Monday, August 21, 2017

New moon

This must be the eclipse day. We won't see it here, except (as I understand it) right around sunset. And then it will not be anywhere near the total eclipse that many people in the US will be treated to. I'm sure we'll be seeing lots of television coverage of the event.

Raindrops clinging to grape vine tendrils.

I got to barbecue on Sunday for the first time in a while. The weather is shifting back into a summer-like pattern for the next week or so. We missed it so. The harvest continues in the vegetable garden. As much as I try to pick the zucchini before it gets too big, there is always one that manages to hide until it's the size of a baseball bat. Tuesday is bath day for Tasha, then she goes in to get spayed on Wednesday. And I need to cut the grass again.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Stacked

The firewood is stacked and ready for another season. It only took a couple of hours over two days. I still have to clean up all the mess that comes with the wood, like bark and smaller pieces of wood. Now that it's dried up after the rain, I can gather that stuff up and put it in the kindling pile.

The north side of the house is where the logs live, under the narrow section of the deck that wraps around from the front. That leaning concrete pole in the middle of the photo is one end of the clothesline. The leaning boards on the right side are Bert's ladder up to the deck.

Tasha is scheduled to be spayed on Wednesday. In preparation, we're planning to give her a bath on Tuesday. The weather is predicted to be hot, so she'll be able to dry outdoors. This will be her first-ever bath and we're not sure how she'll react. Should be interesting.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

It rained

Friday turned out to be a rainy day. We need the rain, so that's good. Half the firewood is stacked, so that's good, too. But the other half is out in the rain. Oh well. It won't matter much since, once we get it stacked, it will dry out before we need to use it. It's only superficially wet.

A poplar leaf, I think, with raindrops.

The rain barrels are filled and overflowing. If it's not hot and dry, we don't really need much water outdoors. The indoor plants need water, of course, so we have plenty. I went out and got a new axe on Friday. The axe I've been using since 2006 is past its prime. The cutting head is no longer attached to the handle and it slides down, making splitting logs a little difficult. So, a new axe for fall. An early Christmas present!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Thursday's harvest

Our tomatoes are starting to come in. Soon it will be time to make sauce for the freezer. And the lemon squash are going gangbusters. I'm not sure what we'll do with it all. And the zukes are still producing, of course.

All kinds of tomatoes, including romas, juliets, yellows, cœur de bœuf, and fireballs.

I have to pick some of the tomatoes before they're completely ripe. Sometimes they're sitting on the ground, and that's not good. Other times they're very heavy looking and need to come off the vine. And then there are the ones that come off by themselves. So I put them all out on the deck to ripen, and they do. It's always iffy, doing a vegetable garden. You never know how it's going to work out when you start. We've had our good years and some bad years, the bad being related to weather or blight, but overall it's been good. I'm starting to look forward to next year.

A surplus of lemon squash.

We had our annual "bat in the loft" on Wednesday night. It seems that once a year a bat flies into the loft through an open window. Then it spins around the room dodging the rafters while we run around with pillows trying to shoo it out. It only took a few minutes to get it to go out this time. During all the commotion, Tasha sat on the floor and yawned.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Apples

I told you there would be more raindrops. These apples are not in our yard, but out behind a neighbor's house. The raindrops make them look appetizing. But they're not yet mature enough for picking.

This apple is very small. That might be a side effect of the freeze, but I'm not certain.

In our own yard, the apples are dropping from the trees as they do every year. I have to pick them up before cutting the grass. There don't seem to be as many as there could be, probably because of the April freeze. Maybe there will be enough to make a couple of pies later this fall.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Waning summer

The signs are everywhere. Wildflowers are setting seed and fading away. Grapes are maturing on the vine. Certain poplars are going yellow and dropping their leaves. And the days are tangibly shorter.

Just one blossom remains on this wild chicory plant. Many others are totally bare already.

