Friday, August 31, 2012

Une libellule

I was sitting on the deck reading on Wednesday afternoon when I noticed a small dragonfly go by. It stopped on the tip of the car's antenna down in the driveway below me. Hmm, I thought, I wonder if it'll stay there long enough for me to get the camera?

The background color is the car's roof.

I had enough time to change lenses and take a bunch of photos before the dragonfly moved on. This is my favorite of the bunch.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The grapes are ripening

Our spell of hot, dry weather may have saved the grapes this year. I'm no expert, but the growers were despairing of the wet and cold in June and July. Grape yields are down, we heard. Fewer, smaller bunches all around.

A nice looking bunch of red grapes (gamay? cabernet? côt? I'm never sure) in the vineyard on Wednesday.

Well now the bunches are starting to mature. They're looking good, although I do notice that they're smaller and fewer than in previous years. I hope that decent weather holds through to harvest time. It will be an interesting year for our local winemakers.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


We have four varieties of squash in this year's vegetable garden. One is courgette (zucchini), a summer squash, and we're harvesting that now. The other three are winter squash: butternut, potimarron (kuri squash), and patidou (a variety similar to acorn squash).

These two are on the same plant. The one behind is darker and much larger, so far.

I saved the seeds from a patidou that we bought at the market last year and put three plants into the garden. Two of them have green squash (photo above); they may get pale or variegated as they mature. The third has oblong yellow fruit. They all have these characteristic ridges.

The winter squashes all have fruit on them now, but they won't be ready to harvest for a while yet. I'm looking forward to eating them.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Down at river's edge

I don't know what they're called, but I saw this bunch of pink flower spikes at the edge of the river the other day. It was the only bunch I saw so I don't know how common they are.

Flowers on the Cher River.

The US Open is under way in New York. I haven't watched any of it yet (it's on live here starting in the early evening and over night), but I will start today. They re-broadcast a lot of the matches (especially the French players' matches) during the day. Sometimes I record overnight so I can see the live feed and have the ability to fast-forward through the boring bits, like excessive commentary and commercials.

Monday, August 27, 2012


We're harvesting tomatoes now. The garden is doing well, although we had some strong winds on Saturday that knocked over some of the cherry tomato plants. Still, they should do alright, even if some of the branches are now horizontal.

Some of our recent harvest. There are several varieties here. I picked almost as much again yesterday morning.

We'll soon start making sauce for the freezer. The tomatoes are beginning to come in faster than we can eat them. Yesterday I made pizza for lunch and we used fresh sliced tomatoes rather than sauce. Very tasty. I also put eggplant and red peppers from the garden on the pizza. Yum.

A tomato close-up.

I've noticed now that all our squash plants are producing. We've been eating some zucchini. But we also have large acorn squash, some potimarrons, and some tiny butternut squash. I'm hopeful that the crop of winter squash will be good this year. It'll be a few weeks before we start harvesting them.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I'm gonna miss this

Hanging out on the deck, that is. I know there are still many days ahead when I'll be able to sit outside, but they're becoming fewer. And there are more days in between when it's either too chilly or too windy.

A recent warm afternoon. We had just had lunch at the table with a friend. I was finishing up the wine.

Summer is moving toward fall and the season will change. It's time to start thinking about cutting up firewood for the winter. I normally do that in August, but I've put it off this year because I know that I'm not trimming the hedge in September. So I'll cut wood in September instead. It works for me.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Les capucines

Nasturtiums. We have a lot of these in the vegetable garden. I planted some one year and they continue to re-seed themselves in one of the four square plots. This year I transplanted a few of the seedlings to the bed around the fake well and they've done ok.

I don't even remember what year it was that I planted these in the garden. Maybe 5 years ago?

But just ok. The heat wave has taken a toll on them. Still, I'm hopeful that they will produce seeds that I can gather for planting in some new places next spring.

They add nice spots of intense color to the back yard.

Friday, August 24, 2012


The recent heat has sped up the demise of flowers in our yard and in the vineyard. And the lack of rain means that the dried flower heads haven't been washed away or had time to rot.

The state of the daisies out in the garden. Still kind of pretty.

But now the heat wave is over. The days are pleasant even if the mornings are a bit chilly. I can feel fall coming on.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Les campanules

We have two patches of these bellflowers on the east side of the house. They go through several blooming cycles from spring through fall, depending on how much water they get.

