Rather than providing a sterile coverage of his garden in the spring, Daniel sent us a poetic letter in his distinctive pen. We will publish a translation of selected excerpts here. The original text can be found on our blog in French.
A house without a garden is an orphanage
Text by Daniel Testard
This spring the winds blow as it pleases, sometimes warm, sometimes cold, sometimes dry, sometimes moist. They allow themselves a few mood swings and bring forth unexpected scents. Astoundingly this year: the absence of snails, which usually nibble away at their young and tender favourites. Perhaps it’s the consequence of a winter without rain, that already let them die of thirst? Or maybe it is my naughty chickens vivaciously jumping over fences to eat up sprawling gastropods?
At the moment, my whole attention is paid to the germination of the small Yin-Yang beans. The seeds have a white side with a black dot and a black side with a white dot. I have also sown venerable old Cherokee beans this year, in memory of our friends, the North American indigenous people. And then there is a plant that I have christened the “Artichou”, because it looks like an Artichoke and tastes like a cabbage. We cook them with salty butter. After all, we are in Brittany here!
I also notice again and again that gardening is a form of violence against nature, however much I try to work in harmony with the forces of nature. The gardener is in a sense forcing nature to produce something what it would not have produced on its own. As a compensatory measure for the influence of this violent act I always leave some areas between my clean lined-up cultures untouched. Every year wild flowers sow themselves and dance among the ranks of my domesticated vegetable varieties. Forget-me-nots, poppies, Nasturtium and starflowers welcome bumblebees and butterflies, though unfortunately the bees are becoming rarer due to our madness…
Radish and potatoes are on our happy table every day – again with salted butter! Old potato varieties full of wrinkles taste even more delicate than young new varieties. I notice that the Colorado potato beetle has strangely disappeared from my flower beds. Maybe it’s a consequence of my decision to use less compost to prevent eutrophication? Also I see no bleaching on the leaves this year – they have become more resistant to fungal attacks!
A garden truly is an image of its gardener. It says everything about the temperament, vigour, happiness and pain of its patron. Sometimes I wonder whether the limits that we force onto our plants are not a result of the daily requirements of our too-active lifestyles. Are the cultures, perfectly lined up, not the mirror image of excessive discipline of the master that I am to them? Or, on the contrary, does a neglected garden show a lack of organization and defective order? Every gardener is an artist. That is why the “good” cannot be separated from the “beautiful”. The staging of a garden reflects what the rake, the grate and the watering can have given him, sometimes brawny, sometimes soft…
A part of the garden is veiled like a pretty bride, to protect it against parasites. Because as wonderful as butterflies are, from their eggs hatch larvae that are lethal for carrots, cabbage, onions, radish and leek. These cultures will spend the entire summer under the woven web to avoid using treatments with evil chemical pesticides. The paths are kept clean with the rake, but around them the tall grass grows, mowed only occasionally with the scythe. And if you want to know what miracle makes the pebbles in my courtyard so bright, then ask the vinegar! It is a safe herbicide because it kills only the leaves and not the roots. I will have to repeat this treatment tirelessly throughout all of spring and summer! Oh this untamable and sometimes intolerable nature!
This arable land, this amorous earth, she is our precious mother. Naturally she gives herself to us for the preservation of our bodies. But it gives us a lot more too. She takes care of our whole being. The garden is a delicatessen and a perfume factory. It prepares remedies for us from precious herbal and aromatic spices. This whole abundance will delight even the compost, which in turn will let its own alchemy take effect – a magical mystery for the good health of the garden and his gardener.
Daniel Testard, Quily, May 2017