Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Like a rock

These limestone blocks, called tuffeau in French, are a principle building material in nearly every town and city in the Loire Valley including, most notably, in the châteaux (castles) up and down the river and its tributaries. These few blocks are stacked neatly among the Artsy Organized Neighbor's collection of stuff, probably saved after the dismantling or renovation of some local building.

Blocks of tuffeau (limestone), extracted locally, I'm sure.

So here we are at the end of November. Already. That went fast. The weather has taken a turn toward winter and morning lows are expected to flirt with zero (freezing) toward the end of the week. There was even talk of snow, but I think it's unlikely. You know how the weather people get all excited about things like that. In the meantime, we're under a typical fall inversion. Dry, still, and foggy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022


Seen on the Artsy Organized Neighbor's property: tiles. I think these are floor tiles as opposed to roof tiles, but I'm by no means certain. I think roof tiles are thinner and more rectangular and these look pretty thick and square.

Tiles neatly stacked and leaning slightly.

Yesterday's cashew chicken lunch was excellent. There are no leftovers, thankfully. We're running out of real estate in the fridge. We changed the menu for today, postponing pizza in favor of a salad. There's a head of escarole that needs eating, so we'll make a lunch salad of escarole with lardons (smokey bacon) and poached eggs, all fridge items that need to be used.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Hangin' on

Almost all of the grape vine leaves have dropped to the ground. But, here and there, a few hang on.

Any leaves that are left will be cut off when the vines are pruned.

Yesterday's lunch of shepherd's pie (made with leftover Thanksgiving lamb) was very good. We have half of it leftover, not to mention the last chunk of the lamb roast. That went into the freezer for another meal to be decided. So that makes at least five meals for two out of the one roast. Gives turkey a run for its money as far as leftovers go.

Today we'll take a break from lamb to do a chicken cashew stir-fry with snow peas. We'll have egg rolls and potstickers on the side. Tomorrow: pizza with pancetta. Yum!

Sunday, November 27, 2022

The apple of my eye

There's a small apple tree out along the vineyard road. It never seems to grow and it bears only a few small apples each year.


Saturday's market run was kind of a bust. The fish monger didn't have any cockles nor anything resembling a clam. Mussels, yes, but I didn't want those for a white clam sauce. Then I looked for clémentines, but those I found were pricey and didn't look very good. Finally, I walked down to the Italian store for tortellini, but there were none. I bought some ravioli (stuffed with ricotta and artichokes), some pecorino cheese and some pancetta instead. We made a tomato sauce to go with the ravioli and they were delicious.

I'll go to a bigger market a few towns over on Thursday to look for cockles again. As for today, Ken's making a version of hachis parmentier (shepherd's pie) with some of the leftover Thanksgiving lamb.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Make like a tree

I still haven't raked up any leaves in the driveway. Oh well. The wind is doing a good job collecting them into piles. I did, however, get some other outdoor work done yesterday. Petit à petit, l'oiseau fait son nid (little by little, the bird builds its nest).

A maple leaf in the driveway.

I'm going into town this morning for the market, the first time I've been in weeks. I want to look for some coques (cockles) or other clam-like critters for a lunch of linguini with white clam sauce. And clémentine season is upon us so I'm hopeful I'll find some of those. I also want to stop in to the Italian boutique for a few items for future meals. It's chilly this morning, but there's no sign of rain in the forecast.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Funky feline fotos

Bert's getting to be an old cat. He'll be seventeen years old on his next birthday (May). He moves a lot slower than he used to and he spends a lot more time napping. He especially likes to be close to the fireplace. He still catches mice, but not as often these days. So here he is, stretched out on the sofa with legs in the air. Silly cat.

Bert likes fleece blankets.

Our Thanksgiving day was low-key and without incident. Except for one: the digital meat thermometer gave up the ghost, so we were thrust into a low-grade panic trying to figure out when to take the lamb out of the oven. I found an old analog meat thermometer whose accuracy is questionable and it served. The roast was perfectly done on the small end, but a little underdone on the large end. Not a problem; we'll cook it a little more during the leftover phase.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Pumpkin spice

I moved to France before the whole "pumpkin spice" thing happened in the US, so I'm not really familiar with all of the details. These are the spices that go into my pumpkin pies.

