Sunday, May 31, 2020

Grape flowers

The vineyards are in bloom. But you have to look real close to notice. The little flowers are not easy to see.

Grape flowers on the vine.

I think that pollination happens by the force of wind currents. I'm not sure if insects are involved much; I don't notice much insect activity when I look at the flowers. I read that most cultured grape vines self-pollinate, as they contain both male and female parts.

Grape pollen forms on the tips of the white stamens.

Our good weather continues. I was able to get to the market for more strawberries and asparagus. The vendor told me, though, that this was the last week for his asparagus. The local season is ending. Strawberries will continue through the summer.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Hi there

On my Friday morning walk with Tasha, she lagged behind a little (as she often does). I looked to my right and saw this between two rows of grape vines. The chevreuil (roe deer) froze and watched me. I stopped and slowly lifted the camera up. As usual, I had the wrong lens (100mm macro) on the camera for this kind of photo. As I moved on, Tasha caught up with me, but she didn't see the deer.

A roe deer in the tall grass between vine rows.

I'll be heading over to the Saturday market at Saint-Aignan again this morning for strawberries and asparagus.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Vineyard view

It's beginning to look a lot like summer. The vineyards are leafing out and sending tendrils skyward. The support wires and posts are disappearing beneath the green. Soon we'll see the trimming tractors plying the rows, cutting back the vines to neat, rectangular shapes.

The tall grasses are getting mowed, parcel by parcel, this week. Yay!

Bert the cat got a clean bill of health at the vet's on Thursday. Weight is good, heart sounds good, no sign of lumps or growths. So he got his shot, a worm pill, and three months worth of flea and tick preventative. Bert turned fourteen years old two weeks ago. He's been living with us for ten years now.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

With the wind

Gone, that is. The two dirt mounds on which poppies had flowered are gone. Poof! They were there one day, and the next, not. One of the five or so limestone piles has also been taken away. I don't have a clue as to what was done with them. I also noticed that, in the adjacent vineyard parcels, the uprooted vine trunks have been gathered into three or four HUGE piles, probably to make it easier to remove them. And yesterday, there were people working everywhere in the vineyards around us. Doing what? Frankly, my dear...

The two poppy mounds seen from across a field. They're gone now. The brown pile behind them is a pile of grape vine trunks.

Today Bert goes to the vet for his annual vaccination. He was supposed to go in March, but the vet postponed all vaccinations and other routine visits while we were under the confinement order. Bert also needs a worm pill and a new dose of flea and tick preventative. Next week, Tasha goes in for her regularly scheduled annual shots. So, now both animules are on the same vaccination schedule.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Poppies among the vines

Grape growers around us, and around the nation, are using a lot less herbicide in their vineyards these days. I can really see the difference between now and when we first arrived in 2003. Some growers are moving toward organic growing methods, others are just using less as the government bans certain herbicides (at least from public use; I don't know what restrictions apply to agriculture). The result is more mowing and more plowing to reduce weeds. Right now, out back, there isn't much of either going on. The grasses and weeds are growing tall and I spotted these isolated poppies the other day.

A late spring morning in the vineyards.

While I'm not at all complaining, the tall grasses make it difficult for us to walk off-road with Tasha. First, the grasses get wet with morning dew or rain and our legs get soaked very quickly. So does Tahsa. Second, the tall grasses are where the ticks hang out and we need to be very careful about that, especially during warm weather when we're wearing shorts. At leash Tasha takes a flea and tick preventative. We don't have that option.

I had a successful trip to the garden center on Tuesday and found pretty much everything I went for. I arrived just after it opened and there weren't many customers yet.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


The clary sage plants around the real fake well are flowering now. Their purple flower stalks start out horizontal, but as the flowers open, they point skyward. Our little volunteer wheat crop in the well is also looking good. Better than weeds, anyway.

Clary sage and wheat in flower.

Ken picked up another grocery order from the Super U drive on Monday. This time they had the chicken wings that we've ordered twice before but didn't get. I like to make Buffalo style chicken wings from time to time, so I'm happy.

