Friday, June 30, 2017

I spy with my compound eye

This is one of the prettiest flies I've ever seen. Not that there are a lot of pretty flies out there, but this one is not your ordinary house fly. It was willing to let me get close with the camera. The fact that it was a relatively chilly morning probably meant that it wasn't warmed up and ready to speed off.

I know it saw me. It stayed perfectly still while I snapped the photo.

The rain has refilled our rain barrels. They'll be ready for the next dry spell. Right now everything is well watered, including the weeds. The first order of business on the next sunny day is to weed the garden. Then I have to cut the lawn, which is mostly weeds and their flowers.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Ça commence !

It's beginning! There are several little zucchinis on the plants in the vegetable garden. Some of the first ones get to the size of a small pickle, turn yellow, and then fall off the vine and rot. But when they get to this size, chances are they will keep getting bigger until I pick them. With three plants, we should have a good crop all summer long.

A zucchini with the blossom still attached. It's about five inches long at this point.

A thunder storm passed by us during the night and it rained pretty hard for about half an hour. Tasha didn't get freaked out at all. We got fourteen millimeters in the gauge, just over half an inch. That will help things along after the week-long hot spell we had.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Neatness counts

Over the past week, the growers have been working to trim the grape vines. The first step seems to be a manual inspection to ensure the vines are properly attached to their guide wires and that the actual grapes are not in danger of being lopped off. The second step is to drive a tractor with spinning blades over each row, cutting the excess growth from the tops and sides of the vines.

These vines have been trimmed in the past week or so.

I believe that the reason for the trimming is to guide the vines' energy into the grape bunches rather than into producing more tendrils and leaves and, of course, too many grape bunches. The result of the trimming is a very neatly squared-off vineyard. The vines are trimmed at least twice during the growing season. I suspect that it depends mostly on the weather and rate of growth.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

Tasha is learning to go for walks in the vineyard. Not bad for a four month old dog. She's mostly good, but sometimes she wanders into places she should not go. Like into a neighbor's garden. So it's up to us to keep her away from temptation until she learns what's off limits.

Little Tasha ventures out into the vineyards.

On Monday, we took Tasha for a ride in the car, up to a winery we like to go to. She was very good, except that she threw up just before we arrived. We half expected that. Puppies get motion sickness. But she was mostly okay with the ride and was very glad to get home again. We'll do another shorter ride next week, I think. If Tasha learns to like the car, we will feel better about taking little trips here and there. There are many places we'd like to go for a few days, but always hesitated because Callie hated the car. Let's cross our fingers that Tasha does better.

Monday, June 26, 2017

It takes a thief

I admit it. We took this ashtray from a café or restaurant at some point. I don't remember where or when, but we wanted it. We don't even smoke. Well, we did when we were young, but neither of us smoked when we "acquired" this ashtray.

A famous brand of French cigarettes.

Some of our visitors smoke, so we pull the ashtray out when they are here. Smoking isn't allowed in the house, but out the deck it's not a problem. Maybe I shouldn't tell you that this is not the only ashtray that we have, um, acquired over the years.

Sunday, June 25, 2017


The heat wave is over and the cool air is back. But summer has just started and there very well may be more heat waves in July and August. We're lucky that we don't normally have high humidity when it's hot. When there is some humidity in the air, we feel it.

Looking back toward our hamlet from the vineyard on Friday morning. Everything looks lush, but it is still very dry.

Friday morning felt a little cooler, but more humid than earlier in the week. There was no breeze in the morning and it took hours for the house to cool down, even with all the windows wide open. Saturday morning was very cool at 15ºC (59ºF) and we were back to long pants.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

How does my garden grow?

The vegetable garden has been in for a while and I spend some time every day now watering and weeding. The first batch of snow peas has run its course, and we've harvested one meal's worth from the second batch. The third batch doesn't look so good after our heat wave. But the tomatoes and summer squash are looking great.

Looking north. Summer squash on the left, tomatoes on the right. The bushy stuff on the right, outside the garden, is oregano.

There are blossoms on most of the tomato plants now. I have to be diligent about pinching off the suckers to maintain one main stem. If the plants get bushy, they're hard to manage and they make too many fruits. But even with my diligence, I frequently miss a sucker or two and they grow and get blossoms and I don't have the heart to cut them off.

Looking east. Green beans on the left, summer squash on the right, tomatoes on the spiral stakes.

The three zucchini plants each have little zucchinis on them now. The lemon squash is getting its first blossoms. I have three rows of green beans growing as well, but there are no blossoms yet. The eggplant and peppers are growing slowly and we're a long way from blossoms on those.