Schools start up again in about three weeks signaling the end of summer vacations for a lot of people. It won't be long before we start to hear the harvesters out in the vineyards.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

Tasha is doing well on her walks. The only thing I fear is cars and tractors. She wants to chase them and I need to train her not to. Callie was afraid of vehicles and sat down whenever one went by. But Tasha is her own dog and wants to chase everything that moves. Whenever a car goes by our road, Tasha runs out and tries to chase it. She's inside the yard, so she can't get hurt, but if she sees one while we're out, who knows what could happen.

No cars to worry about here. But just behind us is the road.

Luckily, so far, there haven't been many instances of cars while we walk. I just need to pay attention and keep her close when there's a possibility of a car going by. This fall the harvesters will be out in the vineyard. That will be a challenge.

Monday was a relatively hot day, and Monday night was particularly warm. Last week it was so chilly that the heat came on one morning. This morning the low is 22.5ºC (over 72ºF). It's so warm and dry that I went for our morning walk in shorts and a tee-shirt, something that happens only a few times a year.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Raindrops on grape leaves

And whiskers on kittens! Oh, forgive me if I've used that one before. We had some light rain on Saturday night and on Sunday morning everything was covered with little raindrops. So there will now be lots of photos with raindrops.

Raindrops on grape leaves.

One thing I noticed on my Sunday morning walk was how the flowers and plants and trees are starting to look all autumnal. We've still got more than a month until fall arrives, officially. I guess we had an early summer, so now we're going to have an early fall. And I'm hoping for a short winter. Ha!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Interpretive dance

That's what I thought when I saw these bare branches among the oaks. It looks like it's dancing, doing its own thing. None of the oaks are bent this way. I wonder what it was.

Fosse or Tharp?

Last night was still and muggy, even though it wasn't all that warm. I didn't sleep well, even with a fan on. Tossed and turned a lot. I think tonight I'll open a few more windows and use the bigger fan to get the air moving more.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Grapes and lace

This is the season for Queen Anne's lace, known in France as carotte sauvage (wild carrot). It's growing especially thick this year. In fact, I don't remember ever seeing the spaces between the rows of grape vines this crowded with it. It's probably just that the growers are not mowing it down or are cutting back on the use of herbicides.

The vine parcel just outside our back gate. That's our garden shed on the right.

Of course, not all the parcels look like this. Some are quite bare (at ground level) from herbicides, others have been plowed to uproot the weeds and wildflowers, and still others have been mowed to keep the weeds under control. I wonder what difference it all makes to the vines (although using fewer chemical herbicides is probably a good thing for the environment over all).

Friday, August 11, 2017

Typical walk

This is kind of place we walk with Tasha every day. We often take the dirt roads, like this one, that the growers use to get into certain parcels. Just as often, we walk in the space between the grape vines and the woods that the tractors use to turn around at the end of the rows of vines. Tasha is learning to wait while we stop for photos.

We walk in a lot of sandy places. When they're wet, well, you can imagine.

We've been lucky (in a sense) this year because it's been pretty dry over all. All too often these paths are wet, either with heavy dew or just plain rain. Wet paws pick up sand and mud. Callie got very dirty and needed a wash-down nearly every day. So far, Tasha doesn't seem to get as dirty as Callie did even though she's much closer to the ground. Our evening walk on Thursday was rainy, but all I had to do was give Tasha a quick once-over with a towel to dry her off.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Another vineyard view

It rained a lot on Wednesday, mostly in the middle of the day. While it's more than a month away, it feels a lot like fall right now. Fortunately, neither one of us had to walk Tasha in the heavy rain. Just a few sprinkles here and there.

Dark puffy clouds march across the sky above the vineyards.

The squash from the garden are starting to pile up. We have a few plans to use some of it and to give some of it away, but we're probably going to have to do some freezing soon. Not to mention the green beans. We have a bunch to blanch and freeze (and some to eat today), but I need to go out and harvest some more before they get too big. And the tomatoes are starting!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Summer in the vineyards

It's been a strange summer, so far. Even though we've had brief periods of rain, I think the region is under a drought advisory. There are water use restrictions in place, but we haven't been notified of anything specific. I read that in certain areas, watering lawns and gardens is forbidden, but people can water their vegetable gardens during certain hours of the day.

