Monday, October 23, 2017

Tarte aux pommes

Now that it's feeling like fall again, I decided to make an apple tart. The supermarket had some nice looking Gala Reine des reinettes apples on Friday, so I picked up a few. On Sunday morning I made my standard pie crust and blind-baked it. Then I mixed a small amount of ground cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg into some white sugar and dusted the empty shell with it before peeling, coring, and slicing the apples. Once the apples were laid into the shell, I sprinkled a little more of the sugar mixture on them before baking it all in a hot oven (200ºC or 390ºF) for about twenty-five minutes.

The crust was crisp and flaky, and the apples were perfectly done.

After the pie was out of the oven, I glazed it with some of Ken's home-made plum jam. It turned out great, being the first apple tart I've made this season. I'm sure it won't be the last one. And there is plenty left for when Ken gets home tomorrow.

Sunday, October 22, 2017


Fall is mushroom time. They sprout up all over the place: in our lawn, on decaying trees, among the grape vines and, mostly, in the woods. I see many different varieties on our walks, some are even edible, although I would never gather my own mushrooms. I'll leave that to the experts. This one is a shaggy ink cap. It sprouted, among others, in the place where I normally see them every fall.

A shaggy ink cap before it opens fully. Supposedly, they're edible in their early stages.

I've never seen a toad sitting on a mushroom. Wikipedia says that the term "toadstool" derives from German fairy tales telling of toads sitting on mushrooms to catch the flies that are attracted to them. In French, mushrooms are called champignons, originally from the Latin campania, "product of the country." No toads. Wikipedia also says that our word "mushroom" probably comes from the French mousseron, having to do with moss.

Saturday, October 21, 2017


I make lists. I have a little pad of paper on my desk, always at the ready, for a list or two. Often, it's a list of items that have to be entered into the check register that I keep on the computer. I have a shopping list that I keep for our trips to the US. I have a list of things we want to get on our next trip to the Asian grocery. Right now, I have a list of things that I wanted to get done while Ken is away. Of the ten items on that list, three remain to be completed.

One of the vineyard parcels that Tasha and I frequently walk by.

There are other things I've done that aren't on the list, of course. Like moving the burn pile. I didn't plan to do that this past week (it's been four years, after all), but the spirit (and the good weather) moved me to get it done. I also made an appointment to get Tasha groomed on Monday, but that wasn't on the list, either.

At least two of the three things left on my list will get done this weekend, I'm certain. On Tuesday, Ken gets home. Tasha and I will pick him up at the train station. That's not on the list, but it's on my calendar which is, after all, another kind of list.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Moving the burn pile

Four and a half years ago, we had the line of hazelnut trees along the north side of our back yard cut down to hedge size. I asked the guys who did the work to leave the trunks in piles in the yard so I could saw them into firewood. There were three big piles. One I took care of that year. The second, I think, I sawed up the following year. The third, however, sat there under our large fir tree for over four years. Until yesterday.

You might be able to see the moved pile out in the garden plot (center-right in photo). And there's Tasha, always ready to play help.

Over the years I tossed large branches and other prunings onto the pile. I've picked through it from time to time for kindling. For over four years I've been saying that I'm going to move that pile into the garden plot and burn it. I finally moved it on Thursday morning. It took about an hour and a half. I kept some logs and branches out to burn in the wood stove. It's free wood and kindling after all. I moved all of that to a sheltered spot in the afternoon. Burning may happen one day this fall when it's foggy so that the smoke is less of an eyesore.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Oh the leaves, they are a-changin'

This is the view of our hamlet from out in the vineyards on Tuesday afternoon. The vines are planted on the heights above the river, which runs from right to left down in the valley behind the buildings you can see. On either side of the vineyard, where the land curves downward into the woods, are ravines where streams run down to the river valley. The vines are planted on the higher land where water drains quickly to the streams and river.

Looking roughly toward the northeast. Our house is the building on the left.

The plumber that did our shower came by yesterday with the representative of the manufacturer that made our new shower door. In August, one of the hinge plates detached from the glass door. The plumber used a powerful adhesive to stick it back on, but said he'd call the manufacturer about it and, at the very least, get the guarantee extended. Well, the rep needed to come by to verify that the door was properly installed. After five minutes he said, "OK." He'll do the paperwork and order a new door, which we should have in about a month.

Then I asked the plumber, who also dabbles in electricity, to take a look at my botched attempt at installing the ceiling light fixture. He had it fixed in no time and now it works perfectly. No charge! Again, the right tools and a little savoir faire.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Leaf peeping

I took the camera out on Tuesday afternoon to try to get some shots of the vineyard in its yellow stage. The sun was bright in the western sky, about two hours from setting. I attached Tasha's leash to my belt (I should probably get one of those jogger's leashes) and headed out. I'm not used to taking pictures in such bright sun since I'm normally out at dawn or dusk and it's often cloudy.