Left to right: ground cinnamon, ground allspice, ground cardamom, ground cloves, ground ginger, and whole nutmeg.

This one, however, has no pumpkin. I didn't grow any this year and all the pumpkin I had roasted and put away in the freezer is gone. This pie is made with butternut squash, a fine substitue for pumpkin. I could have got pumpkins at the market, but Ken found a beautiful butternut at the store the other day and I decided to use that. Sweet potatoes would have worked, too.

Blind-baked crust ready for the filling.

I made the dough early yesterday morning and kept it in the fridge until I was ready to make the pie. Before I made the filling, I blind-baked the crust using pie weights to keep its shape.

The finished pumpkin pie. Serve each slice with a dollop of cream if you like.

The filling was made with the squash, eggs, cream, sugar, and the spices you see. The whole thing baked for about an hour. After it cooled, I took the pie out of the pan and slid it onto the cake/pie plate. We cheated and each had a piece yesterday afternoon. There's plenty left for today. And beyond!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022


This plant is called, I believe, lamb's ear. It has many names in French including oreille d'agneau, as you'd expect. There was a good-sized patch of it in this spot when we moved in, but over the years it's gone away, except for two or three survivors.

One of the few remaining lamb's ear plants among the ivy and weeds.

Since we're having gigot d'agneau (lamb's leg) for lunch tomorrow, I thought a photo of a fuzzy lamb's ear would be appropriate.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

From the archives

I took this photo at the abbey at Fontevraud, not far from Chinon, back in 2003. The weather hasn't been good for taking the camera out lately. It may be better this morning; I'll have to wait until the sun comes up to see. It's my morning to take Tasha out.

Greenery in a courtyard inside the Fontevraud Abbey, September 2003.

Thanksgiving (US) is getting closer. It will be low key, just the two of us (plus the animules). We're trying to finish up some leftovers before we roast our traditional leg of lamb on Thursday. Then we'll have even more leftovers. I'll make a pumpkin pie on Wednesday. I'm also thinking of going to the market on Saturday in search of cockles for making linguini with white clam sauce. It's become a sort of tradition to help break up the meals of leftover lamb after Thanksgiving. There will likely be some food fotos coming up. Be warned!

Monday, November 21, 2022

Maple update

This is the state of the red maples as of yesterday. Most of the vivid orange leaves have fallen to the ground, but a good number are hanging on. It won't be for long. It's time to start raking, I suppose. I'll wait for a nice dry day.

The show's almost over.

The main thing is to get the leaves off the driveway and into the compost pile. Except this year, like last, I'll dump the leaves onto a part of the yard that needs filling in, namely the old path to nowhere that we had removed last year. There they'll decompose and add to the soil.

For yesterday's lunch we decided to try some store-bought tortellini stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach. They sounded good, but were, as the French say, pas terrible. That means they weren't very good. Kind of bland and a little soggy. There's a new Italian food boutique in town and the woman who runs it makes ravioli (which we tried and it was good) and, I think, tortellini. Maybe I'll try hers.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Vines in black and white

It was a chilly day yesterday. The sun was out most of the day and there was very little wind, so it felt ok to be outdoors. Still, I had a fire going all day. Today will be the same drill, except maybe with some rain.

The autumn vineyard.

On Friday we got a call from the contracter we talked to about doing the deck. He said he was waiting for me to send our choice of deck tile so he could complete the estimate. Problem: I sent it to him back in September. So I sent it again using a different email account and he got it right away. I suspect his email provider thought my original message was spam. I have another account with the same provider as he, and that's the message that went through. So, we're on track. I'm happy he called; it makes me think he wants to do the job.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

A familiar view

Once again, I'm running out of fresh fotos. I've not posted this one before, but the view should be familiar to regular readers. I'm standing at the edge of our hamlet looking westward over the vineyards. I'd say that the majority of our walks with Tasha start at this point.