The grasses are dry, otherwise it doesn't look like a drought. But looks can be deceiving, right?

The rain we do get is not enough to alleviate the drought conditions over all, but it does put a damper on our walks. Tasha and I will probably be walking entre les gouttes (between the raindrops) this morning.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

She was ready for her close-up. So I took it. Isn't she the cutest? On one of our recent walks, she saw a deer in the vineyard and chased it for a while. Now she looks down every vine row she passes, looking for another one.

I was in the right place at the right time with the right lens.

She will never catch a deer, of course. But her herding instinct forces her to chase them. And anything else that moves.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Too soon?

It's hard to see leaves turning color in early August. Summer isn't over! Fortunately, though, this is pretty normal. Here and there in the vineyard, the leaves on certain vines will start to turn very early, even though the vast majority are still a very lush green. And so are the trees. So fall is not here yet.

Grape leaves turning color in the vineyards behind our house.

I don't know what causes this to happen, but I see it every year. And some vines die altogether during the growing season. Most of those will be marked and yanked out after the harvest then replaced with a new vine. In some cases, a long cane from the neighboring vine will be buried in the ground with a few buds poking up above ground. The cane stays attached to its parent and gets its nourishment that way. Roots will grow below ground and a new vine is the result. I read that that kind of propagation is called "layering" in English, marcottage in French.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Tomatoes

I picked the first tomatoes from the garden on Saturday. They came from a volunteer vine, one I didn't plant, that sprouted from a seed dropped last year. The tomatoes are small Juliets, like cherry tomatoes but long instead of round. I also picked a few more lemon squash, another zucchini, and a big basket of green beans.

Green tomatoes on the vine. Don't mind the weeds.

The rest of the tomato crop is starting to ripen. There are three or four 'maters going red out there. Soon we'll get to enjoy fresh ones for salads and sandwiches and stuffing and, when they get too numerous to handle (if we're lucky), tomato sauce for the freezer.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

A summer view

This is what our hamlet looks like this time of year. Summer is in full swing, and the weather is, as usual, unpredictable. But the vineyards look lush and very green. Tasha has a good time running under the vines and up and down the rows.

Our hamlet with the Cher valley in the background.

Ken will tell you more on his blog, but on Friday I drove up to Contres and bought a new freezer. Ours is getting up there in years and we feel like we should have a new one in case the old one decides to die. The new freezer is not a chest style like the old one. It is tall and has drawers and shelves, like a refrigerator. Maybe that way we won't have as many UFOs (Unidentified Frozen Objects) lurking down in the depths.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Ripening

I mentioned the other day that I've seen the red grapes starting to turn color, so I went out on Thursday with the camera. It's hard to tell how things will go this year. First there was the April freeze, then the alternating heat waves and cold spells. Some of the grapes look normal, others look smaller than usual, and some parcels look like they have very few bunches in them.

These red grapes go from green to pink to "blueberry" blue in the course of their ripening.

It must be very stressful to be a grower and to be dependent on the weather for your livelihood. Very few years are perfect, and the years can be very different one to the next. Temperature, rainfall, sunlight, storms, there's always something to worry about.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Stuffed lemon squash

When your garden gives you summer squash in abundance, you have to find different ways of dealing with it. One way is to give some away to your neighbors, which we have done. We're lucky to have generous neighbors who share the fruit from their plum trees with us, so it's nice to be able to give something back.

Lemon squash cut in half, steam-blanched, then hollowed out, ready for stuffing.

Next to slicing and grilling, stuffing summer squash is one of my favorite ways to eat them. These are small round lemon squash. We only have one plant (given to us by a friend), but it is prolific. The stuffing in this case was easy: Ken cut open some spicy chorizette sausages and cooked up the meat with squash pulp and small bread cubes. The sausages are made by the butchers in our local Super U market and they're often on sale in the summer months.

The stuffed squash went right into the freezer to be eaten in the coming weeks.

