Sunday, August 18, 2019

No photos

I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel. I haven't taken the camera out in a few days, mostly because it's been raining off and on. And we're expecting more scattered showers and/or thunderstorms this afternoon. Although, I must say, we haven't had thunder in quite a while.

A little row of wildflowers, out of focus.

On Friday, Ken and I left Tasha home alone again while we went to a local winery to stock up. As usual, she got excited about going somewhere when she noticed us getting ready. I did hear her bark and whimper a little as we left, but she was fine and happy when we got back home. I think she's getting it. We'll leave her again a time or two over the next weeks so she'll be used to it by the time we have our September meeting.

Saturday, August 17, 2019


We had what we call the "loft" built out in 2010. It's the attic of our house, made into one big room. Because our budget was limited, we decided not to have a bathroom built up there then, but to wait until later. Well, later came this year.

The new half-bath from the outside.

The result is a new half-bath, or wc, in the northwest corner of the room. The plumbing was tricky. At first we thought the drain would go outside the house, down to an underground pipe that would connect to the sewer line on the other end of the building. Our plumber said that was possible, but it would be very expensive. He suggested an alternative that kept the plumbing inside the house, across the attic in the closet space, and down to where the existing toilet connects to the sewer. It turned out to be a good solution.

Here's the "before" shot, but without the furniture we kept in the corner. You can see the closet space behind the radiator where the plumbing was installed.

So, now we have a half-bath in the bedroom area of the loft. No more need to go down a flight of stairs in the night. And it helps when we have guests. The old wc shares a wall with the guest room and, well, one can hear everything. But no more!

Inside the new half-bath. There's a small hot water heater behind the sink so we don't have to wait for hot water from two floors down.

We're very happy with the work and the result. There are still some things to hang on the walls, but that won't take much effort. I also like the way the large loft space looks with the new room in the corner. It adds a little more visual interest.

Friday, August 16, 2019

And now for something completely different

I know that Ken has already shown photos of the work we had done this summer, but what the heck. It's my turn. The work is essentially done, although a few finishing touches remain. These photos are of the wc and bathroom on the main floor. I'll show photos the new work in the loft tomorrow.

The old wc, with new toilet, half-wall, and even a new mirror over the old sink. We had some of the blue paint left from years ago. And while the old paint has faded a bit and the colors don't quite match, it's good enough for now. The only thing missing is a strip of black baseboard on the floor behind the toilet. That's being made now and will be installed when it's ready.

In addition to getting the new half-bath in the loft, we replaced the toilet in the old wc with a new suspended model. That required building a half-height wall to hide the workings, which was necessary anyway to hide the plumbing that goes from there up to the loft. Originally the idea was that the pipes would come down from the ceiling in the wc, but that seemed like it would be too cramped. Ken came up with the idea to bring the pipes down on the other side of the wall, in the much larger bathroom, then through the wall to the wc where the existing drain goes down to the sewer connection.

The column in the corner hides the new plumbing. Notice the now-white pipes below the towel warmer. It took three years and about five minutes for me to paint them. That tile (wall and floor) is original to the house and in good shape, so we've never changed it.

The drain pipe comes down from the loft (and the water supply line goes up) in a corner of the existing bathroom. The pipes are hidden inside a column that our builder constructed. I painted the column the same color as the bathroom walls. I also finally painted the copper pipes that feed and drain the towel warmer/radiator, a small job that's been waiting for three years to be done. I finally got a "round tuit."

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Good dog

So, yesterday was the day. Ken and I loaded the recycling and an empty butane bottle (for the gas grill) into the car. As usual, Tasha was all excited about the prospect of going somewhere in the car, but it was not to be. When I closed and locked the door with her on the other side, I expected to hear barking and/or whimpering, but there was none.

The contrast between the parched grasses and the lush grape vines is amazing.

We took about twenty minutes to dump the recycling and buy another bottle of butane at the supermarket. When we got back home, there was Tasha, happy to see us. No damage in the house, nothing out of order. She was a good dog. I gave her lots of praise and a few treats. Our next trip out will be to a local winery. It will take a little longer and, although we could take her, Tasha will stay home and guard the house. That's what I've always said to our dogs when we've left them. "Guard the house. We'll be back in a few minutes."

