Le dechet, la poubelle and how France has taught me to go green!

Strawberries and permaculture garden in France.

Some of the garbage we produce becomes plant food. Just look at this backyard strawberry in January! Vive le compost! As for the rest of the waste, we are working on it! Read on....


TODAY'S WORD:


le déchet (day-shay)

    : garbage, waste, rubbish

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc
Download MP3 or Wave File

Le meilleur déchet, c'est celui que l'on ne produit pas.
The best kind of garbage is that which is not produced. 
                            -"déchet" entry from French Wikipedia

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

I am hunched over our kitchen sink tossing the contents of our trash bag from one side of the évier to the other. Chicken bones, cheese wrappers, orange peels, a pair of shoes with holes in the sole, coffee capsules (la honte!)....

Up close and personal, our poubelle is easily under examination. Now to figure out how to quit making so much trash! If rummaging through the garbage seems extreme, you should have seen me reading. Burning through the Zero Waste Home ebook left me hungry for more. So I read every post on Béa's Zero Waste blog, which made me even more affamé! (At which point I devoured all the readers' comments, at the end of each blog post.) 

Saperlipopette! What's come over me? If not regret for decades of wasteful living! But guilt only ads to all the heaps of trash, and besides, the author of  Zero Waste Home would not have us feeling bad about ourselves--or trying to attempt the impossible (zero waste IS an impossibility, but we can all further reduce our consumption). 

Tossing the chicken bones back into the garbage (and chucking the orange peels into our compost bowl beside the sink... while still debating about the shoes and the coffee capsules), I am disheartened yet reminded just how far I've come--this, thanks to living in Europe. When you live in France you are automatically waste conscious.  Here are three ecological practices you'll find in the Héxagone. (Please add more from your own observations):

NO GARBAGE DISPOSALS
The first thing I noticed when I moved into a French home was the absence of a garbage disposal. Just where did the fruit and vegetable peels go? And where did we empty our plates? Watching my host family scrape parts of their plates into a bowl and the other part in the trash, I must have hesitated when my turn came to cover the dry contents of the garbage with the saucy remains of my boeuf bourgignon (and, here, another difference comes to mind: there is much less left on a French plate when it comes time to empty it! The French even coined a verb: saucer = to sop up the sauce on the plate, with bread. Smaller portions, sympathy for the cook, and a respect for food leave little room for waste--even if modern day France is changing in all three regards).

"How much tidier it was to empty it down the drain!" I must have thought, back then. And I remember putting "garbage disposal" on my wish list as a new bride. Thankfully we never got around to getting one, and I gradually adapted to all the trash processing. The day I began my own garden, bingo! BLACK GOLD!, I could appreciate what all that compost was for! (Now if I could only find a way to use the chicken bones and mussel shells in the garden, without attracting our resident sangliers!)

FEWER CLOTHES DRYERS
Another memory of my host family is my French mom's way of doing laundry. She had one of those handy étendoirs which she kept in la salle de bains or near the fireplace, depending. Because we lived in Lille, in the freezing north, it took forever to dry clothes "the old-fashioned way." Oftentimes, my pants were still damp when returned to my room. I wondered if the undry clothes would grow mold within the neat and tidy pile in which they were delivered? Best to trust my French laundress and be very grateful! After doing my own laundry and cooking for years, it was a luxury to once again be logé, nourri, et blanchi

When I moved to France for good, in 1992, Jean-Marc and I bought a clothes dryer following the birth of our two children. It helped with all those little baby outfits. But when le sèche-linge broke down, by the time Jackie and Max were 7 and 9, we never bothered to fix it, and naturally returned to our clothesline for a two-in-one check-off: laundry dried (check), a meditative moment outdoors (check!) 

LIGHTS OFF!
Before I had the chance to work for myself here at home (thank you so much for reading my blog posts!) I worked in three professional offices. The one thing the engineering company, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Swedish-owned vineyard had in common was a lights off policy. With enough natural light streaming into the offices, there was no need further brighten the room, except if a bathroom didn't have a big window, or when we worked till closing (many office workers are still in the bureau at 7 p.m. or "after dark" in winter.)

HABITUDES ECOLOGIQUES
From bring your-own-bag to the supermarket to those timed light-switches in French bathrooms (that often go off, leaving you in the dark to search for papier toilette)... I could go on about French ecological habitudes, except that to do so would take away from another precious resource of yours and mine: precious time!

Thank you for taking 10 minutes out of your day (more, when you take the time to comment!) each time you read one of these posts. I appreciate this very much! I join you in trying to find a better balance in life--one way being to eliminate the superflux! I leave you with the following quote by a famous Polish composer (and partner to Georges Sand. I wonder if his words influenced her writing?):

"Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art." -Frédéric Chopin

La dernière chose, c'est la simplicité. Après avoir joué une immense quantités de notes et de notes, c'est la simplicité qui sort avec tout son charme, comme le dernier sceau de l'art.

