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Between a fig and a hard place

Our poor little fig tree had an amazing year this year. I suppose it was all the rain. There are more figs on the tree this year than all previous years combined. Or close to it. That tells me that the tree needs to be watered more in drier years. A few of this year's figs on our tree. Bite into one and lose a tooth. I was so happy to see all the fruit and notice that the birds didn't seem to want them. I eagerly awaited harvest time (late summer) and dreamed of fresh fig tarts and eating figs...
Tags: Travel, Charlie Brown, Lucy, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Dog biscuits

Friends of ours welcomed a new puppy into their home earlier this year. When we were invited over for lunch last weekend, I thought a gift of home-made dog biscuits would be nice. I looked on the internet and found a recipe (there are a lot) that used ingredients that I had, more or less, on hand. Dog biscuits baking in the oven. Yes, I have a bone-shaped cookie cutter. Tasha liked the biscuits so I hoped the new pup would as well. And it turns out that she did. They're made with whole wheat f...
Tags: Travel, WCS, BOL, Tasha, Food And Cooking

The path to nowhere

I mentioned that, last July, I started digging out the rock/concrete border of the little path that makes a useless loop out in the south forty. I was using a pickax. Not fun, and not good for my back. And I didn't get very far before letting the project drop. Before. Last July I pulled up one side of the border on a small section of the path. Look at those tall weeds! Then, last week, the landscape contractor used his mini backhoe and made short work of the entire path, removing the rocks, th...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Hazelnuts no more

When we moved into this place a little over eighteen years ago, about a dozen noisettiers (hazelnut trees) lined the northern property line out in what I call the west forty. In the spring of 2013, we had them cut down to hedge height. Before. The dead hazelnuts. A couple of them had been cut down to the roots in recent years. Now, at least half of them have died, likely from the persistent drought conditions that have built in over time. At least, that's the opinion of the landscaper for the ...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Carport birch

We have this somewhat rickety old carport out front. It was built by a relative of the neighbors across the road several decades ago. I used to cut and store firewood under it until we got a second car. Now the newer car lives in the garage and the older car stays under the carport. After. The dead tree was just to the right of the carport. At three of the carport's corners, somebody planted trees. One is an ornamental weeping some-kind-of-fruit that makes beautiful pink blossoms in the spring...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Lunch break

Let's take a break from the back yard photos for a look at lunch. Last week we got a new raclette machine, having retired the old one earlier this year. Raclette is a Swiss cheese made from cows' milk. It's also the name of the meal. Our raclette lunch, all ready to go! The French verb racler means "to scrape," which is how the cheese was originally eaten. It's positioned near a heat source, then, as the cheese melts, diners scrape the melted cheese off the main wheel and eat it on boiled pota...
Tags: Travel, Brussels, WCS, Food And Cooking

The north forty

Here's the first of a short series of before-and-after (or after-and-before) photos of the landscaping work. This section of the yard is what I call the north forty because it's just north of the house. The huge juniper and the trio of birch trees grew in the middle, and I had lots of fun mowing around them for the past eighteen years, not to mention picking up fallen birch twigs and branches before mowing and trimming the sides of the juniper once a year or so. After. Wide open space! You can...
Tags: Travel, Ken, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

The finished garden path

The path's finish layer is gravel, like it was before. This gravel, however, is much smaller than the previous was. It's going to take a while to settle. Tasha's (and our) footprints are obvious. As are the leaves falling from the linden tree. Nothing stays pristine for long. Looking east, toward the house from the back gate. We could have gone with a hard surface (pavers or bricks) for the path. That would have been much easier to keep free of fallen leaves and other debris, but it would prob...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Tasha, Garden Flowers Plants


This is the rouleau compresseur (roller compactor or road roller) that the contractor used to compress the crushed granite layer in the garden path. Once that was done, he started pouring the gravel on top (picture coming soon), then compacted that. Et voilà, the path was done. The crushed granite looks like concrete. The finish layer is made from small brown pebbles. Another thing he did on Wednesday was to rip up that little garden path I've been bitching about for years now. It serves no pu...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

The path to victory

The yard work continued on Tuesday and the entire garden path got scraped down by about six inches. Then a layer of anti-weed fabric went down, topped with a base layer of crushed granite (at least that's what they called it). The main garden path, halfway through the scraping. It all looked pretty spiffy at this point, but there was more to do. As it got late, the guys stopped work on the path and took the backhoe thing back over to where they had removed the juniper on Monday. Within thirty ...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Tasha, Garden Flowers Plants

Hedges are done

The guys arrived on Tuesday morning and finished trimming the hedges pretty quickly. Then they took down two of the dead birches (two more to go!) and sawed them into lengths I can burn in the wood stove. Then the heavy equipment was delivered. The hedges are done for another year. The heavy equipment being unloaded out back. Heavy might not be the right word. The front loader/backhoe, steam roller, and mobile bucket all look like they're the size of Tonka trucks. They fit right in with the sm...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Hedges, Tonka, Garden Flowers Plants

