Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Éclairs au chocolat

Ken was out and about on Sunday morning and stopped at a bakery for some bread. Along with the bread, he brought home dessert: two chocolate eclairs. He said the bakery, one that's a few towns away, was filled with beautiful pastries.

Chocolate eclairs for dessert.

The éclairs were good and chocolaty, but not too rich. Just right, the way French bakers know how to do. It's nice to have so many good bakeries around, not only for bread, but also for the occasional tasty treat.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The wall

Here's the west-facing wall of the cabane du vigneron (grape grower's shed) out in the vineyards behind the house. I posted a closeup of these vines with grapes and red berries two weeks ago (Strange bedfellows). Since then, the pruners passed by and did their thing.

The grapes that grow on these vines are ornamental; nobody harvests them.

They have yet to do the south-facing wall. You might wonder why there's a five-liter wine "barrel" hanging against the wall. The plastic barrel's top is cut out and fitted with a wire mesh cage, and the barrel is filled with bird seed. It's suspended just above the ground. My guess is that it's there to attract and feed pheasants and probably other game birds, especially during the hunting season. I see a few of these hanging in other spots on the edges of the woods that surround the vineyards, but I've never seen anyone hanging or filling one.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Late bloomer

These campanules (bellflower) grow outside our front door and flower through the summer. Provided they get enough water, that is. During this year's hot and dry summer, keeping them watered was not easy because we were (and maybe still are) under watering restrictions. Ken and I save water from the kitchen for watering potted plants around the house and on the deck (especially the herbs), but sometimes there isn't enough to go around. So this year the campanules suffered a little.

The spikey plant is a variety of sedum that's quite invasive. We have to pull a lot of it out each year so that it doesn't crowd out the bellflowers.

Now that it's been raining again for about a month, a lot of the outdoor plants have come back to life. Our "grass" is a vibrant green, and the campanules have started flowering again. In spring and during a normal summer, the plant spreads out and there are many more flowers. Still, it's nice to see these few in mid-November.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Whole lotta prunin' going on

The grape grower who owns the majority of the vineyard parcels out behind our house is making changes. It may be because his daughter is taking a more active role in managing the vineyards. That's just a guess on my part, but we see her much more often these days. She recently completed her university studies in viticulture (grape growing) and oenology (wine making) and has become more of a presence out among the vines.

Unpruned vines on the left, pruned vines on the right. Sunrise in the middle.

Among the changes I've noticed is the annual winter pruning work. For a time there were two or three employees who methodically cut the vines over the winter. It was a long, slow, process. At some point I noticed that these employees cut the vines, but left them hanging on the wires. As they completed parcels, a crew of seasonal workers would come in, pull the trimmings off the wires, and line them up between rows for mulching. Now I'm seeing crews of workers doing the actual pruning, too. And it's going much faster than before. At the rate they're working the pruning could be done by Christmas rather than Easter (total speculation on my part). The permanent workers are doing less pruning and more tasks like replacing posts and support wires.

I talked to one of them the other day when I noticed that a couple of parcels had been cleared of their posts and wires, and the vines were cut down to the trunk (usually a single cane is left with buds that will sprout in spring, like in the photo above). He told me that the vines in those parcels are being ripped out and replaced with new ones. He also said they'd be doing the same next year in one of the parcels adjacent to our house. We've seen this happen in two or three other parcels over the years. It's an interesting process to watch. It takes three or four years before the replanted parcels will produce grapes. I wonder if they'll be replanted with the same or other varietals.

It's good to see this grower (and his wife and daughter) continue to reinvest in the vineyards. That tells me that they must be doing relatively well and are looking toward the future of their business.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Still there

The construction continues (it's been about a month now) down on the main road, which means the trailers and other equipment are still sitting out behind our house. And we still don't know what it is, exactly, that they're doing. It looks like they're burying cable, but we don't know more than that. Of course, we could ask.

Tasha inspects the road in front of one of the big dump trucks.

The daily pattern is this: at about 08h15, a couple of trucks come up the hill and park by the trailers. Sometimes there's a car, sometimes there's a motorcycle. The guys gather in the white trailer for coffee and to don their bright orange construction vests. Then the trucks head back down to the construction site below. Sometimes a truck dumps some gravel, sometimes the tractopelle (backhoe loader) loads some gravel into a truck. At noon, the trucks and the guys come back for their lunch which lasts about an hour before they head back down the hill. At around 17h00, they come back to pack it in for the day and head home.

I lead a fascinating life.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Fruitless plum

This is the ornamental plum tree in our back yard, a variety of fruitless prunus. In addition to beautiful pink blossoms in spring, we get a show of orange and yellow in the fall. The color is a bit past its prime in this photo because I usually don't take the camera out in the rain, and it's been raining a lot lately.

The flowering plum. Some of the cut apple wood is visible on the right.

Even so, we've had some sun in the last two days. I got outside with the chainsaw on Wednesday to cut up those dead branches I mentioned. Now they're cut to size and ready to burn. My next project, besides cleaning up the vegetable garden, is to split some of the apple wood that the garden guy cut up for me. Once the bigger pieces are split, I'll cover the pile for the winter. Next summer it will dry out and, if we're lucky, I may be able to burn it next winter.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Mushroom city

This has been an amazing fall for mushrooms. We had such a dry and hot summer; by contrast, fall has been very wet. Mushrooms are popping up all over. These came up under one of the fir trees in our yard. A few days ago, they looked just like champignons de Paris (white button mushrooms), but I have no idea what they actually are. I wouldn't dare eat a wild mushroom unless it was picked by someone who really knows what he's doing. I certainly don't. A woman in our region died last week from eating the wrong mushrooms. Yikes!

Some of the mushrooms coming up in our yard.

I got a chance to speak to the guys who are using our road for their construction staging area. They're very nice. I asked them if they were going to be able to fill and grade the spot behind our hedge where they've made those deep ruts. They said yes, that's the normal procedure. In fact, they got a start on it Tuesday. So, I feel better about it now.