Saturday, September 30, 2017

Local color

Fall happens. Even while we have been enjoying some nice days, the leaves are doing their thing. More and more of the vineyard parcels are turning various shades of yellow, orange, and red. The leaves on our red maple trees are going orange and are beginning to fall to the ground. Some of the plum trees around us are now deep red.

The vineyards around us have all been harvested. Now the leaves will put on a show.

And now, it seems, our nice days are changing into more fall-like days. On Friday, I wore shorts and a tee-shirt. That will be unlikely today; a weather system moved through over night bringing rain showers and lower temperatures. We should still have some nice days here and there during October, and I hope we do. There's more work to be done outdoors.

Friday, September 29, 2017


Yesterday I assembled a new gas barbecue grill that I had ordered from Amazon. I got tired of the old grill. It's not all that old (we've had it for four summers now), but it has "features" that I just don't like, the main one being that the grill surface is enameled steel, like a flat surface with holes in it, and it really isn't a "grill" at all. I've lived with it and learned how to use it, but I've never really liked it. And it's a real pain in the butt to clean. The new barbecue has a larger grilling surface made of cast iron. It's a real grill, not a platter with holes in it. It actually reminds me a little of the Weber gas grill we had in San Francisco. I'll be using it for the first time today, I hope. I have to go buy a new flexible, the hose that connects the gas bottle to the barbecue. The new grill has easier connections for the hose, another plus.

Everything, and nothing, that you need to assemble a barbecue grill.

I'll post a photo of it soon. But in the meantime, this is the package of little hardware that came with the new grill. It's screws and cotter pins and nuts and bolts. I got a kick out of the section of the pack that is labelled "Empty." And it was. And "empty" has a very interesting shape, don't you think?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Deck days

It's been nice to have relatively warm afternoons to sit out on the deck. We'll take every one we get. And a little glass of rosé makes it even better. I hope the nice weather lasts into October.

A sunny fall afternoon on the deck.

On Wednesday morning I took the chainsaw out and cut up a pile of logs that have been sitting out by the driveway for about a year. Some of them are the trunks of a couple of small trees that fell near the road down the hill from us. One of our neighbors noticed a tree leaning against the telephone wire that serves our hamlet and decided to cut it down, and I helped him. He didn't want the logs, so I took them. Now they're ready for the wood stove.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Inner space

Relatively warm days and cool, clear nights result in fog as the sun rises on fall mornings. Dew forms on everything, including the webs that spiders spin. This one is on the fence that surrounds the little pond outside our back gate. I saw no sign of the spider. I thought that the dew drops looked like constellations in the night sky, especially in the center of the web.

The original photo is in color, but I decided that it was more dramatic in black and white.

We're expecting some more nice days, so I will try to get some more outdoor work done. There are tomatoes left to harvest (and process) and I have some small logs that need to be sawed for burning. Among them are the last of the grape vine trunks that Callie used to bring home from her walks. I trimmed the wisteria way back on Sunday. It got too big and heavy and a recent wind storm pulled half of it from the wall. It's back up now, and ready for next spring's growth.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


We had a few "volunteers" in this year's vegetable garden. Two of the plants were tomatoes. Very small tomatoes, similar to cherry tomatoes but oblong, not round. The third volunteer was a Swiss chard plant. I'm not sure how it got to the place where it sprouted because we've never had chard in that spot before. The only thing I can think of is that a seed from a previous year was in the compost pile.

A back-lit chard leaf.

When I noticed the plant last spring, I didn't pay it any attention. But it kept growing, so I started watering it. It's become a healthy plant, and quite big. We've already harvested from it, and there are enough good leaves still out there for another harvest.

Note: Tasha Tuesday has the day off.

Monday, September 25, 2017


This is one of the last of the yellow "jubilee" tomatoes in the garden. This year, they produced beautiful large tomatoes, and lots of them. And they were delicious, with a mild sweetness that was great for salads. We made sauce with some of them and turned that into tomato paste. The jars of yellow tomato paste are in the pantry now, ready for use through the winter.

This one's just about ready to pick.

We also stuffed some of the larger ones, although they turned out to be more delicate than the red tomatoes we stuffed. But they were still very tasty. I don't remember if I have any more seeds for these. I'll look, but I think I'll save some seeds from one of the last fruits for next spring, just in case.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


If you enjoy eating zucchini blossoms, watch out for slugs! I spied this critter inside one of the blossoms on Friday. Into the compost it went, where it will do good, I hope. The zucchini crop is done for this year.

This little slug is gorging itself inside a zucchini blossom.

It's been a decent year for the garden. As one of my readers commented, the things that did well did really well, the rest was a bust. The zucchini and the tomatoes were very good this year. The green beans were good, too. But I planted fewer of them, so we got less. That's normal. I wonder what next year will be like?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The garden's last gasp

The end is near, and it feels a little earlier this year than last. I pulled out the summer squash plants yesterday to make room for a fall crop of collard greens. The tomatoes still have fruit, but it's either ripening or rotting, depending on where you look. The weeds have taken over. I got no eggplant this year, and the chili peppers did virtually nothing (compared to those I kept in the greenhouse which are doing well).

Tasha is ready to help with garden clean up. Or to play ball. Whatever.

So, it's time to start the clean-up. I'll keep picking tomatoes for a little while, but it won't be long before they get ripped out, too. Even if we get no more, we've had a great crop over all. This past summer was strange, with hot spells interrupted by cold spells, alternating all through the season. The last cold spell was wet, and while the weeds enjoyed it, the tomatoes did not and some rot has set in.

We'll spend the next month or so slowly cleaning up the garden, tilling and otherwise preparing for winter. When the leaves fall, we will gather them up and cover the garden with them. They help keep weeds down and then they get tilled into the soil in spring as compost.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Farm implements

I saw two plowing attachments along one of our walking routes the other day. I assume that whoever owns this parcel attaches them to his tractor when it's time to work the soil, then just leaves them out there for the season, or maybe all year long.

Rusty, but still serviceable.

There are many small plots of land around us that belong to people who live elsewhere in town. Sometimes the parcels are just vacant, sometimes they're used to grow fourrage (what we would call hay to feed farm animals), and sometimes they're planted with fruit trees, grains, or even vegetables. I see each of these uses on our little walk down in the valley. Up the hill, the parcels are mostly grape vines.

Thursday, September 21, 2017


That's my guess, anyway. It doesn't look like wheat or barley. It certainly isn't rape (used to make canola oil) or corn. I don't remember ever eating millet in the US. It's mostly found in bird seed mixes. And it's not that prevalent here in France, either. We've found it in health food stores (it's a no-gluten grain) and sometimes in the organic section of the supermarket. But in Asia and Africa, millet is apparently a very common food.

I wonder if this millet is destined for birds or the health food store?

I really enjoy eating it. Millet has a nice nutty flavor and it's got a little crunch after cooking. We eat many different grains regularly. The most common is probably wheat in products like bread and flour, but also wheat berries, couscous, and bulgur. After that, it's rice. Among the varieties we eat most often are round, basmati, long Thai, and a couple of varieties grown down in the Rhône delta here in France (riz de Camargue). And then there's millet. Since it's not all that easy to find, we don't have it as often as I'd like.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Which way do we go?

It doesn't matter since both paths end up in the same place. But Tasha waited for me to pick one. I like the one on the right because it's easier to walk with less grass and weeds (fewer chances for ticks).

Tasha waits for me while I take a photo.

And, speaking of ticks, now that we've changed flea and tick medicines, I haven't seen a tick in months. I guess the ticks evolved a resistance to the Frontline we had been using for years. We were always pulling attached ticks off of Callie or finding the engorged dead ones on the floor. Yuck. The vet told us that the medicine should kill ticks as soon as they start to feed, rather than after they've had their fill. You shouldn't see them at all.

Now, the company that made Frontline has a new formula under a new name: NexGard. The medicine is in chewable tablet form, which makes it easier to administer. The old stuff was a liquid in a dropper that we applied to the back of Callie's and Tasha's necks. They didn't like it at all. Tahsa eats up the new stuff like it's a treat. And I haven't seen a single tick on her since the switch three months ago, when Tasha started getting some fleas. They disappeared, too.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

With Bert this time. They really do seem to get along, at least for short bursts. Tasha is the aggressor, but Bert doesn't let her get away with too much. When he's had enough, he leaves. But he's a good sport. And Tasha is much less aggressive towards Bert than Callie was.

