Monday, September 20, 2021

Corn silks

The corn cobs in the two corn fields out back have matured. There aren't many, and most of them are thin, not like good eating corn. I'm sure it's not eating corn, anyway. The French get their corn out of cans. Corn on the cob is not sweet and is grown as feed for pigs and other livestock.

Corn silks on tiny corn cobs.

Every once in a while we'll find sweet corn on the cob in the supermarket. Ken did once this summer and we enjoyed it cooked on the grill. It's one of those things that remind me of summer in the US.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

A pile of pretty peppers

And some onions. Saturday was Tex-Mex day at our house. Ken made beef fajitas and guacamole for lunch. I went to the market to find peppers and cilantro while Ken made the marinade for the beef. The supermarket didn't have any cilantro, but I found some at a nearby produce store (their last bag!). I also got some flour tortillas to wrap the meat and vegetables in. ¡Olé!

Colorful bell peppers and onion ready for the sauté pan.

Today Ken's making a more traditional French dish: gratin de chou-fleur (cauliflower in a cheese sauce). We're having fall-like weather this weekend, so a nice warm and cheesy gratin will hit the spot. Fall and winter vegetables are showing up in the markets now. I'm looking forward to all the tasty dishes we'll make in the coming months.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Ten years ago today

I was posting photos of our hedges. More specifically, photos of my progress in trimming them. This was before I stopped trimming the hedges myself and started paying a landscaper to do it. I don't regret that decision.

This is the smallest section of the hedge adjacent to the driveway. We hadn't yet replaced the deck doors then. 18 September 2011.

We're expecting a chilly and wet weekend, if the weather people are to be trusted. Fall is coming in right on schedule. I'm still hopeful that we'll have some more good weather over the next month or so. It could happen. Really.

Yesterday I called the contractor who is supposed to renovate our deck. I talked to his wife again. I told her that we were getting worried since it's been almost a year since we approved the estimate and sent a check. She said not to worry, but they've been falling behind this year. I'm assuming it's because the bad weather has delayed a lot of their work, especially roof work. She assured me that her husband would call and let us know when he thinks they'll be able to start. I'm waiting, but not for long. There's another contractor who's been working in our neighborhood. He's done façade renovation for one of our neighbors and the result looks good. Now he's doing work for the new neighbors inside their house. I'm assuming it's new kitchen tile. We know they planned to re-do their kitchen. We're going to ask him for an estimate for our job.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Steamed pork buns

This isn't the first time I've made Chinese steamed pork buns, but it has been a while since the last time. They're not difficult to make, but you do need two to three hours for the yeast dough to rise, with another thirty minutes of rising after the buns are stuffed. For the stuffing, we used some pulled pork that Ken made in the slow cooker and froze a few weeks ago. He thawed it out and added Asian flavors (like soy, sesame, hot chili sauce, ginger, etc.) while warming it up on the stove.

Eight steamed pork buns for lunch.

The recipe I used makes eight buns. Once the dough had risen, I rolled it into a log and cut it into eight equal pieces. I formed each piece into a ball and then flattened the balls into disks. I put a spoonful of the pork in the middle of each disk and pulled the dough up and around the stuffing, pinching it together at the top to form a good seal. After the buns rested (and rose a little more) under a towel, I put them in the steamer pot for twelve to fifteen minutes.

Egg rolls with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce.

We ate them with egg rolls (from the supermarket) and stir-fried zucchini (from the garden) with a spicy Asian sauce. The wine was one of our local gamays from across the river. Tasty!

Thursday, September 16, 2021

One year ago today

Looking back at my blog posts for this time last year, I see that we were in a heat wave. The grape harvest was nearly complete, and the daily work got under way even before the sun rose. It's a very different year now. We had more rain this summer than any in recent memory. The grape harvest hasn't even begun yet. And while we just had a week of moderately hot and dry weather, it wasn't harsh and it didn't last long.

Grape harvesters seen from our house at sunrise a year ago, September 16, 2020.

