Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The grapes are forming

The grape flowers are now nearly all gone and little grapes have taken their place. These will (hopefully) continue to grow through the summer. The bunches have already bent downward with the weight of the new fruit, looking more like what you'd expect. Right now they all look the same, but as fall approaches and the berries ripen, they will take on their colors, either dark (red) or light (white).

Brand new grape bunches on the vine.

The color is on the walls in the den. It looks like milk chocolate. Quite a change for us, but I think we like it. This morning will see the final coat of paint. Our contractor said that he would return later in the afternoon to clean up and re-install the radiators. His son helps with that. Then we're done, except for the moving back in part. More photos to follow, of course.

Monday, June 29, 2015

It's still "during"

With no work over the weekend, the den renovation continues this morning. So far, the radiator has been removed, sanded, and painted with a first coat. The old wallpaper is gone, the walls and ceiling were sealed, sanded, and primed. New binding paper went up on the ceiling and walls and the ceiling received two coats of paint. Wow; writing it down makes me realize how much has already been done!

Not much to see, but it's coming along.

Today we'll see the first coat of color on the walls and I think the radiators (there's a second one being done from another room) will get their second coats as well. The radiators are laid out on the deck, so we have to watch to make sure cats and dogs (you know who) don't walk on them. I know one dog who already has, but fortunately they were dry enough when she did it.

The ceiling is finished, at least.

We're hoping that everything will be done by Wednesday. Then it will be time to do a good cleaning of the floor tiles and start moving back in. I've picked out a new light fixture for the ceiling (from Ikea) that I think will be nice, but we have to go to Tours to get it. A shopping trip is in our near future. I will post photos of the finished work at the appropriate time.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wild chicory is bustin' out all over

You can tell it's summer. Not only are we in for a hot week, but the summer wildflowers are doing their thing. The beautiful blues of chicorée sauvage (wild chicory) dot the fields and roadsides through the vineyards out back. I think we used to call this "cornflower" back when I was kid, but I could be wrong about that.

Wild chicory.

As I type this, a hot air balloon is flying over the vineyards behind our house. It's moving roughly northwest in the early morning sun. If it keeps that heading, it may end up over the château at Chaumont on the Loire. If it turns more to the west, it will likely fly over the château at Chenonceaux on the Cher. Either way, the views will be spectacular!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

What's on tv

I have not set up the scanner in my temporary workspace, so I don't have this week's tv program cover to show you. No matter, because what's on tv this week is Wimbledon. Starting Monday, we'll have two weeks of grass-court grand-slam tennis to watch. Here's a gratuitous shot of our vegetable garden.

This used to be four separate plots, but this year we combined them all into one.

The garden got a late start this year, but everything is growing. Many of the tomato plants are making blossoms now. There are even tiny cucumbers and zucchini on their respective plants. It's very dry right now, so I water the garden by hand with a watering can. That way I only water the vegetable plants and the weeds have a hard time.

Friday, June 26, 2015

We're having a heat wave

But, not a tropical heat wave. It's almost hot. Today we're expecting the high to be around 30ºC (high 80sF). Then, next week, highs in the thirties (the low 90sF) all week. That's hot for here. People are already complaining, but that's typical. It will be uncomfortable for sleeping, but the tomatoes and peppers and the other garden plants will love it. And so, I think, will the grape vines.

A view of our hamlet from the vineyards.

I took this picture on a relatively cool and cloudy morning last week. It shows very clearly the curve of the hill we sit on. On either side of our house (in the middle), streams carve little valleys down to the river. You can see the other side of big river valley in the background beyond the houses.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Purple thistle thingy

This is some kind of thistle, I suppose, blooming now by the pond out back. I'm seeing more thistles around, wild chicory, and the Queen Ann's lace is starting up. Must be summer.

Thistles in black and white. And purple.

The temperatures are warming up, too. We're expecting a downright hot couple of days going into the weekend.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Before and during, phase one

The den work got underway as planned on Tuesday. Finally that old, ugly wallpaper is history. And the big, heavy, cast iron radiator is down as well (but it's going back up after getting a facelift). Two of the walls in the room are covered with built-in bookshelves, cupboards, and a fold-up desk. One wall is the window/radiator wall, and the fourth is blank.

