Monday, July 31, 2023


The zucchini is piling up. I grated and bagged two of the larger ones for the freezer yesterday. Grated squash comes in handy later in the fall for all sorts of things like soups, fritters, and zucchini bread. I'll probably end up putting more in the freezer. We already have blanched zuke disks frozen, but they take up a lot of space and the freezer is filling up.

Zucchini blossoms and fruit in the garden.

It looks like we might have a few warm and sunny days as the week gets going. All kinds of household chores are lined up. I have to make an effort to get them done. It's all about overcoming inertia. Once I get started, the chores go pretty fast. Since we had some rain, the grass will be growing again, which means it will need cutting again. On today's agenda: dealing with recycling and cleaning the bathroom. One (or two) things a day.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

The summer garden

The vegetable garden is producing now. I picked three more courgettes (zucchini) yesterday. We're talking about making zucchini fritters this week, among other things. The tomatoes have started ripening, but they're kind of stalled now with this spell of chilly, wet weather. We've got bags of blanched green beans in the freezer and have enjoyed eating fresh beans a few times. Three of the sucrines (a winter squash similar to butternut) have survived. They'll stay in the garden until they go from green to tan later in the fall.

The current state of the garden with tomatoes and zucchini. You can see the fig tree in the background just in front of the red-leafed plum tree.

I went to the market yesterday and found some blettes (chard) for today's meal of white beans and greens. I saw the recipe in the New York Times and it looked worth a try. The chard plants in our garden are too small to harvest right now. They may be ready in another month or so.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Another view

A different angle from yesterday's photo. Those birch trunks are between six and eight feet long. They need to be cut to 33cm lengths to fit into the wood stove. I know, I just mixed my measurement units. I could convert, but I'm too lazy. Anyway, there are a few more trunks like these in what's left of the big pile. So there's work to be done.

The smaller pile on the right is some of the (now dried out) brambles that I cut out of the big pile. There's another pile like it on the other side of the tree. Isn't this fascinating?

Today is market day in Saint-Aignan (as is most every Saturday). I'm going in to get some chard for a recipe that I saw in the NYT food section: Braised white beans with greens. We also need some bread, but not much else.

The gum and bone healing seems to be going well. I'm taking a vitamin D supplement (for strong teeth and bones!) for a few more weeks, but by next weekend I should be off the acetaminophen and done with the gentle-brushing-with-special-toothpaste routine. The stitches should be gone by then, too. The special mouthwash regimen ends tomorrow.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Sticks, no stones

Back when the tops of our birch trees fell and the landscape guy took what was left down, I asked him to save me the bigger branches and trunks so I could cut them into firewood. He left more than I asked for, including the smaller branches with their leaves attached. He piled them all up under our dying Himalayan cedar tree. It was a mess. Since then, I didn't do much about them. I could say I was seasoning the wood, but I just had other things to do. The leaves dried up and faded away and the pile was quickly invaded and totally covered by thorny brambles. Yuck.

What's left of the original pile is in the center. To the left are the larger branches, to the right are the smaller branches and kindling. It doesn't look like much in the photo but, trust me, it is. The metal thing on the far right is the sawhorse.

So now I'm cleaning that up. With a pair of heavy gloves and a garden pruner, I attacked the brambles and removed most of them. I'm dividing the wood into piles of kindling, small logs, and larger logs. The latter will need to be cut up with the chainsaw as we move into fall. So far, I've spent about three or four hours on it. Another three or four hours should do it. Now the question is where will I store it all?

Thursday, July 27, 2023


I'm in serious need of some new photos. This one, from 2013, is a view of the bridge over the Cher in the nearby town of Montrichard. The curious thing about Montrichard is that the "t" is pronounced. Normally, the "t" in the French word mont is silent. There are several competing explanations for the pronunciation, but no one is certain which, if any, is correct. You can always spot out-of-towners when they drop the "t."

The town is out of the photo to the right. Montrichard, July 2013.

Things are going well so far on this the second day after my implant procedure. I go in this afternoon to have the temporary crown installed.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Goin' to the chapel

Another shot from inside the chapel at the Château de Chambord. I really liked the colors in this scene.

Looking out the chapel windows. Chambord, July 2013.

My dental procedure yesterday couldn't have gone better. Well, it could have, in that the tooth did not want to come out. At first, the doctor was optimistic. He thought he could pull the tooth in one piece. But it was a stubborn little devil. He ended up having to cut it in two. After that it came out fine.

