Monday, October 31, 2022


So here we are at the end of an eerily warm October and, as if on cue, the forecast for the first week of November is for a cool-down to more seasonable temperatures. It's time to get the last of the potted plants indoors for the winter. November is also when I put away the deck table and chairs and clean and cover the grill. And there are more leaves to rake. Always leaves.

Another view of our hamlet from out in the vineyard at sunrise.

Halloween is not really celebrated here in France. The media try to hype it up each year, but I don't think that French people in general are interested. My theory is that most folks are on vacation and traveling around the Toussaint holiday and can't be bothered. And tourism is probably better for the economy than costumes and candy. Just as well, as far as I'm concerned.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

It's still a mess, but there's less of it

This is where I am with the wisteria right now. A lot of the bulk has been cut away. But, as you can see, there are many tangled and errant branches that need to be pruned out. That's more ladder work and I'm wary. I don't want to push my luck.

It's better than it is, wasn't it?

The animules seem to be handling the time change well. We've been slowly getting up later (and staying up later) over the past week to ease them into a new breakfast time.

Saturday, October 29, 2022


The big rain we had early last week carved some pretty deep gullies in the dirt road out back. There are drainage ditches on either side of the road, but they're not enough to carry the water that comes down in a heavy storm. So, as water does, it finds the steepest way down, loosening the gravel and deepening the gullies. Eventually the water finds one of several stream beds that lead down to the river.

The town will probably fill these in when spring rolls around.

Or warm trend continues. I finished trimming the wisteria yesterday and cut the grass on the strips between our hedges and the road. I also moved a small pile of firewood left over from last year to the main log pile on the north side. Little jobs, but they make a difference.

Friday, October 28, 2022


We're under a zone of high pressure that's blocking weather systems coming in from the North Atlantic while pumping warm air up from North Africa. It's the same kind of situation that brings us the heat waves we experience in summer. This is much milder, but it's unusual this time of year. We don't know whether to enjoy it or be worried. Maybe a little bit of both.

Tuesday's sunrise. This vineyard parcel was recently plowed. It will be replanted next spring.

I did take advantage to work in the vegetable garden yesterday. It's mostly cleaned up and ready for winter, whenever that happens. Today, I hope to finish trimming the wisteria.

Thursday, October 27, 2022


We're having a heat wave. Our central heating hasn't come on in weeks. We don't need fires in the wood stove. The grass is growing faster than I can cut it (I mowed the south forty yesterday). They're talking about it on the news. Well, of course they are. They have to talk about something.

Grass is growing like crazy out in the vineyard parcels, too.

My plan for today is to get the vegetable garden cleaned up and tucked away for winter. Tomorrow I plan to finish trimming back the wisteria. I also want to cut back the dead oregano to make room for spring growth and mow the west forty. Morning dew makes the grass too wet for a.m. cutting, so I wait to do that in the afternoon. There's no lack of things to do while the weather's good.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Room of mush

According to Wikipedia, the word mushroom comes from the Old French mousseron, having something to do with moss (mousse). This one (well, there are two in the photo) came up in our yard this week beneath a tall conifer. We don't pick them, and we certainly don't eat them. Our culinary champignons (mushrooms) come from the market.

Or is it a toadstool?

The French word champignon apparently comes to French from Latin, referencing a product of the countryside (la campagne) or the fields (les champs).

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The walnut tree

It's called un noyer in French, walnuts are noix. A grove or orchard of walnut trees is une noiseraie. I took this photo about a year ago of the lone noyer out among the vineyard parcels. I don't think I've ever posted it. Interesting fact: the town across the river from us is called Noyers-sur-Cher. Walnut Trees on the Cher.

Its bark is worse than its... oh, never mind.

We did get out yesterday morning and picked up the apples, so that's done. I also did a little raking in the garden path where leaves gather. The wind kicked up after lunch and I didn't feel like cutting grass, so there's still that to do.

Monday, October 24, 2022

What a difference a year makes

One year ago this month, our landscape contractor removed a big, ugly juniper from the north forty. It was overgrown (despite our attempts to keep it reined in) and had been invaded by brambles, tree saplings, and who knows what else.

New grass and other little plants have filled in the circular scar left when the old juniper was removed.

