Saturday, December 16, 2017

Reindeer on the shelf

Who needs an elf when you've got a reindeer on the shelf? The tree went up on Friday afternoon. The lights are on. But that's as far as I got. The rest will happen today and, if necessary, on Sunday.

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Friday, December 15, 2017

Gray days

It's typical: we get amazingly clear skies in the hours before sunrise, then the gray comes back for most of the daylight hours. There was still a good wind blowing through the night last night. Tasha got up and down several times and, at one point, was barking at a noise. I heard the noise a few times, too, but I don't know what it was. It could have been an animal outside, or a car horn in the distance. Tasha growled and barked for a few minutes, but the noise stopped and we all went back to sleep. Sort of.

Another gray morning.

My plan for the day is to drag the holiday tree from its box and set it up, string the lights, and hang the baubles. I'll see how far I get.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Saint-Aignan's church

The church in Saint-Aignan is an imposing building. It was built in the eleventh and twelfth centuries in the romanesque style. The church is a collégiale (collegiate church) originally managed by a group of secular clergy called a "college of canons." I have no idea how it's run today, but I know there is no resident priest. I think that the church is used mostly for high holiday celebrations and catholic weddings these days.

The church at Saint-Aignan reflected in the Cher River at sunrise back in November.

The winds gusted all day on Wednesday, with intermittent rain showers, all of which should be tapering off some time today. Then the cold comes back. A week from today is the solstice, the official start of winter, and the point at which the days stop getting shorter. Yippee!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Today's grab bag

It's going to be another windy and wet day, although not as windy as Monday was, thankfully. We're not spending much time outside, except for dog walking, of course. Tasha got me up at four this morning to go outside. Then we went back to bed until six. The problem is that it doesn't get light outside until close to 08h30, so we have a couple of hours to hang out inside before walk time. Tasha is slowly learning to accept this. She'll be glad when spring brings more daylight, I'm sure.

Our back gate, which we hope to replace in the spring, is literally held together with spit and bailing wire. The garden shed's shutters are closed for the winter. Those brown plants are the dead Jerusalem artichoke stalks that I will trim down before spring.

Today is pizza day. I made the dough for the crust last evening. It rises for eighteen hours and doesn't need to be kneaded. The recipe is so easy and pretty reliable. And we like the way it bakes. For toppings, we have some leftover smoked chicken, we'll saute some onions and bell peppers, use some of our home-made tomato sauce, add some black olives and, of course, finish it with cheese. I'm hungry already!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

I haven't taken the camera out for a while since we've been enjoying (!) windy and rainy days. It was so windy on Monday that I was afraid Tasha would take off like a kite on the end of her leash. The strong gusts jostled her from side to side, but she pushed on. She was excited, chasing leaves as they zipped across the road at high speed. She even caught a few.

This was last week, before our recent storms. We don't go into the woods when it's too windy.

The wind has calmed, for now. We're expecting some more, but not as strong, on Wednesday and Thursday. I'll take advantage of the calm to go out this morning and do a few errands in town. Like going to the post office to mail some holiday cards and to the bakery to get some bread. I'll get a few baguettes for the freezer so we don't have to go out again too soon. Saturday we'll head over to the market in Saint-Aignan to order the holiday bird.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Autumn's last gasp

We're having a wind storm today. The center of the storm is coming in off the Atlantic near the mouth of the Loire and is expected to go north of us. But the winds on the southern edge of the storm will blow right over us. We're in a Level 3 (out of 4) alert for high winds through the morning. I hate wind. Luckily, there's not much rain associated with this storm, which I think they named "Ana."

Just outside our back gate, looking north toward the river valley.

It's possible that our phones (and our internet access) will go out if a branch falls on the wires. I'm hopeful that we won't lose electricity since many lines in our area have been put underground, but there are many in the network that are not, so there's no guarantee. On the positive side, the storm has brought relatively mild temperatures, so it doesn't feel cold. We have the wood stove for heat, and our cook top is gas-powered, so we can cook. Batten down the hatches!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Brown is the new black

Or maybe it's the new green. Whatever it is, brown is the predominant color out in the vineyards this time of year. If we're lucky, we will have a snowfall or two during winter to brighten things up. Until then, it's brown. The pruning process has begun and will last until spring.