As easy as 1, 2, 3

The landscapers showed up on time Monday morning. Yay! They started working on trimming the hedges. When the boss arrived about a half an hour later, he and I did a tour of the yard to review what was being done. We added a couple of things that will help me out with other projects (among them, ripping out the little garden path). The boss (in green) cut the branches with a small chainsaw. First he cut a slice, like a piece of pie. Then he got the other guys off the hedge and they attacked the...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Fall weather

The weather has been pretty decent over the past week. We're having single-digit (chilly) mornings. I could see my breath in yesterday's early morning chill. But the days are mild and mostly sunny. Typical of the "nice" days of fall. Fall can be crappy, too, of course. We'll take all the good days we can get. Fields and vines and woods. Sunrise today is at 8h08. Right about the time that the landscape contractor said he would show up. Here we go again... [Author: wcs]
Tags: Travel, Weather, WCS, The Vineyard

The day before, episode two

Dare I think it? That the landscape contractor will actually show up tomorrow morning as promised? Promised "without fail" in fact. The weather is good and will be for a couple of days. Oh please, oh please! The real fake well. It's not part of the project. At least I managed to cut away the dead clary sage plants. We've been waiting for nearly a year. I've put off a lot of maintenance work out there thinking that there was no point since a lot will be torn up in the project. As a consequence,...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Redwoods at Butano

Among the attractions at California's Butano State Park are groves of towering coastal redwoods. I didn't have much time to do long hikes during the weekend we were there, so I didn't see a lot of the park beyond the campground. But it was in the middle of one of those groves, and I thought it was beautiful. Ben Ries campground, Butano State Park, California, USA. August 2002. I took these photos with one of Ken's earlier digital cameras, a Kodak DC4800. I was still taking color slides at this...
Tags: Travel, Usa, Camping, California, Kodak, Ken, WCS, Butano, Ben Ries, Butano State Park, Butano State Park California USA


Halloween is coming up. What better excuse for a photo of a cemetery? This one is in Pescadero, California, USA, a small town on the coast south of San Francisco. We've been to Pescadero many times over the years, mostly to eat in a locally well-known restaurant famous for it's cream of artichoke soup. Pescadero Cemetery, August 2002. I thought it would look spookier in black and white so I took the color out, except for the hot pink amaryllis that was blooming around many of the old headston...
Tags: Travel, Usa, San Francisco, San Jose, Ken, WCS, Pescadero, Pescadero California USA, Butano State Park Ken

The garden plot

This is the state of the vegetable garden as we move toward winter. I still need to pull the zucchini plants out. And those cosmos will come out, too, as they begin to die. The greens, kale and chard, will stay and hopefully produce a crop later this fall. They like the chilly weather. What's left of the 2021 vegetable garden. I took the trellis fence down as I do every year, but this time I also took the posts out. I'm thinking I'll move the trellis further into the plot (as opposed to along ...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

This was a vineyard

The vine rows are still visible in this photo. There are even some grape plants trying to come back from roots left behind. I'm assuming this parcel will be replanted, probably next spring after another winter lying fallow. It's one of several parcels out back that have been ripped up over the last couple of seasons. What's in store for this parcel? I don't know what prompts the growers to remove and replace vines. Age? Disease? A changeover to organic growing methods? It might be that the gro...
Tags: Travel, WCS, The Vineyard

Needless to say...

The landscape contractor didn't show up yesterday. I sent him an email mid-morning that included his original statement that they'd be here on the 4th. Last evening, he answered. He said he was sorry, but they already had an appointment for the 4th. Yeah, I thought, mine! So he says they'll be here next Monday sans faute (without fail). You'll forgive me if I don't hold my breath. This was about a week ago. I noticed another few hours of hand-picking going on in the vineyards out back yesterda...
Tags: Travel, WCS, The Vineyard, Garden Flowers Plants

In the pink

October is when le fusain (common spindle) puts on a bright pink display of berries. I hardly notice these plants until they set fruit. Later, the berries will open to reveal bright orange seeds. What a show! Spindle at woods' edge. The last communication I got from the landscape contractor was on 31 August saying that he would be here at 8h00 on 4 October. That's today, two hours from when I'm typing this. I need to get the car out of the driveway and park it across the street before they get...
Tags: Travel, Wildflowers, WCS

The day before

The wind picked up on Saturday and it started raining after the sun went down. There was some rain over night, but not a lot. The wind kept blowing. Today we're expecting rain most of the morning, then the system will be moving on this afternoon. This was the sky one morning last week when the weather was a little better. No blue sky today. En principe, as they say, the landscaping work in our yard should start Monday. Along with the shrubs and trees that are being removed and the renovation o...
Tags: Travel, Weather, WCS

