moitie moitie


"Exotic" grass
Hello from Sainte Cécile, where the vine rows are newly-plowed and the ravens and magpies are out, pecking the fresh earth, much to the alarm of the earthworm.... In other news, read about the "red grass", above, in today's story column...

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Special thanks to South African writer Marita van der Vyver, for her generous write up on French Word-A-Day in her column "Reading Space". Also, thanks go to Lynn McBride, the journalist I wrote about a few months ago. Her article, "A Family Affair, " about this word journal, appears in the May issue of France Magazine.

désherbant (day-ser-bahn) noun, masculine

    : grass / weed killer

synonym: herbicide


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

Our neighbor, Jean-Marie, stopped by the other day to drop off a forklift--something we needed for our latest mise-en-bouteille.* While Jean-Marie was here, I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about gardening. Jean-Marie and his wife, Brigitte, have 50 hectares of vines... and a few potagers* to boot!

"I'm thinking of moving the tomatoes up here," I said to Jean-Marie, as we stood on the patch of grass just above the creek.

"In that case, you'll need to put up a wind-breaker... a row of thick buissons,* or something."

He had a point. After all, we were standing smack in the middle of the Rhône, where the wind blows down the valley... like a fleet of jet planes--upending anything that isn't anchored to the ground (or at least deeply-rooted, like our vines... or cemented in, like our home!). The tomatoes wouldn't stand a chance.

Speaking of thick buissons, or hedges, I asked Jean-Marie to identify a certain scratchy patch, just beyond the clothesline.
"Do you think we can burn that down?" I asked. "It is difficult to cut down, with all those thorns!"

The truth is, every time I hang out the clothes, that prickly hedge reaches out and bites me from behind!

Jean-Marie explained that those were chestnut shoots, fallen from a nearby arbre.* He added that they would make nice trees if we thinned them out.

I tried to picture the trees, and the soothing shade they would offer... instead of the stinging "bites"! Too bad we couldn't move the entire scratchy hedge over to the new tomato patch, let them sting the Mistral into submission instead!

Our next stop was the portail,* beside which I had been transplanting local flora, including a new, unidentified favorite: a rusty red grass that Mom and I had seen growing, en masse, near the town of Tulette. This vibrant herb would make a lovely contrast to the purple irises and Spanish Lily, two other "locals" that have made their way into our garden.

Mom and I had dug up a few samples of the exotic and colorful grass... and quickly transplanted it into our garden....

a vineyard near Tulette

Jean-Marie took one look at our botanical "find"... and chuckled as he identified it:

"C'est Roondoop".


The plant's name did not disappoint; it had just the je ne sais quoi that I would expect for such an exotic variety: Roondoop. I loved it!

"Oui..." Jean-Marie continued. "The grass turns red like that after the herbicide takes effect.

"Grass killer?"

That is when the dots connected: "Roondoop" was really "Roundup"! A désherbant used by some farmers to keep the weeds down in the vineyard.

No wonder we didn't have any of that "lovely red grass" growing here at our farm...

I quickly yanked the dead grass out of our garden before my organic-wine-farmer husband returned from his US wine tour... in time to scream "Quelle! horreur! Quelle horreur!"

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Feedback, corrections--and stories of your own!--are always appreciated and enjoyed. Thank you for using the comments box!

***Don't miss Jean-Marc's article "Désherber" and find out his views on herbicide.***

Also, see pictures from Jean-Marc's tour, in his "Thank You" post.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
la mis-en-bouteille (f)
= bottling; le potager (m) = vegetable garden, le buisson (m) = bush; un arbre (m) = tree; le portail (m) = gate

An excerpt from Saturday's Cinéma Vérité:
I named this court-métrage "Blond", so that I might share a scene with you from my first arranged meeting with Jean-Marc. There we were, February 1990, in a bistro along the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence....

It was our first date. I wore an over-formal black coat-dress, three-inch high heels, and many layers of make-up, behind which I peered out, amazed, at the young Frenchman who had asked me for my number, just days before. As he sat there, in jeans, studying me, I wondered what he was thinking (was everything okay? Was that an approving glance?....).

He was smiling, and he smiled as he spoke these words: ...

