Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Change is our friend

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 30, 2021

Setting seed

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

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

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

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Regaining control

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

The sorry state of the 2021 vegetable garden.

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

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

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The equatorial dome

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 27, 2021

Sunrise with contrails

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

The sunrise over our little hamlet on Thursday.

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

Thursday, August 26, 2021


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

An insect on a cosmos petal.

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

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

What are these?

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

Anybody know?

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Spaghetti alla Nerano

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

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

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

Monday, August 23, 2021

Cookin' with(out) gas

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

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

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

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Too soon?

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

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

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

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Kornfield Kounty

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

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

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

Friday, August 20, 2021

Parts is parts

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

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

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

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Fly away

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

The flower heads look like little pineapples.

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

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Bring me some figgy pudding

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Tasha Tuesday

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

Tasha stands in a patch of clover.

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

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

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

Monday, August 16, 2021

Good for your heart

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

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

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

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Don't get saucy with me

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

Garden tomatoes coming to the simmer.

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

Saturday, August 14, 2021

The last grate

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

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

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

Friday, August 13, 2021

Hol(e)y grate, Batman

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

Grate, Mennetou-sur-Cher, May 2006.

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

Thursday, August 12, 2021

It's just one of those years

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

A meager harvest from 18 tomato plants.

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

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

I shutter to think...

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

I have a feeling we're being watched

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

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

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

Monday, August 09, 2021


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

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

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

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Very neat

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

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

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

Saturday, August 07, 2021


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

Un planeur, 2006.

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

Friday, August 06, 2021

Green neck

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

A male colvert in the Sologne, May 2006.

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

Thursday, August 05, 2021

That darned cat

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Pâte à pizza

I made pizza for lunch on Tuesday, as planned. The first step, of course, is to make the pâte (dough). I made a whole wheat dough using half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour. The all-purpose flour lightens the dough and helps with the rising. After about three hours of rising, I punched the dough down and kneaded it a little to redistribute the yeast. Next, I divided the dough into two pâtons (balls of dough) and let them rise for another hour.

One of two pâtons, risen and ready to go.

For toppings, we had a small portion of meat sauce left over from another meal in the fridge. I chopped up some leftover grilled zucchini and eggplant slices and a couple of ripe tomatoes from the garden. Ken grated some comté cheese. I added a few Greek-style black olives to the top.

Pizza #2, baked and served!

I don't roll out the crust like I used to do. I discovered that rolling the dough pushes the air out and makes for a rather thin, tough crust. Now I form the pizza discs by hand. It's a lot easier than I expected it to be. I make one pizza first and we split it. When it's gone, we take a break while I top and bake the second pizza. We served them with a red Bergerac. These were quite good, if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021


What makes me think that I took the last two photos in the small town of Mennetou-sur-Cher is that among them is this one, which is definitely of Mennetou. The old center still has part of its medieval wall, including a couple of portals like the one in this picture. And there's a plaque on one of them that says, more or less, Joan of Arc slept here. She set the example for George Washington to follow centuries later.

One of the portals in Mennetou-sur-Cher, May 2006.

You might be surprised, but our weather sucks. Summer has taken a holiday. A long holiday. The weather is not really unpleasant, and it's certainly better than sweltering in extreme heat and high humidity. But it's still a little weird to be sleeping under blankets and wearing fleece jackets in early August. At least here where we live. Oh well. This, too, shall pass.

Monday, August 02, 2021

More from the Sologne

I'm not sure where this photo was taken, but it might be in the small town of Mennetou-sur-Cher. I know we were there with our California friends back in 2006 and spent a little time wandering around in the old center.

A pretty street scene, possibly in Mennetou-sur-Cher, May 2006.

Ken and I really enjoyed our lunch of moules et frites (mussels and fries) yesterday. It was so good that I'm thinking of going over to a neighboring town's market on Friday for some more. That market has at least three fish mongers and I'll do some comparison shopping. Ken's blog post for today has some photos of our lunch.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Somewhere in the Sologne

The Sologne is a historical province in central France a little south and west of Orléans, south of the Loire River. Where we live is on its southwestern edge. In fact, Saint-Aignan is at the intersection of three historical provinces: la Sologne, le Berry, and la Touraine. This is a photo taken somewhere in that region from back in 2006 when we were exploring with some friends from California. This week's image of the week (in the sidebar), the Château de la Ferté-Imbault, was also taken then.

A Renault 4 (model TL) in a carport somewhere in the Sologne. Ken owned one of these cars many moons ago.

I was successful at the market yesterday and today we will be eating mussels for lunch. We'll either make them à la marinière (with shallots and white wine) or à la crème (with cream). I'm not sure which, yet. We'll serve them with French fries. Moules et frites (mussels and fries) is a classic dish served in many Parisian cafés and brasseries and in most coastal restaurants. Everywhere in France, really.