Saturday, July 31, 2021

Red rover, red rover

Send purple on over! A while back I mentioned that, in addition to white trefle (clover) flowers, the vineyards were also full of clover with purple flowers. These are the standard three-leafed variety. I have yet to find a four-leafed clover.

Purple clover. You can see a few white flowers on the left.

I grilled a big turkey leg yesterday that Ken will turn into turkey salad for today's lunch. We'll also finish our first batch of green and yellow beans as a salad in vinaigrette. I'm going to the Saturday market in Saint-Aignan this morning for some moules (mussels) for Sunday's lunch. We haven't had mussels in a while. I'll make frites (French fries) to go with them. I'm hungry already.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Cactus flowers

I believe this is a variety of "prickly pear" cactus, given to us by a friend many years ago. It's blooming right now.

Le monde entier est un cactus.

The expected warm-up predicted for this week has -- wait for it -- fizzled. We got up to the mid 20sC yesterday, the low 70sF. Not exactly summery, especially for late July. Now it's going to cool down again. And more rain is predicted for the weekend. Lovely. Maybe it will warm up for Halloween.

Thursday, July 29, 2021


I picked the first batch of beans from the vegetable garden this week. There are more green beans than yellow so far. I should get at least one more batch like this, maybe more, in the coming week or so. Weeds were choking the plants, but I pulled many of them out to help with air circulation and sunlight (when there is sun) and the beans responded.

Fresh green and yellow beans from the garden.

The zukes are producing a couple of squash every few days and they're good. I've seen a lot of tomatoes (and no blossom-end rot!), but they're going to need better weather to get bigger and to ripen.We're told that it will warm up some starting today. It hasn't been too cold, but it feels more like early October out there than the end of July.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

They look like aliens

But they're just wildflowers. These are several of the little wildflowers that grow in and around all the vineyards out back. They're easy to overlook, but when you do look, it's amazing how many and how varied they are.


I went outside with the dog before sunrise this morning and marveled at how beautiful it was. It felt just like fall. Ugh.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021


Someone has been planting corn (maize) in a couple of fields out among the grape vines. At first the parcels were planted in millet for a year or two, but now it's corn. It's curious because I never see any irrigation going on out there, and I know that corn needs to be watered, except maybe for this year because it's been so wet. A lot of corn is grown down in the river valley, but even there it's regularly irrigated.

Not quite as high as an elephant's eye.

It looks like we'll be having some decent weather through the end of this week, so it is time to get back outside and continue the battle. I want to continue working on eliminating the little garden path by pulling up the rock border. And the weeds need some taming in the vegetable garden. I saw at least one red tomato out there, and the green and yellow beans are starting to produce.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Out with the old...

...and in with the new. Ken did this post yesterday, but I thought I'd do a version, too. We got a new sofa last week. The old one is now about ten years old and it shows. It's getting a little threadbare in spots. Plus, the last time we washed the cushion covers we had a hard time getting them back on. Two zippers broke. We decided it was time.

The chair on the left still has the old shabby slip cover, the one on the right has the new sleeker look.

We wanted a real three seater. The old sofa was a little smaller with only two cushions to sit on. And we wanted to change out the beige for a more interesting color. As you can see, the new sofa is blue. The two side chairs are from Ikea, bought years ago, with blue slip covers. The slip covers are also showing wear, so we're experimenting with new third-party covers. Ikea no longer has covers that we like, so the internet came to the rescue.

The old set-up in a photo from February 2016.

The next project is to replace the eighteen year old sheer curtains in the room. They are actually starting to disintegrate where they hang from the rod (you can see one of them starting to fall in the top photo). It was nice to clear everything out of the room and do a good cleaning behind and under things, including taking up the rug and mopping the whole floor. It's funny, but we've never lived in one place long enough to have to replace the things we bought or replaced when we arrived. Before our house could get dirty, we moved. Just kidding. Kind of.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

And speaking of daisies

These are some domesticated standard garden variety daisies in our yard. We have a patch (un massif ?) that comes back every year. They're about three feet tall and look wonderful when they flower. Once the flowers fade they look a little sad, then in the fall they turn brown and die back. I have to cut and remove the dead stems before they re-sprout the following spring.

Daisies in the garden.

We're expecting some rain today. We'll see how much we get. I may have to turn on the soaker hose for the first time in a long time.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Wild daisies

I saw this patch of wild daisies growing at the end of a row of grape vines out in the vineyard. It's not the only one. We're entering what I call "high summer" when the summer wildflowers are at their peak. Chicory, carrot (Queen Anne's lace), different varieties of wort, and daisies like these are among the wildflowers that proliferate in the heat of the summer vineyards. Not that we've had a hot summer this year, except for the past week.

These little flower heads are not more than an inch across.

