Tuesday, October 16, 2018


We have quite a few birch trees around us. In fact, our property is called les bouleaux (the birches). The woods around us abound in birches and their close relatives les aulnes (alders) and les charmes (hornbeams). Birches are among the first trees to populate an open space. Many of the abandoned vineyard plots and fields around us are home to the young trees.

I remember birches from where I grew up in upstate New York, and reading Robert Frost's poem "Birches" (among others) in school.

The stream bed that runs roughly parallel to our road on the south side is called la rouere de l'aulne (the alder stream). I think that the word rouere is a more or less local word for "stream." When we get firewood each year, a good part of it is made up of charme.

Today is this blog's thirteenth anniversary. It's hard to remember when I didn't do this.

Monday, October 15, 2018

On the ground, one more time

This time it's litter. We see all kinds of stuff cast from cars out where the dirt road behind our house meets up with a paved road. It's not a lot, but on more than one occasion I've seen empty beer cans out there. I've also seen empty cigarette packs, dumped ash trays, used tissues, and fast-food wrappers. This is the label from a plastic water bottle. Some grape growers use old one-liter water bottles to protect young vines, so this could be from one of those.

High-end litter.

Not far from our house there's a stream bed that cuts a pretty deep ravine on its way down to the river. I've gone into the woods to have a look and noticed that people have dumped stuff there. There's even an old appliance, like a washing machine, lying out there. I've never understood why someone would dump things there, when there's a perfectly good (and free) official dump just across the river. And they take everything. I mean, if you can drive your junk to a ravine in a vineyard, why not just drive it to the dump?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

On the ground, again

Last spring was relatively wet. There was a lot of rain and the ground in the vineyard was mushy. At one point, one of the growers dumped a pile of broken roof tiles near his vines. Over the next few days, he spread them out, filling in low spots between rows so his tractor wouldn't sink in the mud. As they get run over and over, the tiles break into smaller and smaller pieces.

Terra cotta on the terra fresca.

Saturday was a beautiful day for a funeral. Warm, bright and sunny. It wasn't really a funeral so much as it was a burial. And it was not the least bit religious. Most people wore casual clothes, mostly jeans, including the mayor and the family of the deceased (us, too). Everyone in attendance gathered around the casket in the cemetery. The funeral director said some words about Daniel, more or less biographical, then asked for a minute of silence. Daniel's daughter read her remarks, struggling through tears, and another man read a poem. After that they played some music ("Memory" from Cats) while the attendees took turns putting flower petals on the casket. This seemed a strange ritual, to me. We all lined up, one of the funeral home staff held a bowl of flower petals. Each of us took a few petals from his bowl and then put them into another bowl that was on top of the casket. When that was done, the four funeral home staff took positions at each corner of the casket, bowed to each other, then carried the casket over to the plot and lowered it into the ground. We left at that point because Tasha had been waiting in the car for about an hour.

Our neighborhood was well represented. All but one of the permanent residents attended, and four of the people with summer homes in the neighborhood were there, too.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

On the ground

This seed pod is from an acacia tree. I assume it's from an acacia tree since the only other tree in the vicinity is a walnut, and that ain't no walnut. The stand of trees grows along a small stream bed that drains a section of the vineyards out back. It's a favorite haunt of the local chevreuils (roe deer), who wander out into the adjacent vines to munch on grape flowers in the spring. When they see Tasha and me approach, they disappear back into the woods. If she sees them, Tasha will give chase, barking wildly, until she loses them. I hate when that happens.

The leaves are also from the acacia trees.

This morning our neighbor will be buried next to his wife in the village cemetery. Our neighbor from Blois said she is coming down to attend the brief ceremony. Another neighbor who lives full time in Paris is also planning to come down, along with her mother. The daughter grew up in the house next door to Mr. B., and still owns it. I'm certain that the mayor, also a neighbor, will be there to say something on behalf of the village. Ken and I are planning to go, too.

Friday, October 12, 2018


Here's a vine that climbed up a couple of stalks of tall grass before it withered. I thought that the contrasts in color, texture, and shape were interesting.

I probably would not have noticed this when everything was green.

We learned yesterday that another of our neighbors has passed away. He lost his wife a few years ago to cancer and, apparently, just gave up on living. He was not old. We understand that his daughter plans to put his house up for sale. That makes seven of our neighbors who've passed away in the last fifteen years. And the third house (of nine) sold or for sale since we bought ours.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Late harvest

The grape harvest is still going on, slowly. I guess that lack of bad weather (rain) is allowing the grapes to develop on the vine a little longer. I noticed some red grapes were being picked yesterday in one of the parcels near the house. These are white grapes, either sauvignon or chenin, still waiting for harvest. The resulting wine will be sweeter, and will likely be used for a special "late harvest" wine or blended with other varietals into sparkling wine.

I wish I had noticed that grass stem on the left before I took the photo. I'm not above pulling things like that out for the picture.

It did rain a little on Wednesday evening. Tasha and I got wet during our walk, but as soon as we got home it all stopped. Figures. I was awake around eleven last night and saw lightning in the sky, but I heard no thunder.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Artichoke's last stand

Those Jerusalem artichokes planted next to our garden shed are still brilliant yellow. It won't be long until the flowers wither, especially if we have a cold snap. The taller flower stalks are top-heavy and some have fallen over already. But they're still nice.

Jerusalem artichoke flower, close up.

Ken and I got a lot of stuff done on Tuesday. I finished cutting the "grass" both in the yard and out along our road. Ken did a bunch of trimming and finished pruning the rosemary. There is still a lot to do before winter, but I think we're in good shape.

They're almost blocking the door into the shed. And you can see another patch of them peeking out from behind the left side.

This string of nice days we've been having is expected to continue, but with some rain later this afternoon. If it rains and stays warm, I may have to cut the grass again toward the end of the month. According to my records (yes, I keep records), the latest I've cut the grass is 27 November, back in 2013.