Thursday, August 31, 2023

Railroad bridge

With the château at my back, I'm looking up the Loire River in this shot. An interesting looking railroad bridge crosses the valley not far away. The dome you can see on the right is the Chapelle Notre-Dame-des-Ardilliers de Saumur.

Looking easterly up the Loire Valley at Saumur. July 2006.

I hate to keep harping on the weather. Well, I guess I don't, really. Our mornings are quite chilly, very fall-like. And this past week, the days have not warmed up much. We're wearing cold weather clothes in the house. But there's hope for this end of summer. The forecast is for more summer-like weather as we get into the weekend. That's good for me. There's grass to be mowed and firewood (those downed birch branches) to cut up.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023


The day we visited Saumur back in 2006, we didn't visit the château itself. Apart from a brief photo stop in the castle's parking lot. The views out over the Loire were pretty nice. I took more photos of the view than of the castle.

A side view of the château de Saumur from the parking lot. July 2006.

I've never, in fact, visited the inside of the Saumur castle. That's strange, since I've been inside our other local châteaux numerous times. One of these days...

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Summer lunch

Back in the summer of 2006, after Collette died, but before Callie came to live with us, we had a lot of visitors, mostly from the US. Our friend CHM was among them. While he was here, we took a drive over to the city of Saumur on the Loire River and had a leisurely lunch in town.

The colorful "terrasse" of a restaurant in central Saumur. July 2006.

I'm trying to remember what we ate, but I can't. It was seventeen years ago, after all. I do remember that Ken had something that he didn't like as much as he thought he would. He'll remember what it was. Since covid, we haven't had visitors nor have we ventured out for lunch. I did go out to lunch in Paris last March, but that was the first time I had ventured up to Paris since 2018.

We're lucky that we both like to cook and that we have a nice terrace to hang out on in the summer months. We do have a little trip planned later this fall, just a few days in a relatively close part of France that neither of us has been to. Something to look forward to!

Monday, August 28, 2023

Moon stricken

The phone is so good at taking pictures in low light that it can make a shot snapped at dusk look like it was taken mid-day. This was about 21h00 (9:00 pm) last night. The sun had set about fifteen minutes earlier, but the photo makes it look like the sun was still up.

The moon will be full on Thursday.

So this image doesn't look exactly like what I saw from the deck last night. I tried to adjust the light and colors with software. Still, the thinly veiled moon and the neighbors' yard looked much more eerie in person.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Amber waves of grain

Tasha has a grooming appointment in mid-October. The woman who operates a toilettage à domicile (pet grooming at your home) business is booked solid until then. She must be doing well. Her grooming salon on wheels is a converted RV. I really liked the way she did Tasha the last time, so I'm willing to wait. Tasha will be all prettied up for fall. Right now, her the fur around her paws is so thick that she looks like a Clydesdale.

Wheat field, July 2013.

The last time, by the way, was nearly a year ago. Yikes!

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Gad-zukes, again!

Zucchini. The gift that keeps on giving. No sooner did we almost empty this basket of zucchini and get them into the dehydrator than it filled up again. Not pictured is the one that got so big it wouldn't even fit in the basket. That one's destined for the compost pile.

One of several baskets of summer squash from this year's garden.

I don't know what we'll do with all of these. We've certainly been eating a lot of zucchini, and there is a lot of it in the freezer. Even Tasha is eating some, mixed in with her wet food in the mornings.

It feels cold this morning. The thermometer reads about 13ºC. We're expecting a high in the low 20s, which will be very nice, not to mention comfortable. Still, blankets are back on the bed.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Stormy weather

The heat wave broke yesterday with the arrival of thunderstorms. It was around mid-day. The wind picked up, the sky darkened, then the lightning and thunder did their thing. It was so dark outside that we had to turn lights on in the house. I took this photo just before 14h00 (2:00 pm). Unfortunately, the light outside looks pretty normal in the photo but, trust me, it was dark.

Just after lunch on Thursday.

When the storms moved on, the temperature had dropped to a much cooler, and more comfortable, level. Then last night around midnight, we had another round with more lightning, thunder, and rain. The storm spooked Tasha and she jumped up onto the bed. It lasted for an hour or so before subsiding. I fell asleep. Tasha was still on the bed when I woke up around 05h00. All is calm and cool and no storms are predicted for us today.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Pardon me, would you have any Montpoupon?

Americans of a certain age might remember the ad campaign for a brand of Dijon-style mustard called "Grey Poupon." I read on Wikipedia that the mustard brand originated in France. American rights to market it were purchased in the late 1940s and shortly after, France-based production was phased out. It wasn't until the 1970s and 1980s that the successful ad campaign associating the brand with luxury increased the product's popularity in the US.