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

An experiment

It's hard to believe, but in the nearly two and a half years since Tasha has been here, we've never left her alone in the house. Except for very briefly when going across the street to our neighbors, only to ask if she's welcome (she is) and coming back to get her. We have an appointment in Blois in early September and I don't want to leave Tasha in the car. For one thing, it could very well be too hot to leave a dog in the car. And for another, we don't know how long our meeting will take and I'm not comfortable leaving her alone in a strange parking lot.

With the sunrise at my back, looking west over the vineyard.

So, we will need to leave her at home. Over the next few days, Ken and I plan to take short trips away from home (like to the store or the recycle center) and leave Tasha by herself, hoping she'll get used to the idea of being home alone and understand that we will always come back. I forgot how and when we did this with Callie, but I don't remember it being a problem. Callie hated the car, so I think she preferred to stay home. Tasha loves the car, so she may not be happy about not getting to go for a ride.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Not a tomato

This is a sweet pepper, although it looks like it should be hot, like a jalapeño. The photo is from last week and the pepper has grown a little since then. Our garden has about ten pepper plants this year of different varieties, all gifts from a friend who offered us her surplus seedlings in the spring. We haven't had much luck with peppers in recent years, but this year's hot weather has been good for these.

A sweet long pepper. We also have some hot ones out there.

I'm expecting a delivery of fioul (home heating oil) this morning. I like to get it in August before the demand (and price) goes up in the fall. I just realized that school starts again in three weeks. All that means for us is that there will be fewer vacationers around and the bridge traffic might ease up a bit.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Tomatoes [3]

Another tomato variety in this year's garden: Homestead. Ken brought these seeds back from North Carolina a year or so ago. From what I found on the internet, these tomatoes grow well in hot climates, which explains why he found them in NC. Lucky for us, this year has been pretty hot here and the Homesteads are looking good.

Homestead tomatoes on the vine.

Our builder stopped by last evening to drop off a container of paint. It's the color he used in our bathroom when we had the new shower built in 2016. I'm using it now to paint the column that hides the pipes that go up to the new half-bath in the loft. I'll put a second coat on today, and then that room will be done!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Tomatoes [2]

This tomato variety is called cornabel, probably because the elongated, pointed fruit resembles a bull's horn. The variety was apparently developed from the cornue des Andes, a horn-shaped tomato from South America. These tomatoes were quite popular in local gardens a few years ago; almost every garden I saw had some. I planted some, too, but that was the year that blight ravaged our tomato crop and we really didn't get any good ones.

Cornabels on the vine. I'm looking forward to tasting them.

So I decided to try again this year. So far, so good. I read that these tomatoes are low in acidity and have fewer seeds than a typical tomato. We shall see.

Saturday, August 10, 2019


Our tomatoes are getting bigger, and a few of them are turning red. In fact, I picked two completely ripe tomatoes on Friday. We ate them along with some yellow cherry-style tomatoes in a salad at lunch time. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for good weather (no hail) while the crop ripens.

If my labels are correct (and I'm not certain they are), these are Fireball tomatoes.

One year a while back, our tomatoes were stricken with blight and we watched as they rotted on the vine. It was pretty disappointing. Since then I've used an anti-fungus Bordeaux mixture to help prevent le mildiou, as it's called. We've been lucky so far.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Le basilic

We enjoyed our pesto lunch on Thursday and have some pesto left over for another meal. Before I picked the basil, I took a few photos. It's a good year for basil, the leaves are lush and fragrant. I got the basil from a local guy who sells produce at the farmers markets in our area. In spring he has all kinds of garden seedlings for sale, especially tomatoes. I got one pot of green basil and another of purple. He warned me that they both tasted the same (he also had other varieties), but that was ok with me. I liked the contrasting colors.

Standard green sweet basil. I picked most of the stems that were starting to flower.

There were enough basil seedlings for me to make up three large pots of mixed color for the deck and also plant a bunch out in the ground. I didn't expect those in the ground to do well, but the weather was perfect (for basil) and they've grown amazingly well. They are the ones pictured here.

Luscious purple basil.

There was a little excitement in the loft last night. Right at bedtime we discovered that a bat had flown in through an open window. We must have spent half an hour trying to force it back out by flapping hands and blankets, running around the loft like crazed chickens. Through it all, Tasha just sat and watched in silence. The bat would fly up to an open window then turn and circle back around the rafters. Twice, I think, it actually went out a window only to turn and fly right back in. Stupid bat. At one point it went downstairs where we were finally successful in getting it out through the den. Phew.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Not quite as high as an elephant's eye

The grass hasn't grown much this summer because of the drought. The last time I cut it was more than a month ago. Now, after yesterday's rain, I'm expecting a growth burst.

