28 July 2017

Shades of red

Walt went over to the vets' yesterday and bought a product called Nexgard for Natasha. It's a Frontline replacement that protects the dog from fleas and ticks. This morning, I can tell that Natasha is doing better. She's not scratching now. That's a relief.

Here are some photos of red flowers I've taken recently — a geranium, a rose, and some poppies.

I like the different shades and hues of red in these flowers.

We are supposed to finally get some warm weather again this weekend. The tomato plants in our garden really need heat and sun at this point. It's been eight days since our high temperature last hit 80ºF (27ºC). We want summer back, with sunshine and open doors and windows. This past week has been more like October than July.

27 July 2017

Elephant bush — Portulacaria afra

Natasha woke me up at 4:30 this morning. I was definitely not ready to get out of my comfortable bed, but I was afraid Nature might be calling. Calling the dog, I mean. I had no choice but to get up and stumble around in the dark to dress for a trip outdoors.

So I'm pretty tired this morning, and I don't have a lot to blog about right now. The weather has been gray and damp for days now. Anyway, that's just one problem. The other is that Natasha seems to have fleas. She gets Frontline monthly, but it seems to have lost at least part of its effectiveness against dog fleas.

Oh, yesterday we were talking about rooting plant cuttings. The photos here show some that I've rooted over the past month or two. They are cuttings from my elephant bush plant, or dwarf jade, that CHM gave me many years ago. It grew nicely in San Francisco, outdoors. When I left California to come live in France, I had to leave it behind. I left it with CHM. In 2004 he brought me a cutting.

In 2017, I've taken some more cuttings and started a bunch of new plants. Portulacaria afra is easy to root, or clone. You take cuttings, let them dry for a day or two, and then stick them in soil. They grow, as you can see above. To the right is a 2012 photo I took of the plant that I took the cuttings from this spring. It started from a single small sprig of CHM's plant. It was already eight years old then.

By the way, I was thinking about the word route that we discussed yesterday, and its pronunciation. It's probably complicated because it's a French word that has not yet been entirely assimilated into English. Thus the two common pronunciations, rowt and root.

26 July 2017

Hortensias ? Or hydrangeas?

Walt took cuttings from a big hydrangea bush in our yard a few years ago. He rooted them in water. Then he grew them in pots for a while, until he thought they were ready to be planted in the ground. Now they are growing in beds in front of our garage.

Another name for the plant is "hortensia" — and that's the name in French. Ce sont des hortensias. Hydrangeas are native to eastern Asia (many species) and North America (a few species).

Hortensia is not a botanical or scientific name for the plant. That name is hydrangea. Hortensia is a horticultural term that describes the hydrangea hybrids that we plant in our yards.

Above are some hortensias as depicted by the French réaliste/intimiste painter Henri Fantin-Latour  (1836-1904).

25 July 2017


Everything went smoothly yesterday. The Peugeot was a pleasure to drive, and I made the trip to Montrichard and back with no trouble — not that it's very far. I have made a wager that spending about a thousand euros on repairs for the old Peugeot will be a good investment. They say that keeping an old car running is cheaper than buying a new one (or even a used one), and I'm hope that "they" are right. I wouldn't buy a new car, and buying a used car would be time-consuming (have to find one like I want) and I might just be buying somebody else's headaches.

One of the most plentiful wildflowers that grows in the vineyard here is Queen Anne's lace.

Over in Montrichard, the dentist, Dr. Klotz (pronounced more or less like "klutz"), quickly re-repaired the filling that he had first repaired a couple of weeks ago but had broken (partially) again. It only took him about 20 minutes, and he didn't charge me for the visit. The original visit, by the way had cost 90 euros (compared to the standard 30 euro fee for a cleaning and exam).

Here's a flower going, I think, to seed. When I took the photo I noticed red-and-black insects hiding inside.

Of course, I get 65% of those costs back from the national health plan, so the filling repair cost me only about 30 euros. Remember, the standard fee for seeing a doctor here is 25 euros, and it had been only 23 euros until July 1, when it went up. And we get 65% or 70% of that back from insurance too. So there's no reason not to go see a dentist or doctor when you feel the need.

What we call "Queen Anne's lace" is actually the wild form of the carrotla carotte sauvage in French.

I mentioned "green mayonnaise" — mayonnaise verte — yesterday. It's a regular mayonnaise except that it's made with vegetable (olive, canola, sunflower) oil that you've poured over fresh herbs (just the leaves) like parsley, tarragon, basil, or dill and then blitzed in a blender or with a stick blender. 

La mayonnaise verte made with pureed basil and parsley leaves

I've posted about home-made mayonnaise several times over the years. It's really good with poached fish, asparagus, steamed potatoes, cold meats like chicken or pork, etc. I learned how to make it in the 1970s when I was spending a lot of time with a French family. It's different (less sweet) and much better than commercially made mayo.

The wild carrot is often considered to be a noxious weed. Some people feel that way about all carrots.

Our weather is pretty chilly right now. We've again gone from blazing heat back to temperatures that feel autumnal. We've had some rainfall too, which we needed. I think summertime weather will return someday soon, but you never know. Often August is our hottest month, and September is often very pleasant too. This year, we may have had all our hot weather in June and July.

24 July 2017

Teeth and clutches and green mayonnaise

Today I have an 8:30 dentist's appointment over in Montrichard, which is 10 or 12 miles downriver from us. I broke a filling a while back. I had an appointment a couple of weeks ago and the dentist repaired the filling, but it broke again. I'm hoping the second time will be the charm. But as they say, jamais deux sans trois...

I'll be driving the Peugeot over to Montrichard, because it now has a new clutch. We picked it up from the mechanic's on Friday. Yesterday morning I took it out for a test drive — pleasure jaunt, really, just because I enjoy driving it. I went to places like Châteauvieux, Faverolles-en-Berry, and Lye (where I bought some good bread at the bakery) — about 25 miles of driving in all.

I'm hoping we'll be able to keep the little Peugeot in running order for many more years. I realized recently that we have driven it only 5,000 kilometers, or 3,000 miles, since I had the timing belt replaced in February 2015. The car is nearly 17 years old.

The pictures here are ones I took on Saturday morning, when we had such a spectacular rainbow out over the vineyard. Yesterday, by the way, was Natasha the Shetland sheepdog's five-month-iversary. She's becoming less a puppy and more a dog. In other words, she's settling in and calming down.

We made fish and chips for lunch yesterday. To accompany the fish, I made what is called une mayonnaise verte. I read different recipes for it in books and on the internet. Some called for blanching fresh herbs — we had basil and parsley, but dill or tarragon would be good too — in boiling salted water and then pureeing the leaves. I decided to go the simple route and just puree the raw, fresh leaves in the blender with vegetable oil, and then make the mayonnaise with that oil. It was good with the fish.