Today I'm planning an outing to our local garden center. My goal is to get geraniums for the deck planters, petunias (actually surfinia, a cascading variety) for the kitchen window boxes, some green bean seeds, and some soil. Garden centers have been open all through our confinement, having been deemed essential businesses.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Everything's coming up roses

At least, the roses are. These are on one of three rose plants in our yard, the very plants we divided so many years ago. They're really intense right now.

Hot pink roses.

I finally couldn't stand my long hair any more and I asked Ken to cut it off. He used a pair of hair clippers we got for Tasha (but haven't used on her yet) after not getting any results with my beard trimmer. The clippers cut more hair off than I was expecting, so now I have a close buzz cut. It looks a little funny, but it's neat and feels great. Sorry, we took no photos. The process was a little stressful but, happily, no blood was spilled.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

In sheep's clothing

It looks like wool of some kind. It's saturated with a scent of some kind. Bags of "wool" like this one appeared on posts around one of the larger vineyard parcels out back a few weeks ago. Tasha was very curious, especially when we first saw them (I assume because the scent was fresh). They must be deer repellents, one of three strategies I've noticed out there. Two are scent-based, the third is the audible "wild animal noises" that we're enjoying at the moment.

Bags of stinky wool on alternating end-posts to keep deer away from the flowering vines.

Saturday morning started out rainy, but it got nicer through the afternoon. I did make it to the market, scored an excellent parking spot, and got strawberries, asparagus, and a flat of bell pepper seedlings for the vegetable garden. I also got the habanero pepper seedlings separated into individual pots. They're slow growers. For lunch, we grilled a spatchcocked (butterflied) chicken with a middle-eastern dry rub marinade. A deliciously productive day!

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Vegetable garden v.2020

The vegetable garden is (mostly) planted! I got in under the wire; we woke up to rain this morning. I put up the tomato tripods and planted twenty-four seedlings. I have seven varieties: three each of cœur de bœuf, corazon, cornabel, margold, homestead, and St. Pierre, and six romas. I also planted my two pumpkins (rouge vif d'Etampes and muscade) and two zucchinis.

The toms are in! The little wilted one on the left perked right up when I watered it.

I still have to transplant my basil into large pots for the deck, but I can do that in the greenhouse when they're ready (soon). Also, the habanero peppers are slowly growing and I'll put them into bigger pots this weekend. Next week I'll go to the garden center for some new bean seeds to plant along the fence/trellis. Then I have some flower seeds (cosmos and flax) that I want to sow here and there in the garden plot for a little color. But the big job (tomatoes) is done.

Friday, May 22, 2020


Our artichoke plants are doing their thing. There are three or four of these small artichoke flowers on the bigger of the two plants. We don't harvest them because there aren't enough to do anything with at this size, and when they get bigger, they're tough. Better to buy them from the market.

Two little artichokes. I'll leave them on the plants and the flowers will open later this summer.

Since Thursday was a holiday, we were prohibited from making noise except for two hours between 10h00 and 12h00. But that was more than enough time for Ken to do the final tilling in the vegetable garden plot and for me to mow the north 40. Today I'll be setting up the tomato supports and maybe even planting the seedlings.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Grape buds

Not to be confused with Grape Nuts, that crunchy American breakfast cereal. The grape vines are beginning to flower now. The flowers are tiny, almost imperceptible, each one of which will become one grape in the larger bunch. The little green grapes will start out about the size of these buds, but over the summer they will grow and change color, some becoming a pale yellow-green (sauvignon), others darkening to a deep red-purple (gamay or cabernet).

The white spots on the leaves are the residue of the Bordeaux mixture spray used to prevent fungus.

Our weather has turned hot. It's time to get the garden in before the heat breaks and the rain returns. That's what we'll be doing today, Friday, and Saturday. Ken wants to till through the garden plot one more time. Then I'll do some raking and will set up the tomato supports. After that, I'll be planting the seedlings, which are now yearning for more room to grow.

