Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Roses

One of our part-time neighbors has several rose bushes in her yard. She did some serious pruning last year and this year the roses are covered with blooms. This one is supported by the fence that runs along the vineyard road.

Our neighbor's pink rose bush just a few days ago.

Tuesday's high temperature reached 31.1ºC (about 88ºF) on our outdoor thermometer. Today we're expecting it to get just a little higher than that. Thursday is predicted to be the peak with one weather site saying the temperature will top out at 35ºC (95ºF) while another says 41ºC (about 105ºF). Evening is the worst time inside the house, but once the sun sets (right around 10:00 pm) things begin to cool off, albeit slowly.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Bloomin' heat

These are grape flowers in bloom. You really have to look hard to see them, but they're there. As the flowers fade, little grapes will form and grow into a more recognizable bunch.

The flowers have tiny white stamens, I don't think there are petals.

The heat is building in. Our outside thermometer, located in a shaded spot on the north side of the house, recorded a high of 30.4ºC (almost 87ºF) yesterday . It was hotter on the deck, though. This morning it's 21.7ºC (about 71ºF) outside and all our windows are thrown open. Cool air is moving through the house. The peak of the heat wave is expected on Thursday or Friday.

Monday, June 24, 2019

The green green grapes of home

The vineyards in our region have donned their full summer green. The grape vines are flowering now. Little bunches of grapes are on the way. The weeds are also thriving thanks to a rainy spring. And now we're entering at least a week of heat. Météo France is saying we will get up to 40ºC on Thursday and Friday. That's 104ºF, something we haven't seen since 2003, I think.

Summer finally showed up, with a vengeance.

Sleeping was uncomfortable enough last night, and we were only in the high 20s. Sleeping in the high 30s is going to be very difficult, with only fans to move the air around. We will be sure to stay hydrated. Oh, and I dug out the recipe and started making ice cubes.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Attack of the weeds

The weed invasion is more or less under control in the vegetable garden. For now. I still have more to do, but the majority of the little weedlings have been plowed under. Oh, they'll be back, but with a stretch of dry days ahead, it will take some time.

You can see what's left of the green mat of weeds along the back and on the right side of the plot. There's more work to be done!

The tomato plants are getting tall enough now to attach to the legs of the tripods, or tee-pees if you prefer. I've also started pinching suckers from the central stems. And I've sprayed a few times to prevent the mildew fungus from attacking. Phew! The plants should enjoy the coming heat wave, as long as I keep them watered.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Spare grass

That's what I and my siblings used to call asparagus when we were kids. I don't remember any of us actually liking it. I detested the stuff. It would make me gag. All that's changed now, of course. I really like fresh asparagus, green or white, when it's in season. The season is pretty much over now, locally. Asparagus plants have been left to flower and go to seed and their roots will recharge for next year. Out in the vineyard, among the vines, rogue asparagus plants (those whose seeds were dropped by birds) are also producing berries.

These asparagus berries will turn bright red when they ripen.

Summer is here, and the weather people are saying we're in for a heat wave this coming week. Serious heat. I'm talking upper 30s C, which is the high 90s F. Yikes! I spent some time on Friday morning weeding the vegetable garden. The recent rain has sent the weeds into a frenzy. I've got to get them now before they get out of control.

Friday, June 21, 2019

WC progress

Here's a little update on the first days of the bathroom work. You will remember that, at long last, we are adding a half-bath to the attic/loft space. The plumber did a good deal of work behind the walls, installing water supply and drain lines. Then the builder started to add the framing for the room itself.

Here's the "before" shot. The plumber is already working in the closet space under the eaves.

Next, the plumber put in the support chassis for the suspended toilet. The builder will then frame that in and the plumber will hang the sink and its cabinet (once it's delivered). There's some minor electrical relocation that will be done for the light fixture and an outlet.

Part of the wall is framed (aluminum studs) and the toilet bracket (the blue frame) is in place.

Once all that is done, and the toilet is installed, the plumber will remove the downstairs toilet to connect everything. He'll replace it with a new suspended toilet and the builder will box that in as well. Then we'll see what finish work will need to be done. I think we're going to repaint the downstairs WC when the construction is complete.

