The French word for plastered drunk...

Sarcler: To Weed in French

  Smokey golden retriever day dreaming
For the purposes of this edition (there's always the need for an illustrative photo) Smokey pretends to be a weed. But we're not buyin' it, are we?

sarcler (sar-clay) verb

    : to weed

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

(Note: this story was written one year ago.)

Our neighbor 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 as he 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 mentioned to Jean-Marie, as we stood on the patch of grass just above the ruisseau.

"In that case, you'll need to put up un coupe-vent.. a row of thick buissons, for example."

Jean-Marie had a point. After all, we were standing pile-poil 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 would not stand a chance.

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.

In a field on the road to Tulette, Mom and I had dug up a few samples of the exotic and colorful herbe... 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 certain farmers to control weeds in the vineyard.

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

Just then I remembered Chief Grape, my organic-wine-farmer husband, who was about to come onto the scene and discover some foul play in the near vicinity of his precious raisins!

I quickly went to work yanking out the chemically-loaded grass, discretely shoving it all into the closest container of trash, before I myself got roondedup by Chief Grape.

*     *     *
:: Le Coin Commentaires::
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French Vocabulary

la mise en bouteille = bottling
le potager
= vegetable garden
le ruisseau
= creek
un coupe-vent
= windbreak, windbreaker
le buisson
= bush
pile-poil = smack, just, exactly
portail = gate
l'herbe (f)
=  grass
je ne sais quoi
= that certain something
un désherbant
= weedkiller
le raisin
= grape

Example sentence: Le sarclage étant plus difficile lorsque la terre est sèche, il est judicieux d'arroser le terrain légèrement une heure avant de commencer. Weeding being the most difficult when the earth is dry, it is a good idea to lightly water the area one hour before beginning. (Suite101)

Here's Smokey—pretending to be a blade of grass—in order to get out of today's chore here at Domaine Rouge-Bleu (we're bottling 6000 units today! I had thought to ask Mr. Smoke to take my place, only he was no where to be found... Meantime, he blended in beautifully with the scenery....) To his left, les "soucis" (marigolds). Above, "la monnaie du pape" (coin flowers). To his right (background), his favorite "snapper"dragons. Now who, pray tell, would want to break a back bottling wine all day when you could lie flat-bellied in a forest of flowers?


Books & Language Tools:
The Ultimate French Verb Review and Practice
Buying a Piece of Paris: A Memoir
Cuthbertson French Verb Wheel

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


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Betty Gleason

Smokey is the whole riotous flower garden!

Nan Morrissette

Well, since Smokey seems to be growing like a weed, a garden is a reasonable place to be. Our dearly loved and so sadly missed cat used to sleep in my daffodil garden. There were so many daffodils - he would carefully slink between them, never breaking a single stalk, lay down in their yellow-headed shade and sleep.

Chris Colyer

I love this post since I knew nothing about our first veggie garden I told my husband we couldn't grow cucumbers, zucchinis, potatoes and such because the packets said you had to plant them on hills and we had no hills in our yard.....needless to say, I've learned a lot since then.....

Merry Staser

Please don't do less of Smokey and his mom....I adore this blog for the wonderful comments and pictures of Smokey and his mom and of course the life you are all living.
Smokey sets a good example to many of us who have scars. Thanks. Merry

Bill in St. Paul

In the first picture of Smokey it looks like he is trying to lull the tulips into a sense of safety before he leaps up and snips off their heads, unlike our local rabbits who just assume that the tulips are part of their buffet and overtly chomp off the tops. Smokey's looking good and content - way to go Nurse K.

Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ

A great story, Kristi, and timely too. On this Friday morning traveling into NYC my thoughts turn to gardening over the weekend in beautiful Central New Jersey. Smokey looks more like an exhausted gardener than a weed.

Just this week on my local NPR station I heard a story about how Roundup has been used so much by farmers that many weeds are tolerant of this herbicide. Farmers are now having to weed even though they use it. So hurrah for organic farmers like Jean-Marc. The weeds will always win over an herbicide given time.

Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ

Another thought ... what a coup with today's post. You have satisfied animal lovers, wine lovers, organic farmers, and wine lovers all at once! Speaking of animals, we have this theory about animals leaving traits behind when they pass on to other pets who join the family. Our Akita, Saki, loved to walk through the garden making certain a few flowers or plants brushed her face. After she died and our Westie Cassidy came to live with us, she acquired the same habit but her cousin Westie Mr. Darcy never did. Our Shih-Tzu, Boomeran is just like Mr. D. ... the garden is simply there. But when Cassidy died and our new Westie (a distant cousin of Cassidy and Mr. D.) arrived, she picked up the same face brushing habit of Saki and Cassidy. She even closes her eyes to avoid the thorns on the rose bushes.

Marianne Giordano

Hi Kristi:

I loved todays story. I always love to see pictures of Smokie and Braise and read the wonderful way you tell a story about them. What a great life you guys live!!!! Your whole family is so photogenic! And to Suzanne, of Monroe Township, I loved your story too..

Marianne, Patterson, New York


Hi Kristin,
I laughed so hard at today's story!
I tried to find "Round-up" at the local Dehner's nursery in Heidelberg. We had some terrible weeds growing in between the driveway pavers and they were impossible to dig out because of the small groove between the pavers. The nursery workers were having a hard time understanding what I was looking for. Finally they understood and "Round-up" is kept in a locked cabinet and one must be given a "briefing" on the correct way to use it before purchasing.

John Backman

Roondoop! That is hilarious!

Your stories always make me feel as though I'm back in France. They're a breath of fresh air!


Smokey is a great inspiration as I plow into spring weeding and sprucing up!
What a cutie! I will share "Roondoop" with all my gardening friends as my laugh of the day!
Thank You Kristin

Simply "salut" Kristin!


Please don't give up giving us photos and comments of dogs. I love what you do but sadly I look every time for the "doggy" pics. Maybe some more of your "other" children too. They are growing so fast. Thank you for writing!


Smokey is so relaxed, so peaceful. Wish we could join him. We love your musings Kristin. Wonderful conversations! Milles merci... to Smokey R. Dokey as well (love that name).

Julie F

"Roondoop" -- what a good laugh. Your pictures of Smoke reminded me so much of my beloved Millie who passed away last month. The first year we got her she kept cool in our steamy St. Louis summers by plopping down in my lily bed filled with heirloom plants from my father-in-law's garden. Those plants must have felt so good on a hot afternoon. For the next twelve years I planted no flowers where she could access them because she moved from my lilies to my daffodils to my tulips until nothing was left standing. Now I can plant flowers in my back yard again, but I'd rather have my Millie.

And what a coincidence, Kristen, because today I just posted some thoughts about weeds in my blog, too ( ). In it, I also confess to using "Roondoop" out of desperation.

Emily L.

I remember this story from last year -- one of my favorites!

Jan, Colorado

I got a good laugh from the roondoop story and also Chris' story about the "hills". No possiblities of gardening here on the Front Range of Colorado--woke up to almost 10 inches of snow this morning and it's still falling! So much for today's lunch plans. Rats! A week ago we were in Hawaii enjoying the sun, sand and surf. It all seems like a dream now...


Oh, I laughed so hard reading this... I can't believe I'm typing it but...I have a funny Round-up story as well. Which is not as good as this. And Smokey has the right idea....

But running off to annoy people with do-gooder activities.

Thanks for your comment & suggestion last week. Have your book now, too, & will think about it.


Rebecca Mummert

Such a funny story. I can just see you and Jules proudly replanting your prized find...and then the shock of realizing the mistake. Your writing is the best!
LOVE the pictures of Smokey - the blue sky and flowers look divine!
Rebecca in NYC (sunny and beautiful spring day here!)


