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...

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



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 1. The Ultimate French Verb Review and Practice  
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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 



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...

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).

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Diane Emerson

Thank you Kristin for the composting words. I will soon be volunteering in some French gardens and they will surely come in handy!

Ah, composting. Composting toilets, composting kitchen scraps, sheet composting, worm farms, the stuff of great and bountiful gardens.

Weeds in the compost pile: some weeds will survive the compost pile, and you will be spreading them further along with the compost. Check with the locals to know for sure about this one. They will know which weeds would be safe for the compost pile, and which should be disposed of in a different manner. In a garden here in Auckland, they keep a barrel of water for the tradescantia - seems to be the only way to kill it, short of putting it in the freezer!

Grass clippings. Lovely for compost, but if left in a big pile on their own, they can breed flies that bite. I would keep the layer of grass clippings no deeper than 6 inches to avoid this. I mention this just in case you are offered grass clippings from neighbours, and end up with lots of them waiting to be spread out on the garden.

I love mulching - it discourages weeds, improves the soil, is way easier to spread mulch than weed, and helps the soil retain moisture. And you can tuck kitchen scraps underneath it when it is deep enough. This is what is called 'sheet composting'. The dogs might find the smells a bit too interesting, though, and retrieve the kitchen scraps from under the mulch. Happy spring!!


I was in the French garden store Botanic the other day, and they had giant poppy plants for sale...oh so tempting for my yard!

Bill in St. Paul

Our daughter is a composter. She has her worms that she has been breeding to help her garden grow. She even gave me a composting barrel for my birthday where I dump the grass clippings in the top then our neighbor comes and gets the compost out the bottom - it seems to be working.

When Smokey "R" Dokey went to visit Mrs. Canard, did he go for a neighborly visit or to cause mischief? From the picture it looks like Smokey was looking to cause a little mischief.

France Geek

Your word of the day caught my eye as remuage is on the tips of everyones tongues in Champagne where we just finished a wine tour. Up there they remuent the bottles but it's kind of related - to get the debris and organic waste eventually out of the bottle of champagne. I hope that sediment makes it to a giant compost pile!

I'm a big fan of compost piles too, though you're already more methodical about it than I am. I just toss all our kitchen scraps into a heap in a makeshift composter I made out of wood pallets. Thanks to your post I'm going to be better with the carbon and that pile will reduce more quickly.

Cheers and bon remuage!


Just a few things about compost --- but first of all, congratulations for composting!

Our compost area is in a corner at the back of our garden, against a wall. The compost heap 'sits' directly onto the ground. We have 2 compartments, divided by pallets -> the type used to pile up bricks when they get delivered on a building site. Easy to get hold of pallets as they are usually burnt or thrown away, or given away to anyone who wants them. My husband placed them, vertically, and fixed them to the wall behind. There is a pallet at each end, and 2 pallets against each other for the division into 2 compartments.
A few years ago, we bought a very good Scandinavian shredder. Next to the 2 compost heaps, we have an area where we accumulate all the clippings from hedges, shrubs etc... till we've got plenty to shred. The shreddings greatly improved our compost as they add bulk and excellent ingredients.

Our compost heap gets
- crushed eggshells and all peelings and remains from fruit and veg, except citrus fruit, dead flowers
- sawdust and fine wood shavings (the curly 'things') and ash 'dust' from our woodburner
- whatever comes out of the hoover filter bag (dust and hair!)
- plenty of shreddings from leaves, twigs and thin branches.
- animal manure. Not too far from where we live, there are people who let you fill up as many bags of manure as you like -> manure from cows, horses & ponies, chicken... so, we sometimes add that stuff to our compost and let it decompose... We never put horse manure directly to our soil, as it can 'burn' plants.

We used to add shredded brown cardboard, finely shredded paper (no glossy magazines) but we now recycle all paper and cardboard and they all end up in the huge paper banks and cardboard banks in our nearest waste recycling centre.

We don't add as much grass mowings as we used to (can become slimy) and we rather leave it on the lawn. They feed the grass and eventually 'disappear'...

