30 September 2018

Des vendanges lentes

There are still, weeks after the harvest began, a lot of red-wine grapes on the vines in the vineyard out back. The weather is dry and mild. Afternoons are still warm, but mornings are chilly.

There are even a few parcels of white-wine grapes that haven't yet been shaken off the vines. I guess these will be made into late-harvest (sweet) wines. I don't know if they are Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

This is how most of the grapes are harvested — by machine. It's a machine à vendanger that can straddle a row of vines, vibrating them so that the ripe grapes fall off the stems and land on a conveyor belt that, well, conveys them up to a big vat on the back of the machine.

When the vat is full, the harvester backs up to a tractor pulling a trailer that is waiting to be filled up. The grapes are dumped into the waiting trailer the way a dump truck would do it.

Then the guy driving the tractor takes the grapes down to the winery, about a mile from our house, and unloads them there for pressage et fermentation. The harvesting machine either follows or continues working out in the vineyard until the tractor and trailer are driven back to get another load.

29 September 2018

Quiche aux tomates et à la moutarde

It had been a while since we'd made a quiche. I had just bought eggs, so we had plenty. And we had cream and cheese. So we were set. We also had a lot of little fleshy, not-too-juicy tomatoes. Here's the result.

It's surprising how good Dijon mustard is when cooked with tomatoes. It's not that you really taste the mustard when you eat it this way, brushed on the pie crust before you fill it with the other quiche ingredients. But it perks the whole thing up. For more taste, sprinkle some herbs on top of the mustard. We used dried thyme and oregano —plus fresh rosemary, which was especially good.

After brushing mustard over the bottom of a blind-baked (pre-cooked) pie crust, fill up the pie shell with tomatoes. If the tomatoes are very juicy, it might be better to remove the seeds and pulp, keeping just the firm parts of the fruit. I just had to cut these little tomatoes in half, trimming off the stem and blossom ends.

The quiche appareil ("apparatus" or custard mixture) is three or four eggs beaten with about 20 milliliters (six or seven fluid ounces, so less than a U.S. cup) of heavy cream and flavored with a handful of grated cheese (as much as you like). The amounts you need depend on the size and depth of the pie shell you're using. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper, and season the custard mixture with salt, pepper, and just a pinch of grated nutmeg.

Alongside the mustard-flavored tomato quiche, we had some braised kale (Red Russian) from the garden. The recipe for the quiche is below — sorry the amounts are sort of vague — along with a photo of the little tomatoes we harvested this summer from a plant that was a volunteer from the 2017 garden. We've saved some seeds from them to plant next year, because they're so good.
Quiche aux tomates
1 pie shell 
tomatoes to fill the shell
Dijon mustard
3 or 4 eggs
6 or 7 fl. oz. heavy cream
Salt, pepper, nutmeg, herbs
Grated cheese (to taste)

Blind-bake the pie crust. Take it out of the oven and let it cool slightly. Then spread mustard over the bottom of the pie shell. Sprinkle some dried fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary) on top of the mustard.

Cut up enough tomatoes, seeds removed if they seem too watery, to loosely fill the pie shell and add them. Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and cream with some salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg (just a pinch). Mix grated cheese into the eggs and cream, or just sprinkle grated cheese on top of the quiche before cooking it.

Bake in a hot oven (200°C, 400ºF) for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown.

28 September 2018

C'est la fin des haricots tomates

Yesterday was rip-out-the-tomato-plants day. They were looking pretty scraggly. They were still covered with a lot of tomatoes, but nearly all of them were rotting on the vine. Sun damage was probably the main cause. Alors, quand les tomates sont cuites, on passe à autre chose.

And the fact is, we harvested so many tomatoes over the past six or eight weeks that we were feeling overwhelmed. The freezer is full of sauce, the cellar is full of jars of dried tomatoes and tomato paste. It's time to call it a season.

The first step was to untie all the tomato plants and free up the squiggly metal stakes that supported them. Then we pulled all the stakes out and let the plants fall to the ground. Then we collected as many healthy tomatoes as we could find.

The tomato plants were surprisingly easy to pull out of the ground. Here's what we ended up with. Weeds, mostly crabgrass, had set tenacious roots in the rock hard clay soil. It's been so dry in August and September — we've had about a third of our average rainfall for the period, and very hot weather.