There are some rogue red leaves among these yellows. And there's still a lot of green mixed in.

After a while, the leaves on the grape vines will turn a golden orange color for a brief time before falling to the ground. I hope I can get some photos of that again this year. As usual, it all depends on the weather. Hard wind and rain can rip the leaves off the vines quickly once they've started to fall.

I went to the garden center yesterday and found a bag of soil made specifically to amend outdoor flower beds. I worked it in and it looks good. I also got a sack of acidified soil for the heather. Today is transplanting day. It's supposed to be cloudy and a little cooler, but without rain.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

Tuckered out! Here's Tasha resting after some vigorous ball chasing outdoors. I throw the tennis ball, she runs after it and retrieves it. Then she brings it back toward me, but no to me. She trots in a circle around me, just out of reach, daring me to come and get the ball. If I move toward her, she darts away. Hahaha, what fun. Not. My new strategy is to just to ignore her and continue whatever I was doing. At that point she'll drop the ball somewhere near me so I can pick it up and throw it again.

Chasing tennis balls is hard work!

On Monday I turned the soil in that spot where the lavender was. It was packed pretty hard. I think I'll need to add something to it before I plant the rozanne geraniums and flowering bulbs I want to put there. Another trip to the garden center. I need a sack of terre de bruyère (acidic soil) anyway for some calluna (heather) I got to replace the rozanne geraniums. They're currently in big pots on the deck.

Monday, October 16, 2017

What's left & Blogiversary

The harvest of 2017 is in the barrels, or tanks, fermenting. Soon the first of the bernache, that fizzy semi-alcoholic grape juice which is very, very young wine, will make its appearance at markets around the region. The primeur wines (our region's version of Beaujolais Nouveau) will show up toward the end of November. The vine leaves are turning color and starting to drop. All that's left on the vines now are bare bunches, picked clean by the mechanical harvesters.

Through the winter, these vines will be pruned down to a single cane.

We had a nice day on Sunday, doing basically nothing. Except that Tasha and I went to the supermarket (she stayed in the car). I wanted something to grill since the weather was so nice. I thought a piece of salmon would be tasty, or pork chops. Well, the few chops they had didn't look so good. I found  faux filet (what we would call sirloin) on sale, so I got the steaks. There were three good-sized steaks in the package. I grilled one and the other two went into the freezer for another time.

The weather was glorious, but I did no yard work. We're expecting two more days of bright sun and warm weather before fall returns. According to the reports, hurricane Ophelia is far enough out in the Atlantic that it will miss France, except for maybe the western tip of Brittany, but it's heading directly toward Ireland and Britain. The storm should no longer be a hurricane when it hits, but they're saying it will still be a strong storm.

Today is this blog's 12th birthday! It's weird to think that I've been doing this, almost daily, for twelve years. How much longer can it last? Facebook and Twitter and Instagram seem to be the social media fashion these days. But I like the creative control I have with the blog. I'm a old fogey, I guess. I remember thinking that 8-track tapes were cool. Oops. I preferred Beta to VHS. Lost that one, too. I still use paper maps on trips. I'm afraid that if I give a car the opportunity to tell me where to go... it will. I refuse to give up my land-line telephone. I'm uneasy about having a phone that's smarter than me. So there you have it. I continue to blog. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go and get the milk bottles out of the icebox.

Sunday, October 15, 2017


These thorns make me think of shark fins. But the colors are what caught my attention. The stem is a very pale purple and the thorns' color reminds me of "burnt sienna," that classic old crayon color. The dew drops just add to the other-worldliness of the image. At least to my eyes.

I don't know if this is blackberry or wild rose. CRS (Can't Remember Sh*t).

Saturday was another productive day. Tasha and I played ball and in between throws I picked up apples. If only I could get her to pick up apples and put them into the wheelbarrow, but she'll only look at an apple if I toss it across the yard. Then I used a spade and a pick-ax to dig out the three lavender stumps that I left in the ground on Friday. It took a while, but I got them out. Now I have to turn the soil, perhaps amend it, and re-plant.

After lunch I cut the remaining grass that I didn't cut on Friday. The sky was cloudless and the air was comfortably warm. Depending on the weather over the next few weeks, I may cut the grass one more time before winter, if only to mulch the leaves from the apple and linden trees after they finish falling. I'm not planning anything major for today except to watch the tennis final from Shanghai. Federer vs. Nadal. Again.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Autumn leaves: black, red, and orange

I guess these all start looking alike after a few. No matter. This one is different looking, even though the colors are similar to previous leaves.