No snow in our forecast, but we are expecting more rain.

I'm reading the news about the snow in Buffalo, NY. Some areas near the city got hammered with over five feet (about 1.5m) of snow. Can you imagine? I don't think I've ever seen that much snow from a single storm, and I grew up in Upstate New York.

This morning's low at our house here in France has dipped down to less than five degrees Celsius. That's pretty chilly for us. I usually wear long-johns on our walks when the temperature goes below five. But it's not my turn this morning. Tomorrow, of course, is another story.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé !

The Beaujolais Nouveau is here! And so is the Touraine Primeur! As planned, I went over to the supermarket to see what they had. One table in the wine department was stacked with "new" wines, both our local Touraine and the more widely known Beaujolais. Both are made from the gamay grape.

Our first bottles of vin nouveau from 2022. The local stuff is on the right.

I picked out four: three Beaujolais and one Touraine. I got six bottles altogether, doubling up on the Pisse-Dru and the Touraine (which is from a small winery right across the river from us). I read this morning that Pisse-Dru is an old Beaujolais expression describing the thick juice of the crushed grapes. The word dru means "thick" or "dense" and, well, you can probably guess what the other word means. We drank one of those yesterday and it was pretty good.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Le cabanon

Little buildings like these dot the landscape in the vineyards around us. They're cabanes de vignes and served as shelter for vineyard workers and/or a place eat lunch back before cars and trucks made commuting out to lunch (whether to a restaurant or home) practical. They also were a place to store tools. Most of them have been abandoned over the years and are in various states of decay. This one, out behind our house, is locked up most of the time. I don't know what's inside.

It's been repaired and patched over the years, but it's still standing.

Today is Beaujolais Nouveau day! I'm planning a run to the supermarket this morning to check out what's available and to bring some home. The wind howled all night and it rained some more. I'm hoping that weather system is on its way out by the time I am. The carport roof is still intact.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Rain time

It's been raining on and off since Monday. Today is predicted to be more of the same, so there's little chance of getting outdoor chores done. The weather people say we'll be having a minor wind event this evening and into the night. We'll see how the carport's repaired roof comes through.

A section of our walking route, looking east.

Meanwhile, we'll hunker down and make food. On today's menu is a stir-fry with chicken and snow peas. Ken found the elusive snow peas at the supermarket on Monday. They're imported from Kenya -- he got a bunch and will blanch and freeze most of them for future stir-fries. He also found some white radish, similar to daikon, that we use to make a simple Japanese-style salad. I just read that daikon is a winter radish, so I'm hopeful it will be available in the stores over the next few months. Lastly, he also brought home a butternut squash. I roasted it yesterday and froze the flesh. Next week, some of it will become a Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Tasha Tuesday

Tasha has white wisps of hair that seem to flow out from her ears. You can see them in the photo. She was on alert looking to the left and right and straight ahead for whatever she heard or smelled. It took four shots to get this one.

Tasha's retractable leash is attached to my belt loop so I can take pictures.

I forgot to take the garbage out yesterday and didn't remember until I heard the garbage truck go by at five this morning. Oops. But I have an excuse! The roofing contractor that our friends recommended came by to do the jobs we talked about a couple of weeks ago. One of our three chimneys leaked, so he worked on that. He cleaned out one of the two valleys on the roof that leaked in the last hard rain storm (the other one was fixed a number of years ago). He cleaned out a clogged rain gutter. He replaced a damaged downspout and reconnected it to an underground drain pipe. And... he fixed the carport roof that flapped in the wind. A big day!

Monday, November 14, 2022

Sugar to kiss

That's something we don't see here in France. Maple sugar candy, that incredibly sweet confection made in the shape of a maple leaf, from maple syrup and butter, mostly in the northeastern US and eastern Canada. It was (and probably still is) a staple in late fall and winter. I loved it as a kid and still enjoy it when I can, although in much smaller quantities.

Can you spot the little canine enjoying the view?

These are the red maple trees just off the deck in our yard. They don't produce syrup or candy, but they do put on a show in November when their dark red leaves turn a vibrant orange before falling to the ground. The price for the show, of course, is having to rake up the leaves.