After a short time, the patch started filling in with the weeds that make up a good part of our yard. I scattered some grass seed over the patch, but was disappointed when not much sprouted. Then, all of a sudden the grass took off and filled in most of the bare ground. We even had some wild poppies come up. I didn't mow them down until they went to seed, in hopes of a bigger crop next spring.

October 2021. The landscapers rip out the old juniper (with help from a chainsaw).

The top photo is how the old juniper patch looks now. The other two photos are from last year when the juniper was removed. I'm so happy it's finally gone.

October 2021. The juniper patch laid bare. Those stumps were removed by a backhoe.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Apple pile time

I hope this is the last time this season. The last time for clearing the ground of fallen apples. Yesterday I "raked" them all up into eight little piles. Today we'll load them into the wheelbarrow and dump them into the compost pile. Then I can cut the grass.

Looking out the den window. I count eight little piles. Can you see them all?

I cut the north forty yesterday afternoon (the apples are in the west forty). The sun was out and the grass was dry. I probably won't mow today because the grass may not be dry enough in the ten-to-noon window that we're allowed to use power tools (that make noise) on Sundays.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Les feuilles mortes

Se ramassent-elles à la pelle ? Not yet. But it's coming. I picked these two up on our morning walk yesterday out at the edge of the woods. They looked a lot prettier when they were wet with dew. Dry, not so much. Most leaves are still hanging on and many haven't started turning color yet. That will change over the next few weeks.

These autumn leaves didn't drift by my window.

From what I understand, that line, les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle, in the famous song means that there are so many dead leaves on the ground that you'd need a shovel to gather them up. Not so poetic in English. So Johnny Mercer, when he re-wrote the song in English, changed the line to "The autumn leaves drift by my window" and moved it to the opening stanza. In fact, he changed a lot of things. Most of what remains of the original song, apart from the sentiment, is the lyric "the autumn leaves" and the melody.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Le Passage du Gois

When the tide goes out in the Baie de Bourgneuf, the receding waters expose a roadway across the mudflats, connecting mainland France to the island of Noirmoutier. The Passage du Gois is just over four kilometers (about two and a half miles) long. In 1992, Ken and I arrived just in time to drive over to the island and back before the tide rose again.

Le Passage du Gois stretches across the Bay de Bourgneuf, low tide. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

There's a long history of people being trapped by the rising water, which at certain times of the year can rise up to four meters (about thirteen feet) above the road surface. Since 1987, there's been an annual foot race across the bay, at low tide, of course. The Tour de France bicycle race has been routed over le Gois at least three times over the years.

The last time we visited Noirmoutier (in 2018), we took the bridge.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

La Baie de Bourgneuf

The island of Noirmoutier is visible in the background of this photo. I was on the mainland looking west across the bay of Bourgneuf. The tide was out and the mud flats were exposed. The southern tip of the island is connected to the mainland by a high-rise bridge (since 1971), but there's another way to cross the bay. Stay tuned.

A couple of skiffs on the mud flats in the Baie de Bourgneuf. Digitized color slide, January, 1992.

I was awakened by thunder during the night, around 01h30. I could tell the storm was coming up from the south as they usually do. There was a good deal of lightning and the thunder was continuous as it got closer and louder. Then it started raining, but not nearly as hard as the other night. We were lucky that the storm just grazed us to the east as it went by. Storms at night make me jumpy. After about an hour, all was calm again, but I didn't sleep much.

It's the unusually warm and humid weather we're having this week that's fueling these storms. They don't seem to bring much wind, but we're getting a lot of (much needed) rain. The hard rain the other night carved deep gullies in the dirt road out through the vineyards. The air is buzzing with annoying gnats and other bugs. Dare I say it? We need a cold snap!

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

La Baule

As we continued southward along the Atlantic coast, we drove through the seaside resort city of La Baule and along its eight kilometer-long beach. We parked for a few photos. In summer, the beach is crowded with vacationers enjoying the sun. We drove through in January, however, and the beach was mostly deserted.

The beach at La Baule. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

Ken got a hold of a contractor yesterday who will come by on Thursday to look at a few roof-related projects we need dealt with. The first priority is the chimney that leaks. Apparently the flashing around the roof tiles has failed. We had the leak patched a couple of years ago, but the patch was temporary and now it's time for the permanent work, especially since it started leaking again. We also have a blocked gutter and two downspouts that are not working right. Then there's the metal roof over our carport that has come unattached and flaps in the wind.

