….. 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.
No. 3 in an occasional series of articles covering agroforestry-related topics in greater depth
With all the uncertainties and misconceptions in today’s post-truth, post-growth (see below), post-carbon era, it’s easy to see everything just from the point of view of one’s own locality, country or continent, and not to take into account what’s happening in the wider world. For example, is the view of the farmer in the drought-stricken plains of central Tamil Nadu in India on, say, poverty the same as the French farmer harvesting his irrigated maize? No, in all probability! The bigger picture is relevant to our own situation, in that we can broaden our own experience and understanding, and face the challenges now confronting us, by looking at other approaches from other regions and cultures, and Covid 19 is a stark reminder that the whole world is in the same boat.
Recent world history, let’s say the last 75 years, with the effects of fossil fuel use, corporatisation, globalisation, greenhouse gas emissions, agro-industry, pandemics and climate change, has shown us that the current model isn’t working, and that we need to change course. Indeed, the latest health crisis is forcing us to adapt in ways that we never even dreamed of six months ago – internet home schooling, for example, and all that that will lead to.
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.
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.
No. 1 in an occasional series of articles covering agroforestry-related topics in greater depth
You may have seen in the subtitle to my site the words ‘Small-Scale Agroforestry’. The Forest Garden comes under the broader umbrella of Agroforestry, so it’s perhaps a good idea to begin this occasional series of slightly more technical articles with an explanation of what this is.
In essence, agroforestry is growing crops or husbanding livestock, or both, in among trees, and although today scientists classify it in several forms such as silvo-arable, silvo-pastoral, agro-silvo-pastoral and so on, the principle predates and includes everything we know today (including the nomenclature) by several thousand years, especially in the form of the forest garden, in tropical and temperate areas throughout the world.
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.