My permaculture garden (photo taken in August 2014). A catfight almost happened here....
TODAY'S EXPRESSION Occupe-toi de tes oignons
: mind your own business
Literally: take care of your own onions!
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A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Sometime last summer, a married man and his mistress visited our vineyard here in Bandol wine country. We had, earlier that day, been on a coastal walk along the Mediterranean sea, one in which I lagged behind the honey-haired vixen, whose skin-tight cutoffs hinted of a perfect, bikinied body just waiting to expose itself (later, when we reached the creek, I skipped the swim, opting to remain in long shorts and long-sleeved shirt--hat and sunglasses hiding my squinty spying eyes).
Any discouraging thoughts during that hike were about to rise to a new level when we returned home. Smokey, our 7-year-old golden retriever, bounded down the driveway, clearly on his way to greet the movie star who was now stepping out of her car. I followed, a few steps behind, watching my gullible dog who surprised me by looking past my guest and almost knocking me to the ground!
(Thank you, Smokey!)
Meantime, Jean-Marc motioned to the man to follow him down to the wine cellar, turning to offer a suggestion for the women: "Chérie, why don't you show CC (I'll call her "CC" for "Curvy Cutoffs") your garden?"
Oh yes! My jardin! It was encouraging to think that, while my guest had undeniably remarkable attributes, I had a remarkable secret garden!
Make that "somewhat" secret. On occasion, depending on my mood, I invite guests to visit my experimental garden, beginning the tour with a cutesie warning: "Please keep in mind," I giggle, "This is not Versailles!"
I don't know why I do this, as the word cutesie makes me cringe, but nothing like the way my guest would cringe when she saw mon jardin! The look on CC's face was more than bewilderment. The corners of her mouth turned up and she let out a laugh that ruffles my feathers to this very day.
"It's called permaculture," I said, naively believing this would shut her up in time to learn a thing or two.
"C'est moche! It's ugly!" CC snorted, holding her toned tummy for composure.
"Ugly" was a bit exaggerated. Sure, parts of my garden were covered with smashed cardboard (some of which still had packing tape dangling from the ends). Normally there would be straw covering that up, only I ran out (thus the upended chair, serving as weights). Looking around my garden, I wondered what it might be to see it with fresh, heavily mascaraed eyes....
Studying my long-lashed and long-legged critic, who was fit as a firecracker, I decided to appeal to her health-minded side: "But there are no chemicals used in this garden! It is organic!" I said, hopefully.
Having one last look around my Not Versailles garden, she snickered, "I would rather eat chemicals!!"
Shocked, I watched as Miss Unimpressed disappeared down the garden path, to join the boys in the orderly wine cellar. Smokey, hardly noticing her when they crossed on the path, came to join me.
We sat down on a choice sheet of cardboard, big enough for two gullible souls. My arm resting around Smokey's shoulders as we stared past heaps of compost. I thought about a lot of things, including all those previous garden visitors ("c'est moche!" CC was probably only saying what the other visitors were thinking!). Oh! And that stupid cutesie intro of mine, This is not Versailles.
No. This is Beverly Hillbillies! I grumbled, ripping off a stupid piece of packing tape and shoving it in my pocket (to be tossed in the trash later, if I remembered....). No wonder my butt is bigger than hers. My jeans are stuffed with crumpled up balls of packing tape!
For a time, I told myself that CC's comment didn't bother me at all. But you know it did. Eventually, I pulled myself up off the cardboard ground, kicked aside a rotting patch of straw, and planted a few more rows of beans.
It is only now, in writing about it, that I realize that I may finally have the last laugh. For someone whose initials sound like "see see", my garden critic sure lacks vision! Just look at the forest of dark green kale rising up among a motley crew--okay mottled bunch of mulch! Look at that bed of parsley (I may not be as sexy as you, CC, but you should taste my recipe called "Pesto in Bed")... and all that cardboard beneath the upended chairs, it will soon be replaced by rows and rows of thriving fava beans. On and on, in row after crooked row my little goofy garden grows!
According to a popular feel-good saying, It is none of my business what you think of me (or my garden!). The French say it another way, which is in keeping with the theme of our story: Occupe-toi de tes oignons. Mind your own business. And I notice, dear reader, that when I mind my own organic "onions" I am much more at peace with the world.
My Mom took this snapshot in August 2014. It reminds me of how much stronger I am, emotionally and physically, after spending time in the garden.
The back yard where I garden. In my mulching frenzy, I accidentally covered up these beautiful (cornflowers?) with cardboard. Will they ever come back? Last night I planted more fava beans in (what I think was....) their place.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety