Saturday, September 30, 2023

Cleaning up the daisy patch

I should have taken a "before" photo, but I forgot. I spent a couple of hours on Thursday and Friday cutting back the overgrown daisy patch, seen here as the wedge-shaped piece of ground next to the garden path. It's flanked by a fruitless prunus tree and a large forsythia. There's some more detail work to do, but if I don't do it, it won't really matter. Next spring the daisies will come back, as will the weeds, but I'll have a better shot at cutting the weeds out before they take over.

The daisies were between four and five feet tall. The weeds (brambles, vines, and assorted tree saplings) were getting taller. That's a rose in the middle. Now I have to think about getting that monster forsythia back under control.

The other thing I did was to fight back the incursion of thorny brambles just outside our northern fence, which runs the length of the property. That made it possible for me to run the lawnmower back there, keeping the woods at bay. Although, I must admit that, while I won the battle, I'm slowing losing the war.

Friday, September 29, 2023

You may approach the bench

I don't know if it's still like this, but when we visited the grounds of the Château de Carrouges in 2006, the benches and planter boxes in the garden were painted this striking color. I don't know what to call it. It kind of makes me think of teal, but that doesn't seem quite right. Teal is not as bright as this.

Even the moat boat was this color. What would you call it? Carrouges, June 2006.

I got some work done in the yard yesterday. The daisy patch needs to be cut down each year. I didn't do it last year, so it was a mess. Thorny brambles, honeysuckle, and even tree saplings were coming up through the dead flower stalks. So I got the hedge trimmer out and cut it all down to as close to ground level as I could. It was a chore, but it's done. And it looks so much better. Today my plan is to dispose of the four or five piles of what I cut out of the patch. And maybe take some pictures for posterity.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Bridge over Muddy Waters?!

Here's the more civilized way to cross the moat at Carrouges. It's not even a drawbridge. The old defensive fortress was destroyed in the Hundred Years War and, according to Wikipedia, rebuilt as more of a residence and less of a working fortress.

What good is a moat without a drawbridge? Carrouges, June 2006.

We're taking advantage of the mild weather to use the grill. It's not unusual to be able to grill this time of year, but once November comes, the grill will be cleaned up and covered for the winter. There are a lot of little yard chores to do, but I haven't been motivated. Maybe today.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Tout s'explique

So this is how you get in and out of the moat that surrounds the Carrouges castle.

A nice little moat boat ramp. Château de Carrouges, June 2006.

We're enjoying what North Americans would call Indian summer. The afternoons are warm. Shorts and tee shirts weather. Nice. The French might call it une belle arrière saison. When it's warm between  October and the start of winter, they call it l'été de la Saint-Martin.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Our personal harvest

We have about eight table grape vines growing in our back yard. There were about a dozen when we moved in (twenty years ago), but several of them died over the years. We never get many grapes from them, partly because the vines are planted in the shadows of some tall trees and never really get enough sun. But this year, wow! It's the most grapes we've had. Ever. They are a mixture of varieties according to the woman who sold us the house, but I don't remember which. There might be chasselas in there somewhere.

The grapes from our vines, the most we've ever seen. And they do taste good.

The other problem with the grapes, besides their low yield, is that they have seeds. That makes using them a pain. So we just snack on them, trying to remember to spit out the pits before crunching down on them. I've seen many French people eat them, pits and all.

I'm planning to rip out the vines this fall. They're old and showing their age. Mowing around them is a real pain, and since they rarely give us fruit, I don't see any reason to keep them.

Monday, September 25, 2023

She swam the moat?

If you've ever seen "Once Upon a Mattress," you will probably remember that line. The musical is a spoof of the story "The Princess and the Pea," first done in the late 1950s off Broadway and on. I saw a televised version in 1972 starring Carol Burnett and Ken Berry. I thought it was pretty funny back then. I wonder how it's aged.

Once you swim across, how the heck do you get inside? Carrouges, June 2006.

So, here's the moat at the Château de Carrouges. Would you swim across for a chance to marry a prince?

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Château de Carrouges

Reader Kiwi recognized yesterday's photo as being part of the Château de Carrouges in southern Normandy. It's the gate house (I believe), not the actual castle. The castle itself is a hulk of a building surrounded by a defensive moat. When we stopped there in 2006, we just did a quick walk around the grounds as we were on our way to someplace else. Years later, Ken actually visited the interior. I think I was probably home with our dog at the time, Callie.

Approaching the Château de Carrouges, June 2006.

