Thursday, June 24, 2021

Red flag

The grower that owns most of the vines out behind our house uses lengths of red and white "do not cross" tape to mark certain rows in his vineyards. They mark the rows he drives the big tractors in when he sprays the vines. His tractors have arms that reach out to spray several rows at a time, reducing the number of passes he has to make. Ain't agriculture fun!

It's not charming but it does the trick.

Our weather is not really improving. The forecast I saw yesterday for a warm weekend has been downgraded to a "not as cold" weekend. Lovely. And summer hasn't sent so much as a postcard from wherever it's vacationing. If this goes on much longer, the central heating is going to kick in.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Seen from the road

Here's the house as seen from the road. It's got its summer face on, meaning that there are flowers in the kitchen window box and a parasol on the deck. Looking at the photo, I realize I should have put some flowers in the loft window boxes, too. Maybe next year.

It might look summery in this photo, but looks can be deceiving.

This morning the sky is leaden and everything is wet. It's been raining off and on through the night. Plants, especially weeds, are loving this weather. They're all lush and green. But it's still cold. The wind is from the north. Brrr. The weather gurus say it might get warm again by the weekend.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

What month is this?

This morning the outdoor thermometer reads 14ºC (57ºF). As the French weather people say: les températures sont dignes d'un mois de mars (the temperatures are worthy of a month of March). A thunderstorm went by us to the west last evening, cooling things down. Again.

A dandelion sets seed among the tall grasses.

I got out in the morning and cut the grass in the south forty and in the strips along our road and behind the hedge. The grass was thick and very wet in some spots, causing the mower some difficulty. It stalled several times in the thickest places. I probably won't get the other sections cut for another day or two as we're expecting a rainy day today. We'll see.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Summer solstice

I know I sound like a broken record. Here we are at the summer solstice and temperatures feel more like it's the vernal equinox. Our highs will reach the high teens later this week, mid-sixties Fahrenheit, with afternoon showers predicted for the next couple of days. And I'm fully aware that I would still be complaining if we were suffering through a heat wave. Ah, the weather!

Pretty. I'm not sure what it is.

I'm not sure what these flowers are. The leaves and flowers look very similar to our cherry laurel hedge, but this plant is out on the edge of the woods next to vineyard parcels. Maybe some seeds were dropped by birds. By the way, cherry laurel is not edible. Like many people around us, we do have a laurier sauce (bay laurel) in our yard. It looks slightly different and we use it in cooking all the time.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Eglantine

I think these are eglantines (wild roses). They are pretty common in our area and grow on the margins of the vineyard parcels, among other places. Some can be on the white side, like this one, others can be very pink in color.

These flowers are mostly white, tinged with pink.

We're expecting showers and mild thunderstorms again today. The grass is growing and so are the weeds. Same old, same old.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Summer vacation

Ever since Wednesday night's thunderstorms, it seems that summer has gone away on vacation. The air is much cooler, much cloudier, and it rains off and on. I want to cut the grass, but it's too wet. I need to weed the vegetable garden, but it's too wet. At least I don't have to water outdoors.

A summery day last week out in the vineyards.

It was raining lightly when I woke up this morning, and I see by the radar that a mild thunderstorm is headed our way in the next hour or so. More serious storms are predicted for later this afternoon. And it's chilly again. Summer arrives officially on Monday (astronomical summer), but how can it get here if it's away on vacation?

Friday, June 18, 2021

The tomatoes are forming

This is one of our first tomatoes of the year. It's a roma and it's not much bigger than an olive, but it's a start! The storm on Wednesday night really battered the plants. Almost all of them were lying on the ground Thursday morning, but they weren't damaged. I've since pulled them back upright and tied them to their stakes as best I could. As they continue to grow that will get easier.

It won't be long before I know if the calcium treatment worked to prevent blossom end rot.

We had more rain on Thursday evening, but it was not stormy and the rain did a good job of rinsing the mud off the tomato plants. The weeds are thriving, so now it's time to get out there and do some weed control. It's a tough row to hoe.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Honeysuckle in the hedge

I mentioned the other day that chèvrefeuille (honeysuckle) is taking over a section of our hedge out back. Here's a view of that section from outside the back gate. The hedge is composed of laurier cerise (cherry laurel). Mostly. The large oval leaves you see are the laurel; the white and yellow flowers are on the honeysuckle vines that are intertwined with the laurel trunks and stems.

Honeysuckle thrives in this section of the hedge.