I had a dentist appointment scheduled for yesterday, but on Tuesday the dentist called and asked if he could reschedule. He had some kind of meeting on Wednesday morning and was afraid he wouldn't make it back in time for me. So now my appointment is for next month. It's only a cleaning, so there's no problem.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Lost Found

I don't know how it's possible, but somehow I lost my eyeglasses. I went out for an afternoon walk with Tasha and at some point realized I didn't have my glasses on. This happens every now and then. I go out the door in a hurry and forget to put them on, often because I was wearing my computer glasses just before going out. So, I figured, they're probably home on my desk. But when I got home, I couldn't find them anywhere. Panic set in. Did I drop them in the vineyard?

They're out there.

I went back out, twice, and retraced my steps, but with no luck. I'm planning to have another look this morning when it gets light. In the meantime, I have an old pair (previous prescription) that are working surprisingly well. Maybe I should get one of those eyeglass chains to wear around my neck.

UPDATE: I found them this morning. They were very close to the start of  our walk, in a patch of grass, folded, lenses pointing up. I have no idea how. My working theory is that I batted a biting insect away and batted the glasses off then. I thought that happened later in the walk, but maybe not.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Look familiar?

Part of this photo is this week's Image of the Week (in the sidebar to the right). Can you tell I've run out of fresh pictures again? I don't know what wildflower this is, but it's blooming all around right now.

If anyone knows what these are, I'd appreciate a comment.

We had some thunder and lightning over night, but no rain. The storm moved by us to the west and north. Bert sauntered in around 02h30 this morning, about the same time that the storm was moving off. And once again, thankfully, no mouse.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Another golden sunrise photo

I took this photo a week ago while we were still in our mini heat wave. The weather is still good, just not as hot. The angle of the light this time of year shining on the brown grasses makes them look painted in gold.

The end of the dirt road through the vineyards, the half-way point in our morning walks.

Mary in Oregon asked if I enhanced the color for these shots. The answer is yes. I take my pictures in RAW format. That requires that I use software to "develop" them before exporting them as JPG files for the internet. The RAW files are huge and very dull-looking right out of the camera. The developing process gives me a lot of control with regard to light, color, sharpness, perspective, and probably a hundred other variables that I don't know how to adjust. That said, I try to make the images look true to what I saw in the field, except for when I'm going for some special effect, like b/w, sepia tones, or something like that.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Fading color

These are the hortensias (hydrangeas) that I grew from cuttings many years ago. There were four, but the other two did not survive in their location on the other side of the garage door. Now we have an aucuba there. It's holding on, but not thriving. There's still a little color left in the hydrangea flowers, but it's fading fast. When the leaves fall, it will be time to prune the stems back for the winter.

Hydrangeas under the garage window.

If you look closely, you can see a board leaning up against the window sill. It serves as a ramp for Bert to come in and out of the garage and, by extension, the house. When he's in for the night, I close the window until morning. Last night he came in around just before one a.m. No mouse.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

A boy and his dog

Having fun with shadows. Tasha went "snout to the ground" as I snapped the photo so her shadow lost its ears. Better luck next time.

Luke Skywalker and R2D2? I sometimes call her Kenobi, as in Obi Quiet, Kenobi.

Bert came in from outside just before two a.m. this morning. With a mouse. At least it was dead by the time he dropped it on the landing. I made sure he ate it before I climbed back up to bed. I wonder what he does for hours out there in the dark before he decides to come inside.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Trimmed and mowed

This past week, while the weather was warm and dry, the vineyards out back got trimmed and mowed. The guy that did the work drove a tractor over the vines with an attachment that trims the tendrils from the tops and sides of the vines. After that was done, he drove the tractor pulling a mowing attachment between the vine rows to cut the grass down. Everything is squared off and we can walk between the rows again.

Trimmed and ready for harvest. I wonder when they'll start.

The plumber and his helper replaced our shower door yesterday as promised. It only took them two hours to take out the old door (and its frame) and install the new one. Good as new! So far. Time will tell if this door will come off its supports like the previous one did. We had the replacement door already because the manufacturer gave us a new one when he verified that the first one was defective. We decided to hold it in reserve in case the plumber's repair didn't work. The repair worked for a few years, but recently gave out. The plumber didn't charge us for his labor, either. Part of his guarantee, he said, even though the defect was not his fault.