Then the implant went in and the doctor sewed up part of the gum and it was all over. I felt absolutely no pain, just a little pressure during the extraction. After it was done, I got treated to some luminothérapie. Light therapy. Twelve minutes of exposure to bright light (with eye protection, of course) to facilitate the jaw bone's healing. Ken said it sounded like hocus pocus but, if nothing else, it got me to sit still quietly, at least for twelve minutes. It felt like I was out sitting in the sun. No sign of tanning.

So now I'm on a somewhat steady diet of paracétamol (acetaminophen) for a few days. The only thing I feel is a little soreness. I have some eating restrictions for a couple of days, some special mouthwash, and an ultra soft post-op toothbrush for the first few brushings of the extraction site. The implant is capped for now, but the cap will come off on Thursday when I get a temporary crown installed. Then it's a three month wait for the bone to heal before the permanent crown goes in.

All in all, it was a very positive experience. I suffered more in anticipation than I did in the dentist's chair.

And, on the humorous side, I asked one of the staff about the "no alcohol" restriction. I wanted to know when I could start drinking wine again. Don't worry, she said, wine isn't "alcohol." Then she yelled across the bustling reception area to the doctor in his office, "he can have wine, right?" The doctor laughed and yelled back "of course! Avec plaisir!" You gotta love France.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

In case you were wondering

And even if you weren't, here's what the original photo from yesterday's post looks like. The only post-processing I did here was straighten the image and pump up the exposure. It was quite dark; probably an error in metering.

The original digital image taken in jpg format. Chambord, July 2013.

We're supposed to have rain on and off all day. That suits my mood. My dental appointment is this afternoon. I'm having a broken tooth (bicuspid) removed and replaced with an implant. I go back Thursday for the temporary crown. Then, after three months of bone healing, I go back for the permanent crown. I'll be on liquid soft, cold food for a couple of days (Ken's planning a cold leek and potato soup for tomorrow), then I have to avoid chewing on that side of my mouth for about three weeks. I'm sure everything will go fine, but that doesn't stop me from feeling anxious about it.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Yes, I'll hold

I was in the chapel in the Château de Chambord trying to get a decent shot of the arched ceiling and the stained glass while trying to capture the volume of the space. It wasn't until I started processing the photo that I noticed the little girl standing next to a stroller holding a cell phone up to her ear. 

This is the cropped version of the photo. Chambord, July 2013.

I cropped the photo way down to shift the focus from the room to the girl. When I zoom in further, I can see that her disdainful eyes were fixed on me.

Zoomed in.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Twist and shout

Here's another staircase in the Château de Chambord. It's much less grand than the double-helix central stair, but no less impressive.

I think the stone work is beautiful. Chambord, July 2013.

Our neighbor, the mayor, stopped by yesterday and gave us a bag of figs from her tree. She and her husband are leaving today to spend a couple of weeks at their vacation home down south and, she said, the figs would just be devoured by birds if she left them on the tree. We're happy to have them. I think I'll freeze them whole for use later in the fall.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Stuff it!

We had some leftover meat stuffing in the freezer. Ken made stuffed cabbage earlier this summer and froze the leftover stuffing. A couple of weeks ago, he added to it and made stuffed zucchini. Again, there was more leftover stuffing. A little later, he added to it again and made stuffed eggplant. Then he got some nice bell peppers and stuffed them. And, you'll never guess, there is still more leftover stuffing.

Stuffed red and green bell peppers, ready for the oven.

So now we're going to stuff eggplant and zucchini again. I let a few of the zukes in the garden get big (zucchini boats!), so I'm hopeful we'll be able to use all the stuffing and not have any more leftovers. Of course, we will likely have leftover stuffed zucchini. Maybe that's progress. By the way, we will finish the leftover stuffed peppers today. Strike that. The leftover peppers went into the freezer as did the leftover stuffing. We're having tomato sauce (our tomatoes) on grilled eggplant and zucchini.

Friday, July 21, 2023

The first green beans

While I was watering the vegetable garden yesterday morning, I noticed that we had green beans ready to pick. I didn't realize that there were so many. I'll probably be able to pick the same amount over the weekend. We'll be eating some today, but we may have to freeze the leftovers.

Green beans. The wine glass and scissors are purely for scale.