These tall grasses are not in our yard, thankfully.

Today I plan to harvest a bunch of basil from the garden to make pesto. We'll eat it on some fresh pasta that Ken brought home from the supermarket. Super U has a line of fresh pasta that includes tagliatelle, spaetzle, and fettuccine. The ingredients are few and wholesome. In the case of the tagliatelle, they're just flour, water, and eggs. As an appetizer, we'll eat melon and ham. Melons from the south and east of France are plentiful, delicious, and inexpensive this year and we've been enjoying them frequently with slices of cured ham. A summer favorite!

Wednesday, August 07, 2019


During the night we had a brief rain shower. Then, early this morning, we had a more steady rain for what I think was an hour or so. I was snoozing in between drops. It's nice to have some rain, but it certainly won't be enough to put a dent in the drought. That task falls to winter this year. We'll see how it goes. Meanwhile, they're having quite violent thunderstorms in the south this morning. I'm glad it's not us.

An acacia sapling out on the edges of the vineyard.

I haven't checked the rain gauge yet, but I'm hoping that enough rain fell to water the vegetables and I can skip a day of hand-watering. Tasha and I will head out soon for our first "muddy paws" walk in nearly two months.

UPDATE: It's been raining for a few hours now. Rain gauge says 21mm (almost an inch), so watering the garden won't be necessary. Yippee!

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

A squash by any other name

The British use the French word: courgette. The Americans use the Italian word: zucchini. The Germans also use the Italian word. The Spanish use, well, I suppose it's a Spanish word: calabacín. And the Portuguese use the native Brazilian word: abobrinha.

Zucchini in our summer garden. It's a striped fruit, bush variety.

The zucchini originated in Mesoamerica but, according to Wikipedia, was developed into the modern summer squash we recognize in northern Italy.  Whatever you call it, I think zucchini is the definitive summer squash, ubiquitous, productive, and versatile. Bon appétit !

Monday, August 05, 2019

First tomatoes

The first tomatoes of the season are ripening. I harvested some red and yellow cherry-style tomatoes on Saturday. They were enough for two good-sized salads. We added oil and balsamic vinegar, mozzarella, and fresh basil for our Caprese salad course.

The first tomatoes from the 2019 garden.

The bigger tomatoes are still green, but if we're lucky, it won't be long before we can start picking them. The zukes keep coming in. On Sunday I made an old favorite: deep-fried zucchini balls. I grateed some zucchini, added minced onion, ginger, and hot chilies, bound the mixture with some chick pea flour, and formed small "meatballs" before deep frying them to a nice golden brown. We ate them with a spicy peanut sauce.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

The hamlet

Tasha and I walked around the edges of the vineyards on Saturday morning, in the spaces between the vines and the woods. We encountered a deer along the way and Tasha took off after it. She doesn't go far and I caught up with her after a couple of minutes. In the meantime, I took this photo of our little hamlet at sunrise.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of little hamlets like ours dot the landscape of rural France.

I call our little collection of nine houses a hamlet. Since there is neither a church nor any business, it doesn't qualify as a village. I think it might be referred to as un lieu-dit (a place with a traditional name). Wikipedia says that a lieu-dit is not necessarily inhabited, but that un hameau (a hamlet) is. So, our little group of houses, called La Renaudière, fits both definitions.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

A blustery day

Last Tuesday we had a chilly and windy day. I thought a movie of the wind blowing through the trees would be a good way to remember it. My video making skills are nil, but this is what I got. Of course, the wind stopped blowing as strongly as it had been a few minutes before taking the movie, but you get the idea.

The view from our deck. The video runs for less than a minute.

Since Tuesday, we've been back to mostly warm, almost hot days. And dry. Do I sound like a broken record? It's an interesting summer, this year.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Pots on the deck

I was sitting out on the deck yesterday afternoon and thought this view of some of our potted plants looked nice, so I snapped a photo. The weather has turned summery again, but nowhere near as hot as it was not long ago. It's still dry, though.

Potted plants on the north end of the deck. The red flowers are dipladenia a.k.a. mandavilla.