The horizontal panel is the fold-down desktop. That's where my computer monitor goes.

Twelve years ago, when we moved in, we were able to get the wallpaper off the blank wall and parts of the other walls. But it was a bitch. There were two papers, a dark background and a lighter print (world maps!) with wooden frames around the printed part. The frames were painted red and gold. Since the paper did not come off easily, we left it on the wall around the built-ins and painted the rest of the room.

The wallpaper was also behind the radiator. Ugh!

Now the walls will be all one color. We're not having anything done to the built-ins at this point. They'll stay like they are for the time being. One day we might re-do them, or rip them out altogether. Who knows?

The wallpaper is gone! And the patching of cracks and holes is done.

We added a second radiator (from the guest bedroom) to the job. They're very, very heavy things, but the contractor said he and his son would take them downstairs, load them into his truck, and take them to his shop for refinishing. That's worth the extra euros as Ken and I would certainly not be able to deal with them otherwise.

The room already looks cleaner, even though it's not.

I'll post more photos as the work progresses. Meanwhile, my work space has been relocated to the loft to a desk that is essentially a piece of plywood on two trestles covered with a screaming yellow table cloth. It's a much bigger work surface than I'm used to.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

View from below

Did you ever wonder what the vineyard looks like from below? Well, I'll show you anyway. The morning I took this photo was dry, otherwise I would not have lain on the ground to take it.

The ground beneath the vines.

The den is empty and ready for work to start today. I spent three days on it, so it wasn't difficult, tiring, or panicky.  The contractor's work is supposed to be done by the end of the week. I hope it goes smoothly. Fingers crossed.

Monday, June 22, 2015


The work on the den begins on Tuesday. We're having the remaining wallpaper removed, then the walls and ceiling refinished (patching and a new surface coat of plaster), then a binding layer of paper and new paint. The radiator will also be removed (to get at the wallpaper behind it), painted, and replaced. I've had to empty the room (still finishing that up today), which meant relocating my computer to the loft upstairs. All went smoothly and when I plugged everything in this morning, it worked.

Callie approaches the artsy organized neighbor's shed and piles of stuff (out of the photo to the right).

Today I need to complete the move-out by removing the furniture (not much), the pictures on the walls, the ceiling fixture, and the rug. I also have to drain the central heating system of its water so that the radiator can be removed. There may well be photos of before, during, and after. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


These are seed pods that have dropped their seeds. The photo isn't as clear as I wanted where the pods are. I have trouble with depth of field and focus when hand-holding the camera in low light. Who doesn't? Not to mention the breeze. But here it is anyway.

Zebra pods, that's what they are.

Today is the first day of summer. Yippee! And to celebrate, Mother Nature has given us an overcast day.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

What's on tv

Patrick Bruel is my age. He's been around for a while, but I first became aware of him in the early nineties when he had is first number one song and album. He appealed then to adolescent girls, mostly, and I suspect his fan base is these same women, and now, their daughters. His career has been very successful and he's branched out into acting as well as singing. This week, we are treated to a recording of his symphonic concert from back in January. Yawn.

Get ready for the summer's series, just 24 hours after they're shown in the US!

What NOT to watch this week. Our tv magazine rates shows and movies using a star system: one star is ok, four stars is best. They use another symbol for really bad movies: the red dot. It means "à zapper" (change the channel!). The editors often include comments about the movie that make me laugh.

Another disaster of a disaster movie. That photo up there is supposedly of Dean Cain.

Airplane vs volcano. American made-for-tv movie. Directed by James Kondelik, 2014.
With Dean Cain, Matt Mercer, Morgan West, and Robin Givens.
An airliner flys over an active zone of volcanoes and, not being able to land, becomes trapped in the air. Unable to escape, the passengers and crew try to survive.
Just like the screenplay and the special effects, Dean Cain's performance is a failure.
For adults and children over 10.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Trimming the hazelnuts

Since the hazelnut trees were trimmed down to hedge height a few years ago, I need to keep them from growing back into trees. Twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall, I haul out the hedge trimmer and cut back the fast-growing stems.

I forgot to take a "before" photo, so this one is "during." You can see an untrimmed section toward the back. The trees you see to the left of the hedge (outside the fence) are hazelnut trees that have not been cut down to hedge size.

