Friday, June 23, 2017

That's more like it

The grapes are starting to look like, well, grapes. Our heat wave has been good for the vineyards, I think. I know our tomatoes and summer squash are enjoying the weather, even if we are not sleeping all that well. Today is supposed to be a little cooler, but it feels more humid than it's been. Trade-off.

The flowers are long gone and the grapes are getting bigger.

I took Tasha out with me on this walk. We found one of the guys that works in the vines, out early to take advantage of the cooler morning air. Tasha ran right up to him and let him rub her belly. So different from Callie. It took years for her to get close the people who work out there. So far, Tasha loves running up and down between the rows of vines, it's good exercise and it uses up some of her puppy energy. And that's a good thing.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


Last Saturday, aside from the drama with Callie, we enjoyed a visit from a friend from our time in Paris in 1981. Since then, she's gone on to build a successful career as a French teacher in the US. "Seine Judeet" is her screen name when she comments on the blogs. We call her Judy. She was traveling in France with her sister, B., and her brother-in-law, D. Ken spent the day with them first at the morning market in Saint-Aignan and then on a visit to the Château de Chambord.

Judy on the right, her sister B. on the left. Solidarity!

After the day of touring, they came here for drinks and nibbles. Unfortunately, Callie had her paralysis and we had to rush her to a vet. We were grateful that Judy, B., and D. agreed to stay and sit with Tasha while we did that. When we got home with Callie, we brought her up onto the deck with us while we spent the evening sipping wine, eating, and reminiscing.

Ken and B. getting into the spirit.

We stayed out until after dark, which is after ten-thirty p.m. this time of year. It was a great time, relaxing, and we enjoyed getting to know B. and D. The reality of what was happening with Callie had not yet hit us.

I'm sure I said something very witty. Yes.

I hope that Judy and her sister don't mind that I post these photos. I didn't get a good shot of D., so I apologize for that. We are very happy to have had that evening, seeing an old friend and meeting new ones. It was great fun!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Looking back

I spent time on Monday and Tuesday looking back at all my blog posts about Callie over the past ten years. The blog is a great repository for memories. Some of the posts had me smiling, others brought on a few tears. But it's all good.

Callie waits for me to catch up on what would turn out to be our last walk together Friday morning.

I want to thank everyone who's commented or sent messages about Callie. Your thoughts, words, and memories are comforting.

For anyone who is interested, all posts about Callie can be accessed by clicking on the label "CALLIE" at the bottom of this entry, or in the categories section of the sidebar.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Callie (2007 - 2017)

She was just ten years old. But we had a good ten years. Somehow she "broke" her back, slipping a disk that essentially severed the spinal cord. She had no feeling in, nor use of,  her hind legs, no control of her bladder or sphincter. She couldn't even wag her tail. The vet told us it was too late, that she had degenerated too quickly. Surgery was not an option. So we did the only humane thing. It was terribly difficult, but it was the right thing to do. We both said goodbye, and then she went to sleep.

Callie on her tenth birthday, last February.

We miss her. Our lives were so intertwined for the past ten years. We spent most of our time together, so very little time apart, and she was with us, or one of us, almost all her life. She was a good dog.

Now, life must go on. We have a little puppy to care for. This is the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. We have happy memories and they will get us through.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Not out of the woods yet

If you read Ken's blog, you know that Callie suffered some kind of injury on Saturday that left her hind legs paralyzed. We took her to an emergency veterinarian that evening. The vet didn't think it was a stroke (which was our first thought) but maybe something spinal, so he loaded her up on cortisone and gave us many pills for her. We've had her lying downstairs since then and carry her outside to do her business, using a bath towel as a sling. Ken has slept downstairs with her while I stay upstairs with Tasha.

Callie heading into her favorite woods on Friday morning.

Callie is alert, hungry and thirsty, and seems reasonably comfortable. She just can't stand up. We will call her regular vet this morning for an appointment. If it is a disk problem, there may be a surgical solution. We just don't know yet. It's been a difficult thirty-six hours for us, emotionally. The new puppy has been very good; she seems to know there's something going on.

We don't know, of course, what caused this. While lying awake last night, it occurred to me that Callie has been running around a lot with Tasha, making fast, tight turns as sheepdogs do. She may be too old for that kind of rough play and something slipped. It didn't happen suddenly; there was no yelp or anything. Callie just came into the downstairs entry and sat down normally, but then couldn't get up again at walk time.

