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Tasha Tuesday

There something in the vines! Maybe a deer! Maybe a rabbit! Probably just a bird. Tasha is ever vigilant. Tasha hears something rustling among the vines. Speaking of birds, Bert brought home a rather big chick yesterday afternoon. It looked like a little penguin. He didn't eat it (he usually doesn't eat birds), and I tossed the lifeless body out into the woods. This morning I heard a duck quacking out by the pond just beyond our back gate. There is often a pair of colverts (mallards) out t...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Bertie, Bert, Tasha

What a loverly bunch

The grapes are slowly starting to mature. I've seen some color out there, although there is none in this photo yet. Harvest is still at least a month away, probably more. I have heard some talk on the news about other regions facing early harvests because of the warm and dry weather. We'll see. Immature grapes on the vine. Meanwhile, I was automatically switched over to the new blogger interface this morning. When I tried it several weeks ago, I couldn't size my photos the way I wanted...
Tags: Travel, Ken, WCS, The Vineyard

Pumpkin progress [2]

As promised, here's a peek at the muscade pumpkins in the garden. They're still green, but when mature they should turn a tan color similar to a butternut squash. Some of them will likely be two-toned. I've grown them before, so I know that's likely. Two muscade pumpkins growing under the vine leaves. There are at least five of them out there. Today should be much cooler than it has been the past few days. August vacationers have arrived in our region and we're seeing several unfamiliar faces ...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Pumpkin progress

There are two surviving rouge vif d'Etampes pumpkins in the garden. The others just rotted away. I'm not sure why, maybe the heat. But these two look healthy, so far. If I'm lucky, they'll both make it to harvest by which time they'll go from orange to bright red. I'll keep you posted. Two good sized and healthy looking pumpkins. The muscade pumpkins are faring better. There are about five large ones on the vine. I'll post a photo of those tomorrow.We made it through our mini heat wave. It's s...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Thursday was pizza day

As planned, I made pizza with leftovers on Thursday. To stand in for sauce, I used some leftover ratatouille that Ken had made with tomato, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, and even some green beans last week. We also had some leftover smoked chicken. Ken took it off the bones and shredded it. I sliced a couple of leftover mushrooms and grated some brebis (sheeps' milk cheese) that was just past its use-by date. I topped it all with a few black olives. The crust is crispy on the outside and doughy...
Tags: Travel, Ken, WCS, Food And Cooking

Leftovers again

We've got some odds and ends in the fridge that need eating. Among them, a small portion of ratatouille and some bits of a smoked chicken. I'll add some mushrooms and cheese and make pizzas for lunch today. A Gary Larson classic. At least in my mind. It's going to be a warm day, but it won't be too warm to use the oven at lunch time. I hope. [Author: wcs]
Tags: Travel, Weather, WCS, Gary Larson, Food And Cooking

One more from the woods

Storm damage. We avoid the woods when the wind is blowing strong. Branches break, trees topple. So on windy days we stick to the open vineyards for our walks. Better safe than sorry. Besides, when the woods are windy, they creak and crack and sound kind of haunted. Boo! Broken and fallen branches littler the woods thanks to windy storms. We're in for a few rather hot days. It only makes sense; we're moving toward August. This weekend is the major summer chassé-croisé (criss-cross) between peop...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Our Neighborhood, Boo Broken

Summer time

This is one of the paths that Tasha and I take once we get to the bottom of the hill to our north. It winds along next to one of the streams that gets its start in the vineyards above then flows (when there's water) down to the river. Behind me in this photo is a wooden house that's rented out as a gîte (vacation rental), complete with a swimming pool. I didn't take a photo of it because it was occupied and the family was out enjoying the pool. The stream bed is to the left in this photo. Whea...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Tasha, Our Neighborhood, Cher Valley


This is one of two fields of grain that are farmed down at the bottom of the path we take through the woods. It's often planted in wheat, but sometimes in barley or other grains. One year it was resplendent with sunflowers. Just a couple of weeks ago, the farmer harvested both fields. As fall approaches, he'll plow the fields and re-plant if he's growing winter wheat. Looking basically north toward the river. It's behind those tall trees. We had some rain on Sunday morning. Not a great soaking...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Our Neighborhood, Cher Valley

Nature takes over

Most of the woods around us are not very old. Patches are cut from time to time when the trees get too tall or old. I think a lot of people use the wood on their land for firewood. You can see when a landowner cuts down a patch of woods, he cuts the logs into one-meter lengths and stacks them to season for a year or two before they start disappearing. Some people sell their firewood, others keep it for personal use. A stump decomposing in the woods. It doesn't take long for the woods to regene...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Our Neighborhood