G. and L. pose in front of their great work.

And now it's looking like a room. Here's a nice shot of the builder and his partner as they were finishing up on Thursday afternoon.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Mauve

These little mauve, or purple, flowers look like blackberry blossoms to me. The plant's stem is thorny, which is what makes me think it might be a blackberry. The plant is very small, therefore young. I saw it on the edge of one of the vineyard parcels out back where there are many bigger blackberry brambles. Most of the berries are eaten by the wildlife.

The purple flowers caught my eye.

Work continues on the upstairs half-bath. Some of the framing of the room is up as is the chassis for the toilet. We're getting "suspended" toilets for both WCs. They don't touch the floor, but hang off the wall. All the brackets and mechanisms for flushing are hidden behind the wall. It's a clean look, and it will make actual cleaning much easier. We'll be sure to post photos once they're installed.

Meanwhile, Ken has ordered the sink, cabinet, and faucet that will be installed upstairs. They should be delivered between now and the weekend. The sink and its cabinet are also "suspended" from the WC wall, so there will be nothing touching the floor!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Hot start

Tuesday was as hot as the forecasters predicted. And it was humid, for us. And, our plumbing contractor showed up and started work on the new half-bath. First, he fixed a problem with the sink in the existing WC. Then he started drilling through the ceiling and wall to run the waste drain pipe down from the loft to connect to the existing sewer pipe.

Little daisies next to a puddle.

At that point we had our first mishap. He inadvertently drilled through the roof, breaking one of the tiles. Fortunately, we have surplus tiles, so he was able to get the ladder out and replace the broken one. The builder will be joining the plumber this morning to start constructing the walls for the new loft WC.

Just in case you're unfamiliar with the term, WC [doobluh-vay-SAY] stands for "water closet," an English term for the room where the toilet is. The French use the initials but never the words. Often they'll abbreviate the pronunciation to just VC [vay-SAY]. They also call them les toilettes, especially in restaurants or other public places. There are other terms, but I'll just leave it there for now.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Grape flowers

The vineyard is blooming. Not that you'd notice. Grape flowers are tiny and only visible if you look closely. Those pictured here were not quite open when I took the photo, but they are by now. Soon, the little grapes will form and start to grow.

These grape flowers are on the verge of opening.

Today work is supposed to start on the half-bath in the loft. There's some plumbing that has to be done to install a water supply line and, of course, the drain line before the fixtures can go in. There's a little electric re-wiring to be done as well, but nothing major. I'm not quite sure what the sequence of work will be, but if we're lucky we'll find out today.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Just a bowl of cherries

That's life. And, that's the main ingredient in clafoutis aux cerises. I got a pound of black cherries at the market on Saturday so that I could make this standard French dessert. It's a very simple baked custard with whole cherries. So good!

A bowl of cherries in the morning sun.

To make it, you put the stemmed and rinsed cherries (most French people don't pit the cherries; they believe they keep their flavor better that way) in a single layer in a buttered baking dish and pour on the custard. That's made with a little flour, four eggs, some sugar, and about a cup of milk. Then it's into a moderate oven for about half an hour, until it puffs up. Let cool and serve.

The finished clafoutis. It sinks a little as it cools. You don't pit the cherries, so be careful when eating!

Sunday actually turned out to be a nice day. Tasha helped me pick up sticks that had been blown out of the trees by the storm a week ago. Most yard work is a game for her. Today I plan to get some of the grass cut. I'll finish it up on Tuesday. I barbecued pork chops for lunch yesterday. Today it will be grilled chicken satay along with another harvest of snow peas. Yum!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

It's only a day away

This happens every year. At some point, cool and damp weather will turn warm and dry. The forecasters often show the change happening "tomorrow." It's cold and rainy today, yes, but tomorrow the temperature will shoot up and the sun will shine. The next day, it's still cold and wet, but the sun'll come out, tomorrow! Rinse and repeat. We've been promised nice weather tomorrow for about four days now. We're still waiting for tomorrow.

Everything has been a bit drippy lately.

The grass has taken advantage of all the rain and is shooting up, but it's still too wet to cut. Monday, i.e. tomorrow, should be the day. They're predicting sun and 24º (that's 75ºF). We shall see. UPDATE: After I wrote this, the sun came up in a clear sky. It's tomorrow!

