Thoughts From A Pyrenean Garden

posted in: Growing | 16

Welcome to my first blog for The Silver Tent. I’m delighted to be sharing, as a Silver Grove member, my ramblings inspired loosely by my garden. Some of my blogs may actually be about gardening. Others will be the result of the thinking time I have while I’m wrist deep in the soil planting, weeding, sowing, harvesting.

gardenI am blessed to have a big garden here in South West France in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Compared with my old home in England, land here is relatively cheap and on mountainsides you end up with a lot more square footage for your money. People are deeply connected with the land and we feel like custodians rather than owners of our little slice of paradise.

We have given our plot a serious makeover in the last two years and it now feels like ours as I can see our personalities coming through in our choice of plants and hard landscaping. We created a decent-sized veg patch and with loads of manure and compost added, it is now super-productive. The rest of the garden comprises a wildflower meadow, a flat space where we have a gypsy caravan and tipi that I use when we run retreats here, and a semi-formal lawn area at the front with a herbaceous border that gives us colour all year round.

I’ll post some pictures of the different bits in my blogs as I go along, but for today’s image here’s a general shot of the front garden to give you an idea of where I’m blogging from.

Today’s topic is on the subject of growing. Growing up, growing old, growing different.

It’s been a tough spring here for the plants, with loads of rain and very little sun. Winter kept its claws into the landscape until the end of May, with snow falling on the high mountains until very late, and with it cold winds to nip the unwary first leaves of intrepid seeds. I’ve done my best to protect everyone in cold frames, indoors or by giving up on raising from seed and buying plants from my local organic supplier. But they’re all looking pretty sad and small compared with how things were last year. We’re all ready for the sun to return.

This week I’ve been out putting in stakes to support my broad beans, tomatoes, aubergines and cucumbers.  The first rays of sun have been warming the ground and they now need a little help to stay strong and tall as they develop their root systems and reach for the sky. With as much tenderness as I can, I tie them into canes and string supports so that they have the best chance of reaching their full potential. What they needed at the start (snuggling in the cold frame) is no use to them now they are taller. And when they get taller still I will add more height to their supports so that as they bear fruit, they can carry the weight.

At the same time this week I came across a discussion in The Silver Tent between some truly amazing women over 50 who were feeling somehow ‘less’ because they could not do everything they used to do. They were more tired. They didn’t feel they had the energy and staying power they had in earlier years. It was making them rather sad.

As is often the case with me, my inspiration on this issue came from working in the veg patch. We are just like those plants I’ve been tending. At different times in our lives, we need different support. As toddlers, we had helping hands to help us find our feet, and we were ok with that. We had stabilisers on our bikes till we got the hang of riding. We had someone in the car with us as we learned to drive. At school we had teachers and at work we had mentors to show us the ropes. But we seem to forget that we’ve always had help once we’ve gone into our ‘strongest’ phase in our 30s and 40s.  We do massive jobs running families, caring for older relatives, holding down jobs, retraining from time to time, creating great art, cooking for whoever sits at our tables. We are wonderwomen! Little wonder that at the end of all that we probably need a bit of support once again.

So rather than worry about slowing down, we should embrace it and enjoy the new pace our life brings us to. Let others help us. I don’t try lugging bags of compost around any more and the delightful young man at the garden centre is always happy to help. I don’t lift big stones alone in the garden – we do it together, and actually that’s more fun.

We are now so ripe with wisdom that we need to tread a little more slowly – carrying that weight of knowledge is quite a job in itself! Whilst our muscles might complain a bit more than they did, our minds are capable of far greater vision than we have ever had before. Whilst our bones may creak a little perhaps, our insight and emotional intelligence is at its very highest, now that we see things so much more clearly. We may not have the endurance we once did, but every second of our active time is more productive as we know what we’re doing.

To my Silver Sisters I would say be kind to yourself. Give yourself the loving care that you have given others for so many years. I also recommend a bit of gentle gardening to remind us all that there is a flow to all things, and we need to walk softly, in harmony with the seasons of our lives.

Hilary Stringer

pyrenean gardenAfter she turned 50, Hilary realised that what she really liked was listening to people and growing vegetables.  She had accidentally worked as an innovation consultant, a Reiki master/teacher, EFT practitioner and coach.  But all of those were just different ways of listening to people. She now runs a B&B and Wellness Centre in the French Pyrenees were people can come to relax and be listened to, and eat the vegetables that she grows.


Also by Hilary Autumn ChangesVariety.    


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16 Responses

  1. Steffie Betts

    Loved this, Hilary! and your analogies are just perfect, bless you xx

  2. Kay Westmorland

    Fabulous Hilary! I can really envisage your garden! I look forward to visiting you soon

  3. Tamara

    Great wisdom from you dear Hilary coming out of your tangible love for, and understanding of, the eternal cycle of life. Just minutes ago I read a post about Walk Slow. I felt that beautiful leisurely awareness when I visited your home and marvelous garden. Thank you.

  4. eva wharehoka

    There’s something very wonderful about women writing and gardening….. Thank you Hilary for starting off The Silver Tent Blog and for these calming, peaceful observations. Gardening, writing, women sharing …. you planted new seeds in the garden of a deep and earthy and connected tradition. Lovely! xx

  5. Dee Twentyman

    I’ve always found the seasons of the year a wonderful metaphor for life and the picture you painted of your garden in France with your words made it come to life. What a lovely first blog Hilary and looking forward to seeing it for myself in September. Thank you

  6. Francesca

    I love this first blog of yours Hilary and the first of our blogs from the community itself – what wisdom so freely shared, thank you!

  7. Resa Ferreira

    I love the progression and the imagery. I can feel the truth and see it in the garden. Thank you!

  8. Nikki-Marianna Hope

    I love your blog Hilary, and all the insights you have shared with us. Thank you

  9. Jools

    A beautiful sojourn in your garden and a reminder to bask in gentle rest. A great piece Hilary.

  10. Kay

    Yes, I read this after asking my gardener to bring his son this week as I need young man power. Beautifully written.

  11. Mary

    Thank you Hilary. Love this, a fruitful reflection for those of us whose bodies are forcing us to slow down.

  12. Siobhan

    Oh I love this Hilary! Especially the ending… walk softly through the seasons of our lives. Thank you.

  13. Vanessa

    Beautiful Hilary! And I’m sooo blessed to have visited your corner of paradise!
    I love the thought of being weighed down with knowledge and wisdom… so THAT explains why it takes me a little longer to leap up now 🙂

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