I didn't notice that part of the leaf was missing when I took the picture.

Friday started out foggy and heavy with dew, but it turned out glorious around mid-day. I repaired a closet shelving unit before the sun even came up, and sorted through the clothes that were stored there. I have two piles started: clothes to donate and clothes to throw out (ripped, frayed, and otherwise not suitable for donation).

Before lunch, I cleaned up the tamarisk branches and cut the lavender down. I still have to pull the roots out and prepare the ground for new plants. I have some perennials and bulbs I want to plant there. After lunch, I cut the grass in part of the yard and along our road. I'll do the rest on Saturday.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Autumn leaves: red and green

Here's another one. Don't ask me which varietal this is, I have not learned to recognize them by the shape of their leaves. From what I can tell, there are at least six varietals grown in the vineyards around us. The most common are gamay (red) and sauvignon (white). Then there are cabernet, côt, and pineau d'aunis (all reds) and some limited amounts of chardonnay (white).

Christmas colors! But they won't last long.

I had some frustrations with the bathroom light fixture yesterday. It's up on the ceiling, but I can't get it to work. Without going into the details, there are two fixtures in the room. One on the ceiling and one above the sink. I replaced the one above the sink a few weeks ago. No problem. The two fixtures are somehow connected through the wiring, but they operate independently. However, I cannot get the new one to work. I hooked up the wires a few different ways to no avail. It's not faulty as far as I can tell because it did light up once but, when it did, the other fixture wouldn't.

So I'm going to have to call a professional in to help. The wiring connections on these new fixtures are slightly different from the old fixtures, so there's obviously something I'm not understanding.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Autumn leaves: orange and yellow

Next up in the parade of colors are the most common of the colors we see around here in the fall: orange and yellow. Of those, there is much more yellow than anything else. I think it might be a little too early for a lot of the oranges. Our red maple trees, for instance, turn a bright orange just before they fall, but that usually doesn't happen until early November.

Orange and yellow, a little dark red, and green!

Work continues around the house. Yesterday I replaced the bathtub faucet. When we had the new shower built last fall, we asked the plumber to put the old shower faucet in the bathtub, which he did. Turns out we don't like it all that much. It's thermostatic, and you can't get just cold water. The lowest temperature setting is 20ºC (just under 70ºF). So Ken found a new standard faucet and I installed it.

I'm also working on replacing the overhead light fixture in the bathroom, replacing the old halogen fixture we put in fourteen years ago with a new LED fixture. The project involves drilling, spackling, and painting because the two fixtures are different sizes (of course). I need to allow time for drying, so this project will take a couple/three days.

I also did some more ivy trimming and played some ball with Tasha.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Autumn leaves: scarlet

You can't escape it this time of year, at least in the woodlands of the northern hemisphere. The leaves are starting to turn and fall. And you can't escape it on my blog, either. There will be more.

Up first: scarlet. These are grape vine leaves, of course.

Tasha and I spent our first whole day alone at home on Tuesday. I can tell she wonders what happened to Ken, but she's not freaked out or depressed or anything. She's in familiar surroundings and she gets her walks and her food and some play time, so most everything is right in her world. We spent the day puttering around the house, doing little things here and there that needed to be done, and watching tennis on tv. We also spent some time out in the yard playing ball, trimming ivy, and raking up the mess.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

As you probably already know, Ken left yesterday for Paris, where he spent the night before his flight out to the US this morning. I took him to the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) station just outside of Tours, where the high-speed train provides a direct link to Charles de Gaulle airport. It's about a 45 minute drive. We put Tasha in the car and away we went.

Tasha on her towel in the back seat before we left. Her harness is connected to a short leash that hooks into the seat belt buckle for safety. She can move around easily, but she can't jump into the front of the car, and she won't go flying if I have to brake hard.

Tasha doesn't mind the car like Callie did. She was standing up and looking out the windows most of the way. We stopped at IKEA in Tours for a couple of things before going to the train station. Ken walked her around the parking lot while I ran in and out of the store. Then we parked near the station and sat down at an outdoor café for a while since we were early for the train. Tasha was excited and curious about being in a busy urban environment for the first time, and she behaved very well.

We left Ken at the station and drove home. Tasha was fine. When I took her out of the car, I noticed that she had lost her lunch on the towel that covers the back seat. It wasn't gross or anything, and the towel did its job protecting the upholstery. But I wonder why she waited to throw up on the way home, and not on the way to the station?  Oh well, once again I'm reminded that Tasha is still just a puppy.

