Thursday, April 30, 2020


It's time to thin out the tomato seedlings. They're growing and crowding each other. I planted many more seeds than the usual three in each little pot because I wanted to be sure some of them sprouted. I'm using seeds that are a couple to several years old. Well, most of them came up. The yellow tomatoes didn't germinate at all, and I only got four or five of the cœur de bœuf tomatoes to sprout. No matter. There are plenty of others.

Some of this year's tomato seedlings, along with zucchini and pumpkins.

I plan to put at least three of each variety in the ground. I'll plant more of some, like the romas, so there will be lots of sauce tomatoes. I'm actually trying to plant fewer tomatoes than in previous years. I have two pumpkin varieties that I want to put in this year, and they need a lot of room to roam. The zucchinis are non-running types, so they won't take up too much space.

Climbing yellow flat beans against the trellis.

Oh! And the yellow flat beans are doing well out in the garden. No climbing peas or other bean sprouts to report; I guess those seeds were too old. I did see a few snow pea sprouts yesterday, so I'm hopeful. They're a semi-dwarf variety so they won't climb much.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Yard work

I got out on Tuesday morning and finished cutting the grass. It was a little wet, but not too much. In places it had grown to nearly a foot high. Now it's all neat and trim again, at least until the end of the week when it may need cutting again. Once the weather dries out (if it does), the cutting frequency will fall to something more reasonable.

I'll start moving those logs (the old apple tree) to the wood pile soon.

Today's photo is the big forsythia out in the south 40. I trimmed it so that I could get under it with the mower. I suppose I could just let it grow all the way to the ground and then just cut around it. But I kind of like the "fountain" look of the shrub. I didn't trim the top -- that's ladder work. Here's what the forsythia looked like in mid-March.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

More rain

I got some more grass cut on Monday afternoon, but didn't finish. The dew was heavy in the morning, so I had to wait until after lunch. Not surprisingly, I ran out of steam after a while and had to stop. Then the rain came back. It rained most of the afternoon and into the evening. I still have a section of grass to cut, but it will have to wait. By the time I get to it, the south 40 will likely need cutting again.

The rain was getting heavier as Tasha and I high-tailed it back home on Saturday morning. It's really that green out there right now.

I thawed out some grated zucchini yesterday and will make some zucchini bread this morning. It's not really bread, but more like a cake that we eat as dessert. I also thawed out a UFO (Unidentified Frozen Object) that turned out to be some applesauce that I made a couple of years ago. I need to think of something to do with it. I suppose we could just eat it as it is!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Well, well, well

A shot of our real fake well in the rain. Last year's clary sage plants have come back with a vengeance. The iris gets bigger every year. I don't really know where that iris came from. I don't remember it being there when we first got here. In fact, I've dug up and replanted that bed around the well several times over the years. When I first noticed that iris (whenever that was), I just decided to let it stay.

What's growing inside the well is some kind of grain. I hang a bird feeder there in the winter and the birds throw a lot of the seed down into the well. It sprouts every spring.

Ken is picking up another drive order of groceries today. It's been going pretty well, but we're still looking forward to the day we can go back to the markets and inside the supermarkets. The outdoor markets are mostly shut down, but there's no ban on going inside supermarkets. It's just that we're a little (a lot) skittish about being in enclosed spaces with other people right now.

Sunday, April 26, 2020


A thunderstorm rolled through early on Saturday morning, a prelude to a mostly rainy day. The sun did come out later in the afternoon, though. Tasha and I headed out just as the storm moved in and, naturally, turned right back around. After the storm, we made another attempt but we didn't get far before the rain started falling again.

Springtime among the vines. Tasha and I made it out to that lone tree before rain forced us to turn back.

I had the camera with me because I wanted some shots of the grape vines with their fresh green leaves. The ground in many parcels is covered with thick green grass thanks to recent rains. The growers have plowed the grass under in certain parcels, and I think some growers have sprayed herbicide in other parcels, so I wanted to get a shot before the grass dies or gets mowed.

