Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Tasha Tuesday

So, this showed up in the vineyard out back yesterday. It's called VitiBot and it's a driverless vineyard tractor. It spent the whole afternoon plying the vine rows, but not doing anything. I imagine that there are various attachments for whatever jobs it might do, like mowing, plowing, or trimming. I wonder if it can do spraying or harvesting? But for now it looks like trial runs. Oh, here, I don't have to imagine: check it out. The magic of the internet.

Tasha has a close encounter of the third kind.

I don't know how it works. My guess is GPS, but I don't know. At first there were people out walking behind it, but after a while they left it alone while it crawled along, turning around at the end of each row and moving over to the next. One guy stayed in the vineyard, driving a tractor the old fashioned way, spraying the vines to prevent mold. I think he was also keeping an eye on the blue beast. Tasha was curious (something new!) and ran right up to it, barking. The "bot" ignored her. Thankfully, she turned around and came back to me when I called her. I hope that the machine would sense obstacles (animals or people) in its path and stop moving. We shall see.

Monday, April 29, 2024

A little frost

I took this photo a week ago. It was our last frost (so far) and it was very light. Frost only showed up in the shadier places. The just-above-freezing temperature didn't seem to be a threat to the growers, at least around us.

A touch of frost on young blackberry brambles.

We're entering the series of May holidays as school spring vacations wrap up. This week, Wednesday the first is Labor Day, a national holiday. Next week we'll have May 8, the anniversary of Germany's surrender in WWII, and May 9, Ascension Day. Both are holidays in France. Then, almost two weeks later, is Pentecost Monday, also a holiday in France. After that there are no more days off until summer vacation starts in July.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Wild orchid

Wild orchids are abundant (or seem to be) in the margins of the vineyards and in near-by fields. They even pop up in our back yard but, with a few exceptions, they eventually get mowed down with the grass.

A wild orchid. There's a spider's web just visible in the background.

Yesterday's rain did stop me from going to the market in the morning. Or, rather, the rain was my excuse. I really didn't feeling like going at all. It rained off and on most of the day, then the bottom dropped out after sunset. We had a couple hours of continuous moderate rain, then it suddenly stopped at bed time. Earlier in the evening, I built a fire in the wood stove to warm things up.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Grape buds

These buds will become flowers and, in turn, grape bunches. Provided that a freeze doesn't stop them from developing. So far, so good. Our morning lows have struggled back upward reducing the risk of a damaging freeze. After a couple more weeks we should be clear of frost danger.

Future wine.

Tasha has gained a little weight, so the vet said to keep an eye on her and try to reduce her caloric intake. She's already on a diet kibble for her daily lunch meal after a breakfast of half a small pouch of wet food mixed with grated zucchini. I guess we've been a little too loose with scraps and tid-bits from our own cooking. No more! We can't risk her weight contributing to another torn ligament.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Wet weekend ahead

Looks like rain will be moving in later today and staying with us through the weekend. So much for getting more grass cut. I did the north forty yesterday afternoon, so at least there's that. As usual, it was much easier to cut the second time than the first.

I'm just a dandy lion.

Tasha has her annual vet visit this afternoon. A quick checkup and her shots and that'll be that for another year. Next month she has a grooming appointment. It will be six months since her last grooming, probably a month or two too long. I need to get her into a four month schedule. She's looking like a clydesdale around the ankles.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

The inside scoop

The inside of a tulip, that is. The two volunteer tulips out back are close to loosing their petals now. I'll miss them.

One of two volunteer tulips in the back yard.

I'm ready for some warmer weather. I built a fire in the wood stove yesterday and that helped to take the chill off. I might do it again today.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Les ancolies

These are columbine, I believe. Ancolies in French. Pink ones like this, and others that are blue, come up every year in our daisy patch. This year there are fewer of them than usual, and I don't see any blue ones yet.


Our friend and neighbor, Bernard, was laid to rest in our local cemetery yesterday. The ceremony was sober and brief. I teared up a bit when the casket was lowered into the ground. At the end, attendees were invited to sprinkle rose petals on the casket, a custom in France but not one that I remember back in the US. Bernard's family hosted a reception afterward at their house across the road from us. A very nice affair, filled with memories and laughter. There must have been thirty or so cars parked all around. It was good to see people we've met over the years but haven't seen in a while. Among them, a young woman, one of Bernard's many granddaughters, who remembered us from when she was four years old.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

La glycine

Our wisteria is in full bloom, so I thought I should get some photos before the blossoms fade away. I think I just made it. I've forgotten when we planted it, but it's been a while. It grows very well where it is, a western exposure, and I have to trim it back almost every year. One day I'll try to tackle a drastic pruning, but not without doing some research fist. I don't want to kill it.

