Friday, May 31, 2024

The oregano patch

You know the story. I planted oregano in the vegetable garden years ago. The plants escaped and began coming up in the lawn. There they thrived and, for a good number of years, I've been harvesting and drying oregano for cooking.

Clumps of oregano in the lawn. They didn't like being in the garden plot just behind.

The oregano has enjoyed our wet spring this year and there's plenty to harvest. It takes about a day in the dehydrator to dry the cut stems, then I have to do the slow task of separating the leaves from the stems and picking out grass and other non-oregano plants. After that, the oregano goes into jars or zip-top bags and stored in the pantry until it's needed in the kitchen. Our oregano is fragrant and tasty when it's dried. Fresh, not so much.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

An unusual view

I don't have a lot of photos of this view, essentially looking south from the north forty toward our neighbors' roof line. The north façade of the house isn't particularly interesting, and two big fir trees blocked most of the view. But now those two trees are gone and the view has opened up.

Looking south, with the tilleul (linden tree) on the right.

Wednesday was a grey, blustery, and wet day. American friends who are vacationing in Paris came down (by train) for a leisurely lunch. Ken and Bob know each other from grad school many (many!) years ago. It was fun to catch up and hear the two of them reminisce. The last time we saw Bob was at their home in the Boston area in 2012 and the last time we saw Norma was when she and Bob visited us the year before that. We wish they could have stayed longer.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Arty chokes

This artichoke plant volunteered last year, growing up from a seed that fell in the garden plot. The seed came from the cut flower heads that I dumped on the garden plot before disposing of them last fall. I think there may have been one or two flower heads on the plant last year. This year, there's this:

A rogue artichoke plant in the vegetable garden plot.

These aren't really edible. There's not much on them to eat and they're not worth the effort to get to it. But the plants are pretty and the flowers are striking, so I like keeping them around.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

More from the back yard

This is a photo of most of the west forty with the south forty in back on the left. On the right is a little piece of the oregano patch. The vegetable garden plot is out of the photo to the right.

I removed the old grape vines that separated the north forty from the west.

Speaking the vegetable garden, it's going in late this year, if at all. We're waiting for the landscape guy to come and till it up. He's probably waiting for the ground to dry out a bit before coming over. No one wants to till up mud. I think the past couple of days would have been good, but I don't know how many other customers he has stacked up. So we wait.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Fromage de chèvre

We live at the intersection of three goat cheese appellations: selles-sur-cher, valençay, and saint-maure-de-touraine. The boundaries overlap some around Saint-Aignan and all three styles are readily available here. Needless to say, there are a good number of goat cheese producers around us and some of them set up stands at our local markets. I found this one at the cheese vendor in Saint-Aignan this past Saturday.

A coating of chopped fine herbs and tomato flavor this selles-sur-cher cheese.

This particular vendor has been at the St.-Aignan market for a while. Their name slips my mind at the moment, so I can't tell you anything specific about them, except to say that their cheese is good quality selles-sur-cher cheese. In addition to cheeses at the standard levels of aging (soft, medium, and dry) with a natural ash coating, they offer cheeses with a variety of flavored coatings. This one is chopped fines herbes and tomato; others include chopped shallots, spicy peppers, garlic, and more.

I never really liked goat cheese before I moved here. There's something about these cheeses that is different from those made in other regions. These are not sour or strong tasting. The softer cheeses (like the one in the photo) are quite spreadable. If you let them dry out enough, they can be grated.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

It's growing again

Well, of course it is. The grass only slows down when the weather is hot and dry. And that kind of weather is but a memory this spring. We'll see what summer brings.

That's the back of our neighbor's house. She's there this weekend and she spent most of the afternoon on Saturday cutting her grass.

This is the north forty, about a third of it. Our neighbor's house is peeking through the trees, shrubs, and hedges. The squared-off hedge is in our yard, but just beyond it is a fence that separates our properties. The fence helps to keep the deer out and the dog in. On the right under the trees is the carport where the Peugeot lives.

My market trip was successful and I found everything on my list and more. I couldn't resist a bunch of radishes and we were out of mushrooms. I was early enough so it wasn't crowded and there were practically no lines.

The asparagus vendor often has a little joke for his customers. He greeted me with "Un beau matin d'automne!" A beautiful fall morning! And it was.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

A touch of grass

I mentioned trimming the tall grass along the garden path stone border. Here's a visual. This section is under a tree, so the grass here is not as thick and tall as most of it was. But now it's all gone!