So now it's just the wait for another vet visit. We're hopeful he will be able to see us this morning (UPDATE: we have an appointment at 11h45). Ken and I certainly appreciate all of your comments, suggestions, and well-wishes, even if we can't respond to them all.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Saturday, June 17, 2017

More roses

These are two of our neighbors' houses. The one I talked about yesterday is on the right, with the rose bushes. The strip outside the wall is a little weedy at the moment, but the flowers, including the wild poppies, are beautiful. On the left is a small section of another neighbor's house. She lives here in the hamlet all the time, as we do. The vineyard is outside the photo to the right.

We pass these roses and other flowers every morning on our walk.

Ken ran into our resident neighbor a few days ago in the supermarket. She told him that Bert, our cat, has been visiting her regularly and eating some of the food she puts down for her own cats, so she started to feed him. We had wondered why Bert began to lose interest in the food we give him in recent weeks. It turns out that Madame J. serves a higher quality cat food than we do! Why eat hamburger when you can dine on filet mignon? Ken thanked her, but told her that feeding Bert isn't necessary as he gets all he needs at home. This morning, he brought us a mouse. Then he ate it.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The neighbor's roses

One of our neighbors has a few rose bushes along her back fence which separates her yard from the vineyard road. The neighbor lives in the Paris suburbs, the house here is where her late mother-in-law lived until she died a number of years after we moved in. She (the neighbor) and her husband began fixing up the house after that, but then he died a few years ago.

Pink roses in our neighbor's garden.

So she comes down every now and then, especially in the summer, to enjoy the countryside. She has hired a local guy to maintain the yard in her absence. He cuts the grass and prunes the trees and shrubs. And the roses. At least we get to enjoy them.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Grape flowers

I took this photo about a week ago, so many of the flowers are gone and the grapes are starting to get bigger. Still, it's a good example of what the grape flowers look like. When I first saw grape flowers, I was amazed at how small they are. I was expecting something more substantial. But this is it.

Tiny grape flowers are hard to see unless you get in real close.

We're in a hot and dry spell, although the air is a little humid. The tomatoes and summer squash are loving it and are growing quickly. I've noticed a few tiny zucchini forming and many of the tomatoes have blossoms already. I'm using up my collected rain water pretty fast so, if it doesn't rain any time soon, I'll have to use the hose to water the veggies.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hats off

I see these plants out on my walks every year, and every year I wonder what they are, and every year I forget. Right now the flower heads are shedding their protective covering or, if you will, taking off their hats.

A very stylish chapeau, don't you think?

Since I never remember what they are, there's no point in trying to look them up again. There's too much else to do, not the least of which is to play with the puppy and walk the big dog. Today I'm planning to finish up the window and curtain washing (just three more to do!). But that will be later.


The first chore is to water the plants in the vegetable garden. We're expecting a warm couple of days with very little possibility of rain. We heard low rumbling thunder just around bed time last night, but the storm was far away and we got no rain from it. The rain we did have a few days ago filled up the barrels again, so the water for the garden is free. I just have to haul it from the barrels to the garden plot. Good exercise!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

Can you feel the love? Tasha likes to jump into Callie's face when she's not nipping at Callie's heels. I think that the little dog is trying to herd the big dog around. They're both sheepdogs, so that wouldn't be unusual. Most of the time Callie just stands there, putting up with it. Other times, when there's food or a toy involved, Callie will growl or bark sharply at Tasha to exert her authority.

It was either this shot or a photo of Tasha peeing. It's not easy to get her to sit still at six in the morning.

Tasha is certainly growing. She's up and down the big staircase all the time now showing none of the apprehension she had just a few days ago. The narrow wooden stair into the loft is an "up only" stair for now. She's also lasting longer through the night before needing to go out. But the progress is gradual. A couple of nights ago we were outside at three a.m., but this morning it was closer to five. The other news is that we started taking her out for short walks with Callie in the afternoons (Callie still gets her long solo walk each morning). Tasha is very excited to go out of the yard but she is very well behaved and sticks close to us. The afternoon walk is good exercise for her and helps to wear her out before bed time.