If this second door proves defective, too, we will have to look at another type of door. We saw some options on line that should work when the time comes.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Grapey

The grapes have enjoyed our week of summery weather. They're looking pretty ripe out there now. I haven't seen any of the growers testing the grapes for sugar levels yet, so I don't think the harvest is about to start. I'll keep my eyes open.

Much riper looking now than just a week ago.

Our plumber is coming over this morning, bright and early, to replace our shower door. You might remember that we had a new shower stall built about five years ago. The door, a folding glass door, came loose shortly after it was installed. The plumber repaired it, but I insisted we get a new one. He called the manufacturer who sent a rep out inspect it. He agreed to give us a new door. We didn't have it installed because the plumber's repair seemed to hold. We stored the new door down in the garage.

Since then, the door has come off its supports again (there are four) and this time the plumber's repair didn't hold, so we've asked him to take out the old door and put in the "new" one. Of course, there's no guarantee that the "new" door doesn't have the same defect. We shall see. If it comes apart, too, we will have to find another solution. It's always something.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

September sunrise

The sun rose yesterday in a clear sky. Tasha and I enjoyed our sunrise walk. I think we started around 07h30. The sunrises are getting later and later as we near the equinox. This photo is from early in our walk, looking back at the hamlet as we make our way west.

Looking easterly at sunrise on Tuesday.

On Sunday morning we saw a sure sign of the coming autumn: hunters were out past the end of the dirt road participating in a battue (an organized hunt). They were likely hunting deer or foxes. I looked at the hunting association's web site and saw that the season for pheasants, hares, and other small game animals begins on the 26th. General hunting happens only on Sundays from 09h00 to noon, then from 2h30 until sunset. I think I saw that the season ends at the end of January.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Wild wort

This is millepertuis (St. John's wort) in its wild form. It grows everywhere along the edges of the vineyard roads and even among the vines themselves. The wort produces its bright yellow flowers all summer.

A clump of wild St. John's wort grows at the end of a row of grape vines.

We inherited a big plot of domesticated wort along the south side of our house. It also fills in a ditch along the road just outside our property. The flowers are much bigger than the those of wild variety, but they're the same bright yellow color. I've tried to get rid of it, but it's quite tenacious. I've since read that it's almost impossible to eliminate (without serious effort, digging, and chemicals) because of its extensive network of rhizomes beneath the soil.

Monday, September 06, 2021

Knapweed and something else

The bright purple flowers belong to the knapweed, but those rounder purplish globes without flowers look to be something else. I don't remember noticing them before, but I certainly am noticing them now.

Are they another plant, or just knapweed at a different stage?

Our little late summer heat wave is continuing. So far it's not anywhere near oppressive, but the next couple of days in the low 30sC (upper 80sF) could get a little uncomfortable for sleeping. Mostly because we're just not used to it. A cool-down is predicted toward the end of the week.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

We'll always have Paris

I let this anniversary go by until Ken reminded me. Forty years ago last Thursday was 2 September 1981. I left New York for my first-ever trip to Paris to spend a school year learning French at the Alliance Française. The transportation was arranged by the college that sponsored the year abroad program. Students from all over the US were on their own to get to the flight, Icelandic Air Flight 204 out of JFK, an overnight flight with a re-fueling stop in Reykjavik, Iceland. The final destination was Luxembourg. Then we took a train to Paris.

As you can see, I still have the boarding pass. Both of them.

The flight cost US $470 round-trip back then. I thought it was a fortune. It was my first international flight, and probably my third or fourth flight ever. I took a train from home (upstate New York) to Grand Central in Manhattan and got a ride to JFK from a friend who lived in Brooklyn. The flight took off after dark and it was an hour or so late. The plane was likely a Douglas DC-8, based on the airline's fleet composition on Wikipedia. Icelandic Air was absorbed into the Icelandair group right around the time of our flight.

This trip was the biggest adventure of my young life up to that point. And, more significantly, when our train arrived at the Gare du Nord in Paris that night forty years ago, we students were met on the platform by the program's resident director, Ken B., who would later become my husband.