Our boiler maintenance visit went well. The technician spent just over an hour cleaning, adjusting, and replacing certain parts, and whatever else he does. We wore masks and kept our social distances. He signed the acknowledgement for me so I wouldn't have to touch the keypad and signature machine, and I got an email almost instantly with the receipt attached. All very safe and efficient. Now the boiler is ready for the next heating season.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Poppies will put them to sleep

It's poppy season here in France. Here and there you can find whole fields of them painting the landscape in vivid red. Last fall, one of the grape growers dumped two piles of dirt not far from the other piles of limestone rubble I've already written about. Apparently, that dirt was full of poppy seeds.

Poppies blooming on a pile of dirt in a nearby field.

The poppies are amazing and they are confined to those two piles of dirt. If they're allowed to set seed, they could spread through the whole field. I think that would be really nice. Here's another view:

Another view.

Our central heating boiler is having its annual maintenance service this morning. The service was postponed from April. The company sent me a list of things I have to do to prepare for the technician's visit, including aerating the room where the boiler is, disinfecting the boiler's surfaces, and providing soap and water for the technician to wash his hands.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Tasha Tuesday

A week ago today, Tasha went to the groomer's. It had been almost a year. For some reason, I didn't take her in last fall. We had an appointment in March, but that was postponed for obvious reasons. As we moved toward déconfinement, the groomer rescheduled us.

Tasha is clean and happy!

Last week I posted the "before" shot. So this, above, is the "after" shot, taken two days after her appointment. Her hair is a little shorter, less tangled, and much of her undercoat is gone. She got a bath, too, and her fur is noticeably cleaner and softer feeling. Still, the two photos don't really look all that different.

Tasha doesn't like it when I leave her at the groomer's. She knows she's going to be restrained and brushed hard. It's worth it from my point of view because I can't really brush her the way it needs to be done. I should be brushing her regularly, like at least once a week (maybe more), to keep her undercoat under control. Brushing would be easier if I kept it up. But, to paraphrase, the road to tangled fur is paved with good intentions.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Looking down

Here we are again in Rocamadour. This time, instead of looking up from the main street, we're above looking down. I believe that these buildings are part of the church/chapel complex built into the cliff face. It's all very medieval looking to me. I almost expect to see an armored knight or a court jester crossing the courtyard.

Looking down on Rocamadour from the château above, April 2006.

Sunday's ham and asparagus tarte turned out really well. I didn't take any photos, but Ken did. I don't know if he's planning to post them or not. We ate half (!) and will probably finish the other half today. The weather is pretty good, so we both have plans to work in the yard this morning.

Sunday, May 17, 2020


My trip to the Saturday market in Saint-Aignan was a success. All the usual vendors were there, spaced out a little more than usual in their new temporary (we'll see about that) location. I parked the car and went to my bank's ATM for some cash, all decked out in my mask and gloves. I had to take the gloves off to grab the cash and receipt, so I went back to the car and sanitized my hands with gel hydroalcoolique.

Ken's planning to make carrot top pesto with those carrot greens. The strawberries are "charlottes."

Most people at the market had masks, vendors and customers alike. People waited in line at one meter intervals and spirits were generally high. It helped that it was a nice sunny morning and the market was not yet crowded. I got the strawberries and asparagus that I wanted, along with some lettuce, carrots, a cucumber, and some garlic. I also stopped at a charcuterie truck and got some sliced ham. So lunch today will be a ham and asparagus tarte.

When I got back to the car I sanitized my hands again and drove up to the gas station. I filled the gas can for the mower and tiller. After paying and pumping, it was time for, you guessed it, sanitizing my hands again!

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Market day

We went into the center of Sarlat for its Saturday market back in April 2006. The weather was good and the place was packed and bustling. Social distancing wasn't a twinkle in anyone's eye back then. The usual food vendors were there in abundance. I also noticed a preponderance of foie gras and other local duck product vendors, not to mention a good share of arts and crafts and souvenir booths, all geared to the tourist shoppers (like us).

Market stands and sidewalk cafés set up cheek-by-jowl in the streets of central Sarlat.

