Friday, September 12, 2008
Laundry, motorcycle, burrs... read on in today's column!
se grouiller (seuh-grooyay) verb
: to get a move on
[the verb "grouiller" means "to mill about")
New, in books: "The Black Tower" by Louis Bayard :
grouille-toi = buck up!
Yesterday, after dropping off the kids at school, I headed out to the field of Grenache grapes: to those torturous low-lying vines "en gobelet"*--as opposed to the easier-to-pick trellised type.
"Bonjour tout le monde." Hello, I sang, snatching a pair of sécateurs* out of my mom's hand and stealing her bucket. I was letting Jules off the hook, after she'd made her ceremonial appearance in the field. Not two mock-complaints later, and Mom quickly disappeared to the comfort of the house, to prepare the mid-morning snack.
Looking around the field, I saw the bright faces of our voluntary crew... and noticed how they didn't appear too pained. That's when it dawned on me: as the vigneron's* wife, it was my job to look at least as enthusiastic as they--never mind the inconveniences...
Early morning and the grape fields were wet with dew--right up to one's armpits! Where there's wet, there's crawly and, like that, the insects pecked at and pestered us as we worked, hunched over those goblet vines, parting the maze of sticky branches in search of grapes.
"Are those gnats?"... I ask, swatting at my forehead where the bugs are trekking across the sweaty surface on their way up... and into!... my casquette.*
"I don't know..." Ansley answers. "...but they don't bite," she adds, encouragingly, and I notice how she doesn't complain....
In between the rows of vines, the weeds are so high that they poke you in the eyes when they're not scratching every square inch of skin. Itchy, scraped, and swelling skin... I realize that I am the only one with bare legs. Everyone else, no matter how new to harvesting, was smart enough to wear long pants!
"Weeds!" I mumble, scratching at my calves. That's when I notice how my socks are STUDDED with stickers.
"I prefer weeds to chemicals any day," Erin states, managing a cheer for organic farming.
Harrumph. She's not complaining either.
Aha! Just then, I catch Ross holding his aching back. Perhaps he'll join in my pity party after all? Then again, chances are he'll blame the pain on Mount Ventoux--a cycling feat he managed in between the Syrah and Grenache parcels (during off hours, between harvesting days).
By four p.m. those horseweeds--and all the cotton-like fibers they let off each time you knock into them--are causing a ripple of sneezing throughout the grape fields. Running noses and scratchy eyes add to the list I am mentally writing titled "Harvest hazards". I notice John-From-Indiana is as allergic as I am, but I don't dare ask him to commiserate with me.... or else he's likely to start singing that chorus again, ever one to see the bright side:
Over hill, over dale
As we hit the dusty trail,
And the caissons go rolling along.
... and then... there's Charles! Charles who underwent quadruple bypass surgery before arriving to last year's Hell On Earth Harvest. He is back this year, a chirping and a cracking--cracking jokes, that is, and not his back, for even if the latter were true he certainly wouldn't complain.
Grape harvesting, for a bénévole,* would normally be an "all pain no gain" undertaking. Then again, depends on how you see things... and those "positive pickers" have a vision of their own. As for me, I'm just a feeble farmer's wife who'd best quit bawling... and buck up!
en gobelet = goblet shaped; le sécateur (m) = pruning shears; le vigneron (m) = wine farmer; la casquette (f) = (baseball) cap, hat; le (la) bénévole = volunteer
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety
Another delightful story - we'll think of you in the vineyards everytime we sip a glass of wine and realized all the BST that goes into each drop!
Posted by: Parisgirl | Friday, September 12, 2008 at 04:39 PM
I'm the French teacher from virginia who wrote several times last year to compliment you on being my teaching assistant in French Iv and AP. My students subscribe to your blog and we discuss the "mot du Jour". We also made several of the recipes last year and I even sent a photo.However, this year I have a new group and they do not know all your family members and your cool story. Could you either send me some photos I could use to introduce the "newbies" or could you do a catch up entry. Merci de virginie,
Posted by: Valencia Siff | Friday, September 12, 2008 at 06:07 PM
Reading about you wearing short pants in the harvest reminded me of the time I first walked in the Australian rain forest. I wore sandals and shorts. (It was hot.) After screaming for my husband to pick the stinging leaches off my legs, I noticed that everyone else had worn long pants, long sleeve shirts and closed toe shoes!
Anne SF Bay Area
Posted by: Anne | Friday, September 12, 2008 at 09:41 PM
How would I say, "I better se grouille"?
Posted by: Sally | Friday, September 12, 2008 at 10:37 PM
Assuming Kristin is very busy -- sure she is... she must be... probably dead tired at this time of the evening on a Friday evening (23:55 in France)--, I'll give you the answer.
Here is what you would say, in a familiar way:
"Tu ferais mieux de te grouiller"
In the imperative, you would say to somebody:
"Allez, grouille-toi un peu!"
Bon courage to both of you and to all the fantastic helpers!
Posted by: Newforest24 | Friday, September 12, 2008 at 11:57 PM
Newforest: Mille mercis for the answer (and to Sally, for the question).
...Heading back out to the grape fields... legs swollen from those "biting" (sticker)weeds and bugs. The upside (re Anne)is there are no leaches out there... Yikes!
PS: Valencia: Bonjour aux élèves! I'll try to put together an update post... après vendange...
Posted by: Kristin | Saturday, September 13, 2008 at 07:16 AM
You make a great Tom Sawyer..whitewashing the fence. I wanted to join the caissons in the work...especially when I saw the last photo...a seated reward when the work was done.
Posted by: Jan Hersh | Saturday, September 13, 2008 at 07:19 PM
Thanks Kristin for the ongoing vineyard reports, it is great to follow. While on the subject of fields and bugs etc. Can you or someone tell me about the tiny snails? Last year while tripping around Provence we noticed in almost every field thousands of these tiny snails that seemed to have crawled/slithered up almost to the top of grass, lavender, wire fences etc, then stopped, all seemingly at the same level. Strange thing to be fascinated by I know, but there were so many of them! Do they eat their way up or are they just reaching for the sun? Good luck with the continuing Harvest
best wishes Chris
Posted by: Christine Dashper | Sunday, September 14, 2008 at 06:16 AM
I found your blog by googling for "french blog". Unfortunately, I've never been to France despite studying it all through middle and high school and beyond. What a great idea for a blog! I'm subscribing so I can keep my skills up before they vanish completely!
Posted by: Chris K. Haley | Monday, September 15, 2008 at 03:53 AM
looking for a french calendar, single page with number and the day of the week in french. Does anyone know where I may locate one?
Posted by: Nick | Saturday, November 22, 2008 at 04:51 PM