Tasha and Bert spar on the rug just inside the doors to the deck.

And they do have moments of tenderness, if you will. They take turns licking each other's face. And sometimes they just sit around next to one another. It's cute. The big change is that Bert gets to spend more time in the house than he used to when Callie was around. And I think that, as he gets older, he likes that. And he'll like it even more as winter comes along.

A loving embrace. Ok, maybe not.

I'm planning to make Tasha's first appointment with the groomer for next month. She needs a bath and a good brushing, and I think it would be good to get her used to going to the groomer sooner rather than later. The groomer in Saint Aignan also does boarding, and we think we might try that next year. We're thinking about going to Paris for our 35th anniversary next June. We've never boarded a dog before, but if we start Tasha while she's young, she might get used to it. Still, it's just thinking at this point.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The lower field

This is the "wheat" field that Tasha and I walk around when we go down the hill into the valley on our afternoon walks. The field is not always planted in wheat. Sometimes it's colza (rape seed), once in a while it's sunflowers. This year the crop looks like millet. The field will probably be harvested soon because, at least to me, the seeds look ready.

A field of millet. The river is just behind the tree-line on the left. Our house is up the hill to the right.

There's another field pretty close that's planted with the same millet. I don't know if it's owned by the same people or not, but it's likely. So, we have grapes up on the slopes where we live, and other crops down in the valley below us. The grapes are not grown in the valley because they need good drainage. That's a contrast to much of California's vineyards which, at least in Napa and Sonoma, are mostly planted on the flat valley floor. They get much less rain there, so drainage is not an issue.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Change is our friend

Fall is officially just a few days away and the signs of change are upon us. The leaves on our tilleul (linden tree) are starting to go yellow, as are the leaves of the tall poplars on a neighbor's property. Here and there are some deep reds, like on this plant in the woods.

A pretty crimson on the forest floor.

And it's not just the leaves that are changing. We got a note in our mailbox yesterday informing us that the local baker is discontinuing bread delivery as of next week. That will be a big change for us, since we've had bread delivery since the fall of 2004, nearly thirteen years. It's not a hardship, but it's the end of a convenience. On the upside, we'll be able to get bread from the different bakeries around our area, giving us a wider selection of tastes and textures, and the occasional pretty pastry will be less easy to resist. Oh, poor us!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A walk through the woods

I've just recently started walking Tasha on an old route I used to walk with Callie (and Collette before her). The path goes from the north side of our house down through the woods into the river valley, loops around a wheat field, then connects with our road to come back up the hill to home. Now that Tasha's ok with a leash, I can take her on the road without having to worry about cars.

The path down through the woods to the river valley.

There is a variation of this walk that doesn't involve the road at all, and that's what we did on Friday afternoon. We can take a turn before we get to the road and make a different loop through some fields and around a small orchard before climbing back up the hill through the woods to the house. While she had her harness on, and I had the leash, I didn't have to attach her at all for this walk. She was very good and stayed close to me the whole time.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Montparnasse tower

La Tour Montparnasse was, until 2011, the tallest building in Paris with fifty-eight floors rising to 209 meters. Completed in the early 1970s, the tower sits at the southern end of the rue de Rennes, just in front of the Montparnasse train station. It's an office building, but it has an observation deck and restaurant at the top that are open to the public.

The view of the Tour Montparnasse as seen from the dome of the Panthéon.

The neighborhood just north of the tower is where I spent much of my study abroad year back in 1981-82 and the tower was always a landmark (among others) for finding my way around. I've been up to the top several times over the years and highly recommend it. I've never found it as crowded as the other popular monuments in the city and the views are spectacular.

Thursday, September 14, 2017


Still lacking new photos, I'm posting another view from the Panthéon in Paris, this time in the building's crypt, under the main floor of the former church, where many luminaries of French history and culture are entombed. The light is not bright down there, there are multiple passages and chambers, and it's full of visitors (like me) wandering, looking, and taking photos.