A walk in the woods

There's a path through the woods to the north of us that leads down into the river valley. I used to walk through there with Collette and then the route became a favorite afternoon walk with Callie. For the last few years, however, the path became overgrown with brush and brambles and we stopped going that way. Tasha leads the way down the hill through the woods. At the bottom are some large wheat fields. This past spring, however, someone (maybe the town) cleared the path and it's once again ...
Tags: Travel, Collette, WCS, Tasha, Our Neighborhood


I harvested our first beans on Thursday! The green and purple beans are producing now, and I'm hopeful that we'll have several harvests before they stop. I'm looking forward to tasting these. They're quite fine, French style. And I'm betting that the purple ones turn green when they're cooked. Beans! Beans! Good for the heart... After I walk Tasha this morning, I'm going to take a load of stuff to the déchetterie (dump and recycle center). We're trying to get rid of a lot of junk and clutter t...
Tags: Travel, Ken, WCS, Tasha, Garden Flowers Plants

Dry dry dry

Remember when I was complaining about our soggy spring? Now I can complain about our parched summer. It's not particularly hot, just dry. It's normal. Every summer our "lawn" goes from spring green to summer brown. It reminds me of California summers. At least I don't have to mow so frequently. Our brown lawn and green vegetable garden. You can see the pumpkin plants kind of wilting in the afternoon heat. They perk back up again when the sun goes down. Every morning I'm out in the vegetable ga...
Tags: Travel, Weather, California, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Greenhouse casualties

In the warm summer weather, we keep the windows and door of the greenhouse open for ventilation. Otherwise, it gets too hot inside. Naturally, open windows invite insects inside. But it's a trap. They get in, but they can't find their way back out. They fly incessantly against the glass, not able to tell where the open windows are. Eventually they tire and drop to the floor. Dead. A couple of dead butterflies on the potting bench with an old fork for scale. Butterflies, in this case, but also ...
Tags: Travel, Wildlife, WCS

Please don't eat them

The daisies, that is. I'm sure I've seen that movie, but I have no memory of it. I know I didn't read the book it's based on. So, naturally, I don't know what the title refers to. Probably something about silly city people trying to live in the country, a popular theme in 1950s and 60s America.* There's a lone pink rose among the daisies. This patch of daisies has been here since before we moved in, over seventeen years now. In late fall or early spring, I cut the dead stems down as close to t...
Tags: Travel, Beverly Hills, Beverly Hillbillies, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Tomatoes from the market

Some, if not all, of the tomatoes I've been buying at the Saturday market are grown in Brittany. I'm thinking that they must be grown under cover (hot houses) to be protected from the coastal wind and chill, or they're grown well inland. Either way, the tomatoes are beautiful and they're full of flavor. While we wait for our own tomato crop to come in, these toms make for good eats. The produce vendors at the market offer a variety of heirloom-type tomatoes each week. We sliced one of the yell...
Tags: Travel, Brittany, WCS, Food And Cooking

Courge musquée

This variety of winter squash is called "muscade." It will look like a tan-colored pumpkin when mature, kind of the same color as a butternut squash, another related variety. Like the rouge vif d'Etampes, I've grown these before. We should have a nice pumpkin patch this fall. And a big job of processing the flesh for the freezer. This one's got a lot of growing to do! I had a good market day on Saturday, bringing home a melon, some radishes, and some tomatoes. I also stopped into a charcuterie...
Tags: Travel, Europe, France, Italy, Portugal, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants, Food And Cooking, Parma Spain Serrano, France Bayonne

Red-ribbed chard

Seven red chard plants add a little vibrant color to this year's vegetable garden. A near-by friend found a good crop of volunteers in her garden this spring. I guess some of last year's crop had reseeded itself. She offered me some and I happily took them. We grew standard white-ribbed blettes (chard) in the garden for a couple of years and really enjoyed it. Chard in the garden after an early morning shower. So far these transplants look happy and healthy. I'm looking forward to tasting them...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

That's more like it

The zucchini plants are producing now. We only have two plants, and we've already got three squash in the fridge waiting to be used. I grilled a fourth one to accompany yesterday's lunch. There might be one or two more ready to harvest today. Yikes! I'm trying to pick them small, but sooner or later one is going to get away from me and become a baseball bat. This is not an unfamiliar situation to anyone who's grown zucchini. We face it every year. In fact, I still have some zucchini from last ...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Pole beans

These are the climbing bean plants I mentioned yesterday. They're called "Mélissa." When the beans are mature, they'll look like green beans but will be a shade of purple similar to the stems in the photo. I've already seen tiny beans forming so I'm hopeful we'll have a good crop in the coming weeks. Blossoms on the purple bean plants. Wednesday was a damp day and not at all warm, but we're expecting summer to return in a day or two. Where have I heard that before? [Author: wcs]
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Dwarf beans

