01 September 2013

Back to the future

I feel like I've been in Paris — at least this blog has — for quite a long time. But Paris is my past, I believe. My future is in Saint-Aignan, or in some other town or small city in the French provinces, if we ever decide to leave this house and Saint-Aignan behind.

The vines and the mile-long gravel road that runs through them.

Small tomatoes ripening
So I'm back to where my future is. It is September and the rentrée in France, after all. People are going back to school or back to work. Here, the tomatoes and grapes are starting to ripen. There's a plot of ground that managed to get completely overgrown during the summer, and I have started clearing it so that I can till it and plant some things for an autumn harvest. We have wood to cut and stack in preparation for fall and winter.

What's been digging in the tomato patch?
Friday afternoon, when we got back from our short trip to southern Touraine (an hour south and west of Saint-Aignan) and the excitement of the Tours suburbs, Walt went out to inspect the tomatoes and the rest of the garden. He discovered that some animal had been digging out there in our absence.

A good half a dozen of the tomato plants had had their roots exposed by something digging in the soil around their base. What animal would do that, I wonder? Was it looking for grubs and worms? Luckily the plants weren't uprooted, and they seem to be doing fine since Walt put some dirt back over the roots and watered the ground a little.

Red-wine grapes...

Friday afternoon, we were paid a visit by one of the vignerons who has parcels of vines out along the gravel road through the vineyard. He's a man who works out there year-round, and he usually is accompanied by two or three dogs. Since we walk Callie in the vineyard every day, we and all the dogs know each other.

...and white-wine grapes are really ripening now.

The vigneron's name is Bruno. He told us that a car had run off the gravel road and plowed into one of his parcels, taking out vines in four rows, including posts and support wires. He lost a dozen or more plants — the posts and vine trunks kept the car from going farther and doing more damage.

I don't think the driver was skidding when the car crashed into the vines.

Bruno wanted to know if we had seen anything out of the ordinary. He said the accident happened Thursday afternoon. He figured the car was probably not driveable afterwards and that there must have been a towtruck or some other vehicle to haul it away. He found some pieces of the car's plastic bumper on the ground, but that was all.

It's time to start making apple jelly and apple tarts.

"I thought you might have seen something during your walk with the dog," Bruno said. We told him that we had been out of town Thursday afternoon and hadn't gotten back more than three hours before his visit. We had seen nothing. I don't know why he thinks the accident happened during the afternoon hours. It would seem to be something that might happen during the night — somebody drinking and driving, in other words, or who fell asleep at the wheel.

I seem to spend several days every year clearing weeds and brambles out of this corner, under the plum tree.

Very few cars use the gravel road through the vineyard. I hardly ever do; nor do our neighbors. Mainly, what traffic there is on the road consists of tractors and the vehicles of the workers and vignerons who tend the vines. A few times a month, we'll see a car drive through — some going pretty fast. In this case, there's no sign from the tire tracks the car left on the ground that the driver applied the brakes before crashing into the vines.


  1. In the UK such incidents are common in the country lanes around us, except that cars would crash into telegraph poles, through a hedge or into a ditch, not vines. It's almost invariably a carful of youngsters showing off, racing round the twisty roads.
    In most cases the car is left behind for several days or even weeks, with a "police aware" sticker on the windscreen. Every so often one of the youngsters is seriously hurt or even killed and then dozens of bouquets of flowers are left at the scene, reminding everyone that something awful happened. It doesn't stop them doing it though.
    I suppose in your case it could be something sensible, like someone swerving to avoid a deer.

  2. Your little digger friend could very well be a 'fouine' or stone-marten. I'm not an expert on animals, but for the last two years my mother's cousin has the same problem in her garden and an 'expert' told her it was a stone-marten that's responsible for the damage. Apparently they are working on a 'come-back' in our regions. A new 'friend' or challenge for Bertie the Terminator, maybe? :) Martine

  3. Jean, you may be right about a driver swerving to avoid hitting a deer, but why would the driver be so stealthy about it and not report it? We will probably never know what happened.

    Ladybird, bonjour, I thought about the possibility that it was a fouine/marten. Would it be digging for grubs/larves, worms, and other treats? Maybe. It's true that Walt had watered the tomatoes that morning by pouring water around the base of each plant, so that damp soil might have tempted a hungry animal.

  4. Poor old Bruno - what a mess. It could have been someone bien arrosé taking the back road to avoid being picked up, and losing control or falling asleep. Surely a tow truck would have left tracks? P.

  5. Holy cow. Too bad about Bruno losing so many grapes. That's a shame. It's amazing that it would happen, just by chance, when you were away, since you're usually there and so normally would have seen it, I guess.

    Your 'mater plants sure look good! We've got plenty that are still green, but finally we have one big one that is pale orange-y pinkish red, so we'll pick it soon.


  6. for heavens sakes, Ken, that is a lot of things going on! i'm sorry that weird guy yelled at you. do you have "road rage" there? i'm sure you can bet it's common - and dangerous - here. i'm glad you were ok. your digger almost looks like chickens! but i dont think there are wild chickens on the loose in your garden - but how lucky if there were! i hope your upcoming week is much less 'eventful.' :-)

  7. Sounds like a case for "Les Experts: Mareuil-sur-Cher".

  8. Dean...
    it looks to me as though Callie is on the case already!!

    Ken, fouine could very well be right...
    they frequent human habitation...
    and you've said that you have a number of 'holiday' homes in your hameau...
    so plenty of quiet places to hide up.

    My other thought was fox or badger...
    but the damage from the latter would be enor..mouse.
    As would be the hole in the fence!!


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