Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Grape harvest

These are table grapes that grow in our back yard. About half of the dozen or so vines that grew here died since we moved in. They were planted by the previous owner and over the years nearby trees grew up and shaded them. We've never seen many grapes on the vines, but this year is different. First, one of the big trees that shaded the vines is gone. Second, last year was wet and this year has been hot and dry. There must be some correlation.

There are also two small bunches of red grapes out there, but I haven't picked them yet.

So, anyway, it's a small harvest, but it looks bountiful, considering. I don't know what varieties of grapes they are. Some are very tart (maybe I picked them too early) and others are quite sweet.

I heard yesterday (from the mayor) that the actual wine grape harvest may be starting up by the end of the week. UPDATE: A mechanical harvester just arrived in the vineyard (07h10).

Tuesday, August 30, 2022


Just a quick post as a thunderstorm is moving over us first thing this morning. And it's raining! So we're closing windows and moving the car and hoping the power doesn't go off. We had a brief power outage yesterday (for no apparent reason) that lasted just long enough to cause the computers to go out, along with several digital clocks. The satellite tv is out now because the storm is between us and the satellite.

About three quarters of our yard and garden. There's more behind me and to the right.

This is a panorama of the back yard. The gate is behind me and I'm looking east. I didn't intend to take a "pano" shot, but noticed that two of the photos were pretty much adjacent, so I stitched them together in Photoshop. You can see our disaster of a vegetable garden on the left. The house is toward the back on the right. Maybe I'll make an effort to get a better "pano" at some point soon.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Dead heads

I didn't water the artichokes much this summer. Now they stand like otherworldly sentinels along the garden path. I don't think they're really dead. Maybe they're un-dead. The roots are probably fine and, when (if?) it starts raining again, green shoots will sprout anew.

Pretty in their own way.

Meanwhile, our drought deepens. Ken was looking through photos of the back yard and vegetable garden from ten/fifteen years or so ago yesterday. It's amazing how green and lush everything looked back then and how productive the vegetable garden was. It's like comparing the Amazon rain forest to an abandoned Death Valley parking lot.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Well, well, well

A week or so ago, I dug up all the clary sage plants and weeds that were growing in the little strip around the base of the real fake well. The sage plants get too big for that spot, so something else has to be done. In our first years here, we planted flowers like marigolds there and they did well. However, in more recent years, the few times I tried, snails and slugs devoured them. So now it's time to try something else.

You can't see them in this photo, but there are hens and chicks planted inside the well.

I've been wanting to get some day lilies for a while, so I think I'm going to look for some when the bulbs and rhizomes show up in the garden stores this fall. They are supposedly drought tolerant, like poor soil, and are resistant to heat spells. In the meantime, I'll keep pulling up the weeds as they grow and we'll enjoy the bare look until next spring.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Cut grass

Once again, the grass is cut. Not that there's much grass. What grows in this dry and hot weather is weeds. Most of the grass is brown, except for what survives in the shade of the trees. I gathered up all the apples under the two apple trees early on Friday morning. Ken helped me pick them up and into the wheelbarrow, then I dumped them into the compost piles behind the garden shed. But there were too many to fit. I dumped four wheelbarrows full into our two compost piles before they started to roll out. So now there's a pile of apples (two wheelbarrows full) in the garden plot. There will be more.

A view of a portion of the west forty with the two apple trees on the left. The line of grape vines behind them marks the boundary between the west and north forties. To the right of the garden path is the south forty. The whole property is about half an acre.

The west forty takes about forty minutes to cut. The north, a little more than half an hour. The south forty, as I mentioned yesterday, about twenty minutes plus another fifteen to do the strip along the outside edges of the property. However, I no longer do it all in one go as I used to. These days I break it up into three stages. Not to mention trimming along the edges of the garden path which isn't done yet.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Fort du Petit Bé

Here's another of the defensive forts that once protected the walled city of Saint-Malo, a city on English Channel in Brittany. Le fort du Petit Bé was built in the seventeenth century as part of the network of defensive structures conceived by Vauban to protect the city. I read that it is accessible to visitors at low tide. Just be sure not to get stuck when the water starts to rise.

