Friday, September 30, 2022

Almost an island

This photo was, I believe, taken at the Pointe de Dinan on the Presqu'île de Crozon in Finistère (Land's End), the westernmost part of Bretagne (Brittany).

A stone arch at the Pointe de Dinan, Brittany. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

The word presqu'île translates to "peninsula" in English; the literal translation is "almost island." After walking around a little and taking in the views from the cold, windswept cliffs, we went into the town of Crozon to look for a hotel and a place to eat. The restaurant we found was a modern pizzeria and it was buzzing with people. The pizza was delicious, if my memory is correct.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

A closer look

Here's another view of the Chapelle Saint-Hervé in Brittany. I wanted to see inside, but it was closed up tight.

Chapelle St.-Hervé, Menez-Bré. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

I'm falling behind with my banking paperwork. I haven't balanced the bank accounts since early August. There's a stack of receipts from the grocery store and other retail outlets that need to be entered into the register. Most of the regular bills go in automatically, but I still hand-enter the rest. It's probably old fashioned, but balancing the accounts every month is reassuring and makes me feel more in control. I've been using the same MS Money software since 2004. Does anyone else balance their "checkbook" any more?

Wednesday, September 28, 2022


This is the Chapelle Saint-Hervé atop one of the highest points in Brittany, le Menez-Bré. It's probably the highest point that you can drive to. The chapel was closed to visitors when we were there, but that's understandable given that it was January. I got out of the car to take a few photos while Ken stayed warm inside and studied the map for the best route to our next destination.

La Chapelle St.-Hervé in Brittany. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

We're watching the hurricane that's heading toward Florida in the US. We have friends and family in the path and we're hoping they are prepared and safe. It looks like it's going to be a bumpy few days for Floridians.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

A phare, phare better thing...

Sorry, I can't resist a bad pun. In French, phare is the word for lighthouse. This one is on the Cap Fréhel, not "far" from the fort in yesterday's post. It was built in in the late 1940s to replace the previous lighthouse destroyed in the Second World War. The other tower in the photo is the first lighthouse, built in 1701. All according to Wikipedia.

The "first" lighthouse on the left, the "third" on the right. Cap Fréhel. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

The central heating came on this morning. It's chilly and windy outside, and we're expecting rain this afternoon and into the night. Depending on how cold it feels, and how much it's raining, I may build a fire in the wood stove.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Fort la Latte

Almost due west from Saint-Malo, about twenty kilometers away à vol d'oiseau (as the the crow flies), is the picturesque medieval fortress la Latte (also known as Château de la Roche Goyon). We drove out to it but we didn't go inside. I think there's been some renovation since we did our "drive-by" in 1992. I wouldn't mind going there again one day to see the inside.

Fort la Latte, overlooking the English Channel from the Breton coast. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

The fort was first built in the fourteenth century, added to and renovated over the centuries. In addition to welcoming tourists, la Latte is also a popular location for shooting movies, according to Wikipedia.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

When life gives you apples

Make une tarte aux pommes (an apple tart)! While picking up apples on Friday, Ken and I put aside a few that looked good, without blemishes or insect damage. On Saturday morning I made a crust and a small batch of applesauce. I spread the applesauce on the blind-baked tart shell, then layered sliced apples on top. After baking, I glazed the tart with some gelée de coing (quince jelly).

Cooled, still in the pan, and glazed.

I'm hoping I'll need to pick up apples only once more this season. We'll see. While most of them have fallen, I think there are still quite a few on the trees.

Saturday, September 24, 2022


Dinard is a beach resort town just across the mouth of the Rance River from Saint-Malo. The town is famous for its Belle Epoque villas and an annual British film festival. This is a view of villas on the Pointe de la Malouine, just north of the Dinard's center.

Fancy villas on the Pointe de la Malouine, Dinard. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

Ken and I made short work of the hundreds of apples on the ground yesterday morning. Then, after lunch, I went out and cut the grass in the west forty. The only part yet to mow is the strip outside our hedges along the road. Last weekend, our neighbor across the way ran his riding mower over the strip, so it really doesn't need to be cut again.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Caught in the act

The grape harvest is winding down in the vineyards around us. Yesterday morning, a harvester picked more grapes just beyond our back gate. I grabbed the camera as they were emptied into a waiting trailer for transport to the winery down the road.

Taken from the den window. If you look closely, you can see the purple grapes pouring into the blue trailer.