Saturday, April 25, 2020


Over the past few days, I've been working on the oregano patch. I mentioned in a previous post that I had planted oregano in the vegetable garden one year. It's a perennial that likes to roam and it started colonizing the adjacent lawn. I decided to just let it grow where it wanted to and now I have a sizeable oregano patch that comes back every year.

The oregano patch out by the vegetable garden.

I also discovered that this oregano (and I have no idea what particular variety it is) has little flavor when used fresh, but when it's dried it's wonderful. So I started using our dehydrating machine to dry it out. We've used the machine to dry other things, most notably tomatoes, making our own version of sun-dried tomatoes. I cut the oregano, wash it and remove anything that's not oregano, then layer it into the dehydrator's trays. It takes a few hours to dry.

The dehydrating machine.

Once it's dry, I have to remove the leaves from the stems. This is busy work and takes a little while, but I can do it while watching television. Once the leaves are stemless, they're ready to go into jars. If I process enough oregano to fill four or five jars, there's enough for at least a year, almost two. We use it all the time, on pizza, in tomato sauce, and in soups and stews, among other things.

One batch of oregano, de-stemmed. Somehow it reminds me of something...

I don't harvest all the oregano in the patch, so what gets left behind produces pretty purple flowers that look nice out next to the vegetable garden. I have some sage plants in another location and it only just occurred to me to try drying sage the same way. I plan to do that later this summer.

I'll top off these jars with the next batch.

Friday, April 24, 2020


Since yesterday's photo was not actually in the town I was talking about, here is a photo that is. It's the main commercial street in Domme. It leads visitors past all manner of souvenir shops and specialty stores that sell regional products like foie gras. The ultimate destination at the top of the street is the belvédère, an overlook into the Dordogne Valley below.

The wisteria were in full bloom in Domme when we visited in April 2006.

I got some of the grass cut (again!) on Thursday, and a few other yard chores done. Ken made great progress with plants, essentially cleaning out our entry porch where a lot of plants spend the winter. I'm continuing with the oregano harvest and drying. Maybe I'll do a post about that soon.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Flower pot in a wall

One of our stops in the Dordogne was the picturesque hilltop town of Domme. With spectacular views over the river valley and lots of shops and restaurants to cater to tourists, the town was bustling with people, at least on the main street that lead up to the overlook. After we saw that, we made our way back to our car through some of the town's smaller residential streets.

I'm not certain that I saw this in Domme, but it was not far from there.

It looks like I've got a window of two days to cut the grass again before we get more rain. So that's my plan for today and tomorrow. I'm also harvesting and drying oregano. Years ago I planted oregano in the vegetable garden. It escaped and is now growing wild in the yard. I let it grow and cut it this time of year. It doesn't have much flavor when fresh (which surprised me) but when dried it's fragrant and flavorful.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

One of these is probably named "Ryan"

Here's another photo from our 2006 trip to the Dordogne region, taken at that rural museum we visited outside of the city of Sarlat. Chickens, ducks, and geese roamed the grounds freely. There were more of them than there were people. It was the end of April and these goslings were huddled together under a tree napping.


We've been sleeping with one of the loft windows open for the past couple of weeks, but this morning it felt kind of chilly. Our temperature as I write this is about 10ºC (about 50ºF), so it's not cold. Just chilly. I planted snow peas in the garden yesterday. I'm still waiting for the other peas I planted to sprout, but so far none have. The green flat beans are doing well and are about four inches high now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Les bories du Périgord

Yesterday Ken posted a photo of a ceramic model of a dry-stone shepherd's hut typical in the Périgord Noir region of France, near the Dordogne River. It got me thinking that I had a few photos of those from our trip down there in 2006. A quick check revealed that I never posted those here. So, it's a blast from the past!

Bories in the Périgord. Maybe I'll post a few more photos from this 2006 trip.
Some of them are already posted: click on the "dordogne" label at the bottom of this post or in the side bar.