Le Petit Bé, just off the coast of Saint-Malo. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

I got out early yesterday to cut the grass in the south forty. It only takes about twenty minutes, so it's not a huge chore. Still, there are a lot of obstacles like shrubs and trees to navigate around, so there's some effort maneuvering the lawnmower around them. All that's left now is the west forty, the largest of the yard's sections. The one where the apple trees are.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Pie are squared

PARENT: What did you learn in school today?

KID: πr2.

PARENT: That's ridiculous! Pie are round, cornbread are squared!

The crust turned out nice and crispy. The apples are from one of our trees.

This is the first apple tart of the season. It's just sliced apples on a bed of ground hazelnuts. I glazed the apples with apricot preserves after the pie cooled. High-end cooks would have strained the preserves before glazing, but I left the apricot bits in.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

You're the top

At the top of the Mont Saint-Michel is the abbey church. Its spire, topped with a gilded statue of Saint Michel, rises to 157 meters (515 feet) above the bay. The statue was removed and restored in 2016, then returned to its perch atop the abbey's spire.

I didn't like the color version, so here it is in black and white. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

I've started cutting the grass again. Yesterday I did the north forty as I planned and later cut the grass in the strip between our hedge and the road. Today I'll do the south forty, then it'll be time to gather the fallen apples so I can tackle the west forty, maybe on Thursday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Looking down

Here's another view from the heights of the Mont Saint-Michel. What caught my eye was the little boat on the empty beach. From what I can tell, the building is la caserne des Fanils (the Fanils barracks) on the western side of the island.

The former military barracks called "Fanils," part of the western defensive wall. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

Now that the firewood is stacked, it's time to look to cutting the grass. I think I may do the north forty today. I don't have to pick up apples to cut that section. It's another of my mantras: One thing a day. I'll save the apples for another day.

But I may go out and look for a few good apples and make a tart. That would make two things today. Bonus! Most of the apples on the ground are bruised or partially picked at by birds searching for insects. There are a few good ones, though, not to mention those still on the trees.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Wood Pile Finale

Ken and I finished stacking our firewood Sunday morning. He stacked logs under the garage window while I continued stacking on the north side. The only thing left to do is to clean up the bark and small scraps in the driveway where the wood was dumped last week.

Where the logs were.

I made two rows on the north side, which has me puzzled. In the past it's been three rows. Even taking into account the stack that Ken made, it seems to me that we should have more wood. Maybe we got gypped? I don't know, but there's nothing we can do about it at this point. The wood is paid for and it didn't really cost very much (in the grand scheme of things). I'm sure we'll have enough logs for the season unless something strange happens with the weather. Knock on... um... wood.

Two rows stacked with some kindling sprinkled on top.

But anyway, the chore is done. Now it's time to think about cutting the grass again. But first, I have to pick up all the apples that have fallen from the trees. There's never a lack of yard work, eh?

Ken's stack next to the garage. That spot had to be cleaned out. We'll replant it with something next spring.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Wood Pile Progress

I spent about half an hour on Saturday morning moving logs. That's after a trip to the market and the vet's (nothing wrong with the pets, just picking up some dental chews and kibble). I think I got the back row done. I estimate there are at least two more rows and maybe some leftovers after that.

The pile is bigger than it looks in this photo.

Ken suggested that we pile up the extra logs around the corner under one of the garage windows (which is under the deck). So that's what we'll do. I have another small pile of leftover logs from last season under one of the maple trees out front. It will stay put. Those logs are under a tarp and I'll burn them first when the time comes.

One row is done, but it could take a little more if necessary. The towers are working. Those garbage cans are full of kindling.

It looks like the weather will cooperate by not raining until I get the stacking done. The rain won't hurt the logs, I just don't want to work in it. Three or four more days should do it. It feels good to know that we have firewood and a full tank of heating oil. We're ready for when the season changes.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Bois de chauffage

Our firewood was delivered on Thursday. The delivery was free, but we have to stack the wood ourselves. So, yesterday I spent some time preparing the space on the north side of the house where we stack it. I noticed that our one-plus cord of wood didn't contain as many half-rounds as previous deliveries. I normally use the half-round logs to build "towers" on each end of a row to hold the other logs in place. Without the towers, the logs wouldn't stack neatly and I couldn't stack it as high as I need to.

Four stères (one cord) of firewood, dumped in the driveway.