We had a doozy of a thunderstorm last night between 01h00 and 02h00. The lighting was blinding and the thunder shook the roof as the storm passed directly above us. We closed all the loft windows. The storm was so intense that it scared Tasha and she ended up on the bed between us, burying her head under pillows. We both rubbed her head to calm her down and, as the storm faded off to the north, she fell asleep against me. Then Bert, who had not come home before bedtime, came into the house meowing just before 02h00. That got Tasha up again. Me, too. I had to go downstairs and close Bert's window and dry him off. I suspect he hunkered down somewhere (maybe under the carport) until the storm passed and then came back in.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Tasha Tuesday on Wednesday

Tasha's trip to the groomer's went well. She got a bath and a trim and a good brushing. She still needed to be muzzled because she snaps when her hair is pulled by the brush. That's one of the reasons I don't brush her as often as I should. Here she is on Tuesday morning as we headed out for our walk.

Tasha still has a lot of fur. Sheep dogs!

I'm planning a run to the dump this morning. It looks like we might have thunderstorms and rain over night. I'll keep an eye on the forecast. but I should spray the tomatoes with bouillie bordelaise again before that happens. The grape growers were out spraying the past two days and I take my cue from them.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Chèvrefeuille

A section of our back hedge has been taken over by chèvrefeuille (honeysuckle). Its name (in French) means "goat leaf." I don't know why. I also don't know if the hedge is in danger from the plant. It's fully integrated in the hedge and would be very difficult to remove. It's been there since we moved in eighteen years ago, but there is considerably more of it now than there was then.

Some of the honeysuckle flowers are white and others are yellow.

We'll be taking advantage of our summery spell to cook burgers on the grill today. It's my morning to walk with Tasha so I think I'll take the camera and try to get a good photo of her while she's still relatively clean and untangled.

Monday, June 14, 2021

I'm looking over

A patch of clover. Nothing special about these. They're common plants in the margins of the vineyards out back. And now they're flowering. These are white and the most common, but there are others with purple flowers. Now that I type that, I realize I should have taken a photo of the purple ones.

Vineyard clover at sunrise.

We're enjoying a really nice spell of summery weather. Sunny dry days with high temperatures in the mid to upper 20sC (around 80ºF). The vegetable garden is enjoying it and I'm enjoying watering by turning on the soaker hose. So easy.

Clay court season came to an end on Sunday with Novak Djokovic's expected victory over Stefano Tsitsipas to win the French Open. The Greek started out really well, taking the first two sets, but the Serb came back and dominated the remaining three. Now it's on to the short grass court season, starting today with the Queen's Club tournament in London and the Halle, Germany, tournament.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Bird ghost

Every once in a while, a bird will mistake the sight line from our deck through the house to the den window for a clear flight path. The problem is that there is glass in the way. Bam! More than one little bird has met its end crashing into the deck windows. Some are lucky and are only stunned for a few minutes before getting up and flying away. The other day the rising sun lit up this imprint of a bird and its wing on the glass.

I don't remember when this bird hit the glass or whether it survived.

Normally I would have already washed these windows as part of our spring cleaning. This year I thought I'd wait until after the deck renovation. Now I don't know when that will happen, so I may just go ahead and wash the windows anyway.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Blue geraniums

The variety is called "Rozanne." I found them at a nearby farm that offers "pick your own" blueberries and raspberries along with a very large selection of irises. I brought home a few pots of these geraniums and transplanted them into larger pots for the deck. They didn't do very well. One day, I saw them planted in a border in Blois and thought that I should try that. I went to the farm for a few more pots and put them in a triangular bed next to our garden path. They've thrived there for several years now.

The perennial Rozanne geranium is starting to flower now and will continue into the fall.

Tasha is groomed! Boy, does she look a lot better. I'll try to get a photo of her this weekend. And, I'm now fully vaccinated, except for the two-week waiting period after the shot. It feels good to have both those things behind me. So far, I'm not really feeling any side effects, but I expect some will show up in the next day or two.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Grape buds

It's that time of year. The grape vines are about to flower. These are grape flower buds on one of the vines out back. The flowers look to be abundant this year. When they open, they won't really look like flowers as there are no visible petals, just pollen spikes. Shortly after fertilization, the grape berries themselves will form.

These grape buds will open soon, then as the grape berries form and get heavier, the bunch will bend downward.

Today is a busy day for me. Tasha has a grooming appointment. Yay! It's been more than a year since her last grooming and she really needs a shampoo and trim, not to mention a good brushing out. She doesn't like it when I drop her off and the groomer tells me she's not very cooperative, but it will get done.

While Tasha gets groomed, I have an appointment for my second dose of the covid vaccine. It seems like forever ago that I got the first dose (mid-March). The standard waiting period for the AZ vaccine is nine to twelve weeks. I'm coming up on twelve weeks now. Ken gets his second dose next week.

