Monday, November 30, 2020

Hi-ho, hi-ho, into the woods we go

To get down to the river valley, Tasha and I walk through these woods along a path that's in some places wide enough for a tractor and, in other places, only wide enough for one person to pass. The narrow part is where somebody cut down the trees (some years ago now) and the re-growth filled in with vigor. On hot summer days, the path through the woods is shady and cool. On dark winter days, it can feel downright spooky.

Tasha sniffs the ground on the way down the hill.

The temperature on the deck this morning is -0,5ºC, which means that the temperature out in the vineyards will be a degree or two colder. It's our first below-zero reading of the season.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Dog on the move

When we first set out for our walks, Tasha is excited. She bounces around, back and forth, sniffing the ground for signs of whoever, or whatever, went before us. This is the start of Saturday afternoon's walk, not long before sunset. We headed down the hill from our back gate to the path that takes us further down into the river valley. Tasha knows the way by heart.

Our route takes us down and around the vines you see on the right, then we head into the woods.

Saturday was a pleasant, sunny, and relatively mild day. I wore a fleece and a baseball cap during the walk. This morning is cold, close to freezing. I'll be wearing my long-johns, coat, scarf, gloves, and a knit cap. We'll head out through the vineyards rather than going down the hill.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Have a ball

These two fountains, les fontaines de Pol Bury, were installed in the Cour d'Orléans of the Palais Royal in the center of Paris back in 1985. They didn't exist when I lived in Paris a few years earlier. The first time I was back in Paris was 1988, and there they were. The building itself was also renovated and its façade cleaned since then.

Pol Bury was a Belgian artist. He died in 2005.

Back then I was just getting started with SLR photography and was into taking color slides. This image is scanned from the original slide and fixed up a little with the software I currently use to process digital photos. I was sure that I had posted it on the blog before, but I can't find it, so here it is.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Just another day

Our Thanksgiving meal was delicious. I didn't take any photos, but Ken did and I'm sure he'll post some soon. Now it's on to the leftovers. A whole leg of lamb for two people is a lot. Today we'll probably have cold slices of the roast with mayonnaise. Later, some of it will get chopped up for an hachis parmentier (a shepherd's pie).

A last burst of fall color as we move toward December.

And speaking of pies, I made a pumpkin pie for dessert. I thawed out more pumpkin than I needed for the pie, so we ate some with butter, salt, and pepper, alongside the lamb. We also had peas, carrots, and mushrooms. Now I've got to get moving. I have an appointment with my doctor early this morning. Just a routine visit to renew my blood pressure and cholesterol prescriptions.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving Day

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. It's a national holiday, second only to Independence Day as far as secular national days go. The traditional meal is stuffed turkey. The traditional sport is sitting on the couch watching (American) football on television. The traditional w(h)ine is, "I can't believe I ate the whole thing." LOL.

Some birds flying south between the contrails.

Ken and I will roast our traditional leg of lamb and maybe watch some tennis or CNN or Dr. House on television. And we'll drink a bottle of Beaujolais-Villages nouveau.

If you celebrate, enjoy! If not, enjoy anyway. And be safe.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

There goes the sun

The sun is rising later and later these days. Here, today, it will officially be up at 08h14. And we'll continue losing daylight until the solstice in December. Driving is a pain right now, because the sun is so low in the sky that it's just blinding, especially when driving east in the morning. We're not supposed to be out for much these days anyway, except for food shopping and medical visits. And getting the car inspected. By the way, it passed, so we're good for another two years. That's a good thing for a car that's twenty years old.

This past Monday's sunrise.

We only use that old Peugeot for tooling around town. No long drives, just in case it decides to break down, so we stay close to home with it. The newer car, a Citroën, gets inspected in a few weeks. We don't expect any issues with that one.