The last of the tall grass along the border wall in the south forty. Note to self: get rid of the moss.

I'm going in to the market this morning. I haven't been in a while. I'm hoping there will still be asparagus, but the season is winding down. It doesn't help that the weather has been so chilly and wet. Also on my list: strawberries, goat cheese, chicken sausages, and egg rolls.

Friday, May 24, 2024

View from the Mars rover

Oh, wait. It's just a nid de poule (pothole) out on the vineyard road. There are quite a few of them. It rains, they fill up, they drain, they dry. Until they're filled in by the town.

There are definitely signs of liquid water on this planet.

Tasha was groomed yesterday, as planned. She looks great! So clean. So soft. It won't last.

I took advantage of a partly sunny morning to do some yard trimming. The grass along either side of the garden path was more than knee-high. Mowers can't cut it because of a raised stone border on either side of the path. A weed-eater (strimmer) would work, but the string on mine breaks against the stone every time and I spend more time re-winding the string than I do cutting. This time, I used the hedge trimmer to cut the grass down to the height of the wall. That went surprisingly well and took no time at all. I wonder why I never thought of doing that before now. I also used the walk-behind mower to get into some of the smaller places that the riding mower can't go. I declare the yard well and truly mowed! At least for the next week or so.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Tile traction

There are a couple of places out in the vineyards that get very muddy in wet weather. Tractors are heavy. They sink in the mud and make deep ruts between the vine rows. In an effort to mitigate that, this grower spreads broken tiles over the emerging ruts. With each pass, the tiles break a little more and lessen the impact of the heavy tractors. At least, that's the theory.

Old broken tiles in the vineyard.

Today is a busy day. Tasha's groomer is coming at nine this morning. I have to plug in our extension cords so her mobile grooming RV has power. The RV carries its own water, but she needs electricity. And she has to park out back because the RV won't fit in our driveway. Fortunately, I have a couple of very long extension cords that do the trick. Then I've got to get a shower and go to the bank for some cash to pay her (should have done that yesterday, duh). I've also got some mowing to do in the spaces the new rider can't reach -- that'll depend on the weather. Let's get to it!

Wednesday, May 22, 2024


The new lawnmower was delivered yesterday. They guy who brought it over from the store gave me a crash (um...) course in how it works. I think I retained about a third of what he showed me. After he left, I climbed aboard and learned by doing. I began to get the hang of it so I decided to start mowing for real. The grass was relatively dry and it wasn't raining.

Most of the north and west forties seen from the deck.

The mower cut the tall grass with very little effort. Granted, I had the cutting deck raised to its highest lever as is recommended when cutting high grass. But I was impressed. I stalled out a few times, of course. Overall, the cutting went well. Toward the end it started raining, so I stopped. A mild thundershower skirted us to the north.. I realize that I will have to adapt my normal cutting pattern to the new mower. That will take some trial and error over the summer.

The rest of the north forty.

Still, with all my fumbling, I did in an hour what was lately taking me two or three days to do. Some trim work remains as well as the strip outside the hedge and along the road, but that won't take long. This morning I think I'll go through the owner's manual to be sure I'm doing things right. And there's one lever that remains a mystery to me. I hope to find out what it does.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Window boxes

They're called jardinières in French. It's the generic word for a planter box, whether it's on a window, on a table, or on the ground. Last year we planted geraniums in our kitchen window boxes. This year, we're trying œillets d'Inde (French marigolds).

If they survive, they'll fill in nicely.

When we first moved into the house, I planted marigolds in the ground around the real fake well. They were great. The next time I planted them there, they were devoured by slugs and snails. I haven't tried again since. Until now, and in a different location. I figure that the window boxes might be a little safer being off the ground. Also, slugs and snails might have a hard time crossing the rough stucco finish on the house's exterior. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Over and over

Here's another shot of the clover field from yesterday with a little context, that being the vineyard parcels that surround it.

Clover and vines.

We were invited to a neighbor's house for drinks last evening and had a nice time. We learned a few things about the goings on around town (the neighbor is our mayor). Today, for example, work starts in the newly replanted vineyard parcel behind our back gate to drive the posts that will support guide wires to hold up the vines once they've grown a little more. Woo-hoo!

