Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Summer sky

Our second heat wave of the year is building in. Our high here at home on Monday was about 33ºC (about 91ºF). Today we're expecting 38ºC (about 100ºF). That's higher than body temperature. Yikes!

Saturday morning at about 7h30 in the vineyard.

We'll be lying low this afternoon and evening. This morning I'll water the vegetable garden, then I plan to load up the car with stuff for the dump. After the dump, I have a couple of things to pick up at the hardware store. As for lunch, it's burgers on the grill.

Monday, July 22, 2019

State of the grapes

The grape vines out back seem to be enjoying summer, so far. There is no sign of crispy leaves or burned grapes. Let's hope it stays that way through this week's predicted heat wave. The blossoms are long gone and the grape bunches have formed. Now it's just a matter of time and weather for the grapes to ripen. If the weather stays hot and dry, the harvest might start earlier than normal. Still, I think it's too early to tell.

Healthy looking leaves and grape bunches.

Because it's been so dry, the growers haven't had to spray any fungus preventative since spring. And, likewise, I haven't had to spray the tomato plants. I use boullie bordelaise (Bordeaux mixture), a copper sulfate and lime mixture that helps to prevent mildiou (fungus or blight) on tomato and other garden plants. It's very similar to what the growers use in the vineyards. In small quantities, it's considered safe and is officially approved for use in organic agriculture.

Sunday, July 21, 2019


Here's the vegetable garden as it looks this weekend. I'm keeping the plants (and weeds) watered by hand. That's why there are very few weeds between the plants, but lots of them at the base of each plant. I pull some out every day, but they grow quickly. The row of kale, just behind the zucchini in this photo, is overrun with flea beetles. The leaves are pretty much inedible now, perforated with thousands of tiny holes by the beetles. I won't use poison in the garden, so the infestation will have to run its course. I read that flea beetles feed mostly on cabbages and kale, so everything else should be safe.

I'm hoping that the kale makes some fresh new growth once the beetles are gone. I will spray some soapy water on them today; I just read that flea beetles don't like that.

There are lots of tomatoes on the vines, but they're still very small. I'm pleased with the tripods/teepees that I made with the tomato stakes. They're pretty stable, and I shouldn't have pound in additional supports this summer. I've harvested about four or five zukes so far. The peppers are developing blossoms, but the eggplant don't have any yet.

The next heat wave is expected to start on Monday and last through the week. I hope the plants survive. I've had tomatoes burned by heat in the past. But I'm not planning to take any extraordinary measures. Whatever will be, will be.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Kitchen visitor

Earlier this week we had a small visitor in the kitchen. It was une mante religieuse (a praying mantis). I found it climbing up the window frame, so I grabbed the camera and got a couple of shots before it flew outside.

A mantis climbs up the kitchen window frame.

We're bracing for the coming heat wave, although there's really nothing to be done. I water the vegetable garden every morning. We're probably not going to go out and buy an air conditioner. The temperatures this weekend are ok, but the highs are starting to creep up. The air cools off after sunset and the big fan in one of the loft windows helps to move it through the room. The hottest days are predicted to be Tuesday and Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Wild chicory

I remember these common summer flowers as "cornflowers" when I was younger. Here in France they're known as chicorée sauvage (wild chicory). They bloom from mid-summer to early fall. Around us, they grow in the margins around vineyard parcels and in fields that have been left fallow.

Beautiful blue chicory flowers make their annual appearance in the vineyard and on the blog.

Wild chicory, along with wild carrot (Queen Anne's Lace), are the typical wildflowers we see at the peak of summer. I wonder if they're a little advanced this year because of the heat.

Thursday, July 18, 2019


Drought. It's official: we're in one. Major portions of our département, the Loir et Cher, are at drought level red. Water restrictions are in place that prohibit irrigation, watering lawns, washing cars, and filling pools and fountains. Watering vegetable gardens is only allowed between 8pm and 8am. We haven't had rain in over a month, we've already had a week-long heat wave, and another is predicted for next week, with daytime highs expected near 100ºF for several days in a row.

The wild flowers are drying out. Early? I'm not sure.

This is very similar, although not yet as bad, as it was in 2003 when we moved here. France, with the exception of the Mediterranean coast, had a reputation for being wet and chilly. No more. Our winters have been mild lately, with little or no snow. And while we had a wet spring this year, it wasn't enough to counter years of rain deficits. The level of the Cher River is at a historic low, and the Loire is lower than it has been so early in the season. The water tables are not being sufficiently replenished. The situation reminds me of the years we spent in California.

This coming week will be difficult, especially for sleeping.

My information comes from the web sites of the Préfecture du Loir-et-Cher and our local newspaper, La Nouvelle République.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


This is a variety of kale called Red Russian. It's the second time we've had it in the garden, the first being two years ago, I think. This year, a gardening friend gave us little seedlings, her surplus, back in the spring. They took off in the garden and were looking real good until a few days ago. We suffered an attack of flea beetles; they bore tiny holes in the leaves. This happened the first time we grew them, too. It's just a matter of waiting until the beetles go away (they do) and new growth takes over. We'll probably be able to harvest good-looking leaves in the fall.

Red Russian kale, just before the flea beetles got to it.

For two years we also grew Tuscan a.k.a. "dinosaur" kale, also attacked by and recovered from flea beetles. There is still some of that in the freezer, so we didn't grow any this year. A few years back we tried some curly leaf kale in the garden. It was good, but it turns out that the curly leaves are difficult to clean, so we gave up on it. These two varieties are easy to deal with, once the beetles go away.