31 May 2021

Ready for planting

This is the last time you'll see the 2021 vegetable garden plot without anything growing in it —
at least until October or November. I hope.

For the past few days, Walt has been busy raking in soil amendments, configuring soaker hoses, and planting seedlings.

He set out 16 tomato plants. They had grown big in the greenhouse and some of them already had blossoms on them.

He also set out 10 Tuscan kale seedlings. They grew from seeds that I planted many months ago.
In the past, this variety of kale has grown well for us.

30 May 2021

Red flowers under blue(ish) skies

I don't know about you, but I'm slightly château'd and churched out. The weather has suddenly turned spring-like, qand as they keep saying on the TéléMatin weather reports, le printemps est arrivé. It would be about time. Maybe I'll come back from the past and live in the present for a while.

We slept with a window open last night. Walt got up early and said a cuckoo bird was perched in the top
of a tall tree in our yard and was making so much noise that it was impossible to sleep.

These pretty peonies — pivoines [pee-'vwahn] — were growing in the back yard when we came to live here
18 years ago. They're still going strong. I took these photos yesterday morning.

I just looked back through the blog and I see that the pivoines were in full bloom like this at the beginning of May
in 2006 and 2007. I remember that we had a very warm and sunny months of April in those years.
In other years, they've usually bloomed toward the end of May, as now.

Our skies are at least partly blue right now. High temperatures are in the low to mid-70s in ºF.

The roses in the photos above and below grow in our part-time neighbor's yard. She's been having a lot of work done on her house and we're wondering whether she's fixing it up for herself and her family or whether she might be getting ready to sell it. She lives in the Paris suburbs and has hardly been down here at all since the pandemic started. She's about my age (early 70s).

29 May 2021

Colombier, pigeonnier

The CNRTL dictionary, which I consult often, defines the French term colombier this way: « Endroit où l'on élève des pigeons. Synon. pigeonnier. » Pigeons [pee-'zhõ] and colombes [co-'lõb] are basically the same bird. The white pigeon is the one people are more likely to call a colombe (dove). Nowadays, the pigeons that live in cities have a nasty reputation, but they were domesticated as far back as ancient times and raised for food (adult pigeons, eggs, squab — a young pigeon called un pigeonneau in French) — as well as for their droppings, used as fertilizer in gardens and fields.

In the Middle ages only the noble classes had the right to own a colombier, which is a tower, frequently free-standing. The word derives from the Latin term colombarium. The Petit Robert dictionary marks colombier as vieux or littéraire. The modern, everyday term is pigeonnier. English "dovecote" derives from the word "dove," of course, and "cote," which is related to the word "cottage." Above is the colombier at the Château de Villesavin, near Chambord in the Loire Valley. Below is a photo looking up into the pigeonnier that shows the wooden roof beams and the little compartments ('pigeonholes") in which the pigeons nest.

Here are a few more detail photos that I took at Villesavin in 2006.

28 May 2021


“The delighfully modest Château de Villesavin lies discreetly on the southern edge of Chambord's forest, near Bracieux. A chip off the old block of Chambord is the way the château is frequently described — it would be more apt to compare it to a little piece of the monster's [i.e. Chambord's] roof that might have miraculously blown off in the wind and landed in the middle of these charming woods close to the Beuvron river.”

That's a quote from the Cadogan guide to the Loire Valley.

D'une grande forêt un petit bois voisin
Ici vit autrefois naître Villesavin
Qui, bien qu'ayant subi des ans le long outrage
Orne encore du Beuvron le champêtre rivage
Bâti en 1537 par N. Le Breton, sieur de Villandry
Secrétaire des finances du roy François 1er

Speaking of François 1er, here is his effigy displayed on the stone walls of the Château de Villesavin.

Jean Le Breton, a close aide to the king, also was behind the building of the Château de Villandry, 50 miles west.

Above and below, three more photos of Villesavin, which is privately owned.
It's about 20 miles north of Saint-Aignan and just 6 miles south of Chambord by car.

27 May 2021

Not Domfront...

Here's a place I've only ever seen one time. I even went inside.
The photos in this set start with a close-up and then gradually pull back and widen the view.
The last one is a composite image — a panorama. The question is: where is it? What's it called?

26 May 2021

Domfront : trois églises

The église Saint-Julien in Domfront was built in the 1920s on the site of an 18th century church that had been heavily damaged in a storm. It was consacrated in 1933.

