06 October 2009

How life changes in October

We ended up getting a third of an inch of water in the rain gauge yesterday. That's not much, but now that the weather is a little cooler, with less bright sunshine, that much moisture will help green things up, I'm sure.

Sunday we picked up a lot of leaves out back and put them into piles that we covered with tarps. Those are what we call "burn piles," and once the ground and vegetation are a little damper, we will have a big feu de jardin, a fire to burn up yard waste. That's allowed here, and we've done it every autumn since moving here in 2003. Our neighbors do the same.

Rows of chard and collards, and piles of leaves under tarps

Yesterday, during the morning rain, we went out shopping. We had a list of little things we wanted to look for over in a fairly new housewares store across the river in Noyers-sur-Cher (less than 5 miles from our house). The store is called Facile — "Easy" — and it's well stocked with nearly anything you might need to decorate and equip your house or apartment, with the exception of appliances and big pieces of furniture.

October clouds closing in over the vineyard

These French stores, including the supermarkets, are mostly just corrugated metal buildings with very little insulation. When it rains hard, it makes quite a racket inside the building — big raindrops beating down on the sheet metal. We were caught off-guard because rain was falling as drizzle when we left home. It got a lot heavier when we were in the Facile store.

The landscape looks deceptively green because the
vineyard is still mostly green. Grapevines have
very deep roots and are drought-tolerant.

Did we find all the stuff we were looking for? No. We're planning to go out again tomorrow and drive up to Blois. There's a new hypermarket and shopping center up there, replacing the old, run-down Auchan store. We haven't been there since it opened a few weeks ago. The last time we went shopping in Blois was last April!

At Facile yesterday, we went to pay for the few things we did find and decide to buy — a plastic dishpan, a wooden picture frame, and a chew toy for Callie — and neither one of us had a cent of money on us. The minimum purchase when you are paying with a card was 10 euros, and our things didn't add up to that much.

This is where the zucchini plants used to be. The little trees
are plum trees I grew from pits, and the green ball of
vegetation is a sedum plant I brought to France in
2005 from my mother's yard in North Carolina.

I told the cashier at Facile that we would run across the street, through parking lots, to the Intermarché supermarket, where there's an ATM machine, and then come back. That was fine with her. We needed a few grocery items anyway. The rain was pouring down, and we didn't exactly get soaked but we did have to run. It wasn't cold (today the temperature is supposed to hit 75ºF).

At Intermarché also, the rain was drumming on the sheet-metal roof. The store wasn't crowded. I walked by a display where there were cartons — half-cases — of wine for sale. One set of cartons was marked "Buy one and get one free." I can't resist that. It was a Bordeaux red. The problem was that I couldn't quite figure out the price. The sign said 17.95 euros, which sounded good for 6 bottles (4.5 liters). But then on the bottom of the paper sign it said the wine was like 23.87 euros per liter. That would mean each bottle, not the whole carton, cost 17.95.

Here's the wine label and the carton.
It says "One carton purchased = one carton free."

Since we had needed to run through the rain to get to the store, we hadn't stopped at the cart stand in parking lot to get a grocery cart. So I picked up a case of wine and carried it up to the customer service desk to find out the real price. The woman there was busy and said she needed to call the person in charge of the wine department. I waited for a while, but he never showed up.

After a bit, the customer service woman said she didn't know where the wine guy could be, but she would try to scan the bar code on the box and see what the price was. She did, and she looked at me with surprise and said, yes, the computer says it's the box that costs 17.95. "Then I can get two cartons — 12 bottles — for that price," I said. She said she guessed I could.

Grape vines in October

I left the carton at customer service, with permission, and went off to pick up some eggs, a package of sliced ham, a head of lettuce, and some dog biscuits. Walt went back and got a second carton of wine. I found a little cart to put the wine in, so we didn't have to stand in the check-out line holding two heavy cartons. Meanwhile, Walt ran — literally, through hard rain — over to Facile to pay for and fetch the items we had left there, and to get the car.

When the cashier got to my items, she asked me to hand her one carton of wine so that she could scan it. I did, and she did, and she told me she was surprised because the computer didn't seem to know that I was entitled to the second carton free. Great, I thought. This is getting to be too much trouble. But it was potentially 12 bottles of Bordeaux AOC red for just 17.95 euros. It was worth arguing for.

Late-harvest grapes — Chenin Blanc for dessert wines

In the end, I didn't have to argue. The cashier thought about it and said, well, it says you get one free, right on the box, so I'm giving it to you, despite what the computer thinks. Then I'll alert the wine guy that he needs to straighten out his department. Walt arrived, and we carried the boxes out to the car, still in pouring rain, along with the bag containing our groceries.

That's what it's like in fall and winter, when it rains. Rather than trim hedges and rake leaves, we go out shopping. It's always an adventure.

Beef with tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, onions, garlic, and more

And we cook, of course. Yesterday we made a Chinese dish, thanks to a recipe Peter Hertzman gave us. It was beef, garlic, and onions, along with five vegetables from our nearly defunct 2009 vegetable garden: tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, and green onions. It was very good.

Oh, and the Bordeaux, while young (2008), is really delicious. Especially at 1.50 € a bottle.


  1. You got lucky with the wine bottles. (It seems too cheap to be true) and hopefully it is a very good wine.

  2. STOP IT...you're killing us all with great food pictures and descriptions and 1.5 Euros per bottle Bordeaux.

    If you keep this up, the near-future population of Mareuil-sur-Cher will triple and they'll put in traffic lights on Rue de La Renaudiere.

    Also, how the heck do the grape-picking machines work to just get grapes and not leaves and sticks?

  3. You gotta love a bargain!!

    p.s. Does Callie go with you on these shopping excursions?

  4. Nadège, I'm used to buying Bordeaux for about 2 euros a bottle under this same scheme -- two boxes of 6 for the price of one, and that's usually about 25 euros. Sometimes it's very good, and sometimes it's just OK. Remember, the local wine costs about half as much (13 bottles for 13 euros, or less).

    Bill, I think suction is involved. I don't see how, otherwise, they can get the grapes off the vines, leaving all the stems behind. I don't know why the leaves stay on the vines. French technology, eh?

    Judy, no, Callie stays home. She's just as happy that way. She still hates the car. Dogs are not allowed in the supermarkets, anyway. As far as I know.

  5. I rarely eat beef anymore, but that looks great.


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