So, the daily watering ritual continues in the vegetable garden and on the deck. The basil and chives are doing well, probably because it's been hot, but the cilantro has bolted and is flowering. Out in the garden, I picked three more zucchini and several yellow cherry-style tomatoes, and some of the peppers are forming now.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

À sec

This is a small pond on a neighbor's property. It's completely dry. The pond was never really full, and it was cleaned out and enlarged a few years ago. I believe it was once where used water and waste from the neighbor's house went to soak into the ground. Since the neighborhood got its sewer line, it's not used for that any more.

This pond is normally a couple of feet deep, but it has completely dried up because of the drought.

The pond outside our back gate is not dry and seems to have plenty of water in it. It's also full of frogs, an invasive river weed called jussie or ludwigia (water primrose), and it even has a small stand of  massettes or typha (cattails). I remember one year early on when the town trucked water up from the river to keep the pond full. I think that's where the jussie came from. "Our" pond is not on our property, but is owned and maintained by the town and serves as a reserve for fire fighting. That's probably why it's kept filled.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019


And the livin' is dry. When the heat wave broke last weekend, we got some rain. About six millimeters worth. That's not much. I'm still watering the vegetable garden every morning to keep it alive. I wonder if I'm watering enough, but I don't want to overdo it, either. The peppers have a lot of blossoms and the zukes are producing.

Tuesday morning's sunrise.

Some of the tomato plants seem smaller than they should be, and a few of them have burned leaves from the heat. So do some of the yellow flat beans. Oh well. Like I said once before, I'm not going to take extraordinary measures.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The neighbor's cat

A couple of weeks ago, while walking by a neighbor's house, I noticed this cat in her back yard and snapped a photo. The neighbor had just arrived from her home in the Paris area to spend a few summer weeks here. The cat, it turns out, belongs to her daughter's family. They came down about a week ago. Then we found out that the cat had gone missing.

Here, kitty, kitty, kitty...

Other than the day I took the photo, neither Ken nor I have seen the cat. We noticed the family driving slowly up and down the road the other day hoping to find it, but to no avail. They went back to Paris yesterday morning, without the cat. Our neighbor told Ken that they were going to check in at the local vet's office to see if anyone had reported a found cat.

These days, Bert (our cat) gets along with most of the neighborhood cats, even the temporary visitors from Paris. We've seen some of them in our yard hanging out with Bert. But this particular cat is nowhere to be seen. Another neighbor speculated that a badger might have taken it. I suppose that's possible, but this is not a small cat, and I haven't heard of any other neighborhood cat falling prey to a badger since we've been here.

I find it curious that people would bring a cat to a vacation home and let it roam free. Seems like a strange thing to do, but this particular neighbor has been doing just that for years with her own, her son's, and her daughter's cats.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Summer daze

We got the paint brushes out yesterday and made some progress. Ken stained/varnished a couple of wooden boxes we got for kleenex and a wooden coat rack for the wall, and I put a coat of paint on the column that was built to hide the drain pipe that comes down from the loft. I think it might need a second coat. We still have to varnish the oak shelf in the new half-bath upstairs.

Neatly trimmed grape vines bask in the heat during our recent hot spell. You can see how dry the ground is.

The weather stayed pleasantly cool on Sunday and I grilled hamburgers for lunch. Our neighbors across the road had a small gathering and they invited us, but we didn't get their phone message until it was too late. That's ok. I wasn't really in the mood to get presentable and socialize.

The house is cooling off to the point where it almost feels cold in the morning. Things are getting back to normal. At least for the time being.

Sunday, July 28, 2019


Contrasts abound. We just had one of the hottest days ever, and now it's chilly outside. I had to add a blanket to the bed early this morning. Brrr. Out in the vineyards, the fields of tall grasses are parched brown while the deep-rooted grapes and trees stay green.

Make hay while the sun shines.

The Tour de France concludes today after a tumultuous weekend of hail and landslides shook things up along the route. This afternoon the cyclists will have a calm and relatively easy ride into Paris, the traditional, mostly ceremonial, finish. I'll be watching, if only for the nice aerial shots of the city.

Saturday, July 27, 2019


The heat wave is over. In our region, anyway. The temperatures are more normal and it finally rained on Friday. This morning, it's cool with light rain falling. Such a change. We could actually watch tv up in the loft last night, and sleeping was much more comfortable.