There are still plenty of greens and oranges to be found, but it's mostly brown.

I put the lights up on the house Saturday. When the weather permits, I'll go out and take a photo. Next weekend I'll put up our tree and see how Tasha reacts to it. We will also head out to the market to order our Christmas bird. We haven't decided what to get yet. Turkey? Capon? Guinea fowl? We'll see!

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Through the woods

The Artsy Organized Neighbor maintains a short dirt road through his property adjacent to the vineyards out back. It doesn't really go anywhere, except to a steep path that leads down into the ravine which I've never taken. Tasha (and Callie before her) and I cut through the woods at the end of the road and come out in another vineyard parcel on the other side.

The dirt road is covered with fallen leaves right now. The path we take through the woods is behind me.

The path we take is well worn. I think it started out as a deer path through the woods, but after years of being trampled by Ken and me, Callie, and Tasha, it's a pretty clear path.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Winter walks

It's not officially winter, yet. But when the days are cold and dark, it might as well be. We walk the dog on the edges of the day, at first light in the morning and just before sunset in the afternoon. The sun is very low in the sky, when we can see it. But all is not grim. It's nice to be able to be outdoors and enjoy the woods, watch the birds, and breath the crisp air.

The evergreens are green, the oaks are golden brown, and the other trees are mostly bare.

Tasha gets impatient before walk time. It takes me a while to get ready. When it's cold and windy, I have to put long johns on. Then I have to get my boots on and tied up. Scarf, coat, hat, gloves. Tasha's harness and the leash. She bounces around waiting for the door to open and, then, we're off.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Throwback Thursday

Here's another one with Collette, from the late '90s/early 00's. We're on the pier at Aquatic Park in San Francisco. In the background toward the left is the Hyde Street pier. If you really look closely above and to the right of my head, you might see the Hyde Street cable car terminal which is just across the street from the Buena Vista Café where, according to legend, Irish coffee was first served in the US.

Collette looks toward the Golden Gate Bridge while I contemplate the city skyline.

Rising in the background are a few of downtown San Francisco's iconic buildings, silhouetted in the haze. On the left, the Transamerica Pyramid is easily identifiable. Just to its right is the twin-spired 345 California Center, whose upper floors now house the Loews Regency San Francisco Hotel. The imposing dark granite tower of the Bank of America building rises toward the center of the photo. On the right is a Russian Hill residential tower. The Transamerica and BofA towers are no longer occupied by their eponymous corporations.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Gray and dreary days

That's late fall and early winter here. We only have about eight and a half hours of daylight right now, and the skies are often foggy, overcast, and leaden. We do get some nice sunny days here and there, but a lot of the time it's gray.

The walnut tree out on the vineyard road. I noticed that there weren't many walnuts out there this year.

I'm certain that these dreary winter days are the origin of our holiday traditions of bringing greenery and lights into our houses. And also of cooking meals with summer fruits, squashes, and root vegetables that were put in cold storage at the end of summer. And also of eating birds, like turkeys, chickens, guinea fowl, pheasants, partridges and other game birds that abound this time of year. All those things lift our spirits, and "help to make the season bright."

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

I've done this before, but now I've updated it with Tasha's photo. These are the four dogs that I've had in my life. So far. First there was Lassie. She was a purebred rough collie, the biggest of the four. My dad brought her home when she was just weaned, and this photo was taken not long after that. It was the mid '60s. It's one of the few photos I have of her. Lassie was our family dog until 1977.

Left to right: Lassie, Collette, Callie, and Tasha. Female sheepdogs, all.