You can see two little zucchinis on the plant in the foreground.

Friday, June 23, 2017

That's more like it

The grapes are starting to look like, well, grapes. Our heat wave has been good for the vineyards, I think. I know our tomatoes and summer squash are enjoying the weather, even if we are not sleeping all that well. Today is supposed to be a little cooler, but it feels more humid than it's been. Trade-off.

The flowers are long gone and the grapes are getting bigger.

I took Tasha out with me on this walk. We found one of the guys that works in the vines, out early to take advantage of the cooler morning air. Tasha ran right up to him and let him rub her belly. So different from Callie. It took years for her to get close the people who work out there. So far, Tasha loves running up and down between the rows of vines, it's good exercise and it uses up some of her puppy energy. And that's a good thing.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


Last Saturday, aside from the drama with Callie, we enjoyed a visit from a friend from our time in Paris in 1981. Since then, she's gone on to build a successful career as a French teacher in the US. "Seine Judeet" is her screen name when she comments on the blogs. We call her Judy. She was traveling in France with her sister, B., and her brother-in-law, D. Ken spent the day with them first at the morning market in Saint-Aignan and then on a visit to the Château de Chambord.

Judy on the right, her sister B. on the left. Solidarity!

After the day of touring, they came here for drinks and nibbles. Unfortunately, Callie had her paralysis and we had to rush her to a vet. We were grateful that Judy, B., and D. agreed to stay and sit with Tasha while we did that. When we got home with Callie, we brought her up onto the deck with us while we spent the evening sipping wine, eating, and reminiscing.

Ken and B. getting into the spirit.

We stayed out until after dark, which is after ten-thirty p.m. this time of year. It was a great time, relaxing, and we enjoyed getting to know B. and D. The reality of what was happening with Callie had not yet hit us.

I'm sure I said something very witty. Yes.

I hope that Judy and her sister don't mind that I post these photos. I didn't get a good shot of D., so I apologize for that. We are very happy to have had that evening, seeing an old friend and meeting new ones. It was great fun!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Looking back

I spent time on Monday and Tuesday looking back at all my blog posts about Callie over the past ten years. The blog is a great repository for memories. Some of the posts had me smiling, others brought on a few tears. But it's all good.

Callie waits for me to catch up on what would turn out to be our last walk together Friday morning.

I want to thank everyone who's commented or sent messages about Callie. Your thoughts, words, and memories are comforting.

For anyone who is interested, all posts about Callie can be accessed by clicking on the label "CALLIE" at the bottom of this entry, or in the categories section of the sidebar.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Callie (2007 - 2017)

She was just ten years old. But we had a good ten years. Somehow she "broke" her back, slipping a disk that essentially severed the spinal cord. She had no feeling in, nor use of,  her hind legs, no control of her bladder or sphincter. She couldn't even wag her tail. The vet told us it was too late, that she had degenerated too quickly. Surgery was not an option. So we did the only humane thing. It was terribly difficult, but it was the right thing to do. We both said goodbye, and then she went to sleep.

Callie on her tenth birthday, last February.

We miss her. Our lives were so intertwined for the past ten years. We spent most of our time together, so very little time apart, and she was with us, or one of us, almost all her life. She was a good dog.

Now, life must go on. We have a little puppy to care for. This is the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. We have happy memories and they will get us through.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Not out of the woods yet

If you read Ken's blog, you know that Callie suffered some kind of injury on Saturday that left her hind legs paralyzed. We took her to an emergency veterinarian that evening. The vet didn't think it was a stroke (which was our first thought) but maybe something spinal, so he loaded her up on cortisone and gave us many pills for her. We've had her lying downstairs since then and carry her outside to do her business, using a bath towel as a sling. Ken has slept downstairs with her while I stay upstairs with Tasha.

Callie heading into her favorite woods on Friday morning.

Callie is alert, hungry and thirsty, and seems reasonably comfortable. She just can't stand up. We will call her regular vet this morning for an appointment. If it is a disk problem, there may be a surgical solution. We just don't know yet. It's been a difficult thirty-six hours for us, emotionally. The new puppy has been very good; she seems to know there's something going on.

We don't know, of course, what caused this. While lying awake last night, it occurred to me that Callie has been running around a lot with Tasha, making fast, tight turns as sheepdogs do. She may be too old for that kind of rough play and something slipped. It didn't happen suddenly; there was no yelp or anything. Callie just came into the downstairs entry and sat down normally, but then couldn't get up again at walk time.