J'adore cette histoire. C'est vraiment drôle! Merci de partager votre expérience!

Lee Ann

Je toujours adore les photos des chiens. S'il vous plaît, n'arretez jamais! Les chiens me font rire tout le temps.


We have started gardening ourselves. I am planting an herb garden in one patch my son say's can be mine :), and he has extended another garden out several feet. We are now just rying to find top soil to be delivered. There are 6 grape vines out there against the fence. When we moved in luscious purple grapes hung from them...last yr not such luck. I have no idea how to grow grapes. My 15 yr old son loves to garden. A couple weeks ago while watching him expand the small garden, he said, "you know, people who garden live longer." He is already getting a few ideas about life at such a young age.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Kristin Espinasse

Buffy, wonderful to read that your son loves gardening. What a thoughtful comment about gardening and a longer life. Cheers to him! As for the grapes that didnt appear this year... I wonder it the vines need to be pruned?

Thanks to everyone for these lovely comments! Keep your stories coming. They bring smiles.


I think the issue last summer may have been I do not know how to prune...we had lots of leaves but no fruit. They are coming up this year, so we will keep our fingers crossed. The previous owner obviuosly knew what he was doing. :)

Your stories bring smiles as well!!


Love the Roondoop story and it's all very timely as I just returned from the nursery where I bought tomatoes, geraniums, parsley, strawberries & basil as the sun is out and it's warming up in Southern California. Tomorrow is planting day, but, today, my iris started blooming. Spring & summer are such marvelous seasons of renewal. Love to Smokey Dokey & Braise.

Pat Cargill

Great story today, Kristin - love, love the pics of Smokey D. Dokey, mais oui, chere chien c'est important to arreter and smell les fleurs! So what if it is a looong nap--naps are good. Parsley is ready to put out. little somethings are coming up in my organic 4 x 4 jardin, can't rem what exactly they are--never good about labeling. Think its little carrots and ???
Happy gardening and hope the mise en bouteille went well -- am hoarding the Rouge-Bleu purchased in D.C. during J-M's visit...b'day coming up and will open up a bottle then. Big marathon taking place in Roanoke tomorrow! Up the mountain to the Star and back downtown. Big doings. I will sip coffee and cheer them on after an early morning yoga class.

Christine in Salt Lake City

What a great story! I've been laughing about "Roondoop" all day! I too can picture you and Jules making the transplant. Too funny. Thanks for the laugh.

Rainy and cool in SLC today.

Marianne Rankin

Yes, the "Roondoop" story is funny. Nevertheless, I'm glad Rouge-Bleu is organically grown.

We don't use Roundup or much of anything chemical in our yard because of our three cats; we don't want anything to happen to them. And when my son was too little to understand about toxic substances, we didn't want him to encounter them, either.

One way to get rid of weeds is to go out in or after a heavy rain and pull them when the ground is soft (even softer than having been manually watered in advance). Another is to pour vinegar on them, or a light solution of dish soap, or boiling water. I suppose a vineyard is rather too large for these methods, unless several people do the weeding on an almost constant basis.

In addition to arugula, this year I am trying to grow strawberries and tomatoes. They are in separate containers from the lawn. If I get any fruit, I'll let you know. Meanwhile, I think I'll look for some grapes to plant.


Words and weeds (“les mauvaises herbes”) ... etc

Before going back to my garden where I won't do any hard work today, here is some virtual gardening for the pleasure of digging a few French words and giving them to any Francophile amateur gardener and nature-loving enthusiast.

“désherber” = to weed
a) --> “arracher les mauvaises herbes à la main” = to weed (manually) ... easier after the rain, yes, Marianne, I share your idea! BTW, I never used vinegar, but I certainly used washing-up liquid solution to spray on green flies (which reminds me of a delightful little story and drawings by my daughter Lucy...going back to May 1987 ... oh dear!)
b) --> “détruire les mauvaises herbes avec un désherbant” = to weed with a weedkiller (I did used some weedkiller only once, to get rid of invading brambles when we moved to our house in Summer 1985.