The second row of beans that I planted is starting to flower now. I think we'll be eating a lot of green beans in the coming weeks. It's a good thing.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

The first tomatoes

While I've been harvesting zucchini for a few weeks now, these are the first tomatoes to ripen. There are many more on the vine, so I'm hopeful for a good harvest. I have ten plants, three varieties. It won't be like past years when I had upwards of thirty tomato plants. I was making sauce for the freezer like crazy. This is less crazy.

Three cœur de bœuf and one round "I forgot what it's called" tomatoes.

I water the vegetables every day. There hasn't been a significant rain in a while. It hasn't been very hot, either; a few days of heat here and there are all we've had. The mornings are downright chilly. It feels more like September than July. On the upside, I've noticed many people mention that their gardens are doing well this year. I think the wet and warm spring we had (no April freeze) helped a lot.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

What's going on here?

While visiting the Château de Chambord back in July of 2013, I saw this. My best guess is that it's part of a wedding shower, with the bride in white and the bridesmaids in red. Hair, that is. But who knows?

The lady in white gets a motor boat while the others have to row. Chambord, July 2013.

I picked the first of the tomatoes yesterday. We have yet to taste them, but soon we'll slice one or two up for a salad.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Double helix

The central stair in the Château de Chambord is well known for two things. First, it's two staircases in one. Each stair spirals up toward the roof independently, never meeting. People on one stair can walk up and never see the people on the other stair. Second, it's said that Leonard de Vinci had a hand in its design, although there's no concrete evidence of that.

A monumental stair. Chambord, July 2013.

We're going to get a touch of the heat wave that's affecting southern Europe today. The high is predicted to go over 30ºC (86ºF). The humidity will be low, so it won't be so bad.

Monday, July 17, 2023


The zucchini plants are producing, so we're trying to keep up. Ken gave four to one of our neighbors yesterday. And we used a few in that Provençal classic, ratatouille. The eggplant and tomatoes came from the Saturday market in Saint-Aignan.

Ingredients assembled.

The first thing we did was to slice the eggplant and zucchini into thick rounds. I painted them with olive oil before I put them on the grill for a little color. We sliced up a couple of onions and garlic cloves and sweated them over low heat in a big pot. We added bay leaves, red pepper flakes, thyme, oregano, and salt & pepper to the mix.

Eggplant rounds, grilled.

We sliced the tomatoes and added them to the pot along with the zukes and eggplant. That all got cooked, covered, for about forty minutes. I stirred it all around every five minutes or so.

Zucchini rounds, grilled, and tomatoes.

I grilled a couple of smoked sausages while the ratatouille simmered and then we served it. If I do say so myself, it was most delicious. And, of course, there are leftovers. I filled three containers and into the freezer they went. 

Everything into the pot!

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Looks like a hundred bucks

This is what's inside one of the corridors featured in yesterday's post. Antlers. I'm assuming that these "trophies" came from deer hunted on the property. Chambord was a hunting lodge, after all.

Oh, deer. Chambord, July 2013.

Saturday was chilly and blustery with brief showers here and there. Today is sunny and expected to be warmer. And... it's ratatouille day!

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Windows at Chambord

The castle's central core is connected to two outer wings (including the logis royale) by corridors with large windows on both the external and courtyard sides. I caught a few silhouettes of visitors moving through.

Chambord, July 2013.

Today is market day and I'm going in! We're getting a lot of zucchini right now and I though we should make a ratatouille for lunch tomorrow. I'll get some aubergines (eggplant) and tomatoes, the other two main ingredients. I'll also pick up some chicken sausages from the poultry vendor. They're good on the grill and they freeze well.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Le quatorze juillet

I heard and saw fireworks from the north window in the loft last night at eleven. They didn't wake me. I was having trouble falling asleep.

Le tricolor flies over Chambord, July 2013.

This morning is the big parade in Paris, then fireworks galore all around the country. I believe Saint-Aignan will put on its show this evening. We'll be able to hear them and probably to see the sky light up.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Bring me some figgy pudding

It could happen. Our fig tree is actually producing figs. And they're beginning to ripen. We'll probably eat these first figs now, but I'm thinking if we get a good crop, I could freeze them for use over the holidays. Foie gras goes really well with figs. And fig tarts are yummy. Then there's actual figgy pudding, the traditional Christmas pudding common in Britain.

Figs on our tree. At last!

