrun Forest Garden Project. There will be other occasional posts on more technical information such as the biodiversity surveys (see previous post), or discussion of fundamental topics related to forest gardens.
The weather in the first half of April was mostly warm and sunny, although marked at times by a persistent cold easterly wind peculiar to this area of France, while the second half was mostly overcast, with showers and some more persistent rain at times.
Each month I will be doing a census of different life forms in the forest garden. I have started with wild flowers and have recorded 50 different species for April, which is very pleasing. The idea is to compare the censuses over the years to give an idea of the evolution of all the ecosystems in the forest garden, and the evolution of the whole garden.
The Sombrun Forest Garden Project began in 2018 with the purchase of the property, but the idea goes a lot further back than that. At the moment, I am in the analysis and early development stage.
Site analysis and assessment involves the site itself, which is mostly an open meadow, researching elements such as mapping, the local environment, topography, geology, hydrology, climate and so on. Early development includes the management of existing pioneer species and the planting of new ones, including nitrogen-fixers, creating basic infrastructure such as pathways and swales, and producing useful herbaceous species such as comfrey, horseradish and borage.
I would like to share with you my experiences on creating and establishing the Sombrun Forest Garden Project, and my thoughts on environment and ecology with particular reference to agroforestry and nutrition.