I'm also going to swing by the bakery for some bread while I'm out.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Ma demoiselle

I think that this is a demoiselle (damselfly). I found it dead in our bathroom, trapped inside a plastic bag that was drying in the tub. Poor thing. They're abundant right now, flying around the back yard, probably reproducing in the pond out back. Sometimes they get caught inside the green house. They either get out on their own or die trying.

The live damselflies I see are blue. This dead one's very green. It's about an inch (2.5cm) long.

It's time to start weeding in the vegetable garden. Weeds turn out to be one of my most successful crops, so I have to be diligent. The green and yellow bean seeds that I planted have sprouted; more green than yellow. I'm going to have to plant some more yellow bean seeds to round out the crop. It's also time to start pinching suckers off the tomato plants. They're growing quickly now and a few have blossoms.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Artichauts

The artichokes are doing their thing: producing flower buds. In theory, these are edible. We tried once, but the chokes were small and tough and not really worth the effort. Since then, we let them flower and enjoy their color. The bees also like the artichoke flowers, so that's a good thing.

Artichokes, four for a euro. The biggest one is about the size of my fist.

Yesterday I mixed up a diluted solution of garden lime and watered the tomato plants with it to help prevent blossom-end rot when the fruit forms. I did this last year in mid-season when I was frustrated by the condition. Every tomato that formed in my garden was rotten on the end. I searched the internet for remedies and learned that the rot is caused, most likely, by a calcium deficiency in the soil.

You can find just about everything on the internet and the proposed remedies were varied (including grinding up antacid tablets and adding them to the soil). The common theme among the remedies was getting calcium carbonate into the soil. I found the lime at a local garden center and tried it. Almost immediately I noticed that new tomatoes weren't rotting (there's no remedy to fix an already rotting tomato) and I was encouraged. So now I've added the calcium solution at the beginning of the season in hopes that the rot will not happen at all this year. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Another view of the birches

I'm expecting two of these three birches to be gone in a few weeks, so I thought I'd take another photo from a different angle. They were once pretty trees and they look ok in the picture, but the two on the left are completely dead. The third one might come out, too. It's got several dead branches and I think the time is short before it suffers the same fate as the others.

Just to the left of the birches you can see one of rose plants we moved years ago. The one on the right, next to the clothesline, came back from the roots of the original plant.

The weather is improving and we're now expecting a string of dry days with high temperatures in the mid-20s C (upper 70s F). That will be good for the growing things, not to mention our spirits.

Monday, June 07, 2021

Sunday sunrise

I was outside with the camera right around sunrise on Sunday taking pictures of the zucchini blossom. The sky was partly cloudy and the sun was painting pink light on the clouds. So, naturally, I pointed the camera skyward.

Looking west at sunrise from our yard toward the vineyards.

Two weeks from today is the summer solstice. We're still gaining about a minute of daylight each day, but that will slow down and reverse as June ends. Our weather hasn't been very summery so far. I hope that changes.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Our first zuke blossom

I just put the plants into the ground a week ago. Now we have the first zucchini blossom. I don't expect an actual zucchini yet. The first blossoms frequently whither and die while the plant continues to produce leaves, but it's exciting to see nonetheless.

One of two zucchini plants in this year's vegetable garden.

It looks like the rain is over and we may get a few sunny days. The garden will like that a lot. I will spray the toms with bouillie bordelaise again today or tomorrow to keep them safe from fungus. This week I also plan to prepare a calcium treatment to help prevent blossom end rot when the fruit starts to set. Calcium carbonate is dissolved in a solution that gets watered in. When I did that last year, the rot stopped almost immediately. This time I'm hopeful that it will be prevented altogether. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Market day

As most regular readers know, Saturday is market day in Saint-Aignan. When covid struck last year, the market was shut down for a while. When it re-opened, it was moved from a square in the center of the old town to a bigger place on the edge to allow the vendors and shoppers to spread out. Over time, most of the old vendors reappeared along with some new ones and more and more shoppers got comfortable distancing and wearing masks at the market. Over the past couple of weeks, people are still masked, but otherwise the market seems to be back to its old self, animated and bustling.

The fish monger at the old Saint-Aignan market, summer 2009. She has since retired and another fish monger has taken her place.

I don't think Ken has been to the market in a while, maybe not since it re-opened last year. He does go to the supermarkets regularly. Today, however, he's going to the Saturday market. In addition to the regular food vendors, there's a new wine shop in town that he wants to check out. It's an outlet for one of our local wineries and they make a chardonnay that we'd like to try. Chardonnay is grown in our region, but it's usually used to blend into sparkling wines. Still chardonnays are not common around us.