Last Wednesday's sunrise.

Because the weather has been so oppressive over the past week, we haven't felt like doing much around the house. There is some painting and varnishing left to finish, and a few more things to hang up on the walls. But we'll get there, eventually.

Friday, July 26, 2019


The grass in our yard is grillée, as they say. Grilled. Toasted. It's not unique to this year's heat wave. Most every summer has its dry spell and the grass goes brown. The green parts you see are patches of weeds that tolerate the drought better than the actual grass. Our lawn is really a prairie of wild weeds with some grass mixed in.

The last time I cut the "grass" was three weeks ago, on July 4. You can see it hasn't grown at all. The clary sage is thirsty.

Until it starts to rain again regularly, the ground out back will stay brown. Watering it is out of the question. Even if we weren't under water restrictions, it makes no sense to try to keep the lawn green. Our water is better used in the vegetable garden and for potted plants.

The heat wave is breaking. It's still warm this morning (the house will take a while to cool down), but there is a cool-ish breeze blowing and rain is coming in from the west. We're not expected to break 30ºC (86ºF) today, and it should be even cooler over the weekend. The high on our deck on Thursday was 40.5ºC, just about 105ºF. The humidity was very low, down around 20% or so. It was a dry heat. Thank goodness.

Thursday, July 25, 2019


Today is supposed to be the hottest day of our current heat wave, but the weather site I look at most often has dialed back the predicted high. It will be hot, but not as hot as they were saying yesterday. The northeast will get it worse than us. The problem we have is that the house has now heated up. It's not cool enough in the morning for the house to shed the accumulated heat, so it just stays hot inside, and gets hotter as the day goes on.

The daisies are starting to dry out. Maybe some rain will help them last a little longer.

So, we will suffer through another stifling afternoon and evening before the weather breaks overnight. They say it will cool down significantly on Friday and we'll have some rain. The weekend will be almost chilly. I'm ready for some of that.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

103 degrees

The thermometer on our deck read 39.5ºC at its hottest point on Tuesday. That's 103ºF. Ouch. We closed up the windows and shutters just before 11 a.m., and the main floor of the house stayed relatively cool, not rising above 29ºC (about 84ºF). Going outdoors was like walking into a hot oven. It reminded me of Las Vegas or Death Valley. The loft was unbearable, but at sunset it started to feel better and we were able to sleep upstairs with the big fan going.

A morning glory looking cool in the grass last week.

Today is expected to be slightly cooler, but they're predicting 40ºC for Thursday. They say the heat will break on Friday with thunderstorms and rain predicted. I remember rain.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Summer sky

Our second heat wave of the year is building in. Our high here at home on Monday was about 33ºC (about 91ºF). Today we're expecting 38ºC (about 100ºF). That's higher than body temperature. Yikes!

Saturday morning at about 7h30 in the vineyard.

We'll be lying low this afternoon and evening. This morning I'll water the vegetable garden, then I plan to load up the car with stuff for the dump. After the dump, I have a couple of things to pick up at the hardware store. As for lunch, it's burgers on the grill.

Monday, July 22, 2019

State of the grapes

The grape vines out back seem to be enjoying summer, so far. There is no sign of crispy leaves or burned grapes. Let's hope it stays that way through this week's predicted heat wave. The blossoms are long gone and the grape bunches have formed. Now it's just a matter of time and weather for the grapes to ripen. If the weather stays hot and dry, the harvest might start earlier than normal. Still, I think it's too early to tell.

Healthy looking leaves and grape bunches.

Because it's been so dry, the growers haven't had to spray any fungus preventative since spring. And, likewise, I haven't had to spray the tomato plants. I use boullie bordelaise (Bordeaux mixture), a copper sulfate and lime mixture that helps to prevent mildiou (fungus or blight) on tomato and other garden plants. It's very similar to what the growers use in the vineyards. In small quantities, it's considered safe and is officially approved for use in organic agriculture.

Sunday, July 21, 2019


Here's the vegetable garden as it looks this weekend. I'm keeping the plants (and weeds) watered by hand. That's why there are very few weeds between the plants, but lots of them at the base of each plant. I pull some out every day, but they grow quickly. The row of kale, just behind the zucchini in this photo, is overrun with flea beetles. The leaves are pretty much inedible now, perforated with thousands of tiny holes by the beetles. I won't use poison in the garden, so the infestation will have to run its course. I read that flea beetles feed mostly on cabbages and kale, so everything else should be safe.