So what's left in the garden? Greens. Tuscan "dinosaur" kale, for example. The plants have really suffered through the drought and the high heat. But they're already starting to look better now that it's not so hot outside. I watered them thoroughly yesterday, and I'm hoping for some rain soon.

The kale is planted along the eastern edge of the garden plot, and along the western edge is a line of Swiss chard plants. Those also have suffered sun and heat damage, but they are hardy. I trimmed them up, weeded around them a little bit, and watered them well. Even if rain doesn't start falling soon, we have a small number of plants to worry about now. They'll be easy to keep watered.

In this climate, leafy greens like kale and chard should continue producing until Christmas, and even into January and February. So I've also planted some collard seedlings in a big clay pot. I hope they will thrive, and at some point I might plant them out in the ground. After I've tilled the garden plot, that is. Luckily, Walt and I are both big fans of these kinds of greens.

27 September 2018

Preparing and trusting

When you turn right out of our back gate, you're headed north. The land slopes down toward the river valley and you walk past that big vineyard plot that is planted in Chardonnay grapes. There's an electrified fence to keep deer out of the grapes, but most of the time the fence wires are weighted down by logs, so you can turn left where the vines end and walk downhill into the woods. There's a path.

Often, the path downhill through the woods is so muddy that we don't feel it's safe to walk down there. It's slippery mud because of our clay soil, and the danger is that your feet will slide out from under you and you'll fall. This summer, however, the weather has been so dry that walking on the path is pleasant.

The downhill slope is fairly steep, and at the bottom there's a stream bed, perpendicular to the path. Here it is. It's just a dry gully right now. But when the weather is rainy, water runs through here across the path and ends up flowing into the Cher River a kilometer or so to the east.

Just a little further along, past the stream bed, another "road" — a tractor path, really — runs off to the left. It's a path that takes you up a steep hill towards a nearby settlement made up of six or eight houses.

Before the path meets up with a paved road, where you enter the hamlet, there are several piles of logs that have been cut and stockpiled for burning as firewood over the winter.

People are very trusting, I think. It would be easy for thieves to come in with a tractor or truck and just help themselves to some logs for their own fireplaces or stoves. But I've never heard about anything like that happening around here.

26 September 2018

Tajine de potimarron, pois chiches, et abricots secs

A tajine is a Moroccan stew and also the name of the dish it is cooked in — the same way that the French word terrine means both the dish and the food cooked in it. There can be meat and vegetables in a tajine or just vegetables. And fruit (raisins, prunes, dried apricots, almonds) which goes well with the spice blend typically used in Morocco: it's called ras-el-hanout (meaning "the chef's special blend" I think). It can contain cumin, turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, coriander seeds, cardamom, pepper, sweet or spicy paprika, fennel, fenugreek... as many as two dozen spices.

So you can blend together whatever spices you want, really, within those guidelines. Personalize your cooking. But don't go wild. Pumpkin, or whatever winter squash, is really good in tajines because it cooks quickly, has sweetness, and is complemented by the Moroccan spices. Think pumpkin pie spices, but with some heat and less sugar. Even so, tajines are often sucré-salé-épicé dishes.

The first step in making this pumpkin or—why not? — sweet potato tajine is to sauté some onion (and garlic if you want) in a pan in olive oil. Add salt and pepper. And as the onions cook, add a drizzle — one or two tablespoons, to taste — of honey to the mix Let the onions "sweat" or cook on low heat for 10 or 15 minutes until they are lightly caramelized by the honey. Oh, the other ingredient here is dried apricots, which have been soaked briefly and then get slow-cooked with the onions and honey. (You could put in raisins instead.)

The other thing I like to add to a pumpkin or sweet potato tajine, for flavor and texture, is some chickpeas. I buy them in cans (tins), and they're very good. Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and other beans are vegetables that are not really altered by the canning process. Add the spice blend you like and the quantity you like, and then let the canned chickpeas and the pumpkin cook together for 30 minutes or so, until both vegetables are just tender. One recipe I've found uses dried ginger and turmeric as the only spices.

We had chicken rubbed with spices and slow-cooked on the barbecue grill to accompany the pumpkin tajine. It would be good with lamb as well. Somewhere I found a recipe for an "Arabic spice blend" that we like. The blend is:

2 Tbsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cardamom

Walt makes couscous "grain" (semoule in French) with raisins to have with tajines like this one. The raisins are soaked briefly, and then the semoule gets soaked briefly in boiling water with a little bit of vegetable oil. That's enough to cook it, and he finishes it with a knob of butter that melts into the blend. It tastes really good.