Wisteria flowers in Monday's low morning light.

The grape growers in our immediate area don't seem to be too worried about today's frost threat. There's no sign of smudge pots or anything else out there. I can hear the fans blowing in the vineyards up north of the river. They sound like helicopters in the distance, except that they never get closer or farther away. They keep the air moving around the vines to help prevent freezing air from settling in.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Ten years ago this week

Ten years ago it was 2014. Already. How is that possible? Bert the black cat was already here for four years then, comfortable in his "new" territory. There were a few more trees on the property then. That big apple on the left didn't have much time remaining when this picture was taken.

Spring was lush and green, much like this year, in April of 2014.

Ken's plum tree, the dark red tree behind Bert, was smaller than it is today, but had already grown to this size from a pit. Callie the border collie was still with us but was already seven years old. Tasha wouldn't be born for a few years yet.

Sunday, April 21, 2024


This is a curious parcel of land. I think it was bare for a while but, for the past few years, it's been plowed and planted. With what, I couldn't tell you. It looks like potato plants, but then I've never seen an actual potato around harvest time. There's no irrigation except what falls from the sky.

The parcel is plowed twice each spring. The second plowing breaks up all those big clumps.

Our outdoor thermometer reads 4ºC (about 39ºF) this morning. The central heat is on inside the house. The predicted high temperature is 10º. I still haven't lit a fire in the wood stove, but that might change.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Tails of cats

They're called cattails where I come from, bulrushes in the UK, and massettes here in France according to Wikipedia. I had to look that up. These grow in the pond outside our back gate. Their neat, fuzzy brown tops have gone to seed, as can be seen by the tan woolly tops here.

Bulrushes/cattails in the pond out back. The dark plant on the water's surface is jussie, an invasive weed.
We have a busy week ahead. Today is market day and I have a hankerin' for moules et frites (mussels and fries) for lunch. On Tuesday we'll attend the burial of our neighbor, Bernard. On Wednesday we're expecting a visit from CHM's two nieces who are passing through on their way to Paris. And, on Friday, Tasha goes to the vet for her annual check-up and shots. And the morning lows are expected to dip to 1ºC, that's very close to freezing, most of the week.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Le pliage

The folding. That's what they call bending the single grape vine cane that's left after pruning to the horizontal and attaching it to a guide wire. And that's what's going on in the vineyards behind our house right now. The workers bend the cane manually, then use a battery-powered hand tool to apply a "twisty tie" to hold the cane to the wire. It's the last step in preparing the vines for the growing season.

The vines have begun to leaf-out. They're really pretty this time of year.

Closer to home (in our back yard), I'm working to eliminate the last few table grape vines from the lawn. Most of them came out relatively easily (with the aid of a pick-axe), but the last three have bigger trunks and are really difficult to dislodge. I tried using my chainsaw, but the chain guide broke in the attempt. Oops. I should have tried the hand saw first.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Sunday sunrise

This was last Sunday's sunrise. The sky was filled with jet trails; a few of them are visible in this shot. They lasted longer than usual and made interesting patterns. I'm easily amused.

Fog lies low in the Cher Valley as airliners criss-cross the sky. Looking toward the north east from out in the vineyards.

As predicted, our mornings are quite chilly this week. Extra blankets are on the bed and the heat is coming on again. I haven't built a fire, yet. But if this continues... There's still a danger of frost as the morning lows start to flirt with zero. Now it's time to bundle up and walk the dog.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

RIP Bernard

We got the news yesterday that our neighbor and friend, Bernard M., passed away Monday night. He was 94 years old. We met Bernard and his wife, Maryvonne, very shortly after we moved into our house, across the road from their summer place, back in 2003. They made us feel welcome and at home in the neighborhood from the start.

Bernard inspecting his property. April 2011.

Bernard took great pride in maintaining his yard. "Nickel-chrome" he called it, once the mowing was done. It wasn't summer unless Bernard was on his riding mower, keeping the place beautiful. I hope they have riding mowers wherever he's gone to. Bernard will feel right at home.

Our thoughts are with his family and Maryvonne.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024


Last year, a tulip popped up in the lawn near the back gate. I mowed around it all spring and summer and eventually, as tulips do, its green leaves died back. This year, it came up again. With a sibling. I'll mow around them again until the greens disappear. What will we get next year, I wonder?

A pair of surprise tulips in the back yard.