I'm hoping that the kale makes some fresh new growth once the beetles are gone. I will spray some soapy water on them today; I just read that flea beetles don't like that.

There are lots of tomatoes on the vines, but they're still very small. I'm pleased with the tripods/teepees that I made with the tomato stakes. They're pretty stable, and I shouldn't have pound in additional supports this summer. I've harvested about four or five zukes so far. The peppers are developing blossoms, but the eggplant don't have any yet.

The next heat wave is expected to start on Monday and last through the week. I hope the plants survive. I've had tomatoes burned by heat in the past. But I'm not planning to take any extraordinary measures. Whatever will be, will be.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Kitchen visitor

Earlier this week we had a small visitor in the kitchen. It was une mante religieuse (a praying mantis). I found it climbing up the window frame, so I grabbed the camera and got a couple of shots before it flew outside.

A mantis climbs up the kitchen window frame.

We're bracing for the coming heat wave, although there's really nothing to be done. I water the vegetable garden every morning. We're probably not going to go out and buy an air conditioner. The temperatures this weekend are ok, but the highs are starting to creep up. The air cools off after sunset and the big fan in one of the loft windows helps to move it through the room. The hottest days are predicted to be Tuesday and Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Wild chicory

I remember these common summer flowers as "cornflowers" when I was younger. Here in France they're known as chicorée sauvage (wild chicory). They bloom from mid-summer to early fall. Around us, they grow in the margins around vineyard parcels and in fields that have been left fallow.

Beautiful blue chicory flowers make their annual appearance in the vineyard and on the blog.

Wild chicory, along with wild carrot (Queen Anne's Lace), are the typical wildflowers we see at the peak of summer. I wonder if they're a little advanced this year because of the heat.

Thursday, July 18, 2019


Drought. It's official: we're in one. Major portions of our département, the Loir et Cher, are at drought level red. Water restrictions are in place that prohibit irrigation, watering lawns, washing cars, and filling pools and fountains. Watering vegetable gardens is only allowed between 8pm and 8am. We haven't had rain in over a month, we've already had a week-long heat wave, and another is predicted for next week, with daytime highs expected near 100ºF for several days in a row.

The wild flowers are drying out. Early? I'm not sure.

This is very similar, although not yet as bad, as it was in 2003 when we moved here. France, with the exception of the Mediterranean coast, had a reputation for being wet and chilly. No more. Our winters have been mild lately, with little or no snow. And while we had a wet spring this year, it wasn't enough to counter years of rain deficits. The level of the Cher River is at a historic low, and the Loire is lower than it has been so early in the season. The water tables are not being sufficiently replenished. The situation reminds me of the years we spent in California.

This coming week will be difficult, especially for sleeping.

My information comes from the web sites of the Préfecture du Loir-et-Cher and our local newspaper, La Nouvelle République.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


This is a variety of kale called Red Russian. It's the second time we've had it in the garden, the first being two years ago, I think. This year, a gardening friend gave us little seedlings, her surplus, back in the spring. They took off in the garden and were looking real good until a few days ago. We suffered an attack of flea beetles; they bore tiny holes in the leaves. This happened the first time we grew them, too. It's just a matter of waiting until the beetles go away (they do) and new growth takes over. We'll probably be able to harvest good-looking leaves in the fall.

Red Russian kale, just before the flea beetles got to it.

For two years we also grew Tuscan a.k.a. "dinosaur" kale, also attacked by and recovered from flea beetles. There is still some of that in the freezer, so we didn't grow any this year. A few years back we tried some curly leaf kale in the garden. It was good, but it turns out that the curly leaves are difficult to clean, so we gave up on it. These two varieties are easy to deal with, once the beetles go away.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


The first tomatoes are forming now and all of the plants have blossoms. The first harvest is still a while away, but I'm already looking forward to it. There are thirty-two tomato plants of different varieties in this year's garden. If we're lucky, there will be beaucoup tomato sauce in the freezer this fall.

These handy plastic clips hold the tomato stem to the support. They're reusable; this is their third year in the garden.