So there it is. Tajine de potimarron et pois chiches avec oignons, miel, et abricots secs; couscous aux raisins; et cuisses de poulet cuites au barbecue. We have some eight or ten potimarrons (small pumpkins) out in the vegetable garden so we'll be making dishes like this through the end of the year, I'm sure. Along with pumpkin cakes and pumpkin pies. The holidays are coming.

25 September 2018

Reminiscences and musical connections

For the past week or more, I haven't been able to get this song out of my mind. Can you believe the recording is 50 years old? I was in college at the time, in North Carolina, and not even 20 years old myself. I remember attending a concert given by Linda Ronstadt and the band she was a part of back then.

The event took place outdoors, in the beautiful Sarah P. Duke gardens in Durham, N.C. It was what was called a "be-in" at the time, a celebratory event in the age of sit-ins and other protests on campuses and in cities all around the U.S. Students splashed around in fountains and sprawled on the lawn, soaking up the sun and the music. It must have been April 1968, and I hadn't yet traveled to France. The Vietnam war was a major preoccupation for people of my generation. Martin Luther King had been or soon would be assassinated, and so would Bobby Kennedy.

It is immensely saddening to me that Ronstadt can no longer sing and give concerts the way she used to, because Parkinson's disease has taken away her ability to control her voice. I just bought one of the last studio albums she recorded and have been enjoying listening to it. It's called Adieu False Heart and was released in 2006. Ronstadt and a Louisiana singer and musician named Ann Savoy perform a series of solos and duets that include some Cajun French songs and a beautiful fiddle-music version of the 1930s French classic titled Parlez-moi d'amour, on which Ronstadt sings harmony.

I truly wish I could attend one of the live events Linda Ronstadt is currently doing in California and around the U.S., and in which she sings some songs but mainly talks about her career and music. Walt and I were lucky to attend a couple of major Linda Ronstadt concerts in Washington D.C. and New York City back in the 1980s, and several in California in the 1990s. During the time when Ronstadt's big hit song was Blue Bayou, we saw her perform in a huge arena in Maryland. We were also in the audience at Radio City Music Hall in New York when she gave her first What's New concert with conductor Nelson Riddle and his orchestra in about 1985. Reminiscences...

In California, we saw Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris (who has strong North Carolina connections) perform together in a theater in San Francisco — we were in the front row, I believe. And once in San Francisco, we attended a very intimate concert given in a small theater by Kate and Anna McGarrigle, the bilingual Quebec sisters whose music we as well as Ronstadt and Harris loved. At the end of the concert, the now late Kate McGarrigle announced that Ronstadt was in the audience and was going to sing a song of theirs that had been a big hit for Ronstadt — Heart Like a Wheel. When Linda stood up to make her way to the stage, we realized she had been sitting literally right behind us in the audience for an hour or more and we hadn't even noticed.

Here are the lyrics to High Muddy Water, which of course makes me think about what is going on in my native eastern North Carolina these days. A lot of events, including the huge North Carolina Seafood Festival and Morehead City's annual multi-class high school reunion, which my mother (class of 1948) attended many times and really enjoyed, have had to be canceled as the community struggles to recover from the wind and flood damages that hurricane Florence brought to the town recently.

(Up to my Neck) In High Muddy Water

Yes and now I'll swim ashore for I must make it
Although I'm up to my neck in high muddy water
Now the water's deep and wide
Can't hold out long this way
If I could spend a time
Perhaps I'd find a way

So now I'll swim ashore for I must make it
Although I'm up to my neck in high muddy water

Now I see the distance stir and I hear reckless sound
And something seems to say well I'm bound for higher ground

So now I'll swim ashore for I must make it
Although I'm up to my neck in high muddy water

Now the sun has risen late
But I'm safe at last my friend
Deep water was my pain
But now I've reached the end

Yes now I'll swim ashore and I know I'll make it
Although I'm up to my neck in high muddy water

24 September 2018

Porc effiloché et petits pains à la patate douce

A couple of days ago, I mentioned a batch of "pulled pork" that I had made in the slow cooker. "Barbecue" is what we call this specialty in North Carolina, where it's pork barbecued and smoked over oak or hickory embers. It resembles Mexican carnitas, but it's spiced differently. It's normally made with pork, and I use mostly pork shoulder ("Boston butt") to make barbecue here in France, but it's just as good made with turkey legs and thighs. You can't really tell the difference.