These are the wildflowers that will see us into fall, although it's still too early to think about that. It's starting to cool down a little now as a new weather system moves in from the Atlantic. The light thunder and rain that was predicted for over night did not happen. Still, rain is predicted again for this afternoon and tomorrow.

Friday, July 23, 2021


The zucchini has started producing and we're enjoying cooking with it. Yesterday I sliced and grilled some, along with eggplant, to go with a couple of grilled chicken breasts. Yum!

We don't eat the blossoms.

Today is supposed to be the hottest day of the week, with the temperature rising over 30ºC (86ºF). Then a front is expected to come through and cool things back down to normal (mid 20s, not bad) over the weekend. All the grass is now cut. For now. I'm sure I'll be doing it again next week.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The state of the grapes

They're growing. The grape bunches are getting bigger as the individual grapes plump up. It's too early for color, that is the red grapes actually turning red, so to tell what variety this is, one has to recognize the shape of the leaves or, if you're a grower, know (and remember) what is planted where. I'm guessing that this is sauvignon blanc based on the leaf shape.

The blue tint on the leaves is sprayed copper sulfate to help prevent fungus.

In the never-ending saga of yard work, Ken did some major weed trimming in the hedges yesterday. The worst things that grow in the hedges are wild roses and blackberries. Very thorny, very hardy. I got the west forty mowed even though it was a little too wet (from dew). Today I hope to finish up this round with the north forty. We're expecting a rain system to move in over the weekend.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Little yellow flowers

I can't identify these yellow daisy-like flowers. There are so many that look very similar, and I'm no expert. They grow wild all around us. The blooms are small and clustered. This one is growing right outside our hedge out back.

Summer wildflowers.

The warm weather continues. It's nice, especially when there is a breeze. I mowed the strips outside our hedges yesterday afternoon, but I didn't do more because it was a little too warm, dare I say hot, for me. I prefer to cut the grass in the morning, but it's been wet with heavy dew these past few days. It'll get done eventually.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Oregano flowers

Here's a close up of the flowers on the oregano plants in our yard/garden. I planted the oregano many years ago in a section of the vegetable garden that I wanted to become an herb garden. It didn't quite work out that way. But the oregano survived. It escaped the garden plot and is now coming up all over our yard. I let the patch closest to garden grow and I get a good harvest every spring. The rest gets mowed, but it's still there.

Purple oregano flowers. I haven't tried to eat them.

Speaking of mowing, I got the south 40 done on Monday. Today I hope to make more progress. You know what they say: make hay while the sun shines!

Monday, July 19, 2021

Where the wild things go

This "hole" in the woods leads into a ravine and to a small stream that runs down to the river. Tasha likes to sniff around this spot, but she doesn't go inside. I have gone in from another angle only to find the junk that someone once dumped in there. Otherwise, it is the realm of deer, foxes, rabbits, and who knows what other wild creatures.

Would you go inside?

The Tour de France ended with a spectacular weather day in Paris yesterday. The cyclists rode through the Cour Carrée at the Louvre and around the pyramid in the Cour Napoléon before heading toward Concorde and the Champs-Elysées. That was pretty cool. The aerial photography didn't disappoint, but I wish they had done more.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Le massif de marguerites

Here's our daisy patch, now in full flower. I suppose it qualifies as un massif, building on yesterday's post. In English, we might call this a flower "bed." In Britain, flower beds are also called "borders," usually planted with many varieties of flowers and shrubs. As Judy commented yesterday, the French use the word parterre (literally, "on the ground"), although I associate that primarily with flower beds in very formal gardens like the Tuileries or at Versailles, for example. They also use the word plate-bande to designate a "border" or any narrow strip of ground planted in flowers or shrubs.

Like a drunk in a midnight choir.

So that's enough language for today! Yesterday's predicted high of 27ºC (about 80ºF) never materialized. We just barely made it above 20º (about 68ºF). The weather people still say we will hit 27º and 28º today and for the next few days. We shall see.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Le jardin

Like the British, the French use the word jardin (garden) for what Americans call the "yard." A vegetable garden is un potager, a flower garden is un massif. In Britain, a yard is what we would call a courtyard, or une cour in French. So, this is a photo of le potager dans notre jardin.

Left to right: the vegetable garden, the oregano patch, the apple trees, and the grape vines.
De gauche à droite: le potager, le massif d'origan, les pommiers, et les vignes.

I took this photo a day or so after cutting the grass in the west and north forties last week. It's grown a lot since then. Time to mow!

Friday, July 16, 2021

Fleur d'artichaut

Our artichokes are blooming now. Since I took this photo last weekend, several more of the deep blue flowers have opened up. If you don't eat the artichokes, this is what they become. And the bees and other pollinators love them.

Our back yard artichokes.

