Friday, July 10, 2020

Sunny day

When the sun is out and it's a hot day, I put the umbrella out on the deck. It shades the table and keeps a good section of the deck tiles from getting hot. This photo is from Thursday at about noon. The thermometer on the table shows 25.5ºC (about 78ºF). It got warmer as the afternoon progressed.

The deck gets fully shaded a few hours after noon. The umbrella helps at mid-day.

After lunch, I was sitting on the deck enjoying a glass of red when one our neighbors showed up at the gate. She lives in the Paris region and had just arrived at her vacation home in our hamlet. We hadn't seen her since last year. She asked if we had power. Yes, I said, no problems. She obviously didn't have power. I gave her two phone numbers that I had for the electric company's emergency service. Then it occurred to me that she might not even have the same electricity provider that we have (the national electric company maintains the physical network while customers can buy power from a variety of providers). After that, I wondered if she had checked her breaker panel, so I walked over and asked. She invited me in to have a look and, sure enough, the main breaker had tripped. I flipped it back on et voilà, she had juice. "Now," she said after thanking me profusely, "I can get out the vacuum and clean up all the spider webs in the house!"

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Cinnabar moth

I think this is the larvae of the cinnabar moth, called la goutte-de-sang (drop of blood) in French. The names describe the markings on the wings of the adult moth, not the caterpillar. According to my extensive quick and dirty research, they like to lay eggs on ragwort, a very common plant in and around the vineyards and other fields nearby. I'm pretty sure this one was on a ragwort plant when I saw it.

Not hard to miss this one. He (or she) is wearing my high school colors: orange and black.

Our vegetable garden is starting to produce. I harvested the first zucchini yesterday. There are two more to pick today. And so it begins. We're a long way from tomatoes, still. And the beans are just starting to make blossoms. Everything else is growing along.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Black tomato pizza

Some of my readers asked to see the inside of the tomates noires (black tomatoes) that I brought home from the market last weekend. On Tuesday, we made pizzas with one of them, so here it is. The tomato's skin has dark shades of red and green, but it looks like a regular red tomato on the inside.

The black tomato, revealed.

I sliced the tomato and arranged it on the pizza dough, then added lardons fumés (smoked bacon), chopped bell peppers, sliced mushrooms, and some brebis (sheeps' cheese) from Basque country. The pizzas were delicious!

One of our two fresh tomato and bacon pizzas from Tuesaday's lunch.

Today I plan to use the other black tomato in a three-grain salad made with couscous (not a grain, but it's made from wheat), quinoa, and bulgur, chopped zucchini (the first one from this year's garden), chopped cucumber, corn, cubes of mozzarella cheese, and some chopped mint.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Radis roses

Pink radishes are common in France this time of year. They're a favorite at apértif time, served raw with sweet butter, salt, and fresh bread. The oblong radishes are sold in bottes (bunches) with their fanes (leaves) and we've been enjoying one bunch a week for the past couple of months. They're crisp and crunchy and sweet, very different from the sharp taste of the round red radishes I remember from the US.

Radis roses, trimmed (roots and leaves) and soaking (to dislodge any stubborn dirt). And yes, we eat the green part, too.

By the way, the round red radishes are available here more and more. And I saw one vendor at the Saturday market in Saint-Aignan who offers radishes of many colors, something I've not seen before. Maybe I should give them a try.

I grew radishes in our vegetable garden for a couple of years, but the slugs really like them. That, and the fact that they have to be sewn successively to have a steady crop, make buying them in the market much more practical.

Monday, July 06, 2020


Our local Saturday market in Saint-Aignan has at least five produce vendors that I can think of. All of them have a nice variety of good-looking vegetables and fruits to offer. One of them is a local organic grower (and their prices reflect that). The others are vendors, likely buying their produce wholesale and reselling it at markets around the region.

Gorgeous and tasty tomatoes.

Even though it's not tomato season, the toms at the market are beautiful. They're probably grown in ideal and protected conditions, but they're still good. Nice and ripe and full of flavor. This past Saturday, I got a huge yellow tomato and two good sized "black" tomatoes. We ate the yellow tomato in a Caprese salad on Sunday. We haven't cut into the black toms yet but will soon, maybe for a tabbouleh-style salad, maybe on a pizza.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Lotsa grapes

The grape crop looks plentiful this year. Must have been the warm, wet spring we had. It makes me think that the growers might do un vendange en vert (green harvest) as the grapes start to mature. If there are too many grapes on the vines, there is not enough energy in the plant to allow them all to mature they way the grower intends, so some of the grapes are removed from the vine. The remaining grapes can then develop the appropriate levels of sugar and water to make a good wine.

Looking good! These leaves look like this could be gamay, a red wine grape common in our area.

In certain appellations, the grape yield is regulated. If there are too many grapes per hectare (a measure of land area equivalent to 10,000 m2 or about 2.5 acres), some of them must go. Grape growing is almost, if not more, as complicated as wine making!

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Amber waves of grain

It's the Fourth of July, the national holiday of the USA. It sounds from the news reports that many celebrations are cancelled and that others will be more subdued than usual. But I'm sure there will be plenty of people willing to risk their own and others' health to party like it's any other year. Sigh.

The tall grasses in and around the vineyard are pretty, but they make walking difficult. They're often wet with dew and they're great places to pick up ticks.

France will face the same issue in ten days. I believe the government has scaled back the national event on the Champs-Elysées. But I'm sure there will be individuals and groups that will flout the recommendations for protection and prevention. It's human nature, I guess. I'm sure the health professionals are nervous about another opportunity for the virus to spread.

We'll be laying low, as usual.