The ceiling of the crypt. No tombs or tourists. May 2016.

We were supposed to have a lot of rain over night, but I don't think we got as much as was predicted (update: we got 15mm). The wind blew fairly strongly all day on Wednesday and into the night, but it seems to have calmed down now.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Roof vents

This image is from last year when I went to Paris before my trip back to the US. I took the tour up to the dome of the Panthéon. Most of the climb was up interior stairs, but part of route took us out onto the roof. I thought these vents, at least I assume they're air vents, poking through the slate tiles on the roof were interesting looking.

Part of the church's roof just below the base of the dome.

I don't have many new photos right now. Part of the reason is the overcast and showery weather and part of the reason is that we're walking Tasha on her leash for the time being. It's hard to hold a leash and a camera at the same time. She's doing very well on the leash, so that's good.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

Play ball! Tasha loves to fetch the ball. And she even brings it back to me. But then she keeps the ball and walks around me, daring me to snatch it from her. I can't, usually. I'm trying to teach her to "drop it" when she brings it back. It works less than a third of the time.

Tasha brings back the red rubber ball.

Tasha has two tennis balls and one rubber ball right now. So, if I have one of the three, she'll drop the one she's carrying back to go chase the other one. It's a simple game, and she loves playing it. I, on the other hand, get bored quickly. But I keep playing anyway.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Late summer flowers

This is the second summer since I moved these Jerusalem artichokes to this spot in front of the garden shed. It's about as far away from the house as you can get in the back yard, which makes it far from the water spigot. Fortunately, there's a rain collection barrel behind the shed so I don't have to haul a hose or water very far.

There are several cracks in the shed walls that need to be filled. One day.

And, fortunately again, these plants are not water hogs and don't need to be watered much. I used to have lavender in this spot, but it got too big and leggy and had to come out. I tried cosmos and sunflowers here, but I wasn't very vigilant about water (being focused on the vegetable garden) and they didn't do well at all. So I'm happy with these. Low maintenance, drought tolerant.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

More zucchini

They're still growing, those most ubiquitous of summer squash. I don't know what we'll do with them all, but we'll do something. This is probably the last gasp of the zukes. I planted only three plants and that was probably two too many. I will never learn.

A bumble bee is working inside the blossom.

Still, these are some of the easiest plants to grow in the garden and it's satisfying to harvest them. As long as I find them before they grow into baseball bat sized squash. Grated zucchini is good for fall favorites like zucchini bread and fritters, so I'm happy to have it.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Neighbor renovations

One of our neighbors is having some work done on her house. The work so far has been to strip off the enduit (stucco coat) from the northeast gable end of the house and to repair the woodwork under the roof tiles on that end. Apparently, our neighbor has had moisture problems on that end of the house.

You can see what's left of the original enduit coat at the point of the roof.

It took the workers a few days to remove the stucco before they worked on the tile supports. Then they erected this scaffolding which, I presume, they'll use to apply the new coat of stucco.

We're keeping our eyes on the hurricane news coming out of the US. We have friends and family in Florida and are hoping they're doing what's necessary to to protect themselves. It looks like it's going to be a rough ride for a while.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Tomato season

They keep coming. And we're glad! More tomatoes, more sauce, more paste. I always think it's amazing when the tomatoes happen. I plant seeds, then transplant seedlings, then put them out in the garden, water them, and then, tomatoes!

Time to make some tomato sauce.

This year the tomatoes are big, fat, and juicy. To me, it feels like the best year in a while. I'm sure it has to do with the hot spells we've had. I water the tomatoes when it doesn't rain. When it does rain, the weather is not usually hot, and the tomatoes like hot weather. So, hot and dry is good. Chilly and wet, not so much.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Today's the day

I'm taking Tasha to the vet's this morning to have her staples and what's left of her stitches removed. After that, she won't need to wear her cone any more. Yippee! Although she's used to having to wear it, it still is an encumbrance, especially when she's moving fast and catches it on a door jamb, a piece of furniture, or the steps.

The vine leaves are very green, but the grasses in between vineyard parcels are parched brown.