Friday, June 04, 2021

Roses

Here's today's glamour shot: our garbage bin. Dressing it up a little is a rose that we transplanted to this spot many years ago. It's pretty much the only thing we can get to grow in this "wild" corner next to the driveway. The previous owner had two of these growing on either end of the clothesline. We dug them up and put one here and another out along the north side fence (the one that was damaged by falling birch limbs in December). One of the clothesline plants re-sprouted from roots, so now there are three of these.

Roses with garbage can. Klassy.

Thunder storms and rain moved through and around us over night, starting at around 0h30. They kept me awake until close to 04h00. I was counting "Mississippis" between lightning and thunder to tell how far away the storms were. One was close to five Mississippis, others were between ten and twenty. As the storms moved away north, I fell asleep for another three hours or so. I won't have to water the vegetable garden today.

I got both the west and north forties cut on Thursday. I was motivated by the coming rain, wanting the grass to be cut before it got wet.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Mowing between the drops

I mowed the south forty on Wednesday morning, including the strips alongside the road outside our hedges. I also do one of our neighbors' strip just because I'm out there. She asked me once to do it because she hadn't found someone to hire to cut her grass after her regular guy retired. She wanted the outside strip to look nice even if her yard (not visible from the road) was still not done. I was happy to help her out and I've been doing it ever since. She's moving down south this summer, so I'll stop once she moves out. The new owners will have to take care of it.

Buttercups among the tall grasses on the border of a vineyard parcel. The grasses are home to ticks, so we try to steer clear when walking.

Right after I finished, we had a rain shower. Good timing. Later this afternoon, we're expecting thunder storms and some more rain, so I plan to work on the west forty this morning. I may or may not get the north forty done before the rain starts.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Industrious

I hope I can be as productive as these little ants today. I want to get some grass cut ahead of the predicted thunderstorms/rain this afternoon. Not that I spend my time lying around watching soaps and eating bon-bons. I did watch some tennis and ate some cookies. Otherwise, yesterday, I planted out a few more seedlings: eggplant and jalapeño peppers. I did some edge trimming. I turned the garden water on and then off. I checked on some drying oregano. And I made pizzas for lunch. Ken did a good cleanup job outside the greenhouse where empty plant pots and saucers were piling up.

There are hundreds of anthills like this in the dirt road through the vineyards.

The next seedlings to go out into the garden will be some nasturtiums that are sprouting now. They need to get a little bigger first.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Green at last

Our chilly month of May really slowed down the growth of leaves on the grape vines in the vineyards around us. But now that the weather has started to warm up again, the vineyards are getting greener. The growers out back have spent the last day or so spraying what I'm assuming is a variant of bouillie bordelaise, a copper sulfate solution that helps prevent fungus from damaging the leaves and grapes. The solution is available to home gardeners, too, and I will soon be spraying my own tomato plants to help keep fungus away.

Summer is on its way. Little grape flowers have started to form.

The soaker hose experiment was a success on Monday. I let the hose drip for about an hour and the ground beneath it was wet a good four inches down. Now I'm thinking that a half-hour to forty-five minutes might be enough. I'll keep experimenting, but I'm already happy about not having to water by hand.

Monday, May 31, 2021

The potager is in

The vegetable garden is mostly planted now. I put in sixteen tomato seedlings on Sunday morning. There are nine kale and about eight Swiss chard plants, two zucchini, and a long row of beans, half green and half yellow. I still have two seedlings each of eggplant and jalapeño peppers, gifts from a friend. They'll go in soon. And there are climbing beans and peas planted along two sections of the trellis fence. I have room for two more long rows of beans. One of them will require an extra length of soaker hose.

Wish us luck!

So, the 2021 potager (vegetable garden) is in! Today will be the first day to test how the soaker hose works. Until now, I've watered the garden by hand, filling and lugging watering cans to each plant. Not very efficient. If I spend less time on watering, I will have more time for weeding. That sounds like fun.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

The oregano patch

For lack of new photos, here's a close-up of the oregano patch. It formed years ago when some oregano I had planted in the vegetable garden escaped and naturalized itself as part of the "lawn." I let these patches grow without mowing them so I can harvest and dry it for kitchen use. There's a lot more out there that does get mowed down. I guess it likes growing there.

Patches of oregano ready for harvest.

Interestingly, the oregano doesn't taste like much when it's fresh. Only after drying does it get its intense flavor. A few years ago, we got ourselves a dehydrating machine and started drying vegetables and herbs. Tomato wedges dehydrate well for use as "sun-dried" tomatoes. And the oregano works great. It's time now to start harvesting and drying it so that we'll be able to enjoy it throughout the coming year.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Wildflowers

The most common wildflowers in our yard (aside from dandelions) are yellow renoncules (buttercups), blue véroniques (speedwells or veronicas), and white paquerettes (lawn daisies). They grow as part of our "lawn" and get mowed down a lot. But they thrive, especially when I can't cut the grass for a while because of rain.