In addition to strawberries, I got some black cherries at the market on Saturday. This morning I'm planning to make a clafoutis (kla-foo-TEE) with them. I'll try to remember to take photos.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Raindrops on rozannes

The rozanne geraniums are starting to bloom now. They're perennials and this is their second year in this location in the back yard. I originally had them in pots on the deck, but they wanted more room so I put them in the ground. They seem to like it.

I really like the deep blue/purple color of these flowers. And they bloom all summer and into fall.

The days are warming up, but very slowly. Still, we're having small evening thunderstorms with rain. I haven't needed to water the vegetable garden in over a week and, with all the rain, the weeds are growing. Once it dries out I'll need to get out there with the hoe and do some weed control.

Friday, June 14, 2019

More peas, please

On Wednesday, I harvested another batch of snow peas from our plants in the garden. They're really producing and this is the third batch we've had. Ken made a stir-fry with chicken this time and it was delicious.

Snow peas from the garden, trimmed and ready for the steamer.

I pulled the stems and strings off the peas and steamed them before they went into the stir-fry. That way, they have a head start on cooking. I'm not a big fan of crunchy (read: raw) vegetables in finished dishes the way many Californians are. As our friend CHM once told a waiter in a fancy Bay Area French restaurant: the green beans are good, but they would be better if they were cooked.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Now wait just a berry pickin' minute

A friend invited me to go pick strawberries on Monday. The morning was overcast and cool, perfect weather for picking berries inside polyethylene tunnels. I picked up my friend at her house and drove to the farm. It's about 35 kilometers away. There weren't many people there (Monday was a holiday) and we had a whole tunnel to ourselves. We picked berries for about 45 minutes.

Fresh berries for shortcake and "fraises au vin rouge" (strawberries in red wine).

After picking, we had our berries weighed and paid for them. I had picked eight kilograms (about 17 lbs.) of berries! It didn't seem like so much when I was picking. And the price was right at €1.50/kg. We're eating fresh berries, of course, but there were so many that I had to process and preserve most of them.

Whole berries frozen on a tray. I didn't take a photo of the coulis.

The first thing I did was to wash and trim the berries. I then picked out some nice berries and froze them whole on a cookie sheet. We'll use them to make jam or something at some point. I also just froze some whole berries in freezer bags. Those, too, will probably end up as jam later. Most of the berries got made into a coulis de fraises, a puree of strawberries, that we'll use later to make frozen yogurt and other desserts. I ended up with five 750 ml containers of coulis, about four quarts worth.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Croquembouche et fines bulles

Here's an interesting bit of French culture. The traditional wedding "cake" in France is tower of puff pastries filled with pastry cream, "glued" together with sticky caramel. Often there is a layer or two of nougatine (caramel nut brittle) inside and/or as an ornament on top. The pièce montée is frequently called un croquembouche (it crunches in your mouth).

The croquembouche pièce montée just before serving.

So, for Sunday's 40th wedding anniversary celebration, our neighbors treated everyone to a beautiful croquembouche. There was also a shorter, wider tower and a tray of additional puff pastries served to ensure that there was enough for the 85 or so guests in attendance.

The Champagne is served!

And, just to make it a real celebration, bubbly wine was offered to all. It was a very tasty Beurton Couvreur Champagne from just south of Reims. In the interest of full disclosure: I've never met a bubbly wine I didn't like.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A party and old friends

I mentioned that our neighbors across the road had a party this past weekend. It was a large gathering that started on Saturday and continued through Sunday. There were still a few folks there on Monday, too. The weather wasn't great, but it was good enough not to spoil the fun.

That's B. enjoying some shade and conversation on Sunday afternoon.

The house belongs to B. and M. who live in Blois, about 40 kilometers north. It has been their vacation home since the 1970s. Now that they're both well into their eighties and no longer driving, they've handed the house over to their eldest daughter and her husband who, it turns out, were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary over the weekend.

The family matriarch M. surrounded by family and friends. She's standing in the middle of the group (with the light blue top).

B. and M. came down for the Sunday portion of the party and Ken and I were invited in the late afternoon for dessert. That's when we learned it was an anniversary party; we didn't know in advance. It was very nice to see B. and M. (we hadn't see her since last summer). They were in fine form and good spirits. We spent about an hour chatting and catching up.

And just to show she can still party with the best of them, it's "bottoms up" with a glass of bubbly.