Bellflowers blooming now against the house.

The patches are located under the deck, so they don't get much rain when we have rain. We have to water them by hand to keep them flowering. Typically, I don't water them until I notice the flowers have all gone. I'm too busy watering the vegetable garden, which is on the west side of the house.

Another view.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The dog days of summer

This heat wave has been good for the summer vegetables, but the animals are having less fun. Callie still gets her daily walks, but in the heat of the early evening, she sometimes wants to cut it short. At the peak of the heat wave over the weekend, Ken got the hose out and played with Callie.

Callie tries to catch the spray in mid air.

She loves the hose. So much, in fact, that we have to close her inside the house whenever we're watering or otherwise using the hose outdoors. She's fascinated by the movement of the spray and snaps at it, barking and jumping to make sure it doesn't get away.

She leaps up to get some more, and gets totally wet in the process.

When it's hot outside, this is a good way to cool the dog down, give her a drink, exercise, and a bath all at the same time! When she's done, she just hangs out in the sun and dries pretty quickly.

Crazy canine! She's having the best time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Funky feline fotos

Not to be outdone, Bert struck a pose on Sunday. He hadn't yet cleaned his face after his overnight adventures, but with the heat I think he's trying to conserve energy.

Bert is stretched out on white patio table, trying to keep cool.

He's been spending the hot days up on the deck, curled up in a shady spot. That works out well since Callie is hanging out on the cool concrete floor of the utility room most of the day.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Periodic Puppy Pics

It's been a while, hasn't it! Well here's a photo I took on Saturday morning. The day was warm and getting hotter. Callie enjoyed being outside for a while, then she hung out on the cool concrete floor of the utility room for most of the day.

Callie on the shady grass in the back yard on Saturday morning.

Border collies aren't used to very hot weather. It's funny that during the summer, Callie's coat gets much redder than it seems in winter. She looks more like her father in this picture, although he was even redder than this.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Canard sur Cher

The last time we walked by the river, Callie flushed the ducks out of their hiding spots among the shore plants and they flew away. This duck, however, saw us coming and made his way from the shore out to the safety of the river's middle before we got there.

A duck heads out into the main stream.

The Cher is a shallow river here. In fact, it may be possible to wade across in many spots with the water coming up to waist or chest height. There are small spillways every couple of miles, so there is rarely any significant current. The river just flows gently by.

He kept his eye on us until we walked on by.

The water is pretty clear; in most places you can see the bottom of the river's bed. I saw many little fish close to shore as well as the ripples of feeding fish out in the main stream. I also heard a couple of fish jump now and again.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

We're going in

Friday morning was still, sunny, and relatively warm, so I decided to walk Callie down by the river. You might remember that I took some pictures down there last winter and thought I should go back during the summer to see how different it looks. Here's a link to the same general photo from last January.

After we cross the main road at the bottom of our hill, this dirt road leads through some woods to the river bank.

Since it's often wet and muddy down there, I wanted to wait for a dry spell before going. One of the first things I noticed on this walk was that the leaf canopy made for a lot of shadows and low-light spots along our walk. Not the greatest conditions for my level of photography.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Late summer

The days are getting noticeably shorter. The tv and print ads are all about la rentrée (back to school and work). Grain fields are being harvested. And the summer wildflowers are putting on a show.

Carotte sauvage (wild carrot or Queen Anne's Lace) in a clearing next to some woods. Click to queenannify.

In just over a month it will officially be fall, but we're not thinking about that yet. It's hot. August has been a good summer month this year. If we're lucky, the nice weather will stretch into September. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Planting a fall crop

It sounds like much more than it is. But since our garden was late going in this year, we didn't use all of the space we have. Ken tilled up the remaining two plots last week and we put in some plants for fall harvesting.

A row of collards on the left, chard on the right. That's the squash plot in the back.

First in were the collard greens and the Swiss chard. I grew them from seed in little pots then transplanted them into the freshly tilled garden plot. All the transplants survived and look like they're already growing.

A gratuitous shot of one of our first eggplant this year. We ate this one yesterday, grilled on the bbq.