I gathered up my courage and went out into the chilly, blustery air after lunch yesterday and mowed the south forty. I still have the strip outside the hedges to do. But now the yard has had its first cut of the year. It should be relatively easy to keep it in good shape from here on out, unless it's exceptionally rainy and I can't mow for weeks.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Yard work

The only yard work I got done on Sunday was the garden path clean-up. The dew was heavy and didn't dry up until after noon. We're not supposed to make noise before ten in the morning or after noon on Sundays and holidays, so grass cutting will wait until another day.

Clean-up on aisle one!

Our neighbor to the east was here over the weekend. She often cuts her grass with a weed-eater. I guess that works better than a lawn mower in dew-drenched grass. She was out there promptly at 10h00 yesterday and stopped at noon. It's nice when people pay attention to the rules.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Apple blossom time

I tried to get a good shot of the apple trees in flower, but the bright sun makes it difficult, at least for me. Not that I'm complaining. The summery weather we've had for a few days was most welcome. After today things will get chillier again. It looks, however, like it may stay dry for a while longer.

Apple blossoms seen from the north side of the deck.

I finished cutting the west forty yesterday. Phew! There were a lot of tall, thick patches of grass and other weeds to fight through. But it's done. I may cut the south forty today (I cut it for the first time during a break in the rain a couple of weeks ago). It'd be nice to get it cut again to the same height as the rest. I'm also working on cleaning up the gravel path out back. Sticks, branches, pine cones, and dead leaves collect on the path all winter. Getting it all up takes a little time, but it's not at all difficult.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Another view

Once again, here's the Fontaine des Mascarons in the village of Séguret. Each of the three "masks" is unique.

Fontaine des Mascarons in Séguret. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

We're expecting a warm day today. More grass cutting! For the record, I only got about half of the west forty cut yesterday. There are some really thick patches that take a lot of energy to push the mower through. Even though the mower is self-propelled, it still takes some effort in the thick grass. And the west forty is the largest section. That leaves Sunday morning for the south forty (we can make noise between 10h00 and 12h00 on Sundays) and that will depend on how quickly the morning dew evaporates.

I'm heading in to the market this morning. Asparagus, radishes, and egg rolls are on the list. I'll also look for some chicken sausages and maybe even some fish. Depends on how busy it is and how long the lines are.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Fontaine des Mascarons

This confirms it. The Fountain of the Masks is in the village of Séguret. So says Wikipedia. And Séguret is where the past few photos were taken. Three grotesque masks adorn the fountain, intended to ward off evil spirits. It dates from the seventeenth century and is classified as a historic monument since 1984.

Two of three mascarons that spit water from their mouths. Yum. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

Good news! I was able to mow the north forty yesterday. I'm planning to do the west forty today and, hopefully, the south forty on Saturday. That should hold us for a week or so, until it all has to be done again.

Thursday, April 11, 2024


Back to Provence, for now. I think this is another shot from Séguret, a hillside town not far from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It's one of the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellations in the lower portions of the Rhône Valley.

Ceramics, foody things, and wine available in this shop in Séguret.

Which grapes go into Séguret (and other villages wines from the area) is kind of complicated. The primary grape (grenache noir) must make up at least fifty percent of the blend. Two other secondary varieties (syrah and mourvedre) must make up at least twenty percent. Together, these three grapes must make up at least eighty percent of the finished wine. Other blending varieties (too many to mention) are limited to no more than twenty percent. Got it?

Special note to Raybeard: So sorry to learn of Patchie's passing. Twenty years is a long time to spend with a pet (although it's also not long enough). I'm still unable to comment on your blog, so I'm hoping that you'll pass by here one day and find these well wishes.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

I spy, with my little eye...

It's been windy and cold these past few days. This morning's low is around 6ºC. Brrr. It's not unheard of to have a freeze this time of year. Frost danger lasts until mid-May.

Can you see the little spider on the iris petal?

I saw this little critter on one of our irises the the other day. Unbeknownst (that word looks funny in print) to me, Ken also saw it and took the same photo. I started the "pick up sticks" chore in the back yard yesterday. Two wheelbarrow loads of grape vines that I dug up a while back, and fallen branches from our tilleul (linden tree). I still have three grape vine trunks to dig out of the ground.

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Tasha Tuesday

It's apple blossom time! Our two (remaining) apple trees are flowering now. I took this photo on Sunday; since then there are even more open blossoms on the trees. Tasha likes to look for critters she hears moving through the tall grass. Unlike Bert (who was an expert hunter), she can't catch anything.

Tasha's standing in the SE corner of the vegetable garden. It's getting to be tilling time.

I'm afraid that the profusion of blossoms on the trees (there were hardly any last year) will mean tons of apples this year. Tons of apples that will have to be gathered up before mowing the grass in summer. Whoa! I'm getting ahead of myself. Before I worry about summer, I've got to get the grass cut now before it gets totally out of control. A few dry days would be nice.