Most of the guests at the party were family, many of whom we've come to know (and some who we've seen grow up) over the years. Children, in-laws, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of B. and M., plus friends, gathered for food and drink. It's a big family, and ever since Ken and I arrived in the neighborhood sixteen years ago, they've generously included us in many of their festivities.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Wild bellflower

This is campanule sauvage (wild bellflower). They grow among the tall grasses between the vineyard parcels and the woods around us.

Campanule sauvage along the vineyard road out back.

Sunday started out cool and rainy, but toward mid-day the clouds parted and the sun came out. That was a good thing for our neighbors' party. We were invited for dessert in the afternoon. I took a bunch of photos, but I haven't processed them yet.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Sea of green

The vineyards out back are getting greener as the tendrils and leaves reach skyward. Soon the support stakes will be hidden from view and the growers will be out trimming the vines into neat rectangular rows. Summer is almost here.

Saturday morning, after the storm had passed.

Except for the weather, of course. We're having very spring-like (even fall-like) weather right now. Chilly days, rain squalls, wind. It turns out that our neighbors didn't take their party tent down during Friday's wind storm as a precaution. Rather, a branch of a nearby tree came down on top of it. Their party went on in spite of having no tent on Saturday and will continue through the weekend. I'll bet there were at least thirty cars parked across the road yesterday afternoon. This morning there are about five.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Survivor

We found a rose planted in this not-so-glamorous location next to the clothesline pole when we moved here. Not long after that, I dug it up and moved it to a new spot, but some roots must have stayed behind and, surprisingly, re-sprouted. Now, many years later, it's looking like this. I figure that if it wants to live there, I'd better let it.

A spindly rose survives next to the clothesline at the house's northwest corner.

The wind howled all day on Friday. Our neighbors actually took down the barnum (party tent) they had put up last weekend so it wouldn't blow down. I imagine they'll put it back up today as their weekend party gets under way. What a pain! The wind has died down now, but rain is predicted for Sunday.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Snow peas

This is the second harvest of snow peas from our plants out in the garden this season. I didn't think to take a photo of the raw peas; only after I steamed them did it occur to me. We made a shrimp and snow pea stir-fry with, as you can see, baby corn for lunch on Thursday. It was a great success.

Snow peas are called "pois gourmands" in French.

There are still a lot of small pea pods and blossoms on those plants, so we're looking forward to more good stir-fries in the coming weeks. The rest of the garden is doing well so far. I can see the tomatoes growing every day, and the yellow flat beans are going to start climbing their trellis any day now.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Barnum

This weekend is yet another holiday weekend. Le lundi de pentecôte (Pentecost Monday) is a day off in France. Our neighbors across the road are planning a big party for the weekend. We have been warned (and invited). There will be overnight guests and campers (RVs) over there.

The barnum is set up in our neighbors' back yard.

They spent all of last weekend working in the yard, getting ready. And they put up this party tent called un barnum in French. As in Barnum & Bailey. The circus. As I mentioned, we're invited on Sunday because B. and M. will be there. We've known them since they so warmly welcomed us to the neighborhood sixteen years ago. They are the owners of the house but, because of their advancing age, they have stopped coming down regularly and have essentially given the place to their oldest daughter. She and her husband are now the ones mowing and trimming and making improvements. The house is a vacation home and not occupied year-round.

Wednesday's rain started collecting on the roof of the tent, making it sag. So Ken and I went over a couple of times to dump the water off by pushing up from the inside. We're such good neighbors.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Rainy day

Well, the predicted thunderstorms with possible hail did not materialize on Tuesday evening. Thankfully. We had a short rain squall during the night that got me up to close a couple of windows. This morning it's raining lightly, and I see that the forecast rain totals for the day have been significantly reduced.

The clary sage around the well is blooming now. There's also some variety of iris that just grows there (we didn't plant it).

We're still waiting for the contractors to start work on the upstairs bathroom. They said début juin (the beginning of June). That's now, but we haven't heard anything. I'm sure things will get going all of a sudden and I'll say "what was I worried about?"

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Today's garden

This year's vegetable garden is now officially "in." I'm hopeful that the little seedlings will survive the deluge we're expecting this week. An unusually large amount of rain is predicted for Wednesday. It's always something.

The one big garden plot is a lot easier for Ken to till up than the four smaller squares. And the plants are spaced farther apart now.