In the second plot, I planted carrot seeds (a gift from our friends Evelyn and Lewis) and some white icicle radish seeds that we got in New York last May. I've always had good luck with radishes in the spring, and this is the first time I'm trying them in the fall.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Speaking of gastropods

I noticed this little garden snail on Tuesday morning as I went out to water the new seedlings. He was crawling in one of the sage plants next to the gravel path in our back garden.

I'm not sure what he's doing because he didn't seem to be eating the leaves. Click to escargate.

The seedlings I referred to are collard greens and Swiss chard. I planted seeds in pots a few weeks ago so that we could have a fall crop. The seedlings went into the vegetable garden on Monday. So far, so good; they are all upright and happy looking. Pictures to follow.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Life on Mars?

Of all the photos coming back from Curiosity, the Mars rover, this one was not among them. It's just one of our local red slugs on the vineyard road. It was crossing early one recent morning.

Why did the red slug cross the road? Notice the huge shadow!

Monday, August 13, 2012

New garden chairs

Friends of ours participated in the annual Saint-Aignan vide-grenier (flea market) on Sunday. Ken and I volunteered to go into town at 5 a.m. to help them set up in exchange for a good look-through before the buyers showed up. We had a very good time.

Four of the new chairs on the deck. You can see the other four down in the yard on the right.

Douglas and Claire made us coffee and tartines (toast with butter and jam) and then we started hauling the sale items out as well as the tables to set everything on. We got first dibs on some nice lawn chairs, a couple of lamps, some occasional tables, and some throw rugs. All for a good price and a good time.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What a week

We've had a very nice summery week. Very few clouds, warm days, slight breeze. The garden is doing well; we're eating our own green beans and tomatoes now. We've enjoyed time out on the deck with friends and by ourselves. We're having the dog days of summer without actually having had the summer itself, or maybe it just seems that way.

A yellow flower spike, somewhere in the vineyard.

At any rate, this long stretch of dry, almost hot days is melting away the memory of the cold and wet months of June and July. And thank goodness for that.

I didn't sleep very well Saturday night, partly because the house warmed up a bit too much. I was out on the deck after midnight looking for Perseid meteors. I saw two nice ones and then headed back inside for more tossing and turning.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hop on over

I noticed this little guy on Callie's dish the other day. He seemed to be waiting for a meal. Instead, I took his picture before removing him to the outdoors.

A green sauterelle (grasshopper) clings to Callie's kibble bowl.

With our current warm spell, most of the doors and windows are open in the house and the crawling and flying critters just come and go. I give them a little help with the going part from time to time.

Friday, August 10, 2012


I like it when the yellow flowers go to seed. The white puff balls are pretty.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

La danseuse

I think this seed caught among some plant stems looks like a ballerina. It really pops out in black and white.

I also think the spines on the leaves are cool. Click to gisellify.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The butcher truck

You know we have a bread lady who delivers fresh bread to our door four days a week. Well, now we have a butcher who comes by every Tuesday. Are we spoiled, or what?

Ken buys the rib-eye steak from the butcher, right outside our front gate.

The butcher has a shop across the river in Thésée. He came by a couple weeks ago in his truck and told us he'd drive by every Tuesday, around 12:30 or so. We went by his shop the other day and bought a big piece of faux-filet (sirloin steak) to test out his products. It was delicious. So when he came around last week, we stopped him and bought some sausages, smoked bacon, and some other things.

This photo doesn't show how big this steak was. It was 755 grams, over 1.5 pounds. We didn't eat it all at once.

Yesterday, when he came around again, we had decided to buy a piece of entrecôte (rib-eye steak). I cooked it on the grill, and boy, was it ever good. So I think we have made customers of ourselves and will be buying our meat and deli products from this guy from now on. Right outside our door. No waiting. Yum.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The mint is flowering

We have several patches of mint in the back yard. Some is wild and grows around the apple trees; I think it's called apple mint. The other two kinds we planted ourselves.

This is not the apple mint, but another variety, maybe horse mint or something similar.

Monday, August 06, 2012


This is a kind of morning glory, one of several varieties that I see out in the vineyard. One of the nice things about these vineyards is that the undergrowth isn't destroyed by chemicals. Some of the growers practice organic farming and plow or mow between the rows to control weeds; others do use herbicides early in the season to keep the more aggressive growth down. But in each case, other plants manage to grow among the vines, like these.