Le château de Montpoupon. July 2013.

So what does Dijon mustard have to do with this castle in the Cher Valley? Nothing. Except that its name, Montpoupon, reminds me of the series of television commercials for Grey Poupon.

A memory just came back to me: Ken and I were driving in San Francisco one evening. It was prom night somewhere; kids dressed up in tuxes and gowns were riding around in limos. At a light, the limo next to us had it's sun roof open, and one of the guys was standing with his head and shoulders outside the car. He looked at us and shouted, "Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?" Laughter all around.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Another sunrise

This is last Sunday's sunrise. It may have been the last time we saw clouds. The current heat wave and its high pressure have swept the skies clean. Clouds, and some precipitation, are expected to return over the coming weekend. We still have two days of hot to contend with.

Looking northeasterly toward our hamlet as the sun rose last Sunday.

Mind you, it's not so bad here where we live. The real heat is bearing down on the southern regions in a broad swath that stretches between the Pyrénées and the Alps. The Rhône valley is particularly affected, according to the weather people.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023


Just a day or so ago, I saw one of the owners of the vineyard parcels out back inspecting her vines. I think she was testing sugar levels, but I'm not sure. At any rate, when the growers are out walking among the vines at this time of year, you can bet they're beginning to plan for harvest.

Ripening grapes on the vine.

The skies were clear all night. I know, because I was out looking at the stars around midnight. And it was warm. We woke up to 21ºC this morning. Just a couple of weeks ago, that wasn't far from the days' high temperatures. Now our highs are approaching the mid 30s, and we're expecting to get into the upper 30s as the week goes on.

I made more sauce yesterday as planned and managed to squeeze it into the freezers (one is part of the refrigerator and the other is a free-standing unit in the utility room). What will I do with the next dozen or more toms that are ready to pick? I could make sauce and then reduce it into tomato paste. I could can it (or bottle it as the Brits say), but for that I'd need to get more jars. Bother.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Don't get saucy with me

I'm thinking of making another batch of tomato sauce today. Last week, we dehydrated a bunch of toms and jarred them up for use over winter. The week before, I made a second batch of sauce for the freezer. This will be the third.

Last week's batch of sauce getting started on the stove.

The challenge is finding space in the freezer for it all. I think I might be able to squeeze another batch in by moving some things around and thawing and eating some other things that have been in there for a while. Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Saturday was pizza day

Both Ken and I had haircut appointments for Saturday afternoon, so we decided to eat an early lunch. I made a batch of pizza dough and Ken whipped up a small batch of tasty tomato sauce with some of our garden toms.

The second of two pizzas for Saturday's lunch.

The rest of the toppings were cured ham, roasted bell peppers, black olives, sliced mushrooms and, of course, grated cheese. The pies turned out great. So did our haircuts.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Post 19

Worry not. I don't plan to "post" any more photos of the hunting "posts." After this one. Since the posts were all pulled out of this vineyard parcel to plant new vines, the hunters nailed this post marker to the lone walnut tree. Next year, I imagine, new vineyard posts will be installed here. Will they move the post marker? I'll keep you "posted."

Post 19

Another hot day is expected today. We have the fans on and the windows open this morning to bring some cool air into the house before we close it up later this afternoon. They've got it much worse than we do down in the southeast region. The news people are saying that a heat wave like this is very unusual this late in the summer.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Post 14

Hunting season is almost upon us. I noticed new post markers in the vineyard. The posts are where hunters are stationed during an organized group hunt called une battue while others, often with dogs, push the game toward them. The game are specific: fox, roe deer, or wild boar. The hunts are organized to reduce overpopulation of certain species.

Post markers are nailed to vineyard posts (ha!) or trees at regular intervals.

Our morning lows are over 20ºC this week and the highs are over 30º. I think that's close to the definition of a canicule (official heat wave) in our region if it lasts more than three days, but I can't find anything official about that. In any event, it's hot for us and it's predicted to get hotter into next week.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

The sun also rises

Not much to say about this somewhat dramatic sunrise we had one morning last week. I took a few photos from different spots out among the grape vines. I think I like this one the best. Maybe.

Looking easterly at about 07h20 last Thursday morning.

We're moving into a hot spell through the weekend. The vegetable garden should like that. I have to keep it well watered and keep harvesting. There are more tomatoes out there now, and I'll bet a second harvest of beans is on the way. Of course, the zucchini keep producing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Clafoutis aux prunes

One of our neighbors recently dropped off a bag full of little plums,* called mirabelles, from one of her trees. We had to scramble before they went bad. Ken cooked most of them to make jelly. He got six-plus Bonne Maman sized jars of jelly. One of them will go back to the neighbor who gave the plums to us, the rest go in the pantry. I used the remaining fruit to make a clafoutis, a common French fruit and custard dish more traditionally made with cherries. The little mirabelles are the perfect size (not much bigger than black cherries) for clafoutis.