This morning, around 06h30, the harvester and the tractor/trailer were back. More grapes are being picked in the vineyard parcel to our north. There's still a huge parcel a little farther east to be done. I wonder if they'll go there next.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Walk on the wall

Another old photo from Saint-Malo on the Breton coast. The wall around the old city has a great walkway on top and we took a stroll along the sea side section. That's Ken a little ahead of me carrying my camera bag while I hung back taking pictures. He does nice things like that all the time.

Wall walking in Saint-Malo. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

I got out and mowed the north forty yesterday afternoon. The sun was out the air was cool and it felt good to get it done once again. Today's goal is to cut the south forty. I'm targeting Friday for the west, but first the apples will have to be picked up. Again.

This morning I'm heading over to the vet's office for some vermifuge (worm medication) for Bert. He gets a worm pill every few months. I'll take Tasha with me and get her weighed while I'm there. She's really lost a lot of weight on her diet.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022


These are part of the remparts around the old city of Saint-Malo. From what I understand, the Germans held the city for a time during the Second World War and they added to and reinforced the fortifications. Allied forces bombed them along with most of the old city. Work began at war's end to repair and rebuild the walls and the buildings behind them.

Saint-Malo in Brittany. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

We're enjoying sunny and dry afternoons this week. I'm planning to get out and get the grass cut again. It could be the last time this year, depending on the weather. But it likely won't be. I've cut the grass as late as early November in years past.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Tasha Tuesday

As promised, here are some photos from last Friday. Grooming Day. The camper mobile salon showed up on time and the groomer, Lucie I think is her name, was very nice and funny. We debated getting the camper in through our gate to the courtyard, but in the end we decided it wasn't worth the hassle. I asked her to park out back by the pond.

This is an "after" pic of Tasha on the deck. I didn't take any "befores." What a happy dog!

Tasha was a bit nervous at first, especially about going into the camper. But once in, and with Lucie's calming influence, she settled right down. I checked in periodically, but there was no need. Tasha was in good hands and she seemed to be having a good time.

The camper mobile salon. I supplied the electricity by extension cord.Pretty cool!

The end result was fantastic. Tasha was clean, her tangles and undercoat were gone, and Lucie trimmed her fur exactly as I wanted. I will definitely call on her again, probably next spring or early summer.

Another "after"pic. Tasha stands and shows off her neatly trimmed legs and paws.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Misty morning

Here's a view of the walled city of Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast on a misty morning back in the winter of 1992. We had spent the night in town and were just on our way west, looking back. The city was all but destroyed during the Second World War. It was rebuilt mostly as it was shortly after.

Saint-Malo in the mist. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

This morning is another chilly one. The indoor thermostat wants to turn the central heating on, but I'm overriding that manually. The days are predicted to be sunny this week and the house warms up naturally. I'll save the fossil fuel for when it really gets cold. That's not too far away, I'm sure.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Can't see the forest for the trees

Tasha and I walked by these woods a week or so ago. We've been in a few times, and I certainly wandered around in there with Callie, but it's been a while. This time we just looked in from the road. At a certain point there's a tractor path into the woods and a short walk takes you to a spot that's been cut for firewood, with stacks of wood where the trees once stood. The wood might be gone by now, with new trees growing to replace those cut. One of these mornings we'll head in to have a look.

I call these the "haunted woods." There are some strange things in there. Check it out here.

Yesterday we did a lot of preserving. I made a big batch of tomato sauce with the remaining toms that our friend gave us last week. I got five containers full for the freezer. Ken prepared and froze the sweet red peppers that were left after making ratatouille. I also picked a good helping of green beans from the garden and I found a good-sized zucchini on the vine. It's one of only a few we've seen this year (except for in the markets). Our tiny tomatoes, however, seem to be done for the year. I grilled shrimp on the barbie and we ate that with rice seasoned with various Asian sauces for lunch. Yum!

Saturday, September 17, 2022

A week away

The autumnal equinox is still a week away and already we're seeing leaves gathering on the ground. The big fall won't happen until much later, but the early turners are doing their thing. This is the garden path, under the tilleul (linden or lime tree) in the foreground.

Leaves and sticks and pine cones accumulate on the garden path.

Tasha's toilettage (grooming) got done yesterday morning, as planned. We had one small glitch at the beginning when we realized it would not be easy to maneuver the camper mobile salon into the driveway. We decided not to try and asked the groomer to park out back by the pond. I ran three long extension cords out along the path, out the gate, and over to the camper to supply it with electricity. Once that was done, things got going.