The second dog was Collette. Ken and I adopted her in 1992 when we lived in the Silicon Valley city of Sunnyvale. Collette was a mixed breed, but obviously had a lot of Shetland Sheepdog in her. In 1995, the three of us moved back to San Francisco and then to France in 2003. She was with us for fourteen years. We think of her often and miss having her around.

The third dog was Callie, as many of you know, a purebred border collie born in 2007 here in France. She was the second largest dog of the four. Unfortunately, she left us this past summer at just ten years old. We miss her a great deal.

And now, of course, there's Tasha (full name: Natasha of the Wolves of Isengard). She's a Shetland Sheepdog, purebred. She was born earlier this year and is now over nine months old. Tasha is the smallest of the four dogs. We're looking forward to growing old with her.

Monday, December 04, 2017


There is a restaurant on the island at Saint-Aignan and they have a nice outdoor seating area on the river with a grand view of the château on the other side. It's a great place to eat in good weather, but it doesn't get much use this time of year.

The indoor dining room is up on the bridge level, the outdoor seating is below that on the river level. The door in this photo leads to the kitchen.

The restaurant has gone through several iterations over recent years. I think it just started out as a bar/café. It has changed hands a few times and the kitchen was submerged when the river flooded a couple of years ago. But it keeps coming back. We enjoyed hamburgers for lunch with friends there one sunny summer day. Tasty!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Church and castle

Here's another view of the church and château at Saint-Aignan seen from the island in the Cher River. The leaves on those plane trees are long gone; I took the photo nearly a month ago now.

Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher, November 2017.

We're having a blast of winter, even though the snow we got on Friday didn't stick around very long. It's cold outside, but not arctic cold. Soon the north wind will shift back into the west and our temperate climate will even things out a little. If the weather gets good enough, I might be inspired to go into town to take some pictures of the holiday lights they string up over the main streets. I haven't done that in a few years.

Saturday, December 02, 2017


"Now the first of December was covered with snow." So sang James Taylor back in 1970. Was it that long ago? We had a predicted, yet still unexpected, snow event on Friday, the first of December. Forty-seven years later.

Ken took some movies. I took a few stills out the back window.

The snow was falling heavy, but it was not really threatening. It couldn't stick to the ground as the ground is not yet cold enough to carry snow. But the squalls were impressive nonetheless. We were out driving around when it started. It felt rather wintry. I wonder if we'll have more this winter?

Friday, December 01, 2017

Garden gate

I like this gate that opens onto one of the garden allotments on the island at Saint-Aignan. Not as a gate, but as art. There's no accounting for taste, right? I wonder how well it works. Our own garden gate is in pretty bad shape (it's wooden), but it still opens and closes.

Held together with chewing gum and bailing wire?

So here we are in December already. The weather is consistent with the season right now. This morning it's down to freezing and the weather people keep talking about snow, but I'll be surprised if we see any where we are (oops, I was wrong, we had a few flurries). The mountain people are all excited because they're gearing up for ski season, and good for them. We do have to watch for verglas (black ice) on the roads this time of year.

Oops, I was really wrong. Serious snow squalls this morning. Bad visibility on the road. The ground's too warm for any real accumulation, though. Still, it's pretty!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Throwback Thursday

Here's Ken with our dog Collette sometime in the late 1990s when we lived in San Francisco. It's taken on Martha Avenue in our old neighborhood, looking up toward Dorothy Erskine Park, a place where Collette and I often took our morning walks. The "flower power" VW bug was just so San Francisco!

Ken and Collette. I don't remember who took this picture. It could have been our friend Sue.

We lived in this neighborhood from 1995 to 2003, just before we moved to France. It was a nice residential neighborhood in the center of town with easy access to BART and MUNI lines, and most of the city was within easy reach by car. I would often drive Collette to places where she enjoyed walking, like to Mount Davidson up above our neighborhood, out to Ocean Beach near the zoo, and even over to China Beach in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. She really enjoyed being able to run on the beaches without a leash in the early morning.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Another island garden allotment

I still have some photos from our walk on the island at Saint-Aignan a few weeks ago. This one is another well-tended garden allotment. So many people around here are very talented gardeners. It helps that they're on the island where the soil is so much richer than up here among the grape vines where we live. Our soil is rocky clay, good for grapes, but not much else. Their land is fertile river bottom, nourished by the occasional flood.

