Red door 
I love this red door, which decorates the side of a mas in the town of Serignan. The owners must think I am a garden stalker... Each time I take this side road, I slow my car to a creepy crawl... in time to enjoy this lovely corner with its bricks, chipped paint and crumbly wall. 

A few temptations before we begin this edition:
1. Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France
2. Learn French with Rosetta Stone Levels 1, 2 & 3
3. Coffee Sugar Flour and Tea red white metal check traditional metal canister set--in French!

Tin canisters


le jardinage (jhar-dee-nazh) noun, masculine

    : gardening

faire du jardinage = to garden, to do some gardening

Audio File: (note: these audio files will return soon... with the return of our tech master, Jean-Marc... who has been away--but will soon return to sort out our computer crash problems!


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

I need to leave for the airport in Marseilles in the next hour, to meet Jean-Marc--who has just completed his two-week wine tour! I hope my husband will be delighted by the changes taking place here at home: this, thanks to some jardinage!* After losing electricity, week before last, it finally occurred to me to throw all that nervous energy into digging, planting, and pulling (mauvaises herbes*). The pulling part, I am discovering, is an effective stress reliever (perhaps better than pulling on... and snapping... the nerves of those around us?).

Tools of the trade 
That's me, the newbie gardener (the driving gloves are a dead giveaway).

Before I sign off, I wanted to share a wonderful gardening site by my friend Bonnie Manion. I had the chance of meeting Bonnie last year, when she and her husband, John, visited our vineyard along with our friend Jacques Combe. I learned that Bonnie is an avid gardener... and that she adores her chickens! Her gardens and hens have been featured in several publications and, lucky for us, she publishes her own column over at VintageGardenGal. Perusing her blog archives, you'll enjoy the French antiques that make their way into her backyard... center stage along with those star chickens, her "Hollywood Girls"!

I'll be back on Wednesday, with more about the planting and propagating (a new English word for me...) going on 'round here.

Tree garden
Mom and I have been transplanting local varieties (wild orchids, irises) that push up and grow in groves (droves? troves? how about in loads!) along the neighboring canals. We'll see how they do. P.S.: That's Braise in the lower right corner. She loves to sit on plants and flowers, or "scratch her back" over the strawberry patch. Grrrrhhhhh!

*     *     *
Comments, corrections, and stories of your own are always welcome and appreciated. Thank you for using the comments box!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
le jardinage
(m) = gardening; les mauvaises herbes (f) = weeds

I leave you with an excerpt from the weekend edition, Cinéma Vérité:
I hurried through the narrow, winding streets, aware of a hush... it was my own breath exhaling in awe before the endangered architecture: the old painted storefront façades. There was a "Droguerie" in rusted tones, orange and red, and a blue "Alimentation du Moulin". My heart sank, knowing that anytime now the old French façades would be painted over. Construction and renovation loomed, threatening to strip yet another French village of its colorful character.

(15 photos were published, along with the story. It's not too late to enjoy them. More info here.)

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Bill Geery

I did attend the wine tasting on Friday night (April 3) at Solo Vino in St. Paul and talked briefly with Jean-Marc. I bought a bottle of the Mistral as that was both in my "taste range" and price range. I told Jean-Marc that I enjoyed your blog (only being a reader for two weeks). He asked me if I had a card, but alas, no, being inside support my company sees no reason that I need cards.


Bonjour, Kristen - c'est si bon que you are becoming a gardener...my great joy. I like nothing better than "puttering" around in my backyard. Ma chere Grandmere Mollie has always been my greatest inspiration. She had beautiful flower beds and a wonderful prolific vegetable garden. The last thing she'd do before lunches in the summer was go into the garden, pull off some corn, shuck it, then drop it into already-boiling h20. She canned ("put up" in old timey lingo) beans, tomatoes, peaches. I remember walking into her kitchen on a summer's day and the rows of reds, greens or peachy colors in the glass jars would glow in the late afternoon sun like gemstones. Her kitchen was a bright yellow w/a fire engine red backdoor. The effect was ...memorable. Rich with colors and smells and of course her sweet spirit, I was richly blessed having this amazing woman in my life. Meals were shared around the round oak pedestal table there in the kitchen, with Mollie sitting on her little red metal stool (the kind that had the steps that folded out) devouring the fresh foods she had grown.