We also have three standard zucchini plants producing now, and we've grilled and stuffed them as well, most recently with a ground chicken stuffing (Ken posted about them on his blog today). That was tasty. If we get tired of eating the squash, I will grate and freeze them for making things like zucchini bread and fritters in the fall.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

A fine lunch

On Monday, Ken, Tasha, and I went across the river to enjoy lunch at the home of friends C. and M. who were hosting frequent visitors from Australia, L. and S. (who are also frequent commenters on this blog). The weather cooperated and we spent the whole afternoon under the canopy in C. and M.'s back yard.

Quite a selection! Yum.

Lunch started with a little bubbly and some nibbles. The entrée dishes were endive leaves stuffed with crab salad, and a generous platter of smoked salmon. Next was a palate cleanser of apple sorbet with calvados (apple brandy). The main course was a tajine of chicken with apricots and prunes, served with couscous. For dessert we had a chocolate mousse followed by coffee. Then M. brought out the after-dinner drinks.

It was a wonderful afternoon and we enjoyed seeing everyone again.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

Tasha reacts to Trump's latest tweet. I can't tell if she's expressing shock or just yawning. We wore her out yesterday by taking her to some friends' home for lunch. She was a very good dog all day, exploring the grounds and generally being friendly and cute. But because we were out, she didn't get her usual mid-day nap. When we got home last night, she crashed and slept without a peep through the night. Neither the early morning thunder nor the passing garbage truck could rouse her out of bed.

If you look closely, you can see Tasha's name tag. She's also wearing her stylish black harness.

I picked a whole bunch of green beans on Monday morning, so today we'll be working to preserve them. Most likely they'll get blanched and frozen, but we'll probably keep some out to eat fresh.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Fluff

Now that we're back to more summer-like weather, I will have to start watering the vegetable garden again. At least the rain barrels got refilled when it rained. I was able to get some clean-up work done over the weekend, including picking up fallen apples. More fall every day, so I'll have to pick them up again before I cut the grass, hopefully some time this week.

These wildflowers have now gone to seed.

I noticed on one of my recent walks with Tasha that the red grapes out in the vineyard are starting to turn color. That surprised me. I guess I was expecting that to happen later, with all the screwy weather we've been having this year.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Creature feature

This little caterpillar resembles a porcupine with its long back hairs that look like quills. I think it's the caterpillar of the garden tiger moth, écaille martre in French (arctia caja). I base this on what I found on an internet site that helps people identify caterpillars and moths.

One day, this prickly guy (or gal) might become a pretty little tiger moth.

It was making its way along the vineyard road the other day when I noticed it. I try not to step on the slugs, snails, and other slow-moving critters when I'm out walking. The tractors and other vehicles that use the road do enough of that.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A cotton-pickin' minute

It was some time in the mid 1980s, maybe '83 or '84. Ken and I drove from DC down to North Carolina (his home state). Except to ride through with my parents when I was a toddler, I had never been there. We stopped and toured a cigarette factory along the way (Phillip Morris in Virginia?). In NC we passed a field of cotton. Since I had never seen cotton growing, I had to stop the car and go pick some. I didn't take many pictures back in those days.

When I was a little bitty baby my mamma would rock me in the cradle...

I've kept these cotton bolls in a ziploc bag ever since, hidden away in a drawer or a box. They look a little worse for wear, as it were. I mean, they are nearly thirty-five years old. I don't have any cotton clothes close to that age. I might as well immortalize them here on the blog.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Courgette

The zucchini plants are producing now. We have a regular supply of squash for a while and now they're starting to back up. Last week, we baked some into a lasagna. On Thursday, I sliced and grilled some for lunch. Today Ken plans to make a kind of a gratin of zucchini and cheese. We've also talked about making stuffed squash some time soon.

Zucchini on the vine.

The green beans have taken a short break, but I'll probably be able to pick enough for a meal today. The tomatoes are still green. The chilly weather has slowed things down a little. Now that the rain showers are pretty much over, I'll have to get out there and spray the tomatoes to help prevent le mildiou (blight).

