Sunday, December 31, 2017


I just learned that the Trocadero Fountain at the Chaillot Palace, across the river from the Eiffel Tower, is more formally known as la Fontaine de Varsovie (the Warsaw Fountain), named for the Polish capital city. The intersection between the fountain and bridge across the river is named Place de Varsovie. I wonder if the name originates from the Universal Exposition of 1878? My exhaustive quick and dirty research didn't turn up any information to explain it.

I took this photo in the spring of 2009. Friends and I planned to go up into the tower, but it was closed because of a strike.

The current fountain dates from 1937, the original having been removed during the reconstruction of the Chaillot Palace and gardens in preparation for a special exposition that year. The fountain is big, and it's quite impressive when the water cannons are operating, which they're not in this photo (but you can see them in the lower right corner).

The view is quite popular from the terraces of the Chaillot Palace (behind me), across the fountain and the Pont d'Iéna to the Eiffel Tower, then along the Champs de Mars to the École Militaire and beyond to the Tour Montparnasse.

Saturday, December 30, 2017


The Université de Pierre et Marie Curie is a modern university campus constructed in the 1960s close to the river in Paris' Fifth Arrondissement. It's built on the site of a former abbey (destroyed in the early 19th century) and the old Halle aux vins (the Paris Wine Market). The architecture of the main buildings is striking, typical of the modern influence, a rectangular grid of buildings set above a podium, with a 29-story tower punctuating the center.

The base of the Tour Zamansky, set at right angles to the rest of the campus, seen in 2011.

The tower is named for Marc Zamansky, a directing member of Paris' school of the sciences in the 1960s. I never knew the building by that name. Indeed, what I've read is that most Parisians call it the Tour de Jussieu (Jussieu Tower) or simply la tour (the tower). Jussieu is the name of a prominent family of research scientists and doctors who worked and taught at the university in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The tower was stripped down to it's steel skeleton between 2004 and 2009 to remove asbestos. Once renovated, it became home to the university's administrative offices.

Friday, December 29, 2017


It's called the métro for short, but was originally conceived as the chemin de fer métropolitain (metropolitan railway), then officially known as the CMP (compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris, the Paris metropolitan railway company). Since 1949, it's been run by the RATP (Régie autonome des transports parisiens, the autonomous public transportation authority). I'm sure you were curious.

A southbound train pulls into the station early on a Friday afternoon. Not a very busy time of day for this station.

This station is on the number 12 line, which runs between Front Populaire on the north side of the city to the Mairie d'Issy on the south side. The northern endpoint used to be at Porte de la Chapelle, as many of us old-timers will remember, but the line was extended in 2012. Another extension is planned for 2019 further north to the Mairie d'Aubervilliers. This station, Assemblée Nationale, is right smack in the middle of the city on the left bank.

The system currently has 16 lines operating with four more planned, along with numerous line extensions. There are over 300 stations in the system. The métro is the central part of a sprawling regional transit network that includes suburban rail lines that connect to the center city (the RER), light rail lines in the inner suburbs (les tramways), and city buses (les autobus).

I got most of the technical information in this post from the Wikpedia entry for the métro. And, if you didn't know, I spent much of my professional career in public transportation and am somewhat of a transit nerd. I could go on (and on) about the métro system, but I will spare you that.

Thursday, December 28, 2017


Here's a not-so-good shot of the basilica of Sacré-Cœur in Paris. I was inside the Pompidou Center, 3.5 kilometers away, taking the photo with the camera's zoom fully extended. The church sits at the top of the Butte Montmartre in the famous northern Paris neighborhood of the same name.

Le basilique du Sacré-Cœur, seen from the Centre Pompidou in 2011.

The church was built between 1875 and 1923 on the hill, the highest point in Paris, where there had previously been numerous windmills used to grind grain, corn, plaster, and stone. The well-known Moulin-Rouge (red windmill) cabaret, just down the hill in Pigalle, harkens back to those days.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


On the left side of the image is the Ile de la Cité in Paris, with the spire of the Sainte Chappelle and the bell towers of Notre Dame de Paris clearly identifiable. On the right side is the Left Bank (ha!) where you see the dome of the Institut de France, home of the famed Academie Française.

Cité is the center of Paris. Tour boats carry thousands of visitors each day. Photo from September 2011.