Read the rest of this story, and see the one minute movie (below) over at Cinéma Vérité.

video clipvideo clipvideo clip

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Evelyn Jackson

I had to chuckle at your Roundup story! Being a southern California gal, when I married my farmer (ex)husband ages ago, I would have made the very same mistake. Whoever heard of things like Roundup in suburban Orange County? I was amazed when I moved to Iowa to see herbicides..pre and post emergence...advertised on TV! On another note, I received an email from Jean-Marc that your wine may soon be available in Iowa. I immediately emailed the store he mentioned in Iowa City telling them that I want at least a case. They better not back out on the deal now!I'm excited.

Teresa Malm

I only received the cinema Verite on one Sat
although I did sign up . Also I would like to change the Email that it will come to .
I love love your blog . Can you help....
Although I live in Seattle Washington, for a few minutes a day I am in my favorite place in the world .
Merci Teresa


Kristin, this reminds me of when I moved in to a new home and found some flowers that looked like miniature sweet peas in the yard. I gave my cousin (who studied botany in college) a bouquet of these flowers for his mom. Aunty loves sweet pea blossoms. Cousin burst out laughing and said the "miniature sweet pea" was a weed called vetch. Needless to say I've learned the wonders of "Roondup" since.

Kevin Bartoy


How horrible! Roundup is one of the worst legal poisons out there. I was hoping that it would not be so prevalent in France. I will be in France over the summer to visit my wife's family and I was hoping to get a better feel for organic agriculture and the organic movement in France. We would love at some point to be able to move to France.

If you have not seen it, this study (done in France!) exposes the absolute toxicity of Roundup even at miniscule levels:

Down with Monsanto!


Kevin : I cannot say that the poison is "prevalent" in France (a subject that Jean-Marc is better informed to talk about) ... but I have seen this "red grass" in a few areas (to be clear: areas far from our vineyard!).

Teresa : thanks for your note (sorry about this!). I've just sent you the link (Cinéma Vérité is not sent out via email; it is published at another site each Saturday. Enjoy -- and thanks for your support!

Martina : and I was counting on you (one of my gardener friends!) to know about these things! :-) Maybe roses are your specialty?

Evelyn : Tchin-tchin! Enjoy the wine and merci d'advance! PS: thought of you today while driving my Mom through the town of Sérignan to see all the wisteria (glycine). One particular plant climbed all the way up a very tall tree. It might have been two stories high!


'Roondoop' funny and yet disturbing to know about the pesticide.

Any wisdom on the different types of chestnut trees in France? I seem to get it wrong when I refer to marroniers...seems they're not the nut bearing ones...
c'est vrai?

Sandy Maberly

Kristi...I just viewed the video....what a great idea. I think the vimeo site is much better than youtube. I think I will use it when we are in France next month. It will be nice to document our trip on my travbuddy pages. At least the weather will be nicer this time!!

Henry Lambert

Since the word today is herbicide and you have a organic vineyard, what do you use on the vines? Lady bugs, roses etc.?


Bonjour Kristin,
I'm a little disappointed that your free and wonderful Word of the Day site seems to be morphing into Cinema Verite, a paid site. I'm esp. "pique-d" this morning, after the tease about your first date with Jean-Marc in Aix en Provence, and the only way I can read the rest of the story is if I sign up and pay for it! I'm a retired lady "of a certain age" and really can't afford it. I know your family as well as most of the rest of us probably have financial concerns now, but I hope this doesn't mean the gradual demise of French Word...

BTW, I met you at Abraxus Books here in Seattle which is near where I work, so whenever I pass the store I have fond memories of meeting you, Jean-Marc and your sister.
Please come back!

Diane, San Diego

Hi Kristin,

Enjoyed the very humorous tale of Roondoop...I thought Jean-Marie was going to tell you it was a plant from Holland, as the name seemed to be so Dutch-sounding. I will never hear the word 'Roundup' again without thinking of this funny story.

I do have to agree with your other readers, though, who are sorry to know that the French are using this very toxic herbicide. There are natural products out there that are safe for the environment, many of which contain vinegar and citrus extracts.

Keep the Word-A-Day coming!


