13 February 2011

Sliding into spring

Okay, it rained yesterday. And this morning it is so foggy that you can hardly see the vineyard at all when you look out the back windows of the house. But that's fine — we actually need some rain. It's supposed to rain overnight tonight but be sunny, or at least only partly cloudy, tomorrow afternoon. Temperatures remain very mild for the season.

Yesterday, Walt got some leaves raked up and carried them out to the vegetable garden plots. We are still spreading leaves out there, because springtime is coming and that's when the really deep-rooted weeds grow. Here in northern France, we can't plant our summer crops before about May 15, so there's still plenty of time for hardy weeds to take over the space.

A February morning in the Renaudière vineyard

We won't grow potatoes this year. Instead, we plan to put in salad greens and cabbages early. One of the summer crops we'll try to grow again this year, after taking a year off, is green beans — haricots verts. Those were very successful a couple of years ago. We plan to try to grow fewer tomatoes — we usually end up with too many — but a lot of sweet corn and eggplants, as well as a good crop of sweet red bell peppers.

Hills planted in vines out back

We don't need to grow hot red peppers, because last year we had a bumper crop of cayennes, jalapeños, and banana peppers. I'd like to be able to grow okra, but I think it's just not hot enough here in the Cher river valley for the plants. Maybe it's time to start thinking seriously of having a greenhouse put in.

Western skies in February

This has been one of those weeks when the only outdoor adventures we've had have been walks with the dog and a little yard work. I did go out Tuesday to get a haircut and run an errand or two, but that was the last time. We haven't had any company either. It's just been the two of us — or the four of us, counting Callie the Collie and Bert the Black Cat.

Today we're invited over for lunch chez some friends who live just five or six kilometers down the road. That will be a nice outing. It's supposed to be cloudy but dry, with temperatures in the mid-50s F. Our friends are going to cook lunch on the grill, I think. That's always good food.

Callie planning out the route for her morning walk

Retirement. I'm still getting used to it. I regularly have long, complicated dreams about work situations. Sometimes the people in them are the people I worked with in Washington DC, San Francisco, or Silicon Valley. Sometimes the most unlikely combinations of people from these different eras of my life turn up in the most unlikely situations.

February sunrise at about 8:30 a.m.

Mostly I dream about problems I can't solve because I don't have all the information or tools I need. Something has been lost along the way, or become hopelessly confused. I feel like I personally need to find the solution but it's impossible. And then it's time for me to go home again, but I have to spend hours in traffic to get there. It goes on and on.

The trees mark a stream bed.

And here I am in the French countryside, hardly ever going anywhere in the car. And when I do there's no traffic. All the problems I face seem to have solutions and, besides, there's nobody breathing down my neck. Things get done when they get done. Or they don't get done. Only the seasons seem to impose deadlines and dictate the tasks that need to be tackled. But seasons are flexible, and more predictable than people.

Spring cleaning in the kitchen means
moving the cookstove and dishwasher.

My general rule over the past eight years has become: try to do one thing a day. Pick up some leaves. Till up a garden plot. Cook something good to eat. Take some pictures. Of course, there is also the routine, the stuff I do every day. Walk the dog. Read. Laundry. Wash dishes. Watch a movie on TV if there's a good one on, and watch the news. And blog.


  1. I liked reading about your daily routine. No wonder I have trouble getting one thing a day done -- there is "go to work" on my list! Not that I would change that for anything at the moment.

    BTW, I don't know if I've told you I've stopped La France Profonde (still online) and started fresh with a new blog called The World from My Windows. Here is the url:


    I felt like I needed a fresh slate and to get away from all that country imagery when, in fact, my life is more work, travel and town based.

    Anyway, bon dimanche!

  2. Hi Ken, I could very easily settle into the life you're living in Saint-Aignan. Of course, I would need to get a dog and/or cat to keep me company. Oh well, another six years to go and counting ... :)

  3. Ahh, retirement, wouldn't trade it for anything. Only problem is I never get a day off! My husband has been retired for 25+ years and he still has GE management 'meetings' nearly every night.

    I've always loved your kitchen, Ken, with it's egg yolk walls, white tile and red and cream? tile floors.

    Enjoy your day.


  4. That's exactly how I feel. When I've achieved one thing a day, I'm happy with myself and I forget all the useless time I sit in front of my computer looking stupidly at the screen...

    What would I do without that machine?

    Too old to exercise, too deaf to listen to TV... No public library to get good books. Fortunately, I still can cook and get fat!

  5. Your days are good! Mine, too. A discussion group I'm on just digressed into a long talk about being retired because of one woman, who is retiring next year, wondering what she would do with her time. The final consensus is that retirement is good and there is no problem filling up the days.

    BTW, I love the photos of the sky in your area with those wonderful mackerel looking clouds.

  6. Wow, you're still having those work-related dreams? Yowser! When I was a waitress (all through undergrad years), I regularly had the most frustrating dreams of the same kind... couldn't get the food to come up in the kitchen, kept getting more and more and more customers seated in my section, couldn't get water to them, and on and on and on :)) I rarely have those kinds of frustrating dreams about teaching :)

    Spring feels like it's around the corner, with all of this talk of planting crops! Yippee!


  7. Welcome to my world, I think if I get one extra job done each day then I had a good day. I have been retired for 13 years now!

    Your blog is one that I read each morning just to see how you are going each day.

    Claire M. from Brisane QLD

  8. Ken, I love that sunrise sky picture.

    If it helps, I still have the occasional dream about a college exam for which I am utterly unprepared, and I sit there until the time runs out with a blank paper. And I'm 54.

  9. Ken, your retirement has definitely enhanced mine.

  10. I wonder why no one grows haricots verts in the US. At least, I've never seen any. They're so much better than the green beans (even the French Cut variety) we get here.

  11. Sounds like the perfect life to me. I can't wait (it'll probably be at the end of March), and have a long list of projects and things to do. One thing I do remember: once, on a river trip (I was visiting a friend in Australia) an archetypal "little old lady" started chatting to us, and said she always made sure she got out of the house every day, which strikes me as a good principle - even if it's just for a walk around for an hour or so.

  12. Hello Autolycus, Callie the Collie makes sure we get out of the house for a decent walk every day. One of us in the a.m., and the other in the p.m. Walt just went out in the rain this morning...

    Starman, that is a mystery about haricots verts, isn't it? And they travel well, so they'd be good for the American market. A lot of the green beans we get here come from Africa.

    Chris, Diogenes, Judy, Kristi, BettyAnn :^) The dreams continue though. Mostly they are just interesting, not traumatic. It's funny that nearly 10 years after quitting work, work still seems to be taking up a lot of space in my mind.

    Yes CHM, what would be do without our computers and the 'net?

    Ladybird, see my comment to Autolycus above. The dog, especially, is such good motivation for getting out of the house every day. Comme on dit, manger et bouger font partie des plaisirs de la vie.

    And hi Betty, thanks for letting me know about the new blog. I'll have a look. Everyday needs its small accomplishment or success. I don't know how I ever found the time to work for a living.


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