Ken's heading out this morning to get our Thanksgiving "turkey," which is actually a leg of lamb. We started that tradition in 1983, if memory serves. I'll be making a pumpkin pie, too. Meanwhile, today's lunch will be soupe à l'oignon gratinée.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

All the vines are brown

Fall has done its thing in the vineyards. The brilliant golden leaves of the last months turned brown and dropped to the ground in nearly every parcel. The bare canes take on a reddish/orange color this time of year, but it's a much more subdued hue. As winter settles in, the canes will be pruned from the vines.

Winter is coming.

The grasses growing in the vine parcels are bright green. Some parcels have been neatly mowed, in some the weeds have been plowed up. Still other parcels seem to be growing wild with weeds. I'm sure they will be dealt with soon enough. We learned from the mayor a few days ago that the largest grower out back is working to convert to organic production. She (the daughter of the current grower and winemaker) is testing different kinds of vineyard management techniques. We noticed that in one parcel she's planted a variety of clover between rows as a nitrogen-fixing winter cover crop.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Choo choo!

This is our local train station. It's across the river in the town of Noyers-sur-Cher. I took the photo back in 2012 when Ken and I were on our way to Paris then on to upstate New York. It was around 06h00, just before the regional train was to depart for Tours (Saint-Pierre-des-Corps) where we transferred to a TGV (high-speed train) to Paris and the airport. We did the whole thing in reverse on the way home.

The track-side view of our local train station.

As you can see, I'm out of new photos. We're taking one of the cars in this morning for it's biennial inspection. The other car gets inspected in a few weeks. I've got to call the doctor's office for an appointment to get my prescriptions renewed. We will also head out to a butcher shop this week to get our leg of lamb for Thanksgiving dinner. It's a busy time of year!

Looking east waiting for our train to arrive.

Meanwhile, we continue to enjoy tasting this year's Beaujolais nouveau. Not that it's all that special. It's made from the same grape variety (gamay) as a lot of our local red wine here in the Touraine, so we're more or less used to it. Most of it sells for less than four euros a bottle (just under $5 US), which is a little more than we usually spend on wine. LOL.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

OK, I lied

Another Beaujolais post. Ken came home from the grocery store with a new supply of Beaujolais nouveau for the coming week. Good thing. These bottles come from Super U and are sold under the store's brand. We drank the one with the purple peacock feather label (second from the left) on Saturday and it was tasty. I don't know what the peacock feather motif is all about. The grape variety used to make Beaujolais wines is gamay.

Nouveau wines from Super U. The one on the right says "No ADDED sulfites."

This morning the outdoor thermometers are reading 1.5ºC and 0.9ºC. Close to freezing. Tasha will have another "frosty paws" walk this morning. I built a fire in the wood stove yesterday, burning some of those apple trees that came down last fall. We ate applesauce cake for dessert. Symmetry.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Once more, with feeling

Ok, here's the last Beaujolais nouveau post. For now. I wanted to get a photo of what I got from the supermarket on Thursday. Three reds and one rosé, two bottles of each. We've already tasted the Violettes and the Chat Rouge red and rosé. In my humble opinion, the Chat Rouge red was better than the Violettes. That could be because it's Beaujolais-Villages rather than generic Beaujolais. The rosé was fine, but I wouldn't rush out for more.

Ken's going to another store this morning to look for more.

When I got up this morning, the outdoor thermometer read 1.8ºC (about 35ºF), and the deck thermometer read zero (32ºF). Brrrr! I'll be wearing my long-johns for this morning's walk with Tasha. She'll be wearing her fur coat, as usual.

Friday, November 20, 2020

What's left

This is what's left after the mechanical harvesters pass through a vineyard parcel. The machines vibrate the grapes right off the stems then suck the debris (leaves and stray stems) away. When grapes are harvested by hand, the picker clips the entire bunch, stems and all, from the vine. Is one method better than another? I don't know. I suspect, however, that really ripe or fragile grapes would be damaged by the roughness of the mechanical process. Some wines, like Champagne and certain Beaujolais, are required to be made from hand-harvested grapes.

Naked grape bunches are what's left after mechanical harvesting.