These are called bories and they're made with pierres-sèches (dry stones), meaning that there is no mortar used in their construction, just stones stacked with a lot of skill. The huts were used as storage cabins in vineyards and shelters for shepherds moving their flocks to and from pasture. We visited a rural museum where several of these huts are preserved. I don't remember much more than the huts and the numerous chickens, ducks, and geese that roamed the property.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Side by side

Here's a freshly plowed field between a small vineyard parcel on the right and the piney woods on the left. Last year was the first year I've seen it plowed and planted since we've been here. Whoever owns the parcel planted millet there. I don't think it was harvested; it may have been a cover crop. I wonder what, if anything, will be planted there this year.

A freshly plowed field between grape vine rows and the piney woods.

Today I'm venturing out to the grocery store. Not inside the store, but to the drive pick-up at Intermarché across the river. It will be my first time out since April 4. We placed an online grocery order last week and today is the day. It will be interesting to see what we get. This is the first time we've ordered some frozen food this way. I'm taking an insulated bag for those items. I'm also planning to take Tasha with me. She loves to ride in the car.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

La glycine

Here's the wisteria, v.2020. I mentioned before that I planted it in 2006, fourteen years ago. It started out about two feet tall. It slowly grew up and out over the years. I've pruned it back a few times, and the wind tore it off the wall a couple of times. But it survives.

I did a serious pruning last fall. There's still some cutting to do. One of these days.

I noticed yesterday that my crop of green flat beans has sprouted. It's so exciting! The yellow beans and the peas have not sprouted yet, but there is still hope. And I'm planning to plant a second crop of peas today or tomorrow, snow peas this time, a semi-dwarf variety. They won't climb as high as the others, but that's ok.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Wild orchids couldn't drag it out of me

Wild orchids grow all around us here. We have some in our "lawn," but they get mowed down after their initial spring bloom. These, however, grow out in a field next to the vineyard parcels. The field only gets mowed in late summer, if at all, so the orchids grow and bloom naturally.

Wild orchids in the grass, no more than a few inches tall.

We had a thunderstorm on Friday night. Just around sunset I could hear the low rumble of thunder in the distance. Ken looked at the radar on the internet and noticed a "blob" heading our way. As the thunder got louder, big raindrops began to pelt the loft windows. Then we started seeing the lightning. It was a mild storm and it passed through quickly. The rest of the night was calm, except for a nightingale singing happily outside the north window.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Rear view

Here's a close-up of the greenhouse that we had built on the back (west) side of the house back in late 2016. Hard to believe that this is its fourth spring. The photo is just a crop of the wider image below it.

The wisteria is beautiful right now. I need to get a better shot of it.

The weather is getting nicer again, so we'll be able to get outside a little more. My motto: if I can do one "thing" a day, I'm happy. Of course, some days I'm just lazy and don't get much done. Other days I can be very productive, so I figure it all evens out.

This is the original photo.

On Thursday, I cut back some tree saplings that started growing where they shouldn't, mostly along the fence that closes in our yard along the north side. A couple of oaks and a few birches got snipped back after a couple of years of growth. The roots aren't gone, so I'll be snipping them back again, I'm sure.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Mid April sunrise

We had a nice sunrise last Saturday and I remembered to take the camera out on my morning walk with Tasha. The weather was very nice over the weekend, but it got chilly again. We're coming back out of it now, but we have to remember that we can still have morning frosts until about mid May.

A dramatic Saturday sunrise.

Today we're thawing out some zucchini that we grated and froze last summer. The plan is to make zucchini fritters for lunch. I'm ready!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Dug up

Three older vineyard parcels near us are being readied for replanting. They're parcels out at the end of the dirt road that starts at our house. Last fall, I noticed that workers were taking out the support wires and posts. They pruned the vines down to the thick trunks. When I talked to one of the guys he told me that they would be ripping out the old vines, then replanting with new ones. We've seen this done in a couple of parcels closer to our house.