Of course, never ever any dairy or cooked food - no meat, fish....
No dog faeces, no cat litter

I keep a large fork next to my compost heap, perfect for "remuer le compost", yes but, I don't keep stirring it thoroughly every day or every single week! I simply stir up any new ingredients put on the top, (without disturbing the whole heap) in order to spread them and cover them with some older compost. One has to bear in mind the ingredients also need time to decompose without being disturbed all the time. We have a second heap 'section' and when the first heap gets a bit higher, I don't 'stir it up' - I transfer all the compost-to-be into the second heap.

Watering? Sometimes, we think the heap is wet enough, but when transferring to the second heap, we realize the middle of it is dry! The heap must be full of moisture, but not soaking wet! The rain does the job, but we need to add some water in the middle of the summer.

Enjoy making your very own black gold!

Karen W  (Towson, Maryland)

My addition to the "compost box" here today is mere oxygen. I've been wanting to do this for years so reading this post is very helpful. What happens in winter? Does it freeze?

I love that you can add the contents left over from "hoovering" AND I'm now visualizing one of those 3 foot long forks that I see in shopping catalogs FINALLY having a true function in life!!

Going to look up the word "fumier" now. I thought it meant "smoking".

Kirk Woodyard

K, I turn when I move my compost. Just pick up a forkful and turn it upside down next to the pile. Also to extend the oxygenation, be sure to leave some irregular twigs and branches in the pile. They create air pockets(O)deep under the surface that encourage the green stuff (N) to eat the brown (carbs) stuff.

Karen W  (Towson, Maryland)

Something else to add to the heap (a "C" for confusing):

fumée - smoke
fumer - to manure (land)
fumer - to smoke, to fume, to rage
fumet - aroma (pleasant) smell (of cooked food)
fumeur - smoker (cigarette, etc), smoking compartment

and finally...
fumier - manure


This is not about compost, but about choosing plants. I am deeply concerned about planting "California Poppy" in the south of France. One of the worst problems in the world today is the introduction of exotic invasive plants into the ecosystem. They often become invasive (read: weeds) and push out the native plants. There are so many lovely plants that are indigenous to France--it would be a shame to introduce a plant that might upset the balance. I hope you will consider pulling up the whole poppy plant and putting it in the compost before it starts to spread.

Mike from South Africa

My own compost "heap" is about 7m long in an unusable corner of my garden. One end is quie near the kitchen nd it's the new stuff. The far end is the oldest and my practice is to turn everything towards the old end as rthat end gets used up. I have cheated by setting up a section of my garden irrigation system so that I can water the compost from time to time, using the well-point and pump that is installed nearby. I'm going to invite controversy by saying that in moderate quantities, mixed with other vegetable matter, citrus can be used. The expert views are divided here.

I agree with the earlier post which recommends a shredder. It is actually a must if you are serious about compost, I'd say. When I prune trees, anything too big for the shredder gets cut up to keep me warm in winter. What gets shredded tends to help with the need to make the heap as airy as possible. I also get help from resident birds which are in the ibis family and do lots of aeration when they look for worms.

Where I live in South Africa, we have a weekly garbage collection and recyclables are taken separately at the same time. As a personal challenge, I weigh what I send to land-fill each week. It's usually below 500g and the best I've ever done is 165g. Composting helps keep down the land-fill component greatly.

Finally, I can't resist adding that little boys are well equipped to add to liquid and nitrogen content, Brussels style! Not so convenient for little girls, though.

Suzanne Dunaway

A tip, Kristin: Buy STRAW, not HAY (has seeds) at your local agriculteur in bales. Put the straw deep onto your planting beds, I mean, literally about 5 inches deep. You will have NO weeds in spring, no weeds in winter, and the sold will eat the straw as it composts over the seasons. I started this when I read Ruth Stout's book "How to have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back." Ruth was 80 something when she wrote the book, and I can only tell you from experience that I have huge crops of tomatoes, fruit, herbs and so on. And I do nothing. Absolutely nothing. I turn the soil once in spring and turn under all the straw and put another layer for summer and fall.
I promise you results. And you can plant your seeds right under the mulch as they will find their way to sun and be stronger for it.