The view is from almost the same angle as yesterday's photo from 2004. The difference is that I was standing up on a ladder for the 2004 shot. This one is taken from the ground. And the current photo is about six weeks earlier in the year than the older one. There are no weeds, yet. Oh, they will come.

I harvested our first batch of snow peas over the weekend. We ate a beef with snow pea stir-fry for lunch on Sunday. Delicious! I'll be picking some more in a day or two, after the rains. The yellow flat beans have sprouted and will soon be climbing up the fence (in the back on the right in the photo).

I like the garden at this stage. It's neat, orderly, and weed-free. That will all change and, if we're lucky, we'll be harvesting tasty toms and more later this summer.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Garden flashback

Here's a photo from the summer of 2004, the year we planted our first vegetable garden here in France. We had been in the house for a year and wanted to have our very own jardin potager (kitchen garden). I saw a cool-looking garden at the Château de Fougères that was made up of four square plots, so we copied the layout in our garden.

Our first kitchen garden in France, July 2004. Fifteen years ago!

Our first year was pretty successful, although it does look like a bit of a jumble. I planted many things way too close together. I watered with a sprinkler and grew almost as many weeds as vegetables. We had good eggplant and bell peppers, two things that have not worked well in the years since. One year I even had a good crop of sweet corn, but have not had success with that since.

At any rate, the four squares eventually merged into one giant square. Mowing the grass in those in-between strips became difficult as each square plot sought its own level. Many things in the yard and garden have changed since this first attempt. I think that in those first few years, we bought established seedlings at the markets (that might explain why the plants did so well, lots of fertilizer to get them started). Now I plant my own seeds and use our home-made compost. It's great to have the photos to look back on.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Summer flowers

The wildflowers I'm seeing out on my walks with Tasha are transitioning from springtime flowers to summertime flowers. The tall grasses are being cut here and there, but patches remain and so do many of the flowers.

I don't know what it's called, but I think it's a member of the umbellifer family, like wild carrot.

We're expecting rain over the next few days, so today is a day to get some more garden work done. I have kale and pepper seedlings to put out and I want to spray the tomatoes with a mold preventative before it gets wet out there. I got a bunch of little basil seedlings at the market on Saturday and I want to get them transplanted into pots for the deck.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

It's about thyme

One of the thyme plants in the garden is blooming. It's a standard thyme variety. The other two are lemon thyme and they are not flowering yet.

Tiny thyme blossoms.

The weather is nice. We're wearing shorts for the first time this year. The grass is all cut again. It grows very fast in the spring when it's wet and starting to warm up. Once the hotter, dryer days of summer come, the grass doesn't need to be cut so often.

I'm heading into town to the market this morning for strawberries. I'll also be looking for something tasty to grill for lunch. I love barbecue weather! This is a four-day weekend for a lot of French people. Thursday was a holiday (Ascension) and many people took Friday off, too. Next weekend will be a three-day weekend as Pentecost Monday is another national holiday. The stores and markets, not to mention the roads, are starting to feel crowded.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Artie chokes four for a dollar

That's the punchline of an old joke about a bandit named Arthur who, while robbing a grocery store, strangled four people, but only got away with one dollar. The clue that it's an old joke is the idea that you can actually get four artichokes for a buck.

These artichokes will bloom later in the summer.

Two of our artichoke plants continue to survive, putting out a handful of chokes each year. We don't harvest them because they're tough and not very big. They also attract aphids like crazy. I spray soapy water on them a few times a year to keep them under control. I also use the hose's hard spray to wash them off from time to time.

In other garden news, I got all the tomatoes planted on Thursday. The day was cool and overcast, a good combination for planting seedlings. We're expecting a relatively hot and dry few days now. I think the tomatoes will like that.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Trépieds

I'm trying something a little different in this year's vegetable garden. In past years, I planted the tomato stakes vertically, then watched them lean as the plants grew heavy. I'd have to pound wooden stakes into the ground and tie the leaning tomatoes to them to keep them upright. Lots of bother.

Twelve tomato stake tripods. Three plants per tripod. They're tied together at the top with twine, and spaced farther apart than they look.
The snow peas are the knee-high plants with white blossoms growing against the garden's back edge.