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

vive! = long live!
un évier = sink, kitchen sink, wet bar
la honte! = for shame!
la poubelle = trash can, waste bin
affamé(e) = hungry, starving 
saperlipopette = my goodness! see blog entry
le sanglier = wild boar, wild hog
la salle de bains = bathroom
le sèche-linge =
l'Héxagone (m) = synonym for France
une habitude = habit

Wish to speak French fluently? 30-Day French will teach you everything you need to know to speak French on your next trip to France with 30 lessons based on real-life conversations. Click here.

  Kristi in the forest garden

I have been trying to simplify my life since the day I moved to France. Twenty-two years later, and it sometimes feels like I am only beginning.  But when I stop and look around I begin to see the bones of authenticity. And even as my home is cleared... I want to be outside, nearer and nearer to the birds.

Pictured above: the permaculture garden I am building while my husband continues to plant his vineyard. See more pictures in this gallery--and a short clip of Smokey!

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


How to say zipper + recycle or repair your shoes! + Comps-sur-Artuby

Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse, French-Word-A-Day.com
A cobbled path leading to church in the village of Comps-sur-Arturby. More photos at the end of this edition.


Today we are talking about repairing or recycling clothing. Please join the discussion, sharing your experience and ideas for staying stylishly up-to-date--while minding ecology and the economy.

Mas de la Perdrix - visit this charming rental in the south of FranceProvence Villa Rental Luberon luxury home; 4 bedrooms, 5 baths; gourmet kitchen, covered terrace & pool. Views of Roussillon. Click here.  

 

une fermeture éclair (fair-meh-tyur-ay-kler)

    : zipper

 

Audio file: The following example sentence comes from the planet-friendly French site ecogeste.fr:
Listen to Jean-Marc read the words below:  Download MP3 or Wav file

Des semelles usées, un talon cassé, une fermeture éclair de sac coincée... Avant de les remplacer, vous pouvez confier vos chaussures et accessoires à un cordonnier. En plus, vous soutiendrez une filière au savoir-faire de plus en plus rare en raison d'un manque de clientèle.

Worn out soles, a broken heel, a purse zipper that's stuck... before replacing them, you can entrust your shoes and accessories to a cobbler. What's more, you'll be supporting a trade that is more and more rare owing to a lack of clientele. 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Last week the winds picked up here in Bandol, sweeping out the warmth of summertime. Though our seaside environment benefits from an extended season--or un été indien--my feet don't seem to know the difference: mid September now and j'ai froid aux pieds!

Time to put away the flip-flops.... Rummaging through the floor of my closet, looking for close-toed shoes, I discovered a few possibilities for fall: a pair of pseudo Mary Janes (not sure about the style), Converse hi-tops (hand-me-downs from Jackie, the interior lining is as holey as Swiss cheese), a pair of high-heeled dress boots--so cheap the talons are two different sizes (no wonder the markdown), a pair of black boots from the 90s--and a pair of black ballerinas from the same decade (I now wear the latter as slippers--so will have to rule these out as a possibility. Once sportswear turns into loungewear it's hard to sport the items in public again. Know what I mean?).

I stared thoughtfully at the eclectic pile. Tucking my flip flops into a shoe box--it seemed a little sorting might reveal some new possibilities. I spotted my loafers. Yes! Slipping them on I had a look in the mirror and realized, once and for all, I will never have that look of relaxed elegance: my ankles stood out beneath my pant legs, and the brown leather shoes were dull. Maybe a good polish would take care of that? 

Studying the motley crew of shoes, I now saw a workable set of possibilities for autumn. What's more, I remembered a pair of brown leather boots (those ought to take care of these ankles!) that would round out the collection.

In the cellar, I sorted through a box of shoes, finding the boots at the bottom. Pulling them from the tangle of chaussures, I was disappointed to see they'd been sorely twisted--their new shape resembling a curled crevette! I slipped them on, hoping to straighten out the toes, but when I tugged at the worn zipper it finally broke.

More than a broken zipper, I noticed how worn out the soles were. There was no use procrastinating, it was time to buy a new pair of bottes. But the last time I went shopping in the area, I found the shops unwelcoming and the prices even more alienating. I was only having a bad day, it wasn't the fault of the commerçants. But seeing all the merchandise, I wondered: how can anyone afford to dress these days?  My mind still lives in 70s prices--maybe that is why everything seems so expensive these days. I am fortunate to be able to replace my shoes, but I feel terrible for those who don't have the same privilege.

