Here we are rapidly approaching the longest day of the year, and time flies by – why can’t it just slow down ? I’d like to press the pause button just for a little while whilst I catch up.  So many jobs, so much to do, and not enough hours in the day.  Last weekend was wet and grey; and while it was not much fun for us, the garden and vegetables loved it; unfortunately so did the weeds!


The runner beans are smothered in blackfly; if anyone has a natural organic way of getting rid of them please, please let me know. I have tried washing-up liquid and at the moment am squashing them by hand (yuk) and then hosing them off with water…. it’s a wee bit time consuming, to say the least, but I don’t want to lose the entire crop just as the beans are developing.




We have never had grapevines before and we have much to learn, so at the moment it’s rather a case of discovering as we go along; lots of research on Google and lots of help and advice from friends for which we are eternally grateful.  In the winter I nervously pruned them, but much to my relief they survived and are flourishing – now onto the next stage.  We were up and out early this morning, training them along new wires, trying to tame them.


Even though I’m feeling a little trampled, I’m rather in love with my garden, and once the lawn is mown I think it manages to look good, weeds included.


The scent from the flowering Magnolia Grandiflora is incredible and as I duck down low to mow underneath the perfume is succulent and clean; no wonder it is full of bees. I pulled the branch below downwards to take a look (and to take the photo) and was amazed to see the stamen loose, sitting in the petals like matchsticks.


The mixed flowering-hedge along the drive has also come into its own,


and the terrace, totally unlike the rest of the garden, is a place to linger.  It is also the one place where I strive for perfection – that means it is weed free!


It’s not only plants that are growing at lightening speed; so are the chicks, now nearly three weeks old and they scarcely resemble those little yellow fluffy newly hatched bundles.  We are fairly sure we have two male and two female, time will tell!




There is little, that can beat fresh food straight from the garden, especially when it is totally organic. I am immensely proud to be able to give the children a simple lunch entirely from our garden and potager, red-currants, our first cucumber, lettuce, baby carrots; whether the goodies are eaten within an hour or less of being picked, or cooked whichever way –  raw or thrown on the barbecue, everything just tastes so much better for hard work and good fortune –  it all tastes delicious, especially the eggs thanks to our laying hens.




Everywhere around us now, food is being grown. Fields of barley and wheat swim uphill and down dale in the landscape….




Maize and sunflowers – another month of Charente Maritime hot sun and they will be bursting with corn and bright yellow flowers.



I have decided I need a cook, a housekeeper, a gardener and a chauffeur for the children – wishful thinking!  In the meantime I am forcing myself to take a break every now and then; the guest-house can wait, and the summer kitchen (a project that has been thought of but not even started yet!) can also wait; the weeds can grow a little higher but the children won’t be at butterfly catching age forever. One has to take the time to walk with them and enjoy their company.  Every summer day is precious, and every day I realize  how lucky I am.





  1. Lovely post! My sentiments are just the same. A long time ago I heard this nice little tidbit. “You will be as happy as you are grateful.” That says it all, I think.

  2. Another great blog! Yum, yum lovely pics too. When can we come for supper??!!!!

    Glad all the veg are thriving, and the vines too. Don’t worry too much about the weeds, a little competition for the plants can be helpful … what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

    xx Penny at Maison Maurice

  3. It’s a wonderful life you have carved out for yourself. Feeling very envious in my city apartment of those lovely, fresh veggies you are growing.

  4. What an uplifting post! And I loved the photos too. Good to read such things as we beaver away here getting through winter. (Not that Auckland has fierce winters, but it’s still winter all the same!)

    1. Hi Alison, our youngest daughter was born in Auckland, so I know a little about NZ winters, as you say not particularly cold, but I do recall it being wet! At least your winters are short 🙂

  5. Hi we have trouble with insects on our Vegetables and I make up a solution of 2cups of vege oil and a half a cup of dishwashing detergent in a garden spray bottle and mix well.Spray in the early morning before the heat of the day, works a treat for me, hope it works for you.
    Chris Hodgson. Gold Coast Australia.