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Tooth fairy

I have saved our dogs' baby teeth over the years. I don't know why, but I did. First there was Collette in 1992. I only have one of her teeth. Then, Callie in 2007. I seem to have a whole bunch of hers. Now there's Tasha in 2017. Four teeth so far, and counting. And each dog's teeth fell out in the month of July. There's a pattern there.

The top tooth is Collette's. The rest are labelled appropriately. I keep them in ziploc bags. The labels are from the years noted.

There is no reason to have these. But I can't help myself. When I find a tooth on the floor, or in my hand while playing, I think "oh, how cute," and save the tooth. They don't take up much room, so I don't really consider myself a hoarder. But then again, I saved a few bits of cotton from a field we drove by in Virginia or North Carolina back in the mid 1980s. I had never seen cotton growing on a plant, so I had to have some. I still have it. Wanna see?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Blueberry "cheesecake"

It's not cheesecake, but the coconut flan than Ken made last week. It was tasty by itself, but since we had some blueberries in the freezer, I decided make a little topping for it. It turns out that blueberries and coconut go pretty well together.

It looks like cheesecake but it's not. No cheese in there. And it was delicious!

Will it rain, or won't it? That is today's question. Météo France shows showers most of the day for us, but the weather site we look at on line just shows clouds, no rain. I've found that the Météo France forecast is very general and is not always accurate for us. I tend to trust the Météociel web site more, but like most weather predictors, they are not always right either. We'll just have to wait and see what the day brings.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

We've been spending a lot of time indoors over the past few days. The rain and chilly temperatures are the reason. Tasha still gets her two daily walks, even if one or both are cut short by a rain shower. She loves her walks and is learning about the different ways we can go. Callie had her favorite paths, and I expect Tasha will, too. Here she is being coy for the camera.

Tasha is learning to get brushed, but it's a slow process, so her fur is not as neat and tidy as it could be.

She's still such a puppy. Everything is exciting to her, and most everything is potentially edible (yuck). Sunday was her five-month birthday, and she's been with us now for three months. She's a very different dog from Callie and, while we miss Callie, we're enjoying getting to know Tasha. Life is now both very much the same and very much different, if you understand what I mean.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Beefsteak

One of the tomato varieties that I planted in this year's vegetable garden is "beefsteak," a popular variety of tomato in the US. We brought the seeds back from there a couple of years ago. The tomatoes are forming nicely, but as you can see, they're still a long way from ripe.

Beefsteak tomatoes on the vine.

The other varieties in the garden this year are brandywine (a variety of beefsteak), cœur de bœuf, yellow jubilee, roma, and fireball. All the plants have fruit on them, some more than others. All of them are still green. I noticed that one of our neighbors has red tomatoes already. I think they planted much earlier than we did, and I'll wager they bought the seedlings and therefore got even more of a head start.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Wild chicory

I know that Ken just posted a bunch of photos of this wildflower, but I have a few so I thought I'd just go ahead and post them, too. Or, at least one. This is high summer for us, when the Queen Ann's Lace and the wild chicory are in bloom. It's hard not to think that fall is on its way.

Wild chicory grows, well, wild, all around the vineyards out back.

Speaking of fall, I just ordered our fuel oil for the winter season, and soon we will order a load of firewood. Jeez. I don't want to think of the cold and rainy (and maybe snowy) season ahead. But that's life. At least we still have a month or so of summer, followed by fall, to go before the cold. It's better to order the fuel oil now, while summer prices are low, than to wait until demand and prices go up as the colder season approaches.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

An itsy bitsy spider

No water spout to climb up here. I took this photo because I liked the pattern of the veins in the leaves. Then I noticed the little spider. It really is tiny, less than a millimeter across.

The tiny spider is just to the right of the green leaves.