Studying the worn boots, it seemed I could squeeze another season out of them--I needed only to visit the cordonnier! An added incentive of visiting the local cobbler was the satisfaction of not adding to the dreaded pile--the universal garbage dump, or the landfills, that gets harder and harder to breakdown as time goes by. I can't bear to throw out another pair of shoes when I picture heaps of discarded chaussures all across the land--choking landfills with leather, plastic, and shoe glue. I wish I'd always thought this way, but I am a late-bloomer when it comes to recycling. It's only in the last 5 years that our household has installed boxes for glass, metal, plastic, clothing, batteries, and "small electric units" (our grocery store collects coffee machine, electric toothbrushes, and the like). Before that, we made an effort here and there, but were discouraged by the lack of follow-up (our village's recycling system, at the time, was hit or miss).

Boots in hand, I entered our town's cobbler shop and soon realized why people are not so motivated to extend the life of their belongings: because it can be costly to do so! There in the tiny shop, as I waited for the cobbler to finish mending a pair of sandals, I noticed the finished items on the counter, waiting to be picked up. A pair of high-heeled sandals had a receipt tied to them: 26 euros for the repair work! I began to calculate: at $35 dollars one could almost replace the dainty pair of dress shoes.

Ah, but les bonnes affaires coûtent cher! I remembered an old saying I once learned from a very wealthy French woman: Good deals cost a lot! she said, as I accompanied her shopping in Cannes. It's true, and I've witnessed the principle here at home where my husband delights in showing me his latest 19 euro steal. I zip my lip, knowing that in one more season I'll be sweeping those falling-to-pieces shoes into the dustpan, along with rest of the pile up on the doorstep. Some deal!

Back at the cobblers, I set my boots on the counter for the cordonnier to inspect. 

"I'll need a new fermeture éclair...and it looks like the soles are shot...anything you can do about the leather?"

I watch as the shoe repairer notes down some double-digit chiffres: 16.... 12.95...  The amount increases when I decide to go ahead and have the second zipper reinforced, just in case.

When the cobbler hands me the bill I'm lost for words, so he speaks for me: Est-ce que ça ira? Will this work?

I guessed it would have to... After all, what was the alternative? I could buy a new pair of boots--for twice the price (given the you-get-what-you-pay-for wisdom, mentioned above) or I could prendre soin, or care for my own boots. The price to do so was alarming, but in the end I was paying less than I would otherwise.

I hoped to be making the right decision, and in the time it took me to reply to the old cobbler, my eyes scanned his tiny shop. In addition to shoes there were several bags waiting for repair (this is where old Mr. Sacks, Jean-Marc's beloved sacoche, was mended). I remembered, now, Jean-Marc mentioning the ancient cobbler "You've got to meet this character!" Jean-Marc had said. I wondered now, just how many years had the cobbler been here? Were they even training cobblers these days? Wasn't it a dying trade?

As I stood there, hesitant, a few more locals walked in, dusty and worn shoes in hand. The cobbler greeted them by name and I gathered he had a few supportive clients. One more couldn't hurt. 

 *    *    *

Cordonnerie (c) Kristin Espinasse, French-word-a-day

To comment on today's story, click here. I would love to read about your experiences with caring for your own things, and your thoughts on sustainability, supporting local business, or whatever you feel like sharing. 

Extra credit.... Teachers, please share the French Word-A-Day blog with your students, to help increase their vocabulary. 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

 j'ai froid aux pieds = my feet are cold
un talon = heel
la chaussure = shoe
la crevette = shrimp, prawn
la botte = boot
le commerçant = shopkeeper
le cordonnier = cobbler
le chiffre = amount, sum
la fermeture éclair = zipper
prendre soin = to care for, to take care of 

In Ways to Improve Your French: Listen to music!

ZazzZaz's album. Debut album from one of France's greatest recent success stories. Seemingly out of nowhere, newcomer Isabelle Geffroy (AKA Zaz) ended up topping the charts in France for over two months with this debut album, an engaging blend of Jazz, Soul and French Pop. With singles like 'Je Veux', even non-French speaking listeners will be enchanted by Zaz's voice. Order it here.

Join me on today's virtual tour of the village of Comps-sur-Artuby. These photos were taken in 2001.... The pictures are very small, but you can still get an idea of the breathtaking environment.

If you missed the recent photos tours, check them out:

Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse, French-Word-A-Day.com

What has this old post office become? Some people in France live in converted chapels, others in ancient bread ovens (large architectural structures as big as a baker's), so the idea of moving into a post office shouldn't be so surprising.

Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse, French-Word-A-Day.com

Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse, French-Word-A-Day.com

I believe this building is called un hangar, or shed. 

 

Max (c) Kristin Espinasse, french-word-a-day.com
A then 6-year-old Max...

 

Les nuages, or clouds in Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse, French-word-a-day.com
Les nuages, or clouds, in the distance

 

Comps-sur-Artuby, France (c) Kristin Espinasse, French-word-a-day.com
November in Comps-sur-Artuby...