A nice, well-weeded garden. Someone does a lot of work here.

Still, we make do. I add our home-made compost to the soil every year along with the decaying leaves that cover the garden in winter. Every few years I add a few sacks of fumier de cheval (composted horse manure) and work that in. I could probably do more, but there's no point in being fanatical about it. At least my garden is right outside my back door. Trade-offs.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

This is our road heading up the hill from the river valley to our hamlet. Tasha and I are on the final leg of our typical evening loop that I call "down and around." The walk up the hill is good for us me. We sometimes start our walk off-leash, but once we're on the way down I hook her up. She has run off after deer (and one cyclist) and there are cars along a good portion of our route, so the leash is necessary.

Tasha pauses for a photo on our way up the hill.

I'm looking forward to the day when we won't need the leash for most of our walks. Callie's good behavior spoiled us. Even so, in Callie's first years she, too, could disappear for a while, chasing a deer, a rabbit, or playing with another dog. But Callie was always afraid of cars and wouldn't get near them. Tasha shows all the signs of wanting to chase cars, so we have to be very careful.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Winter wheat

The field down below our hamlet in the river valley was planted with winter wheat earlier this fall. It's sprouting now. The little green plants will stay small until the spring, and then with warmer weather they'll shoot up and start producing flowers and seeds. I think the wheat will be harvested in early summer, if I remember the cycle correctly.

A field of sprouting winter wheat.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it's time to get the outdoor potted plants indoors for the winter. Ken started a few days ago by removing the spent chili pepper and basil plants from the greenhouse (into the compost they went), making room for the plants we want to keep inside.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Carpet of golden leaves

Ken raked a lot of these leaves up on Friday. And the wind blew a lot of them around. But not before I got a few shots. This is the tilleul (linden tree) in the back yard. It's mostly bare now and doesn't look like this any more. Here's a rare triplet from three different angles.

Looking east.

Looking west.

Looking northeast.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Funky feline fotos

When the sun is out, especially this time of year, Bert likes to take advantage and soak up the rays. Lately he's been napping on the deck table. That's over now, since on Friday I took the table and chairs down to the garage for the winter.

Bert lounges on the deck table for the last time this year.

I also got the garden hose rolled up and put away while Ken did some work cleaning up the walkway and the greenhouse. Tasha pitched in, too, with plenty of barking and running around. We had a relatively warm week (I didn't need to build a fire for a few days), but a new weather system moved through last night and we're told to expect more chilly weather from now forward. 'Tis the season.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Make like a tree and leave

So I raked on Wednesday. As I mentioned earlier, it took about an hour. Tasha helped by barking very loudly every time I moved the rake and by jumping up onto me with muddy paws when I dumped the leaves in the garden. She's good like that.

Now you see 'em... you don't.

The morning started out chilly and foggy, but the sun eventually came out. I used an old refuse can with wheels to take the leaves out to the garden in back. It took seven trips. I dumped the leaves in piles, but didn't spread the piles over the garden plot. So, naturally, the wind picked up overnight and blew things around. Fortunately, the piles held their shapes pretty well and I'll be able get them spread out soon enough.

Next spring the leaves will get tilled into the soil as part of the compost.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was delicious. We ate snails in garlic/parsley butter for the appetizer, then the main course of roasted leg of lamb with steamed and sautéed Brussels sprouts and beans. We followed that with a small cheese course, then dessert of pumpkin pie. The beans and the pumpkin came from our garden, the beans having been shelled and dried a couple of months ago, and the pumpkin having been roasted and frozen from the 2016 garden. Another successful holiday meal!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

I live in Rivendell

Among the elves. Our deck looks like a scene from the Lord of the Rings. Arwen tells Elrond that she has chosen a mortal life. "There is no ship now that can bear me hence," she says. And she drops a book. There are leaves blowing around on the floor. Like there are on my deck.