So, this year I decided to try tripods. I pushed the metal stakes into the ground at an angle and in groups of three, then tied the tops together to form tripods. So far, they seem pretty stable. But the proof of the pudding, as they say, will be in the eating. And that's still a few months away.

Another view. The two little plants in front are zucchini.

The next job is to put the tomatoes in the ground, one plant at each leg of each tripod. I will get started on that today. There are thirty-six "legs" which means thirty-six tomato plants. I will didn't have leftovers. By the way, the snow peas I planted back in March are blooming and making pods. I planted a row of flat green bean seeds yesterday, and two zucchini plants are in the ground. This year's garden is shaping up.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Going nowhere fast

I saw this snail snoozing on the dew-soaked top rail of the back gate a few days ago. Its head was tucked away inside the shell, and there was no sign of movement. Later I noticed that it had gone.

Un escargot.

I took Tasha to the vet on Tuesday for her annual vaccinations. She's gained a little weight since last year, but the doctor didn't think it was serious. Tasha is two years old now and her growing stage is over. The vet recommended we watch what Tasha eats. The Dentastix we give her for her teeth (recommended by another vet in the office) are apparently very caloric. As are the biscuits she gets after her daily walks. Otherwise, she gets less than a cup of kibble and a pouch of wet food each day. Not exactly a heavy diet.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Before they're completely gone

I've had this photo sitting around for a week already. It's a pivoine (peony) flower just about to open. Now I realize that the flowers have opened and that they're starting to fade, dropping petals all around the plant. And, of course, I have no photos of the flowers in their glory, at least not this year.

We have two red peony plants in the back garden. They come back every year.

It's time to plant the vegetable garden. Ken did the second pass with the rototiller on Monday and the ground is ready. I've been hardening the plants off by putting them outdoors during the day. Today I'll at least get the zucchini in, then I'll spend the next few days dealing with the tomatoes, not to mention the peppers and eggplant seedlings that our friend K. gave us.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Wild white

When we had the greenhouse installed in 2016, I ripped out some old rose bushes on that corner of the house. I didn't get all the roots, and they keep trying to come back. But another rose has shown up, too. It's a wild rose, I think, called églantine (sweet briar). They grow all over out on the margins of the vineyard and in abandoned parcels. Their flowers are most commonly pink. These, however, are white.

Our white wild rose being visited by an insect.

So, the question is: where did it come from? I read that the seeds of these plants are distributed by birds, so that's the most likely answer. Why is it white? I dunno. I did notice a few white-flowered églantines out among the pink ones during my walk this morning.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

They're going to flower

This is the second year for this patch of sauge sclarée (clary sage) that we planted around the real fake well. The first year, the plants were relatively small and they didn't flower. This year, they've grown up higher than the walls of the well and are covered in flower buds.

A flower bud on one of our clary sage plants.

I'm hopeful that these won't die back after flowering. I read that the plant is normally biennial, but can live longer in milder climates. Whatever happens, they re-seed themselves relatively easily. In fact, our plants all sprouted from one parent plant. Ken dug them up and potted them before we transplanted them around the well.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Cuckoo spit

I kid you not. I read that the foam produced by what we commonly call "spittlebugs" in English is called le crachat du coucou in French. Cuckoo spit. Since cuckoos and spittlebug foam both appear in springtime in France, their coincidence may be the origin of the nickname.

Patooey!

Friday's predicted rain and thunderstorms didn't materialize. I ran some errands in the morning, including taking the recycling to the collection point, getting some wine at a winery in the next town over, exchanging empty butane tanks for full ones (for the kitchen stove and bbq grill), and picking up some surplus vegetable seedlings from a nearby friend. That friend also gave us some more rhubarb from her garden, and Ken will get some strawberries from the market in town this morning, so I'm already thinking of making a pie.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Speedy

I had to move fast to get this shot. That tiny snail was sliding right along. I didn't want to startle it and make it withdraw into its shell, so I had to be careful not to nudge the grasses. A few quick camera adjustments and voilà!

This is a cropped portion of the original larger image taken with a 100mm macro lens. At f/5, the depth of field is intentionally shallow.

I might have taken a little more time. I think the shutter speed could have been a little faster to stop all the action. Even at 1/500s the snail's shell is slightly blurred due to the grass swaying in the morning breeze and the fact that I was holding the camera (which introduces more movement). Add to that the snail's frantic pace and, well, you see what I mean! All kidding aside, I only see the blur when I zoom into the image. It's not all that noticeable here.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Do you like butter?

