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French Dirt by Richard Goodman

Garden, Vacation, and Book Tour

Forgive me people, for I have slacked.  I confess I haven’t posted a review in over a month.  Life sometimes gets busy and I have neglected my blog.  So, instead of staying stagnant on one book until I can catch up, I’ve decided to make this the “stuttering summer.” I’m going to repeat posts on books I’ve enjoyed about my favorite summer activities: gardening and traveling. I’m also going to introduce you to my own garden with the help of two handsome guides—Jonathan and Drew Scott—those talented and fun men who host several home improvement shows:  Property Brothers, Buying and Selling, and Brother vs Brother.

Meet Jonathan Scott.  Here he is standing next to candytuft in May. The gnomes were my Mother's Day gift this awesome is that?!  :)

Meet Drew Scott.  Here he is standing next to poppies in May.

Here is my mass of candytuft getting ready to bloom.  In the background is a weathered birdhouse my mom and stepdad made.  It's the highlight of my garden and each time I look at it, it reminds me of my mom who recently passed away. 

Nowon to the book review which I first posted on March 18, 2013. 

French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France by Richard Goodman is short book about a great undertaking in France.  American Richard Goodman and his Dutch girlfriend decided to move to a small village in France for one year.  The town had a population of 211 people.  Not only did this scant number of inhabitants not warrant a movie theater, there was also no post office, no grocery store, no butcher, no gas station.  There weren’t any stores at all. In the mornings trucks peddling bread, meat, and even shoes came to the town square.  That was the highlight of the day.  So what did people do for recreation?  Well, gardening ranked up there, but not really for recreational purposes.  These people took gardening seriously.  When Richard had a difficult time making friends, he made a garden.  And with his garden friendships ultimately developed.  This book is not just about the thrill of growing your own vegetables, the miracle of planting seeds, nurturing them, and getting delicious crops at the end of the season.  This book takes us to a foreign land with different cultures and lifestyles.  It’s like a relaxing little vacation while watching Richard do all the hard work in the garden.  I really liked the book.

I found it interesting that in this tiny village with land all around them, people did not have gardens in their backyards.  It doesn’t really sound like they even had backyards, or at least Richard didn’t talk about them. The villagers had plots of land surrounded by vineyards.  They had to walk or ride their mobilettes (motor bikes) to their gardens.
It very much reminded me of my grandmother in Germany.  She lived in an apartment her entire adult life.  There was a courtyard in the back of the building, but no room for residents to have their own gardens.  So, as was the custom, she and my grandfather rented a plot of land in a gardening community. It was a thirty-minute bike ride from her apartment.  To me, her garden was an enchanting world of its own. Each plot had its own little garden house.  My grandmother’s wasn’t all that fancy. If I remember right it had a stove, table and chairs in it along with a bench.  Behind it was a stinky old outhouse which I hated to use.  Next to the outhouse was a giant composting area.  It seemed enormous, as big as a minivan.  Maybe it just seemed so big because I was so small back then. Every once in a while I remember my grandmother scattering white powder all over it. What was it?  I’m not sure, maybe lime to break it down. 

On the other side of the house was a tiny lawn and outdoor patio.  The lawn area was surrounded by currant bushes which we would have in bowls sprinkled with sugar for dessert many times.  I also remember that mice or some other pests would work their way into the lawn.  My grandmother would have me stand on one hole, while she poured boiling water into the other hole.  That should give them something to think about next time they dare dig in her lawn. 

In front of the house was the main garden.  It was divided in two by a path and small fruit trees.  This is where the real work took place.  I can still see my grandmother kneeling in the dirt weeding the strawberries. She grew all kinds of fruits and vegetables including potatoes, asparagus, carrots, leeks, cucumbers, rhubarb, onions, green beans and more, which she always took home and made into something delicious or canned it for the winter.  She also had a great variety of fruit including the biggest and best tasting Bing cherries, gooseberries, and raspberries. She had an Italian plum tree and made a plum cake and mouthwatering delicious plum jam. She would take crates of her apples from her trees to have juice made from them.

I loved my grandmother, and one of my fondest memories was seeing her on her bike with big sprays of flowers from her garden. Throughout  spring and summer her home was filled with cheery bouquets of sweet peas, freesias, lilacs, peonies, mums, geraniums, and giant gladiolas.
She passed down her “gardening gene” to my mother, who then passed it down to me.  I still have grape hyacinth bulbs from her that bloom in my garden every year.  My grandmother brought them to my mom on a visit to America ages ago.  My mom gave me some and whenever I moved, they moved with me.  I dug up the bulbs and replanted them.  Even though my grandmother passed away a long time ago, each spring when the beautiful periwinkle flowers bloom, I think about her.
My grandmother standing next to her balcony flowers. 
Happy Gardening, Happy Reading!


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