And speaking of Beaujolais, we enjoyed our first 2020 nouveau with yesterday's lunch. It's good, but I thought it would benefit from a little breathing or decanting. I also saw some Beaujolais nouveau rosé at the store and got a couple bottles. I'm going to try that out today. I think that 2020 wines are expected to be good due to the hot and dry summer that followed a wet, but mild, spring. Let's hope so!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Beaujolais nouveau

Today's the day that the 2020 Beaujolais nouveau is released. I don't think it's as big an event as it was back when they started heavily marketing it, but it shows up in the stores with a modicum of fanfare on the third Thursday in November.

November wildflowers.

Beaujolais, and now primeur wines from other regions (including ours, the Touraine), are early wines released just months after the harvest. They're meant to be enjoyed young, not aged. In a good year, they're fresh and fruity. In a not so good year, they're still ok. At least that's been my experience.

Jumping on the Beaujolais nouveau band wagon is a nice way to mark the passage of time, the beginning of the transition from fall to winter and, for us Americans, an easy choice for a Thanksgiving wine (the holiday just happens to fall one week from the nouveau release).

So, I'm heading out to the store this morning to stock up on some Beaujolais nouveau to enjoy between now and Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Mr. Mouse, out of the house

After three failed attempts to capture the mouse in the pantry, we finally succeeded. The most damage he did was to eat part of a potato. That, and the little mouse droppings he left in certain places. We learned over the years to double wrap foods like flour, crackers, and pasta to keep out insect invaders. The practice helps with mice, too.

A common house mouse? A field mouse? I'm not sure.

This is the third mouse I've captured in the pantry this year. That's unusual. We may have had one or two others over seventeen years, but no more than that. There are a lot of mice around this year. I can see the entrances to their burrows everywhere in the yard. I've noticed Bert successfully hunting around burrows under the apple trees. I don't really know why there are so many this year. Moles, on the other hand, have been scarce. I think that when it's hot and dry, like it was last summer, the moles move down toward water courses that lead to the river in their search for buried grubs and worms. Maybe that leaves the door open for mice to take over their territory?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

While it's still fall [2]

This morning felt chilly when I got out of bed. The outdoor thermometer read about 8ºC (about 46ºF). The thermostat inside read 17ºC (about 63ºF). That's not right. I went downstairs to let the dog out and noticed the boiler's instrument panel flashing red with an error code. I hit the reset button and it reset itself then came on. So we're warming back up.

These are the leaves from there.

Today is expected to be cooler than yesterday. Nonetheless, I'm planning to grill burgers outside. It may be the last time this year.

Monday, November 16, 2020

While it's still fall [1]

Even though most of the grape leaves are gone now, a few linger here and there. These are from here. Tomorrow I'll post some from there.

Red gold and (a little) green.

Yesterday's storm wasn't much of a storm, but it blew through on schedule. The winds were not as bad as originally predicted. And we got less rain than I expected.

In other news, the mouse trap worked this time. Poor little thing. Once it gets light outside, I'll take the little critter out and release him, far from the house.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Bare vines

Fall progresses, nearly two-thirds done by the calendar. The vineyard parcels out back have lost most of their leaves and the deciduous trees are not far behind.

November vines.

We're expecting a storm to blow in around mid-day. Some gusty winds and rain are predicted, so it will be an indoor day for us, except for taking Tasha out for her walks.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Fusain's orange berries

A month ago, I posted a photo of a fusain (common spindle) berry and mentioned that the actual seeds inside are a bright orange color. Now the seed pods have opened and the orange seeds are visible.

The orange seeds of the fusain.

I started moving that mulch on Friday, but my back started getting sore, so I had to stop at twelve wheelbarrows full. That's not too bad, but there is a lot more to move. I'll try to do some more today. And maybe take some photos when the progress is more impressive.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Nuts to you

The nuts have dropped from the lone walnut tree out on the vineyard road, and some critters are enjoying them. I saw this walnut cracked open on the ground. Most of the nut "meat" was gone. I wonder if it was a bird that was able to peck open the shell or some other animal. The nuts on this tree are generally too small to be tempting, although I've seen one of our former (now deceased) neighbors walk out and gather some from time to time.

