Wednesday, July 31, 2019


And the livin' is dry. When the heat wave broke last weekend, we got some rain. About six millimeters worth. That's not much. I'm still watering the vegetable garden every morning to keep it alive. I wonder if I'm watering enough, but I don't want to overdo it, either. The peppers have a lot of blossoms and the zukes are producing.

Tuesday morning's sunrise.

Some of the tomato plants seem smaller than they should be, and a few of them have burned leaves from the heat. So do some of the yellow flat beans. Oh well. Like I said once before, I'm not going to take extraordinary measures.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The neighbor's cat

A couple of weeks ago, while walking by a neighbor's house, I noticed this cat in her back yard and snapped a photo. The neighbor had just arrived from her home in the Paris area to spend a few summer weeks here. The cat, it turns out, belongs to her daughter's family. They came down about a week ago. Then we found out that the cat had gone missing.

Here, kitty, kitty, kitty...

Other than the day I took the photo, neither Ken nor I have seen the cat. We noticed the family driving slowly up and down the road the other day hoping to find it, but to no avail. They went back to Paris yesterday morning, without the cat. Our neighbor told Ken that they were going to check in at the local vet's office to see if anyone had reported a found cat.

These days, Bert (our cat) gets along with most of the neighborhood cats, even the temporary visitors from Paris. We've seen some of them in our yard hanging out with Bert. But this particular cat is nowhere to be seen. Another neighbor speculated that a badger might have taken it. I suppose that's possible, but this is not a small cat, and I haven't heard of any other neighborhood cat falling prey to a badger since we've been here.

I find it curious that people would bring a cat to a vacation home and let it roam free. Seems like a strange thing to do, but this particular neighbor has been doing just that for years with her own, her son's, and her daughter's cats.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Summer daze

We got the paint brushes out yesterday and made some progress. Ken stained/varnished a couple of wooden boxes we got for kleenex and a wooden coat rack for the wall, and I put a coat of paint on the column that was built to hide the drain pipe that comes down from the loft. I think it might need a second coat. We still have to varnish the oak shelf in the new half-bath upstairs.

Neatly trimmed grape vines bask in the heat during our recent hot spell. You can see how dry the ground is.

The weather stayed pleasantly cool on Sunday and I grilled hamburgers for lunch. Our neighbors across the road had a small gathering and they invited us, but we didn't get their phone message until it was too late. That's ok. I wasn't really in the mood to get presentable and socialize.

The house is cooling off to the point where it almost feels cold in the morning. Things are getting back to normal. At least for the time being.

Sunday, July 28, 2019


Contrasts abound. We just had one of the hottest days ever, and now it's chilly outside. I had to add a blanket to the bed early this morning. Brrr. Out in the vineyards, the fields of tall grasses are parched brown while the deep-rooted grapes and trees stay green.

Make hay while the sun shines.

The Tour de France concludes today after a tumultuous weekend of hail and landslides shook things up along the route. This afternoon the cyclists will have a calm and relatively easy ride into Paris, the traditional, mostly ceremonial, finish. I'll be watching, if only for the nice aerial shots of the city.

Saturday, July 27, 2019


The heat wave is over. In our region, anyway. The temperatures are more normal and it finally rained on Friday. This morning, it's cool with light rain falling. Such a change. We could actually watch tv up in the loft last night, and sleeping was much more comfortable.

Last Wednesday's sunrise.

Because the weather has been so oppressive over the past week, we haven't felt like doing much around the house. There is some painting and varnishing left to finish, and a few more things to hang up on the walls. But we'll get there, eventually.

Friday, July 26, 2019


The grass in our yard is grillée, as they say. Grilled. Toasted. It's not unique to this year's heat wave. Most every summer has its dry spell and the grass goes brown. The green parts you see are patches of weeds that tolerate the drought better than the actual grass. Our lawn is really a prairie of wild weeds with some grass mixed in.

The last time I cut the "grass" was three weeks ago, on July 4. You can see it hasn't grown at all. The clary sage is thirsty.

