29 August 2010

Re-arranging the rocks...

...and filling in holes. It's just a little thing I've noticed about the gravel road that starts at the back of our property and runs for a mile through the vineyard before again connecting with a paved road.

We spend a lot of time out there. More time than anybody else, I'm sure, year-round. The gravel road and the vineyard rows on each side of it are a great place to walk with the dog. No leash required, because there's no traffic.

The road through the vineyard just a hundred or so meters
from our back gate.

We know most of the people who work out there. Some are the vignerons who own property and tend their own parcels of grapevines — Bruno Ledys, for example, and Jean-Noël and Chantal Guerrier. Others are employed by local wine producers — a man and a woman we always speak to and who work for Bruno and Patricia Denis, owners of the Domaine de la Renaudie. And then there's 80-year-old Jacques Denis, Bruno's father, who has tended these vines his whole life.

So when you have a gravel road, and there is significant rainfall, and puddles form, and cars and tractors run through the puddle, splashing water and mud to the sides, what do you get? You get potholes, that's what. "Potholes" in French are called « nids de poule » — hen's nests.

Periodically, I see little patches of rocks like this one
along the road.

If nobody does anything, the nids de poule get deeper and deeper. Each time it rains, more water collects, and cars and tractors splashing through the potholes send more and more water and mud off to the side. Not that there is much traffic through the vineyard. Three or four vehicles through there would qualify as extremely busy day. Still...

The rocks have been carefully arranged, for a purpose.

Over the years, I've noticed that on the portion of the road nearest our house, somebody carefully fills in the potholes with rocks as soon as they start to form. I guess it's an example of preventive maintenance. It seems to be effective. The holes don't have time to get deeper and wider.

The gravel road farther out, looking back
toward our house and hamlet.

I just wonder who does it. I've never seen anybody out there picking up rocks and throwing them into a pothole. But it's obvious when somebody has been doing it. You can see that from the pictures. Since the vines along this section of road belong to the Denis family, I can only assume it's their people who are doing the repairs. Could it be old Jacques?

Here's some more repair handiwork, near our house.

To me, this small-scale repair and maintenance work is emblematic of our local countryside. It's hand-crafted. The rows of vines are orderly and trimmed just right, summer and winter. The potholes are carefully filled in by hand. The borders of the rows of vines are regularly mowed. Hedges are trimmed and squared off. Everything is artisanally tended, and has been for generations. There's something reassuring about it all.


  1. Wonderful observations! The story and the photos really put me on that road. You live in a beautiful place! Merci.

  2. You walk in peace everyday, Ken.

    Just imagine living amidst the vines for 80 years- I guess Callie knows the beginning of that story.

    I detest potholes and am glad yours in the vineyard are promptly fixed. Maybe it is done by the old man who gets out mid day.

  3. People take care of their environment. It must have been really shocking to the people of Saint Aignan when their linden trees got cut down by the gypsies.

  4. This post is a meditation in itself.

  5. OK, je vais essayer en Francais. "Nids de poul" - merci pour ca; j'ai jamias entendu ca. Et merci pour le "link" a TF1 que tu as mis dans le blog hier. (excuse mes fautes).

  6. Ken, we were coming away from Chaumussay [and the brocante/vide grenier] today and discovered, just outside the village, a "Nid de poule" with the eggs in it!!
    As a result of lack of maintenance it had got really quite deep and the larger lumps were unable to escape!
    Fortunately we were in the '56 2CV which was thin enough to pass on the opposite side of the road.

  7. Hello Genie, and thanks for the comment and the link to your blog.

    Evelyn, it could be Jacques D. I have to pay more attention during the day to see who's rearranging the pebbles and stones out there.

    Nadège, tu as raison.

    Hi Judy.

    Chrissoup, any news? About travels?

    Bonjour Diogènes, ah là là. Tu te débrouilles pas mal en français. Merci pour tous les bons commentaires et bonnes observations.

    Tim, nice car then. Probably good to be able to avoid the hen's nests.


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