It only takes an hour or so and I don't need to use a ladder. As you can see from the photo, I also don't pay too much attention to neatness. This year I ended up with a lopsided hedge. I don't really care, so long as it's trimmed back. Next step: picking up and disposing of all the trimmings.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


A lot of growers in our area use herbicides to control weeds in their vineyard parcels. I understand that it's a controversial practice, and more and more growers opt for plowing or mowing rather than relying on chemical controls. In some of the parcels where herbicides are used early and often, the ground can be almost bare beneath the vines. In others, like this one, the grasses and other plants are killed after they've grown up a little, producing a contrast between the dead brown "weeds" and the vivid green of the growing vines.

Herbicides are sprayed low to the ground; they're absorbed through the plants' foliage.

I got our grass (and weeds) cut on Wednesday. It was a very sunny and pleasant morning and the job went quickly, just under two hours. I always feel good right after cutting the grass. It's exercise, for one thing, and it looks very nice, for another.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Still life with glass

The dirt road that winds through the vineyards behind our house is filled with tiny treasures. Shards of glass and ceramic tile are almost as common as the pebbles and rocks that are compressed into the sand. Then there are the hardy plants that grow here and there in the roadway. Most of those grow in the median between the tire tracks, but some dare to live dangerously.

It's not beach glass, but the it's the next best thing.

Today is grass cutting day. And we've heard from our contractor: the den work will begin next Tuesday. In the meantime, I will be working to empty the den, including moving my computer stuff into another room so I can use it while the work gets done.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Drip drip drop

The grape vines are growing well right now. We've had a good stretch of relatively warm and dry weather, until this past weekend when it started to rain. Our lawn started to turn brown, but now it's coming back a little. The grass stopped growing, but the weeds didn't. Funny how that happens.

Raindrops collect on grape vine tendrils.

The tomatoes in the vegetable garden enjoyed the warm weather, then the rain. They're really growing. I've already had to pinch suckers and will have to start tying the plants to their supports this week. The cucumbers and squashes look good, too. The peppers and eggplants are growing, but more slowly. I should see the green beans sprout soon.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Rainy days

It rained off and on through the day on Sunday and through the night as well. All is wet outdoors this morning, and there are still some showers moving through. It's all gentle rain, no wind to speak of. My rain barrels are full again (they collect rain water from the roof), so the next time I need to water the garden it will be with free water.

Sometimes the woods beyond the vines look like a tropical rain forest.

Now the grass will start growing again, which means mowing will likely happen sometime during the week. I also have get the trimmers out and clip the hazelnut hedge. That's a morning's job, but it needs to be dry when I do it.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Just standing there

I walked past this spider on the road the other morning. Then I thought, hey, I should take its picture. I turned around and went back a few steps and there it was, still standing in the same spot. I took the photo and the spider did not move. He may still be standing out there.

Wait... this guy has only seven legs. And one of them is really long!

Rain moved in last evening and it's overcast this morning. We did not get a lot of rain, but it's humid. For here. People in many places in the US (Washington, DC, and the state of Florida come to mind) where humidity is common would probably roll their eyes. We don't get that drenching, suffocating kind of humidity, even when it's raining.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

What's on tv

Julien Courbet is a television personality who does a little bit of everything. He just finished a show on the horse channel (yes, we have two horse channels, but no tennis channels; don't get me started), a comedy act in the theater, and some new television program in the works. Busy guy.

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, there are a lot of programs about Napoleon making the rounds.

What NOT to watch this week. Our tv magazine rates shows and movies using a star system: one star is ok, four stars is best. They use another symbol for really bad movies: the red dot. It means "à zapper" (change the channel!). The editors often include comments about the movie that make me laugh.

I've not heard of this one. The French program calls it "made-for-tv" but I think it may be "direct-to-video." Is that a distinction without a difference? The film's original title is "Hollow Man 2."

