01 June 2009

Greens and reds

The garden is growing. It's hard to believe, after all the rain we had in May (100 mm, or 4 inches), but we may well have to do some watering before this week is over. And some hoeing, because all the rain has packed the earth down and hardened it considerably since I last tilled. There is also obviously a lot of weeding to do.

We are getting greens now. Chard — bettes à cardes in French — has come first, because we planted it first. I also have 2 rows of collard greens and one of mustard greens that seem to be doing very well. It will be time to thin them soon, because there are too many plants per row.

Swiss chard, really packed in, that I'm thinning

I've been thinning the chard plants out. They were planted very close together. We put them in early, under one of the cold frames — mini-serres, in French — that we bought back in March. That limited the space available. I did one round of thinning a month or so ago, transplanting little seedlings into their own row. Those are doing fine. The ones we are picking and eating now are the ones that were still planted too close together.

Mustard greens

There are cherries ready to be picked. I think I'll get some today. Since the weather is supposed to be warm and sunny all week, we are going to have more cherries than we'll know what to do with. Well, we know what to do with the first ones: clafoutis. More about that over the next few days.

I'm wondering if these are prunelles — sloes.
Don't know why some are small & red, others big & green.

Yesterday we had a chance to talk for a while with some future neighbors. They will be our neighbors if they — and we — outlive our current neighbors, who are 75 and 80 years old, and going strong. I'm talking about those people's eldest daughter and her husband. They and her sisters and brothers, along with their spouses, children, grandchildren, and a bunch of their cousins, are having a family get-together across the street this weekend. Today is a holiday.

Collard greens

The parents of this clan were out of town for the weekend, at a gathering of family members of their own generation. They are good friends of ours, and we know all their 7 children too — the ones who are here this weekend. After our evening with them last night, we know them even better. The eldest daughter, who is a nurse at the hospital in Blois, is designated as the one who will inherit the house across the street one day.

Cherries are ripening fast now

Her husband, who is from Toulouse via Perpignan, but who used to live in Saint-Aignan and who has now been in Blois for 20 years, told us he can't wait to retire from his job and move back to Saint-Aignan. He plans for them to occupy the house across the street full-time, whereas his parents-in-law only spend July, August, and, the rest of the year, only the odd weekend down here.

Marie-Laure and Jean-Paul will be good neighbors, I'm sure. He told us he will do everything in his power to keep the hamlet from growing any bigger. Like us, he'd rather not have more houses and more people nearby. As long as the surrounding vineyards remain vineyards, we probably don't have much to worry about.

Chard, called bettes or blettes in French

Today is a holiday, and it is also the day when Walt and I celebrate our anniversary together. This is number 26 — that's vingt-six in French. We were very young men when we decided back in 1983 to get an apartment together. That was in Washington DC. We had met and become friends in Paris in 1981. Later, we moved to San Francisco, in 1986.

Une rose dans le jardin

Tomorrow will be the sixth anniversary of our arrival in France as new residents. It was June 2, 1983, under sunny skies, with our big heavy suitcases and our elderly dog Collette in her kennel in the back of a rented Opel Zafira mini-van, that we began this new adventure. So far so good.


  1. Bonne idée ce quelque chose d'effervescent. A votre santé! Et de nombreux heureux retours de ce jour!

    Qu'est-ce qu'il y a pour le déjeuner? Une autre tradition?

    For an English translation, see Walt's blog.

  2. "Bonne idée ce quelque chose d'effervescent. A votre santé! Et de nombreux heureux retours de ce jour!"

    ...as said so much better in French by CHM than I could say in English.

    I will at least try a bit and say "de moi aussi".

    ...and "où est la moustache?".

    No wonder French is a wonder; mustache is "la" not "le".

    ...and the French must wonder about "wonder".

  3. The last a bit of "rire-in' it up here!" for Seine Judit

  4. Hi Ken, Congratulations on both anniversaries! Enjoy the day! I suppose there will be bubbles (Vouvray perhaps?) and a lazy afternoon in the sun. Don't use up all the sunshine, though. Save some for the second half of June. Martine

  5. (Bill, you're cracking me up!)

    Ken, I'm excited to be able to wish you and Walt, "Happy Anniversary!"after all these years! To echo chm's question, what IS the traditional anniversary meal??

    Enjoy your day!

    p.s. I saw an ad on TV yesterday for a tomato-growing system that has the fruit growing DOWN from a sort of hanging contraption... I'm very curious! I can't imagine that it would work well, but the suggestion is that you get earlier fruit and more of it.

  6. Thank you, Bill, for the appreciation.

    You're on the right track, keep working on it.