Wow. Lundi has arrived with a blast! The warm sunshine of yesterday is replaced w/cool overcast skies...but , beyond the weather, les mots de la blog aujourd'hui sont somewhat gris. One tries mais, c'est vrai, on ne peut pas plaisir toute le monde tous les jours. I never thought that Cinema Verite would be a replacement for French Word a Day. Rather, something a little different, a way to help keep the free-viewing, talking, commiserating, encouraging, laughing going. C'est la vie.

When I saw the red of the vegetation in your photo I was reminded of last night's Nature episode on PBS. Focusing on the Andes, it told how migrating flamingos land on the most tres inhospitable location imaginable. They land on highly acidic-- toxic to most life--waters, volcanic residues, salt flats, just not very life-friendly. In these waters they dine on brine shrimp, clear & translucent in the water, which turn pink when they die giving the flamingos their pink color. Gives a whole new meaning to you are what you eat!

A big hallelujah to Nature, the magnificent Mother Earth ball we live on where we decide to give or take; grow or pull or SPRAY; enjoy and nurture; or ignore and destroy. Every day little choices and big.

It is marvelous to know even from afar, but seemingly closer through our words each day, le famille Espinasse who are working to offer the world their wines grown organically-- consideration for consumers and for our Big Mother Earth Ball. La vie est bonne...mille mercis K and J-M for your work.

My pointy shovel is one of my lst weapons of defense against mauvais herbes. It also slices nicely under the fence at an angle, to deter the pesky running-rampant green thugs!! of my neighbor which grow into my yard.

Un autre historire horreur de la jardin. During my trip to Provence last Fall, the city sent a worker to spray the vegetation along the alley, and in his eagerness, killed the well-pruned, privacy-providing hedge along the back of my yard. Grrrr, very depressing. Les Agents de l' Orange, stay away!!


Hi Katharine,

Thanks for your note. No worries about French Word-A-Day morphing into a new site. Au contraire! I have kept up this word journal, increasing the stories, educational links, and technical side (well, I still haven't got the sound file back up and running, not since Le Big Fry electrical crash.... but I did "write right through it!" by visiting the local tourist offer to send out my post.). I have no plans on morphing over to the new site and French Word-A-Day will remain free -- as it has been for almost seven years.

As for the Cinéma Vérité site, due to the loss of some of my author rights (to three of my previous books), I have come up with other ways to support this free French Word-A-Day site and, if I might add, to help support my family.


Pat: I just got myself my first pointy shovel! It will replace the forks and kitchen spoons that I have been using! Hurray! I have dug up the strawberry patch, Mom by my side, and together we have replanted the fraises and their "babes"!

Also, your note reminds me of one more reason (in answer to Katharine) why I would *not* begin to morph word-a-day stories over to Cinéma Vérité: then CV members would lose the free "thrice-weekly" edition! :-) Who wants to read three or four stories on Cinéma Vérité Saturday?

Once again, Cinéma Vérité is a weekend supplement featuring a bouquet of photos, occasionally spiced up by a short story--and I hope to add more videos... we'll see!


Hi guys,

Round up is a deserbant, which means it will kill all plants and the "SO" bad weeds that Mr "round up" has been telling and communicating about the fact that it is "SO" bad for the vines.
Well, weed roots might compete with vine roots but in that case, vines will have to struggle and develop their root system to go find water and food deeper (this is in their genes). And doing this, they always produce a better grape since the yields are low and since they will cross many different steps of the underground and will bring back to the grapes all its complexity. This, not mentioning that weeds actually drain the soil with their roots and when they eventually die, they and compost in the ground and bring food. Now, when round up is spread, no more "bad herbs" and no more life (which means no bugs which participate to the eco system). Also, since no competition with vine roots, no more deep roots but just superficial ones and high yields with no savor grapes.
The question is the following :
Choose what you want (need) to do !
Hope I was clear

Susan W

This use of Roundup certainly divides the wine growing community in France. It is pleasing to see how passionately against it significant numbers of the Loire vineyards are.