Piles of old grape vines ready to be taken away.

So the other day I noticed that the vine trunks in one of the three parcels had indeed been dug up. They're piled out there for now, but will likely be taken away soon. Then the ground will be plowed thoroughly and, if it's done like the other parcels we've seen replanted, the land will lie fallow for a year before new vines are planted next spring.

That same guy I talked to told me that an old parcel near our house will be dug up next year. Something to look forward to!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Working on it

Here is the state of our yard as of this past weekend. The grass is cut, mostly. All that remains is the trimming along the garden path and a strip about a meter wide on the north side of the fence. This is the first view of the whole yard since we had three trees removed. The two apples came down last fall. They stood a few feet to the left of where those two log piles are.

Looking east across the yard on Easter Monday 2020. Our two remaining apple trees are in bloom. The "South 40" is to the right of the garden path, the "West 40" is to the left, and the "North 40" is to the left of the house toward the back of the photo.

The third tree came down in February. It was a very tall cedar. The stump is visible in the middle left. We put a white rectangular planter box on it for the time being. Removing that tree (which was too close to the house) opened up that section of the yard to more light and air. I really like the way it feels, and the view from the den window is much improved.

And we have sprouts! One of the three pots of basil has germinated, as have two tomato seeds (it's a start), and the zukes. No sign of peas or beans yet. It's still early.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Le lundi de Pâques

Easter Monday is a holiday in France. This year it doesn't really seem to matter much, as many people are not working anyway under the confinement order. I read that the president is speaking tonight and is expected to extend confinement to the tenth of May.

Dirt piles at sunrise.

Those piles of dirt that I noticed out in the vineyard last fall are still there. I also noticed that a small amount was removed a few months ago, but I have no idea by whom or why.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Tower of power

No? Ok. It's just a microwave/telecommunications tower. I think. It's called un pylône in French. We can see this one from out toward the end of our dog walking route in the vineyards. It stands pretty much in the middle of nowhere, between vineyards and forest.

Le pylône, seen at sunrise from out among the grape vines.

More progress in the yard! I power washed a few concrete planter boxes that we use on the deck. If I remember correctly, we got them back in 2003, the first year we were in the house. This is the second time I've washed the moss and lichens off, and they look pretty good. I also cut the grass again in the south 40, along the road, and outside the hedges. Today I hope to finish up the rest of the yard. It's a shorter cut than the first one, so maybe it won't need mowing again so soon.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Dandy lions

The dandelions don't practice "social distancing." But we humans must, at least right now. There seem to be more people than usual walking along the vineyard road these past few days. I guess that some of them are not at work and are taking advantage of the nice weather to get some exercise. Others might be a little stir-crazy and just need to get out for a while. I usually don't encounter anyone on my morning walks with Tasha because I go out early. But on the afternoon walks we bob and weave through the vines and woods to avoid contact. Tasha loves it.

One of these dandelions has a bald spot.

The deck is all washed and set up for summer. Now it's time to do some more grass cutting before the next rain system moves in on Monday. That may be a good day to get the American tax returns filed.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Nice days

What a week! It's t-shirt weather and we're loving it. Work outside continues (there's always something to do outdoors) and yesterday I got most of the deck power-washed. There were a lot of flower pots and other odds and ends to move and I didn't get it all done. I'll finish it this morning.

A flowering tree out in the woods adjacent to a vineyard parcel.

And I got the grill going for the first time this season. I grilled burgers for lunch and they were delicious. They were the last burgers we had in the freezer. Ken put together a new supermarket order for next week that includes some meat. It will be interesting to see what we get.

Speaking of hamburgers, it's worth noting that ground beef is not something that you can buy here like you can in the states. Butchers grind beef to order, of course, but only beef. They won't grind veal, pork, chicken, or turkey to order; mixing meats in the beef grinder is a no-no. Industrial manufacturers offer packaged pre-made hamburgers, but I don't want those. You can find seasoned ground pork, called farce (stuffing), in some markets and charcuteries. So, for burgers, we buy the cuts of meat we want and grind them at home, then form patties and freeze them for future meals.

