Sunday, March 31, 2024

Valley view

These are some of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards in the Rhône Valley seen from up in the town. The river is visible in the background. I don't remember the last time I had a C-d-P wine. I'll have to look for one soon. I do, however, know that I've had the more affordable Côtes du Rhône a few times in recent memory.

The Rhône River at Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

Today is Easter Sunday and Ken is making our traditional meal of rabbit. This year, it's a kind of rabbit fricassée, a stew of vegetables, rabbit, and white wine. Yum!

Today is also the start of Summer Time. We turned the clocks ahead this morning (I did it all last night before bed). The days are getting longer and now the evenings will be lighter later.

Saturday, March 30, 2024


It's a small town (a little more than two thousand people) on the Rhône River just south of Orange. The name translates to English as "the Pope's New Castle." In the fourteenth century, popes moved from Rome to Avignon. Not far from there, a "new" castle was built for Pope John XXII. I though that was the origin of the town's name, but Wikipedia tells me that it had been known as Castro Novo as early as the eleventh century, a castro or castrum being the Latin name for a fortified town. It wasn't until the fourteenth century and the construction of a large castle complex and towering donjon that the du Pape part of the name was added. All that remains of that construction is part of the donjon.

A small street leading up to the center of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

Of course, people these days associate Châteauneuf-du-Pape with the wine that's produced from mostly grenache grapes (but can also contain some of thirteen other authorized grape varieties) grown on the low lands that surround the town.

Friday, March 29, 2024

The Salton Sea

When we visited CHM back in 1997, we drove around most of California's Salton Sea. There wasn't much there, but the views across the water were impressive as we made our way north along the eastern shore. I think this might be Mecca, or Mecca Beach, a campground on the eastern side. It's hard to remember.

Shore birds taking a walk on the beach.

Yesterday was a bad weather day. High winds and rain kept us in, although I did make a run to the pharmacy and we were both able to get out with Tasha for relatively dry walks. More rain is predicted over night, but it looks like the wind has calmed some. March is going out like a lion.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Desert fox

I've got more slide scanning to do. Instead of more Provence today, you get the Southern California desert. I believe this was taken in the Joshua Tree National Park in 1997. Look closely and you'll seen Ken with CHM comparing notes on cactus photography. And, what's that? A fox in the foreground? No, it's our dog Collette enjoying some desert freedom.

I'm sure she was supposed to be on a leash. And she was, most of the time.

The weather kind of sucks right now. Wind and rain and cool temperatures. Typical March weather, I guess. And I still haven't finished the taxes. I'm scheduling that for Friday morning.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The ravine

This photo is from last Saturday. Since then, the work crew has done a little more smoothing and several dump truck loads of "clean" dirt have been added to the bottom of the ravine. And that pile of tree branches visible in the lower right corner has been burned.

This ravine/stream bed isn't named. At least I've never heard a name for it.

At the far end of the ravine, another stream bed joins this one and runs off to the right down toward the river. I'm amazed at how deep these ravines are. Some of them, like the one just south of our hamlet, are named. In that case, it's la rouère de l'aulne (the alder ravine). The word rouère is a regional word for "ravine" or "intermittent stream," as far as I can tell (Wiktionnaire).

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Great Bertie's ghost!

Or, "I tawt I taw a puddy tat." This fella starting showing up in our back yard a few days ago. When I first caught a glimpse of him, I thought, "Bert!" Obviously, it's not him. But whoever he (or she?) is, he's prowling around in part of Bert's old hunting ground. That first glimpse caught me off guard.

Bert's "ghost" hunting mice in the west forty.

A few months ago (I think), one of our neighbors tried to give us a kitten. She was persistant. I politely, but firmly, refused. It was a cute black kitten, one of several "outdoor" cats that the neighbor was feeding and trying to give away. I'll bet this is that kitty, all grown up now and stalking rodents in the neighborhood. I don't think he's met Tasha yet.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Winding down

The earth works out back are nearly completed. Over the weekend the last of the grape vine trunks they tore out last year went into the ravine and clean dirt was brought in to cover it all over. The big orange backhoe was actually down in the ravine smoothing it all. The ravine is still there, though. It's just a little neater. It'll be interesting to see what's next and if the vineyard parcel will be replanted this spring or next year.

In the foreground are the new vines planted last year.

I'm procrastinating on doing the US taxes. I've got all the documents together. It's simply a matter of entering the numbers on the web tax filing service I use. This week. I promise. Then I can procrastinate on doing the French taxes.

Sunday, March 24, 2024


The forsythia around the neighborhood are in full flower right now. This is our big one out back. The little one is not doing as well. I really want to cut this one back some this year, so I'll have to read up on when pruning should be done.