Arwen drops her book on the floor.

I dropped my book on the deck.

Speaking of leaves, I got the raking done under the maples out front. Those leaves are now in the garden plot. This morning it's windy and the leaves are blowing around (but not too much). Oh well.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Crushed can with shards

Not much to say today. My big plans: raking leaves. The two big maples in front are bare and the leaves are on the ground. And they're dry. With rain expected by Friday, I want to get out there move the leaves to the garden plot. It shouldn't take long once I get started.

The can was probably crushed by car tires moving along this dirt road.

The leaves under the linden tree out back are still not all down. And yet, the ground beneath the tree is covered with a golden carpet. I probably won't be motivated to do much about that today, except for maybe clearing the walkway. That would be a good thing to accomplish.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

With Bert. Whenever there is something going on in the kitchen, there is the possibility of food. At least from the perspective of the dog and cat. Tasha and Bert often join forces to elicit compassion in the chef, hoping for a handout, a tasty morsel or, at the very least, something inadvertently dropped onto the floor. Stuff happens.

Tasha and Bert plan their strategy while Ken works at the kitchen sink.

Something funny (from my perspective) happened on Monday: Tasha discovered the back window of the car. We took two cars to the garage so we could drop one off for its oil change. Tasha and I were in the lead and Ken followed behind us. I told Tasha that he was back there and she just happened to look behind. Then she couldn't stop looking behind. She turned around and put her front paws up on the seat back to watch the car behind us. I don't know if she actually could see that it was Ken following us, but she was fascinated. I laughed the whole way over to the garage.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The living room

This time of year it's often dark. Cloudy, foggy, rainy, whatever. I usually have a fire in the wood stove for heat. It helps us save on fuel oil. I also like to light candles. It gives some light and some color in the room during these darkening days.

Not so dark on this day, but the camera can make it look lighter than it really feels.

At some point in December, probably around the fifteenth, I'll put up the holiday tree. Those lights will get us through the darkest days and into the new year. The living room is called le salon in French.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


This is one of the more interesting looking of the garden allotments on the island at Saint-Aignan. The two little storage buildings wear their age well. Maybe it has to do with the slate roofs. The planting plots are clean and recently tilled. It's not just this one, either. Most of the allotments are obviously well tended. Only a few look abandoned and wild.

The allotments are often planted with fruit and nut trees in addition to the cultivated ground plots for vegetables.

I'm not certain what garden allotments are called in the US. I don't remember ever seeing them in the places I've lived. In some cities there were, and are, "community gardens," but that's a slightly different concept, although Wikipedia says that the differences are becoming blurred. Community gardening started out with a single plot of land worked by many members of a community, whereas allotment gardening consists of distinctly separate plots worked by individuals or families.

Allotment gardening seems to have started in England and was adopted in France around the turn of the century (that would be 1900, for you youngsters out there). They were called jardins ouvriers (workers' gardens) at first, but after the second world war, they became known as jardins familiaux (family gardens).

Saturday, November 18, 2017


These are coques (cockles), little bivalves that live in the wet sand along seashores all over the world. For some reason, Ken and I have developed a habit of eating them this time of year as kind of a switch from stews, roasts, and other traditional fall and winter meals. My favorite way to eat them is in a white wine and garlic sauce over linguini. It's "linguini with white clam sauce," but made with cockles instead of clams. Which is what we did last Sunday.

Fresh coques ready for the pot. Doesn't it just warm the cockles of your heart?

The fish mongers at Saint-Aignan's Saturday market come from the Atlantic coast in the Charente-Maritime department, not far from La Rochelle, a three- to four-hour drive southwest of here. We're lucky to have a good fish monger in town, even if it is just once a week. Fresh seafood is available at the supermarkets, of course, but the people at the Saturday market have more variety. There are good fish mongers at other weekly markets in our region, but they're not as close to us as Saint-Aignan.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sunrise and Beaujolais

This is what Wednesday's sunrise looked like as Tasha and I headed out into the vineyard for our morning walk. It was cold outside, just above freezing, and fog was forming as it got lighter. The combination of the ground fog and the clouds catching the sun's first rays was magical.