So now it's just the wait for another vet visit. We're hopeful he will be able to see us this morning (UPDATE: we have an appointment at 11h45). Ken and I certainly appreciate all of your comments, suggestions, and well-wishes, even if we can't respond to them all.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Saturday, June 17, 2017

More roses

These are two of our neighbors' houses. The one I talked about yesterday is on the right, with the rose bushes. The strip outside the wall is a little weedy at the moment, but the flowers, including the wild poppies, are beautiful. On the left is a small section of another neighbor's house. She lives here in the hamlet all the time, as we do. The vineyard is outside the photo to the right.

We pass these roses and other flowers every morning on our walk.

Ken ran into our resident neighbor a few days ago in the supermarket. She told him that Bert, our cat, has been visiting her regularly and eating some of the food she puts down for her own cats, so she started to feed him. We had wondered why Bert began to lose interest in the food we give him in recent weeks. It turns out that Madame J. serves a higher quality cat food than we do! Why eat hamburger when you can dine on filet mignon? Ken thanked her, but told her that feeding Bert isn't necessary as he gets all he needs at home. This morning, he brought us a mouse. Then he ate it.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The neighbor's roses

One of our neighbors has a few rose bushes along her back fence which separates her yard from the vineyard road. The neighbor lives in the Paris suburbs, the house here is where her late mother-in-law lived until she died a number of years after we moved in. She (the neighbor) and her husband began fixing up the house after that, but then he died a few years ago.

Pink roses in our neighbor's garden.

So she comes down every now and then, especially in the summer, to enjoy the countryside. She has hired a local guy to maintain the yard in her absence. He cuts the grass and prunes the trees and shrubs. And the roses. At least we get to enjoy them.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Grape flowers

I took this photo about a week ago, so many of the flowers are gone and the grapes are starting to get bigger. Still, it's a good example of what the grape flowers look like. When I first saw grape flowers, I was amazed at how small they are. I was expecting something more substantial. But this is it.

Tiny grape flowers are hard to see unless you get in real close.

We're in a hot and dry spell, although the air is a little humid. The tomatoes and summer squash are loving it and are growing quickly. I've noticed a few tiny zucchini forming and many of the tomatoes have blossoms already. I'm using up my collected rain water pretty fast so, if it doesn't rain any time soon, I'll have to use the hose to water the veggies.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hats off

I see these plants out on my walks every year, and every year I wonder what they are, and every year I forget. Right now the flower heads are shedding their protective covering or, if you will, taking off their hats.

A very stylish chapeau, don't you think?

Since I never remember what they are, there's no point in trying to look them up again. There's too much else to do, not the least of which is to play with the puppy and walk the big dog. Today I'm planning to finish up the window and curtain washing (just three more to do!). But that will be later.


The first chore is to water the plants in the vegetable garden. We're expecting a warm couple of days with very little possibility of rain. We heard low rumbling thunder just around bed time last night, but the storm was far away and we got no rain from it. The rain we did have a few days ago filled up the barrels again, so the water for the garden is free. I just have to haul it from the barrels to the garden plot. Good exercise!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

Can you feel the love? Tasha likes to jump into Callie's face when she's not nipping at Callie's heels. I think that the little dog is trying to herd the big dog around. They're both sheepdogs, so that wouldn't be unusual. Most of the time Callie just stands there, putting up with it. Other times, when there's food or a toy involved, Callie will growl or bark sharply at Tasha to exert her authority.

It was either this shot or a photo of Tasha peeing. It's not easy to get her to sit still at six in the morning.

Tasha is certainly growing. She's up and down the big staircase all the time now showing none of the apprehension she had just a few days ago. The narrow wooden stair into the loft is an "up only" stair for now. She's also lasting longer through the night before needing to go out. But the progress is gradual. A couple of nights ago we were outside at three a.m., but this morning it was closer to five. The other news is that we started taking her out for short walks with Callie in the afternoons (Callie still gets her long solo walk each morning). Tasha is very excited to go out of the yard but she is very well behaved and sticks close to us. The afternoon walk is good exercise for her and helps to wear her out before bed time.

Monday, June 12, 2017


The ferns are all fresh and lush-looking right now. Of course, it's spring and we've had some rain, so there's no surprise. If we have a dry summer, the ferns will start turning brown, otherwise they'll stay green until fall.

Fresh ferns in the morning sunlight.