Monday, June 12, 2017


The ferns are all fresh and lush-looking right now. Of course, it's spring and we've had some rain, so there's no surprise. If we have a dry summer, the ferns will start turning brown, otherwise they'll stay green until fall.

Fresh ferns in the morning sunlight.

I wrote about the noise our neighbors made on Sunday morning. Well, after I wrote that, we saw the mayor stop to speak with the revelers on her way into town (it was election day, so she probably had some work to do). I'm curious to know if she heard the noise herself or if she got complaints from others. We didn't talk to the mayor, but we might ask her about it later. The kids took most of the day to get moving and clean up after their all-night party. The ten or so cars that were parked in the yard across the street left sporadically over the course of the day, with the last few kids (including the one grandson that we know) finally heading out around five p.m. All's quiet again.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Flutter by

Sometimes it's amazing what you can see early in the morning as the sun comes up. This butterfly (or is it a moth? nope, it's a butterfly) was clinging to a blade of grass in the sunlight. I presume it was warming itself up, but maybe that's just projection. I have no idea what butterflies (or moths) do at night other than get eaten by bats. There's a research topic; I'll add it to my list.

Posing for its close-up. If anyone happens to know what this is called, I'd appreciate a comment.

Tasha had a little accident last evening. It was weird because she had spent a lot of time outside during the afternoon and early evening. Neither of us saw her do it, but suddenly I noticed a rather large (for her) puddle in front of the tv in the loft. And she is never really up there without one of us because she won't go down those stairs yet. So I cleaned it up and took her out to see if she needed to poop. Nothing. But we slept through the night and she didn't wake me up to go out until about 05h00.

This is the side of the butterfly that faced the sun. It looks like a stained glass window in black and white.

And speaking of waking up at five a.m., our neighbors across the street let some of their grandchildren and friends use their house for a party last night. We closed our windows and turned our fan up to high and were able to sleep through it. This morning at five, the music went on full blast. Those kids must think that nobody else lives in the country. Making that kind of noise on a Sunday morning is not only rude, it's also not permitted by local ordinance. I can only hope that the mayor, who lives two doors down, was at home and trying to sleep.

Today is the first round of parliamentary elections in France. Should be interesting.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Don't bug me

It's finals weekend at Roland Garros in Paris. Those two weeks went by fast. I haven't really been able to get into the women's game in recent years. There are fewer stand-out personalities than there used to be, a serious lack of American talent at the top of the game, and no one that I feel like rooting for right now. I find the men's game to be much more interesting these days. It's all cyclical, of course.

An insect clings to a wildflower stem in the morning sun.

But I will certainly watch the women's final this afternoon. Sometimes our television channels show some other matches, like the fun doubles matches with some of the older players and tennis legends. The men's doubles final is today, as well as two legends finals featuring Martina Navratilova, Lindsay Davenport, Kim Clijsters, and Tracy Austin, as well as a France/Sweden match-up between Escudé and Clément, and Norman and Enquist on the men's side. Any of those would be fun to see.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Spring cleaning

It's still spring, so we're still cleaning. This week I've worked on the living room windows. I took the curtains down and washed them. Then I washed the windows, inside and out, of course. Winter's fires in the wood stove make for a lot of soot inside, even if you don't notice it while it's happening. It feels good to get it all cleaned up in the spring.

Washing windows while watching the French Open on tv. The curtain rod is on the floor.

I'm a little late this year because of the new puppy. It's hard to get things done while tending to her. But we realize that we are, in fact, getting things done. So life is good. Bring on summer!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

One step at a time

We experienced a major breakthrough on Wednesday: Tasha went down the stairs. I've been trying to entice her to go down using treats for a week or so. No dice. The past few days, however, she started to put her front paws down one step to get the treat. Progress, but she wouldn't go further.

Tasha contemplates the stairs.

On Tuesday, she actually went down one, then two, then four, steps for a treat. Then she realized where she was and jumped back up to the top. She got a lot of praise anyway. Finally, on Wednesday, I enticed her all the way down to the bottom. She's done it several times now, both with treats and without.

This is what she sees when she looks down. Scary!

The latest time, she just followed me down the stairs when I went. This morning she's been going up and down, following us, the dog, or the cat, because she wants to and not because I ask her. Our little girl is starting to grow up.

She goes up the stairs with no problem. Coming down is more difficult.

