20 April 2018

A white-post post

This is the Renaudière vineyard outside Saint-Aignan in April. It's a sea of white posts. The vines have been pruned. The remaining canes have nearly all been attached to the vine rows' support wires. Fruit trees, mostly cherries and peaches, are in bloom all around the edges of the vineyard plots.

The image above is what we see from the end of the gravel road that runs from our house and joins up with some paved lanes a mile from here. We used to walk on the paved roads with Callie the border collie, who was well-behaved around cars, but with Tasha we have to be more careful.

This view is much closer to our house. We walk out here twice a day pretty much every day. Leaf buds are appearing on some vines, but not all. I guess some varieties of grapes bud out earlier than others. The main grapes planted here are Sauvignon Blanc and Gamay Noir, with some Cabernet Franc, Côt (Malbec), and Chenin Blanc. There's at least one plot of Chardonnay near our house.

The vine trimmings are lined up on the ground along every other row. Then a tractor pulling a chipper comes through and grinds them up, leaving the chips on the ground. In the past, workers would burn the trimmings in big old oil barrels on wheeled carts, but that practice stopped nearly a decade ago.

Tasha loves this weather, and so does Bertie the black cat. He's 12 years old now, but he is still a crafty hunter. Yesterday morning he brought us a live green frog. I took it from him, carried it out back, and threw it into the pond, which is full of frogs right now. Then the cat brought us a pretty lizard, which we also took from him and returned to safety, unscathed except a bit missing off its tail.

19 April 2018

On reprend les mêmes...

...et on recommence. In this case, les mêmes are the rototiller, the lawnmower, and the two guys who walk behind them and keep them on course. This is the rototiller's 15th season in the vegetable garden plot — mine too, of course — but the lawnmower is the second one we've had since we moved here in 2003. It gets used not just in the spring but all summer and into the fall.

Above was what faced me on Tuesday. That was the day when the weather suddenly changed for the better. The photo shows the vegetable garden plot, of course. Last fall we had raked up dead leaves that fell out of the maple trees and spread them over a lot of the plot. Then Walt burned some downed branches and other yard trimmings there in the middle.

And here is the plot as it looked yesterday afternoon. I didn't do a deep tilling, but I did what I call a désherbage pass. In other words, I ran the tiller over the surface to uproot and pull out the weeds, and to turn all the dead leaves over. The ground was muddy in places, because the leaves and the weeds' roots hold in a lot of moisture. And it has been so rainy for months. I'll till  it again tomorrow or next week.

Here's the rototiller. It's a heavy, awkward piece of machinery that's not easy to handle. The wheel with the tire folds up when you run the tiller, so that the blades and disks dig into the ground and turn the soil over — in theory. Sticky mud and tenacious roots make the job harder than it would be in dry, loose soil. This morning, I woke up with a backache, but that's not surprising. At this point, the ground is drying out because of our sunny, warm weather.

Meanwhile, Walt dealt with the mess shown above. We don't know why the grass grew so tall and thick in that spot by the real fake well outside the greenhouse and back door, but it did. Maybe it got better light than did other parts of the yard.

Anyway, he got the grass back under control once it dried out enough to be mowed. He uses a self-propelled mower — the motor turns the wheels as well as the blade — but it's not a riding mower. It's not as heavy as the rototiller, but it's still a lot of work to follow it around, tilt it up to get it to go through tall grass, and to turn it around dozens of times when he comes to the edges of the yard and path. Yesterday he mowed the grass all around the section of the yard where the vegetable garden plot is located.

18 April 2018

Un jour qui ne ressemblait pas...

...aux précédents. In other words, what a difference a day can make! It seems like forever since we've had a warm, sunny morning. April is not being cruel right now.

Look at that sunrise! You'd think we were in the Sahara or somewhere else exotic. But no, it's just Saint-Aignan in springtime.

Tasha the Sheltie was pretty excited. Well, she's always excited when it's time for a walk, but yesterday was definitely different. There was a spring in her step.

There was such good early morning light that I was able to take photos like this. The gloom is gone. Good riddance. The temperature today is supposed to be in the high 70s in ºF. That's 25ºC.

Next week will be the first anniversary of Tasha's arrival in Saint-Aignan. She was born in Chinon and lived there for two months before we brought her home. She often needs bathing and grooming after the morning walk, as you might notice.

It occurs to me that next week will also mark the 15th anniversary of our becoming owners of our house here. Time is just flying by. We've been enjoying this tree's spring bloom for all these years already.

17 April 2018

Two trees

Spring has been sneaking up on us for a few weeks now. It was hard to notice because rain and drear hid the signs from us. While we were focused on slop and mud (on our walks with the dog), little flowers and new green growth recently started to become visible.

Above, the red maple trees off our front deck, which provide us with a privacy screen during spring, summer, and autumn, seem suddenly to have burst into bloom.

Meanwhile, the birch trees on the north side of the house are in flower too. Their flowers are catkins, so-called because they look a little like cats' tails. Yellow pollen covers anything we leave outdoors, including and especially the car. Luckily for me, this is not the kind of pollen that provokes my body's allergic reactions.

16 April 2018

Beaujolais, à bientôt peut-être

I'm finishing the Beaujolais series today. As I said in a comment, I'm very happy that the weather cooperated and that we drove over there from the Bourbonnais, despite the four-hour round trip, with truck traffic and winding country roads. It was a good use of our time.

On past trips, I had visited Burgundy. Lyon. Grenoble and the Alps. The Cantal in Auvergne. Provence. Nîmes. Marseille. Nice. Even nearby Mâcon. But somehow I had managed to travel all around it without ever setting foot, or car tires, in Beaujolais. I don't know how that happened.

I'll go back if I can. It was one of those places where I started thinking: Maybe it would be nice to live here. It seemed so dry, airy, and scenic, with snow-covered mountains in the distance and magnificent views of the Beaujolais landscape and vineyards because of the hills and valleys.

From that point of view, the Cantal area of Auvergne was comparable. We went there and spent a few days in 2009. It was mountainous, but green, lush... and damp. There were great views — except when it was rainy and foggy. In Auvergne, I loved walking through a pasture and watching the Salers cows being milked. I loved visiting a dairy farm and seeing how Cantal cheese is made. I never thought I would want to live there though. It was too remote and isolated, and I could imagine how cold the winters there would be.

Beaujolais was definitely rural, but it didn't seem remote. It's like the Touraine, where we've lived now for 15 years, in that way. Big cities are not so far away — Paris from Touraine, Lyon from Beaujolais. There are nearby autoroutes and high-speed rail lines for TGV service. It felt more like Provence than Auvergne, which seemed somehow lost in time. Beaujolais felt open and spacious in contrast. And that wine...