Wildlowers and grasses make up most of our lawn.

Last weekend I was able to mow and cut all of these away. Since then, the weather has warmed up and the "grass" is growing again. The flowers are starting to reappear. I'll probably mow again in a day or two, but first I want to get the vegetable garden planted. I redid the soaker hose configuration so that it will water where I need it. There's a section that needs some more hose, but that is being reserved for a third crop of green beans later in the season, so it doesn't need water yet.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Soaker hose

This is my first attempt at configuring the soaker hose in the vegetable garden. The good news is that the hose seems to work just fine. The bad news is that I might need more. I'm going to rework the layout today so that I can get things planted, leaving space for future rows of green and yellow beans. I may have to get another shorter length of hose in the coming weeks.

The first layout attempt comes up a little short, but now I know what I'm dealing with.

The hose is fifty meters long. I may need another ten or fifteen meters to do what I originally planned. I'll see how I feel when I lay it out a little differently. I want to plant the kale and chard plants along the edge of plot (that's closest in the photo) so that if we decide to leave them over winter, they won't be in the middle of the plot when it's time to till it up.

The weather has improved as forecast. I should be able to plant out the seedlings on Saturday. I'll also plant the first row of green bean seeds.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

The west forty

This is the largest section of our back yard, home to the vegetable garden and the garden shed. On the left is one of the two remaining apple trees. The vegetable garden plot is visible in the middle. And, look! There's Tasha on the right!

Looking westerly. The posts on the right edge of the garden plot support a trellis for climbing beans and flowers.
The green clumps in front are the oregano patch. It's time to start harvesting and drying the oregano.

The vegetable garden plot is now ready for seedlings. I added some amendments to the soil on Monday. Yesterday I put up the tomato supports (not in the photo). The last step before planting is to lay down the new soaker hose and make sure it works. I have a plan for that and I'm anxious to see how it works out.

Then the tomato, zucchini, chard, and kale seedlings can go into the ground. I will also plant a first row of green beans. When they sprout and begin to grow, I'll add a second row, then maybe a third as the summer progresses.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The north forty

This is a view of the section of our yard that I call the "north forty." I'm standing under the Himalayan cedar looking east. Our house is on the right. The three birches are the ones coming down this summer. Behind them is the big round juniper bush that is also coming out. It's hard to see, but it's full of tree saplings and thorny blackberry vines and is a general mess. We'll have a bare patch for a while before the grass and wildflowers fill in.

The birch branches on the ground are what's left of what fell on the fence in December. I cut the bigger branches up with a chainsaw and burned them in the wood stove when we ran out of heating fuel a few weeks ago. That metal contraption is a sawhorse.

There's another dead birch next to the carport that is also coming down this summer. It's sad to have lost so many trees in such a short time, but I understand that birches don't have a very lengthy lifespan and they've been here for close to fifty years. Still, it's nice to open the yard up to more light and better views, so there's an upside. We don't have plans to replace the trees or or the juniper in the north forty.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Tasha Tuesday

Here's Tasha standing in front of the damaged sections of our north-side fence. I did my best to tie the fence to the posts, but the guide wires that support it between the posts were severed when the branches fell on them. The wire fence itself is significantly deformed and actually sliced in two at one spot. Still, I think my patch job will keep deer out until the fence can be repaired.

Tasha "helped" me gather downed branches and twigs. One of us had fun.

I see from the weather forecast that our chilly weather will be gradually warming up through the week. It can't happen soon enough. It's time to get the garden planted. The seedlings are wanting out of their pots and into the ground. Hopefully, I'll be able to get that done by the weekend.

Tasha's going in to see the vet on Thursday for her annual shots. I'm scheduled to see my doctor the same day for my normal checkup and prescription renewal. I'll ask him when he thinks I'll get my second covid shot when I see him. And Tasha's got a (much needed) grooming appointment for a week from Friday. Yippee!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Their days are numbered

These three birches stand in what I call the "north forty," the section of our property that is just north of the house. Since we've lived here, it's the shadiest section of the yard, but that is changing. Two years ago, we had the pear tree removed after it died. It was in the northeast corner, just outside the upper right of this photo. Just over a year ago, we had an ailing spruce removed. Now, two of these three birch trees are dead and are scheduled to be taken down this summer. The third may go, too.