The good thing about this staircase is that the steps are wide and not very steep. The stairs up into the loft are a different thing. They're much narrower and steeper. But I'm confident that she'll end up mastering them. All in good time.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

In a rut

Well, if not a rut, we're in a pattern. It is temporary, but it's life with a puppy. Tasha wakes me up every morning between 03h30 and 04h30 to go outside. Most times she pees, and sometimes she poops, and other times she does nothing. Either way, I'm glad she makes the effort and doesn't do her business upstairs. Then we go back to bed. By 05h00, she's hungry and wants to eat, so one or both of us get up and take her down for breakfast. After she eats, she's bouncing off the walls and we have about an hour of vigorous play.

Tractor ruts in the vineyard.

When Callie gets back from her morning walk, she gets her breakfast and Tasha gets a biscuit. Then they both play with the tricky treat ball until Callie gets bored. Tasha finishes playing by herself until the ball is empty. Then I take her outside again, just in case. When the weather is good we can stay outside and do things while the dogs play. When the weather is bad we're stuck in the house. I feel like I've had a full day by 09h00!

At about 11h00, Callie gets a rawhide chew and Tasha gets her lunch. Then we're busy making our lunch and Tasha crashes for about an hour- or two-long  nap. Yippee! The afternoon varies depending on the weather, but Tasha is usually underfoot somewhere, or playing with the cat, or outside with Callie. We do several "business" runs during the day and Tasha has been very good about going outdoors.

In the evening, we go up to the loft to watch something on television. Tasha likes to hang out with us up there with a little light play mixed in. Then, around 20h30 or 21h00, we go outside to take care of business, and she has been very good about that (I feel less anxious when she's "empty" before bed time). Then, it's bed. Until around 03h30 when we start all over again.

We still have an occasional accident in the house (like this morning), but otherwise house training is going pretty well. Tasha still cannot get down the stairs, so we have to carry her down. I keep reminding myself that she's just a pup, only three and a half months old, so in the grand scheme of things it's all going well and the little inconveniences will soon be a memory.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

This time with Bert. Tasha and Bert get along pretty well. When Tasha first got home, she was about half the size of the cat. But now she's about the same size. They like to play together, in short bursts. Bert seems to like the dog and he lets her lick his face.

Tasha and Bert on the deck.

Callie and Bert do not get along. Callie chases the cat, and not in a friendly way. She's set in her ways. Every dog is different. So it's interesting to watch Bert assert himself more now that he has a friendly dog in the house.

Gimme a kiss!

It'll be fun watching the relationships evolve. Callie and Tasha get along pretty well, and that's a good thing. Still, Callie is an independent dog. When she came to live with us, it was just us. No cat, no other dog. Tasha's the newcomer, so having a cat and older dog around is normal for her.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Periodic puppy pics

With all the activity surrounding the new puppy, Callie still gets her two walks every day. Tasha is still too little for these walks, so that gives each of us some time alone with Callie. I think she enjoys it. Here she is rounding the corner of one of the vineyard parcels.

Callie in the vineyard.

A little farther along is the spot where she likes to cut through the woods. Right now the entrance to that little path is getting clogged with fast-growing thorny brambles, but we stomp them down or cut them back every now and then to keep the path open.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Weather or not

The weather changed on Saturday. Clouds moved in and it rained most of the day. I might have heard some thunder, but it was far away from us. We got sixteen millimeters of rain, which is about two-thirds of an inch, in the rain gauge. And now it's much cooler than it has been.

The vineyard road at sunrise, looking east.

The rain is good for the plants and the vegetable garden. It's also good for the weeds, so I'll have some work to do next week. Not to mention the grass, which will have a little growth spurt now. I also picked another batch of snow peas for lunch today.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Feels like summer

And it certainly looks like summer, too. We've had a good week of warm, if not hot, weather. It's a little humid, but not too much. The cherry trees in our neighborhood are loaded with fruit. As we head toward the solstice, the days are long and the nights have been clear and starry.

A summery day out in the vineyards and fields around us. View looking toward the southeast.

We're expecting thunderstorms with rain during the day today. I saw lightning to our south at 04h30 this morning when I was outside with Tasha. She's still waking me up before sunrise to go out. This morning Bert joined us and that got Tasha all excited. But she did her business and we got to go back to bed for a while.

