Friday, May 26, 2017


We wore ourselves out on Thursday morning. First, we emptied the garden shed. The lawnmower, rototiller, and wheel barrows were easy. Then came all the tools like rakes, shovels, hoes, and other long-handled things. The tomato stakes, both metal and wooden, and the collection of various and sundry poles and sticks. Hundreds of little seedling pots and trays in every condition. Odds and ends. And garden chemicals (way-too-old herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, etc., from the previous owner).

These outdoor spider webs are tame compared to what I cleaned out of the garden shed on Thursday.

When the shed was empty, I swept the floor and walls. Then I used the shop-vac to clean the walls, ceilings, and the floor of the hundreds of spider webs, spider eggs, spider bodies, and actual live spiders. Yuck. We boxed and bagged a lot of junk for the dump, including all those old chemicals. I originally kept them when we first moved here thinking they might come in handy, but I've never used them; they're just too old.

This is probably the third time I've emptied the shed in fourteen years. The first time, that first year, was the worst. The shed was an unorganized repository for stuff that hadn't been used in years and I could hardly get inside, it was so crammed with junk. And the rotted door was patched with plywood. After a few months we had a new, lockable, door installed. As with all storage space, it quickly got re-filled with junk and less and less organized, so periodic clean-outs are more than necessary.

Now we start the process of putting it back together. I'm going to the hardware store to look for those things that I can hang rakes and shovels and other long-handled tools on so they're no longer leaning up against the wall (and falling over every time I take a tool out). Of course, I have no photos of the process, but I'll try to remember to take some of the result.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Misty morning

When the conditions are right, fog forms in the river valley as the sun rises. Sometimes it's a very shallow layer, and sometimes it gets thick enough to rise up over the heights. And sometimes, like on this recent morning, it's in between, just coming up to our house without engulfing us.

The small building with the white door (behind the hedge) is our garden shed.

The weather right now is very pleasant. The mornings are cool, but not cold (I go out with Tasha in shorts and a tee-shirt in the early hours before sunrise). The days are warm, but not hot. We're making progress in the yard and garden and I've started planting the vegetable seedlings outdoors.

Today is a holiday in France (Ascension Day), so we're restricted to not making noise with lawnmowers or chainsaws. Friday or Saturday will be the grass-cutting day. I may get started on cleaning out the garden shed this morning.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Missing another limb

When the latest branch came down from the old apple tree, I forgot to take a picture before I cut it up with the chainsaw. You can see where it was in this shot, where the fresh cut is facing the camera. To the left of that is where another limb came down several years ago.

The old apple tree is the biggest of the four remaining apple trees in our yard. A friend of ours believes it's a Bramley apple.

The tree is full of mistletoe, a parasite, and it will likely lose more limbs over the next years. One day we'll have to make the decision to take it down entirely. But it still produces apples and I use them in pies and applesauce, so we'll keep it as long as we can.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

Once again, with Callie. Today is a big day. Tasha goes to her new vet for the first time for a check-up and a booster vaccination. It's also her three-month birthday, and the four-week anniversary of her arrival at our house. Only four weeks? Seems like more...

Callie and Tasha take a break from running around in the sun. Taken on Saturday.

We can really see her growing now. Her nose is longer and so are her legs. She's getting the lay of the land and she and Callie are playing together more. Tasha runs circles around the older dog, literally. And Callie is getting more comfortable having the little one around. Tasha is learning the rhythms of her new life chez nous. She even wants to go out for walks with Callie, but it's still a little too soon for that. I'm trying to get her to accept a harness, but she's not quite comfortable with it yet. It'll happen before too long.

And, on the house-training front, we are doing very well. Tasha's new thing is to wake me up at 4:30 in the morning by putting her paws up on the side of the bed and licking my hands. I get up, we go out, she does her thing, then it's back to bed. It's better than having to clean up a mess in the morning.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Wild animal noises

For the past two or three years, since one of the vineyard parcels out back was planted with new vines, the grower has used this solar-powered device to try to keep deer from coming in to nibble on fresh shoots and grape flowers. One of the vineyard workers told me that it emitted a high-pitched noise that people couldn't hear, and it's true that I didn't notice any sound that first year. But last year and this year, the speaker emits very audible sounds at regular intervals. They're especially noticeable in the early morning hours when all else is quiet.

Notice the little bird perched on one of the vineyard posts.

I can only describe the sounds as wild animal noises. Nearly blood-curdling (especially at four in the morning) screeches and howls, punctuated with a series of simulated gunshots. I notice the noises when I sleep with the windows open. And also now that we take Tasha outside in the wee hours. The first time Tasha heard the thing she turned tail and ran back into the house. I hope it works just as well on the deer. Once the grape vines set fruit they'll turn the sounds off for the season.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

It's almost time

I'm thinking that this coming week will be the week to get the tomato plants in the ground. I'm hoping to plant the zucchini seedlings out today, and I want to plant a row of green beans, too. Then there are the chili peppers -- I want to put some outside and keep some in pots in the greenhouse. It's also time to plant basil seeds and a few other herbs in the greenhouse.

Tomato seedlings last week. They're even bigger now.

The rains seem to be over for now, so the dry and warmer weather coming up over the next few days should be good for getting the garden in. I also have to get the taxes (French and US) done this week. Our French returns are due on the 31st and the US returns are due in early June (citizens residing outside the US aren't subject to the April 15 deadline).

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Tall grasses

With all the rain we've had in the past few weeks, the grass has really grown. I've mowed our grass a few times, but the tall grasses out in the fields among the vineyards have really taken off. And it's tick season and there are a lot of them this year. Not so much a problem for us (although we are careful), but for the dogs and cat it's a real pain.

I imagine that the deer and foxes (and other wildlife) are not enjoying tick season this year.

They all get Frontline, but that just kills the tick after it attaches, so we often find a feeding tick on the animal before it drops off. We have a pair of little tick forks for removing them. I can tell that the animals appreciate having the ticks removed. If we don't get them, they eventually die, but it's no fun finding a bloated dead tick on the floor or, worse, stepping on one. Yuck.