Denise Bohbot

Merci beaucoup for another wonderful, endearing story. As is often the case it brought to mind something from my youth. At the age of six, shortly after my Mom and I moved from Portland, Oregon to Calistoga, CA, my Mom gathered a bouquet of multi colored leaves and arranged them in a vase on the dining table. Well, when her new husband came home he was horrified, as her bouquet was actually poison oak! Luckily for my Mom she was immune to it, but I had many brushes with it during my childhood and Mom's poison oak bouquet has always helped me to identify the beautiful oak shaped leaves on hikes!

Lake Oswego, OR


Roundup (glyphosate) is one of the safest herbicides ever known. Yes, it kills cells, just like sunlight, chlorine in drinking water, preservatives in food, and chemotherapy kills cells. I've sprayed 100s of gallons of it. Wonderful story Kristin. For an unbiased report about Roundup visit the link below. For those who can't view .pdf files, one part of the factsheet states that dogs were fed Roundup (glyphosate) for one year with no adverse effect. Of course if you drink it full strength you'll be in trouble, just as if you drank sunscreen, pure alcohol, diesel fuel, or table salt. Remember that the President of Ukraine was poisoned by a much worse poison - Dioxin, and he's still in power 5 years later.

I'll say no more. Promise Kristin.



Once you get your wind-break planted, you'll no longer need to wear your wind-breaker! :-)

Rhonda Cohen

Thanks, Douglas for the dissenting voice. On the question of Roundup, I couldn't do without it. My piedmont North Carolina yard and garden would be overrun with poison ivy, or I would be in the hospital with a severe contact dermatitis.

I love the posts. My request would be to include more French words, and bien sur, their definitions.

Kevin Bartoy

Sorry. Please read the link that I posted on the recent results of Roundup in very small amounts on human cells. It is not safe.

If you actually believe it, you may want to take a close look at the other "wonderful" things that Monsanto is up to. In particular, you may want to look at how they have poisoned an entire African American community in Alabama with their poisons, which they have also spread throughout the rest of the world.

The "unbiased" reports concerning Roundup being safe are generally financed by the agricultural chemical industry.

Sorry to enter the political into the discussion. But, a commitment to organic foods, wines, and lifestyles is a political act. We vote with our fork and our shovel as much as we vote with the ballot.

Patty Beynet

I signed up for Cinema Verite a few weeks ago and have not been able to access it either. I have tried and tried to no avail. Please help. Patty

Kevin Bartoy

And, one more link to a French documentary that has exposed all of the nefarious deeds that Monsanto is doing to our world:

I watched a bootleg copy of this film and it is a must see for those who believe Roundup and Monsanto are good.

I don't think that the film was ever released in the States.

Jennifer in OR

Well, the photo is beautiful, anyway!


What a delightful tale! I could see myself doing that only to later realize "Quelle horreur"!
BTW....your wine will be available in Iowa City (which store?). I love to know this info as I am a midwesterner and am most interested in enjoying your wine someday!


Just read the explanation by Jean-Marc regarding the vine roots/ weeds benefit. Very interesting. Merci, Jean-Marc !


I had a private chuckle when I saw your dismay at the word "roondoop." Years ago when I was living in Paris, I attended a fashion design school. The instructor was talking about a "pool-au-vert" or was it a "pool-ouvert"? It turned out to be a pullover!
Dorothy L

Suzanne Pham

Thank you for your wonderful website! Just as Teresa from Seattle wrote--I logon in the early morning with my cafe au lait and am transported to my favorite place in the world. It's such a great way to start my day and you have encouraged me to dust off my French language books and improve my skills.

I attended school in France for a short time twenty years ago and I wrote an essay about one of the boys in the French family I lived with while in Paris. I was trying to explain that he was hot-headed. My professor commented on my paper that I had described him as being in heat.


I love it!! I can't believe how much Roundup is used. People spray it like it's just water. I am so glad your husband is all about letting weeds grow and pulling them by hand when they are too thick.

June Furey

As always I opeened up your email and found so many events and daily meanderings to savour my day Also the photos,
I have booked my flight to Paris for mid March again and am anxiously looking forward to my days of painting in the Aude. It seems to speak to me as I walk the lanes and breathe in all the aromas of the terroir. Yes I come alive again
as everyday I am immersed with my painting.
Thank you again for giving me your wonderful pictures to stimulate me with visions to enhance my inspiration.
Your artist ami
June Furey

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