Sunday, March 01, 2015

Bottles at sunrise

Many of the growers around us make use of old mineral water bottles in their vineyard parcels. They cut the tops and bottoms off and fit the bottle over young vines that are replacing older vines in an established parcel. I suppose that this not only protects the vine from critters but also makes a little greenhouse effect, shielding the young shoot from wind and cold. But I'm only guessing.

Water bottles seem to glow in the morning sun.

I cleaned out under our carport on Saturday. It's the place where I cut and store firewood and kindling each year. But not any more. Now it will be home to the old Peugeot as the other car takes its place in the garage. If all goes according to plan, I won't be cutting much wood in the future. We want to replace our wood burning stove with a wider model to accommodate 50mm logs. That length is more readily available from wood vendors whereas the 33mm logs we use now are not (or if they are, they're more costly). That's one of a few summer projects we have in mind for the house. Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

What's on tv

This week we see the debut of a new comedy series called Péplum. In French, the word péplum describes any show or film that takes place in ancient Rome or Greece, what we Americans might call a "toga and sandals" show or movie. The word actually comes from the ancient Greek for a woman's tunic.

The series stars a number of the standard French comedy personalities of the day, including Franck Dubosc, François Berléand, Kad Merad, Michèle Laroque, Manu Payet, Bruno Solo, and Yvan Le Bolloc'h.

This week's magazine also includes a memorial to recently deceased star, Roger Hanin.

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.

Well, it had to happen. I can't find a movie with a red dot this week. Instead, I'll share this one-star Canadian made-for-tv movie, if for no other reason than its alliterative title: Pop Star Puppy.

Pop Star Puppy. Made-for-tv. Canadian. Directed by A. Van Slee. 2013.
With Tyler Cook, Louie Anderson.
Twelve year-old Austin discovers that the dog his father gave him has a gift: it knows how to sing. Austin decides to enter the dog in a television talent show.
A television movie that spares no cliché, stirs up one feel-good emotion after another, and is ultra-predictable. All told, this film is tiresome.
For all audiences.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Down in the valley

Callie and I haven't walked down along the river in a long time. It's just too wet this time of year. I'm sure I sound like a broken record. And when it's foggy there's not much to see. We do go down into the valley through the woods in the afternoons. The path down is slippery with mud, but Callie goes mostly through the woods and I tip-toe along the path's edges to keep from falling on my butt.

Looking across the fog-filled river valley.

We cross a stream bed at the bottom of the path. The ground there is spongy, a combination of serious mole activity and the saturated conditions. But then we climb up a little onto a grassy path before getting to the road that leads up back up the hill to home. After all the mud, it's nice to walk on the paved road.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Seeing red

It may be because there's still a lot of pruning to do in these sections, but in certain light the vineyards look tinged with red. I see the pruners out every day in all kinds of weather working hard. Right now it's very wet out there and quite muddy in places. Not a very comfortable work environment.

Low diffuse sunlight shows up the red color in the grape vines.

It's getting to be time to start working in the yard again to clean up winter's mess and finish pruning shrubs and trees. Right now it's too wet to do much; the ground is squishy, especially in the mole towns. I particularly want to dig up and divide the rhubarb before it sprouts. I may have to suck it up and get out there despite the mud.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Measuring the rain

For over ten years now, I've had a rain gauge in the back yard. Ken and I dutifully (more or less) record each day's precipitation and I keep a spreadsheet that dates back to October 2004. It's one of those things that you have time to do when you're retired.

Six and a half millimeters (about a quarter of an inch) fell overnight Monday-Tuesday.

The actual gauges have come and gone. We've had this one for a few years now. It used to have a holder, but that broke, so now the gauge sits in a hole in the ground. That's why it looks dirty and marked up. But it works pretty well, as long as I remember to move it before I cut the grass. I haven't forgotten, yet.

When we first arrived here in 2003, our region was in a drought. We've noticed, and our records clearly show, that the annual rainfall since then has been steadily increasing. We are no longer in a drought. Interestingly, I think that the increase in mole activity is directly related to the increased rainfall. We barely had any moles the first few years, and now they're everywhere. Wetter ground is easier to burrow in, and I'm sure there are more worms and larvae to feed on than there used to be when it was drier. Is it wrong to hope for another drought cycle?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Water tower above the fog

Here's another photo from Sunday morning. We had clear skies and low fog in the river valley at sunrise. From the vineyards behind the house I could see across the valley to the other side and this château d'eau (water tower).

This château d'eau sits on the heights across the river from our town.

This is a typical style for water towers in France (and elsewhere in Europe, from what I read). They're strikingly different from the steel constructions I'm used to seeing in the United States. Still, tower design in both France and the US varies a lot and they can be amazing, even artful, additions to the landscape.

Monday, February 23, 2015


Sunday morning was chilly and we had frost. I noticed a very strong smell of smoke out in the vineyard during the morning walk. High pressure must have kept the smoke from peoples' wood fires close to the ground. In fact, I could see a layer of smoke and fog drifting slowly across the vines.

This section of the vineyard is not yet pruned, but it won't be long now.

The river valley was completely fogged in, but we were pretty much clear up on the heights, as you can see from the photo. Except for the "smog" layer. Today, the high is gone and we have off and on rain.