 

Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse, french-word-a-day.com
Art studio "The Little Scops Owl"



Pronounce it perfectlyPronounce it Perfectly in French. 

* extensive pronunciation exercises including supplementary help based on poetry, proverbs, familiar sayings, historical quotations and humor

* A guide to French pronunciation expressed in the phonetic symbols of the International Phonetic Association (IPA) 

Order it here.

cordonnerie (c) Kristin Espinasse

I hope you enjoyed today's story from the shoe repair shop, or cordonnerie. To comment on today's post, or to send in a correction, please use the comments box here.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


glaner

Robyn-Mixon2
Writers and artists know all about gleaning, or le glanage--they regularly glean for ideas and inspiration! Here's Robyn Mixon's painting "Chez Domaine Rouge-Bleu." (See Robyn's photo farther on.)

glaner (glah-nay) verb

   to pick, to gather, to glean

 

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following text: Download MP3 or Wav file

Quand vous ferez la moisson dans votre pays, vous ne moissonnerez pas vos champs jusqu'au bord, et vous ne glanerez pas ce qui pourra rester de votre moisson; vous laisserez tout cela au pauvre et à l'immigré. - Leviticus 23:22

When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you.

 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

In the dramatic opening scene of her memoir The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls is riding in the back of a New York taxi, wondering whether she has overdressed for the party to which she is headed, when she sees something that knocks the wind right out of her Park Avenue sails.

Out there on the curbside, an older woman wearing rags is rooting through a dumpster. On closer look, the garbage picker is Jeannette's own mother! 

As I read the page-turner memoir, I could only imagine how a daughter's heart seized up on seeing her intelligent, artistic, and once athletic mother resort to rooting through the trash. What had brought her to this? And, more curiously, why was the waste picker smiling?

It wasn't until I saw the fascinating documentary, The Gleaners and I, by French filmmaker Agnès Varda, that I began to see this touching scene quite differently, and even to recall a few gleaning episodes of my own. Before writing about those, I will share some of the eloquent descriptions I gathered from viewers' reactions to The Gleaners:

... a wonderful documentary that reminds us of how much we produce and waste in the world and how the disenfranchised (and artistic) make use of that waste to survive... The characters Varda encounters are equally compelling and interestingly are not portrayed as whiny or blameful of others for their situations: they simply state how they live and we are left impressed with their ingenuity. (anonymous)

One of my favorite scenes in the film is when we are introduced to a wizened Chinese man in Paris living at home among a heap of dumpster gleanings. He has taken in a boarder—a happy-go-lucky black man who hunts the day long for discarded food and items that he himself will repair and give away to those less fortunate than himself. "Somebody might need this," the ragpicker says. Evenings, the Chinese man will cook up the dumpster chicken in one of the ovens that his resourceful roommate has brought home. As the men prepare to dine together, seated on crooked chairs and ever amazed by their "fortune", I have to reach over and hit the pause button. Have you ever seen such sweet faces, such sparkling eyes, than on these two lovely men who care for one another and for others? 

In another scene, we observe a clean-cut wirey man stooping here and there as he scours the market stalls in Paris at the end of market day. Here and there he pops a broken piece of celery or apple or lettuce into his mouth... "Beta carotene! Vitamin K! I'm a biology major," he explains, adding that though he earns a salary, he still needs to eat and by the way, he's vegetarian! He admits that cheese is a little more difficult to find, but there's plenty of tossed out bread. We later learn that though he holds a scientific diploma, this biologist chooses to sell papers outside the train station. In a touching "who'd have thunk it?" scene, we see the same garbage picker volunteering his time, each evening, to teach refugees English. His carefully illustrated blackboards featuring, among other objects, a handdrawn bike and its phonetic word equivalent, attest as much to his selfless and caring soul as to his professionalism and skill.    

There are several other heart-awakening moments in which Agnès Varda steadies her lens on the outcasts who in turn teach us more about the art of living than we will ever glean from the pages of any New York Times bestseller on the subject. The rag-wearing, sometimes toothless characters could write volumes on the subject. Meantime they have more meaningful pursuits: getting by, while managing to smile at life. 

As for my own dumpster days—as a priviledged child—I'd root unselfconsciously through the trash bin (one we shared with the neighbor), ever amazed at the ongoing source of riches (in this case--cans of Hamm's beer which could be recycled for cash after stomping the cans flat!). Our neighbor, a single, middle-aged woman, regularly replenished the trash bin with this blatantly underestimated source of income! I began to feel sorry about her loss, which to me related to her pocket book and not her liver health (I had no idea that all those cans equalled addiction). 