Sunrise over the vineyards, looking toward the southwest.

I got some of the new Beaujolais on Thursday and opened a bottle for lunch. Tasty! Last year I thought that the nouveau tasted ordinary, like a normal gamay. Nothing wrong with that, but it was nothing to write home about (even though I blogged about it). This year I can taste that nouveau quality that last year's wine lacked. I'm not very good with wine adjectives, but I've always described it as a "chalky" flavor or texture, whereas a regular-release gamay is normally much smoother. In my opinion.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Tasha and her Tricky Treat Ball

I'm experimenting with my camera's video features. I'm not at all confident, but here's a first try. Tasha gets kibble in the Tricky Treat Ball each day. She loves to push the ball around the deck and gobble up the kibble as it falls out. There is sound if you can listen. Click on the Play arrow to start the video.

So, how was that?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Woops Wednesday

Here's another view of the bridge over the Cher at Saint-Aignan. The bridge is actually two bridges, one that crosses the river's south channel and another that crosses the north channel. The island is between the two, of course. This is the northern portion of the bridge on the island side at sunrise on 5 November. The just-past-full moon is setting to the west.

There's a WW2 monument on the bridge. Those three little doors against the abutment are public restrooms.

I completely spaced on Tasha Tuesday this week. I don't have any new photos of the dog since I haven't taken the camera out much recently. The drizzly and cold weather is my excuse. And while the drizzle has ended for a while, it's still cold out there. Having Tasha on a leash while wearing gloves and trying to manipulate the camera is not easy. But I'm working on it.

On the house front, we think our electrical problem is not a problem after all. It may have just been a coincidence when our main breaker tripped twice while a certain light switch was turned on. It's happened before: brief outages or surges from the main grid can sometimes trip our sensitive breaker. I had the suspected light switch turned on for a while on Tuesday with no problems.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Apple royalty

These apples are called Reine des reinettes in French and "King of the Pippins" in English. Curious. Why is it a queen in France, but a king in England? I did a little looking on line, but didn't find any answers. As far as I can tell, reinette should mean "little queen." But the word's origin is apparently disputed in French. Even so, reinette is used to describe dozens of related apple varieties, one of which is the queen of them all: la Reine des reinettes.

Six reine des reinettes apples, ready to be made into a pie.

Wikipedia says that the variety actually originated in Holland and was called kroon renet (crown reinette). It's all very confusing. In English, the word "pippin" comes from the French pépin (seed), so-named because the apple is apparently easily grown from seeds. The French Wikipedia entry says that the English call this variety "Queen of the Pippins" and that it's often confused with "King of the Pippins," but the English entry doesn't mention that at all. And they say it's a French variety, not Dutch.

Oh well. The apples are delicious (but not Delicious), whatever you call them. I made these into a pie on Sunday.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Lazy river and the joys of home ownership

This is the Cher on a Sunday morning at sunrise. Not yesterday, but a week ago. Yesterday it rained. Now the season is getting more seasonal. Rain, wind, and much cooler temperatures. November. I'll be bundling up for my morning walk today. We're down below 4ºC (about 39ºF). Not freezing. Not yet.

Looking downstream from the western tip of the island at Saint-Aignan.

We had a little series of house issues over the weekend. First, a light switch started shorting out (we think) causing our main breaker to trip a few times. Not good for the appliances or the computers. I'll be taking a look at that later today when the sun brightens things. I'm hoping I won't need to call an electrician. Meanwhile, we're not using that light.

