Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Back to school

Most school kids in France head back to class today. Vacation time is officially over. That doesn't mean that people aren't still out there touring around. Plenty of Europeans, especially retirees, take advantage of the smaller crowds to enjoy touring around in September and October. And this year we're in luck, or at least this week, because the sun is shining and the temperatures are very pleasant.

Late summer sun shines through a small bunch of grapes.

As for me, I've got lots of garden chores lined up. We're still harvesting beans and tomatoes, which means processing them for preservation. Ken wants to go out and collect ripe plums that no one else is harvesting; more processing. I'm also planning to get my hedge trimming done this week. The tall hedges I save for the pros these days, but I still handle the lower hedges myself. I don't need a ladder to do those.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Periodic puppy pics

You may recognize the location. It's out near the end of our walk, where the dirt road joins up with the paved roads through the vineyards. On this day we made a loop, cutting through the vines up to one of the paved roads, then followed it out to this point where I turned back onto the dirt road. Callie took a shortcut through a small field by the vines and watched as I made my longer turn.

Mademoiselle attend son maître.

Callie has been walking these routes for over seven years now and she knows her way around the vineyards. She's so patient with me when she takes me I take her for a walk.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Trimming the vines

This is the back end of a vineyard tractor fitted with a spray attachment. You can see how the tractor is built to ride up over the tops of the vine rows. The spray nozzles are directed at the sides of the vines to ensure complete coverage. Some of the nozzles on this sprayer are folded in against the top of the tractor. When he's spraying, the grower swings those nozzles out to the sides so he can spray nearly five rows with each pass. The whole thing in action looks like some kind of alien creature.

The cutting machine sounds a little like Edward Scissorhands doing his thing.

This time, however, the grower is not spraying. On the front end of his tractor is another attachment that holds half a dozen or more rotating blades. As he plies the rows, the spinning blades cut long vine stems from the sides and tops of the plants without touching the precious grape bunches hanging below. If I'm not mistaken, this is a parcel of sauvignon blanc grapes.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

All is not lost

Even with the blight taking out much of our tomato crop, I still managed to pick a good-sized basket of tomatoes on Friday. They're mostly not finished ripening, so we've put them in paper bags with apples to help them along. If I left them on the vine to ripen, they'd probably succumb. The cucumbers are doing very well; I picked four of them yesterday. And the green beans have been wildly successful.

We got 4 or 5 of these potimarrons (red kuri squash). They have a nice chestnutty flavor.

The three sisters garden plot is okay. There are winter squash, but not as many as I thought there would be. That's probably just as well since we still have three squash in the cellar from last year's crop. The corn stalks have ears, but they look rather small. The climbing beans are producing, too.

The Swiss chard is amazing. We've had one harvest already and there is plenty more out there. The peppers have set fruit, so it's up to the weather as to how well they do. The eggplants are not so good, with leaves dropping off. Some of them have blossoms and there are a couple of tiny eggplants. But, like with the peppers, it's all up to the weather now.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Sad tomatoes

This is, I think, what tomato blight looks like. Our wet summer has been particularly cruel to the home gardener's tomato crop. We've heard from a lot of people about how their tomatoes are pourries (rotten) this year. Many gardeners have destroyed their whole crop to keep the fungus from spreading. Still, I see some gardens around the neighborhood with gorgeous tomato plants, probably part luck and part diligent preventative care.

You can see how the blight affects the stem and leaves of the tomato plant. Yuck.

We've still got some healthy tomatoes, so we're hanging in there and destroying infected fruit. I dumped a 20-liter bag of rotten tomatoes into the garbage can last week. So sad. The blight shows up in the leaves first, then moves into the stems. When fruit forms, the fungus quickly infects it as well.

Two infected tomatoes before I removed them. The stem to the left is completely brown.

I read about blight and there's not a lot a home gardener can do once it sets in. The best measures are preventative: remove infected plants at the first sign of the fungus (I didn't  do that),  bag or burn infected leaves, plants, and fruit, and spray bouillie bordelaise (a copper sulfate mix) on the plants before blight appears (I didn't do that, either).

I usually rotate the crops around the garden plots so that I'm not growing the same thing in the same place every year. That will be especially important next year. I will also have to be vigilant about removing volunteers and removing excess leaves from the plants to allow a good air flow. I will also use bouillie bordelaise or some other anti-fungal treatment early in the season to help keep the blight at bay.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Throwback Thursday

When I was a kid in the 1960s and 70s, my family did a lot of camping in the summertime. We never went too far from home, usually to campgrounds in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. After I left home I stopped going. My first apartment out on my own was camping enough, I suppose. It wasn't until the late 1980s that I started to go camping again, this time in California. Ken was reluctant at first, but he got into the spirit and came to enjoy sleeping in a tent on the ground. We did a lot of camping in Northern California, in the mountains, on the coast, and in the Southern California deserts (including two camping trips in Death Valley). We also ventured into Nevada and Utah at one point.

The truck belonged to a friend of Sue's from Nevada who came along with us.

It was our friend Sue who got us into it, at first letting us borrow her old tent and sharing her camping supplies. It wasn't long before we had our own tent (which we still have) and collection of camping gear for our trips. This photo is from around 1988 or 1989. We were with Sue in the Tuolumne Meadow campground at Yosemite. The mornings were chilly up at that altitude (about 2,600 meters or 8,600 feet) and we enjoyed warming up with our morning coffee next to the campfire.

We did a lot of hiking on that trip and spent a day down in Yosemite Valley. We also enjoyed cooking dinners and eating and drinking (we always took a good supply of wine on camping trips) and star-gazing late into the night. Good times.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Make tracks, part two

This small field was mowed a few weeks ago. Now the grasses are growing back, but you can clearly see the tracks that the tractor made when it pulled the mower over the previously tall growth. The grasses, wildflowers, and small shrubs were waist-high before they were cut down.

Tractor tracks in the grass.

Our temperatures are on a slow upward trend. I'm really hoping that as we move into September we'll get better weather. Of course, the south of France is having sunny skies with highs in the 80s F. That must be where summer is spending it's vacation this year.