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Shorts and tee-shirts

It's happening. Summer is back. Sun. Dry days. High temperatures in the 80sF. I grilled hamburgers for lunch on Friday. And I'm enjoying wearing shorts again. We'll see how long it lasts.

Grapes to the right, corn on the left (in the back). A recent sunrise.

Bert stayed out last night until almost three in the morning. I woke up around 23h30 thinking I felt him walk across my legs (which he does frequently). I must have been dreaming because he was not at all there. Then I tossed and turned and barely slept while I waited for him to come home. After he moseyed in, I continued to toss and turn until I got up just after six. What a wasted night.

Friday, September 03, 2021

It's not Vigeland...

The first thing I thought of when I saw this pile of grape vine trunks in one of the dug-up parcels out back this summer was the sculpture by Gustav Vigeland in Frogner Park, Oslo, Norway. A friend of mine (now deceased) visited Scandinavia when she was younger and had taken photos of that evocative sculpture. I've never visited Norway, so I've not seen the sculpture in person.

A pile of dead grape vine trunks in the vineyards behind our house.

We're enjoying the warm and, so far, dry weather. We may see a few rain showers today and maybe again tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm watering what's left of the vegetable garden by hand.

See what I mean? You be the judge.
Photo by Andrew Shiva, Wikipedia.


Thursday, September 02, 2021

The (garden) party is over

Our 2021 vegetable garden is almost a memory. There are still zukes, kale, and chard growing (sort of). On Wednesday, I cut all the weeds down with the mower after piling up the pulled plants and some trimmings and tree branches (that were piled in the garden path). I'll get rid of those later.

Tasha "helps" with the garden cleanup.

The plot will have to be tilled up at some point and I'll probably have to mow it again before that happens. And, in accordance with the laws of the universe, the sun has been shining brightly over nice warm and dry days since I removed the soaker hose.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

The last of the tomatoes

This year's tomato harvest is over, at least in our vegetable garden. I picked the last decent-looking toms on Monday and pulled the plants out of the ground. They (the tomatoes) will go into a meat sauce for today's pasta lunch, I think.

The last of the Mohicans tomatoes.

Yesterday I took down the trellis fence at the back of the garden plot. I planted climbing peas and beans there last spring but didn't have much luck with them. Quelle surprise. I also pulled the fence supports out of the ground and am re-thinking how I'll use the trellis next year. The last thing I did yesterday was to prune back the aggressive blackberry brambles that advance on the north-side fence each year. This year, of course, they're super aggressive because of the abundant spring and summer rains we had. After trimming, I ran the lawnmower along the outside of the fence.

It feels good to get out there and begin to take back control. We've been letting a lot of the yard work go in anticipation of the planned tree and shrub removal and the renovation of the garden path. It all looks a mess out there. The landscape contractor wrote yesterday that he's scheduled us for October 4. He has to reserve a small tractor rental for some of the extraction and renovation work. Another month to wait.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Change is our friend

In this case. The cabernet, côt, and gamay grapes are starting to turn color. That means they're ripening. I wonder how much they will ripen if the weather gets cold again. Not that it's hot now, but it's pleasantly warm and dry (even though we had an unexpected rain shower yesterday). I saw a tractor out in the vineyards yesterday trimming the vines. I think they need to do that to keep the vines ventilated and as part of the preparation for harvest time.

"Red" grapes go from green to purple to deep blue.

I made more progress out in the vegetable garden yesterday. The soaker hose is rolled up and put away for the season. I pulled all the bean plants out and set them aside. Ken wants to shell the beans that stayed on the plants. There might be enough to get a meal from them. I also picked the last of the good tomatoes and pulled the tomato plants out of the ground.

Today, I'd like to get the trellis fence down and put away. I have some ideas for some changes in the garden next season, but I'll mull all of that over during the winter. In the meantime I have to focus on the "now" and mow those weeds down.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Setting seed

Our artichokes are doing their late summer thing. The flowers are faded and the seeds are emerging. Like many members of the thistle family, the artichoke's seeds fly away on feathery parachutes. One year, we found an artichoke plant sprouted from a seed that fell in our garden path.