Looking north. Tasha stands in front of the section of fencing that was damaged. It's not easy to see in the photo because the fence's green color blends in with the foliage. The piles are some of the smaller branches that I'm saving for kindling.

A big wind storm came through last December that caused the upper branches of the dead birches to come crashing down on the fence that separates the yard from the woods to the north. Yesterday, I took the last of the fallen branches off the fence and tried to fix it up a little until I can get somebody to repair it. One of the fence posts was yanked out of the ground, so that will have to be re-set in a concrete footing before the broken sections of the fencing can be patched.

We had the fence put in nearly eighteen years ago to keep the dog (Collette at the time) inside and to keep the deer out. Unfortunately, the guy who did the work passed away about twelve years ago. I'm going to ask the landscape contractor whose crew will remove the trees if he can fix the fence.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Radis multicolores

Yesterday's market run was successful. I found everything I went for. As usual this time of year, I got une botte d'asperges (a bundle of asparagus that weighs one kilo), deux barquettes de fraises (two containers of strawberries), and une botte de radis multicolores (a bunch of multi-colored radishes).

Brightly colored locally-grown radishes. These are larger than the more common red radishes. We haven't tasted them yet.

I also got twelve nems (Vietnamese fried spring rolls), four each of pork, chicken, and shrimp. They're small and we ate them all with our lunch of Ken's home-made fried rice on Saturday. Delicious. I'll definitely get them again. I also walked down to the butcher shop in town and got a nice slice of faux filet (sirloin) for the grill today.

Because it's a holiday weekend and France just came out of a modified lockdown, the market was bustling with more people than it has been lately. I saw lots of families with children and many other people who were obviously tourists. The lines at most vendors were long, but that was ok. Almost everybody was masked (including myself), even though the market is outdoors. That was reassuring.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Intense

The pivoine (peony) is flowering now. There are more open flowers today than since I took this picture on Monday. The red color is really intense and I have a hard time making the photo look like what I actually see, but it's close.

Peonies in the back yard.

Today is market day in Saint-Aignan. I'm going for asparagus, strawberries, radishes, and some nems (what the French call Vietnamese fried spring rolls). There's an Asian vendor at the market selling nems, fried rice, and other Asian food. I think he has a restaurant in town, but like other restaurants, it hasn't been open since covid. We can get pretty good commercial nems in the supermarket, but I'd like to try this guy's for a change (and it helps to support local vendors).

I finished cutting the grass on Friday, both the south and north forties. I had a burst of energy, and I wanted to get it done ahead of any rain we might have this weekend. Earlier in the morning I made another run to the dump and got rid of a bunch of things that were cluttering up the garage. There's still a long way to go, but getting started feels good.

Tomorrow is Pentecost, which means that Monday is a holiday making this a three-day weekend in France. I wonder if the market will be more crowded than usual this morning.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Our first artichoke of the year

It's one of two or three little artichokes on our biggest plant. Not enough to do anything with except watch it/them go to flower.

It's a small artichoke, about two or three inches high.

Ken got the final tilling done in the garden plot on Thursday and it looks great. Once the rain and chilly weather calms down, I'll be able to plant our seedlings out and sow bean seeds. But first I need to set up the tomato tripods and lay out the new soaker hose for watering. I was also productive yesterday: I took a large load of cardboard to the dump. It's nice to get all that clutter (Amazon boxes mostly) gone. I'm planning a second trip today to take our collection of old paint and paint cans. More clutter heading out.

And I got the west forty cut. If the predicted rain holds off, I'll get another section of the yard mowed today.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Pivoine et artichaut

Our pivoine (peony) is in flower now. It seems like it took a while longer than usual. That might be because our spring has been less warm than in recent years. The artichokes are doing well, too. The one in the middle is the largest of the three. We're expecting a day or two without rain, so I'm hopeful that I'll get some grass cut, starting today.

Behind our two apple trees you can see the row of dead hazelnuts that will be removed this summer.

Our central heating boiler is still having problems. The flame keeps going out, especially on windy mornings. We had another technician out to look at it on Monday and he agrees that the wind is the likely culprit. He also agrees that the best solution is to hook the exhaust up to the old boiler's chimney. When the new boiler was installed, the exhaust was routed out through the side of the house using a special exhaust/intake system called une ventouse (a forced pressure system used with condensation boilers). In our house, it's on the south wall, directly exposed to the prevailing southwest winds.

We're waiting to hear what this re-routing of the exhaust/intake line might cost. By the way, this morning there is no wind and the boiler is working normally. Yesterday was windy, and the flame blew out several times requiring us to reset the system manually. We think the evidence is pretty clear: it's the wind.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Funky feline fotos

It's been a while since Bert sat for his portrait at the same time that I had the camera out. Tuesday was the day! Here he is in the west forty, a favorite hunting ground, on the lookout for a mouse or vole. He's getting one or two every day now. And, yes, he eats them.

