Wednesday, June 30, 2021

When there was sun

We had some bright, sunny days a couple of weeks ago. Since then, it's been more or less cloudy or rainy. Yesterday, the clouds let some sun through most of the day and it felt good, but still chilly. The forecast is for the sun to come back and temperatures to warm up again through the weekend. The garden will like that.

Let's hope July is more like this than June was.

I'm probably as sick of writing about the weather as you are reading about it. The cat just brought a mouse indoors and the dog is barking, ready for her walk. Another day begins.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Tasha Tuesday

After I cut the grass in the south 40 last week, I went outside to take some photos. Guess who came with me? These are the strips along the road, outside the hedges. Ours is on the right, our neighbor's is on the left. I've been mowing her strip for a year or so after she asked if I could do it once. It takes just a couple of minutes and it makes the road look nicer.

Tasha in our road. The neighbor's hedge (left) needs some work.

That neighbor will be moving soon. She sold her house several months ago and I think the new neighbors will move in some time in July. I won't continue cutting that strip once they're in. In fact, I think last week may have been the last time. It will be interesting to see how they change things.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Oy vey

Pardon my Yiddish. These are the Jerusalem artichokes that grow in front of the garden shed. I planted them there many years ago and they come back every year. Despite their name, the plants have nothing to do with Jerusalem nor are they related to artichokes. The English-language name comes from a deformation of the Italian girasole (tournesol in French), which means "turns with the sun," the name for sunflowers. I read that the artichoke part of the name came from the flavor of the tubers (called topinambours in France) which reminds people of artichokes.

These have a long way to grow before they start to flower later in the summer.

The weather has not improved. We had rain most of the day on Sunday and are expecting scattered showers for the next few days. And it's not warm. Oy gevalt!

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Tour de France 2021 in Saint-Aignan

The 2021 Tour de France bicycle race got under way yesterday in Brittany. This year the tour's route takes it through our own back yard, almost literally. On Thursday (July 1), the sixth stage will start in the city of Tours and follow the Loire River up to Amboise, turn south to the Cher Valley and follow the river up to Saint-Aignan. The riders will turn south again to cross the bridge, ride through Saint-Aignan, past the zoo, and then continue south to Châteauroux.

A map of the Stage 6 route. Saint-Aignan is in the middle, marked by the red "4" marking the "Saint-Aignan Incline" (which is not much of an incline). Click on the map to make it a little bigger. Image from

The Tour has come through our region once before since we've lived here, but nowhere near this close to our house. We won't head into town to see it, but we will be watching it on television. If the weather is good, then we should see some great aerial views of our area, including some of the famous châteaux around us.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Hydrangea with ramp

I need to take some new photos. These are two of the hydrangeas that I grew from cuttings many years ago. The other two, planted on the other side of the garage door, died last year. I probably didn't water them enough. The window goes into the garage and the plank is Bert's ramp in. He comes and goes as he pleases until I lock him indoors at night. Of course, he has to come in around bedtime for that.

It's not elegant, but it works.

When the days are long in summer, the sun doesn't set until around 22h00 (10pm), so it stays light beyond bedtime and Bert stays out with it. Last night he came in around 22h30, with a live mouse. I usually hear him come in because he meows as he climbs the stairs. I get up out of bed and go down two flights to close the garage window. More often than not, he brings a mouse in with him. He has a special loud meow when he's got a mouse, dead or alive. When this happens, sometimes as late at 02h00, I have to be sure the mouse is dead and not released live into the house before I shut the window. The other night, Bert played with a mouse for about ten minutes while I not-so-patiently tried to get him to finish it off. Bert eats mice head first, so when I hear the crunch of the skull, I know the mouse is dead and I can go back to bed. Not fun.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Wild bellflower

Not much to say about these campanules sauvages (wild bellflower) other than that they show up every summer here and there among the tall grasses adjacent to the vineyard parcels out back.

I took the background color out of the photo to highlight the blossoms.

I really want to get out and cut the grass today. Maybe this afternoon. Heavy morning dew makes the grass too wet to cut until close to mid-day. If it dries out enough before lunch, I'll give it a go. We're not expecting any rain until over night. Fingers crossed.

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


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


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


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


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


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.