Sunday, November 13, 2022


This vineyard parcel is quite grassy. It hasn't been plowed and it's been a while since it was mowed. It looks nice and is pleasant to walk in. The plowed rows are not comfortable to walk in because the ground is very uneven after plowing. But the vines are not there for my walking comfort, so I can't complain.

The grape leaves are nearly all gone now. Soon the pruning will begin.

I got a lot (for me) of yard work done in yesterday's mild weather. The artichoke flower stems are cut down, I removed the mole hills from out by the garden shed, I finished trimming the wisteria, and I took a bunch of yard waste out into the woods where it can decompose. And, finally, I mowed the west forty. There's still the north and south forties to cut, but as it's Sunday, it probably won't be dry enough (heavy dew) in the ten-to-noon window we have for making noise. I'm ok with that.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Artichokes' last stand

Toward the end of our hot, dry summer, the artichoke plants died back to the ground leaving only the desiccated flower stalks standing. Since the rains started up again, the plants sent up new growth, rising like a phoenix from the fire. The flower stalks are still there, but not for long. I'll cut them down soon.

New artichoke leaves growing up at ground level. Look how green the grass is! View toward the north forty.

Meanwhile, mild temperatures are helping the grass to grow like crazy. We need some cold weather to slow it down, and some drier weather so I can mow it again. Maybe.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Homeward bound

Stop me if you've seen this one before. It's the view of our little hamlet from out in the western vineyards. Tasha and I often make a loop through the vine rows at this point before turning back toward the house.

Looking northeasterly at sunrise.

I loaded up the car and made a trip to the dump yesterday. It was much easier than I expected, mostly because there was no waiting at the gate. There were a lot of vehicles with trailers getting rid of yard waste, along with someone with what looked like a roomful of old living room furniture, maneuvering for a spot, but it wasn't bad.

The dump, called une déchetterie in French, is a collection of dumpster bins for different types of refuse. Building rubble, metal items, cardboard, yard waste, furniture, each type of waste has its own specific dumpster bin. And there's one bin for everything else called tout venant. There's a place for recycling used oils (cooking and motor), bins for bottle, packaging, and paper recycling, a place for old appliances, another for hazardous materials, and even a bin for donating used clothing. So, it's not really a "dump" or landfill, but more of a place of triage.

Thursday, November 10, 2022


Here is the current state of the next vineyard parcel to be dug out and replanted in the coming couple of years. The top guide wires have all been removed and the vines are getting pruned down to their stumps. Once the pruning is done, I expect the lower guide wires to go and the posts to be removed. Then, I think, the tractors will dig up the trunks and they'll get piled up to be burned at some point. After all that, the parcel will be left fallow for at least a year before it's replanted.

The pruning is still going on. What was cut is lined up between the rows and will probably be ground into mulch.

Other parcels are in the fallow stage right now and the one closest to us will likely be replanted next spring, according to one of the guys who works out there. We've seen several parcels dug up and replanted over the twenty years we've been here. It's nice to watch the new vines grow and mature.

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Rows and flows of angel hair

Yesterday's sunrise lit up some interesting cloud formations. I pointed the camera up and this is what I got.

These clouds didn't get in the way of anything.

I want to go to the dump this week. A pile of flattened boxes is taking up a chunk of space in the garage. And there are a few other things that can go. I frequently put off going, but I'm always glad that I did. Will today be the day? I don't know, but it will depend on the weather. No fun going to the dump in the rain.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022


This isn't mine. It's a small pile of cut logs out on the Artsy Organized Neighbor's land. They're next to a much bigger stack of logs that's almost twice my height. They look pretty autumn-like to me. I've had fires in the wood stove for the past three days now, but the weather is warming up a little so I'll probably skip today.

Logs and leaves.

Today is election day in the USA. I voted in California (via absentee ballot) as I'm eligible to do.

Yesterday we made a recipe I found in the NY Times food section: shrimp scampi with gnocchi. It was pretty easy to do and it was delicious. No leftovers.