The Left and Right Banks of the Seine are so-called because, when you face downstream (behind me in the photo), the Left Bank is on your left and the Right Bank is, well, on your right. Cité is one of two islands in this section of the river, an agglomeration of several small islands and the location of the first settlements that became the city of Paris. When the Romans took over the settlement in the first century BC, they built their new town on the Left Bank just opposite the islands. Vestiges of the Roman city, called Lutetia or Lutèce, are still visible today.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


The wind picked up over night and is gusting rather strongly this morning. According to the forecast, it should calm down during the day, but pick up again tonight. Joy. Except for taking Tasha out, we'll probably stay hunkered down in the house today.

Gustav's tower on a sunny September afternoon, 2011.

We'll eat leftovers, of course. The turkey dinner was a great success yesterday. The turkey was moist and tasty, the stuffing was delicious, the sprouts perfect, the squash very squashy. We even had cranberry sauce that I made by re-hydrating dried cranberries (the only kind we can find here). I whizzed them in the food processor with a whole navel orange and some sugar. And there is more of everything left. We're planning to turn the turkey bones into broth for a pumpkin soup later this week. Now it's time to plan the New Year's festivities.

Monday, December 25, 2017


This is Place de la Concorde in Paris, a very busy square, traffic-wise. It's the place where Louis XVI was beheaded back in the 18th century, when it was called Place de la Révolution. Here is where the Tuileries Gardens are connected to the Champs-Elysées. The US embassy is just outside the photo to the left. The rue Royale connects Concorde to the Madeleine church (in the background) where Johnny Hallyday's funeral was held earlier this month.

Place de la Concorde, looking north. These cars are headed for a bridge over the Seine, at my back.

Today will be a quiet day as many French people were up well past midnight for the Réveillon de noël, the traditional celebration of Christmas. They have their big gatherings and feasts late on Christmas Eve and into the wee hours, then sleep it off on Christmas morning. I got up last night around 01h00 and noticed our neighbor's lights still on, and somebody leaving in a car.

Ken and I don't stay up that late, especially to eat a big meal, so we will have our traditional American style Christmas dinner today, mid-day. We'll start out with either snails or foie gras (haven't decided yet). Then it's a roasted turkey, stuffing (with chicken livers, chestnuts, and figs), some Brussels sprouts, and other goodies. I'll make a pumpkin pie for dessert.

Whatever your plans, enjoy the day!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

What is it?

This little round building is in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. I'm not certain what it is. I saw one map of the garden that suggested that it's un poste des surveillants (security guard station), but it really wasn't all that clear. Whatever it is, it's a pretty little building made of tan bricks and concrete. I took the color out of the photo.

I know it's not a refreshment stand; there's one of those not far from this spot.

Today is Christmas Eve. The sun is not up as I type this, but I do know from taking the dog outside earlier that it's overcast with a light drizzle. And it's relatively warm at about 8ºC (approaching 50ºF). Our recent winters have not been cold at all, with only a dusting of snow now and then in January or February. Not that I'm complaining...

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Observatoire de Paris

I had a glorious September day in 2011 to wander through Paris. The plan was to meet up with my cousin at the Rodin Museum in the early afternoon, so I decided to spend the morning walking around on the left bank. I started near Maubert-Mutualité in the 5th arrondissement, went by the Pantheon and then into the Luxembourg Gardens. As I crossed the gardens, I could see the dome of the Paris Observatory to the south.

The Arago dome on the Paris Observatory seen from inside the Luxembourg Gardens.

The observatory was established in the late 17th century. The dome was built in the mid 19th century to house the Arago telescope. While it was state of the art technology in its time, the telescope is mostly a historical curiosity today and is sometimes used for teaching purposes.

A Perrier with a slice of lemon really hit the spot that day.

After the gardens, I walked through the neighborhood where I went to school in 1981-82 (yesterday's post) and enjoyed the memories. The day proved to be very warm, so I stopped along the way for a refreshing Perrier and lemon at a café that Ken and I knew over in the 7th, not far from Invalides.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Rue de Fleurus

I walked up and down this street countless times during 1981-82 when I was a student at the Alliance Française in Paris. The school is at the far end of the street, around the curve in the photo. To my back is the west entrance to the Luxembourg Gardens on the rue Guynemer. For the first four months of my year in Paris, I stayed in a pension de famille not far from here. Gertrude Stein lived on this street between 1903 and 1938.

