16 April 2009

Several subjects...

A spiffed-up old Citroën 2CV parked on a street in Saint-Aignan

Nadège says in a recent comment that none of the people she works with can pronounce the French first name Gilles. She's working with Gilles Marini, who played Dante in Sex and the City: The Movie. Nadège is a makeup artist in Hollywood.

The red cowslips were still there a few days ago.

Well, Gilles is hard to pronounce for Americans because we don't have any words in English that begin with that voiced sibilant sound. We have [sh] but not [zh] as an initial consonant — [sheep] for example, but not [zheep]. We do have the [zh] sound, however, in the middle of words like treasure, pleasure, and measure (all pronounced [-'eh-zhoor]). It's the same sound that is the final consonant in Nadège [nah-'dehzh].

French is full of words that have [zh] as the initial sound: je, jeudi, jouer, jurer, jamais, gîte, giboulée, Giverny, and on and on. Maybe telling people that Gilles is pronounced [zheel] will help.

* * * *

A few days ago Callie found a hedgehog in the yard. Well, a hedgehog that was trying to get into the yard. It was stuck in the fence. Callie was doing her daily early-morning inspection tour when she started barking wildly.

I went over to see what the problem was, thinking she might have chased a cat out of the yard and into the hedge. But the barking was too hysterical. And there was the poor hedgehog, wedged in and trapped.

A hedgehog stuck in the fence

I told Walt about it when Callie and I got back from our walk. He put on some very heavy leather fireplace gloves and went out to see if he could extricate the poor animal. He succeeded, only getting stabbed once or twice by the hedgehog's quills. He stretched the wire fence and little and pushed the animal through. It rolled itself up into a tight ball and stayed there under the hedge for the rest of the day. We wondered it it was injured or even dead.

Callie loves being outside on warm afternoons.

The next morning it was gone. Hedgehogs are nocturnal. It was probably just waiting for nightfall before making its move. Hedgehogs are also animals you want to have in your garden, because they eat slugs and bugs. It's too bad they can't fit through the slots in our wire fence. Maybe that one was just overweight.

* * * *

The wisteria is starting to bloom.

The plum and pear tree blossoms are now falling, and the cherry blossoms are not far behind. I'm getting worried that our weather is not yet warm enough for all these trees to actually set fruit. I think chilly damp weather is not ideal at this stage in their development.

Apple blossoms, a wide shot and a close-up

Now the apple trees and the wisteria are blooming. I wish we knew how to keep the apple trees from setting fruit. Thousands of apples — it seems like millions — cover the ground under the five apple trees in our yard for most of the summer. We can't use them all, and we can't even give them away because everybody we know has just as many apple trees and apples as we do.

And I found these little orchids growing in our back yard...

Meanwhile, we're happy because parsley, oregano, mint, and tarragon from last year's garden have all come up again and look really healthy. Our thyme and rosemary plants also survived the cold winter. Now if we can just get some good tomatoes and eggplant going in the veggie garden, we will be sitting pretty.


  1. Good thing Callie found the hedgehog. Hopefully there are other ways into and out of your garden for these useful little beasts.

    Your orchids are Green-winged Orchids Anacamptis morio subsp morio, usually called Orchis bouffon in French. It has a variety of other French 'country' names. The fact you have it in your prairie is an indication that your soil is indeed a little acidic and heavy with clay, and also a good indicator that your neighbours are correct to call the yards there prairie after all. I have only seen this species growing on (wet) prairie.

  2. Hi Susan, we've had so much rain over the past year that our yard is almost a swamp! I didn't think our soil was acidic but it probably is. Tomatoes grow well in it unless the weather is chilly and there's too much rain. When there is, the soil holds the moisture and the tomato (and other) plants just rot in the ground.

  3. Hedgehogs are so sweet! I'm glad you saw one.

    For me, the trick with "Gilles" is knowing you have to include an "L" sound, which goes against what I learned in French. Thanks for the lesson.

  4. Apparently extracting stuck hedgehogs from fences falls in the category of "stuff Walt deals with". Division of labor is a wonderful thing.

    It's not exactly the same as pulling a thorn from a lion's paw, but if Walt ever runs into a jam in the Kingdom of the Hedgehogs, well, he's got that act of kindness going for him...

  5. Ginny, here's the thing we learned in French classes. Words with -ille are pronounced without the L except: "Gilles, Lille, et mille villes tranquilles." All those words end with an L sound.

    John, I figured the hedgehog would figure it out after it got over being terrified by Callie's barking. Who knows? Maybe it would have just gone off on its own without Walt's intervention. Why interfere with nature?

  6. I love the mnemonic for the "ille" sound in French; I'm gonna send it to my sister who teaches French.

    Beautiful photo of Callie. We have a Border collie mix, who's 15 1/2 years old now.

  7. What a wonderful blog entry! The Citroën, the pronunciation lesson, the poor hedgehog, the beautiful photos...thank you so much. And cheers to Walt for his intrepid hedgehog removal! I have to say I couldn't decide between weeping for the poor creature and laughing at its predicament.

  8. Hedgehogs are so cute!

    And thank you for another French lesson.


  9. You could make Calvados with all those apples. The apple tree picture is beautiful. I actually gasped when I saw the picture of that beautiful 2CV. I want one so bad.

  10. BettyAnn, you're welcome. I've spent my life learning the French language and like to share what I've learned.

    Linda H., I think it is illegal to make your own calvados. You are not allowed to have a still! You can't even get a license nowadays.

    Ellen, thanks. I laughed about the poor hedgehog too, but I was glad Walt decided to rescue it.

    Leslie, 15½, wow. I hope Callie lives so long. Our first dog died of stroke at just over 14.

  11. Did I tell you that I thought the end of the hedgehog I was seeing, and I photographed, was the rear? But it turned out the be the head end. The animal hid its head very successfully.


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