I wrote about the noise our neighbors made on Sunday morning. Well, after I wrote that, we saw the mayor stop to speak with the revelers on her way into town (it was election day, so she probably had some work to do). I'm curious to know if she heard the noise herself or if she got complaints from others. We didn't talk to the mayor, but we might ask her about it later. The kids took most of the day to get moving and clean up after their all-night party. The ten or so cars that were parked in the yard across the street left sporadically over the course of the day, with the last few kids (including the one grandson that we know) finally heading out around five p.m. All's quiet again.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Flutter by

Sometimes it's amazing what you can see early in the morning as the sun comes up. This butterfly (or is it a moth? nope, it's a butterfly) was clinging to a blade of grass in the sunlight. I presume it was warming itself up, but maybe that's just projection. I have no idea what butterflies (or moths) do at night other than get eaten by bats. There's a research topic; I'll add it to my list.

Posing for its close-up. If anyone happens to know what this is called, I'd appreciate a comment.

Tasha had a little accident last evening. It was weird because she had spent a lot of time outside during the afternoon and early evening. Neither of us saw her do it, but suddenly I noticed a rather large (for her) puddle in front of the tv in the loft. And she is never really up there without one of us because she won't go down those stairs yet. So I cleaned it up and took her out to see if she needed to poop. Nothing. But we slept through the night and she didn't wake me up to go out until about 05h00.

This is the side of the butterfly that faced the sun. It looks like a stained glass window in black and white.

And speaking of waking up at five a.m., our neighbors across the street let some of their grandchildren and friends use their house for a party last night. We closed our windows and turned our fan up to high and were able to sleep through it. This morning at five, the music went on full blast. Those kids must think that nobody else lives in the country. Making that kind of noise on a Sunday morning is not only rude, it's also not permitted by local ordinance. I can only hope that the mayor, who lives two doors down, was at home and trying to sleep.

Today is the first round of parliamentary elections in France. Should be interesting.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Don't bug me

It's finals weekend at Roland Garros in Paris. Those two weeks went by fast. I haven't really been able to get into the women's game in recent years. There are fewer stand-out personalities than there used to be, a serious lack of American talent at the top of the game, and no one that I feel like rooting for right now. I find the men's game to be much more interesting these days. It's all cyclical, of course.

An insect clings to a wildflower stem in the morning sun.

But I will certainly watch the women's final this afternoon. Sometimes our television channels show some other matches, like the fun doubles matches with some of the older players and tennis legends. The men's doubles final is today, as well as two legends finals featuring Martina Navratilova, Lindsay Davenport, Kim Clijsters, and Tracy Austin, as well as a France/Sweden match-up between Escudé and Clément, and Norman and Enquist on the men's side. Any of those would be fun to see.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Spring cleaning

It's still spring, so we're still cleaning. This week I've worked on the living room windows. I took the curtains down and washed them. Then I washed the windows, inside and out, of course. Winter's fires in the wood stove make for a lot of soot inside, even if you don't notice it while it's happening. It feels good to get it all cleaned up in the spring.

Washing windows while watching the French Open on tv. The curtain rod is on the floor.

I'm a little late this year because of the new puppy. It's hard to get things done while tending to her. But we realize that we are, in fact, getting things done. So life is good. Bring on summer!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

One step at a time

We experienced a major breakthrough on Wednesday: Tasha went down the stairs. I've been trying to entice her to go down using treats for a week or so. No dice. The past few days, however, she started to put her front paws down one step to get the treat. Progress, but she wouldn't go further.

Tasha contemplates the stairs.

On Tuesday, she actually went down one, then two, then four, steps for a treat. Then she realized where she was and jumped back up to the top. She got a lot of praise anyway. Finally, on Wednesday, I enticed her all the way down to the bottom. She's done it several times now, both with treats and without.

This is what she sees when she looks down. Scary!

The latest time, she just followed me down the stairs when I went. This morning she's been going up and down, following us, the dog, or the cat, because she wants to and not because I ask her. Our little girl is starting to grow up.

She goes up the stairs with no problem. Coming down is more difficult.

The good thing about this staircase is that the steps are wide and not very steep. The stairs up into the loft are a different thing. They're much narrower and steeper. But I'm confident that she'll end up mastering them. All in good time.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

In a rut

Well, if not a rut, we're in a pattern. It is temporary, but it's life with a puppy. Tasha wakes me up every morning between 03h30 and 04h30 to go outside. Most times she pees, and sometimes she poops, and other times she does nothing. Either way, I'm glad she makes the effort and doesn't do her business upstairs. Then we go back to bed. By 05h00, she's hungry and wants to eat, so one or both of us get up and take her down for breakfast. After she eats, she's bouncing off the walls and we have about an hour of vigorous play.

Tractor ruts in the vineyard.

When Callie gets back from her morning walk, she gets her breakfast and Tasha gets a biscuit. Then they both play with the tricky treat ball until Callie gets bored. Tasha finishes playing by herself until the ball is empty. Then I take her outside again, just in case. When the weather is good we can stay outside and do things while the dogs play. When the weather is bad we're stuck in the house. I feel like I've had a full day by 09h00!