It's quite chilly again this morning. We're in an up/down kind of temperature pattern. This afternoon is predicted to be nice, then downright hot tomorrow. But by Saturday it's supposed to be cold again. By the way, this is a big holiday weekend. Friday is la fête nationale, what we call Bastille Day in the US. Parades, fireworks, and all that. The Tour de France continues. Once Wimbledon is over (this weekend), I'll probably watch some of the race.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023


This year's tomato crop looks promising. I planted three varieties. One is cœur de bœuf, a hearty red tomato. Another is ananas, a yellow tomato. The third is another red variety, but I've forgotten what it's called.

These are cœur de bœuf. They resemble bull's hearts, apparently.

I bought the seedlings at a local market. The vendor must have had thirty or more varieties on offer, most of which I had never heard of. The cœur de bœuf and ananas are well-known and familiar to most home gardeners.

This is the red variety whose name I've forgotten. Good thing I'm not a parent.

So now I'm in maintenance mode, keeping the plants watered and pinching suckers. A lot of suckers get ahead of me and I don't have the heart to cut them off once they have blossoms, so a few get to live.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

The summer garden

I know, I know. Another garden post. Sorry. It's the summer look, and we're starting to get results. I've been picking zucchini for a couple of weeks now. And the tomatoes are looking good, although only one is ripening at this point. The first row of green beans is covered in flowers. Beans are on the way. We have about a half-dozen winter squash. I thought I had planted pumpkins, but they turned out to be sucrines de Berry, very much like butternut squash. And that's alright with me.

The summer garden. Swiss chard is sprouting in the tiny row next to the zukes.

I also have basil growing in flower boxes on the deck, and it's looking good. Soon we'll be enjoying tomato, basil, and mozzarella salads.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Summer salad

Every summer, I like to make a salad that could be likened to tabbouleh, the middle eastern classic. Since we usually have a lot of zucchini in the garden, I use that instead of cucumber. And that's the point; a summer salad like this is a good way to use whatever vegetables you have on hand. This time, in addition to the zucchini, I added tomatoes, sweet corn, artichoke bottoms and hearts, and even a few leftover radishes.

Chopped vegetables, ready for the bulgur and the dressing.

The ingredient not pictured is bulgur, which I cooked, cooled, then mixed in. To dress the salad, I used  oil from a jar of marinated artichoke hearts (sunflower oil, herbs, and spices) and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Olive oil is more traditional, but variety is the spice of life, n'est-ce pas?

The salad keeps well in the fridge and, like many things, is even better after a day or two. I made ours on Saturday and we'll be finishing it up today.

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Still on the roof

I should start moving back down through the building. Soon. This is just another roof combo, featuring, in the background on the right, one of the conical slate-covered roofs that protect the castle's round towers. I think there are six in all.

Can you spot the pigeon? Chambord, July 2013.

Last night was a hot one, around 31º (close to 90ºF) on the deck in the late afternoon. Fortunately, the humidity is not high and we didn't have any storms over night. This morning, however, the humidity is up and there are storms heading toward us from the southwest (Bordeaux). We'll see what happens.

I got out early with Tasha, around 06h30, for a nice walk in the cool morning air. I could hear thunder to our west (Tours), but that storm shouldn't threaten us. I also took some more photos of the vegetable garden. For posterity. And maybe to post here. So far, none of the tomatoes resemble celebrities.

Saturday, July 08, 2023

A wider angle

Here is a wider view of the staircase from yesterday's post. It's a spiral, external to the building, but inside the northeast courtyard. It serves, if I remember correctly, the logis or royal wing where the king's apartments are.

A stairway in the logis royale at Chambord, July 2013.
Again, the people on the lower walkway provide some scale.

We had a humdinger of a thunderstorm last night, between about midnight and 01h30. The strong winds and lightning flashes woke me up. I made the rounds inside the house, battening down the hatches, as it were. We weren't really expecting a storm. One of the weather sites I look at has a five hour loop of the lightning strikes in France, so I checked it out this morning. It looked like the storm split around us mostly on the west, but also on the east. I counted six to eight "Mississippis" between lightning flashes and thunderclaps, indicating that the lighting was a little less than two miles a way (five seconds equal about a mile). It sounded like it was all around us, but not on top of us. The storm eventually moved on to our north and I fell back to sleep. Ken slept through most of it, Tasha took refuge on the bed a couple of times.

Friday, July 07, 2023

Another from the roof

This is a snippet of an external stairway in one of the interior courtyards of the Chambord castle. It's very close to the personal apartments of the king. Not much to say about it, except that I liked the view.