I hope you will enjoy gardening...le jardin is truly my "briar patch." (Does that ring a bell of stories from the South, anyone?) La vie est bonne.

Welcome home J-M!


Thanks for a photo from Serignan. We were taken to that little town to see a wonderful modern art museum. Quelle surprise: a collegue of ours had a piece of her art work there. The town itself was quite nice, besides the museum we went to a terrific little antique shop. Nice memories, thanks for "jogging" them. Good luck with the jardin.


Gardening is a very rewarding exercise. You look rather determined with that mattock in your hand Kristi! I loved Pat's description of her Grandmother and surroundings. The vegetable garden(two raised beds) are in place here with hopefully cat-proof netting. The beans and peas will be planted today after work and the other seeds shortly. The cold weather has delayed planting but the robins are in full song this morning and the sun is out!



Oh my goodness. This is too much. The Tree & The Red Door. I struggled last night to send some digital photos of Palm Sunday to friends. That's a long story too. But I will get off to you a promised SC Tree photo. I think you've found an excellent solution to stress. Gardening: It yields many rich rewards. I admire those that do and have a very small patch that I ruminate about making into an equally small intensive gardening spot. Also inspired by French know how. I checked out Bonnie Manion's garden website. Wow! Chickens too! I shall never leave home nor my computer screen at this rate. Once again my admiration and appreciation. Leda
P.S. Now you need to give yourself another present: besides new slippers (& your very own computer), a pair of gardening gloves. Your driving ones are spiffy but they'll be gone before you know it.


Seeing Braise in this photo reminded me: Did you notice Braise in your photo of the huge red wagon? It was part of the red & green series. You almost can't see him. It was like a Search & Find from those Highlights magazines. Remember them?

Sara Clevering

I'm starting to garden myself--it's going to be fun to follow your experiences. Yes: lots of new vocab to learn!

Fred Caswell

J'adore les photos de toi avec la pinoche (?) and a proud smile with a background of naked grape vines waiting to be adorned with leaves and fruit while you obviously are looking forward to shedding your insulating outer clothes.

During the early l930's Mom and I would work our substantial vegetable gardens, spending hours alone or together turning the soil by hand, planting many kinds of veggies, and doing all we could to help them mature and produce. What did not go directly to the kitchen for the day's meals ended in cold storage or were canned in those glass jars with the covers secured with rubber rings and levered clamps. Canning was most laborious for my very tough 4'11" red headed French Canadian mother. Since then, vegetable gardening has been part of my life.

I hope your recent time in the USA was very successful, Jean-Marc. Your safe return must have been a mutual joy and relief for you and your family. Love & best wishes to all!


Kristin, I'm sure you know that US First Lady Michelle Obama has started a garden on the South Lawn of the White House. You're in good company:


For your computer(s), think about buying an UPS (uninterruptible power supply). It acts as a battery and a surge protector. You can also use it to run a radio, light bulb, etc. I bought mine for $80 at Costco. When the lights go out, my computer and modem keep working (for about 15 minutes). Here's a link to a typical example (works in France), somewhat like mine:



Thanks for another French word. Am enjoying your site and photos. Will be back for more.


Hi Bill. Thanks for joining us here at the blog -- and over at St. Paul. Bienvenue!

Pat: I join Martina in loving the story of your Grand-mère Mollie. I want my kitchen to be like her sweet kitchen! Perhaps I can start with that red metal stool... might it come with all those canned vegetables?!

Martina: thanks for the word "mattock" (I'd wondered what "they" were called!, and Leda, for those garden gloves--I'll get some. Enjoy your own garden, too!

Karen: thanks for remembering the other "hidden Braisse-The-Dog" photo over at Cinéma Vérité.

Fred: Keep your stories coming. Your mom was such a character, it seems!

Douglas: I should have asked Jean-Marc to bring me one of those surge protector batteries... instead of the Flip camera! Thanks for the info -- and how cool that one can hook a light bulb up to it!


Non, ce n'est pas toi ! Je n'en crois pas mes yeux ! Tu jardines, c'est incroyable !!!

Nancy L.

Bonjour Kristin! Not to worry about the gloves...very Michelle Obama of you. You are in good company, apparently she took some flak for gardening in attire that was not 'quite' practical...but she looked darn good doing it and so do YOU!
Hey, what's the French equivelent for an expression like "getting flak for"?