Forsythia in the south forty. The barrel-shaped shrub in the background is a laurier sauce (bay laurel).

Market day was successful yesterday. I got our first bunch of asperges blanches (white asparagus) of the season, a bunch of radis roses (red and white radishes), and a dozen nems (egg rolls) and two rouleaux de printemps (spring rolls) from the Asian guys. I'm looking forward to strawberry season.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Break on through to the other side

Yup, it's the doors again (and windows). Nothing much to say, except that I think I posted a photo of the big door a while back without remembering that it was part of our rental house. I think that the upstairs window (where the shutter is open) is in one of the bedrooms; the ground floor doors on this end of the house were closed to us.

I'd love to see this house today. I wonder how it's changed.

Friday was an exciting day for us. I shampooed the rug in the den and Ken laundered the slip covers on our living room chairs. Spring cleaning has begun. This morning I'm heading over to the market in Saint-Aignan for a few things. Woo-hoo!

Friday, March 22, 2024


The gîte we rented in Cavaillon was a big building. Parts of it were closed off, like this, the eastern end of the building. I'm assuming the building was originally a farmhouse, so the doors could lead to storage rooms and such.

What's behind closed doors?

Today's the last day of our warm spell. Starting tomorrow, we'll be back in the single digits for a while. No freezes are predicted. Yet. April can be filled with weather surprises, most notably freezes that kill tender buds on fruit trees and grape vines. We will cross our fingers.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

What's going on (?)

I snapped this quick view from the guest room window yesterday afternoon. You can see the orange backhoe lifting grape vine trunks (with a huge rake-looking attachment) from their piles into the yellow dump truck. Look closely. There's a guy standing up on the cab of the yellow dump truck for scale. Each time the truck was filled, that guy drove it over to the ravine (where the acacia trees were removed) and dumped it.

Kickin' up a little dust in the vineyard.

I walked out there with Tasha to take a closer look, but I couldn't really see where the dumping was happening. The backhoe had cleaned out the ravine earlier in the day. I saw no sign of either the grape vine trunks or the acacia stumps in the ground and that really puzzled me. Did they rip all the stumps out of the ground? When did that happen? Where did they go? Where are the grape vine trunks? I'll walk out there again this morning, hopefully before the work starts up again and take a closer look.

Never a dull moment!

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

La Durance, seen from Cavaillon

The title says it all. The Durance is une rivière as opposed to un fleuve. That is, it is a tributary of another river (in this case, the Rhône) and does not directly empty into a sea or ocean. The Durance is just over 300 km long (about 200 miles) and, toward its western end, skirts the southern flanks of the Luberon range.

The Durance in September. Not a lot of water. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

Nothing at all happened with that giant dump truck vehicle yesterday. I just sits out there. I'll keep an eye on it.* Otherwise, the spirit moved me to get out yesterday afternoon and cut grass! I got the south forty almost all cut (except for a small patch around some trees/shrubs). I need to go out and get some gas for further cutting.

*As I type this, another truck just went out into the vineyard. And I notice there's a big 'ol backhoe out there that I didn't see arrive. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Above Cavaillon

Just west of central Cavaillon, the land rises up in a rocky outcropping. Various trails (and a road) go to the top, providing visitors with sweeping views of the city below and beyond. to the west and south the Durance River makes its way to the Rhône near Avignon.

One of the many routes to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle passes this way, I believe. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

Yesterday morning, a huge tractor-trailer drove up past our house and out into the vineyard. It had been carrying a very big vehicle, sort of like a dump truck, that was now driving behind. The crew left the dump truck thing out by where the first row of trees was recently cut down and drove the tractor-trailer away.Maybe we'll see today what's going on out there.

Monday, March 18, 2024

The car

This is the car we rented for our 2001 Provence trip. It's a Renault Scénic, I believe. It looks pretty much like any car you can see on the road today. I don't remember much about it. I suppose that's a good thing. We rented it in Paris and drove it down to Provence and back.

Today's cars have more pronounced front ends, as is the style. I prefer this style. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

Ken and I are more and more convinced that we've identified the house we rented for this trip in the photo I posted yesterday. With the help of Google Maps and our photos, we're pretty certain now. As soon as I figure out how to add an arrow to the photo, I'll post that. Please try to contain your excitement.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

I think I can see it

I think the house we rented back in 2001 is in this photo. I can't be certain. We don't have, or can't find, any paperwork with the address on it, but I remember there was a field between the road and the house on the north side (toward the left in the photo), and an even larger patch of vacant land on the south side (toward the right in the photo). Using Google Maps helped me to locate what could be the place.

Standing in central Cavaillon looking east toward the Luberon. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

The small city where I'm standing is Cavaillon. There is a high spot near the center of town with views in all directions and I think that's where this photo was taken from.