Clafoutis aux prunes (mirabelles).

I got six more containers of tomato sauce into the freezer yesterday. That makes thirteen in total, if I'm not mistaken, a good amount to enjoy through fall and winter. The zucchinis are still piling up. We gave three to a neighbor yesterday. I'll grill one or two more to have with today's lunch.

* Plums are called prunes in French. What we (Americans) call "prunes" (dried plums) are known as pruneaux in France.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Outside the garden gate

When I cut the grass in our yard, I also cut a strip along the outside of the hedges. Most of it lies along our road, but I also cut this part along the tractor path just to the west, between our yard and the vineyard. It looks neater this way than wild.

The town cuts the grass on this tractor path a couple of times a year. I cut a smaller strip more often.

I made another batch of tomato sauce yesterday, using up a good portion of our latest harvest. Today's challenge is to get it into the freezer. It's getting pretty crowded in there.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Bean bonanza

This is what I picked on Sunday. It's all from the second row of beans that I planted. I had originally planted the whole row with yellow beans, but most of those seeds failed to germinate. I filled in with the same green bean variety that I planted in the first row.

Beans, beans, good for your heart...

Needless to say, we'll be eating some green beans over the next few days. Some will more than likely end up in the freezer. And there's at least one more harvest to come. I also picked three more zucchinis and about a dozen more tomatoes. Yikes!

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Cloud parade

Some interesting clouds over the vineyard at sunrise a few mornings ago.

A Rorschach test in the sky.

The weather people don't seem to agree on the forecast. We may have showers today, we may not.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Tomatoes again?

It's that time of year. Along with zucchini, we're picking tomatoes faster than we can eat them. The freezers are stocked with sauce and ratatouille. It's a bounty we were careful not to hope for, given recent years' disappointments in the vegetable garden. We gave some toms and zukes away to our neighbors from out of town, along with the recipe for zucchini bread. I made Caprese salad to have with yesterday's lunch and I'll be grilling some zukes to accompany today's. To top it all off, there are beans to be picked.

It's a banner year for tomatoes.

Thunder rumbled in the distance as I woke up this morning. A little rain fell. I think the front has moved through leaving us with a relatively calm morning as the sun rises.

Friday, August 11, 2023

The north forty

In all its glory. The mowing cycle is complete one more time. I was also able to get some yard debris disposed of, too. Clippings and brambles and sticks collected in little piles here and there are now gone. I took this photo before I finished that.

Nothing much happens in this part of the yard, but it still needs to be mowed.

It was, as forecast, a hot day on Thursday, but not uncomfortable. It'll be a little less hot today. Other than watering the vegetable garden, I'm not sure what's on the day's agenda.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Pizza fixins

On Sunday I made pizzas for lunch. The toppings were fresh tomatoes (from the garden), cured ham (from the Périgord region), roasted red, yellow, and orange bell peppers (from the supermarket), goat's cheese (from the supermarket), and black olives (from a jar). I guess I was really hungry because I didn't take pictures of the finished pies.

It was delicious!

Today is supposed to be the hottest day of our current warm spell, into the low 30s C. We're invited across the road this evening for apéros. Perfect weather to sit outside and sip wine.

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

Little vines

Here's a close-up view of the new grape vines in the replanted parcel out back. Last week, I noticed that someone spent a few days bent over pulling the weeds that were growing close to the vine stems. That's backbreaking work; at least the weather was cool.

New sauvignon blanc vines.

Yesterday I cut the south forty and the strip outside the hedges. Those rains did indeed make the grass and weeds start to grow again. Today I hope to get the north forty done, then on Thursday tackle the west forty. Now that the rain has stopped, I'm back to watering the vegetables. I should be able to harvest a bunch of tomatoes as the week goes on.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Tasha Tuesday

Tasha likes to hang out on the deck as long as the sliding doors are open. She doesn't like being cut off from her "pack," i.e. me and Ken. She also likes to be able to come in and go out as she likes. If it's too cold to have the doors open, she settles for sitting just inside so she can watch what goes on outside. People, cars, dogs, birds, anything that moves, she surveils it all.

Taken with the Pixel 6. It distorts wide angle shots, either that or I have yet to learn how to take them correctly. Those deck tiles are square.

Our re-warming trend starts today, according to the weather folks. The morning is still chilly, but today's high is expected to hit 26ºC, tomorrow 28ºC, and into the 30s by the weekend. I hope they're right.