What you do to make it in the slow cooker is put two or three pounds of pork shoulder or turkey legs and thighs in the pot. Season the meat with about half a cup of vinegar (cider is good), plenty of black pepper, some hot red pepper like powdered cayenne or hot sauce like Tabasco or Texas Pete (a North Carolina product), a few pinches of dried thyme, a splash of Worcester sauce, and, really, whatever spices you like (cumin and smoked paprika come to mind). As for the seasoning, don't worry, because you can always add more seasonings after the meat is cooked and "pulled." (I always add some liquid smoke, which I bring back from North Carolina.) Here's a French recipe for pulled pork using a sauce made with sweet-hot barbecue sauce, soy sauce, ketchup, honey, and orange juice!

So pulled pork is a cooking method rather than a recipe. If you want to make it in a slow cooker (a crock pot), put pork or turkey in the pot and cook it at low temperature for about eight hours, or on high for five or six hours. When the meat is completely cooked — if it's turkey, it should be falling off the bone, and it's easy to remove and discard the skin and bones, etc. — take it out of the pot, let it cool down, and then, using a couple of forks or your fingers (impeccably clean, as Julia Child always used to say), pull the meat into shreds. If it's turkey or very lean pork, you might want to add a drizzle of vegetable oil. If the strands of meat are too long, don't be afraid to cut them into shorter pieces using a knife or kitchen scissors. Voilà : c'est du porc effiloché — shredded pork.

One way pulled pork is served is as a sandwich on a hamburger bun. We like to brown the pulled pork slightly in a frying pan before putting on buns. You can buy buns (whether in France or the U.S.) in the supermarket — I always liked American "kaiser rolls" — or you can make your own. There are many recipes for buns on the internet in English, and also in French. The recipe we used this time to make buns for our barbecue sandwiches called for a dough with a good amount of cooked and mashed or pureed sweet potato (the orange-fleshed ones) or pumpkin flesh incorporated. When I say pumpkin, I include winter squashes like butternut or French potimarron. Here's the recipe:

Hamburger Buns
made with pureed sweet potato or pumpkin

First make "sponge" by combining in a large bowl:
2½ tsp. dry active yeast (10 g)
½ cup warm water (120 ml)
½ cup flour (65 g)

Let the sponge develop for 20 minutes. When it's foamy and bubbly, add to it:
1 cup mashed sweet potato or pumpkin flesh (240 ml)
2 tsp. honey
1¼ tsp. fine salt
1 large egg
3 Tbsp. melted butter or vegetable oil
½ to 4 cups flour (450 to 500 g) as needed to form a nice ball of dough

Mix all the ingredients together, but don't add all the flour at once. Whether you are kneading the dough by hand or using a stand mixer, add a good amount of flour to start and then gradually add the rest, as much as it takes, to make a ball of dough that is soft but not too sticky. Let the dough rise, covered, in an oiled bowl place in a warm place until it doubles in volume. It might take as much as two hours.

Then "deflate" the risen dough by kneading it again and cut it into eight (or six, or twelve) equal pieces (depending on how big you want the buns to be) and shape each piece into a ball. Place the balls of dough on a baking sheet and flatten them slightly. Let them rise again in a warm place so that they more or less double in size (another hour or so). They'll rise more when you put them to cook in a hot oven.

Bake the buns at 400ºF (200ºC) for 15 to 20 minutes, or until nicely browned. Make them ahead of time and store the ones you have left over in a plastic bag in the freezer for later.

In North Carolina, we usually put some mustardy coleslaw (cabbage salad) on the barbecue sandwiches with the meat, and we add some sauce. These buns are especially appropriate with pulled pork or turkey barbecue, because N.C. is a major producer and consumer of sweet potatoes as well as of hogs and turkeys.

23 September 2018


We've just run the new dishwasher overnight for the first time. No problems. Check!

Yesterday I found the time to install the new screen on my laptop. Success! Check! The image below shows what happened to the original screen (this is the old one, not the new one). I was too stressed out to take photos of the steps involved. I had to order a replacement screen from a company in western Canada. None was available in Europe — at least none that I could find.