The artichoke flowers have dried up and are beginning to release their seeds.

If my favorite weather web site is correct (ha!), we have a few days of warm and sunny weather ahead. As I predicted, removal of the soaker hose from the garden is responsible. That, and the fact that summer vacation officially ends this week. Good weather will give us a chance to make some progress in the yard and garden. There's no lack of stuff to do.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Regaining control

I took the first step in getting this year's vegetable garden back under control on Saturday. The tomatoes are a lost cause and the beans are done. We still may get a few zukes, and we're trying to keep the kale and chard going for a fall crop. We intentionally planted them along the edge of the plot with this in mind.

The sorry state of the 2021 vegetable garden.

So, what I did was take out the soaker hose. And yes, I realize that probably means we'll have sunny and dry weather until winter. I'll have to water the remaining plants by hand. The hose was buried under a thick mat of weeds and was a bear to get out. It took about 45 minutes to free it all from under the plants and weeds, but it's done. I also took out the tripods I use to support the tomato plants. The toms didn't get much support this year. I gave up on pinching suckers and tying up the vines when the weeds invaded with a vengeance.

Next it will be time to pull up the beans and tomatoes and some other plants that did nothing, pile them in the middle of the plot, and cover them with a tarp until I can dispose of them. Once I'm sure that the coast is clear, I'll run the lawnmower over the remaining weeds and Ken will till up the roots. Then we'll put the plot to bed until spring.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The equatorial dome

We live a stone's throw (about 2 miles as the eagle flies) from one of the Loire Valley's biggest attractions. It's not a château, but a zoo. The ZooParc at Beauval, just outside Saint-Aignan, has become a world renowned zoological park since its creation in the early 1980s. Just this year, the zoo announced the birth of two giant pandas and opened its newest attraction: le dôme équatorial, a huge steel and glass structure that maintains an equatorial climate year round for the 200 or so species that live inside. I don't mean to sound like a tour guide. Check out the above links if you're interested.

The dome and aerial tram seen from the vineyards on the heights above the zoo.

I remember the first time I saw the dome from our car window, wondering what the heck is that! Later I learned it was the zoo's newest exhibit space along with an 800 meter long aerial tram that traverses the zoo grounds. The dome looks like a spaceship that landed in the mostly agricultural landscape we live in. But it manages not to dominate the views as it's only visible from certain places.

Another view from a little further away. The zoo sits in a small valley just south of Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher.

I haven't been to the zoo since these new attractions opened. In fact, the last time I went was back in the summer of 2011 with visiting friends from California. Has it been ten years already? I'm sure I'll go back one day.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Sunrise with contrails

On Thursday morning the sun rose in a clear sky. Tasha and I had just left for our morning walk and I turned to look back toward the east. The photo makes it look darker than it was. The sun was up over the horizon but still behind the trees in the background.

The sunrise over our little hamlet on Thursday.

Summer vacation is winding down now. French kids go back to school in less than a week. If you've been reading this blog, you know that the weather has not been good for most of this year's summer. July was a lot worse than August, and the weather has been better down on the Mediterranean coast. What will Indian summer bring?

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Cosmos

I planted some decorative flowers in this year's vegetable garden. Namely, cosmos and flax. None of the flax seeds sprouted, but the cosmos came up and now it's flowering. A bright spot in the disaster that is this year's potager, for sure.

An insect on a cosmos petal.

The flowers are white, purple, and red. I need to give them some water today; we're in a dry spell. Imagine!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

What are these?

I have no idea. There are so many little wildflowers growing in and around the vineyards that I'm still finding some I haven't yet noticed, let alone identified.

Anybody know?

Ken found corn on the cob in the supermarket yesterday. That's rare for these parts. So he got some for today's lunch. I'll grill burgers to go with them. Bacon cheeseburgers. Yum.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Spaghetti alla Nerano

After having seen this dish on a friend's Instagram feed (thanks, Mike!), we decided to give it try. It's not complicated at all, basically spaghetti with zucchini and cheese. We made some adjustments to use what we had on hand. I grilled the zucchini (instead of pan frying it) and an eggplant that we had in the fridge. We grated Parmesan, Romano, and a little bit of Basque sheep's cheese (the recipe calls for Italian provolone). The basil came from the greenhouse.