Monday, October 09, 2017


There's a lot of moss growing on the wall that separates one of the houses in our hamlet from the road through the vineyard. Well, there's a lot of moss growing pretty much everywhere around here. I noticed this patch on Friday morning. I've forgotten whether it had rained or if there was just heavy dew, but everything was wet.

It's a short wall with a chain-link fence on top.

Tasha wanted to go outside at 04h30 this morning, so I got up, dressed, and out we went into the chilly pre-dawn air. The waning moon was high in the sky and pretty bright, but on the ground it was foggy. The effect was pretty, but, you know, it was 04h30 in the morning. Once the dog finished her business we went quickly back inside and back to bed.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Rose hips

Another shot of rose hips. I do this every year, but what the heck. I liked the way they looked with the brown parts, whatever they're called. They cover the flowers' petals before they open.

Autumn rose hips.

Today is predicted to be a rainy day, so we'll spend most of the day indoors. Poor Tasha. She has yet to encounter winter. Even though she was born in February, I'm sure she has no recollection of what it was like.

Saturday, October 07, 2017


Fall is when the cotonéaster (cotoneaster) produces its vivid red berries. This plant belongs to one of our neighbors. Each fall, when I see the berries, I think that I'd like one of these in our yard, but then I forget about it. The result is that we still don't have one.

I think cotoneaster is related to the pyracantha, a similar shrub I remember from our California days.

We do have a tamarisk tree. It was planted by the previous owners. The problem with that tree is its location. Like many trees in our yard, it blocks views of other trees and shrubs. I think many things in our yard were planted when they were very small. They may have looked nice then, but it doesn't seem as though any thought was given to how big they'd grow, the huge shadows they'd cast, and the views they'd block. Two christmas trees (one of which we had removed in our first year here) are prime examples.

This morning, with the tamarisk cut down, you can see the rounded-off bay laurel from the house.

At any rate, the tamarisk is planted right in front of the bay laurel, essentially hiding it from view. You can see it in the back corner of the yard if you look at the photo in yesterday's post. Over the years I've cut it back to the stump, but it continues to re-sprout and grow. It's a hardy little bugger. Yesterday, I took the chainsaw out to cut it down again. Now I've got to clean up all the debris.

Friday, October 06, 2017

It's that time of year

Our hedges got their annual trim yesterday. The crew of three arrived around eight in the morning and got started. One guy trims the sides of the hedges while standing on the ground. Another guy uses a scaffold to trim the tops of the hedges. A third guy rakes up the trimmings and loads them into their truck to haul away.

This is the longest section of our hedge. It wraps around the yard in the back.

They did the majority of the work in the morning. At noon, they had finished all the hedge work in the back yard before they knocked off for lunch, returning around one-thirty to do the shorter hedge in front. They had a nice, sunny day for the work. And now everything is neat and trim!

If you've been a long-time reader of this blog, you might remember that I used to do this trimming myself, taking a week or more, teetering on a ladder to do the tops. One year I injured my back trimming some thick branches on top, reaching too far and too much with the heavy trimmer. I realized that (a) I really didn't have the proper equipment for the job and (b) I was just getting too old to do this kind of work myself. Besides, the hedges always look better when the professionals do it and I don't have to rake up and dispose of all the trimmings.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Black radish salad

Les radis noirs (black radishes) are unusual looking produce. The thick, black root vegetable doesn't look particularly appetizing, but it is very tasty. It resembles a daikon radish, but with a thick black skin. I saw this simple recipe for a black radish salad on a television cooking show many years ago and we make it a couple of times a year.

I didn't think to take a picture of the radish before I peeled and sliced it. Here's the finished dish.

First, I peel the radish and slice it into very thin rounds using a mandoline, then arrange the slices on a small plate. Next, I sprinkle sherry vinegar over the radish slices along with some salt and pepper. I use a vegetable peeler to cut thin slices of mimolette cheese, an orange-colored hard cheese from northern France, similar (except for the color) to an Edam cheese from the Netherlands farther north. I place the cheese slices on top of the radish and drizzle some olive oil on top. Finally, the salad is topped with fresh cerfeuil (chervil) leaves (I just happen to have some growing in the garden). We ate this salad as a first course for yesterday's lunch. Yum!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017


These grapes grow in a parcel that has been abandoned for years, since before we arrived more than fourteen years ago. The weeds and small trees are growing up around them, but they still produce grapes. The grapes go unpicked and are either nibbled by the wildlife or they rot.

Abandoned grapes (and a few raisins) on the vine.