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Crimson and clover

This is some variety of clover which, I think, was deliberately seeded in a vineyard parcel that was torn out last year. Once the old vines were removed, the parcel was plowed and left fallow. This spring, as you can see, these clover plants grew and flowered. The clover adds nutrients to the soil acting as a natural fertilizer. Some nearby parcels have clover planted between rows of grapevines, but their flowers are white. Whatever color, they're pretty.

Flowering clover.

So, yesterday Ken and I bought a riding mower. We had previously decided not to get one yet, thinking that the walk-behind mower we just bought would be fine for another year or two. But it's not. It turns out that it's just too small, meaning that cutting the grass is a lot more work and takes longer. I was kind of resigning myself to that, thinking that I could tough it out for another year or two.

Then, on Thursday, I went to our local BricoMarché (a hardware and garden supply store, like an American Home Depot, but smaller) for some seeds and happened to see a riding mower that looked interesting. And the price was good. I wrote down the model number and went home to tell Ken about it. He dove into the research and we concurred that this would be a good machine for us. The added bonus is that the store is having a deal this weekend: for every €100 you spend, you get a €20 store credit on your fidelity account. Which means that our purchase would net over €300 in credit for future purchases! That clinched the decision.

The machine is now bought and paid for. We await delivery next week. In the meantime, we have to make room to park it in the garage (it's too wide to fit through the garden shed door). I'm going to have to learn to drive again. We'll keep the smaller walk-behind mower for cutting in the corners and the narrow places where the rider can't go.

Until then, the grass continues to grow.

Saturday, May 18, 2024


That's where les fourmis (ants) live. They're digging a lot out on the vineyard road and their anthills are everywhere.

An anthill in the dirt road out back.

I fixed my French tax return according to the instructions that the tax office gave me. I had a little trouble finding one of the fields they wanted adjusted, so I just wrote the answer in an e-mail and resubmitted the return, hoping for the best. Ten or fifteen minutes after I hit the send button, the tax office responded that they had accepted the return and the matter is now considered closed. Yay!

Friday, May 17, 2024


I got a message from the tax people about my return. Uh-oh. It seems to be an automatically generated message The message is from a real person and he said there are a couple of boxes I didn't fill out that I should have. I think I did fill them out, but I will go back and double check, of course. I could have left a page before it saved (which is the most likely scenario). It's the only instance of the tax office's computer finding a glitch that I've had in the past twenty years or so. Either I'm really good (it is to laugh), or their software is getting better at spotting anomalies.

A decorative pruning job against a storage building wall.

So, after I figure that out, this weekend I'll be potting up the marigolds I got on Thursday. They're going into the kitchen window boxes. I also got a few geraniums for the deck and elsewhere and some herb seeds that need to be planted.

Thursday, May 16, 2024


Clouds. They only block the sun. So says the song. They rain and snow on everyone. Well, we haven't seen snow in quite a while, but we've had our share of rain. These clouds let some sun through and gave us a pretty show over the last weekend. Since then, mostly overcast and rain. I did get the north forty cut yesterday before the rain came.

The rising sun paints the clouds with shades of yellow and gold.

The French tax returns are done! With two weeks to spare. Phew. Today I'm venturing over to a nearby town to buy some flowers for the kitchen window boxes. We're still waiting for the weather to allow our landscaping guy to till up the vegetable plot. Meanwhile, in the greenhouse, some of the tomato plants are blossoming. Yikes!

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Tuesday was pizza day

I made this pie (two of them) with some left-over tomato/vegetable sauce that was a conglomerate from a couple of previous meals. Then I topped it with grilled and sliced Toulouse sausage (also left over from another lunch), roasted red peppers (made by Ken), cheese, and black olives. Quite tasty.

The first of two pizzas.

Today I will endeavor to get the French tax return completed and filed. It will be good to have that done again for another year.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Artihoke charts

Short post today... got an early appointment for a haircut so I've got to get ready. Shower, walk the dog (in the rain), and make pizza dough for today's lunch.

We already have artichokes on the plants. They like wet weather.

Monday, May 13, 2024


The bellflowers are starting to bloom now. Both the garden variety (seen here) and the wild ones out in the fields among the vineyard parcels. These are some that we moved from a large patch in the driveway to a spot in the back yard.

Campanules blooming among the hens and chicks.