Who knew it was so easy to change a laptop computer's screen out? Of course, it wasn't without incident. I stripped the head of the first little screw I tried to take out. I thought I was at a dead end. But patience paid off and I was finally able to get that screw unscrewed, after trying the other three to see if all of them were going to be recalcitrant. The others weren't, so I was encouraged to work with the fourth, uncooperative one. All's well that ends well.

None of this prevented me from making the blanquette de veau for lunch. It was your classic white lunch. Somebody I know will be pleased to see this blanquette served without carrots! I didn't have any, and I didn't want to go to the market or supermarket just for carrots...

22 September 2018

Kitchen photos

For years we've talked about having our kitchen here remodeled — putting in a new kitchen with a different arrangement for cabinets and appliances. It would be especially nice to have more storage space in there. Right now, racks for hanging pots, pans, and other utensils help a lot. Still, we store a lot of kitchen items in the closet in our guest room and in a cabinet in the den where we have Walt's computer workstation and our library.

The idea of living in a construction zone is not appealing. We did it in San Francisco, but there we both worked for a living and we were out of the house when the work was actually being done. Here, we'd have to experience the noise and dust first-hand. As you might know, we spend a lot of our time in the kitchen.

This the new dishwasher we just had installed. It's a Bosch model — not the fanciest but not a low-end model either. We had a Whirlpool dishwasher for 15 years and it got a lot of use. This one should last as long. It really doesn't seem to be much quieter than the old Whirlpool was, but it's quiet enough for us. We normally run it overnight, and we don't hear it.

Anyway, the kitchen is perfectly functional, and we've done our best to make it efficient and pleasant. We've been here for 15 years now. We're on our second refrigerator, our third kitchen stove, and now our second dishwasher. Getting new appliances creates good opportunities for  "spring cleaning" — no matter what the season.

The area of the kitchen itself is about 12.5 m². That's nearly 134 ft², and it's square at about 11½ x 11½ feet. Our kitchen in San Francisco was about the same size, so it didn't look too small when we saw the house in 2002 and decided to buy it. We took down the door that closed it off from the living room. Cabinets, sink, and tile were in place. We just had to buy appliances.

The refrigerator, dishwasher, and stove are tucked into one corner. The kitchen is open to the living/dining room, and the appliances are what they call pose-libre models, not built-ins. Here's an example of some of the food we cook: pulled-pork seasoned with North Carolina BBQ sauce, French fries made from fresh potatoes, and lettuce with a mustardy coleslaw-style dressing.

Today, it'll be
blanquette de veau.

21 September 2018

Bonnes nouvelles !

I got this e-mail from my sister and our cousin yesterday afternoon. Ginger's mother and my mother were sisters:
We are alive and kicking in NC!! Lots of damage, as bad as I have ever seen and I will not ride the next one out!! Joanna and I have had the mission [the food bank] open since Monday. Power and phones are spotty. We received donations from some of your fellow bloggers and are very appreciative!! We love you and are okay
Ginger and Joanna
This made me very happy, as you can imagine. I take it that Martha's Mission's building and stocks of food survived the winds and flooding. Ginger is the organization's operations manager and Joanna, who still works part-time as an optician, is her side-kick and right-hand woman now. It's so good that the two of them have become such good friends and cooperate with each other the way their mothers did, especially during the last 25 years of their lives.

Obviously, I didn't take this photo of the Oceanana fishing pier in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, during Hurricane Florence. When the storm was over, the end of the pier and the gazebo had washed away. Credit and thanks to the AP.

Maybe I can start to relax now. Tasha is all better, we think, and our daily walks have resumed. It's supposed to rain this morning, and we really need that. The new dishwasher was installed on schedule late yesterday. I've received the new display panel for my laptop — all I have to do now is find time to remove the old screen and put the new one in. I'll find time for that "operation" very soon.

20 September 2018

Wet vs. dry

I don't seem to be able to find any photos from storm-damaged Morehead City (my home town in North Carolina) that aren't several days old. I assume that's because the people there are too busy cleaning up and maybe don't have electricity back yet. I still don't have news from many people that I'm concerned about. I feel cut off from N.C. and the U.S. now the way I used to feel so cut off from France before I came to live here.

Here in Saint-Aignan, on the last day of astronomical summer, it's just dry dry dry. It's a parallel universe in some ways, given how wet it has been in Morehead City and the rest of eastern North Carolina. Forecasts say we might get a sprinkle of rain tomorrow.