Until it starts to rain again regularly, the ground out back will stay brown. Watering it is out of the question. Even if we weren't under water restrictions, it makes no sense to try to keep the lawn green. Our water is better used in the vegetable garden and for potted plants.

The heat wave is breaking. It's still warm this morning (the house will take a while to cool down), but there is a cool-ish breeze blowing and rain is coming in from the west. We're not expected to break 30ºC (86ºF) today, and it should be even cooler over the weekend. The high on our deck on Thursday was 40.5ºC, just about 105ºF. The humidity was very low, down around 20% or so. It was a dry heat. Thank goodness.

Thursday, July 25, 2019


Today is supposed to be the hottest day of our current heat wave, but the weather site I look at most often has dialed back the predicted high. It will be hot, but not as hot as they were saying yesterday. The northeast will get it worse than us. The problem we have is that the house has now heated up. It's not cool enough in the morning for the house to shed the accumulated heat, so it just stays hot inside, and gets hotter as the day goes on.

The daisies are starting to dry out. Maybe some rain will help them last a little longer.

So, we will suffer through another stifling afternoon and evening before the weather breaks overnight. They say it will cool down significantly on Friday and we'll have some rain. The weekend will be almost chilly. I'm ready for some of that.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

103 degrees

The thermometer on our deck read 39.5ºC at its hottest point on Tuesday. That's 103ºF. Ouch. We closed up the windows and shutters just before 11 a.m., and the main floor of the house stayed relatively cool, not rising above 29ºC (about 84ºF). Going outdoors was like walking into a hot oven. It reminded me of Las Vegas or Death Valley. The loft was unbearable, but at sunset it started to feel better and we were able to sleep upstairs with the big fan going.

A morning glory looking cool in the grass last week.

Today is expected to be slightly cooler, but they're predicting 40ºC for Thursday. They say the heat will break on Friday with thunderstorms and rain predicted. I remember rain.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Summer sky

Our second heat wave of the year is building in. Our high here at home on Monday was about 33ºC (about 91ºF). Today we're expecting 38ºC (about 100ºF). That's higher than body temperature. Yikes!

Saturday morning at about 7h30 in the vineyard.

We'll be lying low this afternoon and evening. This morning I'll water the vegetable garden, then I plan to load up the car with stuff for the dump. After the dump, I have a couple of things to pick up at the hardware store. As for lunch, it's burgers on the grill.

Monday, July 22, 2019

State of the grapes

The grape vines out back seem to be enjoying summer, so far. There is no sign of crispy leaves or burned grapes. Let's hope it stays that way through this week's predicted heat wave. The blossoms are long gone and the grape bunches have formed. Now it's just a matter of time and weather for the grapes to ripen. If the weather stays hot and dry, the harvest might start earlier than normal. Still, I think it's too early to tell.

Healthy looking leaves and grape bunches.

Because it's been so dry, the growers haven't had to spray any fungus preventative since spring. And, likewise, I haven't had to spray the tomato plants. I use boullie bordelaise (Bordeaux mixture), a copper sulfate and lime mixture that helps to prevent mildiou (fungus or blight) on tomato and other garden plants. It's very similar to what the growers use in the vineyards. In small quantities, it's considered safe and is officially approved for use in organic agriculture.

Sunday, July 21, 2019


Here's the vegetable garden as it looks this weekend. I'm keeping the plants (and weeds) watered by hand. That's why there are very few weeds between the plants, but lots of them at the base of each plant. I pull some out every day, but they grow quickly. The row of kale, just behind the zucchini in this photo, is overrun with flea beetles. The leaves are pretty much inedible now, perforated with thousands of tiny holes by the beetles. I won't use poison in the garden, so the infestation will have to run its course. I read that flea beetles feed mostly on cabbages and kale, so everything else should be safe.

I'm hoping that the kale makes some fresh new growth once the beetles are gone. I will spray some soapy water on them today; I just read that flea beetles don't like that.