We're hopeful that this guy will be able to get us an estimate and do the projects on a reasonable schedule. He was recommended by friends in the area who have been very satisfied with his work.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Man the pumps!

We had a doozie of a storm last night. It rained a lot during the afternoon, then at around nine pm the bottom dropped out. Lightning, thunder, and pounding rain for about an hour. I've rarely heard rain like that here. The rain tapered off for about half an hour as the storm moved to the northeast. Then the moon came out. Shortly after that, clouds returned obscuring the moon, and I could see lightning flashes, but heard no thunder. I tossed and turned for most of the rest of the night. We had some minor leaks/flooding in the usual places. Maybe I shouldn't have written about bruine yesterday.

Château de Ranrouët. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

This is the Château de Ranrouët, a ruined castle near the coast south of Brittany. We stopped here for a picnic lunch toward the end of our road trip back in 1992. Read more here.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Misty days

When it's not outright raining, we often get light to heavy drizzle. It's called bruine in French. This past week we've had a lot of it. We've also had a warm-up. This morning's low temperature is 18ºC (over 60ºF) at the house.

Looking out over the vineyards from the guest room window.

I call the drizzle "French rain," but it's not just a French thing. Soggy, foggy days when the sky is leaden, and every surface glistens with tiny water droplets. Evenings sparkle with reflected light. It can come in winter or summer, feel cold or warm. At its gentlest, you can walk outdoors without getting soaked. When the wind drives it, it can sting a little.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Les remparts de Vannes

The city of Vannes was founded by the Romans in the first century before the common era. The first protective wall was built then, but it was in ruins by the third century as the empire collapsed. The city rebuilt and enlarged the fortifications between the third and the fourteenth centuries. An impressive section of the wall remains intact today.

Public gardens outside the fortifications at Vannes. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

We had rain most of the day on Saturday. It was a good soaking rain and much needed. We're expecting more rain on and off over the next few days along with very mild temperatures. The grass is growing and it will need to be cut again when the weather dries out.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Laundry day

This is the historic lavoir (laundry) in the city of Vannes. It was built in the early nineteenth century on the Marle River which flows into the Morbihan Gulf a little further downstream. Women washed and rinsed their laundry in the river water. The building was seriously damaged by a flood and was completely restored in 2005-2006. Lavoirs exist all over France, but I think this one in Vannes is the largest that I've ever seen.

Lavoir on the River Marle, Vannes. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

We had light rain/heavy drizzle all day on Friday. This morning we're having some stronger rain and it's expected to continue through the day. And it's still relatively warm. We're not planning to go anywhere today. Part of the reason is a gasoline shortage caused by a labor dispute in a northern refinery. Stations in many parts of the country are running out of fuel. Some people are waiting for hours to fill up their tanks, others are being turned away when the gas runs out. And prices are going up.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Fire and rain

I guess Thursday was a transition day. We got a few light rain showers and the temperature, while mild, didn't rise much. I lit a fire in the wood stove anyway. This morning it's raining again, but the temperature is warming up and is expected to stay warm through the weekend. Fires will not be necessary.

Fire in the wood stove.

Yesterday I completed my ballot for the November US election. As a US citizen who lives abroad, I'm eligible to vote in the last place I lived in the States. That was San Francisco, so that's where I vote. I didn't vote for every office or issue because I don't know enough about the candidates or the details of some issues to make an informed decision. But the big offices (like Governor or House and Senate members) and certain local initiatives, I feel comfortable voting for. Next stop, the post office, to mail my ballot back.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

More color

This is the west end of our neighbors' house across the road. It's a vacation house and is not occupied year-round. The neighbors live about 40km away. They spend most of their time here in the summer, of course, but also on certain holidays through the year. Yesterday, Mr. M was here cutting the grass.

The house has one bedroom on the ground floor and another upstairs under the roof. There's also a large communal sleeping area upstairs, not unlike our "loft."

The M's property is large and they spend a lot of time working in it, mowing, trimming, raking, planting, etc. They also have a small army of adult kids and grandkids to lend a hand.