This one of those churches that people really like or really hate, I think. I didn't take this photo — I grabbed it off Wikipédia (thanks...).

Saint-Julien is a reinforced-concrete structure built in the neo-byzantine style. The architect was a Parisian who also designed the Armenian cathedral in Paris and the église Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc in Versailles.

I did take the photo on the left and the one just below, both in May 2005.

I didn't go inside. It was open the first time I went to Domfront in 2005, but by the time of my second visit in 2006 it had been closed to the public because pieces of concrete had begun crashing down. It was too dangerous. The church was restored over a seven-year period and re-opened to visitors in 2013.

Here are three photos of the Domfront church called Notre-Dame-sur-l'Eau. It's about a thousand years older than Saint-Julien. It was built at a spot where the Varenne river was fordable back then.

I didn't take these photos of Notre-Dame-sur-l'Eau either, but grabbed them off Google Maps (thanks...) in street view. It's too bad, because the hotel we stayed in both times we were in Domfront is just 200 meters up the road. We couldn't go into many places in 2005 because we were traveling with our dog. I don't know what happened in 2006.

It is said that Thomas Becket, then Archbishop of Canterbury, preached a sermon here in the 11th century. In the 1830s, a big part of the building was torn down to make way for a new road, leaving the part you see here.

There's one more church in Domfront that I know of. It's called Saint-Front and is located in an old village just south of the main part of the town. I haven't been able to find out much about it except that it dates back to the 17th century. It looks good in this photo I grabbed off a tourism web site (thanks...).

This may well be my last post about Domfront for now, unless I see other photos that I can't resist posting. My plan is to move on tomorrow.

25 May 2021

Colorful stores, doors, and signs

We had another thunderstorm yesterday afternoon. I had gone out with the dog at 5 p.m. There was a cold northwest wind blowing through the vineyard, and a big dark cloud was headed our way. I heard thunder in the distance. We cut the walk short and headed back toward the house. Just as we got here, the bottom fell out. It was a close call.

Meanwhile, here are a few more "stray" photos from Domfront in Normandy. I like the colors, which are typically French — bold splashes of bright colors that contrast with the gray of the stone buildings and, often, the skies.

Steep hill. I wonder what's behind the red door.

There was a time when boucheries, charcuteries, and triperies were separate shops.
Now they're often combined into one shop, especially in small towns.

It looks like somebody might be living in this storefront.

I'm not at all sure what's behind these doors. A medical clinic? A convalescent home? A physical therapist's office?

Watch out for cars spraying gravel, and for slippery mud (de la boue).

Crêperie and pizzeria are easy to figure out. Do you know what andouille is?
It's a specialty of the town of Vire, about 20 miles north of Domfront.

By the way, our boiler turns itself off three or four times a day now, displaying a perte de flamme error message. It's the wind — some kind of blow-back, I guess — that extinguishes it. So far, it always restarts, but I found it with the error message flashing on its display screen this morning when I got up and the house is pretty cold. The temperature outside right now is 7.4ºC — 45ºF. — and in here it's 63ºF. An hour later: I just had to go reset it again...

24 May 2021

Bis et re-bis

It's raining this morning. And Bert is up to his old tricks. I think the mouse he brought in has so far avoided capture. I'm at the point where the photos here become basically random. Domfront again. Green landscapes. Some old stones. A modern church. Just pretend you're walking around the old town and seeing the sights.

23 May 2021

Domfront landmarks...

...and news on the home front:

  • Bertie is down in the entryway stalking some kind of little rodent that he brought in live half an hour ago.
  • I got a haircut yesterday for the first time in several months. I had it cut very short because who knows when the next opportunity to have it cut will be.
  • We had a loud and rainy thunderstorm yesterday afternoon, but it didn't last long.
  • Walt went to the market yesterday and brought home some strawberries, a bundle of white asparagus spears, a bunch of radishes of various colors and sizes, and a steak to grill for today's lunch.
  • It's almost time for me to go out and walk around in the vineyard with Tasha.
  • The temperature outdoors right now is 7.9ºC (46ºF). That's close to the house where it's warmer than it will be out among the vines.

This is the hotel where we stayed the two times we went to Domfront (May 2005, June 2006).
It's the Hôtel de France and it's part of the Logis (de France) network of independently owned hotels.
It looks like you can get a double room there for between 75 and 100 euros a night these days.

Shops and houses on the Place St-Julien in 2005

La Poste

Le Palais de Justice

La Mairie

Le Monument aux Morts