What to do? Then I noticed all the cut birch trunks from when we had those trees removed last year (they were dead and dying). I saved the trunks thinking that I could split and burn them. Then I actually tried to split them. I couldn't. It occurred to me that I could stack those heavy trunks to make towers. So far it seems to be working.

The large gray logs on the bottom are what's left of our apple trees. The new wood looks orange. I have a long way to go.

I got a start on stacking, but after moving those heavy birch trunks, I didn't have a lot of energy left. I'll continue stacking over the next few (or more) days until the deed is done.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Movin' on up

Slowly. It's a long, steep climb up from the town on the Mont Saint-Michel to the abbey complex at the top. The stone stairs can be hard on the feet and it's a good idea to take advantage of overlooks and benches for a rest along the way. It's probably a lot easier for the younger folks.

Taking a photo break on the way up. I was 32 years old. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

I don't remember going to the Mont Saint-Michel back in 1981-82, so this trip in 1992 was more than likely my first time there. As a reminder, I posted most of these photos a while back, mainly in 2007 (fifteen years ago, yikes!), in a smaller format. I'm taking this opportunity to re-work some of the images and post them again in a larger size.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

The blues

I don't know why, but I thought this photo would look better in blue. It's taken from up on the Mont Saint-Michel, looking down on the patterns the receding tide makes in the mud below. I've been to the Mont Saint-Michel a couple of times over the years and posted some of those photos on the blog. If you're interested, click on the "mont saint michel" label in the sidebar or at the bottom of this post and scroll through.

I almost went green, but settled on blue. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

This morning it's chilly. I can feel a little September in the air. I'm dressed in long (sleep) pants, socks, a t-shirt, and a long-sleeved henley. Still, it's supposed to get up toward 28ºC (82ºF) this afternoon. We shall see. We're expecting a delivery of firewood some time later this morning. We ordered four stères (four cubic meters), just over a cord. The guy will deliver it and dump it in the driveway. Then Ken and I will have to stack it ourselves. It'll take a few days, weather permitting. Hopefully, we won't need to burn any until some time in October.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Fort National

This is a seventeenth century fort just outside the city of Saint-Malo in Brittany. It was built by the famous military architect, Vauban. I took this photo from the defensive wall that encloses the old city. When the tide comes in, the fort is only accessible by boat. At low tide, visitors can walk there.

Looks like this guy is getting out just in time. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

Only two weeks remain in this year's school summer vacation. The kids are scheduled to go back to class on Thursday the first of September. Our weekly shopping flyers are full of ads for back-to-school supplies. Time marches on.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Tasha Tuesday

Here we are one morning during our last heat wave. These days, when I'm taking photos during our walks, Tasha's leash is attached to my waist and she's never far from me. She ends up in many of the pictures I take. Not a bad thing.

Tasha and her shadow wait for me to take the picture.

It looks like I'm wearing bell bottoms. Perish the thought. They're old jeans that are a little baggy and the boot cut doesn't help. Who knows what fashion faux pas lurk in the hearts of men? The shadow knows.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Stick in the mud

This is the picturesque port of Pont-Aven on the Aven river in Brittany. It's a small anchorage for pleasure boats (but was once a small commercial port) on the river which is more or less an estuary and not far from the Atlantic. The tides empty the river inland stranding boats twice a day. As you can see, some boats stand upright with their keels sunk into the river bottom.

Low tide in Pont-Aven, Brittany. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

Pont-Aven is famous for being a destination for artists. In the 19th century, Paul Gauguin and other post-impressionist painters spent time there. It's also known for tasty butter cookies, les galettes de Pont-Aven. We bought a box while there.

Our air is much cooler now, although more humid than it has been. And it's overcast with an occasional rain shower. A pleasant change from the heat. I wonder how long it will last and if it will get hot again?

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Il pleut !

It started with some distant thunder and lightning, nothing serious for us, in the wee hours this morning. Then I could hear drops hitting the roof windows. I got up and closed them as the rain became more steady. It's still raining at 07h00, and it's not going to be hot today. Yay!