Thursday, April 09, 2020


I got the vegetable seeds sown on Wednesday. I had just enough seedling soil left over from last year to plant them, but I'll need some more soon for the transplanting, assuming the seeds come up. Many of them are older seeds, so I planted a lot in each pot hoping that at least some of them will sprout. They should. They're not that old.

All planted and ready to grow. Transplanting outdoors won't happen until at least mid May.
Basil on the left, tomatoes and hot peppers in the middle, and zukes and pumpkins on the right.

I planted eight varieties of tomato, two varieties of hot pepper, two varieties of pumpkin, some zucchini, and a bunch of basil (I had three packs of basil seeds ranging from about eight years old to new, so I planted some of each). Once they sprout (fingers crossed), I'll thin all the seedlings down and save about three of each tomato, two zukes, and one pumpkin each. I'll transplant as much basil as I can into bigger pots for the deck and put some out in the garden plot.

And, speaking of the deck, my plan for today or tomorrow is to power wash it and set it up for summer, including opening the barbecue grill for business. I think we're planning to grill hamburgers for today's lunch. The weather is predicted to be very pleasant.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Frosty mornings

Just a couple of days ago we were having light frosts in the mornings. The frost was limited to the shady places, but it was there. That's all over for the moment. This morning it's about 15ºC (almost 60ºF) out there. And we're expecting highs in the low to mid twenties (70sF) as we approach the weekend. Wow.

These tire tracks in tall grass got frosty while the other grass next to them didn't.

On Tuesday I made some progress in the vegetable garden. I reattached the fence I use as a trellis for beans and peas to its support posts, raked through the soil I had tilled up earlier, and planted some yellow and green flat beans along with some snap peas. Now it's time to get seeds for tomatoes, squash, peppers, and pumpkins going in the greenhouse. Our last frost danger is typically in mid May.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Spring sunrise

At sunrise this past cloudless Sunday morning, the first golden rays came horizontally from the eastern horizon, illuminating some of the woods around us as if from below. It's not often that I see this kind of light, given weather, timing, and other factors. But Sunday was one of those rare days. I had the telephoto lens on the camera.

Sunlit acacia tree trunks, 140mm, f/8.0, 1/1000s. The grey tree on the right is a walnut.

The rain system moved in pretty much on schedule yesterday. I decided that I wanted to cut the grass in the west and north 40s before it rained, so I was out there 08h30 with the mower. Some sections of the lawn were very high and thick, others not so much. I raised the mower blade to its highest setting. It took me a little less than 90 minutes to finish. It looks good; I always like that point in the spring when it looks like we've got control of the yard again. But I know it's temporary. That grass will grow again quickly, and I'll probably be out there mowing again by this weekend.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Maple flowers

The red maples in front of the house are in full flower right now. I can see the little leaves starting to get bigger, too. Soon the flowers will fade and drop and the leaves will fill out.

The maple flowers are bright yellow, the emerging leaves are deep red.

I got out to the garden in the nice mid-day sunshine on Sunday and tilled up the strip of the vegetable garden where I plant climbing beans and peas. If I'm feeling industrious this morning, I will get out and rake through it and re-attach the section of fencing that serves as a trellis. It would be nice to get some seeds in the ground before it gets to be too late. We are expecting some rain to start around noon today.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Cherry blossoms

The cherry tree in our back yard is blooming now. The cherries it produces are not particularly good. They're small, don't have much flesh on them, and they're very tart. I don't know why anyone would have planted that tree. Certainly not for the cherries. But it makes nice flowers in the spring.

Cherry blossoms.

As planned, I went across the river to pick up our drive order at Intermarché on Saturday morning. The trip over was a little eerie. No cars. None at the intersection at the bridge, none on the bridge itself, none in the traffic circle on the other side. It felt like I was alone in a ghost town, or in one of those post-apocalyptic cities of the "future."