Spaghetti with grilled zucchini and eggplant, garlic, olive oil, basil, and three cheeses.

We ate the whole pot (250 grams of pasta for two people), it was that good. And, as Mike said, we'll definitely do this again. It can stand alone as a meal or, in smaller portions, serve as a first course.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Cookin' with(out) gas

We cooked our first meal on the induction stove on Sunday. It was pork tenderloin simmered in a cream sauce with prunes, served over pasta. Learning the stove's new controls is just as much about unlearning old reflexes as it is learning new terminology ("cooking zone" instead of "burner" for example). We had the instruction manual close by and referred to it a lot while cooking. Everything seems to be working as it should and our meal was a success.

The induction cook top looks like it will be easy to keep clean. To the right of the stove is the dishwasher we got in 2018.

Setting the clock and learning how the timer works was mildly challenging. Trial and error got us through. Today we'll be cooking spaghetti (more pasta!). Our friend Mike in Australia recently made Spaghetti alla Nerano (spaghetti with fried zucchini) and it looked good, so we researched the recipe and decided to try it today. We have a couple of garden zukes to use and we're always looking for different ways to use them. I'll grill them rather than fry them, and we'll use a French cheese similar to the Italian provolone that the recipe calls for. In the land of abundant cheese, sometimes finding a foreign cheese is difficult, especially outside of the bigger cities.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Too soon?

The "early turners," as I call them, are doing their thing. Each year some of the grape vines get a head start on their fall colors. The grapes are just beginning to ripen, but certain vines think it's fall. It's not because of the weather. This happens every year. It's a little preview of what will happen in the coming months.

Fall is on its way. Some days, it feels like it's been here all along.

The new stove was delivered as promised and the delivery guys installed it and took the old one away. It looks pretty sleek, but I haven't taken a photo yet. We need to turn the oven on to bake away the machine oil before the first use. And we have to learn all the controls. Ken's planning a plat mijoté (a simmered stew) for today's lunch just to use the new stove top.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Kornfield Kounty

This is one of two small fields of corn that have appeared in vacant parcels out among the grape vines the past two years. This year, probably because of all the rain we've had, the corn is very high. There are little cobs, too, but they're very little, probably because they need even more water to grow to a normal size. Neither of these cornfields is irrigated. I doubt that this is sweet corn. It's more likely feed corn like most of the corn grown in France.

A field of corn out among the vineyards behind our house.

We're expecting the delivery and installation of a new cooking stove today. We're switching over from gas burners to induction on the cook-top. We don't have piped in gas where we live, so we have to buy bottled gas that we keep under the sink in the kitchen. Not having to deal with that any more will be nice, and we'll regain some storage space. If all goes as expected, I'll post a photo soon.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Parts is parts

We had these chicken thighs and drumsticks (parts) in the freezer and decided to marinate (yuppies marinate everything) and grill them. Ken chopped some fresh rosemary for the marinade. They turned out very tasty. I've forgotten what we ate with the chicken. It was potatoes, I think, either French fried or mashed. We did both recently.

Chicken parts marinating in rosemary, hot smoked paprika, white wine, and olive oil.

This morning the outdoor thermometer reads 11.8ºC (about 53ºF). The sky was clear overnight. But fear not! Today's forecast is for a high in the mid-twenties! That's the high seventies F, approaching eighty. It's going to be even hotter tomorrow! Can you stand it or what?

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Fly away

If I'm not mistaken, these are centaurées (knapweed). The purple flowers are gone and the seeds are taking to the air with their fluffy parachutes. It's a sure sign that summer is winding down and fall is approaching.

The flower heads look like little pineapples.

We're in one of those classic weather situations. The forecast says "today" will be chilly, but that temperatures will climb back to hot "tomorrow." When "tomorrow" becomes "today," it's still chilly. But the forecasts once again promise us that "tomorrow" will be hot. Rinse and repeat.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Bring me some figgy pudding

Perhaps it's a little to early for that. But the news is that our little fig tree is covered in figs for the first time. Ever. Oh, we've had a few figs over the years, but nothing like what this year promises. Time will tell if the promise will be kept.