Tasha was a little nervous at first when I lifted her into the camper mobile salon, but she calmed down pretty quickly and the groomer did her thing. A bath, a good brushing, and a trim. I checked in every once in a while to see how things were going. That was more to calm me down than the dog. But I had nothing to worry about; Tasha and Lucie (I think that's her name) had become friends. Tasha let Lucie brush all that tangled and knotted undercoat off without snapping at all. The whole thing took a couple of hours and now Tasha is clean and neat. I'll post a couple of photos on (Tasha) Tuesday.

Friday, September 16, 2022


Ken mentioned on his blog that a friend of ours brought us bounty from her garden a few days ago. She has had much more success this year than we and she brought us a big case filled with plump, ripe tomatoes, gorgeous eggplant, and sweet red peppers. Immediately I thought of making that southern French classic: ratatouille.

Grilled chicken breast with a rustic ratatouille.

The only thing we needed from the store was some zucchini; you'll remember that my crop mostly failed this year. I sauteed chopped onions, garlic, and red pepper in some olive oil. Then I added the coarsely cut tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini to the pot. Some herbs (our home grown and dried oregano and thyme) along with some salt and pepper finished it off. The whole thing simmered for about an hour, maybe a little more. I grilled a couple of chicken breasts to go along with it. Delicious!

The leftover ratatouille went into the freezer for another meal. Or two.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Just in time

Last evening, well before sunset, I took Tasha out for her pm walk. The sky was noticeably dark out to the southwest and I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. I decided to walk around the vineyard parcels to our north then circle back along the road, just in case.

A tractor path between woods and vines.

When we got back home, there was definitely a thunder storm moving toward us from the south. We sat on the deck for a few minutes to watch, but then the rain started. With the wind, the deck was getting wet, so we scurried indoors. The storm didn't last very long (maybe fifteen minutes), but if we had gone out any later, Tasha and I would have been soaked.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Bumpy night

We had another hot day yesterday with a few thunderstorms in the afternoon. Overnight, we had a lightning show. Storms moved up from the south and west all night long and, while a few of them were very close, most went past us. Some of the lightning was far enough away that I couldn't hear the thunder, but the flashes lit up the sky all night. I didn't sleep much. At one point during a close storm, Tasha jumped up onto the bed looking for safety. Bert also spent some time on the bed, but he's not really scared by storms.

On their way from green to brown, I caught these acorns in their yellow phase.

Also yesterday, from before sunrise until just after lunch, the grape harvester was busy. I wouldn't be surprised if most of the grapes out back have been picked now. I think it was a race to get them in before the storms came.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

In the heat of the day

As predicted, yesterday was a hot one. It was rather chilly all morning, then the afternoon warmed up. A lot. Ken said he had trouble sleeping last night because of the temperature. I, for a change, was mostly okay. The harvester is back and yesterday the guys took a couple of truck loads of sauvignon (I assume) off to the winery. This morning, just before 07h30, the harvester showed up again and is working, in the dark, just outside our garden gate. The grapes planted there are red ones. It's predicted to be hot again today, so I'm guessing they're picking grapes while it's relatively cool out there.

The grape truck passes by our kitchen window on the way to the winery.

I read an article from the LA Times yesterday (it was dated 2017) that said that half of all the wine grapes in California are harvested by machine. But in Napa, it's less than ten percent. I suppose Napa has an image to perpetuate, but economics will win out eventually. The article mentioned that cheap manual labor is becoming less available (due to more vigorous immigration laws and more border security) and that the economics of grape picking is making machine harvesting more financially attractive. Indeed.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Last gasp?

Summer is waning but today will be hot, going over 30ºC (approaching 90ºF) this afternoon. Still, the telltale signs of fall are out there. I haven't seen any more harvesting out back for a few days, but that just means the growers are working in other parcels.

White grapes, probably sauvignon, ready for harvest. And the vine leaves are starting to turn.

We're trying something new this Friday. I made an appointment with a dog groomer who makes house calls. She has a camping-car (RV) that's been converted to a mobile grooming shop and she'll be here on Friday morning to bathe and trim Tasha. All she needs from us (besides her fee) is an outlet to plug into. She carries everything else, including water, in the RV. I'll let you know how it goes.