Granville, Normandy. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

For lack of any new photos, here's a shot of the port in Granville on the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy at low tide. The boats' keels sink into the mud.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

La lune

The sky has been absolutely clear for about a week and we've been able to watch the moon wax to full and begin to wane. The nights are bright with moonlight while the stars fade into the background. I can just make out the Big Dipper and Casseopeia in the night sky, but that's about it. We expect clouds to move in later tonight/tomorrow morning, so the show will be over.

A little lunacy for your Saturday. Just past full.

Along with the clouds will come some welcome cooler temperatures. Until then, today will be another hot one.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Golden glow

The sun is blindingly bright as it rises. Walking out from the house is ok because my back is to the east. But coming home I'm facing east and the sun is nearly at eye level. There's no escaping it.

Looking east as the sunrises.

This is one of those vineyard parcels that was dug up a couple of years ago. Like the others, some of the grape vines have come back from roots. Otherwise, the field is filled in with wildflowers and tall grass.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Where the grapes are

I'm seeing a little color on the grapes along our walking route. I haven't looked closely enough to tell if it's grapes starting to ripen or grapes that have been burned by the sun, essentially turning into raisins. I suppose I should look a little closer. There's no color on these grapes because they're white grapes, chenin blanc, I believe.

I think these are chenin grapes, used for late harvest (sweet) wine.

Our current heat wave continues. The morning lows are getting higher along with the afternoon highs. It's predicted to last until Sunday when cooler air is expected to move in. That will likely bring storms and some rain. I'll be sure to let you know. ⛈⛈⛈☂☂☂

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

New vines

You might remember that the vines in three old vineyard parcels out beyond the end of the dirt road were pulled out in 2020. Tasha and I walked out there last week and noticed that two of the parcels had been replanted when we weren't looking. We stopped walking that far after Tasha injured herself last January. Now that she's recovered, we're doing some longer walks again. We missed all the action!

Newly planted vines in the foreground, older mature vines in the background.

The third parcel is still overgrown with grasses and wildflowers. Only the grower knows when, or if, that one will get replanted. Meanwhile, the parcels closer to our house wait their turn. It probably won't be this year. Maybe next year for some of them.

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Far afield

This field was a vineyard parcel a year or so ago. The vines were apparently old and were dug up. The land was left fallow and, while there are some grape vines coming back up from roots, the field has filled in with wildflowers and grasses. I assume that at some point in the near future, the parcel will be plowed up again and replanted with new grapes.

A former vineyard parcel out near where the dirt road ends. You can see active vineyards in the distance.

There's a lot of that going on around us right now. We suspect that, in addition to removing old and past-their-prime grape vines, the growers are replanting with grapes that fit in to the relatively new Touraine-Chenonceaux appellation. The white wines with that label are 100% sauvignon; the reds are a blend of cabernet franc and côt (known in other regions as malbec).

Monday, August 08, 2022

Another clear day

We're having a succession of clear, dry days. No clouds, certainly no rain. Each day the high temperature is a little higher. And it's expected to continue that way all week.

Looking easterly over the vineyards toward our hamlet and the Cher Valley at sunrise on Saturday.

The basil that's growing in pots on the deck is doing very well this summer. Yesterday I harvested a bunch of it and made pesto for today's lunch. I'll grill a couple of escalopes de veau (thin veal steaks) to have along side. A very summery meal!

Sunday, August 07, 2022


This thistle grows on the fence around the small duck pond out back. The pond has dried out because of our current drought, but there must still be some moisture in the ground around it to keep the weeds going. Not that they need much.

Thistles by the pond.

We're having traffic "issues" in the 'hood. The road we live on is essentially a dead end, except that it's not. The paved portion of the road ends behind our house, but the road continues on through the vineyards as a dirt tractor path. It meets up with another paved road about a kilometer (about 2/3 of a mile) from our hamlet. People in the know drive through the vineyards often, and often at speed. Then, especially during vacation time, people get lost and find their way up here and, seeing the dirt road, turn around to drive back. We're thinking of asking our neighbor the mayor if a sign could be posted down the hill that says sens interdit sauf riverains (no entry except for residents) to help cut down on the turning around. Like this:

No entry, except for residents. Adobe stock photo.

Every time a car comes up the hill, all the neighborhood dogs (and especially ours) bark, in succession, as it passes by. Twice if it turns around. The sign wouldn't affect people "in the know" or legitimate business/delivery traffic, but it might cut down on some of the unnecessary cars.