A couple of the figs on our tree. They're still small and not yet ripe.

We planted the fig back in 2006, fifteen years ago! It froze to the ground in 2012, but came back from the roots the next spring. Fig crops have been meager, at best. Our record year gave us about six figs. If the current crop survives to ripeness, we'll have about five times that amount. I'm thinking this year's crop has something to do with all the rain we've had this season. If that's the case, I will have to water the fig a lot more in dryer years. Keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Tasha Tuesday

I got this shot of Tasha looking into the sunrise last Friday. She paused for a moment while we were making our way through a vineyard parcel. I have to be fast, because she doesn't stand still for long.

Tasha stands in a patch of clover.

Monday was a mostly indoor day. The weather was chilly and damp. But that seems to be over now and the forecast is for more seasonable days ahead.

The plumber who built our shower stall was over yesterday to repair the glass shower door. It keeps detaching from its supports. In the last two years, two of the supports have come off the glass and he reattached them. Last week, the other two (there are four) came off. He reattached one yesterday and now the glue is drying. He'll be back on Wednesday to do the final one.

When the first one came off, I asked for a new door. The plumber called his supplier who sent out a rep to take a look. He agreed to give us a new door. It's been sitting down in the garage since then. Repairing the current door is less disruptive than replacing it, but if these repairs don't hold we may have to bite the bullet.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Good for your heart

I was surprised to see how many beans there were in this third harvest from the garden. Even with all the weeds, the beans produced a fantastic crop this year. With all the rain we had, though, I didn't put in a second and third crop, so this may be it for the season. But that's ok.

A wok full of yellow and green beans from the garden.

There were even more beans than you see in this photo. Ken steamed a batch that we ate two ways: the first was warm as a side dish and the second was a cold three-bean salad. In the place of red kidney beans (the third bean), we used garbanzos in the salad. Now it's time to blanch the rest and get them into the freezer.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Don't get saucy with me

I decided that the best thing to do with those tomatoes from the garden was to make a batch of sauce. The tomatoes were small and not very pretty, so sauce it was. I got enough for two meals, be they pizza, meat sauce, or something else. Both containers went into the freezer.

Garden tomatoes coming to the simmer.

We're still expecting a few nice days, but it will be less hot. Mini heat waves are much easier to bear than long ones.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

The last grate

Here's the last of the photos that I'm posting from the Sologne, taken in 2006. Another grate. I had just got my first digital camera, a Panasonic Lumix bridge camera. For the prior three years I was using one of Ken's pocket digital cameras. And for years before that I took color slides with a Canon EOS Rebel SLR.

This is a small grate, probably for ventilation. Mennetou-sur-Cher, May 2006.

Our little heat wave continues. Yesterday I cut the west forty, finally. Today I'll finish up with the north forty and the grass will be done yet again. I may even re-do part of the south forty that's grown back up since it was cut earlier in the week.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Hol(e)y grate, Batman

The closer I look at this panel, the more I think it's a wooden plank with holes drilled into it. There looks to be wood grain. The holes are not evenly spaced. I see no visible means of attachment, so it could be attached somehow on the inside or just wedged in.

Grate, Mennetou-sur-Cher, May 2006.

Our weather got hot, as predicted. What a change! The forecasters are saying that things will stay more or less the same for a few days at least. This morning's low is outside 20ºC (68ºF ).

Thursday, August 12, 2021

It's just one of those years

I picked these tomatoes yesterday. They're small, and there aren't very many. I threw a bunch of rotting toms away. Even the zucchinis have slowed way down. This year's vegetable garden has really suffered from the cold and wet conditions that we've had all season. Except for now. We're in a heat spell. If it continues to be warm and dry, maybe we'll get some more.

A meager harvest from 18 tomato plants.