I'm doing without news and certain blogs this morning in an attempt not to find out who won the men's final at the US Open until I can watch it. I recorded it overnight. I hope.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Peanut butter cookies

Last week I had a hankerin' for some good old-fashioned peanut butter cookies. All the ingredients were on hand, so it was easy to pull together. I've wondered over the years: why do peanut butter cookies always have that crosshatch pattern in them? Whatever the reason, we ate half of them (then finished them off the next day).

Peanut butter cookies fresh from the oven. There were another eight cookies in the second batch.

This morning's low at home is a chilly 12.8ºC (about 55ºF). The house is still warm, so the central heat hasn't had to come on. And daily highs are predicted to climb over the next couple of days.

Saturday, September 10, 2022


This is what a mechanical harvester leaves behind once it passes over a row of vines. The grapes are shaken off of their stems by vibrating rods. They fall onto conveyors that lift them into two large bins on either side of the harvester. When those bins are full, the harvester empties them into a large trailer that's parked outside the vine parcel. Once the trailer is full or the parcel is completely harvested, the grapes are taken to the winery and transferred to the pressing machine. 

Near-naked grape bunches are left after the harvester passes.

I'm no expert, but I've seen the harvesters in action and I did a little reading about how they work. There are videos on the internet that show and explain the process. A lot of juice is released when the grapes come off the stems, but it's collected along with the grapes and goes on to the winery.

Hand picking is more labor intensive, obviously. Most of the grapes remain whole until the juice is extracted in the press at the winery. The hand method supposedly helps in making a better wine. It's also a nifty marketing tool. There are whole wine categories, such as Champagne, that don't allow mechanical harvesting at all.

Tasha and I ran into the woman who owns many of the vineyard parcels around us yesterday afternoon. She was out testing the grapes for ripeness. She told me that the chardonnay just north of our house is just about ready, so we'll be hearing the familiar hum of the harvester out there soon.

Friday, September 09, 2022

Late summer

Fall has a couple more weeks to wait. Summer's not quite done yet. I picked some green beans yesterday and there are more to come. There are more (tiny) tomatoes to be picked. And the grape harvest, while early, has only just begun.

A late summer view of the vineyards behind our house.

I suppose that the next two weeks will not be about the weather or the arrival of autumn, but about the British monarchy, the death of Elizabeth and the (presumed) ascension to the throne of Charles. Memorials and retrospectives and ceremonies. And a heaping helping of speculation. Ad nauseam. No surprise there.

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Slow and steady

The grape harvest continues out back. I've seen workers hand-picking grapes in several parcels while the mechanical harvester plies the rows in others. I took this picture yesterday across a few parcels to our north and west, overlooking the Cher Valley.

A mechanical harvester does its work (it's just to the left of the house in the center of the photo) just after sunrise on Wednesday.

So far, I've seen only white grapes being picked. Ken said he saw a truckload of red grapes go by the other day, but I missed it. As for the weather, it's getting chillier with more light rain showers. Feels like fall.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

To hedge, with love

This grew in our hedge. I don't know what* it is, other than a vine with heart-shaped leaves. I hardly noticed it until it turned from green to yellow over the past few weeks. A little early for fall, but very early (or very late) for Valentine's Day.

The hedge is mostly cherry laurel (laurier cerise), but other plants sneak in.

Speaking of fall, the weather is taking a turn toward more fall-like temperatures. The equinox is just over two weeks away, falling (pun intended) on the 23rd this year. That's if you subscribe to the astronomical view of seasons. For you meteorological types, it's already fall.

* A little internet research indicates this may be tamier (discorea communis), because of its heart-shaped leaves and red berries.

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Tiny tomatoes

I've been picking tomatoes for a while so far this season. I think the heat and drought have affected their growth. The fruit is tiny, even though I watered faithfully and daily through the worst of the heat waves.

Monday's harvest of tomatoes from the garden.

There are three varieties of tomato in the bowl. One, called "Lancelot," is supposed to be small. They are the pointy tomatoes that look a little like red chili peppers. The oblong variety is "roma," and while they're shaped right, they should be almost twice the size that these are. The third variety is round and is called "marmande." Many of those are about the size of cherry tomatoes, but they should be big like a standard tomato.

Still, most of the tomatoes are usable and they taste good. Unfortunately, they're not big enough to stuff and there aren't enough of them to make sauce for the freezer. We're eating them in salads and otherwise cooking with them. Ken used some to make Italian-style green beans to go with yesterday's lunch. Yum!

Monday, September 05, 2022

Spooky chokes

Fall is coming. That means Halloween is coming. And so are the ghouls and goblins. And the un-dead artichokes.