I can tell I sound like a grumpy old man. Get off my lawn!

Saturday, August 06, 2022

Rock formations

Just some interesting formations around Yosemite's Taft Point overlook. Nothing much to say about them.

Formations around Taft Point, Yosemite. Digitized color slide, August 1998.

Today is market day in Saint-Aignan. We don't really need much, but I want to get some nems (Vietnamese egg rolls) from the Asian vendor. He makes good ones with either chicken, pork, or shrimp. I like to buy a bunch and freeze them. That way we can have a couple to accompany whatever Asian style food we make. Yesterday we made a sweet and spicy grilled lamb (leftover) and veggie (including green beans from the garden) stir fry with Japanese udon noodles. Yum!

Friday, August 05, 2022

Half Dome

The other of the two most recognized mountain formations in Yosemite is Half Dome. I read that it is actually the most recognized mountain in the park. Plate tectonics pushed the granite domes (formed when magma cooled) up toward the surface and erosion helped to expose and continued to shape them. Subsequent glaciation and further erosion carved the valley and, in this case, scraped away a good part of the exposed dome.

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park. Digitized color slide, August 1998.

Our heat wave has broken. Sort of. The temperature really cooled down over night when a weather system moved in. We got very little rain here, but at several times during the night I could see lightning flashes in the distance. The lightning was too far away to hear any thunder. This morning is cool, but the humidity is up. It's supposed to get up to about 30ºC (mid-80s F) this afternoon.

Thursday, August 04, 2022

El Capitan

This is one of the two most recognized rock formations in Yosemite National Park (California, USA), El Capitan. I would wager that it's also the most climbed. I'm not a rock climber nor am I much of a hiker. I took these elevation photos from Taft and Glacier points on the south rim, both accessible by car with relatively short hikes from the parking lots.

El Capitan seen from Taft Point (I believe). Digitized color slide, August 1998.

Last night was not a good night for sleeping, at least not for me. The daytime high was up in the mid-30sC and it didn't cool off much at all when night fell. I tried sleeping downstairs (Ken did and said he slept pretty well), but I could not get comfortable on the couch. I ended up back in bed up in the loft by midnight, but continued to toss and turn most of the night. This morning, the temperature on the deck is 23.4ºC (about 74ºF). That's our highest low so far for this heat wave, and it's expected to climb back into the mid-30s again today.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

One more time

Here's a somewhat blurry close-up shot of a wild carrot (Queen Anne's Lace) flower head. I messed up the depth of field settings. But the part of the flower I was interested in came out fine: the underside.

The underside is almost as pretty as the flower itself.

We're getting our heating fuel tank filled this morning. With what's going on around the globe these days I thought it might be a good idea to buy fuel in the heat of summer before demand goes up this fall, and the prices along with it. But I may have jumped the gun. I checked this morning and the price for the quantity I'm getting went down since last week. I don't think I'll get the lower price since I locked in the price when I ordered. It's not a big difference, but every penny counts, right? Oh well. Win some, lose some.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Tasha Tuesday

Tasha sniffs the ground while I try to get a photo. Not very flattering, but she wasn't meant to be the subject. I was trying to capture the wild carrot (Queen Anne's Lace) flowers growing among the grape vines. Her leash was attached to my belt loop, so she couldn't go very far. She knows she's on leash and doesn't try to pull me along unless there's something like a deer, rabbit, or other dog to chase.

Tasha occupies herself while I take the picture.

Another hot, dry day expected here. The upside is that the humidity is low. It's a dry heat. During our walk this morning I noticed that the pond outside our back gate is dry. I tossed a couple of rocks in and there was no splash, just a thud. In my memory, the last time the pond was dry was during the heat wave of 2003, our first year here. The town filled tanker trucks with river water and drove it up here.

Monday, August 01, 2022

Pomme de pin

The pine cone is commonly called a "pine apple" in French. The fruit we anglophones call a pineapple is ananas for the French, which is one letter away from bananas in English which, in French, is bananes. Confused? The official French name for the fruit of the conifer is, as you might guess, un cône.

Une pomme de pin par terre.

The heat is on. We may go over 100ºF by mid-week. The news people are saying that this is the third high heat event in France already this summer. And we have all of August yet to go.