On Friday we took Tasha for a ride in the car. We had to go the garage to pick up the old Peugeot after it was fitted with a new clutch. Tasha did well on the ride. At least she didn't hate it. And that's good. We'll take her for a few more rides in the weeks to come. Then, toward the end of August, she goes to the vet's to be spayed. We don't want her to think that riding in the car means a trip to the vet's.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Basil

Basil is one of the more difficult herbs to grow where we live. It's just not warm enough for it to grow well out in the garden. Some years we've had a good crop. Most other years have been a disappointment. But now, with the greenhouse, we can grow basil more reliably.

Basil growing in the greenhouse.

When it's less than warm outdoors, the greenhouse stays warmer. And that's what basil likes. So we have enough basil for summer Caprese salads made with tomato, mozzarella, and basil. Yum. And we also have enough for many of our favorite Thai dishes. We may even have enough this year for pesto!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lemon squash

Our friend K., who lives a couple of towns up-river from us, offered us a lemon squash plant last spring. I had never heard of lemon squash and I don't remember ever seeing it at the market. I planted the seedling she gave us next to the zucchinis in the garden. It has grown vigorously and is now producing bright yellow summer squash which are, as you might imagine, the size and shape of lemons.

Three yummy lemon squash.

I sliced up these three squash, brushed them with olive oil and seasoned them with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika before putting them on the grill. They were delicious (they taste just like any other yellow summer squash) along side some grilled smoked chicken.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Warmest morning

Tuesday was a hot day and this morning is probably the warmest morning of the year, so far. I woke up to nearly 25ºC (77ºF ) at 06h00. That's pretty darned warm for the morning low in these parts. But, as usual, it is not expected to last. Today's high will be lower than Tuesday's, and it will be getting downright chilly again in the mornings to come.

Grape bunches on the vine, a couple of months away from harvest time.

And it's dry. The rain barrels are nearly depleted again. Until the next rain, garden watering will have to be done with the hose. But the tomatoes, squash, and green beans are loving the heat. And so are the grapes out in the vineyards. I wonder if the hot weather we've had has made up for lost time caused by the April freeze?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

Shadow play. I take Tasha out for her morning walk earlier than I used to take Callie out. Tasha is still just a puppy, and she bounces off the walls with energy in the morning wanting to play and roughhouse. Going out for a walk is a way to diffuse some of that energy. Not that it always works, but it helps.

Tasha and our shadows in the summer vineyard. The sun is just rising above the trees at 07h00.

We did an unofficial weigh-in on Sunday. I stood on the scale, read it, then picked up the dog and stood on the scale again and did the math. She's at 7 kilos (almost 15 1/2 lbs). That's almost twice what she weighed at the end of May when her official weight at the vet's was 4.2 kilos (just over 9 lbs). We'll get another official weigh-in at the end of August when she goes in for her spaying. We expect her adult weight to be between 10 and 12 kilos (22 to 26 lbs). Callie was almost twice that.

Teething continues. We were playing on Sunday and one of Tasha's teeth came out in my hand. I'll ask the vet to check her teeth to be sure they're coming in right. The breeder said that sometimes the baby teeth don't fall out before the adult teeth come in and that could cause problems.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Seedy

On the edges of the vineyards, in little clearings just inside the woods, containers are suspended a few inches from the ground. They're fitted with little cages at the bottom and dispense bird seed. I presume they're there to attract pheasants for the hunting season. Usually the containers are made from plastic wine jugs--we are in wine country after all. This is the first one I've seen made from a mini beer keg.

The little cage full of seeds is just at the bottom of the inverted keg. I guess the hub cap is there to catch stray seeds.

I've been told that most of the pheasants chased by the hunters are actually raised on farms and are released into the wild in the fall. Since they've never had to find their own food in the wild, they need some way to survive. These feeders are probably what they're used to and help to keep the birds from starving. Not all the pheasants are taken during the season, so the feeders are kept full year-round. Ken told me that Tasha flushed out a pheasant in the vineyard just a few days ago. Callie used to do the same thing.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Walnuts

A lone walnut tree stands along the road through the vineyards where we walk daily with the dog. Right now, the walnuts are forming inside their green husks. In the fall, the husks will dry and peel off, revealing the walnut shells that we all recognize.