I know what Dr. Spo in Arizona would call these.

I made some good progress with our blocked drain pipe yesterday. Our power washer has a drain-snake attachment. I got it to go almost the full length of the troublesome pipe, but there is still an obstruction at the end where it empties into the roadside ditch. The problem is that we filled in the ditch a long time ago. Aha, you might say. That's why the pipe is blocked!

Now I'm thinking we should try to dig out the area where the drain pipe should be to see if we can find it and unblock it. But where has the water been going since 2011 when the ditch was filled in? Hmm...

Sunday, September 04, 2022

More grapes

The grape harvest continues. So far, all I've seen are white grapes (sauvignon, based on where they're working) being picked and it's being done with mechanical harvesters. The red grapes are still on the vine, ripening, I suppose. There is no hand-harvesting going on yet that I can see.


Saturday morning's market run was successful. I got what I needed from the supermarket, then went over to the outdoor market. The Asian guys were back from vacation so I was able to get some nems (Vietnamese egg rolls). I also walked down to a jewelry store in town and got two watch batteries replaced along with a new band.

The big news is that I saw a sign at a construction site across the street from the supermarket that said a new Lidl store is going in. We go to Lidl every once in a while, but the locations closest to us (there are three) are all about a forty minute drive away. The new store will be just a few minutes away.

Saturday, September 03, 2022

Still life with wheelbarrow

As production, such as it is with tiny tomatoes and finger-sized zucchini, in the vegetable garden winds down, I'm starting to pile compost and larger yard waste in the plot. I do this every year as part of the preparation for fall and winter. The plot becomes a staging area for getting rid of plants, sticks, and stalks from other parts of the yard.

A desiccated artichoke and a pile of rotting apples.

We had a little excitement yesterday morning when a light rain became a downpour, replete with lighting and thunder at close range. All of a sudden, we noticed that water started backing up and leaking into the utility room on the ground floor. We've had some water during heavy rain for years, but this was different. And very wet. We scrambled to move stuff to a dry part of the room. Water was backing up into a pipe that drains condensed water from our central heating boiler (I won't go into the technical details, mostly because I don't really understand them) and was flowing out onto the floor beneath the unit.

During a brief lull in the storm, I went out to where one of the downspouts from the roof gutters, the one closest to the leak, empties into a pipe that takes the water away. That's also where the boiler's drain pipe empties. The junction box was full of water and overflowing. I grabbed a small bowl and started bailing to get the water out, but it kept filling up. After a few minutes, I ran and got my handy plumber's snake (which we figured out later is called un furet in French). A little snaking quickly revealed that the drainage pipe was blocked. I pushed and pushed with the snake until, all of a sudden, the water in the drain pipe disappeared with a whoosh, as if someone had flushed a toilet.

I think we need to find the French equivalent of Roto-Rooter to clean that pipe out. It must be blocked by roots or other debris. Once I poked through with the snake, the water infiltration from the boiler pipe subsided. We swept as much of the standing water as we could out into the greenhouse. A few hours later the utility room floor was dry.

So, how was your Friday morning?

Friday, September 02, 2022

A foggy morning

Fall is knocking at our door. Temperatures are evening out. The sun comes up later, and sets earlier. We're getting a little rain (it's raining as I type this). And morning ground fog is sneaking into the landscape. This is the view from the guest room window looking west a few days ago.

Fog in the vineyard at sunrise.

Hit the deck! Yesterday, I called a guy (a mason) that does terraces and tile work among other things. He poured a concrete patio for our new neighbors earlier this year, and they recommended him highly. I told him we are looking for someone to renovate our deck and described the project a little. He said he'd come over to take a look... in an hour! And so he did. He spent an hour with me looking and listening and explaining what he would do and why. It all sounded pretty good, so he's preparing an estimate for us. I asked him, that if we agreed, when he thought the work could get done. He said April, after winter. That's a firmer date than we ever got with the first guy. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Les vendanges

As I mentioned yesterday, the wine grape harvest has started out back. A big mechanical harvester picked a truckload of white grapes, I'm assuming it's sauvignon, and took them to the winery. Usually they start with the chardonnay to our north, but not this year. I wonder how much hand-harvesting they'll do and when that will start.

Let the harvest begin!

I decided I'd better get some photos of grapes before they're picked, so I went out the back gate for a few quick shots of red grapes. I think these are grolleau (someone once told us), a less common Loire Valley variety that's grown here and there around us.