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Monday
Aug042014

More garden progress.

I imagine some of you are confused about the layout of our land. It is kind of obvious where the walled garden is, and I´ve mentioned a few times where the veggie garden is (at the very back of our long, relatively narrow land) but there are almost 1,000 square meters of our garden that I rarely talk about or post pictures of. I always thought that one of these days I´d prepare a layout plan for you, and behold, today is this day:

Yeah, I know. Impressive. But it is as good as it gets. Does that make you even more confused? Feel free to ask questions in the comments. Anyway I thought I´d give you some progress report on the part of our land that adjoins the walled garden. I am not sure what to call this space. The middle garden? The chicken garden, because the chicken coop/run is located here? Any fancy suggestions?

If you are a long time reader, you may remember that I have written about this area before - you can read this post here. To recap, this was basically a dump before we started working on it. We turned over every stone and in May last year, everything looked like in the picture above - tidy, but not very nice.

This is how the same area looks now. It´s basically "done" for now. I plan to add a few more rose bushes along the chicken fence and add to the lavender hedge that runs along the ditch. Also I want to cover this ugly beige wall.

See? Ugly. We plan to grow grapes on this wall but need to build some kind of trellis first.

To the left of the chicken coop (and in front of their second run - see plan) there´s a new bed where I planted ten white old rose bushes, delphinium, blue geranium and alchemilla. I know it doesn´t look like much right now, but I am sure it will be a different story come next spring.

Looking back at the house. I do have a few plans for the side that is to the right in this picture. You can see on the plan that I want to add two more beds that run along the ditch. I´ve been going back and forth with this but I think I want to leave the orchard as is and continue the flower beds in this area.

Standing in front of the chicken coop, looking towards our neighbor. The hedgerow we planted along the fence last spring is doing nicely. One more year or so and it will actually give us the privacy we want. Also you can see that we already started with the beds along the ditch. I have a few plants from the walled garden that I want to transfer here in autumn. About that ditch: This used to be some kind of open sewer back in the days (yeah, I know, gross). We kept it because it´s a natural drainage for our very wet land. I´m not going to lie, I´d love to see it gone, but I think once it is all done in this area it is going to look fine.

This spring, we planted a sweet chestnut in the middle of the lawn. I always felt that there should be a tree, and a massive one, because I want to do something like this. However we also sooner or later want to build a green house (see plan, where the laundry hangs now) so this might have been a stupid idea since a massive tree means lots of shadow. Anyway we are talking 30+ years before the sweet chestnut actually gets that big so I am probably overthinking. So... chestnut garden? Greenhouse garden? Please advise.

Sunday
Jul272014

Royal charm in Eastern Germany.

Part of what I am trying to do here is to make people aware that there are, in fact, very pretty places in Eastern Germany, and particularly in Brandenburg. (Why would people think that this isn´t the case? Read this post.) I am the first one to admit that there´s still lots to do in terms of decent restaurants, and capable doctors, and HIGH SPEED INTERNET, but the landscape? Pretty spectacular. You totally should plan a holiday there! And maybe stay in this lovely little castle that now is a hotel. 

We came across this place by accident when we did a little sightseeing tour with my mom who was visiting the other weekend. It was blazing hot this day so we just had some refreshments in the castle´s cafe and then explored the huge park a bit. It´s very beautiful there. 

There´s even a fancy little pavilion that overlooks the pond. You could totally pretend to be in some Downton Abbey scene. 

The castle is part of a very pretty little village, complete with a restaurant that actually looked good! 

God, it was hot that day. Still is, actually. How is the weather where you are? I have to say I am looking forward to autumn. I might be a little sick of the heat and the mosquitoes. 

PS: This post hasn´t been sponsored by any tourist agency and/or the hotel. I am just happy to come across beautiful places and want to share them.

Tuesday
Jul222014

In the heat of the summer.

It´s really hot around here. It´s good news for the farmers I guess who have been harvesting the grain from the surrounding fields all weekend long. I will admit that even in the third year here, these huge harvesting machines do scare me. Once all is done though, it´s a very pretty sight. 

Ludwig does not like the heat but he loves runnnig over the empty fields. Also look how beautiful and grown-up my dog looks. 