“SARCLER” (thank you Kristin for this 'word of action' at this time of the year!
“sarcler” or “biner” = to hoe (action that implies removing the roots with a hoe (easier with a hoe than with your hands!...)
--> a hoe, in French = “un sarcloir”, or “une binette”
--> a small hoe = “une sarclette”

I like using a hoe but I do need une fourche ('gardener fork') to remove the roots of
- “pissenlits” = dandelions - I let them come to flower but remove their roots before they set seed all over the garden.
- “liseron” = bindweed - nice white flowers but they smother anything in their path!
- “queues de rat” ('horsetail') and “ronces” (= 'brambles') ... After years of hard work, we've hardly got any horsetail and brambles now, (except some brambles from my neighbours, spreading under the fence panels and shooting in my garden... nothing too serious.

*** I love innocent little weeds like 'Speedwells' with their delicate blue flowers, reddish 'Scarlet Pimpernels' and the tiny charming yellow flowers of the (spreading) 'yellow sorrel' - I leave them where they are, disappearing in the Autumn and winter and look forward to see them again the following year! When we used to have a very large aviary, I used to give plenty of 'chickweed' (in French -> “du mouron”) to the birds - what a useful weed!- The budgies treated it as a delicacy and were always ready to fight for it! No need to have a hoe to remove them as they are so easy to pick!

My mother-in-law used to keep and encourage a large patch of stinging nettles at the back of her garden where small tortoiseshell and peacock butterfly larvae would grow and feed at the top of the stems. They also attract lots of aphids, excellent food for “coccinelles” (= ladybirds) and blue tits (= mésanges bleues). Stinging nettles are weeds that never seem to settle in my garden but some common British butterflies love certain flowers and are particularly attracted by any 'buddleia' shrub (a powerful magnet for all the butterflies)- some of them grow wild along railway lines.


'stinging nettles' --> in French: "les orties"


Kristin, I'd like to thank you for your flower photos.
Quite interesting to see, coming out of your soil “plein de cailloux”, these pale pink single and double tulips. No weed around them - result of “sarclage”? “désherbage”? or were they smothered by “les cailloux”? or is it because Smokey chose to hide them and let us admire the lovely flowers? My tulips (in pots) will need at least another couple of weeks to get in full bloom.

Woow, what a trunk! It would be nice to get a photo of the whole tree while still “bourgeonnant” (in bud). Nice to see the colourful patch of “mufliers” / “gueules de loup” ('snapdragons') on the far right of the photo. Did you plant the ones that were in a pot last week? (photos in 'ébourrifé' newsletter)
I love the simple and bright “soucis”. Do you leave them re-seeding themselves from one year to the next (?) You are lucky in Provence... here, no marigold flowers yet...
About “la lunaire” ('lunaria') the flowers have such a pretty violet colour! The French nickname “la monnaie du pape” is amusing. Indeed, the round pods look like coins... As for 'honesty' - the English nickname for "la monnaie du pape"- the seeds are completely visible through the transparent pods, so, the pods cannot hide anything ... hence, the air of honesty about them... (?) maybe...

'Roundup': I remember the story from last year and enjoyed re-reading it today. Not surprised at all the gorgeous colour attracted Jule's eyes!
Kristin, I greatly appreciate the approach and the methods used by your 'organic-wine-farmer husband' . Bravo Jean-Marc! I hope the recent “mise en bouteilles” , although tiring, was promising! “Bon courage” for all the hard work in your Domaine Rouge Bleu. How are your baby vines doing these days?

Ali Herron

I think this word whould have been defined as "to tend" better than to weed. In our village, no says this word. I always "enlever les mauvais herbes".


---> to weed (manually) = désherber, but yes, Ali, people often say: "enlever les mauvaises herbes" / "arracher les mauvaises herbes".


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