Walnut leaves and a single fruit/nut.

This tree produces very small walnuts and I've gathered a few, but not many, over the years. They're not really worth the effort. Besides, some friends of ours have a couple of prolific trees on their property and they've shared boxes full of good-sized and tasty walnuts with us. I still have some downstairs.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Fly away home

Here's a coccinelle (what I call a ladybug) looking like it's enjoying a drink from a raindrop. I've noticed many of these in our vegetable garden. They're good for the garden because they eat aphid larvae, and aphids can do a lot of damage if left unchecked.

La Coccinelle is the French name for Herbie the Love Bug. In fact, VW Beetles are generally called coccinelles in France.

All of us slept through the fireworks on Friday night. We had the window closed on that side of the house and the fan was going, so we didn't hear anything. Tasha didn't need to go out until five this morning. Once we were outside, I could hear loud music in the distance. It was either a party on the next road over, or there was a car parked out in the vineyard with it's stereo going. Thankfully, we could not hear it inside the house.

In other news, we caught the mouse. I presume the trap behind the sofa snapped some time during the night. The poor thing. It died munching on a piece of goat cheese. From Valençay. The only thing missing was a chilled glass of sauvignon blanc. French mice die with class.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A mouse in the house

I thought cats were supposed to keep mice out of the house. Ours brought one in this morning. Alive. Then he let it go. Ken and I spent a good thirty minutes trying to flush the critter out from under furniture into the jaws of the cat, all to no avail. Bert yawned. Tasha barked wildly. We finally gave up. I set two traps and put them behind the couch where the mouse was last spotted and out of reach of the dog. Now we wait.

Pretty yellow wildflowers. They look like little fireworks.

Our village's fireworks started last night at eleven p.m. and lasted about half an hour. Tasha lifted her head up a few times, but she never growled or barked. Afterward, we all slept peacefully through the night. More fireworks will be going on to our east in Saint-Aignan tonight. That's normally a bigger show, so we'll keep the windows on that side of the house closed.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ka-boom!

Our village is holding it's July 14 fireworks display tonight, the 13th of July. I presume it's because they don't want to compete with the bigger show that Saint-Aignan will put on tomorrow night, the actual 14th. Several of the smaller towns around us do this. So we get at least two nights of official fireworks, not to mention the home variety that people will be setting off themselves. Even though we won't be attending either of the municipal shows, we can hear them loud and clear here at the house.

Acacia leaves.

What will be interesting to us is how Tasha will react to the noise. Callie would often bark at the explosions, but then Callie would bark at a fly on the ceiling. So we shall see (or hear) what Tasha does this evening and tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A shining beacon

This was Sunday's sunrise. Storm clouds were gathering all around, but we still had some blue sky. The glow above the house was impressive seen from the vineyard. We waited all day for the predicted thunderstorms, but they all skirted around us.

Looking back at our hamlet on the way out into the vineyards.

I dare say that Tasha is now officially house-trained. I may come to regret that statement, but we have not had an indoor "accident" in quite some time. She's learning that she gets to go outside regularly and how to let us know if needs to go otherwise. Of course, part of that is us learning to read the signals. Now we're in teething mode. Tasha has at least a dozen toys to chew on, strewn all over the floor. One day soon I'll start finding teeth on the floor.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

Tasha is loving her walks in the vineyard. She's full of energy and runs at full throttle up and down the rows of vines. She's small enough not to have to worry about the lower guide wires and she can zoom around freely under the vines. We've been taking longer and longer walks and she's all for it.

Tasha takes a break from running. She's quite wet from the rain-soaked leaves and grass.

She seems to know which way home is and is always happy (maybe surprised?) when we get to the back gate. And she also has taken well to getting rubbed down with a towel after the walk. In fact, she really enjoys it. Then she gets rewarded with a biscuit.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Bourdon sur artichaut

I wanted to take some shots of our artichoke flowers while they were at their peak. The vibrant purple flowers are amazing. I remember being surprised to see one the first time, but it all made sense once I learned that artichokes are a variety of thistle.