L'homme sans ombre 2 (The man without a shadow 2). American made-for-tv movie. Directed by Claudio Fäh, 2006.
With Christian Slater, Peter Facinelli, and Laura Regan.
In Seattle, a detective and a scientist pursue an assassin who was rendered invisible by an army experiment.
The direction, the screenplay, and the actors in this movie resemble the main character: invisible!
For adults and children over 12.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Baby apples

It looks like a big year for apples, at least in our neighborhood. Hundreds of tiny apples have already fallen from the trees in our yard. The hundreds remaining are growing bigger and bigger each day. Soon, as they start to fall, I will have to pick them up before running the lawnmower. They go into the compost pile as they're too young for eating. Even when the apples still on the trees become edible later, there will be way too many to use.

This is one of our neighbors' apple trees. They have different varieties from ours.

A thunderstorm went by us to the west during the night. I saw lightning and heard distant thunder just after midnight. We got some rain, but nothing serious. I can see the tomatoes and cucumbers growing in the vegetable garden. It's time to plant some green bean seeds.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Funky feline fotos

It's been a while since I've posted a photo of Bert. He was outside on Wednesday morning when Callie and I got home from our walk. The two of them saw each other, but Callie did not give chase. Bert kept his eyes on the dog and moved very slowly -- slowly enough that I could take a few pictures of him. Then I called Callie and we went through the gate into the yard.

Bert keeping his eyes on the dog.

Today is supposed to be the hottest day of our week at about 29ºC (mid-eighties F). We got a little rain yesterday, but I don't know how much yet. Still, the vegetable garden should be happy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Getting antsy

I see the evidence of their industry all around the vineyard and in the dirt road out back. There must be a billion ants out there, maybe more. I read one article that speculates that there are 100 trillion of them in the world, equaling the weight of the entire human population. Heavy!

If you look closely in the center of the photo (click on it to enlarge), you can see a number of ants around one of the entrances to their colony.

There's a change in the weather coming today that should bring us some rain later on. It's amazing how dry everything is right now. There's no talk of drought, though. We're just in a little dry spell. For the time being.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Cakes in margaritaville

On Monday we visited friends J & N for afternoon "tea." We started with N's freshly made margaritas and a selection of home-baked cakes. J had made individual financier-style cakes with strawberries, a very light apricot cake, and a stylish pumpkin spice cake. I think we each tasted each one. Then some coffee before driving back home. It was a little breezy, but otherwise sunny and pleasant.

A good (and delicious) time was had by all.

It was Callie's first ride in the new car. I can't tell you whether she likes it any more (or less) than the other car. She puts up with it, but riding in the car is still not her favorite thing to do.

Monday, June 08, 2015


I asked one of the people who work in the vineyard why these flags were tied to end posts in regular intervals. It turns out that they're there to indicate which row to drive the large sprayer down when the vines are being treated against fungus. The sprayer covers four rows on either side, so it only needs to be driven down every eighth row.

The vine tendrils are reaching skyward.

The vegetable garden is in (with the minor exception of planting some green bean seeds). Now it's just a matter of keeping it weeded and watered.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Red roses

This is another of one of our neighbor's rose bushes. It grows against her fence along the road. Capturing the intensity of the red color without losing the detail is not easy, but the post-processing software helps to fix that.

Very red roses.

It's time today to finish planting the vegetable garden. The eggplant and peppers and some collard green seedlings are going in. Some of the seedlings are still a little small, but in they go.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

What's on tv

A walk down memory lane. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of this docu/reality/adventure show, the creator and host, Frédéric Lopez, and one of the participants from 2009, Marianne James, talk about their experience. The show's concept is that Lopez takes a celebrity on an adventure in some far away land. The celebrity doesn't know where he/she is going until they get on the plane. An extraordinary and moving (for the celebrity) experience awaits. I've seen a few of these. They're not too bad, depending on where they go.

Frédéric Lopez should get his money back for that dye job.

What NOT to watch this week. Our tv magazine rates shows and movies using a star system: one star is ok, four stars is best. They use another symbol for really bad movies: the red dot. It means "à zapper" (change the channel!). The editors often include comments about the movie that make me laugh.

Another made-for-tv movie from the States. And another interpretation of the Grimm fairy tale we know as Sleeping Beauty.