  7. Anonymous said, for some reason blogger didn't record my initials.

  8. It's great that you know who your neighbors will be in advance.

    Have a nice day off.

  9. Congratulations! A pretty eventful week for you two. Savor the moments--as you well know how to do.

  10. Hi Carolyn,

    The pole beans are doing pretty well. Also the tomatoes -- but we planted a lot of different varieties and now we don't know which ones are which. We have 37 tomato plants growing in the garden! If we get one or two tomatoes from each plant, we will be happy -- but more would be better.

    Today we are just enjoying the tennis at Roland Garros (Federer is struggling) and the beautiful, sunny, dry weather. La vie est belle.

  11. toasting your years together...congrats!

  12. Congratulations to you both!

    Thank you for the wonderful descriptions of your town. We are camping in July and have not found anything about the campsite or the town until your blog. Other than the usual tourism sites.

    I am so looking forward, and you have given me great encouragement.

  13. A lot to celebrate during the month of June- congratulations and many happy returns in the coming yr.

  14. Congratulations! May you both have many more years together in France.

  15. Perfect life for a perfect couple. Cheers to you!

  16. Many congratulations to you both...

    (Not sloes, by the way, they'd be blacker, smaller and rounder, I think - damsons?)

  17. Happy anniversary to you both, I'm delighted for you,


  18. Here’s a totally off-subject question. Today I’ve been watching the news channel France 24which I only discovered a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been trying to determine who their intended audience is. All I can come up with is ex-pats in France who want French news in English. But I would expect that most of them living in France for more than a few months would speak French at least well enough to watch the French-speaking news. Is it intended for tourists in France? I would expect them to be happy with just the BBC or CNN. So wazzzzup with this?

  19. So much to celebrate! Happy Anniversary to you and Walt. xoxo

  20. Bill - At the beginning, France24 was in FRENCH, with English subtitles. For French ex-pats it was great as well as for natives who wanted to learn French. Now, both audiences are frustrated.

    I don't think France24 is broadcast in France. It's an export item!

    When in the states, I don't care about so called French news in ENGLISH; so I stick to the local American networks and use and abuse the mute button a lot to silence commercials, and I'm happy!

  21. CHM and Judy, we don't have a "traditional" anniversary dinner. In California, we used to go somewhere special on June 1, whether it was a restaurant in San Francisco or somewhere outside the city. So we never came up with a special dinner. Here in France, June 1 falls in the middle of the Roland Garros tennis tournament, so we are scotchés in front of the TV, if we are not actually in Paris for some matches.

    We get France24 in French on our satellite system here in Saint-Aignan, on channel 45. We used to get it in English too, but I haven't looked for that in a long time. France24 was supposed to be a competitor to CNN and BBC World when Jacques Chirac set it up, so it was broadcast in French and in English. I don't know what its status is these days.

    Thanks, everybody, for the anniversary wishes. We had a nice day. Beautiful weather. Good garden work accomplished. A nice lunch. Time together just talking and enjoying...

  22. Congratulations and warmest good wishes for your anniversary, Ken and Walt!

    A tomato question... I have a French heirloom tomato growing, the Marmande. Do you have that variety, and if so, any advice? I don't hope much for it in our foggy clime, but you never know what might succeed!

  23. Happy Anniversary and many more to come! I remember having lunch with you with Mary and Betty at Liverpool Lil's in San Francisco before you made the big move. You were so excited and so were we for you.

  24. Congratulations! You have lots to celebrate today and tomorrow. I love the photo that Walt posted on his blog.

    We are near Mount Rainer, but can't get very close because the roads are still closed. Tomorrow we head to Portland. Our weather has been good, but it's HOT- in the 80s.

  25. Auty is right – the fruit is not sloes. Damsons is a good thought. May also just be a variety of plum that has produced more than it can really cope with and the small ones will fall off in the June drop?

    We watch France24 in both French and English as a means of getting French news and as part of our French language practice. I think Bill may be a bit optimistic about how long one needs to be in France before one understands the news in French, btw.

  26. Congratulations or gefeliciteerd as they would say in the Netherlands!

    Your chards look lovely! Ours are still much smaller but then we are much further north in England. We are growing a variety called 'Bright lights' which is not only tasty but also very beautiful in shades of pink, purple, yellow and orange (not the leaves though, only the stems. We are visiting Seigy this summer so if you are interested let me know and I will bring along some of the seeds.

  27. Caroline, we would love some of those seeds, as we love chard. Let me know when you will be in Seigy. You can send an e-mail -- best address is kenbroadhurst at gmail dot com.


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