We're still enjoying sauce from last year's harvest. We also make and can tomato paste, which is essentially sauce reduced to a paste in a slow oven. And then there are the dried tomatoes, a good ingredient for many winter dishes. But the best part is having tasty tomatoes fresh from the garden for salads, burgers, pizza, and other summer favorites.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The first zukes

I picked our first two zucchini of the season on Sunday. I sliced and grilled them; we ate them with grilled sausages and pasta. I didn't take any pictures, but here's an shot of the plant they came from.

A zucchini blossom in the garden. There's a tiny zucchini just to the left of the blossom's top petal.

Sunday was a busy day. I put up three mirrors, which meant lots of measuring and drilling holes in the walls. All went well with no mishaps. One of the mirrors went in the bathroom, one in the downstairs WC, and the third was relocated from the downstairs WC up to the loft.

There was also some Tour de France to watch, not to mention the nearly five-hour men's tennis final at Wimbledon. We were rooting for Federer, but Djokovic eked out the win. I noticed that Federer actually won more games than Djokovic (36 to 32), but Djokovic got the winning third set (of five) in a tie break. That's just how tennis works. So much for the grass court season. Now things will swing to the hard courts and the build up to the US Open in August.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The summer deck

In good weather, we enjoy the additional living space we get on the deck, which is just off the living/dining area on the main floor of the house. Our house is what's commonly called un pavillon sur sous-sol (a detached house over a basement). In our case, and common around here, the basement is not below ground, but on the ground level, and the main living level is one floor above the ground.

The deck faces east. The umbrella helps to shade the table from the hot mid-day sun.
This year we have basil, chives, and parsley in addition to the flowers on the deck.

I've seen many houses like ours where the owners have completely closed in the deck with glass, adding a permanent indoor space to the house. But I enjoy being out on the deck in the summer, even if the space is not very usable in winter. Having the barbecue on the deck is more practical than it was out in the back yard. It's closer to the kitchen and I don't have to go up and down stairs to get to the grill.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Funky feline fotos

On Friday morning's walk, Tasha and I found Bert out by the pond. He likes to stalk the critters out there. It's probably mice who come to the pond for water. I've never seen Bert take a frog, and the pond is full of them right now.

Bert is 13 years old now, and he's starting to go gray!

A few weeks ago, Bert showed up with a limp, favoring his front left paw. It was swollen, but he let us manipulate it. He was also walking, going up and down stairs, and eating normally. We waited a few days to decide about taking him to the vet. When we took Tasha to the vet last year for a sprained leg, the doctor examined her (ka-ching!), took an x-ray (ka-ching!), and prescribed an anti-inflammatory (ka-ching!). Then we waited for it to get better, which it did.

Bert among the vines. The pond he likes to stalk is just out of the photo on the right.

So we didn't do that with Bert. His leg is back to normal now, and he's hunting again. A lot. He's brought at least one mouse home every day for the past week. Had we thought the leg was broken, we would not have hesitated to take him in, but his injury had all the appearances of a sprain or maybe a fight injury, so we let him heal himself, and he did. I wonder how many "lives" he has left...

Friday, July 12, 2019

A blanket of green

When the grape vines are freshly trimmed, the vineyard can look like a green blanket covering the empty spaces between patches of woods. It depends on the angle, of course. Like here, it's hard to tell that there are empty spaces between the rows of vines.

The summer vineyard under sunny skies.

We're experiencing a dry spell right now. No rain for weeks, and none in the immediate forecast. The sun shines brightly most days, and it's hot (although not as hot as it was during our recent heat wave). Our lawn, such as it is, is brown. This is nothing new. We've had many a summer with a dry spell like this (we've had other summers that were rain-soaked). The question is: when will it rain again? The grape vines have deep roots and they can easily survive these spells. But other agriculture needs rain. Grains, sunflowers, and corn are grown around us. The corn is routinely irrigated but the other crops are not.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Le potager

Here's a lousy photo of the vegetable garden. The bright sun is great for the plants, but not so great for photography. It's difficult to distinguish individual plants, but you might notice that at the base of each vegetable plant is a thriving patch of weeds. They're a mixture of crab grass, purslane, and other unwanted weeds. I try to pull them out, but they have roots deep and strong. I water each plant using a watering can, so the weeds thrive where the water goes. If I used a sprinkler, the whole garden would be lost under a mound of weeds.

A wide view of the garden. Behind the watering can on the right is the oregano patch.

