Prior to my life in France I did not recognise how my birthday is an almost perfect marker for the beginning of what I refer to now as the sweet spot, the six month period in which life feels much more enjoyable than it did during the previous six! Mornings get earlier, birds get noisier, feet don't need shoes any more, sunrise becomes visible from our garden (for sungazing), the courtyard becomes our dining room, entire days are spent in the garden and most of what we eat comes from the fruit of our labour. While we could just categorise this period as Summer, it is so much more than just a shift in temperature.
I didn't notice the sweet spot in my London life because seasons don't exist in supermarkets and what we are really talking about here relates to plants which begin at this time of year to produce a diversity of food for us right the way through till the end of the year. Of course, this is only the case if you have spent months putting in the legwork, sowing the seeds of abundance & learning the ways of your local wildlife for foraging.
So, to commemorate this birthday (and the sweet spot of life!) I am going to quickly run through some of the things my family and I have been doing for the last few weeks with images which will be much more colourful than the one above.
Two weeks ago
The day before I went to the UK we taught the children how to plant tomatoes.
We must have around 200 broad beans in total (some of which can be seen in the background above) because the children love them. And the same can be said of tomatoes, though we have planted only around 30 of these.
There are another 20 which are currently popping up in random places thanks to that endless cycle which works wonders if you just let it.
A neighbour gave us a bamboo root which we divided up and planted around the garden.
And also in pots so that we may take this wonderfully useful tropical plant with us when we leave.
Here is a lettuce we planted in the winter. Ripe and ready now for my salad bowl.
There are ten different pea beds, two of which can be seen here. At a guess I would say we planted around 100 pea plants, all from last year's seeds.
But while peas are popular, beans are even more so.
I love the concentration on Luna's face as she tries to get to the yummy bit in the middle.
Esteban's personal pea garden can be seen here.
He is a very proud and organised little gardener these days.
Because as time goes on these actions become part of a person's daily routine, like brushing our teeth.
Back home when I needed to pack my suitcase for the UK trip I found the children playing in it with the kittens.
Here is Esteban with Sad Eyes, my favourite of the four.
I realised after packing my suitcase that we hadn't yet built a kitten playground box! So quickly put this together with the children before bed.
This will occupy everyone in my absence.
My flight was early the following morning and the children came to see me off.
You already know the reason I was at my mother's house in the UK. It was a testing yet wonderful week.
One week ago
Upon my return I was greeted with an egg & salad burger. And a glass of red wine!
I was keen in the morning to run and check our two gardens, after sungazing of course. Love the light at this time of day.
Am particularly enjoying this half bed which includes spinach, beetroot & carrots, surrounded by a rocket boarder.
Onions, peas & stinging nettles looking good here.
Will need to trim those nettles back though. We turn them into a nutrient mix which is fed to the other plants. And in recent days we have also been making soups & pesto with them.
I see Esteban still needs to pick his bottle grown peas!
After experimenting with five or six different styles of pea support I settled on this one as being the most effective.
A piece of bamboo supported above the plants with one piece of string per plant, staked into the ground beneath. With a little encouragement they are more than happy to grow up the string and don't need anything more than this.
With this in mind I have used the same system on all the peas & mange tout in our new garden.
Looks perfect to me. No peas are touching the ground and they are not too crowded, permitting decent airflow around the plants.
A more robust version of this same idea here on the other side of the garden.
Back home the kittens have been sleeping in their allocated zone.
But when we started finding little poops in it, we put it away and now they sleep everywhere.
Recently they have been favouring this box.
I cannot tell you what an immense pleasure it has been having these little creatures around. The word 'cute' doesn't even come close.
We are still trying to find homes for the two males, seen here. Brava & Ginger.
So if you know anyone in the South of France who is looking?
Five days ago
The weather wasn't great so we stayed at home to make a few things from today's harvest.
Esteban sat with me and did a drawing while I cracked our homegrown walnuts & hazelnuts.
We needed these for a stinging nettle pesto.
I will tell you the recipe for this in a dedicated pesto post, because I have been experimenting a lot recently and having a great amount of success.
Stinging nettle pesto looks like this and has a very strong flavour. Not a favourite of the children but it still tastes great to me.
The next one I made was with mustard leaves, spinach, rocket, parsley, mint, lemon juice, cashew cream, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil & salt. It was an incredible flavour combination and this pot is already finished, just one week later.
Because every meal can incorporate it! Here's me having a salad sandwich with extra pesto. Only the buns are not home made.
Another typical lunch can be seen here, this time with my home made bread, while the avocado & mushrooms are the store bought items on this occasion.
Our avocado trees in pots are still at least four years away from bearing fruit, but we are getting there slowly.
Here's one more meal for good measure, with carrots from the garden and sourdough walnut bread from Sam. This time the tofu is the store bought extra.
Oh yes, and we are drinking elderflower cordial all the time now. Thanks to these lovely flowers which grow all along the path to our two gardens.
Mix them with water, sugar, honey & lemon. Sit for 48 hours and sieve the liquid.
I made around ten bottles, many of which get frozen for the colder months when the taste of Summer can be appreciated once more, as fresh as it was on the day it was made.
Three days ago
Over in the garden the strawberries are in full swing now.
Check out this funky looking guy!