However, the parking lot at Intermarché had a good number of cars parked out front and shoppers (some with masks) were going in and out of the store. There was no line to get in. I pulled around back to the drive pickup and a young woman came out to greet me. She found my order quickly and rolled it out so I could verify the contents and load it into the car. She said everything was in stock, they didn't need to make any substitutions. C'est rare, she said (That's unusual).

It was all over quickly and I was back on the empty road home. I didn't see any gendarmes checking IDs or attestations. I think the whole trip took less than fifteen minutes.

I checked out the web site for a nearby winery co-op that we like. They have a special deal for this period of confinement: they'll deliver a wine order of 36 bottles or more, free of charge, right to your home. They accept payment by check only (no problem) and you can place your order on line. I'm going to try it out next week.

Saturday, April 04, 2020


These relatives of the primrose are known around here as coucous (which in French means cuckoos,* but in English they're cowslips). Early spring is when they pop up (about the same time that the cuckoo birds show up) and make these bright yellow flowers. We have a couple in our yard, but I see them mostly in wild places along our dog-walking route.

I know they're called "cow-slips" in English, but I can't help thinking "cows-lips" whenever I hear or read their name. LOL.

Ken made a successful trip to the Super U drive on Friday. They had everything he had ordered and there were no substitutions. Today, I'll do the same over at Intermarché across the river. I'm expecting substitutions because we ordered a bunch of wine, different bottles that are on sale. We often find that the store has run out when we shop in person, so I don't expect them to have exactly what we ordered a few days ago.

Meanwhile, I checked my gas can and, to my surprise, it's nearly full. I must have filled it last fall before I put the mower away. Consequently, I won't need to go to the gas station today.

* The French also use the word to announce that they've arrived at someone's home, as in "Coucou, c'est nous !" which could be translated as, "Yoo-hoo! It's us!" or "We're here!"

Friday, April 03, 2020

Fig leaves

And tiny figs. So far, so good. The fig tree is leafing out and there are figs on the branches. The threat of a freeze is far from over but, like I said, so far, so good. We're expecting some good warm weather to build in over the weekend. I need to cut the grass.

The first figs of spring are reputed to be less desirable than the second crop in summer. I don't know about our tree because the first crop always seems to succumb to frost and the second crop is paltry and gets eaten by birds.

To that end, I will venture out to the gas station on Saturday morning to fill the gas can for the mower and the rototiller. I'm also picking up a grocery order at Intermarché, which is where the gas station is. I'll take some alcohol-soaked wipes to clean the gas pump and the keypad, and I will not touch my face, and I will wash my hands well when I get home.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Grape leaves

The vineyards are starting to leaf out. It's not really noticeable from a distance, yet. But it won't be long. Most of the canes have buds and some, like this one, are already producing leaves.

Tiny leaves have begun to appear on the grape vines.

Meanwhile, we're having Thanksgiving in April. Last winter, Ken bought a couple of chapons (capons) while they were on sale toward the end of the holiday season. We froze them both, then cooked one of them in February. The second one was still in the freezer until now. This morning it's roasting in the oven and the house smells like Thanksgiving. Talk about comfort food.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Vineyard view [3]

We set up our next drive order from the supermarket. Two, actually, one from each of our local stores. For certain products, one store says they're available while the other store may be out of stock. Grocery pickup is done by appointment. The first time slots available are not until the weekend. I'm glad we didn't wait too long. And still, some of the items may be out of stock by the time the store fills the order. So far, the web sites say the pet foods we asked for are available.

These "sarments" (vine canes) have been "pliées," bent to horizontal and attached to support wires.

Like some of you have mentioned, we wipe down the groceries we plan to use right away, and wash our hands afterwards, but not before we stash other products down in the utility room or pantry. And now, in this third week of confinement, the supermarket and pharmacy are the only places I've been outside the house, interacting with only one person in each place. Ken hasn't left the house yet, except to walk the dog of course.