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July, 2009:

Digging Potatoes with Jeanine

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Potatoes in the Cave

Jeanine is an incredible lady- She’s 74 and has lived in Le Vignaud her entire life. When she asked me to help her dig her potatoes, I was more than happy to help. She is always giving me something, whether it’s fresh eggs from the chickens, or a nice warm meal in the evening on my way back from the garden and I’m always looking for an opportunity to reciprocate the generosity. She had about 200 or so ‘pieds’ of potatoes- some fifteen or so rows about three meters long each- all ready to be dug. She also has bad knees. The fact that she even planted them on her own is already amazing. Then, she surprised me once again when she held her own in the digging and dug row after row with no complaint.

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Garden Harvest

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Dirty Darren came by one Sunday afternoon to help with the garden. All the hard work was finally paying off, the garden was full, and it was time to begin the harvest. In late July, it’s time to pull and dry the onions, garlic, and shallots, as well as dig the potatoes. It was a great help to have an extra hand to harvest and pack kilo after kilo of these, which will hopefully last through the winter. There were also tomatoes, plenty of GIANT courgettes, beets, cucumbers, peppers, beans, and salad. I can’t help but to say again how incredible I find it that this much food can come from such a small piece of dirt, with truly minimal effort.

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Stone and Glass (New Stairs)

The New Stairs

Finally Finished!

Those things are better which are perfected by nature than those which are finished by art.
-Ciccero

Back in February when we cleared out the yard, we built some steps up the front path near the mailbox. Still, on the opposite side of the yard near the house, there was another drop-off with no proper way down. I always felt bad when Jeneane would come over and she couldn’t come down into the lower yard. If she wanted to come into the house she had to go the long way around through the driveway. I had been promising her I’d build some stairs to get down to the house since probably November or December. This is the story of Jeneane’s stairs.

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July Gardening Update

Holy Courgettes

Holy Courgettes!

In July, the big words on the tongue of every gardener were Tomatoes and Courgettes. In fact, after a few weeks of all you can eat style stuffing our faces, it was a challenge to get rid of them faster than they were coming out of the garden. It was a wonderful problem to have. We all had to get creative thinking up new dishes and finding new friends to share all the wonderful things coming from the garden.

Once again the garden was amazing me with the incredible amount of food that it produced. In the case of courgettes, from one plant you should get a fully gown squash every other day or two. I had planted eight plants in Jeanine’s garden and by now they were full-sized and producing like mad. That meant plenty of Pain aux Courgettes, Soupe aux Courgettes, Omelettes, Farcie, and more. The tomatoes began to turn red across the village somewhere around July 14. Might have been a coincidence, but it really felt like summer and the tomatoes knew it too.

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They Call Me “Bon Papa”

Finished Product

Bon Papa Brand Confiture

The wonderful cherry harvest was finally drawing to a close, and we had stuffed ourselves with as much of the fruit as possible before the rain the birds got to it. There still clung a few precious bundles of sweet fruit, and after three weeks of nearly daily visits to the cherry grove, I still wasn’t ready to surrender back to nature what remained of the year’s bounty.

After a few too many cherries eaten by the handful, eaten in pies, and in Clafoutis all over the village, there was still one rock left to uncover… Confiture.

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Clafoutis!

Finished Product

'Traditional' Cherry Clafoutis

Yes, there’s an exclamation mark in the title, that’s the way it needs to be.

Since late March when the cherry trees started blooming, I have been hearing about Clafoutis. Seems like every time the subject of cherries happens to come up (and often it is when the villages are all eying the multitude of cherry trees waiting for the fruit to ripen), a long conversation inevitably follows about how insanely delicious it is, how tasty it is, how fluffy it is, etc., etc., usually followed by a lot of lip smacking and drooling on the part of those in the know.

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Cherry Pickin’

I said to the [cherry] tree,
Sister, speak to me of Beauty.
And the [cherry] tree blossomed.

–Nikos Kazantzakis

Cherry Blossoms, Early March

Cherry Blossoms, Early March

Since late March when the cherry trees around the village bust into an amazing display of white or pink blossoms, we have been waiting and watching for the payoff.

Well, the time has finally come and we’ve been stuffed with cherries, filled buckets, pie pans, and jam jars and there’s no end in sight.

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French Gotic

French Gotic

Courtesy of Juli.

I think the photo says it all this time. Plenty of Kitch, Plenty of Class, Plenty of Le Vignaud Blue. Just wish the number 11 was more visible… With love, from Le Vignaud.

Bastille Day and the Tour de France

Happy Bastille Day everyone!

Don't ask where these came from...

Don't ask where these came from...

Caught the Tour De France today- What better way to spend the French national holiday? But, who knew the Tour de France had more cars than bicycles? Three hours of waiting and then all the bikes had passed in a matter of seconds. Had I blinked, I would have missed it. A little disappointing it was…

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Le Creusois

For weeks after my first arrival to Le Creuse, way back in February, I had been hearing about the fabled Creusois cake (which shares its name with the region). The flour used is made of ground hazelnuts and the concoction is advertised with the momentous “Once upon a time, there was a cake…” The recipe was developed by monks and is kept secret, known only to about 30 local bakers.

Un petit gateau

Un petit gateau

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