Yesterday was the first day of fall. As if on cue, our central heating came on in the morning. That means our indoor temperature dipped below 18.5ºC (65ºF). When I got back from a chilly walk with Tasha, I built the season's first fire in the wood stove. After a couple of hours we were toasty warm. I may do the same this morning. It's down to about 8ºC (46ºF) outdoors. Brrr! And the radiators are warm.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Somewhere in Normandy

Can you guess where? Answer tomorrow.

Nice brickwork!

Friday, September 22, 2023

A capital idea

This ornately carved capital is part of the Château de Troussay. In architectural speak, a capital is the uppermost part of a column. Although, in this case, this may not even be a column. It could be what's called an "engaged" column. That is, a structural column embedded in the wall behind it. But most likely it's what's called a pilaster, a decorative element in a wall that's meant to resemble an engaged column.

One of two carved capitals flanking the château's main entrance. Troussay, July 2006.

Enough pedantry for one day! Today is a transition day. The cool, wet weather system is moving off and temperatures are expected to rise through the weekend. I've got some more grass cutting in my future, if it stays dry.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The other side, with color

This is the courtyard side of the Château de Troussay. The two façades of the building actually have names. Yesterday's post featured the façade "Louis XII." Today's features the façade "François I." The names refer to the architectural styles of the two façades.

The François I façade, influenced by the Château de Chambord. Troussay, July 2006.

Rain is moving in this morning. Conveniently (not), it should be raining quite heavily as the sun comes up, right when I usually go out with Tasha. It will be a short walk this morning. It's supposed to rain most of the day, and this morning's normally low temperature is predicted to be the high for the day. Fall begins this weekend, and it looks like it's getting an early start.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Château de Troussay

Not far from Cheverny and its famous château is a much less famous Loire Valley castle: Troussay. Construction started on the building in the mid-fifteenth century, but the building's current form dates from the Renaissance, with another significant addition in the eighteenth century.

Le château de Troussay in black and white. July 2006.

The castle is privately owned and lived-in, but visitors are allowed, for a modest fee, in some of the ground-floor rooms and in the adjacent garden and park. It's worth a stop if you're in the area and a nice change from the grander, more crowded châteaux.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Let the sun shine in

Here we are back at the church in Cunault. I'm out of new photos. Monday brought a mid-day thunderstorm, so the weather has been a little damp. It's not really cold, and it's not hot, either. It feels like fall.

I think I may have posted a similar image recently. My apologies. Cunault, July 2006.

This week is a medical week. I have an appointment for the biennial blood work on Wednesday, then an appointment on Friday with the doctor for my semi-annual prescription renewal. All routine stuff. I hope.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Château du Rivau

This is one of those places that I've seen from the outside many times, but have never visited. It's a "one of these days" things. Rivau's construction began in the thirteenth century with major elements in both the medieval and renaissance styles. It sits amid fields of grain not far from the city of Chinon.

Le château du Rivau, July 2006.

One of the reasons we haven't yet visited the castle is that it suffered a fire in 2010. It has since been restored. From the photos I've seen, the interiors are beautiful as are the gardens. Rivau is about an hour and a half drive away from Saint-Aignan, another reason we haven't been inside..

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Log blog

We got the firewood stacking all done yesterday morning. Phew! There are two stacks: the big one under the deck on the north side of the house and a smaller pile under under the deck on the east side.

The big pile on the north side. That's Tasha up on the deck, supervising.

The firewood guy is someone new to us, recommended by some friends who live not far away. The logs seem like they're split smaller than those from prior years. That's good for two reasons: 1, they aren't as heavy to lug around, and b, I won't have to split as many with the axe when it's time to burn.

The big pile is two log lengths deep, plus a little more.

After the stacking was done, I had a big pile of bits and pieces to clean up. They're now in a bin in the garage and they'll get used for kindling through the season. I also have three old garbage cans filled with kindling from the birch trees along with another large pile stacked out by the north end of the hedge. I think we're ready for another wood stove season. But we're not in a rush.

The small pile on the east side, and (at right) all that's left of the pile where it was dumped.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Harvest time

The 2023 grape harvest continues all around us, whether it's teams of workers manually picking grapes or giant harvesting machines each with a single operator. Yesterday, a mechanical harvester worked the vineyard parcel just outside our back gate. When it was done, the driver emptied the machine's bins into a waiting truck for transport to the winery. Then the harvester moved on to another parcel.

Soon the first partially fermented juice will be available. It's called "bernache" in our region.

Also yesterday, I made some good progress stacking firewood. Now I'm in a race with the weather. Rain is predicted for Sunday. I don't think I'll be done before then, but it doesn't matter. I'll just cover the unstacked logs with a tarp and wait for a dry day to finish up.

Friday, September 15, 2023


Again. Now that the weather has cooled off, we feel more inclined to use the oven. For pizza, I crank the oven up to 270ºC (just over 500ºF). I use a pizza stone, so it takes between twenty and thirty minutes for the oven and the stone to get up to temperature.