Next, we noticed that the concrete pipe that drains our kitchen sink under the house to the sewer system was becoming clogged. We didn't have a serious problem, but I had to open the drains to clear the clog before it got worse, a nasty, smelly job in the cold utility room. This is a recurring thing caused by the calcaire (calcium) levels in our water, and I have a power snake to help clear these kinds of clogs. I should have done it this past summer, but I didn't.

Then we discovered a leak in the water supply pipe that feeds the dishwasher. Drip, drip, drip. Wet floor under the sink. I'll probably have to call the plumber for that one.

And to top it all off, one of the cars is leaking oil on the garage floor, explaining why the "check oil" light came on last week. Ken will take the car in to the garage this morning.

Mama said there'll be days like this, there'll be days like this, mama said.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Compare and contrast

Not long ago, I posted a scan of a watercolor of Saint-Aignan that was done for a local tourist map. A week ago, when I was on the island walking with Tasha, I took a photo close to the same view. Here it is.

My photo of the view.

And here is the watercolor, again. You can see reality versus art. I didn't set out to take the same view, but it just so happened that I did.

The artist's impression.

Saturday was a very rainy and windy day. We need the rain, but it was still a dark and wet day. Oh well, that's fall for you.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Lemon eclairs

One of the positive things about not having bread delivered to the house any more is that we get to got out to the many bakeries around us for bread. And, while there, we can be tempted by the pastries they offer. And we have been.

Citron means "lemon" in French. The little balls are some kind of crunchy things covered in chocolate.

These are éclairs au citron (lemon eclairs) that I found on Thursday. The bakery had both the traditional chocolate and coffee éclairs, but they also had these more unusual lemon flavored éclairs. I could not resist. And they were delicious!

Friday, November 10, 2017


This is the spot where the Cher River splits around the island at Saint-Aignan. The south channel flows toward the bridge a little further downriver where a small dam slows the river's flow. Here, the more shallow north channel begins where the river is held back by a spillway. In dry times, the top of the spillway is exposed and the north channel is reduced to a trickle. In times of heavy rains upstream, the spillway is completely submerged as the north channel fills up.

Looking upriver from the spillway at the eastern end of the island.

When I took this photo, the river's flow was more or less normal. The bridge dam and the spillway force the river to back up for several kilometers upstream, creating a small reservoir called the Three Provinces Lake to the east. There is a campground on the south shore and a sand quarry on the northern side. The now defunct Canal de Berry begins at the lake and parallels the river eastward toward Vierzon, then connects to another canal parallel to the Loire, for a length of over 260 kilometers. The canal operated from 1840 until it was closed in 1955. A local association is working to re-open the canal for recreational use and, according to Wikipedia, there are currently 17 kilometers open to public navigation.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Picnic spot

Tasha and I made our way around the up-river (eastern) tip of the island on Sunday morning before heading west to the garden allotments. This part of the island is directly across from the center of town, its church, and the château. Much of the area is open and grassy, with a playground and a small sandy beach on the northern side.

Saint-Aignan's church rises up over the quay on the town side (southern bank) of the river. There is little cruise boat docked there.

This part of the island is the site of several festivals that are held during the year, when tents and booths are put up and sometimes a stage for musical events. There are a few small permanent pavilions, some festival lights strung up, and several picnic tables available nearby. I don't think I've ever been to an event on the island, but I've seen them going on from town.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Move over, moon

There's a song by the McGarrigle sisters, Kate and Anna, called "Move Over, Moon." The next line is, "Get out of Uranus." It has something to do with astrology. I think. So, here's the recent moon, waning from the full, setting to the west, seen from the island at Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher.

Our house is under the moon, in that direction.

The bridge is our connection to the north bank of the Cher River, where one of our two local supermarkets and one of our two local hardware stores are located. It's the way north toward Paris. I'm standing on the southern bank of the island, looking west. The sun was rising behind me, to the east. The streetlights on the bridge had already gone out.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Tasha Tuesday

Here's Tasha on our Sunday island walk. I let her off her leash while we walked around the garden allotments on the western end of the island. There are no cars allowed in there and there was nobody around. She really had no place to go but along the paths with me. And she was very well behaved and stayed close. Of course, there were no distractions (people, other dogs, etc.).