This year the buds seem to be bigger than in recent years. I'm thinking that it's because of all the rain we've had. I do water these when it's dry, but this year I haven't had to and I think Mother Nature is giving them more water than I do. Perhaps I should have tried to harvest and eat a couple of these. Too late now!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The path to nowhere

For years now I've been wanting to get rid of this little winding path through our back yard. It serves no purpose at all. It's more or less a gravel loop from the end of the main garden walkway to the middle of the main garden walkway.

A section of the little garden path, choked with weeds. I stopped treating them this year.

The problem with the path is that, as you can see in the first photo, it fills up with weeds. Every year I spray herbicide on the gravel to eliminate the weeds, which are never really eliminated. And the lawnmower will not cut the weeds on the edges of the path because it's lined with large rocks that catch the blade. The path is basically a useless waste of maintenance time and effort.

My first efforts: digging up the border rocks and concrete in this section.

So this year I'm starting the removal process. The first step is to take out the border rocks. It's taking a little more effort than I thought it would because, as I discovered, the rocks are set into a thin layer of concrete. I'm using a pick axe to break it up (not too difficult, but time consuming). Once the border rocks are gone, I'll start filling the path in with mulch. Over time the grass and weeds that make up the "lawn" will fill in and I'll be able to keep them under control with the mower.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Fête nationale

Today is 14 July, le quatorze juillet, which we Americans call Bastille Day.

Bonne fête !

Tuesday, July 13, 2021


The oregano patch is flowering now. There are more flowers than I've seen before, probably because of all the rain we've had this season compared to the dry, hot summers we've had for so many years. I harvested and dried a good amount of oregano before the flowering started.

The oregano patch in bloom.

We're expecting another day of rain. Yesterday started out rainy, but we actually had some sun later in the afternoon. So far, this has been un été pourri. A rotten summer.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Guess what? It's raining

The rain is back. For a couple of days, at least. I'm glad to have had a few dry days to cut the grass. I wonder when the next opportunity will be? With all this rain, it's growing at a faster clip than it has in recent years.

I had enough good weather to get all sections of the yard cut last week.

The rain is also slowing down our garden contractor's work, not to mention his having to make up for lost time due to covid lockdowns over the past year or so. He originally told me that he thought he could get the work (removing trees, shrubs, and renovating our garden path) done last December. Then it became end of June/beginning of July). I haven't heard from him yet. And no word from the contractor who's going (we hope) to do the deck renovation. It's been about eight months since we approved his estimate. I called a few months ago and was assured that we're on the list and would be scheduled soon. I'm going to have to look up the word "soon" in the dictionary because I thought it meant something else.

Sunday, July 11, 2021


Wherever there is open space around us, the tall grasses and wildflowers thrive. This is a space between the vineyard road and the old storage cabin out there. Every once in a while, the growers will come by with a mower and cut it down, but that hasn't happened in this spot for a while.

Wildflowers and grasses.

We're expecting a nice day today. Dry with a high in the mid twenties (mid seventies F). I should get an outdoor project done in advance of yet another couple of chilly rain systems predicted for Monday and Tuesday. Ugh.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Neat and trim

The past few days have seen a lot of trimming going on out in the vineyards. A small tractor, fitted with cutting blades, slices the long vine tendrils from the plant to help direct the plant's energy to making grapes rather than leaves. The result is row after row of neat-looking rectangular vines.

Compare and contrast: untrimmed vines on the left, trimmed vines on the right.

The weather cooperated yesterday and I got the west and north 40s mowed. Yay! I have one other mowing job to do and that's a narrow strip outside our north fence. But first I have to get back there with the pruning shears to lop off the monster thorny brambles that like to fill in the empty spaces. The thorns are big and sharp and they'll cut me to pieces if I don't take them out first.

Friday, July 09, 2021


In the past few years, cattails started appearing in the little pond outside our back gate. This year, the patch is bigger than it's ever been. I suppose the seeds blew in on the wind from down in the river valley and found a good place to put down roots, as it were. I had to look up what they're called in French. I didn't even know they grew here. According to Wikipedia, they're called typha, massettes, or quenouilles

Cattails in the pond out back. The rest of the pond is choked with yellow flowering "jussie" (ludwigia).

I got out with the mower yesterday and did the south 40. There were a few patches where the grass was thick and wet and the engine stalled a few times. But it's done. We're expecting another "dry" day today, so I'm planning to cut the rest (the west and north 40s) today. Meanwhile, the weeds are still growing in the vegetable garden.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Roses among the weeds

Weeds are thriving everywhere this year. Only those most diligent and willing to work in the mud (not me) can keep ahead of them. There's one vegetable garden down the hill from us that looks pristine (weed-free). The elderly couple who live there have a gardener to help them. I'm sure others do, too.

A little wild, but still very pretty. Country living!