Rain is heading toward us this morning. Nothing major, just some light rain, but it will also not get very warm today for lack of sunshine. I brought some firewood in yesterday and will probably build a fire soon to take the chill off.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022


I'm not sure what the red shrub is, but I think we once found out that it's a variety of lagerstroemia (crepe myrtle). Whatever it is, it's a bright splash of red in our neighbors' yard. The view here is of our own house seen from across the road on the neighbors' property.

Our house seen from across the road, which is just beyond that hedge.

The weather people are telling us to prepare for a wet weekend as a few perturbations (cold fronts) are lining up out in the Atlantic and are expected to sweep over France in the next few days. We'll see what actually materializes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Fall colors in the 'hood

From our deck and kitchen window we can see part of our neighbors' property across the road. They have several trees, shrubs, and other plants that put on a show in the autumn. I walked over yesterday and took photos of some of them.

The big tree on the right is one of two catalpas. I don't know what the bright yellow shrub is.

Our yard has fewer brightly colored autumn leaves, but there are some. The tilleul (linden) goes bright yellow, the prunus out back gives us some nice reds, and the leaves on the maple trees out front turn into a vivid orange later in the season. In between, we get to enjoy our neighbors' colors.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Place Henri-IV

Here's another shot taken in the historic center of Vannes. A short walk from where I took yesterday's photo is the Place Henri-IV, adjacent to the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre which you can see in the background. Once again, I used Google Maps to identify the location. With street view I saw, again, that the buildings have been taken care of over the twenty thirty years since I took the picture. The cathedral is covered in scaffolding undergoing some kind of renovation.

If you go to the Wikipedia page for Place Henri-IV, Vannes, you can see almost the same view, but taken in 2011.
Digitized color slide, January 1992.

Most of the buildings on the place date from the 15th and 16th centuries and are classified as historical monuments. The people in the photo are all bundled up because it was January when we were there. Ken said he didn't remember walking around in Vannes, but we obviously did. We certainly didn't stay very long, just a quick walk and then we were back in the car.

Sunday, October 09, 2022

Shop like an Egyptian

I'm getting down to the dregs of my 1992 photos from Normandy and Brittany. This one's from the historic center of the city of Vannes. I don't remember what the shop on the right was or why there was what looks to be an ancient Egyptian graphic on the outside.

This street is la rue des Halles in central Vannes. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

I looked on Google Maps street view to see what the Place Valencia looks like now. The paving looks the same, but the buildings look like they've had a facelift. The place looks a little more antiseptic than it did back in '92. The stores and restaurant are there, but they have different names (the store on the left with what looks like ladies' handbags is now a kid's clothing shop). And the Egyptian is gone.

Saturday, October 08, 2022

Chestnut husks

They're not roasting on an open fire, but probably served/will serve as a meal for wildlife. Wild châtaignes (chestnuts) abound here. We don't eat them, but people do. When we first moved here, a neighbor gave us an old chestnut roasting pan for the fireplace. I'm not sure we ever used it. If you've been to Paris in the fall or winter, you may have seen street vendors roasting chestnuts for sale. I remember them, especially on the streets around les Halles and the Pompidou Center. The roasted nuts are a hot treat on a chilly day.

Chestnut husks on the ground. Pretty soon, Jack Frost will be nipping at our noses.

The part of our street that comes up the hill from the river valley is bordered by wild chestnuts. Each year, around now, the fruits fall to the ground and are crushed on the pavement by cars and tractors. Winter rains wash them away. On certain woodsy paths, there are so many chestnuts on the ground that it's difficult to walk, and their spines are not comfortable for little dogs' paws.

Friday, October 07, 2022

Through the woods

This is part of my walk with Tasha when we "go through the woods," as I call it. It's the Artsy Organized Neighbor's little road to nowhere. He'll probably use it when he takes out all the wood he cut last winter and spring. The wood, cut into neat one meter lengths, is stacked here and there along the path. The canopy of oak, chestnut, and hornbeam filters the light in different ways depending on the time of year.

The autumn sun lights up a clearing along our leaf-strewn path.

Most of the walk is along our normal route either on the tractor road or along the edges of the vineyard parcels. One option takes us on a little path into the woods, then on to the dirt road in the photo, before we emerge on the other side.

