Friday 4 June 2021

French Dirt

Finished May 30
French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France by Richard Goodman

This book is about the time the author spent in a small village in southern France. It was a twelve month period, where he and his girlfriend rented a large stone house (owned by an American couple who had renovated what had previously been a silkworm nursery). He had planned for several months in advance to budget enough money to afford to do this, and they were watching their money carefully. 
At first, they walk around the village and surrounding area, and watch the people, and then they begin to reach out to their neighbours and ask questions and learn about things. 
Richard gets to know the man, Jules, who will help him make a garden of his own (the first he's ever had) when he trades his labour for firewood for the winter. The area is one of many vineyards, most of which get made into supermarket wine, and the wood he gets is mostly old vines, which suit the purpose admirably. His labour is in one of these vineyards, clearing out stones and other impediments to the vines with a group of local farmers. Richard spent his life in large American cities mostly in apartments where he didn't have an opportunity to garden, but he'd been interested since he was a child following his grandmother's gardener around when she visited his parents home near the ocean in the summer. He is in his forties when he has this experience, but it made a huge impact on his life. He changed the name of the village to protect the privacy of the villagers he became friends with over the year, many of whom he remains friends with still.
His Dutch girlfriend Igminia plays a minor role here, and it seems that their relationship didn't last much longer, but the focus of the book is on the village and the garden. He talks about the house, the village, the people that he met while living there, and the garden he created. You definitely get a good sense of the amount of work he put into the garden, visiting it twice daily and spending several hours there. He mostly borrowed the tools he needed, and he had to haul water from a nearby stream, and later, during the hottest part of the summer in August, had to borrow water storage containers and pump water into them from a river with the help of Jules. He asks for advice from his new friends, watches them garden, and works in local gardens as well. 
You can see the love his has for this activity and its results. I really enjoyed this book.

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