15 December 2013

Hamlet in the vineyard

The darkest days are upon us. The good news is that one week from today the hours of sunlight — or at least daylight — will start to lengthen. Our sunrise today will happen at 8:35 a.m., and sunset at 5:05 p.m. It's chilly here, but not quite freezing. And skies are gray.

On the other hand, I just checked the weather for my home town on the Carolina coast, where the temperature is much warmer (17ºC). To my dismay,  I see that the whole area from Savannah, Georgia, north to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina — nearly 1000 km of coastline — is under a tornado watch right now. At least we don't have that threat hanging over our heads in Saint-Aignan.

The bread lady on her morning rounds

The photo above shows what our hamlet in the vineyard looks like on a December morning at sunrise. If you click to image to enlarge it, you'll see a car with its headlights shining just behind our house. That's the bread lady, who delivers baguettes and croissants to us four days a week. In the photo she has come to the end of the paved road and is getting ready to turn around to go back down the hill.

Winter sunrise over the Renaudière vineyard

We buy what we want from the porteuse de pain ("bread-carrying lady"). There's no formal standing order, although we do get a fresh baguette every time she drives up. She knows which bread we prefer. If we are going to be away from home, we leave a plastic bread bag hanging on our front gate, with a euro coin in the bottom. She gets out of her car, takes the coin, and leaves our baguette. She also has cheese, milk, eggs, and other grocery staples for sale from the back of her van.

I don't know if that's smoke or fog over the river between us and the château d'eau on the other side.

Sundays are the hardest days for dog-walking at this time of year. The sun comes up at 8:30 or later in the morning. If the sky is cloudy, it's very dark until about that time. And then the hunters show up at 9:00 a.m. They only hunt on Sundays and holidays out in the vineyard, from nine to noon and from two to about six. But that means we have to squeeze in a morning walk between, say, 8:15 and 9:00, so that we won't be out there when the shooting starts.

Can you tell what's missing from this photo?

Well, it's my morning to go out on the promenade du matin avec Callie. I do have to wait for the day to dawn, but I need to start getting ready. For lunch today, we're going to have baked fish fillets, Brussels sprouts, and home-made "rice-a-roni" — un riz libanais aux vermicelles, or Lebanese-style vermicelli rice. More about all that later. Bon dimanche.


  1. When I saw your title I genuinely thought you were going to be writing about Shakespeare.

    Love the orange sky.

    Have you seen on the news there is a move to ban hunting on Sundays. There's been a couple of really unfortunate hunting related deaths this year (a small boy, a beekeeper in the forest) and the animal rights movement is gearing up for a fight.

  2. There is a petition calling for a ban on sunday hunting at http://www.aspas-nature.org/campagnes/petitions/interdire-la-chasse-le-dimanche/
    This is the website of the Association pour la Protection des Animaux Sauvages. They already have over 300,000 signatures, according to the animal rights organisation la Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis. P

  3. You have to wonder what natural forces will control the deer population and the fox population. Starvation? Automobile traffic? If hunters don't hunt on Sundays, will they not be able to hunt at all? In the vineyard, if not elsewhere, there are people at work pruning the vines, for example, six days a week. Only on Sunday is the coast clear.

  4. Yes, CHM, but thanks only to Adobe.

  5. I think I might get through these dark days if I had a bread lady delivering before daylight lol. Only one more week now, ouf!

  6. i think i love your bread lady. we are really in the darkest days. that storm just rained on us. hope your people will be ok. i dont do morning chores until after 9:30 because its been so cold... and then we need to start evening (afternoon?) chores at 4:30pm. i can't wait for the days to get longer. Adobe? are you photoshopping? ;-)

  7. Ken: the hunters aren't controlling the deer and wild boar now, even with special hunts out of season. There aren't enough hunters and there are too many deer and boar. (Foxes are a different matter, and numbers appear to be kept quite low -- probably a lot more surreptitious and illegal hunting/killing goes on for foxes.)

    Banning Sunday hunts in our département won't make much difference. Most hunts here are on Saturday or Monday, but they can be any day of the week. Where you are it might make a difference, as Sunday is the only day hunting is allowed.

    Anyway, it's not going to happen for the foreseeable. For all the hunters are getting fewer every year they still have an extremely strong lobby group because the activity is associated with patrimoine.

  8. With a golden sunrise like that, fresh baguettes at my door, I wouldn't mind tossing the covers more quickly and jumping out of bed, even if I needed to take my dog out for a brisk walk! What a beautiful way to start a Sunday!


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