Thursday, October 06, 2022


Remember those big piles of grape vine trunks in the vineyard parcel that was recently dug up? Well, Tuesday was the day they burned. The morning was so foggy that we didn't even notice the smoke, let alone the flames, until the fog lifted. The piles are still smoldering out there and will continue until they're reduced to just ash.

One of six piles of grape vine trunks burned on Tuesday, still smoldering at sunrise on Thursday.

Ken talked to one of the guys working out there yesterday. He said he thought the parcel will be replanted next spring. That'll be cool. And he said that another parcel a little farther out is next to be dug up (probably next year) and replanted (a year or so later).

As planned, I got the chainsaw out and cut up a couple of large branches in the back yard yesterday. One was a dead branch on an apple tree (that was still attached to the tree), another was a linden branch, also dead, that came down in a recent windy rain storm. Then I cut some of the birch branches from the three trees we had taken down last year. I have more of those to do. All the wood goes into the wood pile for burning this fall and winter.

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Hôtel de l'Iroise

This unassuming little hotel sat out on the Pointe du Raz in Bretagne until it was closed in 1997 and subsequently demolished as part of a plan to restore the natural state of the area*.

L'hôtel de l'Iroise, Pointe du Raz, Bretagne. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

Yesterday I got my second covid booster. In other words, my fourth shot. So far, just under 24 hours later, I have a little soreness in my arm, but nothing worse. I was surprised when the woman who gave me the shot placed it way up, almost on top of, my shoulder. I hear that now they're talking about recommending a fifth dose and maybe an annual dose, like a traditional flu shot. My first two shots were Astra-Zeneca, the third was Moderna, and this last one was Pfizer, in case you were keeping track.

Today's supposed to be a nice day weather-wise. I want to get the chainsaw out and cut up some dead and downed limbs (birch, apple, and linden) for firewood.

* Source:

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Chapelle Saint-They

The internet is a wonderful thing. I was able to use Google Maps and Images to identify this photo. I had a general idea of where I took it, but wasn't sure. And I certainly didn't know the name of the chapel that sits out toward the end of the point. I was on the Pointe du Raz looking across the Baie des Trépassés toward the northeast. The land is the Pointe du Van and the lonely chapel is called Saint-They.

La Pointe du Van and la chapelle Saint-They. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

The chapel was built in the seventeenth century on the ruins of a much older chapel. Visitors can drive out very close to the chapel, but we didn't. We wanted to see the Pointe du Raz (the second most western point in mainland France after the Pointe du Corsen to the north) and then head south again.

Monday, October 03, 2022

Breton houses

While driving out to the Pointe du Raz in Brittany, we saw many examples of typical Breton coastal houses. They're essentially white with slate roofs. Inland, the styles vary with many houses made of stone, but on the western coast, we saw a lot of these whitewashed houses with chimneys at the gable ends. They certainly stand out against the landscape.

Houses overlooking a cove on the Pointe du Raz. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

We're in a warm spell right now. Relatively warm. And it's been wet, so not very good for getting outdoor chores done. That may change this week, and there's no shortage of things to do out there. Ken wants to clean out the greenhouse and prepare it for bringing in plants for the winter. I've got some birch branches to cut for burning this winter. And then there's the vegetable garden to deal with.

Sunday, October 02, 2022

That's amore

Saturday was pizza day! I made a very simple version this time. It's close to what's known in France (and in Naples where it originated) as une pizza Margherita. Just tomato sauce, basil, and cheese. I used fresh tomatoes in place of sauce and French comté cheese in place of mozzarella. I added some black olives for visual interest.

The second pizza with basil on top. That's amore!

The first pie (to hit my eye) had the basil baked in under the cheese, but on the second pizza (shown here), I put the basil on top after the pie came out of the oven. I think we both tasted the basil more on the second pizza, but they were both good.

Saturday, October 01, 2022


Once a thriving fishing port, the city of Douranenez has seen better days. Sardines, anchovies, and mackerel made up most of the catch before the decline. Once in port, the fish were prepared and canned. The canning plants have all but disappeared, owing to the dwindling supply of fish offshore.

The église Saint-Herlé de Ploaré dominates the skyline at Douarnenez. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

I took the photo from across the bay on a rather hazy, misty morning. We had left Crozon earlier, heading out toward the Pointe du Raz farther west, so we didn't go into Douarnenez at all.