The snow peas along the back trellis are turning yellow and dying now, but on the right side the yellow flat beans are climbing nicely. The tomato tripods are holding up with most of the tomato bushes climbing about halfway up at this point. On the left in back are two zucchini plants, in front of them are nine pepper plants and, to the right of that, a row of kale. The left-most tripod in front is planted with eggplant.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Like a tunnel

In yesterday's post, I talked about clearing the fence line on the north side of our yard. Later in the day, I went out and took a photo. With the bright sun the photo is a little contrasted, but it gives you the idea of how close the woods are to the fence. The space we try to keep clear is looking more like a tunnel these days, but it's not as closed in as it looks.

The woods outside our yard are on the left. Just to the right of the fence is a hedge of hazelnut trees.

There is still a lot of work to do to get the tall grasses and other plants trimmed off the actual fence, but the main thing is that there is space between the woods (and blackberry brambles and rogue grape vines) and the fence itself. Without that space, the woods would take over, and likely destroy, the fence. We had the fence put in soon after we moved in sixteen years ago, mostly to keep our dog Collette inside the yard but also to keep the deer out. It's holding up well, as long as we can keep the woods away.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Tasha Tuesday

Here's Tasha stopped along our morning walk route to check out something that made a noise in the grass. It was probably some kind of little rodent scurrying around in the undergrowth. She hears them often and likes to pretend she could catch one.

Tasha inspects the wildlife along the vineyard road.

Because of the spring rain and the heat wave, I didn't get out to clear the fence line on the north side of our property this year. The saplings and brambles don't waste any time filling in the space between the woods and the fence. In addition, the wind storm had blown two small trees over. They landed on the fence, but did no damage. When it happened, I cut the trunks with a hand saw where they touched the fence, but the rest stayed put. So yesterday I got the chainsaw out and cut the trunks down to the ground. I also got the hedge trimmer out and cleared the vines and blackberry brambles (thorny!) to about a meter from the fence. Then I ran the lawnmower over the strip to finish the clearing. A productive morning.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Summer sunrise

This was Saturday morning's sunrise at around 06h30. It was warm when Tasha and I went out for the morning walk, shorts and tee-shirt weather. It wasn't long until the day got hot.

Sunrise over the Cher Valley.

It's a little cooler now, but it's still nice and summery. Our house guest leaves today, so we need to get back to finishing up the bathroom work. There's not much to do, and the builder still has some little things to finish. Having the half-bath upstairs is really making a difference, especially with a guest in the house. I'm glad we finally did it.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Veggie update

It was touch and go for a while with the courgettes (zucchini) this year. I think they languished too long in the greenhouse before getting planted outdoors. But they've come through and now they have blossoms, so we should get a good crop.

One of two zucchini plants in this year's garden. I think two will be enough.

The yellow flat beans are climbing vigorously up the trellis at the back of the garden. I'm looking forward to an abundant harvest (knock on wood) starting later this month. Their predecessors, the snow peas, are done now. The heat wave did them in as they prefer the cooler weather of spring.

The yellow flat beans are looking good so far.

The other plants are growing well, too. They're mostly tomatoes (some with fruit already!), but there is also kale, peppers, and a few eggplants.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

The heat is back

It's not as bad as last week's heat wave, but the air is hot and still again. Friday's high temperature was in the low 30sC, the mid-80sF. The same is expected today. The vegetable garden is having a good time. The zucchini are starting to flower now.

The tall grasses and wildflowers are competing with the grape vines in some places.

Today is the official start of school summer vacation. Tourist season is under way. The châteaux and zoo are big draws in our region. It doesn't mean much to us except that there is more traffic on the roads. We'll probably see our Parisian neighbors a little more over the next two months.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Little grapes

The grape flowers are disappearing and grapes are forming on the vines out back. The cycle continues. As summer goes on, the grapes will get bigger until the onset of fall, then they will change color before the harvest gets under way. But let's not rush things.

A bunch of baby wine grapes.

We are expecting a friend from San Francisco to arrive today. However, when I checked his flight status this morning, I found out that his plane had a mechanical issue and was diverted to Newark, NJ, where it still sits as I write this. At this point, our friend will certainly miss his train connections, so we'll have to stand by to see when he actually lands in Paris and what he decides to do. I'm writing this and posting it early to let him know we're watching, in case he accesses the blog en route. Traveling can sure be a pain in the derrière.