Saturday, March 16, 2024


Remember les gorges de la Nesque? I recently posted a view of a rock formation in the Nesque river valley that we drove through. This is a wider shot from the same viewing area with that rock formation visible in the lower right.

Nesque River Gorge. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch... I'm watching the grass grow with trepidation. It's really thick in spots. Big spots. I'm hoping for a dry spell so I can start cutting it. When it doesn't rain, we have heavy dew that takes a while to evaporate. I go through this every year. And every year it works out. Eventually.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Just one (more) look

I think the cherry tree blossoms have passed their peak now, so here's another view taken a few days after the first one. The white blossoms in back are on our neighbor's plum tree.

Cherry and plum trees are early bloomers in spring. Seen from the deck.

Today we're getting haircuts. Ken goes in first, the I go in later. Our new (to us) salon keeper is moving her business across town this month, so she'll be out of commission for a short time.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Le pont Julien

Just north of Bonnieux (Vaucluse) is a Roman bridge, built in the year 3 BCE. According to Wikipedia, the bridge has been in continuous use since. In 2005, however, car traffic was diverted to a new bridge built nearby to reduce wear and tear on the historic monument. Pedestrians and cyclists can still use the old bridge. We visited in 2001, so we were able to drive across. Still, we got out to take photos.

Le pont Julien outside of Bonnieux. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

We're socked in by fog this morning. Predictions are for a warm day (as high as 19ºC depending on which weather service you consult), but recent predictions of similar high temps have fallen short.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024


I'm glad I took the camera out last week for these photos of the taking down of the "first row of trees," as we call it. The trunks got cut at ground level, then the branches were removed, and finally the logs were split (with the help of a big mechanical log splitter) and stacked. Yesterday, a tractor came by with a trailer and, after a few round-trips, the logs are all gone.

Acacia logs stacked on the other side of the stream bed. They've all be taken away now.

In the foreground of this photo, you can see the new vines that were planted last year. At some point, the big vineyard parcel in the background (behind the logs in the photo) will be prepared for new vines. I wonder if it will be this year or next?

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Traînées de condensation

These are contrails (short for condensation trails) made by jet aircraft engines. Water vapor in the engine exhaust condenses and freezes at high altitude, producing the thin white lines we see from the ground. From what I read (Wikipedia), the formation of the clouds depends on the altitude of the aircraft and the temperature and humidity of the air through which it flies.

I can often see up to ten aircraft at a time cruising overhead.

We live below a busy north-south air corridor and, depending on the day, I can see many contrails streaking through the sky above us. Airports north of us include Paris, London (and other UK airports), Dublin, Brussels, and Amsterdam. Down south are destinations in Spain and Portugal, the French Mediterranean coast, Italy, and North Africa. And beyond!

Thank you, Mister Wizard. Now for the weather. It's not going to get as warm as was predicted a few days ago. Par for the course. Anything can happen in March.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Late winter sunrise

Spring arrives officially next week. I'm looking forward to warmer temperatures and leaving the daily fire behind for another season. I'm even looking forward to spring cleaning. Sort of. The weather people are predicting a rise in temperatures through the week. Let's hope they're right.

Sunrise over the vines last Thursday.

The vineyards out back are showing signs of spring. Pruning is all but done and the support wires are back in place. The next step for the existing vines is to bend and attach their single remaining canes to the wires. Then there's the matter of the parcel that's being replanted. That could happen this spring, depending on how the clean-up goes.

And let's not forget our own back yard. I've taken all but three of the table grape vines out. They were never very productive and they made mowing around them difficult. The last three will come out soon. The tilleul (linden tree) lost a lot of small branches during winter's wind storms, so they'll have to be cleaned up. And the garden path is a mess with pine cones and sticks and little green plants trying to establish themselves in the gravel. Work to do, got work to do!

Sunday, March 10, 2024

The lone-ly walnut tree

A lot of harvesting took place this past winter in the woods and forests around us. Wood harvesting, that is. This walnut tree used to be on the edge of what we called "the first row of trees" that separated two big grape vine parcels out back. The trees, mostly acacia, grew on either side of a stream that drains the vineyards into the river below. Now, there's nothing left but stumps, except for the stacks of cut and split wood waiting to be carted away. And this lonely walnut tree.

Back to front: grape trunk "volcanoes" in a vineyard parcel that will be replanted soon, stacks of cut and split acacia trees, the streambed filled with cut branches, the lonely walnut, and a renewed grapevine parcel planted last year.

I expect, but am in no way certain, that the trees will be allowed to regrow to be harvested again in a few decades. Down by the river, a large parcel of peupliers (poplars) was harvested a while back. New trees have recently been planted to replace them, all geometrically spaced as is typical in France. Someone told us that the demand for wood is increasing in the form of heating fuel, both logs and pellets, and other wood-based products.