Monday, April 08, 2024


This is either a fruitless cherry or a fruitless plum. Who can say? It's fruitless. Whatever it is, it's putting on its annual show in our back yard right now.

Pink flowers on a fruitless tree.

The frogs in the pond outside of our back gate are in fine form, voice-wise. They're croaking up a storm, day and night. And every time I walk by, they shut up and retreat under water until I've passed. Ribbit!

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Water under the bridge

I finally got my act together to stop down by the river in Saint-Aignan for some photos of the high water. Of course, by the time I did (yesterday), the water level had dropped significantly. But there's still quite a dam of tree trunks and branches under the bridge. The island (where I'm standing) is closed to cars and pedestrians so I couldn't get any better views than this.

The château at Saint-Aignan looms over the only bridge in town. The next bridges are about five kilometers away in either direction.

To boot, there's some kind of work going on at the bridge (maybe cleaning the stone?) that's now been interrupted. There's scaffolding set up on the other (downstream) side that you can't see in this shot. They actually closed the bridge for a short time a few days ago to clear out some of the debris. As you can see here, there's still work to be done.

Saturday, April 06, 2024

Where are we now?

I'm not at all sure where these next few images were taken. They could be from Châteauneuf-du-Pape (why, when I type that name, does it always come out as Châteauneuf-du-Papa?). Or, it could be from one of the nearby towns. Séguret comes to mind. I'll continue to look for clues.

This looks like a fig tree beside a curvy street. Provence, September 2001.

It's supposed to be a warm day today. I have plans to go to the market (for asparagus) and to the vet's office to pick up some dental chews and a new sack of kibble for Tasha.

Friday, April 05, 2024

L'envers du décor

This is the other side of the ruins of the castle in Châteauneuf-du-Pape (yesterday's photo). Not much there. But fascinating, nonetheless.

The title of this post means "behind the scenes." Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

We're supposed to have a relatively warm weekend. I'm not expecting things to dry out enough for me to cut the grass, but maybe I'll get some other jobs done. Like picking up the winter's fallen sticks and branches, or digging out the remaining three grape vines, cleaning up the garden path, or pruning the big hydrangea. I don't think it's window washing weather, yet, but there's still no lack of chores to choose from.

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Le château neuf

After climbing up the streets and stairways of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, we arrived at the donjon, apparently the only remaining bit of the old "new" castle. And don't let this view fool you; there's nothing behind those walls except air. The castle is a shell of its former self, literally.

Stop and buy some wine while you're at it. Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

It's raining again this morning. I don't know how much soggier things can get. I drove by the river yesterday and it's high. Parts of the island at Saint-Aignan are under water. Fortunately, it's a park and nobody lives there, but there are buildings that could be damaged if the flooding gets worse. This morning it's my turn take Tasha out for her walk in the rain. Unlike Neíl Sedaka, the only laughter I hear is snickering.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Window dressing

It seems like everywhere you turn in France, and probably most of Europe (and beyond!), there's a picturesque window with shutters and pretty flowers. It's hard not to take photos of them and I probably have way too many. Here's another one.

No flowers on this window sill in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but the color is nice. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

We woke up to light rain this morning. The radar shows that it's moving off soon. I can't believe I'm writing this: we need to dry out a little. River flooding has reached several communities in our area. Thankfully, where we are is mostly high and sort of dry. No leaks to report (knock on wood), although we have been eating leeks this week. LOL. The ground is saturated and everywhere you turn it's spongy and/or muddy.

Tuesday, April 02, 2024

The streets of Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Here's another snapshot I took while walking toward the ruins of the donjon in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

We had a brief thunderstorm yesterday afternoon accompanied by sleet (little ice pellets). There were probably two lightning bolts followed by thunder. Then it was over. There was another giboulée (shower) later in the evening with rain and wind, but no thunder. The weather people are predicting summer-like weather by the end of the week. I hope that they're right.

Monday, April 01, 2024

Easter dessert

I haven't made individual tarts in quite a while, so I thought why not? These are amandine aux poires (almond pear tarts). I've made full-sized amandine many times so, again, why not try the little ones? My individual, non-stick tart pans haven't had much of a workout in recent years; they performed beautifully.

Tartes amandine aux poires.

The filling is made with ground almonds, butter, eggs, flour, sugar, and a shot of Poire Williams (pear brandy). A canned pear-half is sliced onto the top of each tart before baking. I glazed them with some of Ken's home-made plum jelly after they baked and cooled. These made for a tasty dessert after Easter lunch. And we have leftovers!