This morning is chilly and the heat came on. I can see my breath outside when I take the dog out. Of course, we are in the "brrrr" months. Septembrrrr, Octobrrrr, Novembrrrr, and Decembrrrr. I kid. The real cold months are January and February.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

After a week off, Tasha Tuesday is back. We are still happy about how Bert and Tasha get along. They mess around, but the upshot is that Tasha does not chase Bert out of the house. He gets to spend a lot more time indoors than he ever has. Most of that time is sleeping time. As cats do.

Tasha and Bert hanging out on the deck. She's bigger than him now.

I think it will be interesting this winter. We still don't let Bert inside over night, but he has a good sleeping spot in the utility room, so he's not outdoors in the cold of winter. I'm sure he'd like to be indoors, but he also is a hunter in the wee hours, so letting him in and out is not something I want to do.

A little kiss between siblings.

Also, we don't have a litter box. He does his business outdoors, and I don't want that to change. So I want him to be able to come in and out at his convenience, and that means he spends his nights inside the utility room, and not in the house. But he has a warm and fuzzy place to curl up, so we don't worry too much.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Outside the gate

A section of the vineyard parcel just outside our back gate has its fall color on. More and more leaves are changing and I hope to get some good shots in the weeks to come. That all depends on the weather, of course, because I don't take the camera out in the rain.

Looking back toward our yard.

When I took these photos, I used a strong strip of velcro to attach Tasha's leash to one of my belt loops, leaving my hands free for the camera. It worked pretty well, but I'm afraid that one good tug might rip my belt loop, and she did tug a time or two. Now I'm thinking that I should wear an old belt and wrap the velcro around that.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

The new 'cue

As promised, here's a photo of the new barbecue grill. It took a couple of hours to assemble, but it was not too difficult. The price was very reasonable, probably because it's the end of the season. Or maybe it was because I also looked at Weber grills, which cost about as much as a new car these days.

Three main burners and another on the side (which probably won't get much use).

On Friday, I grilled a nice steak for lunch. The new grill gets hotter faster than the previous one. The steak was done medium-rare and was delicious, but I realize that I have to adjust my cooking methods on the new grill. That won't take too long. I don't know how many more bbq days we have left this season, but I hope there will be a few more. By the end of the month I'll have to cover the grill and put it away for the winter.

The control panel, for those interested in how such things are said in French. Click on the image to enlarge.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Local color

Fall happens. Even while we have been enjoying some nice days, the leaves are doing their thing. More and more of the vineyard parcels are turning various shades of yellow, orange, and red. The leaves on our red maple trees are going orange and are beginning to fall to the ground. Some of the plum trees around us are now deep red.

The vineyards around us have all been harvested. Now the leaves will put on a show.

And now, it seems, our nice days are changing into more fall-like days. On Friday, I wore shorts and a tee-shirt. That will be unlikely today; a weather system moved through over night bringing rain showers and lower temperatures. We should still have some nice days here and there during October, and I hope we do. There's more work to be done outdoors.

Friday, September 29, 2017


Yesterday I assembled a new gas barbecue grill that I had ordered from Amazon. I got tired of the old grill. It's not all that old (we've had it for four summers now), but it has "features" that I just don't like, the main one being that the grill surface is enameled steel, like a flat surface with holes in it, and it really isn't a "grill" at all. I've lived with it and learned how to use it, but I've never really liked it. And it's a real pain in the butt to clean. The new barbecue has a larger grilling surface made of cast iron. It's a real grill, not a platter with holes in it. It actually reminds me a little of the Weber gas grill we had in San Francisco. I'll be using it for the first time today, I hope. I have to go buy a new flexible, the hose that connects the gas bottle to the barbecue. The new grill has easier connections for the hose, another plus.

Everything, and nothing, that you need to assemble a barbecue grill.

I'll post a photo of it soon. But in the meantime, this is the package of little hardware that came with the new grill. It's screws and cotter pins and nuts and bolts. I got a kick out of the section of the pack that is labelled "Empty." And it was. And "empty" has a very interesting shape, don't you think?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Deck days

It's been nice to have relatively warm afternoons to sit out on the deck. We'll take every one we get. And a little glass of rosé makes it even better. I hope the nice weather lasts into October.

A sunny fall afternoon on the deck.

On Wednesday morning I took the chainsaw out and cut up a pile of logs that have been sitting out by the driveway for about a year. Some of them are the trunks of a couple of small trees that fell near the road down the hill from us. One of our neighbors noticed a tree leaning against the telephone wire that serves our hamlet and decided to cut it down, and I helped him. He didn't want the logs, so I took them. Now they're ready for the wood stove.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Inner space

Relatively warm days and cool, clear nights result in fog as the sun rises on fall mornings. Dew forms on everything, including the webs that spiders spin. This one is on the fence that surrounds the little pond outside our back gate. I saw no sign of the spider. I thought that the dew drops looked like constellations in the night sky, especially in the center of the web.