I regret losing the desire to salvage things (publicly, at least, though the occasional foray through a stranger's trash still happens), but I am grateful to live here in France, where gleaning is alive and well and rooted deeply in the culture! How many times during family outings has an uncle or a cousin or a grandma stooped to pick up a tumbled down apricot or a chestnut, or paused to uproot a lonely asparagus or a bunch of herbs from the edge of a neighbor's yard. "Have you seen what they charge for this at the markets?" my in-laws shake their heads. Soon they'll make up a fresh batch of herbs de provence--more fragrant and delicious than can be found on any supermarket aisle. 

When my husband returned from the States after his multi-city wine tour he brought me an unexpected surprise: two charming rush-bottom chairs!

"I found them in the airport parking lot," Jean-Marc explained, "beside the dumpster." I admit, if he had brought those home 15 years ago--as a consolation gift for his two week absence, I might have been hugely disappointed! Nowadays, I don't want the ill-fitting T-shirt that he had quickly rung up at a pricy airport trap shop. (I'd rather have a couple of bars of chocolate, or, in this case, some adorable chairs!) 

Each time I look at the chairs, I feel the same kind of affection one feels when looking at some of the characters in Agnès Varda's documentary. They are quirky. They are imperfect. They are charming. They are lovely. And, as one of the men in the film said, "they are needed."

 *** 

I hope you will enjoy Agnès Varda's The Gleaners and I as much as I have. Read more about it here. (View the first part of the documentary at the end of this post.)

 If you haven't read her memoir, order Jeannette Wall's Glass Castle. You won't be able to put it down!

Related posts: Read about Abbey Pierre and his mission to care for the homeless. Click here.
. 

 Le Coin Commentaires
Please share your own gleanings on "the gleaning life". Will you admit to dumpster diving? Or do you find it repulsing? What sort of finds have you dragged home (from a field or a trash can or a market stall -- apples? bread? parsley? (one homeless man in the video called the parsley he found "a lovely bouquet"). Thanks for sharing your thoughts here in the comments box.
. 

I could watch this video again and again -- which means it is a welcome addition to one's video library! Don't forget to order a copy of Agnès Varda's The Gleaners and I (click here), the DVD includes a "Two years later" segment, in which some of the characters in the documentary are revisited. The documentary makes a thoughtful gift for any Francophile or for anyone interested in art or movie making or frugality or recycling. Order it here.

 Helpful Customer Reviews:

Film maker Agnes Varda turns her camera lenses toward modern day gleaners--the poor, the dispossessed, the ecologically aware and the alienated--to paint a new but still somewhat romantic image of those follow along behind the parade of life, picking through its remains. - Jean E. Pouliot

I enjoyed seeing parts of France not normally seen on the screen or by tourists. In fact in some ways this documentary could serve as a kind of travelog so widely does Varda and her camera travel about the French countryside and cities. - Dennis Littrell

This isn't just about people surviving as scavengers. That's some of it, but it's also about people making art from left objects/trash, and some have philosophical views on the waste our society produces. - Wendell

 Click here to order The Gleaners and I

Robyn & Al Mixon
To my left are artist Robyn Mixon and her husband, Al, who joined us for the May 16th wine-tasting.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


alea

DSC_0014
The lavender is deep in bloom. This field was spotted yesterday, on the way home from Malou's garden.

aléa (al ay ah) noun, masculine

    : risk, hazard, chance

les aléas du métier = the risks of the trade
les aléas de la vie = the vagaries of life
après bien des aléas = after many ups and downs
les aléas thérapeutiques = unforeseeable medical complications

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and expressions: Download MP3 or Wav file

 

  Exercises in French Phonics Exercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation"
"useful and practical"
"high quality material, good value for your money" --from Amazon customer reviews. Order your copy here.

.
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

New Life for an Old Hive

"Your mailman must love you!" Mom snickered, a few weeks back, on discovering our homemade bôite aux lettres. 

I laughed at Jules' comment, then quickly returned one item to the top of my Worry List: our mailbox! We really needed to find another solution! My husband had had one of his inspirations, this time to repurpose an old beehive into a postbox. All Jean-Marc needed to do was empty out the inside of an abandoned ruche and then block the entrance (to discourage any stinging "squatters"!). The mail could then be distributed via the top of the wooden box. A rough metal lid was salvaged and, voilà!, our new mailbox was good to go. Chief Grape added yet another of his no-nonsense touches by taping a computer print-out (with our family and vineyard name) across the front. Presto!, we were now legitimate letter candidates.

DSC_0021

Still and all, or tout compte fait, I had my doubts. It wasn't that the paper address "plate" faded (running off in great blue and red rivulets, following the first tempête de pluie...). It was, among other inconvénients, the metal top, which was awkward and ill-fitting. One needed to wriggle it and pull (as one does a well-rooted tooth) to access the letters inside. And returning the couvercle back to the wooden box entailed a few slams of the fist.

