Sunday, April 22, 2018

Asperges

The asparagus guy at Saturday's market had his stand set up and was selling asparagus. Our local asparagus is white and sometimes what they call violettes (violet, like these). It's the same plant as green asparagus, but the spears are grown under dirt so that they don't get any sun and can't photosynthesize. When allowed to grow up into the sunlight, they turn green pretty quickly.

White asparagus that are allowed a minimum exposure to the sun develop a hint of purple color at the tips and are called "violettes."

The price was high at nine euros/kilo. That works out to about US$5.50/lb. Over the next few weeks, though, the price should fall as more and more asparagus becomes available. Unlike green spears, the white asparagus has to be peeled before cooking. The skins are fibrous and inedible. I'll steam these to get them close to done, then finish them off on the grill. Yum!

The same guy who sells these asparagus sells his locally-grown strawberries, too, but they're not ready yet. Another couple of weeks for those. I saw strawberries for sale that were grown in Spain and others from the Lot-et-Garonne (just south and east of Bordeaux), but I prefer the local stuff, so I'll wait.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Fading

The tulips I planted last fall were a big success, but now they're beginning to fade. The flowers are opening wide and the petals are drooping and beginning to fall. But coming behind them are the blue Rozanne geraniums. They're getting bigger, but it's too early for flowers right now.

Some of the tulips, like this one, are still looking good. But not for long.

I'm going to the market in Saint-Aignan this morning to see if the guy that sells his locally-grown asparagus this time of year has any yet. The first asparagus of the season can be a little pricey, but the price comes down pretty quickly. We've seen asparagus in the supermarkets already, but it's likely that it's coming from other regions to the south.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Babe in the woods

Tasha's just over a year old now, but she still exhibits certain puppy behaviors. Some are cute, some are annoying. We don't do any rigorous training with the dog, but there are still things she needs to learn and we work on them using praise and correction. A good growl or bark from one us will stop Tasha and put her in a down-stay. Temporarily.

Tasha on one of her favorite paths through the woods.

She still likes to nip at my heels, especially in the morning. I have to be more aggressive about stopping that. She's learned to be pretty good on our off-leash walks, although I need to reinforce the stop, come, and stay commands. She really wants to follow vehicles on the dirt road and that's not good. Overall, though, things are going well. We'll continue to work on our commands and play skills through the summer months.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Before and after

I'm still working on the grass. Today I'll cut the North 40 and the strips of grass outside our back gate and along the road. Those sections should be less work than what I've done so far because the grass isn't as tall and thick as it was in the other sections. Then the first cut will be done. I'll probably have to do it all again in a week, but it will be much, much easier.

Before. The path divides the back yard into the West 40 on the left and the South 40 on the right . The North 40 is in the rear left of the photo, along the north side of the house.

After. I still have the edges to trim. And the path needs to be weeded. One step at a time.

Ken made a first pass in the garden plot with the rototiller. It wasn't easy as the weeds had really taken hold. We talked about how we need to cover the plot with weed-preventive fabric or tarps this fall. Just covering the garden with dead leaves doesn't work all that well.

Before. A section of the South 40 that includes a little curvy path and several shrubs to mow around.

After. The curvy path has filled in with little blue flowers.

I dug up the little planting strip that circles the "real fake well" out back. We have a variety of salvia (sage) growing in pots that I'm planning to put in that spot. I also noticed that one of our apple trees is starting to blossom.

It's apple blossom time.

I took these photos in the early morning, just around sunrise, so the light is a little dim. I worried that the same photos taken in the bright sun with shadows would probably come out too contrasted.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Nice weather

I don't want to jinx it, but it actually feels like summer this week. And the good weather is predicted to last through the weekend. I got the first section of grass cut yesterday. It included the tallest, thickest patch of overgrown grass in the yard, so that's the South 40 done. The next section, what I call the West 40, will get done today. Then the North 40 will be finished tomorrow (unless I have a great burst of energy and do it today).

I don't have any new photos of the yard, so this shot of a pruned grape vine parcel at sunrise will have to do.

I also got some flower beds cleaned up and planted some herb seeds in a third bed. Last year's cerfeuil (chervil) reseeded itself and we've already used some in the kitchen, but I added some more seeds for a second crop. I also have vegetable seedlings sprouting in the greenhouse. It feels good to be outside getting the garden and yard cleaned up and trimmed instead of just watching it languish under rainy skies.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Prune and grind

It looks like the pruning in the vineyards is winding down. Right now the workers are wrapping the single remaining canes around the horizontal guide wires and fastening them in place. New growth will rise from the buds along those canes.

Pruned, tied, and ready to grow. You can see some of the pruned canes on the ground waiting to be mulched.

The canes that were pruned off have been lined up on the ground between the rows, and now they're being ground into mulch. It won't be long before the green leaves sprout.

On the home front, I'm ready to start cutting grass today. The sticks and branches are all cleaned up and the machines (lawnmower and rototiller) have fresh motor oil in them. I may have to get the weed-eater out to cut down the tallest and thickest grass before running the mower over it.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Puss in boots

I wish I had had the camera with me during my regular afternoon walk with Tasha on Sunday. As we left the yard and headed out into the vineyard, I noticed that Bert the cat was tagging along. I figured he'd stop following as we passed the pond because he likes to hunt around the edges of the water. But no, he kept up.

This is what I call the "South 40" and will be the first section of the yard that I cut on Tuesday.

There was no lagging behind. Bert trotted happily along side me during the whole walk, even when Tasha and I turned off and headed through the vines toward the woods. He walked with us through the tall grass and then back to the road and finally through the gate back home. I've never seen such a thing. A cat going on a walk with a dog (Ken says Bert did this once with Callie. Once).

I did get some clean-up done in the back yard on Sunday. I collected two wheelbarrows-full of sticks and twigs that were blown down during winter's winds. There are still more out on the north side, so I'll be working on that today. And I'll be changing the oil in the mower and tiller. I think that Tuesday and Wednesday will be grass-cutting days.