31 March 2008

Last day of March

Another March passes into history. This one was typical: rainy, chilly, blustery. A lot of flowers are blooming but they are waiting in vain for some nice weather. It rained most of the day yesterday and came down steadily all afternoon. The grass is green and growing, that's for sure. On Saturday our neighbor came down from Blois and rode around on his riding mower for a few hours in the early afternoon. It was the first mowing. A few years ago he did the first mowing on February 24.

Several more red tulips have bloomed around the yard.

Saturday was the exceptional day, in fact. We were invited for apéritifs by some friends who live down in the village (he's French, she's English). We actually sat outside for about three hours at noontime and enjoyed a couple of glasses of Sauvignon and some finger food. The sun was warm, but when the random cloud went over we were glad to have our jackets on.

There's a bumblebee in one of the flowers here.

Our friends live across the street from the plumber who has done a lot of work for us over the last five years, Mr Rougemont. They are renovating a house on the main square in Saint-Aignan these days, and Rougemont is doing the plumbing work for them. We asked about him, since we haven't had occasion to call or see him in a while, and we especially asked about his wife, whose health had been iffy the last time we did talk to him.

These cowslips have just come up in the back yard.

Mme Rougemont worked in the offices of the real estate agency in Amboise that we used to find and buy our house here in Saint-Aignan. We first met her in 2002, and then when we bought the house we found out that she was one of our neighbors. The fact that her husband was a plumber was good news for us, because our house needed some upgrades in that area.

I saw three caterpillars like this one
out in the vineyard yesterday morning.

In 2005, Mr Rougement put in a new shower stall for us, turning our big bathroom into a much more usable room. Mme Rougemont came in one afternoon and helped him do part of the work. It was then that we found out she was being treated for cancer. And then on Saturday we found out from our friends that she had passed away about a year ago. We didn't know.

Mme Rougemont couldn't have been much more than 50 years old. She and her husband and daughter had moved to the Saint-Aignan area just a couple of years before we did. They said they were escaping the noise, crowds, and commuting stress of the northern Paris suburbs. Now Mr Rougemont is raising their teenage daughter alone.

Cowslips in French are coucous.

Other subjects: we changed our clocks yesterday and lost an hour of sleep. Now it stays light until about 8:30 p.m., but we have to get up in the semi-dark if we want to walk the dog at her ususal time, which is 8:00 a.m. That's especially the case on cloudy gray mornings. Callie woke me up at 7:00 this morning — she wanted to go out. So I groggily stumbled down the stairs and opened the back door for her. At least it wasn't raining.

Coucou ! Nous voilà !

Yesterday morning when I took Callie out for her walk the temperature was already over 50ºF. I had a face full of gnats and flies the whole time I was out there, so the insects are becoming active again. I saw bumblebees and big caterpillars. Oh, and the cuckoo birds are back too. They arrive here in late March or early April and migrate on to other regions at the end of June or beginning of July. You get used to hearing them cuckooing in the background for a few months.

What are these nice purple flowers, I wonder?

April 1 is tomorrow, and let's hope it's not just a bad joke. Last April turned off warm and sunny and dry. I'll take that kind of April again this year. Hope springs eternal.


  1. Coucou!!

    I think I will miss them this year, unfortunately, but it's nice to see they are flowering.

    I took my coucou pictures on March 31 last year - lets hope this isn't an omen that this year's summer is going to be like last year's.

  2. Your nice purple flowers are Pulmonaria (Lungwort in English). They and their spotty leaves make a nice early spring ground cover, especially as they are happy to grow in the shade. They are a common and native plant, but there are lots of garden cultivars. The white flowering ones are used a lot in White Gardens (à la Sissinghurst). Bees love them, and they are related to Comfrey and Alkanet.

  3. The "Virginia" cactus is doing well. His brother, here in California, is ready to open its flowers. I hope it does before I go, tomorrow. In Virginia, its mother won't bloom until June.
    I can see the Rosemary is also blooming
    That nice blue flower [the last photo] looks very much like one we have here in the desert: Canterbury Bell [Phacelia [probably] calhtipholia] of the Waterleaf family. Yours and mine might be related.

  4. Susan and I were writing at the same time. She's certainly right about the purple flower. I'll email a picture of mine so you can compare.

  5. Claudia in Toronto31 March, 2008 18:26

    Beautiful garden: flowers, bee and cartepillar. So enjoyable to see signs of life. You can practically smell summer...

  6. I'm sorry to hear about your eye problem, Claudia. I hope you can get it fixed somehow.

    I enjoyed seeing those cowslips, Ken. I found some interesting info about them. They have many useful qualities that range from brain food to treasure locators:

    "According to legend, St Peter dropped the keys to Heaven and where they landed Cowslips grew (the flowers were thought to resemble a set of keys).
    Both the flowers and leaves often used to be eaten - young Cowslip leaves were eaten in salads or mixed with other herbs to stuff meat. Flowers can be eaten to strengthen the brain.
    Frightened fairies hide in the flowers The plant has the ability to split rocks containing treasure and can help you find hidden fairy gold."

  7. Hope you are right about April, but don't forget the saying: En avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil, en mai fais ce qui te plaît!

  8. By the way, I had never seen a caterpillar like this one. I remember the fat orange ones from last year, but this is really a big hairy caterpillar! Makes for another great pic!


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