There are lots of tomatoes on the vines, but they're still very small. I'm pleased with the tripods/teepees that I made with the tomato stakes. They're pretty stable, and I shouldn't have pound in additional supports this summer. I've harvested about four or five zukes so far. The peppers are developing blossoms, but the eggplant don't have any yet.

The next heat wave is expected to start on Monday and last through the week. I hope the plants survive. I've had tomatoes burned by heat in the past. But I'm not planning to take any extraordinary measures. Whatever will be, will be.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Kitchen visitor

Earlier this week we had a small visitor in the kitchen. It was une mante religieuse (a praying mantis). I found it climbing up the window frame, so I grabbed the camera and got a couple of shots before it flew outside.

A mantis climbs up the kitchen window frame.

We're bracing for the coming heat wave, although there's really nothing to be done. I water the vegetable garden every morning. We're probably not going to go out and buy an air conditioner. The temperatures this weekend are ok, but the highs are starting to creep up. The air cools off after sunset and the big fan in one of the loft windows helps to move it through the room. The hottest days are predicted to be Tuesday and Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Wild chicory

I remember these common summer flowers as "cornflowers" when I was younger. Here in France they're known as chicorée sauvage (wild chicory). They bloom from mid-summer to early fall. Around us, they grow in the margins around vineyard parcels and in fields that have been left fallow.

Beautiful blue chicory flowers make their annual appearance in the vineyard and on the blog.

Wild chicory, along with wild carrot (Queen Anne's Lace), are the typical wildflowers we see at the peak of summer. I wonder if they're a little advanced this year because of the heat.

Thursday, July 18, 2019


Drought. It's official: we're in one. Major portions of our département, the Loir et Cher, are at drought level red. Water restrictions are in place that prohibit irrigation, watering lawns, washing cars, and filling pools and fountains. Watering vegetable gardens is only allowed between 8pm and 8am. We haven't had rain in over a month, we've already had a week-long heat wave, and another is predicted for next week, with daytime highs expected near 100ºF for several days in a row.

The wild flowers are drying out. Early? I'm not sure.

This is very similar, although not yet as bad, as it was in 2003 when we moved here. France, with the exception of the Mediterranean coast, had a reputation for being wet and chilly. No more. Our winters have been mild lately, with little or no snow. And while we had a wet spring this year, it wasn't enough to counter years of rain deficits. The level of the Cher River is at a historic low, and the Loire is lower than it has been so early in the season. The water tables are not being sufficiently replenished. The situation reminds me of the years we spent in California.

This coming week will be difficult, especially for sleeping.

My information comes from the web sites of the Préfecture du Loir-et-Cher and our local newspaper, La Nouvelle République.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


This is a variety of kale called Red Russian. It's the second time we've had it in the garden, the first being two years ago, I think. This year, a gardening friend gave us little seedlings, her surplus, back in the spring. They took off in the garden and were looking real good until a few days ago. We suffered an attack of flea beetles; they bore tiny holes in the leaves. This happened the first time we grew them, too. It's just a matter of waiting until the beetles go away (they do) and new growth takes over. We'll probably be able to harvest good-looking leaves in the fall.

Red Russian kale, just before the flea beetles got to it.

For two years we also grew Tuscan a.k.a. "dinosaur" kale, also attacked by and recovered from flea beetles. There is still some of that in the freezer, so we didn't grow any this year. A few years back we tried some curly leaf kale in the garden. It was good, but it turns out that the curly leaves are difficult to clean, so we gave up on it. These two varieties are easy to deal with, once the beetles go away.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


The first tomatoes are forming now and all of the plants have blossoms. The first harvest is still a while away, but I'm already looking forward to it. There are thirty-two tomato plants of different varieties in this year's garden. If we're lucky, there will be beaucoup tomato sauce in the freezer this fall.

These handy plastic clips hold the tomato stem to the support. They're reusable; this is their third year in the garden.

