The Strawbridges/Creative

Cycle of The Seasons

At The Chateau we like to be as self-sufficient as possible and we find endless joy in living off the land and following the cycle of the seasons…we hope we can inspire you to do the same.

“We moved to the Chateau and made a new life in France to live closer to nature and everyday we learn more about the seasons and the nuances of living in the countryside. No matter where you live, there is a real opportunity to make the most of each season, to appreciate the variety of local product on offer, observe different wildlife, and to enjoy the changeable weather, come rain or shine.”

- Dick Strawbridge

Enjoying Seasonal Food

With fresh strawberries in summer, warming squash soups over winter, and a turkey at Christmas, we really enjoy the fruits of our labour. Each one offers a real treat and marks the passing of the seasons. It’s equally frustrating, though, to realise that it’s May and oysters are out of season until September (the wild ones, not the farmed variety). Or that it’s September and yet again we have failed to get our fly rods out and missed the wild trout.

Nothing compares to the taste of local produce in season. Although we’re not fully self-sufficient – some things, such as flour, rice and sugar cane, we can’t or won’t produce ourselves – we eat extremely well. We grow our food, rear it, harvest it, kill it, forage for it, hunt it, prepare it, cook it – and enjoy every mouthful.

Getting Back to Nature

We get in touch with our roots in many different ways – we know that sounds a bit ‘new age’, but it is a far description. Most involve being up close and personal with nature. In autumn, for example, there’s nothing more impressive than watching a murmuration of starlings gathering before dusk on a clear evening. Seeing wildlife at different times of the year outside your front door is very special, so don’t miss out. Go for walks or enjoy some feathered company while you work on your plot.

Adjusting to The Climate

We live in a changing world and the seasons appear to be changing, too. They still follow on another, but global warming seems to be playing havoc. We get hail in June, floods in July, and long periods of sunshine in January. Nature is responding too – birds nest before their food sources are available, and plants flower early and are then killed by frost.

Our experience and advice is definitely not ‘one size fits all’. It takes years to learn about the conditions specific to a given geographical location, and you will need to adjust your dates and activities to suit the microclimate in the area you call home.

Living Seasonally

No matter what time of year it is or whatever the weather, we always find something that we can enjoy and that can keep us busy. In addition to our suggestions below, don’t forget that foraging offers a bountiful harvest all year round. We try to make the most of our wild larder with regular free shopping walks in every season.

During winter we tend to rely on our stored harvest in winter and supplement outdoor veggies with crops from the greenhouse, geodesic dome, and polytunnel. We put the chickens in the polytunnel to feed on the pests and leftover soft fruit. We plant trees in unfrozen soil and leave the potatoes to chit in the potting shed. We maintain our tools, practise indoor crafts, plain projects or study, experiment and research.

At the spring equinox, when the sun is higher, we prepare the vegetable beds and harden off plants we sowed earlier under cover. They can be transplanted when the risk of frost has passed. We also incubate eggs, and hatch and raise chicks, ducklings, and goslings.

By summer, the vegetable beds are in full production, giving us time off ‘to smell the roses’ and go to the nearby seaside. We buy in five-week-old turkeys to fatten for Christmas and spend time preserving and storing – late summer is filled with making jams, chutneys and cider.

Autumn is when we harvest crops and clear the land. As turkeys and geese fatten up, we kill and process our pigs to ensure the freezer is full and that new salamis and air-dried hams are hanging for next year.

The Chateau Cycle

‘In early summer the runner beans are in flower and squashes are scrambling over the raised beds. Late summer is a bountiful time when we can sell some of our produce. Preserve your harvest by fermenting or pickling for taste of the season to be enjoyed all year round. Fattening up the turkeys in summer and autumn reminds us of the pleasures yet to come. In late winter it’s too cold to plant seed outside, but we can chit potatoes indoors for an early crop. Spring is a busy time, as we hatch eggs and rear goslings, ducks and chicks!

Don’t forget, you can also join the Escape to The Chateau Fan Club on Facebook and join a community of like-minded creative people who love to share their craft and DIY projects. So, if you’ve recently completed a project that you’re proud of, be sure to share it on there…we’d all love to see it!