Wednesday, April 01, 2015

First day of April

I want it to be warmer, but it's only April 1, so there's little hope. Only a fool's hope. I wish I had some elaborate prank to pull, but it's not in me. Too much work. I'm watching the grass grow, waiting for a stretch of relatively dry weather. I've got to service the mower (oil, blade) and remove mole hills from the lawn before making the first pass. Any day now.

The dried artichoke flowers are releasing their hairy seeds.

And there are little piles of things here and there that need to be cleaned up, like these dead artichokes on our pathway. I cut them down, but I didn't dispose of them yet. Baby steps.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Blowin' a gale

I don't know how people live with the mistral or the tramontane down in the south of France. Those winds blow regularly and with greater force that we're seeing up here right now. But the sound of constant wind and wind gusts makes me jumpy. Maybe you get used to it.

The average winds at 7h21 this morning where we are (red dot).

Our wind comes on the edge of a weather system that is blowing in off the North Atlantic, over the British Isles and northern coast of France. It's a lot stronger up north than here, luckily for us. These systems are normal and we get them regularly, but with much less wind most of the time.

The above map shows that the average wind speed this morning where we live is around 30km/hr (just under 20mph). Another map on the same web site shows the gusts to be between 40 and 50km/hr (25 and 30mph). That's not much compared to what they're getting in northern France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and England. But it's still annoying.

Just for fun, I converted 30km/hr into light years per hour -- the online converter has an option for light years because, well, for those times when you just need to know. Astronomically speaking, our winds are blowing very, very slowly, at 0.00000000000317106299 light years/hr. That's just slightly faster than 3 trillionths of a light year per hour.

Monday, March 30, 2015

You know it's spring when...

...the forsythia is blooming. This is the big forsythia that I trimmed last spring. I mostly trimmed from the bottom, making the bush less round but leaving it tall. This year, after the flowers fade, I plan to shorten it dramatically.

Forsythia on a sunny morning last week.

You may remember that last year I cut a second forsythia down to the ground. It was not as healthy as the first one and there was fungus growing on the ground around the stems. Since I cut it, it has come back and is now flowering. It's still very small, so we'll keep and eye on it. If it continues to be unhealthy, I may just dig it out of the ground. Or, at least, try.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Rainy day

That's what we are expecting today, but it hasn't really started yet. It's dark (because of the hour change), windy, and overcast, but not very wet. A look at the radar shows the precipitation just to our north. And it's relatively warm at ten degrees (fifty fahrenheit). Film at eleven.

Rosemary beetles in the rosemary bushes.

I didn't know what kind of beetles these are, but they were messing around in the rosemary bush when I was taking pictures the other day. A quick internet search revealed them to be the common rosemary beetle (chrysolina americana) and are, surprisingly enough, found on rosemary, lavender, and thyme plants throughout western Europe from the Mediterranean basin to the British isles.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

What's on tv

I understand that this actor, Paul Walker, was killed in a car accident a couple of years ago. Now his last film, the latest in that "Fast and Furious" series, is being released in April. I've not seen any of the movies in that series, but I did hear about his accident back when it happened.

Vin Diesel remembers Paul Walker.

What not to watch this week. Our tv magazine rates shows and movies using a star system: one star is ok, four stars is best. They use another symbol for really bad movies: the red dot. It means "à zapper" (change the channel!). The editors often include comments about the movie that make me laugh.

It's shark-tastic! This week's bomb is "Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark." I just realized as I typed this that "mecha" must be short for "mechanical" as I read that the premise of the film is the construction of a giant mechanical shark to do battle with a giant real shark that threatens the lives of humanity.

Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark. American made-for-tv movie. Directed by Emile Edwin Smith, 2014. First showing.
With Christopher Judge, Elisabeth Röhm, Matt Lagan, and Hannah Levien.
A giant shark threatens humanity. The government creates a robot copy of the monster to confront it.
An improbable bomb of a film, badly acted and badly directed, but which, in going all the way to absurdity, becomes frequently hilarious.
For adults and teenagers over ten.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Get that lizard

The lizards are coming out to play. It still seems a little cold, but I've seen a lizard or two on the rock walls and the sunny side of the house in recent days. Callie has seen them, too. She likes to flush them out of their hiding places in the rocks and chase them as they scurry away. It's fun to watch as she goes from spot to spot looking for lizards.

A lizard clings to the side of the house behind the rosemary bushes, hiding from Callie.

If I say the word "lizard" in front of Callie, she'll go into hunt mode, looking in all the familiar places trying to find one. And, if there's one, there must certainly be more. She actually caught a lizard once; it shed its tail, as they do, and got away.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

And thyme

You knew it was coming. Le thym (thyme) is another Mediterranean herb that does relatively well in our cooler climate. It also is planted on the south-facing wall of the house to maximize warmth and sunlight. Fresh thyme is very good, but we find that we use dried thyme more often because it's easier and just as good. Depends on the dish.

Fresh thyme. The brighter green leaves are this year's spring growth.

So there are the Simon and Garfunkel herbs. Our garden, like many around us, also has a large laurier sauce (bay laurel tree) the leaves of which we use frequently. I mentioned that I've also grown sarreitte (savory), basilic (basil), cerfeuil (chervil) and, less successfully, ciboulette (chives). Now I'm getting hungry.