We enjoyed walking around in that atmosphere for a while that morning. Then, if I remember correctly, we looked for a place to sit and have lunch. There were plenty of restaurants to choose from, but I don't remember what we ate. Probably something ducky.

The Sarlat market is, of course, much larger than Saint-Aignan's weekly market. I wonder what it's like today.

I found out from Saint-Aignan's web site that our local outdoor market has reopened. I'm going to venture into town this morning and see what it's like. They moved the market to a larger place so, I assume, they can spread the vendors and shoppers out a little. I really would like to get some asparagus before the season ends and some local strawberries. I also need to go to an ATM, then get some gasoline for the lawnmower and rototiller. I'll take my gloves and mask, of course.

Friday, May 15, 2020


Seen in Rocamadour, April 2006. This motorcycle was parked on the street and I was attracted to the pattern of circles on the instrument panel. I read that Ducati is owned by Lamborghini, which is owned by Audi, which is owned by Volkswagen. I'll bet you didn't know that Volkswagen made motorcycles.

Even though it was not running and sitting still, the speedometer is clocking in around 11 kph.

I originally posted this image back in 2006, but it was small and not very well processed. I've gotten a little better at post-processing over the years.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Bouncing around

Today we're back in Rocamadour in the Dordogne region of France. This cute little boutique, called Jour de Fête (Holiday), is just outside the town's gate at the southern end of the main street. I don't remember if we went inside or not.


I'm "bouncing" around because I don't have any new photos to share. It's been dark and rainy for a few days, but our weather should be improving through the weekend. It's time to start thinking about picking up where we left off with the outdoor chores, not the least of which is getting the vegetable garden planted.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020


Several rose bushes survive around the yard. Many others are long gone. This one started out here where you see it, planted unceremoniously at one end of the clothes line. Years ago, we dug it up and transplanted it in two other places. One of them you can see in the background on the left, against the fence that runs along our northern property line. The other is in front of the house next to the driveway. The original re-sprouted from roots.

Hot pink roses provide some nice spots of color. I think it's a variety of "eglantine," wild rose or sweet briar.

Tasha's grooming appointment went well. Sort of. She hates it. And she hates it when I leave her there. But she gets back to her old self after a while, especially when we come home to lunch and treats. She looks so much better. I'm hoping to get a photo shoot in before next Tuesday. If Mademoiselle Chose (Miss Thing) will cooperate.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Tasha Tuesday

This is the "before" shot taken on Sunday. Tasha's got a grooming appointment this morning. I'll take her over at 10h00. She'll get a bath and a trim and, hopefully, a good brushing to get a lot of her undercoat out. I'm very bad at brushing Tasha regularly, especially in those places where the brush pulls out knots and thick fur. She'll let me start, but after about a minute she's done.

During our period of "confinement," my hair has grown almost as long as Tasha's.

No such luck at the groomer's. She'll be up on the table attached with a leash. The groomer muzzles her to avoid getting snapped at. And the groomer has that dispassionate, professional approach. I'm looking forward to the end result and will try to get a good photo. I'm especially looking forward to having Tasha's paws trimmed. You can't see it here, but she's starting to look like a Clydesdale.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Back yard interlude

There were a few breaks in the clouds on Sunday afternoon and I took advantage to sit outside and admire the green. A glass of wine made it even nicer. The air was warm and felt warmer due to light humidity. I enjoyed being outdoors in a tee-shirt.

Sitting under the linden tree, looking westward.

The rain started in the evening and has been falling pretty steadily since. I heard some heavy showers on the roof during the night. Now the wind is shifting to the north and we're expecting a dramatic drop in temperature as the day goes on. I won't be sitting outside much over the next few days.

A little glass of red.

Tasha's grooming appointment was rescheduled to tomorrow. I'll find out today if it's still on. Our déconfinement begins today and certain businesses will be allowed to open, as will most parks. We will no longer need to fill out an attestation form when we leave the house, but we're required to wear masks most places. The zoo will remain closed until at least June 1, and our town has decided to keep the schools closed for the rest of the school year.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

A couple more signs

I'm (virtually) back in Sarlat for the moment. Again, these are photos from a visit there back in 2006. I took several shots of signs in and around the city.