I was doubtful this approach would please the busy facteur, but we carried on with our new courrier-system and the letters did arrive....

Then one day I looked inside an empty box. The top had flown off! I searched around only to discover that our mail had been distributed not by the facteur -- but by le Mistral! The northern wind had swooped in and carried off with it the ill-fitted lid-top along with the contents inside the mailbox. I ran around the vineyard, up and down the vine rows--hair flying in the wicked wind--hoping to collect all the letters. As for the bills....

The mailbox artisan (Chief Grape) was not one bit ruffled by the wind's shenanigans. He simply added a no-nonsense safeguard: stones! All we were to do now was to wrestle the lid back onto the box, slam it a few times with our fists, then set two giant stones across the flat metal top.

DSC_0028
       (One of the stones. It sometimes takes three, depending on the wind!)

"Stone" rhymes with "groan"...

Most normal people experience that tickle of hope each time they reach for their mailbox--never mind that it is usually bills on the other side of the slot. There's always the chance that a real letter awaits -- or a winning voucher of some sort (one can always dream!). Often, family members will argue about who will have the honor of checking the mailbox. Not our brood. All you hear is groans:

"A toi de le chercher (You get it!)"
"But I got it last time! (C'était moi la dernière fois!")"
"Bon, j'y vais! (Alright. I'll get it, then!)"

As for our unlucky mailman, he has no one to argue with. It is his chore to remove the mailbox "weights", set the stones on the ground, wriggle open the stubborn metal lid, drop the mail into the box (brave any stinging squatters), return the lid--with a few pounds of the fist), bend over and pick up the heavy galets, and return them to the box-top.... 

Oh, well, Chief Grape Mailbox Artisan might say, c'est ce qu'on appèle les aléas du métier! 

 

Le Coin Commentaires

Have you ever "repurposed" or given new life to an ol' something and been pleased with the results? Are you a DIY person or do you have the luck (or bad luck...) to have a determined inventor at home? Do you like to check the mail and do you still feel hopeful (or dread-filled) each time you do? Comments and anecdotes welcome here.

 

DSC_0036 French Vocabulary


la boîte aux lettres = mailbox

la ruche = (bee) hive

voilà! = and there you have it!

presto! = 'voilà!)

tout compte fait = still and all

la tempête de pluie = rainstorm 

un inconvénient = drawback, disadvantage

le couvercle = lid

le facteur = mailman, postman

c'est ce qu'on appèle les aléas du métier! = it's what we call the ups and downs of the trade!

. 

 

Sara midda's South of France: a sketchbook Sara Midda's South of France is a place of ripening lemons and worn espadrilles, ochre walls and olive groves, and everything born of the sun. It lies between the Mediterranean and the Maritime Alps, and most of all in the artist's eye and passion. Read the glowing reviews, click here.

In film:  Paris Je T'aime Paris I love You.

Eiffel Tower Cookie Cutter -  handcrafted by artisans to last for generations. Order here.

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0013
Keep your camaras in your pockets, on your belts, and in your purses! Here's another tip: PULL OVER! The biggest mistake I make, time and again, is to let the scenes pass me by. As I drive on, now 100 meters, now one kilometer past the image, I am kicking myself for not reacting quickly enough - by pulling over or doing a U-turn in time to capture a scene. Yesterday, on the way to Malou's house, I let this scene go (another car was tail-gaiting me, besides!)... but I caught up with the image on the way home! Never be a danger to another driver, but do search for a large enough shoulder on which to pull over. This time I had my Nikon D60 (for a better price check out this one), but any camera can take a good photo... with a scene like this!

 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


remuer

P1010022
Hey Bud, you'd make a good future candidate for compost (read on in today's story...)! This beautiful California poppy is growing in the South of France! Malou transplanted it from her garden to mine with the help of Doreen. Thanks, Garden Angels :-)

remuer (reuh mheu ay) verb

    : to stir

remuer ciel et terre = to move heaven and earth
remue-toi un peu = get a move on!
arrête de remuer tout le temps! = quit fidgeting!
le remue-ménage = stir, bustle, confusion 

Verb conjugation:
je remue, tu remues, il/elle remue, nous remuons, vous remuez, ils/elles remuent  (pp = remué)

Tune Up Your French (click here) with over 900 essential expressions will help you to hone your French-language conversation skills!

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

"Garden Grist"

Compost! Compost! Compost! Compost!

It's a little early on into this compost affair to be writing about the stuff, that is "the stuff of the garden gods!", but, just as the one smitten cannot wait to talk about the object of her affection, I am impatient to share this steaming heap of burning love with you!