Tasha waits for me while we cross the island between garden plots.

Otherwise, she was on her leash. I recently got a "jogger's leash," as it's called. It's a belt I can wear around my coat. The leash part is like a bungee cord and attaches to the belt, leaving my hands free to hold the camera. It takes a little getting used to, especially when Tasha runs around me essentially binding my legs, but we're getting used to it.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Island walk

On Sunday morning I decided to take Tasha for a walk on the island in the Cher River at Saint-Aignan. There's a park on the island, a restaurant, the municipal swimming pool, and garden allotments for the town's residents. We arrived just before sunrise and the streetlights were still on. There was almost no car traffic in town at that hour, and it felt like we had the island to ourselves.

The church's two towers rise above the rooftops on the left, the château is built on the bluff above.

This is a view of Saint-Aignan's church and château from the island's southern bank at the bridge. Where you see the water flowing are the foundations of a long-demolished grist mill, built on and adjacent to the bridge. The river is dammed there to form a reservoir of water that once powered the mill. In the foreground is a lock for boat traffic, of which there is little to none these days. I've never seen the lock used.

Sunday, November 05, 2017


The two towering red maples in our front yard have shed most of their leaves now. I'm not sure what the trees are called, but they may be a variety of Norway maple like "Crimson King" or "Schwedleri." In the summer, the leaves are dark red. When fall comes, the red becomes almost orange before the leaves fall to the ground. I usually don't try to rake them up until they're all on the ground.

Seen from the deck: maple leaves blanket the driveway. It probably takes about an hour to get them raked and moved.

But I may try to get them up in the next few days. I saw that some serious rain is predicted for mid-week and dry leaves are easier to move than wet ones. Once I rake them, I use an old garbage bin to wheel them out back to the vegetable garden. We spread them over the plot to keep the weeds down over the winter. In the spring, the decomposing leaves get tilled into the soil.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Food and weather

On Thursday, I grilled hamburgers for lunch. That may have been the last time I use the grill until next spring. We're expecting a cool-down over the weekend, although Saturday is expected to be nice. But the forecast for the next week shows morning lows approaching zero. Freezing. And highs are not expected to get up to much more than 10ºC (high 40sF).

A small apple tree out among the grape vines silhouetted against a clear sky.

Friday's pizza was delicious, but I didn't take any photos. We topped both pizzas with smoked chicken, bell peppers, and Emmental cheese. Today, Ken is making sauerkraut, which we'll eat for a few days with potatoes and various pork products like saucisse de Montbéliard (smoked sausage), saucisse de Francfort (basically a hot dog), and cured pork belly (like slab bacon). Yum!

Friday, November 03, 2017

Fall marches on

There are still a lot of leaves on the trees around us, but not for long. November is when most of them fall, and it's only a matter of time before some strong winds and/or rain rip them off the trees. They'll fall by themselves, of course, but usually a storm comes along.

This is the end of the dirt road through the vineyards behind our house, the farthest point on my walks with the dog.

We're thinking about Thanksgiving already. The meal, that is. For the last few years, we've been getting our traditional leg of lamb tied up in a boneless roast. I think that this year I'd like to go back to the bone-in leg for a change. That's the extent of the planning so far. Except for a pumpkin pie with some of our frozen roasted squash from last year. As for today, it's pizza!

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Ah, grasshopper

I saw this nice green grasshopper on a deck chair the other day. I went to get the camera and when I returned, the insect was gone. Except that it wasn't. It had just climbed around to the other side of the chair. Sly devil.

Are you lookin' at me?

Yesterday, I saw it again. I wondered if it was the same one, but then I saw another nearby. The cooling weather may be forcing the insects to seek warmer places. When we have sunny mornings, the deck tiles warm up. Bert likes to lay in the sun there and so does Tasha. Maybe the grasshoppers enjoy it, too.