Our heat wave, such as it was, is over. We're expecting single digit lows this week. A bunch of rain is predicted for tomorrow and I have a haircut appointment during the worst of it. The holiday weekend is over and people have skedaddled back home, so there will be less traffic on the roads. Of course, next weekend is another long weekend. It's the Pentecost Monday holiday.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Golden sunrise

I got out early this morning with the camera. And the dog. The sun had been up for about fifteen minutes. The trees and grape vines were rich with fresh golden colors, a different gold from what we see in the fall but no less beautiful.

The sun emerges from behind a cloud and saturates the landscape with gold.

Saturday was our warm day before new weather comes in. I got a new bottle of gas for the bbq grill. While I was out I took a load of recycling to the collection point (of which there are many sprinkled about our area). And the grass was dry, so... I got the mower out and did the south forty. The grass was between ankle high and knee high, depending on the spot. But now its back under control. Sort of. For now. The rest of the yard is begging to be done, but I have another story for that. Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

May flowers (brought to you by April showers)

We're having a nice warm weekend and I've been thinking about flowers. It's time to plant the kitchen window boxes. Last year we put in geraniums and they were beautiful, probably the most successful geraniums we've had in a while. This year, however, we're thinking marigolds.

Pretty flowers on a window sill in Montrichard.

I'll probably get a few geraniums for the deck pots, and Ken suggested coleus for the north facing window boxes. I'd also like to get some basil and some other herbs that we like for pots here and there. The flower vendor in the market in the nearby town of Selles-sur-Cher always has attractive and healthy looking stuff to choose from. I'm planning to head over there on Thursday (it's a once-a-week market), provided it doesn't rain.

Friday, May 10, 2024


Today's our twelfth wedding anniversary, although we've been together for forty-one years. You know, something about the law changing. The ceremony was simple (the officiant and her husband, two long-time friends, and two newer friends), informal (I did wear a button-down shirt), outdoors (under a tree in Albany's Washington Park), and drama-free (no relatives on either side).

Ken on the left, Walt on the right.

Our "reception" was lunch in a downtown restaurant. There may have been some champagne. After lunch, some of us took a leisurely walk around downtown like tourists, stopping in to visit a church, a cathedral, and the state capitol.

Jack's restaurant, a downtown institution.

And that was it. The administrative paperwork leading up to the ceremony was a little complicated, but the great staff at city hall pulled it all together. 

State Street, downtown Albany.

Thursday, May 09, 2024

Spray and wash

I was motivated in yesterday's decent weather to get out the power washer and clean the deck. I did most of it between 10h00 and 12h00 when making noise is allowed on holidays. I did the rest after lunch. None of our immediate neighbors is in town and the one who is was running his lawnmower. I figured I could risk breaking the rule just this once. Ahem. It took me ten minutes and then it was done. Today I'll bring up the patio furniture and get the grill ready for use. We might use it on Friday.

Do you hear trumpets? Digitized color slide, September 1997.

Today's photo is another one of rocks at Joshua Tree. This one looks to me like the back end of an elephant that's kneeling down. Ok, I'll stop.

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Days off

Two holidays in a row, this week. A lot of people will be on the road, according to those who monitor such things. We'll stay close to home. As retirees, days off don't really impact us. Except for more people in the neighborhood and stores being crowded (when they're open) or closed altogether, there's not much to fret about.

More rocks at Joshua Tree. Digitized color slide, September 1997.

I did get the last of the tax data pulled together yesterday. Now it's just a matter of filling out the form. The weather people are calling for a dry week and warming temperatures. Yay! I hope they're right. If the weather does indeed improve, I'll have to mess around with the lawn mower. It seems that the self-propelling mechanism is out of whack (as in not working). The last time I cut the grass, it was a struggle to push the mower around. I'm sure there's a problem with the drive belt (this has happened before), so I've got to see if I can fix it myself or what. We're starting to think about new mowers, and we're not excluding the possibility of getting the riding variety. I'm not gettin' any younger.

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Just deserts

Once again, I'm searching for photos to post. I haven't taken the camera out much recently because of the rain. This image is from the desert in southern California, Joshua Tree if I'm not mistaken, in the late 90s. We could use a little desert weather right now. But wait... what's that in the picture? Patches of snow on the ground? I should be careful what I wish for.

Rocks at Joshua Tree. Digitized color slide, September 1997.