    1. Hi Chris, mixing up the solution now, thank you so much, I shall go and spray it on before it gets too hot. Have a great weekend, love the Gold Coast of Australia, have had some wonderful holidays there and further north:)

  6. A recommended book is Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” about their first year living on a farm, raising chickens and having an organic garden. Parts of it are hysterically funny!

    1. Hi Judy, I am always looking out for good books, I shall find this one and get it, sounds fun and interesting at the same time, thank you, have a lovely weekend:)

  7. Do you gave a flock of free ranging guinea fowl? I found that I couldn’t live without them when I had property.

    1. Hi Diane, no we don’t. We have totally free range chickens and the two ducks. We had guinea fowl on the farm when I was growing up, my father always said they were there to keep the foxes away:)

  8. It all looks very beautiful, particularly the children chasing butterflies and the growing chicks…well done!!

    1. Hi Leslie, thank you. Hope you are having a good start to summer. Thought of you as we are going to go and rent canoes in the Marais Poitevin north of La Rochelle next weekend, upon your recommendation that it is the best way to see the wildlife in the Marais, 🙂

  9. Bonjour Susan! Your garden looks beautiful but I know that British have green fingers, haven’t they? I am totally obsessed with weeds and I don’t want to see one of them among the bits of gravel…
    I agree with you, priority goes to the family, the house comes next even if it is important to have nice surroundings. We mustn’t be slaves to our home.
    Bon week-end dans le marais poitevin, il paraît que c’est superbe!

    1. Hi Caroline, I believe the initial garden was created here in the 1930’s, the owners were from Paris, it was their weekend home, but Madame was British, Monsieur was French. I think this is why they have a semi British feel to them, the garden is a mixture of French and English. I can take very little credit apart from upkeep, all the hard work was done long ago! Enjoy this stunning weather if you are back in the Charente and have a great weekend:)

  10. Blissful – just looking at your photos. Much respect coming your way for the enormous effort involved in maintaining it and a growing family. Lovely that you are capturing the fleeting moments of life: both a garden and a family in bloom.

    1. Hi Mary, it is often said, “enjoy the little things in life”, for me a walk with the children in this stunning countryside or cutting a cucumber and picking peas really provide incredible enjoyment, I just hope some of it rubs off onto the children and they too appreciate little things, it’s a touch world with much pressure on them these days and I do feel we are able to offer them a little down to earth good old fashioned fun here! Have a great weekend 🙂

      1. It will stay with the children. I am into my seventh decade and I still remember time spent in my mother’s gardens (we lived in UK, Germany & US) and the childhood family camping trips all over Europe. It was a less complicated time in many ways. Your children get to learn about themselves and nature in unstructured time and in a place that far too many of today’s youngsters never experience–what with dance, sports, play dates, music lessons–every minute of every day scheduled, scheduled, scheduled. No time to think and dream. And your children will be the richer for it.

  11. Hi Mary, you are so right. Far too much is scheduled right down to the last detail – I really agree with you it is vital that children learn to make their own fun with things they see around them. Our children are so content running through the fields, sucking on a piece of grass, seeing a rabbit, it is those simple things that, for us, are such an important part of our childrens childhood. Loved reading your comments, thank you and have a lovely weekend 🙂

    1. Thanks for the offer! Our eldest daughter just returned from University and is being the most amazing housekeeper and cook, so we are just about holding it all together!!!

  12. I am in awe of your vegetable garden. Did you start that from scratch?
    We leave Los Angeles for Dordogne this Sunday. I might well be contacting you for gardening lessons.

    1. Hi Nadia, Thank you! We did indeed start it entirely from scratch, the only thing there were the vines, in fact it didn’t exist until March of this year, things grow fast in this climate! I am no expert, but a keen amateur so do ask away! The weather is just stunning, long hot sunny days not getting dark until well after 10pm, you are arriving at the best time of year. Have a safe trip and look forward to chatting more when you are in France. Susan

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