A bumblebee collects nectar in an artichoke flower.

While taking the photos, I noticed quite a few bourdons (bumblebees) collecting nectar in the flowers. My first thought was that they were spoiling the shots. Then I realized that the photos might be better with the bees as the subject. Here's the result.

So... the storms predicted for Sunday never reached us. We had one little rain shower in the morning, but otherwise the storms went around us. However, this morning, at around 03h30, Tasha woke me up to go outside. There was a little lightning in the distance. At about 04h30, we had a pretty good storm with 18mm (almost 0.75 inches) of rain in the space of about forty-five minutes. Tasha was not upset in the least. And the roof didn't leak!

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Stormy weather

That's the prediction for today. Late morning and early afternoon thunderstorms, moderate to strong, with a lot of rain. Lovely. This morning, all is calm and I'm hopeful that Tasha and I will get a good walk in once it's light outside. She slept through the night downstairs where it's cooler. That's a good thing because it means she has the confidence to be a little independent of the pack.

It seems too early for these blue berries (not blueberries), but there they are.

I think we're ready for the storms. The only thing I worry about is heavy rain and roof leaks. If a lot of rain falls in a short amount of time, it can't drain quickly enough and backs up a little, especially if there is leaf debris where the water wants to go, causing it to seep in behind the tiles and, eventually, through the ceiling in the kitchen. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

A little update: by 07h30, I had the ladder out and cleared one blockage from the gutter and downspout, and got a couple clusters of leaf debris cleared out of the roof valley between the kitchen and dining room. Let's hope that helps our chances!

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Les vacances

School vacations officially started on Friday afternoon and this weekend marks the first grands départs of vacationers leaving the big cities for the mountains and the coasts. We'll see our share of vacationers here in the Loire Valley region as well. Historic royal châteaux, vineyards, hot-air balloons, and the zoo are the big draws here.

Grape leaves and tendrils after a rain shower last week.

And so far, the weather is good. The heat wave is cooling a little now and there may be some showers or thunderstorms in the next couple of days, but it certainly feels like summer. I didn't have my camera with me on Friday morning's walk with Tasha, but I noticed how beautifully lush the vineyards are looking right now. And, since most of them have been trimmed, they make a uniform blanket of green in the landscape. I'll try to get a photo soon.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Apples

It's a strange year for apples around here. We had that freeze in April which did a number on the blossoms. But enough blossoms survived for some apples to form. The big tree in our yard is dropping apples already, but they're not big enough for me to have to pick them up before cutting the grass, thankfully. That will likely change.

A little apple.

This apple is on a neighbor's tree. The crop is not large, but there are apples nonetheless. We'll see later this summer and into the fall what there is to harvest.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Thorns

This acacia sapling is lined with sharp thorns, likely the plant's defense against would-be nibblers. As the tree ages, the thorns become woody, but fewer, as most of the tree rises high above the reach of hungry wildlife. Except for giraffes, maybe, but they live on the other side of town--at the zoo.

Thorns on an acacia.

I got out this morning before 06h30 to water the vegetable garden. Tasha was bouncing off the walls in the house, so I got her outside to chase the tennis ball in between trips to the rain barrels with the watering cans. We're expecting another very hot day, so if I'm going to cut grass it will have to be this morning.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Sweet pea or not

I don't know what this plant is called. It reminds me of a sweet pea in the way it grows and the flowers it produces, but I really don't know what it is. It grows just outside our back gate in a patch of ground between the pond and the vineyard. There was a huge yard waste pile there when we moved in. Not long after, the town removed the pile and told us surrounding homeowners to take our yard waste to the dump. The plant comes back every year and still I can't remember what the fruit looks like.

A wild pea? A garden escapee? Something completely different?

The next heat wave is under way. We got up over 80ºF on Tuesday and are expecting to approach 90ºF over the next few days. The vegetable garden will like that. I harvested our first zucchini yesterday and there might be another one ready today. They'll get sliced and grilled as part of today's lunch.