A lot of the cherries are also ready.
In abundance like the strawberries.
Puddings are quite obviously a mix of these two delicious fruits.
Keeping the theme of having one or two store bought items to each meal, this time we added whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles!
Raspberry season will begin in a few weeks. And we have plenty.
I also recently planted blueberries in the garden and here in our courtyard above one of the two strawberry wall planters.
Not sure if they will be happy in that palette but let's see.
Day before birthday
Sungazing at the end of this row of potatoes was amazing. And today is Mudra day! Four times a month I release unwanted energies and connect up with other great souls by doing this Mudra.
Am here at 6.30am most mornings now.
After 15 - 30mins of sungazing I spin my staff and get some movement going in my body. I also sometimes have a little jump on our trampoline at this time of day. It's good for the legs.
Then I run around and say hello to all our plants.
These beans are almost as big as me now!
Every day there is something to harvest.
I found Esteban fresh out of bed playing with Sad Eyes back at home.
Training her to stretch out and touch the wall like this.
The kittens are crazy active now, charging around like rockets, fighting, climbing and basically trashing our courtyard.
They seem to have 1 hour bursts of energy.
Followed by 2 hour bursts of sleep.
I smiled when I noticed what one of the children had done while they were sleeping.
Esteban did his homework with Sabrina while Luna worked on a drawing.
Later a friend of Esteban's arrived and they played together in the sun with the cats.
I noted how beautiful our two flowering aloe vera plants looked in that moment.
They survive much better here than in the garden.
My favourite growing space of all is just outside our front door. Over to the left we have the bottle grown peas.
Which if you remember started out as an aeroponic experiment. This turned out to be too much work and ended up with soil instead, currently growing some classic & Thai basil.
So yes, the bottle grown mange tout peas do work, but we are only getting 4-5 pods per plant. Incredibly sweet & crunchy however. Had no idea they could taste this good in fact!
To the right of the peas I have a nasturtium in the main bed ready to take over everything! Thankfully its leaves & flowers are very tasty in salads (spicy flavour) and I will be pruning it regularly for this purpose.
Am training it to grow up above the strawberries and over our front door. Nasturtiums grow out in all directions endlessly if the conditions are correct.
Feel blessed to have the first flower in time for my birthday.
Inside the main bed I have mustard, parsley, chives, dill, sorrel, basil & a tomato plant which I will grow out to the right of the strawberries.
In front of the bed is a palette with five mange tout peas and more mustard. Had to extend the bamboo holder today because the peas are growing taller than expected. Less light can have this effect.
As far as I am concerned birthdays are not much different to any other day. It's just another thing on a long list of things to celebrate!
And the only calendar that really matters to me is our biodynamic planting calendar (based on the work of Joseph Steiner). The upcoming month of June seen here:
So, we had some cat time in the morning.
Followed by strawberry jam making. Esteban should have been at school really but he knew it was my birthday and by 'chance' he just happened to be sick that day.
One of the wonderful things about the 'sweet spot' period is that we always have an abundance of the things we are growing. So we either give some away, learn how to preserve it, or watch it go to waste. I enjoy how it almost forces your hand to be generous or get clever.
Our scales only go up to 100g so weighing out 500g of strawberries was an enjoyable test for him.
We even had opportunity for a quick maths lesson because the recipe we were using needed to be halved.
All the ingredients can be seen here. Srawbs, lemon juice & sugar.
Throw it in a pot and boil it up for around 30mins till desired thickness is achieved.
Esteban made me lunch while I stirred the pot. He takes food preparation very seriously and says he wants a restaurant one day, in which he will sell the food he grows.
And there it is! My first ever pot of strawberry jam, made on my 46th birthday. Better late than never!
Esteban worked on some designs for his first restaurant while I enjoyed the view of a fantastic banana cake from Sabrina.
Luna loves it. We don't tell them that the five bananas in this cake were one month old and black & soft like you wouldn't believe ;)
Only the banana pieces on the top are fresh & yellow.
So that's pretty much it. We drank a bottle of bubbly, we ate some birthday cake and then I took this picture.
I did not intend for this post to be quite so long but this is how much stuff happens in just one week! And you're just gonna have to trust me when I tell you this is a highly edited selection of the things we have been doing. I didn't even tell you about the automated watering system we've been working on in the new garden.
My mother sent me a lovely bundle of seeds and a soil PH test kit (so that I may find the right soil PH for my blueberries) wrapped in dinosaur paper.
I guess she must have read my recent post on the non-existence of dinosaurs!
Thanks Mumsy. I love it.
But the present I loved most of all was from one of our banana plants which created a flower just in the last few weeks and chose my birthday to flop down from an upright position facing the sky to a downward position facing the ground.
I know this probably sounds like no big deal but to me it is huge! Aside from the fact this is only the third flower we've seen in the five years since we planted them, these particular bananas will be developing throughout the summer so their chances of making it all the way to maturity are much higher than these ones on the other side of the courtyard which have been there all through winter.
Okay that's it.
If you made it to the end of this post I salute you!
Thank you for sticking with me. I think I just needed to fully record what my life is like in this moment. Ten years from now this will serve as the answer to the question "how did it all begin?"
Now for the abundance of food in my fridge which needs eating...
Love & Light everyone 🌱