Monday, November 07, 2022

Stems, no seeds

You can tell that the grapes from these vines were harvested by machine. The fruit was vibrated off the vines leaving the denuded stems behind. With hand harvesting, the whole bunches are cut off the vine, stems and all.

The vine canes along with the naked stems will be pruned away over winter.

Speaking of wine, this year's "new" wine will be released on Thursday the 17th. We'll certainly pick some up as soon as we can. Beaujolais Nouveau is probably the most internationally famous of the new wines, but many regions around the country (and now the world) issue their own local vins primeurs, including here in the Touraine. It's not that they're great wines (they can be very good). It's more about celebrating the vintage and winding up the season. We like to drink new wines with our Thanksgiving (American) meal, both Beaujolais Nouveau and Touraine Primeur.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Three barrels of fun

This is one of the Artsy Organized Neighbor's "installations." I'm sure I've posted a photo of it in the past, but maybe not quite the same. Ok, in the spirit of "trust but verify," I went back and looked. I posted one shot of the barrels in a different configuration and one other from a different angle. I've never touched the barrels so I don't know if they're empty or what.

They're not the right shape to contain monkeys.

I had another fire all day yesterday, which means I have another load of ash to clean out of the wood stove this morning. Our high is expected to be in the low teens (Celsius) today, so I'll do another fire today. Rinse and repeat.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Another mushroom

This one is called an ink cap, I believe. There's a place under the oak trees on the Artsy Organized Neighbor's property where these sprout every fall.

A shaggy ink cap sprouts up through fallen leaves.

It's very chilly this morning. The outdoor thermometer reads 6.2ºC (43ºF). I did build a fire yesterday and kept it going all day. When it gets light outside I'll empty the ashes from the wood stove, lug some more logs upstairs, and build another fire for today. This will be the almost daily chore from now through winter. The fire keeps the living and dining areas pleasantly warm. Until then, the central heating does the job.

Friday, November 04, 2022

Lonely little toadstool

This mushroom came up in the plowed up vineyard plot near where the lone walnut tree grows. There are a few others here and there, but they're widely spaced. I have no idea what variety they are.

I've never seen a toad sitting on one of these.

We woke up to light rain this morning. And it's chilly. The thermometer reads 8.6ºC (about 47ºF) as I type this. The central heat came on as it has for a couple of days now. I think I may build a fire when I get back from my walk with Tasha. It's Novembrrr!

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Another mushroom bloom

They're still popping up all over. These white mushrooms are came up under a conifer in our back yard, the second batch in the same location over the past couple of weeks. The conifer in question is one of two Christmas trees that the previous owners planted. We had one of them taken down when we first moved in because it was sickly. The second one is doing alright, but it blocks part of the view over the vineyards to the west and it casts a large shadow over the yard.

Do not eat!

Still, taking down a healthy tree is not a priority. We have a third conifer, a tall Himalayan cedar, that's dying (probably because of the drought) that will need to be taken down relatively soon. Ugh. It's always something.

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Plenty of nuttin'

Once again, I've run out of fresh fotos to post. So here's another same-old of the vineyard parcels (including the one that was torn out) behind our house.

Look familiar?

The holiday weekend is behind us, but school vacations last until next weekend, so there are still plenty of people going to the zoo and staying in vacation rentals all around us.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Tasha Tuesday

I had a hard time trying to get Tasha's attention for this shot. She was busily sniffing the ground, not responding to any of my pleas for her to look up. I mean, really, if you're going to be in the shot, then "be" in the shot! Finally she raised her head, but she refused to look at me directly. I could tell by her slightly annoyed expression that she was thinking, "Can't you see I'm busy?"

The strip of grass between the vines and the road is the repository for all manner of critterly calling cards. Tasha finds it irresistible.

Some days she stops every few steps for a good, leisurely sniff and a little marking of her own. Other days she ignores the smells and trots along ahead of me as if she's late for a very important date. I prefer the latter as it gets me walking at a brisk pace and that's good exercise. On the slow days, I feel like I'm standing around waiting for a bus that's never going to show up.