What's left of a walnut on the ground.

You'll be happy to know that I overcame inertia and raked the leaves out of the driveway yesterday. I took five wheely-bin loads of leaves out to the garden plot and dumped them on. It's an annual ritual that I don't look forward to, but it sure feels good when it's done.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

To rake or not to rake

Most of the leaves have fallen from the two large red maples in front of our house. A lot of them collect on the driveway. It's time to rake them up. That's what we're planning for this morning if the weather cooperates. It was raining a little when we got up.

One of the two big maples. Most of these leaves are on the ground now.

The raked leaves will either go into the compost or onto the vegetable garden plot. I still have that big pile of mulch to move, too. That will get spread over the vegetable garden plot soon. I hope.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

View from the den

Here's a view looking westerly from the den. The view was opened up earlier this year when we had a big spruce tree taken out. The tree was too close to the house, too crowded between the tilleul and a Himalayan cedar and, most importantly, it was dying. I'm glad not to have the needles raining down on the roof and gutters.

Looking out toward the vegetable garden from the den.

This morning we're under heavy fog. I went out in the dark with Tasha (so she could do her business) and everything was very wet. My flashlight showed the air thick with tiny droplets, like a lighthouse beaming out through a thick brume. I could hear a rhythmic dripping from the trees as an owl hoo-hooted from the woods on the north side of the fence. Tasha was quickly done and we headed back indoors.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

View from the deck

Here's the view from our deck out across the road to our neighbors' property. The neighbors (who live in Blois) have spent the summer and fall doing a lot of trimming and pruning and other landscaping work in their large yard. It all looks very different from what we were used to, but good nonetheless. They often come down with their kids, grandkids, and friends and spend hours working in the yard.

The shrub with the red leaves is a snowball bush.

Now, however, while we're under confinement, they're not able to come down for a while. At least for the next few weeks. We'll see if the confinement gets extended after that. You might notice that our hedge has a rather large gap in it. That's where some of the branches recently died. I asked the landscaper to cut the dead wood out. He said the hedge will come back from the roots and fill in the space. That will probably take a few years.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Autumn on the deck

It's not quite warm enough to enjoy sitting out there for any length of time, but the deck does offer some nice views this time of year. It's not too cold to grill, though. On Sunday I grilled a steak for lunch. While grilling, I noticed that the light was particularly pretty. We had a light overcast that diffused the sunlight and made the golden leaves look even more golden.

The deck thermometer reads 16.4ºC (about 62ºF) at mid-day.

I got the camera out and snapped a few quick shots from the deck on the east side of the house and from the den window on the on the west side. I'll post a few over the next days.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Pork buns

This is the second time we've made Chinese-style steamed pork buns. Ken used his home-made pulled pork barbecue to make the filling by adding Chinese spices to the cooked meat. I followed a recipe for the dough that we found on the internet (I think) and it worked great.

Steamed pork buns with eggrolls (above).

After the dough rose for a couple of hours, I punched it down and divided it (and the filling) into eight equal portions. I shaped each portion of dough into a ball then flattened each ball to make a disk. Each portion of filling went on top of each disk and I pulled the dough up and around it, pinching the dough to seal it. The filled buns rested (and rose), seam side down, for a half hour before going into the steamer.

Four steamed pork buns ready for the table.

They steamed for fifteen minutes then rested in the steamer for another five. They were delicious, if I do say so myself. We served them along side some store-bought nems (eggrolls) and some leftover cole slaw. We ate half of the batch for lunch on Saturday and will finish off the other half with a beef stir-fry in the next day or two.

Saturday, November 07, 2020


The grape leaves are falling fast now. Whole parcels are bare, others still have some leaves. I actually noticed one grower has started pruning already.

Grape leaves on the ground.

We're going back into a mild period, so I'm hopeful we'll get some more yard work done over the weekend. There are, not surprisingly, leaves to rake in the driveway.