Saturday, March 09, 2024

Ken's plum tree

The pink/white-blossomed tree back in the northwest corner of the yard is one that Ken grew from a plum pit. I've forgotten how many years ago he sprouted it before planting it out back. The tree has thrived back there but, unfortunately, the plums are small and not particularly good to eat. They're good for making jam or jelly, though.

We had a light frost last Thursday morning when I took this.

You might notice how the grass is growing. It's even taller and thicker in other parts of the yard. I want to cut it, but it's much too wet to try that now. Patience. The first cut of the year is always a chore, but this year looks to be especially challenging, thanks mostly to a very wet winter.

Friday, March 08, 2024


Here are some spring daffodils to brighten your day. It looks like we're headed for another rainy spell over the next few days. No freezes in sight for the coming weekend.

This patch of daffs comes up just outside the greenhouse.

I've discovered that last year's oregano flower stalks make excellent kindling for starting fires in the wood stove. I add a bunch or two of dried stalks to my other kindling and whosh! they flame up like nobody's business, burn hot, and help the larger stuff catch. All these years, I've been cutting down the dead flowers each spring and mulching them. No more!

Thursday, March 07, 2024

Hello gorges

After leaving Venasque, I think we headed northeast to drive through Nesque River Gorge, les gorges de la Nesque. It's a picturesque river valley offering breathtaking views from a single road winding its way through to (or from, depending on which way you go) the town of Sault.

The road through the Nesque valley pierces the rocks in many spots. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

There are a few tunnels along the way, including this one. I suppose it's not really a tunnel, but it's pretty cool nonetheless. There are turnouts along the road so that visitors can pull over and enjoy some the better views. And to take pictures, of course.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

One last time

Here's a final view of the church of Notre-Dame in Venasque. Nothing much more to say, other than I must have found it fascinating.

Notre-Dame-de-Venasque. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

I didn't build a fire in the wood stove yesterday. Too much other stuff was going on and tending a fire was not high on the list. I'll probably build one today. This morning's low is around 3ºC. The log pile is getting smaller.

Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Early spring

Here's a view of a section of the north forty that includes two early flowering trees. The white blossoms are on a plum tree in the corner of our neighbor's yard. The pink blossoms are on a fruitless cherry in our yard. The sun made an appearance yesterday so I thought I'd snap a few photos.

All the rain has really greened up the "lawn." View from the deck on the north side.

It's still chilly, but we haven't had a freeze. That's always a possibility in March and April and even as late as May. We had a couple of light freezes (not enough) during the winter, and since it's still winter for a couple more weeks, we shouldn't be surprised if it happens again, however unlikely we think it might be.

Monday, March 04, 2024

Crazy animule

This is a gargoyle on the church at Venasque. I hope.

Scary. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

It's down close to freezing this morning. We had a very clear, starry night and whatever warmth there was escaped. Brr. And Grr.

Sunday, March 03, 2024

I dunno

This image of a bell is among the slides I took in Venasque, but I can't find (using the internet) a church or civic building in town that has a belfry like this. Perhaps the bell is in a nearby town. I'll keep trying (kind of) to identify it.

Somewhere near Venasque. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

I'm ready for the rain to stop. Walking the dog is soggy work. The ground feels like a damp sponge beneath my feet. Grass is growing like nobody's business (the first mowing is going to be a challenge). There's been a lot of wind and our temperatures remain in the single digits (celsius). On the other hand, trees are blossoming, daffodils are flowering, the days are staying lighter longer, and the birds are chirping up a storm. Such is the transition of winter into spring.

Saturday, March 02, 2024

The way in

This is one way to get inside the church of Notre-Dame in Venasque. I don't know if there are other doors. I have no slides from inside the church and no recollection of going in. It may have been locked up the day we visited.

This church has been worked on a few times over the centuries. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

I mentioned that my slides are kind of mixed up, a little out of order, and that I'm probably mixing them up a little more in the scanning process. Most of my slides are in Kodak carousels ready to be viewed with a projector. But my projector died about twenty years ago so, except for scanning, I haven't seen many of them for a while. Scanning slides and posting some of them here on the blog are giving them a second life. The slides in the carousels are those I felt were worthy of projection. I have boxes of slides that I didn't think turned out well, rejects, if you will. I'll probably never look at those again. Sigh.

Friday, March 01, 2024


Here's a close-up of a bell in the tower of Notre-Dame-de-Venasque. There may be other bells up there, but I can't see any in my photos.

The belfry of Notre-Dame-de-Venasque. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

I mentioned that my slides are kind of mixed up. I think I'm contributing to the mixing during the scanning process. Good grief!