The original photo is in color, but I decided that it was more dramatic in black and white.

We're expecting some more nice days, so I will try to get some more outdoor work done. There are tomatoes left to harvest (and process) and I have some small logs that need to be sawed for burning. Among them are the last of the grape vine trunks that Callie used to bring home from her walks. I trimmed the wisteria way back on Sunday. It got too big and heavy and a recent wind storm pulled half of it from the wall. It's back up now, and ready for next spring's growth.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


We had a few "volunteers" in this year's vegetable garden. Two of the plants were tomatoes. Very small tomatoes, similar to cherry tomatoes but oblong, not round. The third volunteer was a Swiss chard plant. I'm not sure how it got to the place where it sprouted because we've never had chard in that spot before. The only thing I can think of is that a seed from a previous year was in the compost pile.

A back-lit chard leaf.

When I noticed the plant last spring, I didn't pay it any attention. But it kept growing, so I started watering it. It's become a healthy plant, and quite big. We've already harvested from it, and there are enough good leaves still out there for another harvest.

Note: Tasha Tuesday has the day off.

Monday, September 25, 2017


This is one of the last of the yellow "jubilee" tomatoes in the garden. This year, they produced beautiful large tomatoes, and lots of them. And they were delicious, with a mild sweetness that was great for salads. We made sauce with some of them and turned that into tomato paste. The jars of yellow tomato paste are in the pantry now, ready for use through the winter.

This one's just about ready to pick.

We also stuffed some of the larger ones, although they turned out to be more delicate than the red tomatoes we stuffed. But they were still very tasty. I don't remember if I have any more seeds for these. I'll look, but I think I'll save some seeds from one of the last fruits for next spring, just in case.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


If you enjoy eating zucchini blossoms, watch out for slugs! I spied this critter inside one of the blossoms on Friday. Into the compost it went, where it will do good, I hope. The zucchini crop is done for this year.

This little slug is gorging itself inside a zucchini blossom.

It's been a decent year for the garden. As one of my readers commented, the things that did well did really well, the rest was a bust. The zucchini and the tomatoes were very good this year. The green beans were good, too. But I planted fewer of them, so we got less. That's normal. I wonder what next year will be like?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The garden's last gasp

The end is near, and it feels a little earlier this year than last. I pulled out the summer squash plants yesterday to make room for a fall crop of collard greens. The tomatoes still have fruit, but it's either ripening or rotting, depending on where you look. The weeds have taken over. I got no eggplant this year, and the chili peppers did virtually nothing (compared to those I kept in the greenhouse which are doing well).

Tasha is ready to help with garden clean up. Or to play ball. Whatever.

So, it's time to start the clean-up. I'll keep picking tomatoes for a little while, but it won't be long before they get ripped out, too. Even if we get no more, we've had a great crop over all. This past summer was strange, with hot spells interrupted by cold spells, alternating all through the season. The last cold spell was wet, and while the weeds enjoyed it, the tomatoes did not and some rot has set in.

We'll spend the next month or so slowly cleaning up the garden, tilling and otherwise preparing for winter. When the leaves fall, we will gather them up and cover the garden with them. They help keep weeds down and then they get tilled into the soil in spring as compost.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Farm implements

I saw two plowing attachments along one of our walking routes the other day. I assume that whoever owns this parcel attaches them to his tractor when it's time to work the soil, then just leaves them out there for the season, or maybe all year long.

Rusty, but still serviceable.

There are many small plots of land around us that belong to people who live elsewhere in town. Sometimes the parcels are just vacant, sometimes they're used to grow fourrage (what we would call hay to feed farm animals), and sometimes they're planted with fruit trees, grains, or even vegetables. I see each of these uses on our little walk down in the valley. Up the hill, the parcels are mostly grape vines.

Thursday, September 21, 2017


That's my guess, anyway. It doesn't look like wheat or barley. It certainly isn't rape (used to make canola oil) or corn. I don't remember ever eating millet in the US. It's mostly found in bird seed mixes. And it's not that prevalent here in France, either. We've found it in health food stores (it's a no-gluten grain) and sometimes in the organic section of the supermarket. But in Asia and Africa, millet is apparently a very common food.

I wonder if this millet is destined for birds or the health food store?