The second of two pizzas for lunch.

For this pizza, we used some of our favorite toppings. First, some of our home-made tomato sauce goes on. Then, small cubes of smoked chicken, some canned corn, chopped green bell pepper, and a few greek olives. Then the grated cheese, in this case, comté from eastern France. It was mighty tasty!

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Golden arches

Back to the church in Cunault. The building's architecture contains elements of the romanesque and gothic styles.

Eglise Notre-Dame de Cunault. July 2006.

Ken and I started stacking firewood yesterday. It was a good start, but we have a long way to go. I'm hopeful that we'll get it done by the end of the weekend.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Shadow play

When the sun gets to a certain point in the late summer sky (and also in the late winter sky), it casts shadows inside the house. One shadow in particular is this one. It's made by a bendy-character with magnetic feet that I've perched on top of our wire Eiffel Tower. The tower came from Pottery Barn, if I'm remembering correctly, a gift from a friend back in San Francisco. The bendy figure was a gift from the daughter of a close friend, also from the San Francisco days. The tower sits on the floor and is about three feet tall. The little guy is magnetically stuck to the top, waving.

A shadow on the living room wall.

I woke up to fog this morning after a restful night of sleep (no insomnia, no restless legs). It's the first time we've been socked in for quite a while. The air is cooler, but it should be warming up again as we head toward the weekend. I see log stacking in our very near future.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023


The wood guy arrived right on time yesterday afternoon. He backed into the driveway and dumped a truckload of cut firewood where we wanted it, not far from where it will be stacked. Each log is cut to 33cm (just over a foot) to fit in our wood stove. We ordered five stères (a stère is one cubic meter) which amounts to just under a cord and a half (if I did the conversions correctly).

Looking down on the pile of firewood from the deck.

I covered the pile with a tarp because we were expecting rain over night. This morning at 06h00 it started raining. After the rain stops we can think about stacking the wood. Showers are expected for later today and through Wednesday, so we might not get started until Thursday. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Winding down

This year's vegetable garden was a great success, and there's still life in it. The recent heat wave (that we're coming out of now) slowed things down. I think the zucchinis are mostly done. The tomatoes continue to ripen, but there's very little new fruit (I picked another bucket-full yesterday). The green and yellow beans are long gone and the Swiss chard is limping along; maybe cooler temperatures will help. Our winter squash, what I thought would be pumpkins but turned out to be sucrines de Berry, look good. They're turning that characteristic tan color, like butternut squash. I'll keep them on the vine as long as I can.

The end-of-summer vegetable garden. Weeds are creeping in, but that's ok at this point.

This afternoon we're expecting a delivery of firewood for the winter. It also looks like there might be rain before we can start stacking it. It'll take us a few days to stack it all, more if rain delays us.

A mechanical grape harvester showed up out back at five this morning. That's a sign that the growers are trying to get the grapes in before rain can plump them up with excess water.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Hand jive

Er, well, hand harvesting. That's what's going on in the vineyard parcel just beyond the row of parked cars. I didn't get closer because I didn't want to get Tasha interested. She usually doesn't go beyond the end of our dirt road and cars go fast on the paved roads beyond.

I could see the pickers emptying shoulder-borne buckets into the truck, second vehicle from the right. They're not obvious in the photo. Sorry.

The whole Morocco earthquake situation is tragic and scary. We went through the San Francisco Bay Area's Loma Prieta quake back in 1989, and while it was scary, too, only 63 deaths were reported. This morning they're saying that at least 2,000 people lost their lives in Morocco. So far.

Saturday, September 09, 2023

Cloudless sunrise

We've had a lot of clear skies lately. High pressure. Heat wave. It all goes together. During my regular bouts of insomnia, I'm often out on the deck looking at the stars. And they've been beautiful these past couple of weeks. They'd have been even more stunning without interference from the full moon last week. Now that it's waning, I can see the Milky Way again.

Late summer sunrise over the vineyards a couple of days ago. The orangy haze is Saharan sand in the air. I think.

I'm making a market run this morning. I hope the two vendors I plan to visit (poultry and Asian) are there. Sometimes they take time off right after the August vacation ends. If either or both are not there, oh well. They'll be back.

Friday, September 08, 2023

Waiting for harvest

The grapes get riper every day. Those that were harvested close to our house a few days ago are white chardonnay grapes. They get used in blends and sparkling wines and are normally the first grapes around us to get picked. I've been hearing the mechanical harvesters all around since then and yesterday I noticed some hand-harvesting going on in one of the parcels to our west.