Friday, June 02, 2017

The grapes are flowering

Grape flowers are opening all over the vineyards now. I'm amazed at how many flower bunches I can see out there given the damage that happened in April's freeze. The vines' leaves are getting more lush and things are looking more normal out there. It will be interesting to see if the harvest is late this year and how the yield is affected.

These flowers aren't open yet, but they're just about to. That's Callie's back in the background (left).

All the eggplant seedlings are planted out in the garden now. I still have some chili peppers to plant. Maybe today.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Snow peas

In mid-March, I planted a row of snow peas on the edge of our vegetable garden plot. When they sprouted, I planted a second row, and later a third row. Earlier this week I harvested the first of the crop and we had enough to make shrimp with snow peas for lunch. I noticed yesterday that there may be enough for a second harvest soon, and the second row of peas is blossoming.

Snow peas on the vine.

The seeds for the first row came from one of our local garden centers and their blossoms are white. The second row is from seeds that Ken brought back from the US in February. Those blossoms are purple. The seeds in the third row are for black snow peas (actually a very dark purple) left over from last year. I forgot what color those blossoms were, so their color will be a surprise when they bloom in a week or so.

Trimmed, rinsed, and ready for the wok.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Le jardin potager

I'm making progress in the vegetable garden. The first of three successive plantings of snow peas is producing now. They're planted against the supports in the back of the garden. The zucchini are taking hold and starting to blossom, although these early blossoms probably won't produce anything. The first row of green beans has sprouted, and I planted another row on Tuesday.

I was out at 6:30 a.m. planting the last fifteen tomato seedlings. The bushy stuff on the right is oregano.

The largest part of the garden is taken up by tomatoes. I planted the seeds in late March and raised them in the greenhouse. Now, thirty tomato plants are in the garden. There are six varieties: roma, brandywine, yellow jubilee, cœur de bœuf, beefsteak, and fireball. I kept five plants of each variety. Here's hoping the blight fungus stays away. I still have eggplant and chili peppers to plant out, but the hardest work is done now.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

Tasha was not interested in having her photo taken over the weekend. At least not by me. Ken was more successful. She, like most puppies, is a bundle of energy. She actually took a flying leap at Callie's head to give her a kiss on Monday. Callie just stood there, dumbfounded. She loves Bert the cat, too, and runs circles around him. They lie on the floor together and trade face licks. She still won't go down stairs, so we have to carry her. When we get to the bottom she tries to wriggle free and often takes a short dive, rolls over, and bounces back up to run out the door.


This morning she woke me up around 03h30 to go outside. I got up, dressed, and carried her down the two flights of stairs. We got into the utility room and there was Bert. Tasha got all excited and I had to carry her outside to separate the two. Bert meowed and Tasha ran back into the house, having not done her business. So we went back upstairs and back to bed. An hour later, Tasha woke me up again. Dressed again, downstairs again, and this time no cat. Tasha pooped. Then back to bed. After a half-hour, at 05h00, the garbage truck roared up the hill. Tasha was up for good, and so were we.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Sunrise on our street

This is our street, looking east toward the sunrise early one recent morning. Just beyond where the street disappears behind the trees, it goes down a relatively steep hill into the valley toward the river. Just behind where I'm standing, the street becomes a dirt road through the vineyards.

We and our neighbors try to keep the grass cut along our portions of the road.

Sunday was a hot day, but today should be a little cooler. Still feels like summer, though, and that's nice. I will be harvesting the first of our snow peas today. I was surprised to see so many on the plants yesterday. We'll stir-fry them with some shrimp for lunch.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A fungus among us

I've probably used that line before, but what the heck. I was surprised to see these ink cap mushrooms poking up through a gravel road (it's the artsy organized neighbor's road to nowhere). I've seen them here before, of course, but normally in the fall, not in the spring. The morning sun shone through the trees and lit up the one whole mushroom in the bunch. The others were past their prime and dying back.

Shaggy ink cap mushrooms.

On Saturday I got to the market and, in addition to strawberries, got a cucumber, a head of lettuce, and a bunch of radishes. We ate radishes as an appetizer, the French way, with baguette, butter, and salt. Yum!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Tool time

As planned, I went to the hardware store early on Friday morning to find something for hanging tools in the garden shed. I found a product that looked promising and took two of them. I decided to put one on each end of the shed where the roof is highest. That means that one hanger is just inside the door and the other faces it on the opposite wall.