On hot days like these I am grateful that this old house with its massive walls keeps so cool. Those old farmers certainly knew what they were doing. 

I´ve been eating a lot of what I call my "hippie lunches". Which means that I take whatever looks good in the kitchen garden and prepare it in the simplest way possible: Grate carrots, add lemon juice and olive oil, eat. Fry huge pieces of chard, add an egg, eat. The tomatoes are almost ripe now so I foresee a lot of tomato salad in my future.

The garden isn´t taking the heat well. A week of storms and now such extreme temperatures - it´s not a great recipe for a good looking garden. Lots of perennials which were about to bloom two weeks ago just gave up I think. I´ve been fretting over this a lot but only today I decided to just calm down and enjoy these rare hot summer days. The garden will recover or not. It is what it is, always.

And look, how pretty, the rudbeckia is blooming. I´m annoyed by this plant for most of the season so it is a joy to see everything looking good for once in front of the house. - Stay cool, wherever you are!  

Thursday
Jul172014

The kitchen garden, July edition.

The kitchen garden has really started to produce over the past few weeks. We´ve been swimming in sugar snaps, salads, radishes, cucumbers and carrots. The beets are almost ready too. The zucchini are a little disappointing, but I have a feeling we´ll get there eventually. I´ll harvest the first batch of green beans and kohlrabi this weekend. 

The tomatoes are doing very well. I´ve grown two Ukrainian varieties this year since they are supposed to fare better in our climate that can be rough. So far, things are looking promising.

The cabbage bed is a beauty. As every year, there definitely are some damages from the cabbage fly, but I think there´ll be plenty for the two of us. We are going to eat lots of sauerkraut this winter! 

Hard to photograph but this year´s chard is a beauty too. I tried a colorful variety this year (red and yellow) and it looks so pretty. Tastes good as well of course. After last year´s glut I thought I could never eat chard again but clearly I was wrong. 

Our giant potatoe patch with some runner beans in the background. Last year all of our potatoes drowned and it is a joy to see them thrive this year. Now we only need to figure out storage. Our basement is too wet, so I think I´ll give our barn a try this year. Any recommendations? 

Monday
Jul142014

About the quiet country life. 

There seems to be an understanding that living in the country equals a "quiet life". Whenever I read that somewhere, I have a little laugh. I guess this is true in the most literal sense - it is very quiet here (except on Fridays, when everyone is mowing their lawn). Otherwise, please define "quiet".

Here´s the thing: Living in the country usually involves quite a bit of land and if not big, then at least old houses. And if you care about your house and your garden, you work a lot. Like a LOT. And I am not even talking about wallpapering every inch of your house or creating a pretty flower garden. I am talking about basic maintenance.

Whenever I look on my Instagram feed on the weekends, I think "God these people don´t seem to have anything to do all day". I know Instagram is always deceiving because after all, these are only snapshots of our lives. For all you know by looking at my feed, I am sitting on my deck all day admiring my garden, dog or cats. Not so. Even on the weekends (especially on the weekends), I get up at 6.30 am and work all day long. If there´s a nap involved I call it a good day. 

A garden doesn´t tend to itself. And to be honest, gardening isn´t even fun most of the time. I am usually drenched in sweat and covered in mosquito bites after a few hours. It often feels like an uphill battle, because nature is a fickle thing. One day your garden looks fine and then a storm comes and everything is in pieces and then you have a little cry and spend a whole weekend frantically cleaning everything up (this might just have happened to me). 

I am not writing this so that you can pat my back or anything. It´s just something that has been on my mind a lot lately. All these magazines make living in the country look so romantic and effortless. And lately it struck me that I probably do the same. And I don´t want that. 

HOWEVER. It may not be as "quiet" as it looks, but it is a good life. I wouldn´t have it any other way. Tending to a garden is one of the most rewarding things I have ever experienced. But it´s hard. And humbling. I wish everyone would volunteer to work in a vegetable garden for a day in his/her life. I bet people would appreciate their food a lot more. Speaking of vegetables, I´ll post an update on the kitchen garden later this week...

PS: Anyone know what the blue flowers in the last pictures are? The appear in one of my beds every year and are so very pretty.