We're still enjoying sauce from last year's harvest. We also make and can tomato paste, which is essentially sauce reduced to a paste in a slow oven. And then there are the dried tomatoes, a good ingredient for many winter dishes. But the best part is having tasty tomatoes fresh from the garden for salads, burgers, pizza, and other summer favorites.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The first zukes

I picked our first two zucchini of the season on Sunday. I sliced and grilled them; we ate them with grilled sausages and pasta. I didn't take any pictures, but here's an shot of the plant they came from.

A zucchini blossom in the garden. There's a tiny zucchini just to the left of the blossom's top petal.

Sunday was a busy day. I put up three mirrors, which meant lots of measuring and drilling holes in the walls. All went well with no mishaps. One of the mirrors went in the bathroom, one in the downstairs WC, and the third was relocated from the downstairs WC up to the loft.

There was also some Tour de France to watch, not to mention the nearly five-hour men's tennis final at Wimbledon. We were rooting for Federer, but Djokovic eked out the win. I noticed that Federer actually won more games than Djokovic (36 to 32), but Djokovic got the winning third set (of five) in a tie break. That's just how tennis works. So much for the grass court season. Now things will swing to the hard courts and the build up to the US Open in August.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The summer deck

In good weather, we enjoy the additional living space we get on the deck, which is just off the living/dining area on the main floor of the house. Our house is what's commonly called un pavillon sur sous-sol (a detached house over a basement). In our case, and common around here, the basement is not below ground, but on the ground level, and the main living level is one floor above the ground.

The deck faces east. The umbrella helps to shade the table from the hot mid-day sun.
This year we have basil, chives, and parsley in addition to the flowers on the deck.

I've seen many houses like ours where the owners have completely closed in the deck with glass, adding a permanent indoor space to the house. But I enjoy being out on the deck in the summer, even if the space is not very usable in winter. Having the barbecue on the deck is more practical than it was out in the back yard. It's closer to the kitchen and I don't have to go up and down stairs to get to the grill.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Funky feline fotos

On Friday morning's walk, Tasha and I found Bert out by the pond. He likes to stalk the critters out there. It's probably mice who come to the pond for water. I've never seen Bert take a frog, and the pond is full of them right now.

Bert is 13 years old now, and he's starting to go gray!

A few weeks ago, Bert showed up with a limp, favoring his front left paw. It was swollen, but he let us manipulate it. He was also walking, going up and down stairs, and eating normally. We waited a few days to decide about taking him to the vet. When we took Tasha to the vet last year for a sprained leg, the doctor examined her (ka-ching!), took an x-ray (ka-ching!), and prescribed an anti-inflammatory (ka-ching!). Then we waited for it to get better, which it did.

Bert among the vines. The pond he likes to stalk is just out of the photo on the right.

So we didn't do that with Bert. His leg is back to normal now, and he's hunting again. A lot. He's brought at least one mouse home every day for the past week. Had we thought the leg was broken, we would not have hesitated to take him in, but his injury had all the appearances of a sprain or maybe a fight injury, so we let him heal himself, and he did. I wonder how many "lives" he has left...

Friday, July 12, 2019

A blanket of green

When the grape vines are freshly trimmed, the vineyard can look like a green blanket covering the empty spaces between patches of woods. It depends on the angle, of course. Like here, it's hard to tell that there are empty spaces between the rows of vines.

The summer vineyard under sunny skies.

We're experiencing a dry spell right now. No rain for weeks, and none in the immediate forecast. The sun shines brightly most days, and it's hot (although not as hot as it was during our recent heat wave). Our lawn, such as it is, is brown. This is nothing new. We've had many a summer with a dry spell like this (we've had other summers that were rain-soaked). The question is: when will it rain again? The grape vines have deep roots and they can easily survive these spells. But other agriculture needs rain. Grains, sunflowers, and corn are grown around us. The corn is routinely irrigated but the other crops are not.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Le potager

Here's a lousy photo of the vegetable garden. The bright sun is great for the plants, but not so great for photography. It's difficult to distinguish individual plants, but you might notice that at the base of each vegetable plant is a thriving patch of weeds. They're a mixture of crab grass, purslane, and other unwanted weeds. I try to pull them out, but they have roots deep and strong. I water each plant using a watering can, so the weeds thrive where the water goes. If I used a sprinkler, the whole garden would be lost under a mound of weeds.