More leaves

From what I can tell by watching, the grape harvest out back is winding down. There are a few parcels yet to be harvested, but most of the vineyards are done, including that small parcel of chenin I posted about on Wednesday. In the coming weeks, the freshly pressed juice will begin the fermentation process. It won't be long before we see fizzy bernache (grape juice that has just begun fermenting) in the supermarkets. Toward the end of November we'll see the first of the "new" wines, the most fa...
Tags: Travel, France, WCS, The Vineyard, Philippe Collignon, Chloro Phil

Limace rouge

I've posted photos of these critters many times before. This time of year, when the grass is wet with rain or dew, they are most visible. It helps that they're four of five inches long and that many of them are bright orange in color. A European red slug in the damp grass. Speaking of rain, and don't I always speak of rain, the weekend is forecast to be wet. Earlier this week, the long-range forecasts predicted a lot of rain, more than a month's worth on Sunday alone. Since then, the weather g...
Tags: Travel, Wildlife, WCS

Jerusalem artichokes

I'm sure it's because of all the rain we've had that the Jerusalem artichokes are doing very well this year, especially those on the west side of the garden shed (to the left in the photo). In dry years, I don't water over there very much and the plants produce many fewer flowers. This year, you can see the difference that water makes. Once the cracks are patched, I should probably consider a paint job. The cracks on either side of the door are supposed to be patched as part of our deck renova...
Tags: Travel, Jerusalem, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants


A small plot of chenin grapes grows along the vineyard road that we often take on walks with the dogs (past and present). The vast majority of the white grapes grown around us are sauvignon, but other varieties grow here and there, like the parcel of chardonnay near our house. These chenin grapes, the grower once told me, are used for his sweet "late harvest" wine. Chenin grapes in a small parcel out back. Chenin is the only* grape used in the Vouvray and Montlouis appellations up on the Loire...
Tags: Travel, Wikipedia, WCS, Wine And Spirits, Loire, The Vineyard, Touraine, Chenin

Autumn leaves as autumn settles in

It's been fall for a week now. Many of the fall colors we get around here are found in the vineyards. I'm looking forward to the bright yellows and golds of the sauvignon and the deep reds and scarlets of gamay and cabernet. It's starting now, even while the harvest continues. A very autumnal scene. Most of the trees in the woods around us go yellow in the fall. There are exceptions, especially in gardens where people have planted trees that reveal other colors this time of year. In our yard, ...
Tags: Travel, WCS, The Vineyard

Camping among the redwoods

During our last summer in San Francisco, I went camping with my friend S. in Butano State Park near the coast just south of the city. Ken and I had been camping a few times in the adjacent Big Basin Redwoods State Park, but there was a twist at Butano. The sites where we camped were walk-in sites. No cars allowed. We parked on a paved road not too far from the sites and carried all our gear in, then took the car to a parking lot for the duration. That's my tent on the right, S.'s tent is parti...
Tags: Travel, Utah, Usa, California, San Francisco, Nevada, Ken, WCS, Butano, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Butano State Park, Butano State Park California

Me and Diana Ross

We both love mussels. What's that you say? That song wasn't about seafood? Oh well. Diana's loss. We enjoyed mussels for lunch on Saturday. Ken got two kilos (that's a lot for two people) because the vendor had a special. Two kilos cost less than one and a half. Freshly steamed mussels, open and ready for garnish. We rinsed the mussels in fresh water then began the process of removing the beards while looking for broken shells or mussels that wouldn't close. There were maybe ten like that and ...
Tags: Travel, Diana, Diana Ross, Ken, WCS, Macon, Food And Cooking

Monk see, monk do

This is a blast from the past. Back in September of 2002, my friend S. and I were visiting some wineries in the Sierra foothills around where she lives. I've forgotten the name of this place, and my photos don't have many clues in them. It may be Sierra Starr Vineyards in Grass Valley, but I'm not sure. At any rate, there was a little pond with a deck and this fellow holding an empty bottle as if to say, "Can I have another one?" That faded label may say "Sierra Starr." Starr is the name of th...
Tags: Travel, Usa, Grass Valley, Sierra, Ken, WCS, Sierra Starr Vineyards, Sierra Starr Starr

The artichokes are done

I'll cut these down soon and add them to the yard waste pile. But I'm enjoying their "last stand." They look like medieval torture instruments. Or triffids. Not long ago, these were bright green with deep blue flowers. Thursday turned out to be another very nice day (after a chilly morning) and I got the west forty mowed. All that's left is the north forty and I'm planning to do that today. The weather is expected to change over the weekend so, at least for now, the grass will be cut. It could...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

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