La Belle au bois dormant : la malédiction (Sleeping Beauty: The Curse). American made-for-tv movie. Directed by Casper Van Dien, 2014.
With F. Jones, Grace Van Dien, C. Oxenberg, and O. d'Abo.
A prince learns that a princess has has been cursed to an eternal sleep. He goes off to her rescue.
Yet another version of this story filled with tired clichés and ridiculous dialogue.
For adults and children over 12.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Petits artichauts

There aren't enough of these to eat, so we'll probably just let them flower (as we do every year). This is one of our two remaining plants and the other one is not doing well this year.

This plant has about four or five little artichokes.

I measured 29ºC on the deck (in the shade) yesterday afternoon. That's about 84ºF. We have no humidity to speak of, so the day was exceptionally pleasant. We're expecting a warmer day today. Good for the garden!

Thursday, June 04, 2015

The afternoon of a fawn

...with apologies to Stéphane Mallarmé. During our walk on Wednesday afternoon, Callie and I stumbled upon a tiny fawn sitting right out in the open on our path. It couldn't have been much more than half the size of the dog. Callie barked when she saw it and ran by it, but it sat completely still. I approached and it still did not move. I knelt down beside it and its big round eyes watched me intently, but the fawn stayed completely motionless. Then it let me pet its head. Incredible! Callie watched without a sound. It figures that I did not have my camera with me. Drat!

The fawn, now standing, watched as Callie and I approached a second time.

I decided that was as good as it gets and that the poor thing must be terrified, so Callie and I turned and continued on our walk. We looped around the vineyard parcel and I looked back at where the fawn had been when we first passed by; it had moved a few feet to sit in the taller grass, but it was still there, its ears cocked and listening. I decided to go home and get the camera, convinced that once I got back, the fawn would be gone.

Callie gives up the chase. It was fun while it lasted (all of two seconds).

When Callie and I returned with the camera, the fawn was still in the grass, this time standing up. I snapped a couple of photos then moved toward it. But it was on its feet so it quickly turned and disappeared into the woods behind. Callie started to chase it (once something moves, it's fair game for a border collie). I called her to stop and she did. Good dog! Ken had told me that he saw the fawn that morning very near to where we saw it but, as luck would have it, he didn't have his camera with him, either.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Mini drought

We're not having a drought, but right now it feels as if we could. It hasn't rained (much) in a month. My rain barrels are empty and the surface of the ground is very dry. I have to get used to watering the outdoor plants again so they don't shrivel. We're expecting summery hot temperatures over the next few days. Saints preserve us!

Like a desert in springtime.

The hot weather will be good for the newly planted tomatoes and will also help the eggplant and peppers along. I don't know if I'll get those into the ground before the end of the week or not. Today's photo comes from out in the vineyard. I like the contrast between the dried and cracked mud and the dew drops on the blades of grass. When I took the picture, there were a few ants crawling around on the mud, but none of them ended up in the shot.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The naked garden

I'm growing a good crop of tomato spirals. Believe it or not, the tomato plants are there, too. They're very hard to see because they're very small. With any luck, they'll grow up to be big and strong, as long as I keep the weeds down and trim the surplus foliage. I plan to spray with bouillie bordelaise (Bordeaux mixture) in an attempt to ward off le mildiou (tomato blight).

The big green leaves are rhubarb. Callie brought back another stick from the vineyard and dropped it on the grass. Click to embiggen.

The summer and winter squash seedlings are in as well, and they look good. As usual, I'll post photos every now and then through the summer as a chronicle of the garden's progress. Today I need to get the hoses out so that I can water all the seedlings. We haven't had much rain since the beginning of May, when we got a month's worth in a couple of days.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Pink roses

Roses are still going strong around the neighborhood. I pass these on my morning walks with Callie. A couple of our neighbors have gardeners that prune and spray their rose bushes (and probably feed them as well) so that they look great each spring. I prune ours, but I don't do anything else in particular to them. So occasionally we'll have some aphids that reduce the flowering. I deal with aphids by squirting them off the plant with a hose; sometimes I'll put soapy water in a spray bottle and spray them, all with mixed results.

A rose is a rose is a rose.

The summer and winter squash seedlings are planted out now. Sunday was dry, but windy. We had a little rain overnight but it didn't amount to much more than sprinkles. I tossed and turned most of the night for some reason. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the bowl of tortilla chips and salsa I ate last evening.