The most fun I have in the garden is digging in the dirt. I love getting my hands into it, squishing it through my fingers to work out lumps. I get to dig partly because I learned a secret:

After several years of gardening, I learned about the art of transplanting. For many years I thought once a plant was there, well, there it would stay. Then, the fun of moving plants around dawned and I do it all the time. Trick, move a whole bunch of dirt w/it (gentle w/the root ball) doing it early or late in the day to avoid the stress of hot sun. My fave tool is a narrow shovel w/a 3-4 inch tip that really cuts into the earth well. It works as an edger and is the top dog of hole diggers.

After this workhorse tool, my garden tool of choice and treasure is Fesco Secateurs (sp?) (there it is, the French word for shears/trimmers) No. 6 - the tool w/out which I could not survive.

And here is a garden HORROR STORY...having replaced my "No. 6's" just last year, I went out a couple weeks ago to continue the cropping of the lariope for pre-printemps growth. Looking all around I could not find them...with bright red handles they are easy to locate. I looked and looked,not in the garden bucket,not in the yard, not to be seen. Panic. After looking again and even back into the kitchen to see if I had brought them in mindlessly (what's new) I thought COULD I HAVE ABSENTMINDEDLY THROWN THEM INTO the trashcan in the alley along w/the clippings and other garbage? Off to the alley to dumpster dive and voila! and WaLa! there they were...shiny red handles begging to be found. This story has a "happy ending," but I tell it to let you know how easily une tragedy du jardin can happen! These babies are not cheap, but well worth it. I have vowed to be more careful and aussi more gentle with my Felco's.

Happy gardening to one and all. Note to myself: Garden responsibly--ma Grand-mere Mollie must be shaking her head in her Heavenly Jardin when she looks down on me sometimes! (hee, hee).

p.s. Yes, I need to compost more!


Un more mot: There is a marvelous book by Kaye Gibbons called Ellen Foster. The story of this child is poignant and beautifully written and in it Ellen speaks the word "wala" -- her own interpretation for the French "voila." Because she is so dear and it is such a sweet "mistake" I took to using it and often get funny looks from people when I say it (all the MORE fun because I KNOW I am not using the correct word but the hearer doesn't). Enfant terrible?

I promise, this is my final post of the day.


Hi Pat ( sorry Kristin :-)) Just love your stories and will look up your book! I have a delightful neighbour who also loves to garden early morning and late evening under the guise of semi-darkness and I swear all her plants dance around the garden are never found in the same place twice...!

Kristin...so happy to hear hubby is back safe and sound! Happy families!

Jennifer in OR

Welcome home to Jean-Marc! What a blessing it must be to have him back! I loved the pictures of you jardinage.


Hi Pat! I'm with Gretel -- love your stories! Thanks for the gardening tools tip. I am currently using a fork and a spoon -- and have bended back (bent back?) quite a bit of our kitchen table utensils. At this point, I'll either have to replace the spoons... or get to the garden store and get the right equipment. I'll note down the favorite tools that you mention. Thank you! PS: My mom loves to transplant, too. She keeps telling me: just wait until you figure this part out!

Gretel: I guess the "this part" is all those dancing plants! Gardening sounds like a real "ball"!

Cynthia in France

Hi, Kristin, you're the prettiest gardener I've seen in France. My fiance and I have started digging and preparing our vegetable garden in our backyard (we're on the outskirts of Chambery and too urban for a vineyard). Our first task however was to rid the garden area of snails (escargots) which numbered over 100. Now I understand why the French eat them!! What a nuisance. I hope you had a joyous reunion with the hubby. Cynthia in France


The little red metal stool upon which my chere Grand-mere sat at her kitchen table was made by COSCO, who still today make them!, for sale on Amazon (tried to cut/paste link but, alas it did not transfer in). This has given me the irresistable urge to have one...perhaps my April b'day present?

Happy jardinage mes amis. I raise my secateurs to one and all and cheer you on to discover your joy of gardening. Sometimes when I've worn myself slap out I lie down in the grass and Miss Maxine (our miniature wild-child schnauzer) stands over me, makes sure I am ok and settles in beside me. She's never met a bee she didn't want to chase.

(Returned home from a week in Charleston, SC, today to discover NONE of the spinach seeds, some of which had sprouted, are there. It happens. HA!)

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)