Callie and Tasha supervised my work in the garden shed.

Installing the hangers meant drilling holes in the masonry walls of the shed. That requires electricity, and the shed is about as far away from the house as you can get on our lot. Back when I was doing my own hedge-trimming, I got two very long spooled extension cords that I could connect together to power the electric trimmer. They came in handy for powering the drill in the shed.

One of the tool hangers installed and loaded up with rakes and things.

The first hanger went up pretty easily. I had a minor problem with the second one: the drill moved a little and one of the three holes was not exactly where it should have been. But it was only off by a little and I got it to work without having to drill another hole.

This is the hanger just inside the shed door. More rakes and things.

The only other "problem" is that there aren't enough hangers for all the things I want to hang. So I decided that the tools with closed handles can hang on nails on the back wall of the shed. There are some existing nails, but I think I'll add a few more so that everything can hang.

Spades and forks hanging on nails along the shed's back wall.

Everything is still not back inside the shed, but I'm getting there. And I have to make a trip to the dump soon to get rid of the junk and the chemicals. The dump has a special collecting point for hazardous materials like old paint, used motor oil, and other things that need special treatment.

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.

Friday, May 19, 2017


The grower and winemaker that owns most of the vineyard parcels out back hangs these flags at regular intervals on the posts at the end of vine rows. I've been seeing them for years, so a while back I asked about them. They're markers to tell him which rows to drive the tractor along when he's spraying the fungus preventative. Pretty simple.

This vineyard parcel is only a few years old. The beige sleeves are protecting some newer vines planted to replace some that didn't make it.

We had a lot of rain on Thursday, but I haven't yet read the rain gauge. We were expecting around an inch for the day. Just after falling asleep last night, I was awakened by the screeching of fighting cats outdoors, then almost instantaneously, the mad barking of Callie as she jumped off the couch and ran downstairs. Later, at three-thirty this morning, Tasha was active. I got dressed and took her out (with a flashlight this time). She pooped. Back to bed, but not back to sleep. Tasha was up for the morning. Is it nap time yet?

UPDATE: The rain gauge reads 18 millimeters, much less than expected.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


There is a patch of campanules (bellflowers) outside our front door that have been there since before we moved in nearly fourteen years ago. Since then, I moved some to another location and from there they've started to spread. I also planted some in the real fake well out in the back yard; this is a photo of those. They do alright in the well, except they get a little crowded by the mint that I also planted in there.

That bar on the right is one of three wrought iron uprights that are part of the well.

This year, the mint isn't coming back as strongly as it has over the last few years and the bellflowers are looking better. I'd be happy for them to take over once the mint runs its course.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Grape flowers

Since the April freeze, the grape vines out back have seriously slowed down. I do see signs of recovery. Vines that lost all their early green growth are sending out new leaves and, if I'm seeing things right, some are producing flowers. Vines that made it through the freeze with some or all of their leaves and buds intact are definitely producing flowers. I get the impression, however, that there are many fewer flowers than there might have been.

These grape flower buds will open very soon and, if all goes well, will become a bunch of grapes.

I got the grass cut on Tuesday and the back yard is looking pretty nice. We're expecting a couple days of serious rain, so I'm holding off on planting out the tomatoes lest they get battered down; they're fine for now in the greenhouse. A lot of rain also means that the garden plot will be a soggy mess for a while. No fun for planting. We'll see how things go.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

Tasha is learning how to play with the tricky treat ball. This is Callie's favorite toy, given to her by our friends C&J back when Callie was a puppy. She plays with it every day. I fill the ball with little treats. The dog pushes it around the floor and the treats fall out. Then she gobbles them up.

There's something tasty in there, I just know it!

Callie learned how it worked in just a few hours. Now Tasha is learning. At first she just followed Callie around the room and ate up any treats that Callie missed. But now she's learned how to push the ball around on her own. And they're playing with it together. She seems to be a very smart dog. And I'm not just saying that. Ok, maybe I am. Call me a proud dad.

Jumping onto the tricky treat ball.

The other day, a pretty large dead branch broke off of the big apple tree in our yard. That tree is slowly coming to the end of its life. On Monday, I got the chainsaw out and cut it all up into burnable logs and stacked them with the other firewood. And I forgot to take photos.