Saturday, September 20, 2014

The bloom is off the rose

Almost. They're still blooming, and probably will through November. But somehow they look different from summer roses. For one thing, the flowers don't seem to last as long with the petals falling off very quickly this time of year. Then, wind and rain take their toll.

End of summer roses in a neighbor's garden. They're still pretty.

We drove through a doozy of a thunderstorm yesterday on our way to lunch with friends in Loches, a town about forty minutes south of us. We could see the dark clouds and crisp lightning bolts ahead of us as we drove, then it began to rain very hard and the car was pelted with small hail stones. It lasted less than ten minutes and the skies turned blue again. We were a little frazzled, but lunch (delicious!) calmed our nerves. The wine helped, too.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Harvest time

I've noticed in the last two days that there is some hand-harvesting going on in select parcels of the vineyards. It's that time of year. I ran into the mayor yesterday and she told me that the machine harvesting will begin today. So, for the next couple of weeks, we will hear the familiar hum of the harvesters as they gather this year's grapes. Let's hope it's a good year!

More sauvignon blanc, just about ripe for the picking.

She also mentioned that there will be a fox hunt out back again this Sunday. All that means for me is that I have to get out with Callie early in the morning to avoid getting tangled up with the hounds and the guys with guns. General small game hunting starts up next weekend, but they only hunt on Sundays, and don't start until nine in the morning, so it's not at all an inconvenience for us.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday

I'm starting to run low on old photos for this weekly meme. At least on photos that I'm willing to post here. For today, here's one from 1961. I was close to being two years old. It's a studio portrait, but in black and white, although color photography did exist by then. Maybe my parents were nostalgic for the good old days, you know, before Dorothy landed in Oz. At least it's a photo; I would never have been able to hold that pose for a painter.

Baby's first bow-tie. And suspenders.

If I remember correctly, the large framed (yes, really) version of this photo was colorized. Before Ted Turner did it to movies, they used to do it to photographs. I don't know where that version is, but it must be somewhere. This one is wallet-sized. I suppose that now-a-days not many people carry actual paper photos in their wallets. All the pictures they could want can be stored on their mobile phones.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fleur de lys

Many older unreinforced masonry buildings are retrofitted with tie rods to counteract the lateral forces that tend to push their walls apart. Anchor plates on the outsides of opposing walls are connected by a steel rod that runs through the building. The vast majority of anchor plates I've seen are made in the form of an "X", but I've also seen them with a little more flourish. As they're normally visible on a building's exterior, they can add a decorative touch, like this one that I spotted in Ligueil a couple of weeks ago.

This anchor plate is in the form of the fleur de lys, one of the more recognizable icons of France.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce

Have it your way. Oh, wait, that's that other place. The Canadian one. Never mind. The golden arches arrived in the town across the river from us a few years ago. They're strategically located on the road between the autoroute exit and the zoo. We haven't been, although a few days ago I saw a sign in town advertising their Montbéliard burger. Montbéliard is a small city in the Franche-Comté region of northeastern France near the border with Switzerland. It's mainly known as the place where Montbéliard sausage comes from, a smoked pork sausage that's among my favorites. Montbéliard is apparently known for dairy cows, too. I wondered if the restaurant was making smoked pork burgers. Alas, no. The burgers are made from the dairy cows.

This sign is not for the restaurant closest to us.

If this year is anything like 2013, at least 43.6% of the beef* (100% pure muscle) in that burger is from the race of cows known as "Montbéliard," raised in France. The rest (the majority) of the "beef" in the burger comes either from Irish, Dutch, or Italian cows, or any combination thereof. I suppose that when the Montbéliard cows are ready to retire from their dairy careers, 43.6% of them are sold to that burger place. According to the restaurant's web site, they have very rigorous criteria for their "beef," a word that they are very careful to tell readers is defined by whichever laws are currently on the books. You can look them up if you like reading French legislation. The web site also points out that the muscles used for the "beef" come mostly from the front end of the cow; cuts like the shoulder, neck, and short ribs, for example. Or some other ones that are like those. Mostly. Bon appétit !

*To be fair, the web site says that this is a general figure applied to all the "beef" they bought for their restaurants in France. Last year. It probably doesn't apply to each individual burger. Or this year.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Geometry was one of my favorite subjects in high school, along with algebra, biology, and French. I really got the logic of shapes, angles, arcs, and their relationships (as described by algebraic formulas). Pythagoras was a friend of mine. I see shapes everywhere I look. I am a graphic learner, seeing things (even words) in my mind. If I see something, I can usually remember it, whereas if I hear something, I'm less likely to retain it. It's no surprise then that English and literature were my worst subjects. Concepts without physical form were difficult for me (like trying to interpret the intent of an author, especially a poet. Shakespeare was lost on me). Back then, I couldn't write a coherent essay to save my life.

The steeple on the church of Saint-Martin in Ligueil rises above geometric shapes in the back streets of town.

I was better at French than I was at English. Partly because the level of high school French (for Americans, anyway) is much more elementary than high school English. And partly because, at that level, French was a series of formulas, and the words were little pictures in my head. Still, I never failed a subject, and always managed to get good grades somehow. Some might have said that I was a good test-taker, being able to figure out most of the correct answers without actually knowing them, if that makes sense.

It wasn't until computers came along in my adult life that I could actually get a handle on writing. Typing and seeing my words on a screen almost as fast as I thought them made a huge difference for me. That, and the ease of editing, or regrouping, the words. Again, it's partly a graphical thing, I think, like geometry.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Peugeot in pink

I saw this bicycle on the street in Ligueil when I was wandering around the center of town a couple of weeks ago. Here in the countryside, most people will just lean their bikes up against a wall while they run into a store or a bank. I seldom see them locked up. I'm sure that in larger towns cyclists use locks, but they're a rarer sight here.

A single-speed bike, with fenders! I think I see a lock under the seat, but it doesn't look like it's attached to anything but the bike.

I mentioned to the bread lady a day or so ago that I was enjoying our run of summery weather. "Ça va mal finir," she said. "It's going to end badly." She was talking about the forecast for the coming week: higher temperatures and then thunderstorms. We shall see.