This fence and rose bushes belong to one of our neighbors. This is her vacation home and she doesn't live here full time. She employs a man who comes periodically to cut the grass. I expect we'll be seeing him again very soon. In my yard, the grass and weeds in the south 40 are getting too tall as well. I'm going to try to cut it today, in fact. No rain is predicted.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

A little progress

The other day I got to do some weeding. Just the easy stuff. There are still a lot of weeds choking the vegetable plants. More work to do.

The oregano is blooming!

If things ever dry out, I'll be able to do some more. Because of the rain, the ground is a little messy. I haven't had to water in more than a month. Thank goodness for that soaker hose, eh?

Tuesday, July 06, 2021


We didn't plant this rose; it was here when we moved in. Every year I prune it back and every year it makes these pretty pinkish flowers. But it stays kind of leggy, never really filling out the way other rose bushes in the neighborhood do. Maybe I should feed it more.

The color is not quite right in this photo, but it's as close as I can get.

Just in case you're wondering, our weather is not really improving much. Lots of wind yesterday and through the night with intermittent rain. I'm making a winery run this morning to stock up on rosé and red. I also plan to stop at a shop that sells curtains to check out what sizes they have. The sheers in our living room are eighteen years old and it shows. Parts of them are actually disintegrating. We planned to replace them last year, but then covid hit and the stores closed down. So we lost steam. Now it's time to get moving again.

Monday, July 05, 2021

It's grapes!

The flowering stage is just about over and grapes are forming in the vineyards out back. Meanwhile, the growers and other workers are busy trimming, mowing, and plowing.

Grapes forming on the vines out back.

I'm still hopeful that our weather will turn into summer at some point. So far, it's been pretty much a washout. This morning the sky is deeply overcast after a rain system moved through in the wee hours. The sun's up, but it's still pretty dark out there. Tasha and I will go for our morning walk in a little while and try to avoid the puddles.

I got a new gas bottle for the grill yesterday and replaced the détendeur (regulator) since I had a second one. I keep two gas bottles so that if one runs out while I'm grilling a meal, I'm able to replace it on the spot. The grill works fine and I cooked some sausages for lunch. I've learned my lesson that I should turn the gas off at the bottle after every use rather than count on the grill controls to cut off the gas.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Party across the road

Our neighbors across the road had a garden party on Saturday. They set up the big tent in the rain on Saturday morning, but the rain stopped (mostly) in the afternoon. They were still at it at 01h00 this morning, but there was no disturbing noise to keep us from sleeping.

The neighbors were still setting up when I took this photo from our kitchen window. Most of the 40 or 50 guests had yet to arrive.

I turned on the grill to cook yesterday's lunch and nothing happened. The gas bottle, which is fairly new, was completely empty. A leak! I don't know if the bottle is defective or if there's a leak in the regulator or the grill itself. Thank goodness that it sits outside where the butane could dissipate. I will get a new, full bottle this morning and test to see if I can find a leak. It's always something.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

A warm morning

This is what summer is supposed to feel like. The outdoor temperature when I got up around 06h00 was 18ºC (about 65ºF). Not hot, not chilly. Just right. If only it would last! We're expecting some light rain to come in later this morning. I don't think I'll have time to cut grass before it rains. It's market day in town and I'm going in for a few things.

This is before pruning. In the center is a pink rose surrounded by a thicket of daisies.

The photo is looking south toward the ornamental prunus tree on the left and the big forsythia on the right. I got the electric hedge trimmers out yesterday and cut the forsythia back a bit so that I can get under it with the lawnmower. I also trimmed the small forsythia (out of the photo to the right) and the tamarisk (I think that's what it is) branches that still grow out of the tree's stump after all these years. There's also a low-hanging branch in the prunus that needs to be cut off, but I'll do that another time.

Friday, July 02, 2021

Being green

It's easy, so far this summer. The reason? Rain. We're having a break right now, but I'm not sure how long it will last. I got the small electric rototiller out yesterday and started attacking the weeds in the vegetable garden. I made good progress with a little more to do today. I also sliced my new soaker hose with the tiller blades, but was able to repair it with some parts from the connector kit. The grass in the south forty is ready to be cut again. The rest of the yard is not far behind.

Lots of lush green this year.

Bert wasn't home last night before bedtime. I'm not sure when he came home. I must have been sleeping well. I woke up at 02h30 and noticed him asleep on the couch, so I went downstairs and closed his window and turned the lights off.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

The weeds are winning

This will serve as the "before" shot. The next few days are predicted to be dry and warm, and we have our work cut out for us. We need to try to get the vegetable garden under control after weeks of rainy weather. The tomatoes, zukes, beans, chard, and eggplant are all looking good, but the weeds are looking better.

It's not easy to see them, but there are vegetables in there.

I'll start by running our small electric rototiller between the rows. Then we'll use a hoe and another weeding tool to do some of the more delicate work. Hopefully, I'll have a better looking "after" shot.