Bert just turned fifteen years old. He still loves to hunt.

By the way, this is what our yard looks like when I can't mow. It's been too wet recently, so all the little plants and wildflowers can flourish. I'm hopeful that over the next few days I'll be able to get out there and cut them all down. They're pretty, but if I don't get them under control they'll grow to be waist-high.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Tuesday (with Tasha)

I can't really call this "Tasha Tuesday" because she's hardly visible in the photo. But she's in there. This is the spot where we turn around on our morning walks to head back home. More or less the half-way point of our walk. The dirt road we walk on through the vineyards ends where it meets two paved roads. Cars move quickly on the paved roads, so we don't walk on them.

Tasha rarely comes out to the intersection with me. She waits further back.

I used to walk with Callie along these paved roads. She was afraid enough of cars that, if one approached, she'd sit down in the grass until it passed. Tasha wants to run around moving vehicles to get behind them, and when she does it looks as though she's charging the oncoming car. It's usually ok on the dirt road where vehicles don't move as quickly; I have time to get her attention and move her away from the car into a vine row. But that doesn't work on the paved roads. So we stay off them, unless I've got her on a leash.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Moon over sunrise

I took this photo a few Saturdays ago. As the sun rose behind me, the close-to-half moon was starting to set out toward the west. I had the 24mm wide angle lens on the camera for a much broader view of these vineyard parcels than I usually get with the 50mm lens.

The moon is just visible in the upper left of the photo.

Our landscape contractor emailed me the other day to say that he's got us scheduled for late June/early July. He and his crew are going to renovate the garden path, remove a row of dead hazelnut trees, take down three dead birches, and rip out an overgrown juniper shrub. It's a lot of work but it should be a real improvement and I'm looking forward to it. Still no word from the deck contractor about a specific date for his job. I'm willing to bet that it will happen at the same time as the yard work. Chaos!

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Hot house tomatoes and other delights

Not that it's hot. The tomatoes are growing crazily and should be planted in the ground now. But the wet weather means I'd have to plant them in mud. Not what I want to do. And it's not warm. So in the green house they'll stay for the time being.

Plants in the green house a few days ago.

I've heard nothing in response to my question about the Blogger malware and virus issue from the user forum. I can't find anything about it on the internet, either. Typical. Thanks to all my readers who responded yesterday. I feel reassured now that it's them (Blogger), not us! I got nine more messages yesterday afternoon from Google saying that, after further review, they've found nothing and reinstated my deleted blog posts. I had to manually re-post them all because they were restored as drafts (thanks for the tip, Judy!).

There is either some bad bot out there reporting randomly to mess with the system, or Google has some over-active automated search and detect program running. Either way, it seems to be fixed for the time being.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Window boxes

Here are the surfinias (cascading petunias) that I planted in the kitchen window boxes on Thursday. As they grow, the plants will spill out of the boxes with an appealing cascade of color. If I'm lucky.

A nice splash of color under the kitchen window.

I got nine email notifications that Blogger deleted nine of my posts from this past March for violations of their Malware and Virus policy. This completely stumps me. I thought the messages were spam, but it looks like they are legit; those posts are indeed gone. I just can't imagine what was in those posts that could be considered a malware or virus danger. The posts are consecutive (which is suspect) and are, for all intents and purposes, the same as every other post on this blog. I reviewed the comments that I published for those posts (they're still accessible) and I see nothing nefarious.

Ken wondered if it might have something to do with the third-party widgets (clock and weather) on my sidebar. Those widgets exist in the overall blog template, not in individual posts, so I don't see how they could be the issue. Still, I've disabled them for the time being, just in case.

I've asked about this on the Blogger community forum and am waiting for replies. Ken has not seen this happen on his blog. I wonder if any of my readers who use blogger might have experienced a similar problem?

Friday, May 14, 2021

Me and my shadow

Well, my shadow, no me. The weather remains very spring-like. And not in a good way. It's not warm. We're having wind and rain squalls. Can't really do much outside.

Looking west on a sunny morning a couple of Sundays ago.

I did have a successful trip to the market over in Selles-sur-Cher yesterday. I got the flowering plants for the kitchen window boxes. I chose a two-toned deep red surfinia (cascading petunia). The choice was difficult because there were some very interesting colors to choose from. I planted them after lunch. I'll take photos one of these days. And I also got some strawberries for dessert. Tasty.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Chard

These are blettes (Swiss chard), sometimes also called bettes and many other names depending on where you are. Once the seedlings get bigger, they'll go out into the garden. We've had great success in the past with this white-stemmed chard, not so great with other colors. I think the white-stemmed stuff is more common where we live than other varieties.