I really enjoy eating it. Millet has a nice nutty flavor and it's got a little crunch after cooking. We eat many different grains regularly. The most common is probably wheat in products like bread and flour, but also wheat berries, couscous, and bulgur. After that, it's rice. Among the varieties we eat most often are round, basmati, long Thai, and a couple of varieties grown down in the Rhône delta here in France (riz de Camargue). And then there's millet. Since it's not all that easy to find, we don't have it as often as I'd like.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Which way do we go?

It doesn't matter since both paths end up in the same place. But Tasha waited for me to pick one. I like the one on the right because it's easier to walk with less grass and weeds (fewer chances for ticks).

Tasha waits for me while I take a photo.

And, speaking of ticks, now that we've changed flea and tick medicines, I haven't seen a tick in months. I guess the ticks evolved a resistance to the Frontline we had been using for years. We were always pulling attached ticks off of Callie or finding the engorged dead ones on the floor. Yuck. The vet told us that the medicine should kill ticks as soon as they start to feed, rather than after they've had their fill. You shouldn't see them at all.

Now, the company that made Frontline has a new formula under a new name: NexGard. The medicine is in chewable tablet form, which makes it easier to administer. The old stuff was a liquid in a dropper that we applied to the back of Callie's and Tasha's necks. They didn't like it at all. Tahsa eats up the new stuff like it's a treat. And I haven't seen a single tick on her since the switch three months ago, when Tasha started getting some fleas. They disappeared, too.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

With Bert this time. They really do seem to get along, at least for short bursts. Tasha is the aggressor, but Bert doesn't let her get away with too much. When he's had enough, he leaves. But he's a good sport. And Tasha is much less aggressive towards Bert than Callie was.

Tasha and Bert spar on the rug just inside the doors to the deck.

And they do have moments of tenderness, if you will. They take turns licking each other's face. And sometimes they just sit around next to one another. It's cute. The big change is that Bert gets to spend more time in the house than he used to when Callie was around. And I think that, as he gets older, he likes that. And he'll like it even more as winter comes along.

A loving embrace. Ok, maybe not.

I'm planning to make Tasha's first appointment with the groomer for next month. She needs a bath and a good brushing, and I think it would be good to get her used to going to the groomer sooner rather than later. The groomer in Saint Aignan also does boarding, and we think we might try that next year. We're thinking about going to Paris for our 35th anniversary next June. We've never boarded a dog before, but if we start Tasha while she's young, she might get used to it. Still, it's just thinking at this point.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The lower field

This is the "wheat" field that Tasha and I walk around when we go down the hill into the valley on our afternoon walks. The field is not always planted in wheat. Sometimes it's colza (rape seed), once in a while it's sunflowers. This year the crop looks like millet. The field will probably be harvested soon because, at least to me, the seeds look ready.

A field of millet. The river is just behind the tree-line on the left. Our house is up the hill to the right.

There's another field pretty close that's planted with the same millet. I don't know if it's owned by the same people or not, but it's likely. So, we have grapes up on the slopes where we live, and other crops down in the valley below us. The grapes are not grown in the valley because they need good drainage. That's a contrast to much of California's vineyards which, at least in Napa and Sonoma, are mostly planted on the flat valley floor. They get much less rain there, so drainage is not an issue.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Change is our friend

Fall is officially just a few days away and the signs of change are upon us. The leaves on our tilleul (linden tree) are starting to go yellow, as are the leaves of the tall poplars on a neighbor's property. Here and there are some deep reds, like on this plant in the woods.

A pretty crimson on the forest floor.

And it's not just the leaves that are changing. We got a note in our mailbox yesterday informing us that the local baker is discontinuing bread delivery as of next week. That will be a big change for us, since we've had bread delivery since the fall of 2004, nearly thirteen years. It's not a hardship, but it's the end of a convenience. On the upside, we'll be able to get bread from the different bakeries around our area, giving us a wider selection of tastes and textures, and the occasional pretty pastry will be less easy to resist. Oh, poor us!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A walk through the woods

I've just recently started walking Tasha on an old route I used to walk with Callie (and Collette before her). The path goes from the north side of our house down through the woods into the river valley, loops around a wheat field, then connects with our road to come back up the hill to home. Now that Tasha's ok with a leash, I can take her on the road without having to worry about cars.

The path down through the woods to the river valley.

There is a variation of this walk that doesn't involve the road at all, and that's what we did on Friday afternoon. We can take a turn before we get to the road and make a different loop through some fields and around a small orchard before climbing back up the hill through the woods to the house. While she had her harness on, and I had the leash, I didn't have to attach her at all for this walk. She was very good and stayed close to me the whole time.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Montparnasse tower

La Tour Montparnasse was, until 2011, the tallest building in Paris with fifty-eight floors rising to 209 meters. Completed in the early 1970s, the tower sits at the southern end of the rue de Rennes, just in front of the Montparnasse train station. It's an office building, but it has an observation deck and restaurant at the top that are open to the public.