Friday, November 06, 2020


Wildflowers and other small green plants survive around the margins of the vineyard parcels. Until there's a hard frost or a freeze, when most will fade away. The transition from fall to winter can be abrupt, or it can be slow and subtle. Depends on the year.

Delicate blue veins in the unopened petals of these flowers.

I'm planning a trip up to a nearby wine co-op this morning. They're having their annual sale on bubbly. Not Champagne, of course, but our local sparkling wine. I think it's pretty darned good and enjoy having some on hand. I'll continue scanning our supermarket circulars for deals on actual Champagne as the holiday season approaches. Cheers!

Thursday, November 05, 2020

On the ground

I've mentioned before that some of the vineyard parcels out back have been plowed to help eliminate weeds. When the plowing is done, I frequently see big clumps of dirt or mud that have been dropped in the roadway where the plow turned around. This is one such clump of dirt clinging to a weed that was uprooted. It fell on an old piece of asphalt that's part of the dirt road's surface (every year the town patches potholes with gravel and, sometimes, pieces of old roadways that have been removed for resurfacing). I thought it made an interesting photo. You be the judge.

Abstract art?

Our current chilly mornings are accompanied by heavy dew and, in places, light frost. I may have to get out the long johns for this morning's walk. I usually wear them when the temperature goes below 5ºC.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020


It's cold outside this morning. The thermometer on the deck reads 2.2ºC (about 36ºF). I guess that's why they call it Novembrrrrr. With the cold come clear skies, so we can expect a bright and sunny day.

Looking northeasterly over the vineyards toward our hamlet and across the river valley.

My dental appointment went fine, pretty much as expected. There's no way to fill the tooth, there's not enough of it left for that. I can opt for a root canal and a crown. The x-rays showed that the roots are calcified. I'm not sure if that means they're dead or what, but I think so. The other option is to leave it all alone. But if the other half of the tooth breaks off, there's no chance for reconstruction. So I have to think about this.

A funny thing: when I told the dentist that I got that filling in 1981, he looked at me and said, "That's older than me."

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Tasha Tuesday

What better way to calm the election day jitters than a photo of Tasha in the vineyard? This photo is over a week old and the vines are looking a lot barer out there now, especially with the rain and wind we've had since. But the color is not all gone yet.

Tasha among the vines on a bright fall day.

I'm going to a new dentist today. Ken found him when he broke a tooth a couple of weeks ago. I also broke a tooth around the same time in a strange coincidence. Neither of us has been to our dentist since covid happened and we've learned that he took the opportunity to retire. The new guy is a few towns away. He's Romanian, and Ken has seen him twice and likes him. So he got me an appointment for this morning. My broken tooth is a molar. Half of it is gone, but I have no pain or discomfort. Today's appointment is a first consultation, so the dentist will have a look, take some x-rays, and decide what should be done. I want a cleaning, but I don't think he'll do that today. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 02, 2020

Le tilleul

This is the view from the den window, looking west over the back yard toward the vineyards. That big tree in front of the view is un tilleul (linden or lime tree). Its leaves are dropping pretty quickly now.

One day we will have this tree pruned back so it can regrow its canopy. It's no longer crowded by the big fir tree that used to be just to the right.

We're enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures. Méteo France says that today's high will be about 20ºC (68ºF), nine degrees (Celsius) above the average for the day. There's plenty to do outdoors, so it's just a matter of motivation. Inertia is a powerful force. That and tennis on television.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

The end of the road

Don't read anything into that. This is where the dirt road through the vineyards out back ends, if you agree that it begins behind our house. Three roads meet here, all more or less parallel. Two of them are paved, this one is not.

The trees form an arch where the dirt road meets the paved roads. Vineyards continue west toward the horizon.

Saturday afternoon was nice, weather wise. Lots of sun, warm temperatures. I got the south 40 cut along with the strip between our hedges and the road. Now, Sunday morning, it's raining again.