A morning glory flower reaches for the light from beneath a row of grape vines.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

A writin' spider

That's what Ken calls this variety of garden spider. It's apparently a very common spider throughout the world, each species with it's own characteristic "writing" in the center of the web. That silk pattern supposedly plays a role in attracting insects to the web.

A writing spider perched in the center of its web, waiting. Click to arachnify.

The big spiders seen here are almost certainly females since the males are much smaller. These are two different spiders that I saw in the vineyard the other day. Just as I was about to take one of these photos, a small insect flew into the web and the spider dashed down to dispatch it. That was pretty cool to see.

This spider just made a catch...

...and then went back to the center of the web to sit some more.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Barley or wheat?

L'orge, pronounced [lorzh] is barley. Le blé [luh blay] is wheat. There is a field of grain down in the river valley right below our house. Every year it's cultivated with either barley, wheat, rape (colza), or sunflowers. This year it's barley. Or wheat.

The barley or wheat looks ready for harvesting.

The seed was planted last fall and the crop over-wintered as small green plants. Then this past spring it grew tall and set seed. Now it's brown and ready for harvesting.

A close-up. I'm on the edge of the field so there are some wild flowers among the plants.

France is among the world's top producers of barley, along with Germany, Russia, Spain, and Ukraine. The French use barley as a feed grain for livestock and for making beer. I'll drink to that!

More barley. Or wheat.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Wild chicory

La chicorée sauvage. It's one of the more common wildflowers I see this time of year on the edges of the vineyard parcels. I also have some cultivated chicory/endive in the vegetable garden. We ate most of it in salads, but one of them went to seed and now we have a bunch of blue flowers similar to these.

Just beginning to open up in the morning sunlight.

Wild chicory among the wild carrots.

Each plant bears many flowers.

This one is about halfway open. It doesn't take them long to open up when the sun hits them.

Thursday, August 02, 2012


I don't know what these are, but I think they look like aliens. A certain physician in Phoenix will insist that they're triffids. They've invaded the vineyard. I hope they don't come for us.

They flower from bottom to top.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

A plum good job

It took two and a half years. Back in late February 2010, we had a serious storm that killed people on the coast, flooded a bunch of towns, and whose heavy winds wreaked havoc inland. We got the winds. That night the wind howled and we hunkered down in the house to ride it out. The next morning we assessed the damage. We were very lucky: we only had some tiles blown off the roof and our two plum trees were knocked over. Oh, and no electricity for a week.

Spring 2011. Both trees on their sides for over a year. I had started cutting before I thought to take a photo.

The roof got repaired that day. But the trees were another matter. We decided that we'd let the trees stay put for the summer in the hope that they'd produce a good crop because they were stressed. Then, in the fall, we'd cut them up for firewood. Well, fall came and went with no cutting; we were painting our attic and I injured my back. So the trees stayed through the winter. Year one had passed.

Spring 2011. One tree gone. The pile of debris is on the right side of the photo.

That spring of 2011, I got the chainsaw out and started cutting. I piled the branches up on the lawn nearby intending to cut them all up with loppers for kindling. I made a smaller pile of the larger logs for burning in the wood stove. Summer came and with visitors and the vegetable garden taking our time, we left the piles for another year. The tree stumps were still half in the ground. Suckers started growing up from the tree roots.

Spring 2011. Both trees are cut up and only the stumps remain. The big one got cut farther down.

During the winter of 2011-2012, I made several trips out to the kindling pile and cut up branches as I needed them to start fires in the wood stove. The pile got reduced by about a quarter. Then spring arrived. Determined not to leave the branches in the yard for another year, I spent a morning working to cut them up and move them to the wood shed. A job well done, albeit well late.

Summer 2012. The debris pile is gone, as are both stumps. Only bare patches remain.

That left the stumps still in the ground. Ken was convinced that he could dig around them and we could cut and saw and get them out ourselves. He worked very hard to do just that. When he was ready, I helped with the dislodging of the stumps and the chopping of the remaining roots. We managed to get both stumps free without major injury to ourselves.

Now the yard is free of the mess and we're letting the lawn regrow over the bare patches. Our hope is to plant a cherry tree out there as soon as it's tree-planting time.