I got up around 06h15 and it was raining. Again. Still. Lots of outdoor chores are not getting done. The grass is getting higher again. It's too cold to wash windows or the deck. So, on my list for today is to make some progress on the French tax return, which is due at the end of the month. Yippee!

Monday, May 06, 2024

Wood that it were

Our dogs enjoyed walking through these woods on our daily outings. Callie, and now Tasha, especially. We wore a track through the undergrowth (well, the deer did that; we deepened it). It gave us a little variety in our walks through the adjacent vineyards and a respite from the sun on hot summer days.

A section of the woods we liked to walk through.

Last fall, I think it was, the grower that owns those vines strung an electric fence around the woods to help keep the deer out of the vineyard parcels. They like to munch on the emerging leaves and grape buds in spring. I can't blame them (neither the deer nor the growers) for that, but that fence cut off our access to the path through the woods. Tasha is small enough that she can slip beneath the fence without getting shocked. I, however, cannot. It's not a heavy shock, but I can feel it. The fence is "powered" by a car battery. So, it's been a while since we've been able to walk through these woods. Yesterday, we went in (where there's no fence) and then turned around and retraced our steps to exit. Not really satisfying, but it's better than nothing.

Sunday, May 05, 2024

A snowball's chance

I've been trying to get a photo of our neighbors' snowball bush for about a week. When the sun's out, there's too much contrast. When it's been cloudy, it's also been windy and there's too much motion. Yesterday was a day of rain without wind, so I was able to get this view from the kitchen window. The falling rain gives the image a little blur (le flou artistique), but it's not too bad.

A dark and rainy Saturday. The view from the kitchen window.

I had a fire in the wood stove most of the day. The temperature was around 10ºC (about 50ºF) and it rained most of the day. The house felt chilly, so the fire helped to take the chill off. We're very nearly out of wood (but not out of the woods) and I really don't want to have to order more (and stack it) until later in the year when it's warmer and dryer. Come on. spring!

Saturday, May 04, 2024

Alien invasion?

Nope. Just farm machinery. You'll recognize the blue vehicle as the driverless tractor from earlier in the week. The yellow one is a sprayer for applying an anti-fungus treatment to the grape leaves. That one needs a driver... and there he is! I think he was taking a break to ensure that the driverless thing was working correctly. Shortly after I took the photo, the guy got back in the cab are started spraying again.

Take me to your leader.

Friday morning was nice. That is, sunny and dry. It didn't last past noon, but it was enough for me to get my market errands done without getting wet. We now have eight tomato plants, three eggplant plants, and three bell pepper plants in the greenhouse ready to plant in the garden plot. If it ever stops raining long enough to till it up.

Friday, May 03, 2024

To market, to market

Just a quick post today so I can get myself together and out to Montrichard's Friday market. The town is about fifteen/twenty minutes away and I like to get there early to beat the crowds (such as they are).

Looking northeasterly, a view of our hamlet from out among the vines.

I noticed yesterday that all the pliage is done in the vineyard parcels out back. I've seen tractors spraying (there's one in this photo, it's yellow/orange in color) to reduce the risk of leaf mold. It's been pretty damp of late.

Thursday, May 02, 2024

Ready to grow

Some warmer weather would really help these grape vines to take off. But they're not doing badly. The pliage is nearly done; I see just a few rows yet to be done out there.

The vineyards are turning green.

I have until the end of the month to get the French tax return done. I've started, but haven't got very far, yet. Yesterday was rainy most of the day, but I didn't use the time indoors for taxes. Oh well. It'll get done one of these days. I'm planning to head over to the market in Montrichard on Friday morning to get some plants for the vegetable garden. Tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers are on my list. On the way home, I want to stop at local wine co-op. We're running low.

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

There's a sign for that

Just before the testing of the driverless vineyard tractor on Monday, the crew set up a couple of signs. They said, essentially, "Driverless vehicle in use." The exclamation point is the French (European?) road sign for a warning that doesn't have its own sign: "Attention ahead!"

I think these signs should mean "Surprise!"

Today is May Day, la fête du travail (Labor Day) here in France. It's a major holiday and a day off for school kids and many others. As I mentioned yesterday, it's the first of a string of May holidays. I notice that the weather is predicted to be cool and wet all day. Again. Clearly, Spring has the day off, too.