A wide view of the garden. Behind the watering can on the right is the oregano patch.

The snow peas along the back trellis are turning yellow and dying now, but on the right side the yellow flat beans are climbing nicely. The tomato tripods are holding up with most of the tomato bushes climbing about halfway up at this point. On the left in back are two zucchini plants, in front of them are nine pepper plants and, to the right of that, a row of kale. The left-most tripod in front is planted with eggplant.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Like a tunnel

In yesterday's post, I talked about clearing the fence line on the north side of our yard. Later in the day, I went out and took a photo. With the bright sun the photo is a little contrasted, but it gives you the idea of how close the woods are to the fence. The space we try to keep clear is looking more like a tunnel these days, but it's not as closed in as it looks.

The woods outside our yard are on the left. Just to the right of the fence is a hedge of hazelnut trees.

There is still a lot of work to do to get the tall grasses and other plants trimmed off the actual fence, but the main thing is that there is space between the woods (and blackberry brambles and rogue grape vines) and the fence itself. Without that space, the woods would take over, and likely destroy, the fence. We had the fence put in soon after we moved in sixteen years ago, mostly to keep our dog Collette inside the yard but also to keep the deer out. It's holding up well, as long as we can keep the woods away.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Tasha Tuesday

Here's Tasha stopped along our morning walk route to check out something that made a noise in the grass. It was probably some kind of little rodent scurrying around in the undergrowth. She hears them often and likes to pretend she could catch one.

Tasha inspects the wildlife along the vineyard road.

Because of the spring rain and the heat wave, I didn't get out to clear the fence line on the north side of our property this year. The saplings and brambles don't waste any time filling in the space between the woods and the fence. In addition, the wind storm had blown two small trees over. They landed on the fence, but did no damage. When it happened, I cut the trunks with a hand saw where they touched the fence, but the rest stayed put. So yesterday I got the chainsaw out and cut the trunks down to the ground. I also got the hedge trimmer out and cleared the vines and blackberry brambles (thorny!) to about a meter from the fence. Then I ran the lawnmower over the strip to finish the clearing. A productive morning.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Summer sunrise

This was Saturday morning's sunrise at around 06h30. It was warm when Tasha and I went out for the morning walk, shorts and tee-shirt weather. It wasn't long until the day got hot.

Sunrise over the Cher Valley.

It's a little cooler now, but it's still nice and summery. Our house guest leaves today, so we need to get back to finishing up the bathroom work. There's not much to do, and the builder still has some little things to finish. Having the half-bath upstairs is really making a difference, especially with a guest in the house. I'm glad we finally did it.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Veggie update

It was touch and go for a while with the courgettes (zucchini) this year. I think they languished too long in the greenhouse before getting planted outdoors. But they've come through and now they have blossoms, so we should get a good crop.

One of two zucchini plants in this year's garden. I think two will be enough.

The yellow flat beans are climbing vigorously up the trellis at the back of the garden. I'm looking forward to an abundant harvest (knock on wood) starting later this month. Their predecessors, the snow peas, are done now. The heat wave did them in as they prefer the cooler weather of spring.

The yellow flat beans are looking good so far.

The other plants are growing well, too. They're mostly tomatoes (some with fruit already!), but there is also kale, peppers, and a few eggplants.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

The heat is back

It's not as bad as last week's heat wave, but the air is hot and still again. Friday's high temperature was in the low 30sC, the mid-80sF. The same is expected today. The vegetable garden is having a good time. The zucchini are starting to flower now.

The tall grasses and wildflowers are competing with the grape vines in some places.