Two restaurants in Sarlat, April 2006.

The soggy weekend is well under way. It rained Friday evening and into the night, but I slept pretty well through most of it. We got a break on Saturday; I actually finished cutting the grass. The big rain is coming in today and Monday will be downright soggy. They're predicting the low temperature on Monday to be about 4ºC (about 39ºF). This after we've enjoyed a few days of t-shirt weather. Yikes!

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Wheat in the well

Here's what our real fake well is looking like at the moment. The big plants growing around the well are clary sage. They came back from last year and are getting ready to make their flowers. You can see some purple campanules (bellflower) on the edges of the well. And in the middle is a small crop of some kind of wheat. It came up from seeds that birds threw out of the feeder that hangs above the well in the winter.

The grass is still very, very green, thanks to all the rain we've had this spring.

I think the wheat looks kind of nice. I'll rip it out when it starts to go brown. I've got some flowering plants ready to take its place.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Main street

This is the main street through Rocamadour -- la rue de la Couronnerie -- on a bustling spring day in 2006. I was surprised when I looked on Google Maps streetview to see that the street looks a lot less colorful now than it did back then. Their views are from October of 2019, so it was fall. But still.

 My shot from April 2006. The building with the flags is City Hall.

The biggest difference I noticed is that the restaurant, Chez Anne Marie (from Philly? LOL) is gone, replaced by another establishment called la Table du Curé. Below is the screenshot I took from Google Maps streetview, captured in October 2019. The Google image may have been taken earlier in the day before many of the shops opened up. That could explain why the street looks so quiet.

This is very close to the point where I took my photo. Quite a difference! The white "BAR" sign on the right is in both shots.

Nothing is more constant than change. Tastes change, businesses come and go, buildings are renovated, and on and on. I've been to so many places in France that have dramatically changed since I first saw them. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. C'est la vie !

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Looking up

Still in Rocamadour, Spring 2006. Some of the best views in town are right above your head.

Can you see the bird soaring in the upper left?

The rain has taken a break and I got a good part of the yard mowed on Wednesday. The rest should get done today and/or Friday in advance of the next weather system. I stopped at the pharmacy on my way to the Super U drive yesterday. They had masks, so I got two. I had to pay for them, and they're just fabric. Real medical masks are reserved for health care workers. Also, the recycle stations around town are open again. We will have to make several trips to dispose of our month and a half long accumulation of glass, paper, plastic, and cardboard.

At the supermarket, we did get eggs, but they were out of yeast. Quelle surprise. They also didn't have the chicken wings we ordered. Somebody bought them before they filled our order. I guess you could call that a "pullet surprise" (say it out loud). Oh well, chickens have lots of other parts.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020


Another dip into the photo archives from that 2006 trip to the Dordogne. We visited the famous pilgrimage town of Rocamadour, now a tourist mecca. This is the view of the town from where we entered the Alzou River valley. Legend has it that the body of a hermit who would later become Saint Amadour was found in a cave in the cliffs.

Rocamadour clings to the cliffs above the Alzou River.

And here's a closer view of the town. The big buildings built into the cliff face include the basilica of Saint-Sauveur and several subsidiary churches and chapels. You can climb up from the town's main street via a series of stairways to the religious sites and continue further to the medieval château at the top of the cliff, built in the middle ages to defend the religious sites below.

A zoomed in view.

I don't think we did the climb up to the very top. We had a nice lunch in the main part of town. Then we went back down to where the car was parked and drove up to the château to have a look from there.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

I'll see your home-made sourdough loaf...

...and raise you eight home-made hot dog buns. We got a hankerin' for hot dogs the other day, so Ken ordered some for our most recent on-line shopping trip. I used the last of our yeast to make this batch of hot dog buns. Fortunately, we found yeast at the other supermarket for our next on-line order, which is scheduled for pick up on Wednesday morning. We're keeping our fingers crossed.

