Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Le dernier des Mohicans

Last night, Ken and I watched "The Last of the Mohicans," a 1992 film version of James Fenimore Cooper's novel set during the French and Indian War. I thought I read it in school but hadn't; I've read it since. We've seen the movie before, and I always enjoy it. The story takes place where I grew up, and the movie was filmed in Ken's home state, so there's a personal angle. Back in 2006, Ken and I visited some of the settings of the action, most notably, Fort William Henry on the southern shore of Lake George, about sixty miles north of Albany.

Fort William Henry in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, 2006.

The French army destroyed the wooden fort once they captured it in 1757 and the site was abandoned. In the 1950s, a replica of the fort was built on the original site and has been a successful tourist attraction since. I've been inside a few times in my life, the last being with Ken in 2006. It's worth a look if you find yourself in the area.

Lake George seen from the ramparts of Fort William Henry, 2006. The Mohican is a tour boat on the lake.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Vague de froid

That's what the weather people are predicting. A cold wave. It's already cold in the east, and down south the Pyrénées are getting a snow dump. It's still mild in the west and center (where we are), but that is changing. We're expecting high temperatures below freezing for the next week.

A little greenery around a small tree stump in the winter woods.

On Saturday I got some of that fabric they sell for wrapping sensitive plants to protect them from the cold. I used it to cover our ten-year old fig tree. The fig should be alright, but I remember a cold spell a number of years back that froze it to the ground. I thought we had lost it, but it re-sprouted from its roots that spring. Still, we went years and years without getting any edible figs. Then, last year and for the first time, the tree actually produced a usable crop. So I'm hoping it has matured to the point of producing every year and I don't want to take any chances of it freezing again. Keep your fingers crossed!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Grease balls

They're called boules de graisse in French, literally balls of fat, what we'd call suet. They're very popular around here in the fall and winter and are sold by the bucket-full in garden centers and supermarkets. The balls are usually always wrapped in a green plastic netting that needs to be retrieved and thrown away once the seed is gone. Songbirds, les passereaux in French, especially like the mix of fat and seed products in the balls.

Un mésange (blue tit) clings to the feeder while pecking at the seed and suet.

I got this feeder many years ago. It's specially designed to hold several boules. As I mentioned yesterday, I hang this from the railing of our front deck during the cold months. It sometimes takes the birds a day or two to realize it's there, but once they do there's no stopping them. It didn't take long to learn which birds liked to feed here and what they're called both in French and in English.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

For the birds

I'm running out of seed for the birds and we're about to go into a cold spell. I'll be off to the garden center this morning to re-stock. I still have a good supply of suet/seed balls, "grease balls" as we call them, boules de graisse in French. I hang those up in a holder on the deck railing.

This is a pinson (chaffinch). I can't tell if it's a male or female; the male's head is usually more blue in color.

The birds enjoy the seed balls. Our most common visitors are le mésange (the great tit, blue tit, and crested tit), le pinson des arbres (the chaffinch), and le rouge-gorge (the European robin). Recently we've seen a mating pair of merle (common blackbird) eating the seeds. I see chardonnerets (European goldfinches) out there from time to time as well. The tits cling to the seed balls and pick at them, throwing a lot of seed down onto the deck. The other species walk around on the deck eating what falls.

The same pinson takes a look at me while I take its picture.

In addition to the seed balls, I have two hanging feeders that I fill with a loose seed mix. One of the feeders hangs from one of the maple trees out front, the other is suspended above the real fake well out back. At the feeders, as with the seed balls, the tits land on the perches and throw seeds down to the ground where the chaffinches, robins, and blackbirds gobble them up.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Auntie Em!

The wind began to switch, the house to pitch, and suddenly the hinges started to... unhitch. Well, not exactly, but the wind really blew a gale during the night. It's calmer this morning but there are still a few gusts. Looking out the window I can see some small branches on the ground and something else that doesn't belong there. I won't know what it is until it gets lighter and I go out with Callie.

A frosty protective sleeve in the vineyard. There's a little grape vine inside.

We weren't at all near the worst of the storm. That was up closer to the Brittany and Normandy coasts, as it usually is. The English Channel is a favorite path for windy weather systems. Now we're expecting much colder temperatures over the weekend and into next week. It certainly is winter!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Poste vingt-deux

I see these little tags placed here and there along the roads that run through the vineyards. I think they have something to do with hunting, organized hunts in particular. From what I observe, these are predetermined stations at which hunters wait for the prey (deer or foxes in our area) that are driven out of the woods.

If you're assigned Poste 22, you stand here.

The organized hunts are few and far between. I think they happen when the hunting officials determine that the population of either deer or fox has gotten too high in a particular area. The individual hunters that we see out back every Sunday are there for game birds and wild hare. From what I see on the internet, the hunting season for hare closed in November, and the pheasant season will close at the end of January. The season for deer, foxes, and wild boar closes at the end of February.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Winter sights

This is a wild carrot flower, Queen Anne's Lace, leftover from summer and covered in frosty crystals. I see a lot of these over the winter. Come spring, they'll wither away and decompose to make way for new growth.

It looks like it's huddling to keep warm, but I think it's actually dead.

The weather people are predicting some snow toward the weekend for us. If anything, it looks like we could get some minor snow showers mixed with rain, not much more.