Looking west along the rue de Fleurus in 2011.

Later, in the late '80s and early '90s, Ken and I often stayed at a hotel at the intersection of this street and the rue Madame called the Hôtel de l'Avenir. The hotel was nice, but not fancy, and reasonably priced. And the neighborhood is terrific. The couple that owned the hotel sold it in the late 90s and the place has since gone upscale. By then we had discovered rental apartments and stopped spending our Paris vacations in hotels.

The updated and renovated Hôtel de l'Avenir, also in 2011.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

They went that-a-way

These directional signs are ubiquitous in France. They point the way to destinations all over the nation, both in cities and out in the countryside. You won't find many roadside directional signs with street names or route numbers on them. The way to navigate is to look for your destination, or a destination that's on the way to where you're going, and follow the arrows that point the way.

Directional signs in Paris.

For us Americans, who are used to following route numbers and the compass directions (our signs will typically say something like "US 101 North" or "I-90 East"), getting used to the destination system can take a little time. But once you've got it, it's pretty easy. Especially now that so many intersections have been turned into traffic circles. If you miss your turn, you just go around the circle again; no having to find a place to turn around farther down the road. Of course, it's still possible to get lost or to take a wrong turn. I've done it many times. But when that happens, you just drive until you find more signs. There's always one that points you in the right direction!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Café Hugo

The Café Hugo is one of the eateries on the Place des Vosges (4th Arrondissement) in Paris. It's on the northeast corner of the park, directly opposite the more famous (I think) Ma Bourgogne restaurant on the northwest corner. The street is named Rue du Pas de la Mule (Mule's Step Street). I posted another view of this café and the street back in 2011.

Café Hugo, September 2011. The outdoor seating is tucked under one of the arcades facing the park.

I don't think I've ever been to Café Hugo, but I have been to the other place I mentioned. The Place des Vosges is a very popular park/square in central Paris and is supposedly the oldest public square in the city, dating from the early 17th century. The park is surrounded on all four sides by arcades, home to numerous art galleries and boutiques. The café is named for French author Victor Hugo, who lived in the one of the apartments on the square for sixteen years in the mid 19th century.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Some Paris memories

My good friend L. in upstate New York is coming to Paris next April for a couple of days before embarking on a tour of sights in Normandy. I'm planning to go up and hang out with her while she's in the city and although she has activities planned with her group, she also has some free time that we can spend together.

A very yellow chair and stool in a Parisian sidewalk café.

I thought I'd post some photos of Paris from my archives in anticipation of the trip. I'm trying to find photos that I haven't posted before, so they might not be the best or most interesting images. I'll let you be the judges. These first pictures were taken in September 2011 while my cousin and his wife were on their honeymoon in Paris. I used my first digital camera, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7 bridge camera. I wasn't taking raw format photos back then, so these all came out of the camera as compressed jpgs. It was during this trip that I decided to investigate upgrading to a full DSLR camera, which in fact I did the following year.

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Saint Louis cardinal

Here's a new ornament for this year's holiday tree. It's a cardinal from Saint Louis, Missouri, brought to us by our friend Judy (Seine Judeet) when she visited last summer. Ken and I met Judy back in 1981 in Paris. She was on the same study abroad program that I was on all those years ago. We got back in touch through the internet and had a great time getting re-acquainted.

We don't have cardinals in France, except for this one. It looks great on the tree!

Judy became a French teacher and has had a wonderful career. I shouldn't say "had" because she's still at it. Thanks for the memories and the ornament, Judy! Come back and see us again!

Sunday, December 17, 2017


There's not much going on photography-wise right now. I haven't been motivated. The weather's not been very keen. I was in town on Saturday morning, but I was on a mission and didn't take the camera. Ho-hum. The tree is up and decorated now, so there's a photo op. And the outside of the house with the holiday lights on is another possibility. Yawn. I probably shouldn't mention that the image of the week is recycled from 2011. Sigh.

A vineyard parcel in late fall.

I'm sure I'll snap out of this slump soon enough. This morning at six, when I went outside with Tasha, I could hear an owl very close-by. And a rooster was crowing loudly over on the next road. Sunrise was still two-and-a-half hours away.

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).