Here are some local Saint-Aignan scenes from a few days ago, when I was coming back home from a vineyard walk with Natasha the Shetland sheep dog. Good news: we've started up our daily walks again. Shorter walks than before, but walks quand même.

I'll be going out with the dog in a few minutes, once the sun comes up. Other good news: our new dishwasher is supposed to be delivered and installed later today. Because we do so much cooking and processing of food for storage, it turns out that a dishwasher isn't exactly a luxury for us.

P.S. I just found out that the newspaper based in Morehead City, the Carteret County News-Times, was able to publish yesterday. The newspaper's on-line edition is not available in the European Union unless you have a VPN set up on your internet connection. I just recently set up a VPN (Virtual Private Network) so I was happy to get some information from home (but not enough).

19 September 2018

Les vendanges continuent

I haven't had any more hurricane-recovery news from North Carolina. From what I see in the papers, my friends and relatives there probably haven't had electricity restored yet. Here's an article from the local newspaper (not available in Europe). I'll try to get my sister on the phone again today. The good news on this side of the pond is that Tasha is doing much better. She's already walking normally again, and we're trying mightily to keep her activity to a minimum. No running, no jumping. I carried her down one flight of stairs this morning, but she did the second one, which is not so steep, on her own.

I have to say I've missed my walks in the vineyard with Tasha these last few days.  Maybe we'll start taking short walks again this afternoon. I might have to take her out on the leash, to prevent her from getting too excited and injuring her leg again. You can see how beautiful the Gamay, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec/Côt grapes look right now. I took these photos three or four days ago.

Yesterday a tractor pulling a trailer loaded with red-wine grapes passed by our house. So the red-grape harvest is under way. I understand now why the harvester came in and started taking in grapes yesterday morning at six a.m. It rained beginning at mid-day. I think the grape-growers have some kind of direct line to reliable weather forecasts that the public doesn't have access to. Or maybe they are just really cautious.

It didn't rain much, however. It wasn't enough to get the ground wet, that's for sure, but it was refreshing. Maybe just that little bit of humidity would be enough to cause mildew to start growing on such ripe grapes. I didn't see the harvester again during the day. But then Patricia and Bruno have vineyard parcels all around the area, not just near our house. So they could have been working elsewhere.

18 September 2018

The state of things today

The vet told us yesterday afternoon, after looking at x-ray images, that Tasha's injury is "just" a sprain. All the little bones in her "wrist" are in place. Nothings broken, but the lower part of the leg is swollen. The vet gave her a shot of anti-inflammatory medicine, and gave us pills of the same kind to give her once a day for the next week or 10 days. The good news is that her limping is already visibly reduced this morning. She's putting her foot down on the floor or ground and walking carefully, but almost normally. Things are looking up!

Meanwhile, around here, our weather continues to be weirdly hot and dry. This is starting to seem like a major drought, but nobody is talking about it. It hasn't rained since mid-July. Yesterday, I did hear one woman on France Inter radio say that she's fed up with this endless summer (j'en ai marre de cet été éternel...). I kind of feel that way too. I will welcome some rainfall, so that things will feel normal again. France is supposed to be gray and damp most of the time. Then you can really enjoy the warm, sunny days that come along, instead of finding them oppressive.

We've pretty much had to give up on the vegetable garden and outdoor plants. There are still a lot of tomatoes on the vines, but they are sun-damaged and blighted at this point. The kale and chard plants are puny and sad-looking. With everything that's been going on — driving back and forth several times a week to the computer store, figuring out how to order parts from internet sites and install them, researching dishwashers and getting a new one ordered — not to mention doing all the dishes by hand! — there just isn't enough time in the day. Having to carry the dog up and down stairs for the past two days has been stressful.

Life continues, however. The grape harvest, especially. Above is a photo of a winery that's just a ten-minute walk from our house. Obviously, it's not a tourist destination. At this point out in the vineyard, most of the white wine grapes — Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay — have been taken in now. Yes, those Chardonnay grapes on the north side of our yard have finally been harvested. The photos here show how mechanical harvesting machines leave the vines looking. The harvester shakes the vines hard enough that the ripe grapes fall off the stems (the stems that the grapes, or grains de raisin, grow on to form bunches, or grappes, is called la rafle in French, I think — I'm not sure if we have a word for that in English). The red grapes are still on the vines...