I got the grass cut over the last two days. Not that there's much grass to cut because it's been so dry. The grass grows better in the shady parts of the yard, but the sunnier parts are parched. Still, the weeds grow and send up their flowers, so they needed to be cut. The ground is hard as concrete and crisscrossed with equally hardened mole runs. The uneven surface makes the mower bounce all over the place. My records show that I last cut the grass 32 days ago. The time before that was another 30 days prior. We just haven't had any significant rainfall over the past few months.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The leash life

It only took a few days, but I think Tasha is now ok with walking on a leash. At first she hated it and stood defiantly, not budging an inch while she was attached. On the next try, I actually got her to take a few steps, but I had to pull hard, almost dragging her, to force her to move.

Tasha is learning that walks on a leash can still be fun. Although, not as much.

Then, on Tuesday afternoon, with lots of praise (and a little tugging) she actually walked with the leash on. We took a short loop around the vines behind the back gate. This morning we went on a full-fledged walk through the vineyards with the leash on. I only had to nudge her a little at first, but she trotted right along, even leading the way a time or two. When we saw a couple of deer in the woods, Tasha learned the limit of the leash.

We always use a harness (as we did with Collette and Callie). She was already accustomed to the harness because she wears it for car rides; she has a little short leash that clicks into the seat belt buckle so that she's attached inside the car. She has no problems with that.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

We're in the home stretch. Tasha is scheduled to have her stitches and staples removed on Thursday morning. After that, she will no longer need to wear the "cone of shame." I think she'll miss it, but not for long.

Tasha has gotten used to the cone. She needs to have her hair brushed again.

Our new thing is trying to get her to walk on a leash. She hates the leash so much that when it's on, she just stands still and won't budge. I'm working on it, with treats, to get her to accept it. She will eventually accept it, of course. All in due time. I remember when we did this with Callie, Ken had to drag her on the ground before she would accept the leash. She finally did. Tasha will, too.

Monday, September 04, 2017


After several days, we finally got the mouse that Bert brought into the house last week. The first few attempts to trap it were futile. The mouse took the bait but the trap failed to snap, so I fiddled with it to make it more sensitive. The mouse still got away.

I didn't think to take a photo of the cute little mouse before I released it, so here are some raindrops.

Then, on Sunday morning, I noticed mouse droppings in and around the shower. Yuck! The mouse was looking for a drink and there must have been some moisture around the shower drain. So I got the live-capture trap, baited it with some peanut butter, and left it next to the shower door over night. Success! The little critter was inside the trap this morning. I took it outside and released it. I wonder if Bert will find it again.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Harvest time

On Friday a harvester drove into the vineyard parcel just north of our house. There are both red and white grapes over there, but I think they harvested the white grapes, and I think that they are chardonnay. The winemakers blend that with other grapes to make the local sparkling wines.

You can just barely see the grapes in the trailer as they pass by our kitchen window on the way to the winery.

I remember that the harvest started at the end of September last year, so this year it's early. It's been a strange season, weather wise, and we are still in a drought, officially. I've read in some places that the Loire Valley vintage will be good, if small, this year. The proof will be in the drinking next year!

Saturday, September 02, 2017


Tasha has a lot of bones. They're actually all left over from Callie, but Callie abandoned them long ago. Tasha loves them all and chews on them each in turn. When I pick them up off the floor and put them into the toy basket, Tasha will systematically take them out and spread them around the floor again.

She's actually chewing on the remains of "Bonehenge" as I type this.

This morning I noticed that she had made a little pile of her bones in the den. It reminded me of Stonehenge. So I made a few adjustments and took a photo. She as six beef shank bones (Callie ate the marrow out, then lost interest), six Nylabones (chicken flavor!), and a couple of rawhide chews.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Fading fast

As fall approaches, some flowers, like our jerusalem artichokes, are just starting to bloom. Others, like these daisies, are fading away. Long gone are the wild chicory flowers, and the Queen Anne's lace has seen better days.

A wilting daisy in black and white.

The mouse under the stove has escaped its doom for the third time, feasting on peanut butter without tripping the trap I set. I'm thinking that these traps are junk. They're not the same traps I used for the last two mice because I threw those traps away with the dead mice. I'm going to try the live-catch trap tonight if it will fit under the stove.