17 August 2009

Hot but still green

We're having a string of 90º days here in mid-August. It hasn't rained in I don't know when. It's great for the garden, but the ground is very dry and we have to water our plants for the first time in several years.

The vineyard is very green still. And the grapes are really filling out. Our routine of walking Callie twice a day continues. Each of us goes out with the dog once every day. Walt went this morning. I'll go this afternoon and tomorrow morning. Then he'll go out tomorrow afternoon and Wednesday morning. It keeps us busy. We walk a couple of miles each time.

The vineyards are carefully trimmed and beautifully green.

Callie sees deer and rabbits several times a week and of course takes off after them, chasing them into the woods. But she never stays out of sight for more than a few minutes. I call and whistle for her a couple of times and here she comes, running back. She is pretty much bonded to us and doesn't like to lose sight of us either.

This part of France is like a big park, with trees planted
in straight rows and neatly manicured.

A few days ago I was walking along a path that passes by a stand of fruit trees, a little orchard, not very far from the house. Callie was walking along ahead of me, nose to the ground, taking in all the interesting scents. I looked off to the right and saw two adult roe deer bounding away from us. We had startled them. They were probably feeding on fruit in the orchard. Callie never even noticed them. I was glad of that.

In Touraine, rows of vines appear to hug the rolling hills.

If you're American, you might wonder about racoons, opossums, and skunks here. Well, we don't have any of those (except at the zoo). The animals we do have around Saint-Aignan are two kinds of deer — smaller roe deer and bigger white-tailed deer — rabbits (hares, actually, I'm told), foxes, badgers, and red squirrels. There are no American gray squirrels in France. We have moles, but no gophers.

Our yard is fenced in, so rabbits and deer don't
get to munch on our garden plants.

There are a lot of little mouse-type mammals — more kinds than I can keep track of. Dormice, for example, which the dictionary says are "squirrel-like," and shrews, which are insectivores, not rodents. Little red mice I've seen too, but don't know what they are. There are frogs and toads, of course, and there are snakes, including poisonous vipers and harmless garden snakes. And lizards. Hedgehogs. Snails and slugs. I won't even try to start naming birds.


  1. Fouines, blaireaux et furets...
    (martens, badgers and ferrets) but these only come out at night.
    It's amazing how the landscape still looks green even during this dry spell. Beautiful at any time.

  2. Bonjour Ken !

    How do you call the "ground squirrels" I used to see in Wisconsin in the.. 70's ;-) !!! please ? Do you also call them grey squirrels" ?

    The "Touraine province" also called "le Val de Loire" in which you live really deserves its name of "le jardin de la France", doesn't it/non ;-) ? I have just found out the origin of this "expression" :

    Si le nom de "Jardin de la France" a été choisi pour nommer les vins de pays produits dans le Val de Loire, c'est parce que l'expression désigne la Touraine et, par extension, le Val de Loire, depuis qu'en 1473, l'ambassadeur italien Francesco Florio, visitant la Touraine, écrivit à l'un de ses amis de Florence "J'ai vu ici le jardin de France".

    Bises :-) Marie


  3. Salut Marie,

    Je pense que ces "ground squirrels" sont des marmottes, ou écureuils terrestres. A moins que ce se soient des chien des prairies -- "prairie dogs". Le Wisconsin, ce n'est pas encore ou déjà la prairie, alors je ne pense pas que ce soient des "prairie dogs". Je me trompe peut-être.

    Merci pour la citation concernant "le jardin de la France". Je ne savais pas que l'expression était si ancienne. Elle dit bien ce qu'elle dit, pourtant.

    J'ai reçu ton mail et je vais te répondre. Sorry to write in French, I guess I should write in English here. Bises, K.

  4. Just for a good laugh , this pic has made the rounds in all the morning shows last week :-) up came a squirrel

  5. Your red mice will probably be harvest mice. The 'garden' snakes are grass snakes. You should also get lots of voles (several species). And don't forget bats.

    You should get both rabbits and hares.

    Roe deer are the ones with the striking white undersides to their tails and rears, so I think they are your white-tailed deer. If you have bigger deer, they will be Red Deer. It is possible you might get Fallow Deer as well as I believe there is a population in the Sologne. They are in between sized and more spotted and paler in colour.

  6. Love your new banner. There are lots of prairie dogs in Colorado. We have vols and moles and gophers galore on the Monterey Peninsula. No hedgehogs, however. But I'm reading a book, translated from the French, The Elegance of the Hedgehog about a concierge of a building on the rue de Grenelle.

  7. Susan, I know what roe deer are. They are chevreuils, chevrettes, etc., and what we see most. The other deer we see here are much bigger and they are called biches et cerfs. Maybe whitetails are an American species. The larger deer we see are not spotted. Evidently, there is an animal called the Red Deer in Canada which is not the same as the so-called Red Deer in Europe.

    I've been told by local people that there aren't many or any rabbits any more, just hares. Maybe they are wrong. But they are local people and familiar with the fauna.

    And bats, yes. That's for sure.

    I take your word for all this. With you, it is like a religion. Either you believe, or you don't. Verifying your assertions is not easy. Especially with the French/English issues.

    Did you find a car today?

  8. The ground squirrels that are abundant near my work in San Jose, CA look nothing like the prairie dogs that I am familiar with, although it appears they may related:


    Don't know about rodents in France (happily).

  9. Biches et cerf are red deer Cervus elaphus http://fichesanimales.ifrance.com/fiches%20animales/cerf.htm


    White-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus are the common species in much of the US. They don't occur in France. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-tailed_deer

    I'd be very surprised if you did not have any rabbits, but their numbers will certainly be lower than people over 30 or 40 years old can remember. At one stage the rabbit population in France dropped by 90%. The French part of the story of myxomatosis shocked many French people and is very interesting although rather sad. See http://feuilleuse.free.fr/mixo.pdf. I read that in the last couple of years there has been a resurgence of the disease, but I have not personally seen any diseased rabbits here and there seem to be plenty of young rabbits this year.

    Hares are out and about more during the day than rabbits, which tend to be active in the mornings and evenings mostly. It may be that hares are simply more visible.

    I have a list of mammals present in 37,36 and 86 on Loire Valley Nature. 42 won't be much different.

  10. Thanks Susan (though we are in the 41!). I'll have a look. I wouldn't know a rabbit from a hare, I'm afraid, without a scorecard. Hares are bigger with longer ears, aren't they? They are lapins and lièvres in French.

    Evidently, we have so-called grass snakes (Opheodrys vernalis) in America that are different from the European grass snakes. They are harmless to humans, as are the reptiles we call garden, garter, or gardener snakes. I think all these terms are used interchangeably in much of the U.S. We also have glass snakes in America that are not snakes at all but legless lizards.

    The European grass snake is called une couleuvre in French. Lots of names for a few animals, it seems. More than most people can keep in their minds, especially if their brains are also carrying around two full linguistic systems.

    It turns out that red deer are European, and there aren't any true red deer in North America. But the first European traders and trappers who arrived in Canada though the native elk or wapiti were red deer. They weren't. The North American elk is not the same as a European elk. The European elk is what we call a moose in North America.

    It's a different world over there.

    How many species of bats are there here in central France? Do you know?

  11. And I hear that your deer are known to bark........

  12. how much property do you have? Is the vinyard yours, too. A spectacular place to retire.


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