I still haven't finished cutting the grass. In the morning, the heavy dew discourages me. It doesn't dry out until after lunch. But, as you may know, lunch is our main meal of the day after which I'm not motivated to go out in what is (now) the hottest part of the day to mow. I'm thinking that, if the heat lasts a while, the nights will get warmer and the morning dew won't be as heavy and I'll be able to cut grass before lunch.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

I shutter to think...

It's a joke. I know how to spell chuddor shoddre shudder.

Shuttered window, Mennetou-sur-Cher, May 2006.

Not much to say this morning. I've got a haircut appointment. We cooked burgers on the gril grille grill yesterday. Yum! Today we might do chicken parts. Parts is parts.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

I have a feeling we're being watched

I wonder what this little door leads to. Perhaps an old coal chute? I'll never know.

I wonder if there's a key for that lock.

I actually wore shorts yesterday for the first time in a month or even six weeks. And I got the south forty mowed, along with the strips outside our hedges. It should be warmer today and downright hot by Thursday. I'll try not to complain. Too much.

Monday, August 09, 2021

Grille

I think this would be called un grillage in French, but I'm not certain. The ground floor windows in our house have wrought iron grilles on them for security, but nothing as fancy as this.

Window grille, Mennetou-sur-Cher, May 2006.

Dare we believe? The weather people are predicting downright hot temperatures building in this week. No rain in sight. There are a lot of chores waiting for us out in the yard, not the least of which are cutting the grass and weeding more of the vegetable garden. Unless Lucy pulls that football away at the last minute.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Very neat

This is the front yard of a house in Mennetou-sur-Cher (I think). Everything is impeccable. Not a weed to be seen in the gravel. A nice neat row of blue campanules (bellflower). Our house has gravel paths around it and it's a constant battle against weeds. I wonder how they do it? Better living through chemistry, likely.

Simple elegance. Someone spends a lot of time on this.

I'm surprised our heat hasn't come on this morning. It's about 13ºC (about 55ºF) out there. But don't worry! It's predicted to get summery warm again next week! I'm not bettin' the farm on it.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Planeur

I used to see a lot of planeurs (gliders or sailplanes) in the sky above our neighborhood each summer. Since the pandemic, of course, none. Same for hot-air balloons, except I did see one or two in the distance this past spring. The gliders fly in giant circles around warm thermals, sometimes four or five at a time. It's like a silent ballet in the sky.

Un planeur, 2006.

Bert stayed out until about ten-thirty last night. When he came in, he had another mouse. Mmmmm. Tasty.

Friday, August 06, 2021

Green neck

This is un canard colvert (green necked duck), what English speakers call a mallard duck. It's a male with its characteristic bright coloration. The female is more mottled, with no green neck or white collar. In recent years, we've seen breeding pairs on the little pond outside our back gate. They nest on the ground under some shrubs at the edge of the water. The only ducklings I've seen in that time are two that Bert brought home. I'm sure the other neighborhood cats and the ducklings' natural predators (foxes and martens) take the rest.

A male colvert in the Sologne, May 2006.

I'm heading out to the market in a neighboring town this morning to get some more mussels for today's lunch. It's a bigger market than the Saturday market in Saint-Aignan and has several fish mongers, so there should be a good choice.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

That darned cat

Bert woke me up last night just after eleven. Meow, meow! I thought he wanted kibble, so I got up and went downstairs to put his bowl down. He went further downstairs to the ground floor. I went back upstairs to bed. A few minutes later, he was back in the loft. Meow, meow! He was insistent. I realized he wanted, or needed, to go outside.

Nothing to do with this post. Public benches, Mennetou-sur-Cher, May 2006.

Out of bed again, down two flights, and I opened his window. He went out like a shot. I climbed back upstairs, back to bed and, thankfully, to sleep. Around two-thirty this morning he came back in making his "I have a mouse" meow. It woke us both up (and Tasha, too). I stumbled down the stairs and, sure enough, a little mouse lay on its back on the landing rug, tiny feet pointing skyward. Bert stood next to it, waiting for praise. I got a paper towel and took the mouse down to the utility room for Bert to eat. I closed his window so he couldn't go out again. Back to bed, where I tossed and turned for a couple of hours before falling back to sleep. When I woke up at six-twenty, Bert was curled up beside me fast asleep.