Arches and columns at Chambord, July 2013.

I've been cutting the grass again over the past two days. As you probably know, it's less grass and more little plants and weeds. Today I'll finish up with the north forty, where the meadow project happened. That little rainy spell a few days ago helped it get less brown, but not much.

Thursday, July 06, 2023

La lanterne

High atop Chambord's central structure is a lanterne (lantern) that allows light to penetrate into the main stairwell (more about that later). Visitors are limited to the terraces at the base of the lanterne, but stairs do continue up, providing access to the windows above.

The central lantern among the chimneys at Chambord, July 2013.
The people at the bottom provide some scale.

We woke up to a chilly 12.5º this morning, colder than yesterday morning. The weather people are telling us that high pressure is building in that will pump hot air from North Africa and Spain into France. Today. Temperatures are expected at around 30ºC (about 86ºF), depending on where you are. And warmer still into the weekend. Looks like summer's back.

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Chim chim cher-ee

You get to see Chambord's ornate chimneys up close from the castle's rooftop terraces. I read in Wikipedia that the château has 282 fireplaces. Not surprising, given the size of the place. All that smoke had to go somewhere.

Chimneys at Chambord, July 2013.

I slept much better last night than the night before. And I woke up with a few more mosquito bites than I had before bedtime. Reader Mitchell mentioned anti-mosquito plug-ins in a comment yesterday. That reminded me that I have a couple of those, so I dug them out and plugged one in. After a while, my sleepy self wondered if I had it right side up or upside down. I couldn't figure it out in the dark, so I unplugged it. In the light of morning I figured it out. I had it upside down.

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Up on the roof

One of the cool things about the Château de Chambord is that visitors can go out onto the rooftop terraces and take in the views of the property in all directions. This view is looking south. The squared-off trees are the same ones I posted a couple of days ago.

Looking south from the roof of the Château de Chambord, July 2013.

I had a lousy night last night, tossing and turning and unable to fall asleep, except for a couple of hours between midnight and two. Part of the problem was a mosquito. We did battle for hours. This morning, I turned the bedside lamp on to see if I could find (and kill) it after I took Tasha downstairs for her breakfast. When I got back up to bed, there it was, sitting on the sheets, all but laughing at me. I lunged and missed. I gave up and went back downstairs.

Monday, July 03, 2023


Let's set the WABAC Machine to ten years ago. It was July 2013 and friends from the US were visiting. Naturally, we made our way to the Château de Chambord which, for many years, has adorned this blog's banner (above). This is the central section of the castle's northern façade, in black and white.

Le Château de Chambord, July 2013.

As I've done in the past, I'm re-working some of the photos that I posted here back when they were taken. There are likely to be other photos that I haven't posted before. Except for the major items, I'll try to limit the history blah-blah. You can find abundant information on the internet if you're so inclined. That said, today's tid-bit is that this château was built in the early sixteenth century by King François I as a hunting lodge. A very impressive hunting lodge.

Sunday, July 02, 2023

Not my garden

As if. I took this on the grounds of the Château de Chambord back in the fall of 2012. The squared-off trees remind me of my hometown, where the same pruning technique is used, much less elegantly, on the plaza of the state capitol complex.

Those trees need a trim.

Saturday was blustery and wet. Probably not wet enough. I'm sure that our brown lawn enjoyed it nonetheless. The Tour de France is under way. This year's route doesn't come near us. Tournament play at Wimbledon starts tomorrow. That's it for the weather and sports. Film at eleven.

Saturday, July 01, 2023

Experiment over

The Meadow Project has concluded. I mowed it all down. It was looking rather messy with poplars and birches shooting upward, along with some nasty thorny things. I had to cut those out manually before mowing. The lawnmower worked perfectly, after the clogged carburetor problem was solved. Now there's a big section of brown "lawn" where the "meadow" used to be.  I'm hopeful that rain will help restore its green color. The drought is not helping. I collected the cut grass and weeds and used them in the vegetable garden as mulch (the mower is a mulcher).

The wild meadow in the north forty is no more. Some rain now would be nice.

The lawn in general is not very green in these warm, dry summers. It usually comes back in winter when natural rain provides its water. I don't water the grass otherwise. So we have more brown patches than green this time of year. And now we have a big one.

Speaking of rain, we got some over night. Not much, but the ground is wet. We're supposed to get more rain through the morning, but I'm not optimistic. Most of the rain predicted for this past week never materialized.