Saturday, January 21, 2017

Frosty oak

We're still enjoying frosty temperatures, especially in the morning when it gets down around minus five (celsius, which is 23ºF). It's good to have a freeze in the winter to kill off pests, at least that's what they say when it's not freezing.

A little oak sapling holds on to its frosty leaves. The leaves will drop in the spring when new growth starts.

We had some business to do in Blois on Friday morning so we added a few stops to our trip. First up was the Asian grocery in town to get some frozen shrimp and to stock up on bottled sauces. The store often has fresh okra, so we picked up some of that, too. Then we went to a big market that specializes in produce but also sells meat and cheese and includes a bakery. They carry a wide selection of products that we don't find in our local supermarket, so we go every now and then. Finally, we went to a discount grocery for a few things we like there that they sell at good prices. It was a good morning, and productive. Today we plan on making a shrimp stir-fry with bok choy (another vegetable we can't find in Saint-Aignan).

Friday, January 20, 2017

Keep calm and carry on

When the British faced the threat of a second World War, their government prepared a message: Keep calm and carry on. Although Americans are historically loath to take advice (or anything else) from Britain, we might do well to keep that message in the backs of our minds.

Lamp posts reflected in calm waters.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Throwback Thursday

Here I am on a horse. I think it was the second, and last, time I rode a horse in my life. The year was 1981. I was a twenty-one year old urban cowboy. That fur-lined suede coat was one of my favorites. I also wore boots in those days.

Walt rides a horse. Giddy-up!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Flake news

That's what I've decided we should call the prediction of snow that doesn't materialize. I couldn't resist. Snow has not been predicted for us, so we're not the victims of "flake" news, yet. Temperatures have gone below zero as predicted, and today may be the first day in a string of days that the highs stay below zero where we live.

A frosty grape vine trunk.

Still, the news shows are all in chatter mode about the "worst cold spell in five years." There are parts of France where it is very cold and snowing. They're the parts of France you'd expect to be very cold and snowy in winter. The Alps, the Pyrénées, the Massif Central, Alsace, etc. And, gasp! It's sunny on the Côte d'Azur. In all fairness, they did have a heavy snowfall in Corsica. Above the elevation of 400 meters (about 1,300 feet).

I wonder if some people have got used to the mild winters we've been experiencing lately such that more normal winter weather is jarring. As for where we live, one week of freezing temperatures still adds up to a pretty mild winter over all.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Le dernier des Mohicans

Last night, Ken and I watched "The Last of the Mohicans," a 1992 film version of James Fenimore Cooper's novel set during the French and Indian War. I thought I read it in school but hadn't; I've read it since. We've seen the movie before, and I always enjoy it. The story takes place where I grew up, and the movie was filmed in Ken's home state, so there's a personal angle. Back in 2006, Ken and I visited some of the settings of the action, most notably, Fort William Henry on the southern shore of Lake George, about sixty miles north of Albany.

Fort William Henry in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, 2006.

The French army destroyed the wooden fort once they captured it in 1757 and the site was abandoned. In the 1950s, a replica of the fort was built on the original site and has been a successful tourist attraction since. I've been inside a few times in my life, the last being with Ken in 2006. It's worth a look if you find yourself in the area.

Lake George seen from the ramparts of Fort William Henry, 2006. The Mohican is a tour boat on the lake.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Vague de froid

That's what the weather people are predicting. A cold wave. It's already cold in the east, and down south the Pyrénées are getting a snow dump. It's still mild in the west and center (where we are), but that is changing. We're expecting high temperatures below freezing for the next week.

A little greenery around a small tree stump in the winter woods.

On Saturday I got some of that fabric they sell for wrapping sensitive plants to protect them from the cold. I used it to cover our ten-year old fig tree. The fig should be alright, but I remember a cold spell a number of years back that froze it to the ground. I thought we had lost it, but it re-sprouted from its roots that spring. Still, we went years and years without getting any edible figs. Then, last year and for the first time, the tree actually produced a usable crop. So I'm hoping it has matured to the point of producing every year and I don't want to take any chances of it freezing again. Keep your fingers crossed!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Grease balls

They're called boules de graisse in French, literally balls of fat, what we'd call suet. They're very popular around here in the fall and winter and are sold by the bucket-full in garden centers and supermarkets. The balls are usually always wrapped in a green plastic netting that needs to be retrieved and thrown away once the seed is gone. Songbirds, les passereaux in French, especially like the mix of fat and seed products in the balls.

Un mésange (blue tit) clings to the feeder while pecking at the seed and suet.

I got this feeder many years ago. It's specially designed to hold several boules. As I mentioned yesterday, I hang this from the railing of our front deck during the cold months. It sometimes takes the birds a day or two to realize it's there, but once they do there's no stopping them. It didn't take long to learn which birds liked to feed here and what they're called both in French and in English.