Also known as bush beans because they don't climb like pole beans. These are a variety of French dwarf beans called "Rudy." I planted them back in late May, now they're covered in blossoms. Beans are on their way! These blossoms will soon turn into little beans. There are two other bean varieties in this year's garden. Both are climbers, one is a yellow flat bean that I also grew last year, the other is purple bean called "Mélissa" that will look just like a standard green bean, only purple. I...
Tags: Travel, Rudy, Melissa, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Pumpkin patch

Okay, it's not really a "patch." More like two plants, separated from one another by two zucchini plants. This one is called rouge vif d'Etampes. When it's mature this fall, that shiny yellow orb should become a bright red color and significantly bigger than it is today. I've grown them once before with success. There are at least a half dozen forming on the vine. If they all survive, there will be a lot of pumpkin this fall. This should become a big red pumpkin by harvest time. I was able to ...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Ready for more?

How about a few days of vegetable garden photos? Here's what it looks like right now. It may look relatively weed-free from this distance, but I'm battling the purslane almost daily. On Sunday I planted out some habanero pepper seedlings that have been in the greenhouse, not growing, since they sprouted. The chard (in the foreground) was a gift from a friend with a surplus. It's the red-ribbed variety. So, to recap, this year's garden is home to twenty-four tomato plants, three kinds of beans,...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants


This photo is a week old, so some of this zucchini has already been harvested. I can count about six little zukes there. We're getting one or two a day right now from the two plants in the garden. I'll get out there later with the camera for some more up-to-date images. The round-leafed green plant on the right is pourpier (purslane). It's hard to get rid of, but it's supposedly edible. The market was fun yesterday morning. But, it being the first Saturday of official summer vacation and the l...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Gad, Garden Flowers Plants

Back to summer

Friday was a lost day for outdoor work. It didn't rain much, but just enough to dampen (pun intended) any interest in cutting grass or otherwise working outside. And it was breezy and chilly. But today the clouds are gone and the temperature should be warming back up. That's the forecast, anyway. The artichokes are flowering now. So, I'm planning a market run this morning. The big poultry vendor has summer sausages called chipolatas and merguez made of poultry (rather than pork and lamb, respe...
Tags: Travel, Weather, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Sunny day

When the sun is out and it's a hot day, I put the umbrella out on the deck. It shades the table and keeps a good section of the deck tiles from getting hot. This photo is from Thursday at about noon. The thermometer on the table shows 25.5ºC (about 78ºF). It got warmer as the afternoon progressed. The deck gets fully shaded a few hours after noon. The umbrella helps at mid-day. After lunch, I was sitting on the deck enjoying a glass of red when one our neighbors showed up at the gate. She live...
Tags: Travel, Weather, Paris, Our House, WCS, Our Neighborhood

Cinnabar moth

I think this is the larvae of the cinnabar moth, called la goutte-de-sang (drop of blood) in French. The names describe the markings on the wings of the adult moth, not the caterpillar. According to my extensive quick and dirty research, they like to lay eggs on ragwort, a very common plant in and around the vineyards and other fields nearby. I'm pretty sure this one was on a ragwort plant when I saw it. Not hard to miss this one. He (or she) is wearing my high school colors: orange and blac...
Tags: Travel, Wildlife, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Black tomato pizza

Some of my readers asked to see the inside of the tomates noires (black tomatoes) that I brought home from the market last weekend. On Tuesday, we made pizzas with one of them, so here it is. The tomato's skin has dark shades of red and green, but it looks like a regular red tomato on the inside. The black tomato, revealed. I sliced the tomato and arranged it on the pizza dough, then added lardons fumés (smoked bacon), chopped bell peppers, sliced mushrooms, and some brebis (sheeps' cheese) fr...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Food And Cooking

Radis roses

Pink radishes are common in France this time of year. They're a favorite at apértif time, served raw with sweet butter, salt, and fresh bread. The oblong radishes are sold in bottes (bunches) with their fanes (leaves) and we've been enjoying one bunch a week for the past couple of months. They're crisp and crunchy and sweet, not at all sharp like the round red radishes I remember from the US. Radis roses, trimmed (roots and leaves) and soaking (to dislodge any stubborn dirt). And yes, we eat t...
Tags: Travel, France, US, WCS, Food And Cooking, Radis


Our local Saturday market in Saint-Aignan has at least five produce vendors that I can think of. All of them have a nice variety of good-looking vegetables and fruits to offer. One of them is a local organic grower (and their prices reflect that). The others are vendors, likely buying their produce wholesale and reselling it at markets around the region. Gorgeous and tasty tomatoes. Even though it's not tomato season, the toms at the market are beautiful. They're probably grown in ideal and pr...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Food And Cooking, Saint Aignan

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