The view of the Tour Montparnasse as seen from the dome of the Panthéon.

The neighborhood just north of the tower is where I spent much of my study abroad year back in 1981-82 and the tower was always a landmark (among others) for finding my way around. I've been up to the top several times over the years and highly recommend it. I've never found it as crowded as the other popular monuments in the city and the views are spectacular.

Thursday, September 14, 2017


Still lacking new photos, I'm posting another view from the Panthéon in Paris, this time in the building's crypt, under the main floor of the former church, where many luminaries of French history and culture are entombed. The light is not bright down there, there are multiple passages and chambers, and it's full of visitors (like me) wandering, looking, and taking photos.

The ceiling of the crypt. No tombs or tourists. May 2016.

We were supposed to have a lot of rain over night, but I don't think we got as much as was predicted (update: we got 15mm). The wind blew fairly strongly all day on Wednesday and into the night, but it seems to have calmed down now.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Roof vents

This image is from last year when I went to Paris before my trip back to the US. I took the tour up to the dome of the Panthéon. Most of the climb was up interior stairs, but part of route took us out onto the roof. I thought these vents, at least I assume they're air vents, poking through the slate tiles on the roof were interesting looking.

Part of the church's roof just below the base of the dome.

I don't have many new photos right now. Part of the reason is the overcast and showery weather and part of the reason is that we're walking Tasha on her leash for the time being. It's hard to hold a leash and a camera at the same time. She's doing very well on the leash, so that's good.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

Play ball! Tasha loves to fetch the ball. And she even brings it back to me. But then she keeps the ball and walks around me, daring me to snatch it from her. I can't, usually. I'm trying to teach her to "drop it" when she brings it back. It works less than a third of the time.

Tasha brings back the red rubber ball.

Tasha has two tennis balls and one rubber ball right now. So, if I have one of the three, she'll drop the one she's carrying back to go chase the other one. It's a simple game, and she loves playing it. I, on the other hand, get bored quickly. But I keep playing anyway.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Late summer flowers

This is the second summer since I moved these Jerusalem artichokes to this spot in front of the garden shed. It's about as far away from the house as you can get in the back yard, which makes it far from the water spigot. Fortunately, there's a rain collection barrel behind the shed so I don't have to haul a hose or water very far.

There are several cracks in the shed walls that need to be filled. One day.

And, fortunately again, these plants are not water hogs and don't need to be watered much. I used to have lavender in this spot, but it got too big and leggy and had to come out. I tried cosmos and sunflowers here, but I wasn't very vigilant about water (being focused on the vegetable garden) and they didn't do well at all. So I'm happy with these. Low maintenance, drought tolerant.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

More zucchini

They're still growing, those most ubiquitous of summer squash. I don't know what we'll do with them all, but we'll do something. This is probably the last gasp of the zukes. I planted only three plants and that was probably two too many. I will never learn.

A bumble bee is working inside the blossom.

Still, these are some of the easiest plants to grow in the garden and it's satisfying to harvest them. As long as I find them before they grow into baseball bat sized squash. Grated zucchini is good for fall favorites like zucchini bread and fritters, so I'm happy to have it.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Neighbor renovations

One of our neighbors is having some work done on her house. The work so far has been to strip off the enduit (stucco coat) from the northeast gable end of the house and to repair the woodwork under the roof tiles on that end. Apparently, our neighbor has had moisture problems on that end of the house.

You can see what's left of the original enduit coat at the point of the roof.

It took the workers a few days to remove the stucco before they worked on the tile supports. Then they erected this scaffolding which, I presume, they'll use to apply the new coat of stucco.

We're keeping our eyes on the hurricane news coming out of the US. We have friends and family in Florida and are hoping they're doing what's necessary to to protect themselves. It looks like it's going to be a rough ride for a while.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Tomato season

They keep coming. And we're glad! More tomatoes, more sauce, more paste. I always think it's amazing when the tomatoes happen. I plant seeds, then transplant seedlings, then put them out in the garden, water them, and then, tomatoes!

Time to make some tomato sauce.

This year the tomatoes are big, fat, and juicy. To me, it feels like the best year in a while. I'm sure it has to do with the hot spells we've had. I water the tomatoes when it doesn't rain. When it does rain, the weather is not usually hot, and the tomatoes like hot weather. So, hot and dry is good. Chilly and wet, not so much.