Speaking of steaming... that is what our compost pile is supposed to be doing, n'est-ce pas, steaming? (Something about aerobic bacteria? Something about C:N ratios?) Ah, well! Steaming will come! Restons simples! No need to complicate the compost pile. As Scott Meyer, editor of Organic Gardening says: "Compost happens!" For composting, at its most basic, is simply the piling up of waste. It will eventually break down of its own accord!

Meantime, with amorous abandon, I am tossing banana peels, egg shells, tea leaves and coffee grounds, grass clippings, cardboard, fumier, dried leaves and... weeds? I wonder whether I can add weeds into the compost pile? 

A quick internet search reveals that les mauvaises herbes are okay--just be sure to remove the seed heads! I don't trust my seed-heads judgment, so oublions weeds for the moment! All that's left to do now is to observe the brown-green ratio or that C:N business we mentioned earlier. This delicate ratio seems to be the key... to steam! Finding the right carbon to nitrogen balance will mean the difference between two months and one year (the time it will take to break down the plant waste). 

Because I can't wait another second, I will now employ the French verb remuer! And now, chers fellow composters, remuons! Besides the C:N conundrum, we'll need oxygen to get the compost heap heating up. For this, il faut le remuer.

The only other ingredient in the simple "C Now"* (I want to see my Compost NOW) is W for "water"! For that I will take advantage of all the spittoons that "build up" this time of year, when wine tasting season picks up along with the arrival of vineyard visitors. We used to empty the spittoons into the garden... now they'll be emptied on top of the compost pile!

As for that heap of burning love just outside the door, it's calling me now... I'm off to remuer le monticule of plant matter... which will, soon enough (I hope, I hope!) turn into dark compost caviar... good enough to hand-feed to the other loves in the garden: the tomatoes, the flowers, and the trees.

***

Comments & Corrections welcome!
I am a compost newbie! Please share your ideas on how to succeed in composting! Apart from the C NOW essentials, below, and the banning of animal waste (apart from le fumier from herbivores), what can you tell me about compost? Thanks for joining in today's discussion here, in the "compost" box!

Carbon (brown/dry materials: leaves, straw, "clean" paper, cardboard)
Nitrogen (green & wet materials: fruit/veg cuttings, house/garden plants...
Oxygen
Water

P1010021
French Vocabulary on the way... check back shortly, here.

n'est-ce pas? = Isn't that right?

restons simples = let's keep it simple

le fumier = manure

les mauvaises herbes = weeds

oublions = let's forget about that

remuons = let's stir

remuons le monticule = stir the mound

 

. 

Bestselling books on the French language:
 1. The Ultimate French Verb Review and Practice  
 2. Exercises in French Phonics

Not so best-selling... but a fun book on the French language!
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France 

 

 

IMG_6045
Read the French Word-A-Day archives: you'll find a lot of "Abandoned Chair Lust" and other stories... click here. Photo taken in Les Goudes... at the end of Marseilles...

P1010026
Smokey "R" Dokey on his way to visit Mrs. Canard... who lives in the brook just below, with her soon-to-be born ducklings, or canetons (boys) and canettes (girls).