Monday, August 07, 2023

Up up and away

See that little dark speck in the sky just to the right of center in the photo? That's a hot-air balloon. It's to the north and west of our house. We used to see a lot of them here, flying over the vineyards and very close to our house. One year, a balloon actually landed in the vineyard out back. Since the pandemic, however, balloons over us are rare. The ones that I see are, like this one, far away.

A hot-air balloon in the distance. Sometimes I see two in the same area.

It's 12ºC this morning, about 54ºF. That's certainly cold for August. Ken's walking Tasha this morning, so he'll have to bundle up. The forecast for mid week is still for more summery temperatures. We'll see.

I didn't have a zoom lens on the camera, so I zoomed in with software.

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Weeds and wildflowers

Baby, it's cold outside. Not the bone-chilling cold of winter, but an unseasonable chill is definitely in the air. A stiff northwest wind makes it feel even colder. I wear three layers for the morning walks. The afternoon walks only require two layers. The weather gurus say we should return to more summery weather by mid-week. That will feel good.

Little daisies and tall grasses among the grape vines.

I harvested a bucketful of tomatoes a few days ago and, in addition to a tomato salad or two, I made sauce for the freezer. We now have seven 750ml containers (about 5.5 US quarts) of sauce put away for fall and winter.

Saturday, August 05, 2023

Too soon?

With this chilly weather we're having now, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's late September/early October. Seeing these grape vine leaves turn orange and red reinforces the illusion. In truth, there are always some early turners among the bright green leaves of the summer vineyards.

Early fall color among the greens and whites of summer.

I noticed on Friday morning's walk with Tasha that some of the red grapes are turning color as well. This morning's low is about 14ºC or 57ºF. Brr!

Friday, August 04, 2023

These vines

Shortly after we moved into our house here, the vines in this vineyard parcel were planted. To me, the parcel just looked like a field and, when the plowing started, I thought oh no they're building a house! Turns out that the growers were just re-planting a parcel that had been ripped up a year or so earlier. We've since watched this parcel of sauvignon blanc grow and mature into now nearly twenty-year old vines.

These vines are almost twenty years old.

For the past month or so, we've been experiencing what they call micro coupures de courant (micro power outages) almost once a day. The power cuts out for about a second then returns. Our computers and television go off, the modem/router (and therefore the internet connection) go off, and the fridge and freezers go off (but they come back on), which is not good for them. And certain lights and clocks are knocked out. Joy. Our main circuit breaker doesn't trip (well, it did once). 

We wondered if this was just happening to us, that maybe something had gone wrong with our wiring. Earlier in the week, Ken called the town hall to ask if they knew what was going on. The woman he spoke with said that it's not just us, but the whole town. The electric company is doing something too technical to explain and it should be over soon.

All was quiet for a few days after that, but it the power cut out again this morning when I started typing this entry. It's hard to believe that this is happening to the whole town and nobody's talking about it. The least the electric company (or the mayor's office) could do would be to notify us that this was going on and what to expect. But no. Not a word. And there's nothing about it on the town's web site. The mayor is currently (pun intended) out of town on vacation, but when she gets back I want to ask her about the situation and when we might expect it to stop.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

The next generation

I enjoy seeing the new grape vines growing out back. A few years need to pass before they produce grapes. For now, they look healthy and happy. I assume that the recent rains were good for them. Still, the weather is in a cool pattern now and I can't help but wonder if that will slow things down a little.

New grape vines out back. They're sauvignon blanc.

I'm way behind in balancing our checking account. Like months. I'm considering not worrying about it and stopping doing it altogether. I use Microsoft Money to record transactions and for decades I've been balancing it with the bank statement each month. Everything is online now and we frequently review our deposits and spending that way, even though I still get paper statements every month. I've tried for years to get our French bank to send electronic statements, and they say they do (Go paperless!), but I've never received one. I get them from my American bank without a problem. We always have the paper (or electronic) statement if we detect any anomalies.

So, I'm wondering, does anybody still balance their bank accounts the old fashioned way?

Wednesday, August 02, 2023


This is what most of the grapes look like right now. Red or white, they're all green. It won't be long before they start to ripen and take on their harvest time colors. Unless the weather intervenes. It's not warm. The weather reporter on the morning news show said a day or so ago that the weather's pretty mild, for October. The predicted high, repeat: high, temperature in our area for Thursday is 17ºC. That's about 62ºF. In early August. While the rest of the northern hemisphere seems to be suffering under a heat wave, our central heating might need to come on. We're putting extra blankets on the bed. To top it all off, the wind won't stop blowing.

Let's hope these get a chance to ripen.

We're going to pretend it's summer and grill steaks for lunch today. It'll be too cold to do that tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 01, 2023


To-ma-toes. Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew. Oh, wait. That's taters, precious.

It's tomato season!

There's nothing better than ripe tomatoes fresh from the garden.