Freshly baked hot dog buns cooling on the rack.

In addition to some standard pork hot dogs, Ken ordered a package of chicken hot dogs, which is what we ate on Monday. He made some pickle relish to go with the spicy Dijon mustard. I grilled the hot dogs and deep fried a batch of sweet potato fries (frozen from the supermarket). We each ate two hot dogs, so there are four buns left for another meal or two.

A chicken hot dog before I topped it with relish. The mustard's spread on the inside of the bun.

We had some rain over night, but not as much as the weather people forecasted. There was a little thunder, too, but nothing violent. We need it to dry out now so we can work on preparing the garden plot for planting.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Show me a sign

Here's another of the photos I took in the Dordogne region of southwestern France back in 2006. It's a restaurant sign. Metal signs like this one, probably made of fer forgé (wrought iron), are common in the region. This one's in the city of Sarlat, a wonderfully preserved (and restored) medieval town that is normally bustling with tourists. I wonder what it's like now.

The King's Mill. I don't think we ate there.

One of the things I like about this image is the simple line drawing of the moulin (mill) on the restaurant's awning. The name of the restaurant, Le moulin du roy, means The King's Mill. A mill is where grains are ground into flour regardless of how it's powered. A wind-powered mill can be specifically referred to as un moulin à vent.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Again with the seedlings

If all works out, we'll be planting these seedlings in the ground in a couple of weeks. I've thinned out the tomatoes and kept four of each variety (except for the yellow toms that didn't germinate). I plan to plant three of each (and maybe six romas), so the fourth is just insurance in case something happens to one of the three. Remember my tomato tripods from last year? My plan is to use them again, one for each variety.

Most of the toms, the zukes, and the pumpkins. There are some tiny habanero peppers on the left.

The basil is up and growing, too. Soon they'll need thinning and transplanting as well, but I want them to get a little bigger first. Some will go into pots on the deck, others will go into the ground. Last year the basil in the ground did very well, probably because of the hot summer weather we had.

Three pots of basil sprouts.

I thinned the pumpkins down to two, one rouge vif d'Etampes and one muscade. Next is the zucchini. I'll keep three of those. Two of them will suffice in the garden, the third is insurance.

Saturday, May 02, 2020


I found this in our mailbox on Friday.

A note from the Mayor.

Here's my translation.


Given the approaching deconfinement, I wish to inform you that the Municipality has ordered the fabrication of washable masks that will be distributed to you soon. You will therefore receive, free of charge, one mask per person.

I thank you for your civic mindedness during this complicated period of confinement, please remain vigilant in respecting social distancing practices.

Take good care of yourselves, cordially,
Mayor of Mareuil sur Cher

Friday, May 01, 2020

Labor Day

Today is la fête du travail (labor day) in France. It's a national holiday, but in this period of confinement it will be hard to notice. Except that there will be no mail delivery. It's the first of a string of May holidays and long weekends until, in normal years, school gets out at the end of June. But this isn't a normal year. The government is talking about a progressive déconfinement, including the reopening of schools, starting in mid May.

Our back gate on a rainy day. The pond is full of croaking frogs right now.

Next week I need to venture out to the pharmacy for a prescription renewal. While there I'll ask about masks which, according to the government, should be available to everyone by 11 May. Ken put together another grocery order for Monday. It seems we're doing that about once a week. There is no yeast, dry or fresh, to be found.

I don't really understand this rush to make bread at home. The supermarkets and the bakeries are operating and making as much bread as they always have, as far as we can tell. We use yeast for pizza dough, mostly, but also for some other breads that we make regularly, like pain de mie (sandwich bread) and burger buns. All of that is also available commercially, so we don't have to make it ourselves. We're still buying our standard baguettes from the stores. We saw a news item yesterday in which a miller said that there's no flour shortage, but that there's been a run on consumer flour and the distribution system hasn't been able to keep up.

I'm thinking I might try to make some Irish soda bread just for fun. It doesn't require yeast. We've got flour, for now.