That's what we kids were asked while someone held a buttercup flower just under our chins. When the flower reflected its yellow color on our skin, the answer was a resounding "Yes!" I don't remember anybody not getting the reflection, hence, not liking butter. Even though most of us were probably being fed margarine at the time.

It's like buttah!

The buttercups are in full bloom right now. They grow wild in the margins between the woods and the vineyard parcels, among the tall grasses which, by the way, are getting very tall. It won't be long before the growers are out there cutting them back.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

It's only blue on the outside

This is an adonis blue butterfly. If it's a male, the top side of the wings are bright blue. Since this individual's wings are folded, I can't tell which gender it is. I'm sure experts can, but I can't.

An adonis blue, soaking up the morning sun.

I saw three of these sunning themselves on Tuesday morning. They were all very small. I'm used to seeing them a little bigger. I wonder if these will grow bigger or if they're naturally that small.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tasha Tuesday

Here she is, standing in the garden path. It's amazing how she will, sometimes, just pose for the camera. Most of the time she's running one way or the other. The red pivoines (peonies) are blooming, as is the sage. In between is an artichoke.

Tasha posing in the garden path.

We're expecting a couple of nice days before it gets chilly again. We seem to be paying for the nice weather we had in February and March. Dammit. Oh well, such is life. At least there's no snow, right?

Monday, May 20, 2019

Gratuitous cheese shot

For lack of anything better, here's some cheese. We brought this back from our trip to the Auvergne region last March. It's long since eaten, but I don't think I ever posted the photo.

Bleu d'Auvergne on the left, Saint-nectaire on the right.

We made good progress in the loft over the weekend. Except for a few minor things, we're pretty much ready for the construction to start. Of course, we don't yet know when that will be. It's amazing how much junk can accumulate over the years. The loft (it's really the attic, but I call it "the loft" because it's one large space with an open stairwell) was finished nearly nine years ago now. That's longer than we lived in our San Francisco house. Some of the furniture up there hadn't been moved since then. You can imagine...

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The greening of the vineyard

This photo is almost a week old now. The vineyards are turning from winter brown to spring green as the leaves multiply and grow. All the greens around us now are spring-fresh. I went to the Saint-Aignan market on Saturday (for strawberries) and noticed that, even though it was overcast and raining, everything looked beautiful, even the old gray stone of the town.

We haven't see the sun in a couple of days, but all the plants will appreciate the rain we're getting.

We've made good progress on the loft, clearing out the northwest corner and the storage closets under the eaves to make way for the new half-bath construction. But the rest of the room is mess! Piles of clothes and boxes everywhere. We should be pretty much finished today, moving a second chest of drawers, rolling up the rug, and tidying up other stuff. The work could start during the coming week, so we have to be ready.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Seedlings

The little tomato seedlings are getting bigger. There is now only one seedling per pot, so they have some room to grow. We're getting closer to setting them out in the garden. I spread some compost on Friday and Ken will do a final tilling in the week to come. It's raining this weekend, so we have to wait.

The green tray contains red Russian kale seedlings, a gift from a friend who had a surplus.

Next week I'll start the hardening-off process by putting the seedlings outside during the day and bringing them back in over night. That slowly conditions them to being outdoors. One year I didn't do that and a lot of them died in the garden. Lesson learned.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Yard work

We're getting there, slowly. We've had a break in the chilly and wet weather, enough to be able to cut grass (again), till up the garden plot, and do some other trimming and clean-up. This weekend looks like it might be wet again, so we'll pause. There is still work to do to get the loft ready for the new bathroom construction, so that will be our first priority.

The grass is cut!

The vegetable seedlings are doing well in the greenhouse. They'll be ready to go outside as soon as the garden plot is ready for them. Today I plan to shovel compost. We've also got the annual tune-up of the central heating boiler scheduled for this morning. I don't have to do anything but be here for the technician; he does all the work.

That wisteria against the house needs to be trimmed up and adjusted. The lilac on the right is done blooming.

I've got a pile of junk to take to the dump/recycling center and a list of little odd jobs to tend to. I guess I need one of those "round tuits" that everyone talks about.