At about 11h00, Callie gets a rawhide chew and Tasha gets her lunch. Then we're busy making our lunch and Tasha crashes for about an hour- or two-long  nap. Yippee! The afternoon varies depending on the weather, but Tasha is usually underfoot somewhere, or playing with the cat, or outside with Callie. We do several "business" runs during the day and Tasha has been very good about going outdoors.

In the evening, we go up to the loft to watch something on television. Tasha likes to hang out with us up there with a little light play mixed in. Then, around 20h30 or 21h00, we go outside to take care of business, and she has been very good about that (I feel less anxious when she's "empty" before bed time). Then, it's bed. Until around 03h30 when we start all over again.

We still have an occasional accident in the house (like this morning), but otherwise house training is going pretty well. Tasha still cannot get down the stairs, so we have to carry her down. I keep reminding myself that she's just a pup, only three and a half months old, so in the grand scheme of things it's all going well and the little inconveniences will soon be a memory.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

This time with Bert. Tasha and Bert get along pretty well. When Tasha first got home, she was about half the size of the cat. But now she's about the same size. They like to play together, in short bursts. Bert seems to like the dog and he lets her lick his face.

Tasha and Bert on the deck.

Callie and Bert do not get along. Callie chases the cat, and not in a friendly way. She's set in her ways. Every dog is different. So it's interesting to watch Bert assert himself more now that he has a friendly dog in the house.

Gimme a kiss!

It'll be fun watching the relationships evolve. Callie and Tasha get along pretty well, and that's a good thing. Still, Callie is an independent dog. When she came to live with us, it was just us. No cat, no other dog. Tasha's the newcomer, so having a cat and older dog around is normal for her.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Periodic puppy pics

With all the activity surrounding the new puppy, Callie still gets her two walks every day. Tasha is still too little for these walks, so that gives each of us some time alone with Callie. I think she enjoys it. Here she is rounding the corner of one of the vineyard parcels.

Callie in the vineyard.

A little farther along is the spot where she likes to cut through the woods. Right now the entrance to that little path is getting clogged with fast-growing thorny brambles, but we stomp them down or cut them back every now and then to keep the path open.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Weather or not

The weather changed on Saturday. Clouds moved in and it rained most of the day. I might have heard some thunder, but it was far away from us. We got sixteen millimeters of rain, which is about two-thirds of an inch, in the rain gauge. And now it's much cooler than it has been.

The vineyard road at sunrise, looking east.

The rain is good for the plants and the vegetable garden. It's also good for the weeds, so I'll have some work to do next week. Not to mention the grass, which will have a little growth spurt now. I also picked another batch of snow peas for lunch today.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Feels like summer

And it certainly looks like summer, too. We've had a good week of warm, if not hot, weather. It's a little humid, but not too much. The cherry trees in our neighborhood are loaded with fruit. As we head toward the solstice, the days are long and the nights have been clear and starry.

A summery day out in the vineyards and fields around us. View looking toward the southeast.

We're expecting thunderstorms with rain during the day today. I saw lightning to our south at 04h30 this morning when I was outside with Tasha. She's still waking me up before sunrise to go out. This morning Bert joined us and that got Tasha all excited. But she did her business and we got to go back to bed for a while.

Friday, June 02, 2017

The grapes are flowering

Grape flowers are opening all over the vineyards now. I'm amazed at how many flower bunches I can see out there given the damage that happened in April's freeze. The vines' leaves are getting more lush and things are looking more normal out there. It will be interesting to see if the harvest is late this year and how the yield is affected.

These flowers aren't open yet, but they're just about to. That's Callie's back in the background (left).

All the eggplant seedlings are planted out in the garden now. I still have some chili peppers to plant. Maybe today.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Snow peas

In mid-March, I planted a row of snow peas on the edge of our vegetable garden plot. When they sprouted, I planted a second row, and later a third row. Earlier this week I harvested the first of the crop and we had enough to make shrimp with snow peas for lunch. I noticed yesterday that there may be enough for a second harvest soon, and the second row of peas is blossoming.

Snow peas on the vine.

The seeds for the first row came from one of our local garden centers and their blossoms are white. The second row is from seeds that Ken brought back from the US in February. Those blossoms are purple. The seeds in the third row are for black snow peas (actually a very dark purple) left over from last year. I forgot what color those blossoms were, so their color will be a surprise when they bloom in a week or so.

Trimmed, rinsed, and ready for the wok.