Blette (chard) sprouts. The seedlings have pink stems, but they'll turn white as the plants grow.

Now that the saints de glace are behind us (today is the last day), we should be able to plant our seedlings outside. But first we need some dry weather for the final dirt tilling. We're in a showery period right now, and temperatures are on the chilly side, so the seedlings will continue to hang out in the green house. I may start hardening the tomatoes, though, by putting them outdoors during the day.

Blettes on the left, tomatoes on the right. The unruly looking plant you see reaching out from the left is a parsley volunteer that grew last year on the greenhouse floor. We're letting it go to seed in hopes of getting another plant or two this year.

Good news: the old chest freezer is now empty. I pulled the plug on it yesterday and this morning it's almost completely defrosted (there's still some ice in the bottom). Next, we'll drain it and clean it up for its second life as a storage locker in the garage.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Wisteria

Our wisteria was really nice this year. The flowers were abundant, but now they're winding down. The past few rain events took their toll on the petals, and now the leaves are growing as the flowers diminish. This is one of the few photos I took during the wisteria's peak.

Wisteria. Glycine in French.

Tomorrow (Thursday) is l'Ascension (Ascension Day), a national holiday in France. Many people will faire le pont (make the bridge) by taking Friday off for a four-day weekend. The weather is not expected to be great, at least not in our area. There's a Thursday market a few towns away that I'd like to go to for some flowers to plant in our kitchen window boxes. Whether or not I go will depend on how much, if any, rain is expected. I was going to go last week, but the rain stopped me.

Yesterday I had another of those "senior moments" that are becoming all to frequent. I had a supermarket coupon for some organic sandwich bread that looked worth a try. I carefully selected the brand, type, and amount of bread specified on the coupon but, by the time I got to the checkout, I completely forgot the coupon in my pocket. Oh well. It doesn't expire until July, so maybe I'll try again in a few weeks.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Tasha Tuesday

Here's a recent photo (well, two weeks) of Tasha on one of our morning walks. She's doing what dogs do best: sniffing around on the ground.

A walk with Tasha on a chilly spring morning.

I've done nothing about making a grooming appointment for her. Or for myself, for that matter. I really need a haircut. Tasha is also due for her annual vaccinations some time this month. And I'm due for my second dose of the covid vaccine.

I feel like I'm in a holding pattern. Waiting for the weather to warm up. Waiting to plant the garden. Waiting for the deck work to start. Waiting for the landscaper to schedule us. Waiting to see the doctor. Waiting to get the dog groomed. Waiting to get a haircut. Inertia is a strong force. And it's winning.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Green-ish thumb

Three pots. Two bare. One thriving. I'm still waiting for the basilic (basil) and turnip green seeds to sprout. But the weeds are doing well. I might as well take the credit.

Basil on the left, turnip greens on the right. Weeds out in front.


The tomatoes, zukes, and Swiss chard are also doing quite well. The tomatoes are almost ready to be hardened off and planted out. That will have to wait, though, until the frost danger is over and Ken gets a chance to do the final tilling of the garden plot.

In French folklore, the next three days are known as les saints de glace (the ice saints), the last of the coldest days when frost can still occur. Certainly, frost can happen later and warm weather can happen earlier, but tradition holds that you shouldn't plant frost-sensitive plants outside until after les saints de glace. I'll follow along.

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Cuisses de pintade farcies

I found these delicious-looking mini roasts at the poultry vendor's stand on Saturday. They're Guinea fowl legs, boned and stuffed with seasoned ground poultry, wrapped in a strip of pork fat and topped with a slice of bacon and a bay leaf. I was looking for something to grill and these fit the bill.

Two servings of stuffed pintade (Guinea fowl) legs, ready for the grill.

Ken made a gratin dauphinois (similar to what we used to call scalloped potatoes). He added some grated cheese to the top for extra flavor. While the potatoes cooked in the oven, I grilled the artfully tied pintade parcels.

Ken's version of a rustic potato gratin, ready for the oven.

Here's what they all looked like just before serving. We started with a salad of steamed white asparagus, chilled, as an appetizer course.

Above, the cuisses de pintade farcies. Below, the gratin dauphinois.

The guy from whom I buy the asparagus had his first strawberries yesterday. They weren't his usual Charlotte variety, but garriguettes, another well known strawberry in France. The cool weather we've had has slowed the strawberries down, but he said he thinks he may have Charlottes next weekend. He told me he didn't think the garriguettes, an early variety, were as tasty as the Charlottes. Ken and I both thought they were delicious.