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


vert

Green

Inspired by the scene above (photo taken in Villedieu), this edition is devoted entirely to green! Today we are focusing on recycling and we are sharing tips on how to be eco-friendly. Please don't hesitate to send in your ideas & eco experiences, via the comments box, for all to see (and use!). Also, don't forget to take today's "green poll", just below.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Events~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you happen to be in or near London this Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, then Jean-Marc and I would really love to see you at the Barbican Centre--where we'll be participating in the French Winegrowers Fair. It is not too late to get free tickets to this event. Click this link for more information.


~~~~~~~~~Domaine Rouge-Bleu... in Portland!~~~~~~~~
"Un air de Provence" (Mistral) has arrived in Portland, OR! You will find our latest wine release at PastaWorks. Email Peter peter@pastaworks.com or call the stores to make sure they have some "Mistral" : Hawthorne: 503 232 1010 - City Market : 503 221 3002
 
Today's Word:
 
vert,e (ver, vert) adjective
 
    : green; unripe; vigorous; sharp; spicy (saucy)
 
vert (noun) = green
 
[from the Latin "viridis"]

Please take a minute to answer this "green" poll:



A_day_in_a_french_life

            "Recycling... or Le Traitement des Déchets"*

Up until last month, there was this nagging guilt that seized me each and every time I headed toward the trash can, plastic, glass, or carton in hand.

Ever see a film in slow motion? That's how the would-be recyclable trash fell: lentement.* Those cartons of milk, jam jars, tin cans of corn, and plastic shampoo bottles eventually tumbled to a halt at the top of the trash heap...and if I listened to their silent screams on the way down--instead of
covering my ears in denial--this is what the earth-clogging containers said: "Aïe!"*

That's right: "Ouch! You are hurting the Earth."

If our household underwent a lapse in recycling, this was partly due to logistics. We'd moved to a new French town, where the municipal recycling bins were...well, just where were they? Eventually, we learned the where, when, and how of the way things work around here... it was just a matter of re-organization... and the will to recycle.

Now that we're back on the recycling track, I find it helps keep motivation levels up when we maintain an open dialogue about déchets... This morning at the breakfast table, I asked my children for "green tips," or "les astuces écologiques". Here are the first things that came to their mind.

1. trier*
2. prendre une douche au lieu d'un bain*
3. aller en velo*

Can you help add to this list? Please share your "astuces", or ideas, on how to "go green!" Thank you for using the comments box so that we might all profiter.*


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
le traitement (m) des déchets
= waste treatment; lentement = slowly; aïe! = ouch!; trier = to sort; prendre une douche au lieu d'un bain = to take a shower instead of a bath; aller en velo = to go by bike; profiter = (benefit) to take advantage of

Audio File:

  Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the word "vert" and read the following list: Download vert.wav .Download vert.mp3

French Terms & Expressions
  le feu vert = green light
  les légumes verts = green vegetables
  les plantes vertes = evergreens
  le chêne vert = holm oak
  en dire de vertes et des pas mûres = to tell spicy stories
  se mettre au vert = to go on a country retreat
  la langue verte = slang


Terms & Expressions (English to French):
  green power = la puissance (f) de l'argent
  green revolution = la révolution (f) verte
  green room = le foyer (m) des acteurs / artistes
  greengrocer = le (la) marchand(e) des fruits et légumes
  greenhorn = le blanc-bec (m)
  greenhouse = la serre
  the greenhouse effect = l'effet de serre
  green gas = le gaz contribuant à l'effet de serre
  greening = la sensibilisation (f) à l'environnement
  Greenland = Groenland

Know any other words & expressions with the word "vert" or "verte". Thanks for sharing them here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A Rapper with a Recycling message, don't miss this video:

You don't have to like rap music to appreciate this eco reminder:

"Les grands discours c'est bien. (Eloquent speeches are good.)
Mais les petits gestes c'est mieux." (But little gestures are better.)

Read the rest of the lyrics, below. Video tip: if the sound is garbled or staticky adjust the volume!



PS: If anyone would like to volunteer to translate the lyrics... then thank you for sharing your English version via the comments box! Update: Thank you Leslie, for translating this song! If this link doesn't work, then scroll down through the comments for Leslie's English version.

"On n'a qu'une Terre" by Stress*

Quand il sera grand et me demandra
"Pourquoi y a plus de poissons dans la mer?"
Je vais dire quoi? Que je savais pas!
Ou que j'en avais rien à faire!

Et quand il me demandra
"Papa! Est-ce juste pour le bois
que vous avez rasé le poumon de la planète?
J'vais respirer avec quoi?"

J'aurais l'air d'un irresponsable, incapable.
D'un coupable au comportement inexcusable.
Une nature bousillée, un monde de CO2.
Est-ce vraiment le futur
que l'on voulait construire pour eux?
Ca commence par le respect et l'une des choses à faire,
c'est un commerce équitable pour eux, nous et notre terre.
Les grands discours c'est bien.
Mais les petits gestes c'est mieux.
La différence on doit la faire aujourd'hui,
car on le peut.

Refrain:
Vas-y consomme! Consomme. Consume, consume!
Tronçonne, tronçonne! Allume, allume!
Mais que fais-tu si notre futur
s'retrouve entre le marteau et l'enclume.
Si ça brûle et que ça s'consume.
Et qu'notre terre ressemble à la lune.
Que fais-tu si notre futur
s'retrouve entre le marteau et l'enclume.

Dites-moi pas que vous le voyez pas, qu'vous le sentez pas.
Ce changement. Ne me mentez pas.
Le climat part en vrille. Vous attendez quoi?
Combien de Katrinas nous faudra-t-il pour accepter ça?

Je veux pas marcher sur le sol d'une mer asséchée en me disant
"J'aurais peut-être dû trier mes déchets".
À mes yeux c'est une erreur, aux yeux de nos enfants un péché.
Tout le monde crie au drame mais personne n'a l'air pressé.

Je veux pas voir le jour où l'eau aura la valeur du pétrole.
Où le pétrole ne sera plus.
Mais on payera encore pour ces bémols.
Je ne suis pas devenu "Monsieur Écolo" c'est clair.
Mais avec ce que je sais aujourd'hui,
je peux faire mieux que hier.


*by the band "Stress"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Shopping~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Green Card (film)

Les Oeufs Verts au Jambon: The French Edition of Green Eggs and Ham

The Vert ( Green Tea ) by Roger & Gallet 6.6 oz Fragrant Water Spray

A L'Affiche: Best of Les Négresses Vertes

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.