Monday, September 23, 2019

Amandine aux figues

We are so lucky to have nearby friends with a surplus of figs. They have one tree that produces abundantly, so they often have more than they can use. And they graciously offer some of their surplus to us.

Fresh figs from the tree.

On Sunday, I made what's called une amandine (a pie made with ground almonds) with figs. It was, and still is, delicious. We also ate some plain figs with our cheese course after lunch. Fresh figs and sheep's cheese go very well together.

Amandine aux figues. It was pretty and delicious, if I do say so myself.

The rest of the figs went into the freezer for use during the months to come. They freeze well and are useful for making a compote or a tart. Yum.

We ate some of these with cheese and red wine. Tasty!

You might remember that I planted a fig tree many years ago. It's never given us much, just a few figs here and there. And one year it froze completely to the ground, only to come back from the roots the next spring. We're still waiting for it to take hold and produce. Hope springs eternal.

Sunday, September 22, 2019


This is one of the culprits in the pending demise of our apple trees. It's gui (mistletoe), a parasitic plant, and it's common in France. We see it all around us not only in apple trees, but in poplars and hawthorn, too. In the fall, the berries ripen and turn white. Certain birds love to eat them, but I read that they're poisonous to humans.

A rather large mistletoe plant in our biggest apple tree.

After birds eat the berries, they spread the seeds in their droppings to other trees. The seeds have a sticky coating that helps them to adhere to tree branches where they take root. According to my extensive quick and superficial research, mistletoe is nearly impossible to remove once it's established.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The leaning apple tree

This is the biggest apple in our yard. You can see how it leans toward the west. You can also see that several of the big, lower branches are gone, and how the upper branches are infested with mistletoe. What you can't see is that the main trunk is almost hollow (I'm sure there are critters living inside). If it wasn't for the fact that it's leaning into the prevailing wind, it might have come down by now.

Future firewood. There's more mistletoe than leaves on this apple tree. Again, notice how brown the "grass" is.

But this is not the tree I was talking about in yesterday's post. The one I want to have taken down is a tall cedar that's very close to the house and it, too, is dying. Most of the branches on the lower third of the tree are dead already. I've never really liked that tree, mostly because it's too close to the house and it's too close to its neighboring trees, a tall fir and a linden. Taking it out will help with light and will give the two healthy trees some breathing room.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The garden shed

I showed a close-up of the shed last weekend, so here's a wider view. We had a new locking door installed soon after we moved in because the original door had rotted away. The tree is the smallest of our four apples, and it's in bad shape due to mistletoe. I've hacked a lot of it out, but it always comes back. The tree produces a couple dozen small unappetizing apples each season that aren't very useful, except to feed the compost pile.

The garden shed, where the rakes and shovels (and a few hundred spiders) live. You can see how brown the "grass" is.

I've contacted the guy who trims our hedge every year and he will schedule us soon. I also told him I have a big tree (not this one) that I want taken down and asked if he did that kind of work. He said yes, so maybe that will happen soon, too. I'll talk more about that tree in a separate post.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Manual harvesting

I've seen a couple of crews in the vineyards out back working to harvest grapes by hand over the past few days. It feels like they're doing more manual harvesting than in years past, but I can't be certain. Each coupeur (picker, or literally, cutter) in the crew uses a sécateur (pruning shears) to cut the bunches of grapes from the vine. He or she also has a bucket to hold the bunches temporarily.

A picker empties his bucket into the larger "hotte." You can see the pruning shears in his right hand.

Another member (or members) of the crew, le porteur (the carrier), carries a large basket called une hotte on his shoulders and walks up and down the rows where the pickers are working. The pickers empty their buckets into the hotte. When that's full, the carrier empties it into a waiting trailer for transport to the winery.

The "porteur" empties his basket into the trailer by climbing up a ladder and leaning in until the grapes slide out.

I got a couple of shots of the process on Wednesday. These are smaller portions of larger photos taken from a distance. I'm not really comfortable asking strangers if I can take their picture, so I just snapped a few when they weren't looking as I walked by.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A closer look

I still have no information on what these five piles of rocks are doing out in a field among the vineyard parcels. They haven't been moved. I haven't seen anyone who might know, although eventually we'll see somebody and ask. So there they sit.

Nobody can see the rock piles from their house, you have to walk or drive by to notice they're there.

You can see that it's not gravel, so I don't think it's for filling potholes in the dirt road. Besides, that's a spring job after the rains have made more potholes. So the mystery remains intact. Are they there for a purpose, did whoever owns the land put them there, or did somebody dump them illegally? Time will tell.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Now you sedum, now you don't

Speaking of neglected plants... We put these sedum in an old planter box many years ago. The box sits on the ground out by the garden shed and only gets water when it rains. Which hasn't been much at all this summer. But they survive, even thrive, and this time of year they flower.

Kind of a wild, shabby chic look. OK, maybe just shabby.

One year, after digging up some iris bulbs to divide them, we "temporarily" piled them on the gravel next to this planter box. And there they have stayed. They sprout, grow, and flower every year. So there's color in the spring (iris) and color in the fall (sedum), and there's no maintenance. If only the tall grass would pull itself out...