Red wine grapes, either côt (malbec), cabernet franc, or gamay. I'm not good at telling the difference.

The heat is still hot, yada yada yada. Thank goodness for relatively cool mornings so we can throw open all the shutters and doors to help cool the house down. It's nature's air conditioning, except that it doesn't work during the hottest hours. Darn.

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Knock knock

I thought that this was the front door of the church at Cunault. It turns out that it's a side door, under the steeple and opposite the organ, which is in the southern transept. The church's transepts are not deep at all. I don't have any exterior shots (why not, I wonder), but from looking at the internet and street view in Google maps, I can see that it's a side door and not the main western entrance.

I like the woodwork. Cunault, July 2006.

Our heat wave continues and it looks like it'll be here through the weekend. I'm thinking of cutting some grass today, but I may not. It's kind of stopped growing anyway, but once we have some rain it'll pick up again. The vegetable garden has definitely slowed down. I think the zucchini plants are on their last legs. I keep watering anyway.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

The pipes, the pipes are calling

Here's a wider view of the pipe organ at Cunault. It's not the biggest, nor is it the most ornate that I've seen. But for this church, it seems just right.

Them's a lot of pipes!

Thank goodness for low humidity. Otherwise, we'd be miserable. The dry air makes the heat more bearable. And the heat is expected to continue. Yesterday morning, just after sunrise, I noticed that the sky had a hazy yellow cast. I think that must be caused by Saharan sand blowing up from down south.

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

You sunk my battleship!

In this shot (pun intended), they look like gun barrels, but they're really just organ pipes. They're part of the amazing pipe organ in the church at Cunault.

Sun's out, guns out! Cunault, July 2006.

It's hot, as predicted, and dry. At least the mornings are cool. I took advantage yesterday to move two piles of kindling out from under the tall cedar tree. I also sent an email to the landscape guy asking if we could schedule the tree's removal. The whole upper half is dead. I haven't heard anything yet; it usually takes a few days for him to respond.

Monday, September 04, 2023

Back to skool

Today is la rentrée scolaire, the day kids in primary and secondary schools head back to class. I've never really figured out the French school system. I know there is l'école (roughly equivalent to American elementary school) and collège (roughly equivalent to American junior high or middle school), then lycée (roughly equivalent to American high school). But the details of how many years a student spends in each of the levels, and what each year within those levels is specifically called, escape me. Probably because I don't have children in school (or anywhere else).

Columns and light in the church at Cunault, July 2006.

I got the birch branch logs that I cut up moved off the lawn and to the general log pile. It took about four wheelbarrow trips, maybe five. Now I have two piles of kindling to move. Maybe this morning before it gets too hot.

Sunday, September 03, 2023


On our day trip through Saumur with friend CHM, we visited the church at Cunault on the Loire River. CHM knew the church and thought we'd enjoy seeing it. Indeed, we did. So the next few posts will contain some of the photos I took on that visit.

The nave at Cunault, looking toward the altar. July 2006.

Saturday was a very pleasant day, weather-wise. Today it's supposed to get hot -- mid 30sC. And today is the last day of the official school vacation. The kids go back to class on Monday. Traffic moving north (toward Paris) will likely be heavy today.

Saturday, September 02, 2023

Le pont Cessart

The central bridge in Saumur is this arched masonry bridge called Cessart. It connects the city center on the left bank with an island in the Loire River, l'île d'Offard. I identified that island as Millocheau yesterday, but Wikipedia tells me that Millocheau, formerly an island off the western point of Offard, is now connected to the larger island and is therefore no longer an island in its own right. There's another bridge between the island and the river's right bank called the Pont des Cadets de Saumur. I can't find anything about the name of the bridge in the photo's background except that it carries route D347 across the river. And that's more than you wanted to know about Saumur's bridges.

Le pont Cessart, Saumur, July 2006.

If my favorite (although not always accurate) weather site is correct, the next few days are going to be hot. As high as 36ºC (close to 97ºF) on Monday. Yikes! We shall see.

Friday, September 01, 2023

Down a lazy river

Here's the downstream shot to counter yesterday's upstream shot. It was just a matter of turning around. The château is visible on the left. The arched bridge connects the city center on the left bank of the Loire with the Ile Millocheau (right) and further to the train station on the right bank (not visible in this photo).

Saumur on the Loire, July 2006.

I made some progress in the yard yesterday by cutting up that pile of birch branches under the big cedar tree. Now I have to move them to the larger log pile next to the house. We've ordered a bunch of firewood for the winter and that's being delivered on the eleventh. As usual, it'll get dumped in the driveway and Ken and I will have to stack it ourselves. That could take a couple of days, depending on the weather and how well our backs hold up.