Today is the official start of school summer vacation. Tourist season is under way. The châteaux and zoo are big draws in our region. It doesn't mean much to us except that there is more traffic on the roads. We'll probably see our Parisian neighbors a little more over the next two months.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Little grapes

The grape flowers are disappearing and grapes are forming on the vines out back. The cycle continues. As summer goes on, the grapes will get bigger until the onset of fall, then they will change color before the harvest gets under way. But let's not rush things.

A bunch of baby wine grapes.

We are expecting a friend from San Francisco to arrive today. However, when I checked his flight status this morning, I found out that his plane had a mechanical issue and was diverted to Newark, NJ, where it still sits as I write this. At this point, our friend will certainly miss his train connections, so we'll have to stand by to see when he actually lands in Paris and what he decides to do. I'm writing this and posting it early to let him know we're watching, in case he accesses the blog en route. Traveling can sure be a pain in the derrière.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Neat and tidy

The growers out back have spent the last week trimming the grape vines. They have a special tractor that's fitted with spinning blades both vertical and horizontal. As they drive up and down the rows, the blades trim the sides and tops of the vines.

The summertime vineyard.

We're having very normal summer weather now. Dry, pleasant, and not hot. Our high temperatures are in the mid to upper 20sC (mid to high 70sF). The vegetable garden really loved the heat wave and the tomatoes had a growth burst. We have blossoms already. I've been doing some weeding and, of course, watering. I'm back in control for the time being.

Inside the house, we're slowly getting things back to normal. I'm expecting the builder back today to finish up some details. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Don't let the stars get in your eyes

These little flowers look like stars. I'm not certain what they are called, but they grow close to the ground around the edges of the vineyard parcels. When they're fully open they look like tiny petunias or morning glories.

These could be "liseron des champs," but I'm not sure.

The plumber finished his work on Tuesday morning, and the builder is getting very close with just a few minor finishing touches to complete. We're starting to put things back together and reorganize.

Now we have two half-baths in the house. Let's see... do two half-baths add up to one whole bath? Ha! The expression "half-bath" doesn't exist in French. The room with a toilet and a sink is called a WC (Water Closet). The salle de bains (bath room) is where the bathtub and/or shower are. That way, someone bathing doesn't block access to the toilet. Très pratique. Our salle de bains has a tub and a shower stall, along with a large sink. Oh, and a bidet. While there is traditionally no toilet in a salle de bains, that is starting to change. There are toilets in the "bath" rooms of some of the rental houses we've stayed in recently.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

We still got roses

Not all the flowers burned up in the recent heat wave. These pink roses are in our back yard. The plant is in a relatively shady spot and that may have helped to keep the blooms fresh looking. I have plans to rip it out, though. I just don't like where the plant is and it's spindly and not very pretty. Except for the flowers.

A pretty shade of pink. And the French word for pink is "rose."

The plumber came on Monday and got the small sink and basin off the wall (in pretty good shape, too) and installed the new one. We like it much better, and it's much more in proportion with the room. I don't have any photos, yet, but they're coming. Ken has some photos on his blog today if you want to see them now.

The builder is expected back today for some minor drywall work and finishes (like a shelf and the baseboards). I'm not sure when he'll be completely done, but we should have two functioning WCs by the end of the day. Yippee!

Monday, July 01, 2019


The walnut tree that grows out along the vineyard road is covered in nuts this year. It seems to me to be more than there were last year, and the year before. The nuts will mature and will start dropping in the fall. They're usually too small to be worth gathering.

Young walnuts on the tree.

The heat wave has broken! Sunday was still hot, but much less so. And this morning it's downright chilly outside. Our high today is only expected to get up to 24ºC, which is about 75ºF. I'll take it.

Our builder came by on Sunday afternoon to ask if he could come in and get some work done. Of course, we said! He got the framing and drywall installed in the downstairs bath. The next step is the taping and mudding of the joints, before undercoat and paint. Then the plumber can install the new toilet.

I assembled the new cabinet for the upstairs sink early Sunday morning. I let the plumber know that it's ready to be installed. I'm hopeful he'll come over today and do that. There's still some taping and mudding to do on the drywall upstairs, but that's a lower priority than getting the downstairs done.