Composting is an addictive occupation - once you start, it's hard to stop. For years now, I have been stopping weekly at our local bakery for an expensive espresso mocha topped off with a generous tip just so that I can have all of the leftover coffee grounds my local baristas save for me. (I almost feuded with another hopeful composter who beat me to the bucket before I realized and could tame my greed for grounds!) I tried (unsuccessfully) to save all of the trimmings from my daughter Ruthie's wedding dinner but her future mother-in-law nixed that idea cold. And sometimes before dawn, I sneak, wheelbarrow in tow, to collect the neighbors grass clippings and fall leaves. I braved a barking dog, just to capture the maple leaves just sitting in piles near his house. My local grocer allowed me the discarded produce, until I embarassed myself lugging giant black plastic bags through the aisles - composters soon lose all self respect - even little librarian types, comme moi! I developed a relationship with the produce gal who now so generously delivers my bags of otherwise wasted bruised melons, overripe avocados, moldy tomatoes, soft carrots, etc, etc, etc... Needless to say, I have the happiest worms in town, and the vegetables aren't bad either.


What I love best about composting is how very, very small our bags of garbage become when we can do it! Unfortunately, Vermont's climate does not encourage a year-round habit.

Frank Levin

I compost at an almost obsessive level. I have two sort of dome-shaped composters that I got at our local waste transfer station. Into those go kitchen scraps (non-meat) layered with mixed vegetative matter from my chipper/shredder into which goes everything too big for direct addition to the pile. Last year I got a bizarre composting sphere about three feet in diameter with tubes running into it from the outside to bring fresh air to the contents. I rotate it every few days and it makes a batch in about six weeks. I also have two circular plastic cylinders about the same diameter into which goes recently chipped/shredded stuff to break down a bit before being added to one of the previously mentioned devices. It is fun in a strange sort of way and the results make the garden and decorative plantings prosper.
It was 28° this morning and sunny as Hood River is under the thrall of a very retarded spring. I hope nothing froze last night. Today I will open one of the domes and spread the rich bounty.

Marianne Rankin

Thanks for the acronym CNOW for composting, something I've been thinking about doing for a long time, and tried, after a fashion, in the past. I think I will stick mainly to leaves and grass, with occasional additions of other items, because I don't have much space to do composting, and we have strict rules in our community about many things. I almost never drink coffee, but might try stopping once or twice at a local Starbucks to see if they have some grounds. I'll try them and see if they improve the garden.

Herm in Phoenix, Az

Salut Kristin,

When my children, 3 boys, were small, I had a huge vegetable garden. I like the concept of composting, but it didn’t work well for me because of our extreme heat and dryness.

One day while at work, I called an ad in the newspaper and ordered a dump truck load of steer manure to be delivered on my driveway. After hanging up, I got to thinking…. What about the smell? Was it dry or runny? How big was the pile? I live in town and what will my neighbors think?

When I got home that evening, there it was . . . a huge pile of stuff blocking my driveway! Fortunately, it was dry and composted. It covered my garden about four inches deep.

I could read my dog’s mind, “Why do they pick up my stuff?”

À bientôt


Yeah! Can't wait to hear others tips on composting. I am new to it myself. I have a nice pile...just haven't been sure what all to do with it! Merci!


Smokey does look intent on maybe causing a little trouble.
Someday I'll start composting, although we have a huge pile of leaves, weeds, shrub trimmings, old plants and tree branches sitting near the woods, but I have never tried turning them and making a compost. I guess that I could, but if I want to use leftovers from the kitchen then I need a real composter or all of the wild animals will be in my yard - not they aren't now.
It is so true that we would all have less garbage for the landfills and it would be so beneficial for our garden. I hope that everyones gardens - vegetable or flower - do really well this year. Happy eating and viewing.

dorothy dufour

yes. composting is addictive! here, the municipality supplies a big black box for same. into which my daughter and i put all our kitchen waste, etc., and she can empty it from the bottom to put on the garden, along with used straw from her chicken coop. we know the compost should be stirred, but we don't bother. leaves and newspaper are good additives of course. about recycling - this continent is making an effort, as many countries are, but think of the many who don't, worldwide, and it is discouraging, non?

Andree also has rain barrels in our small yard, as we have so much rain. Netting on top, to discourage bugs. And as I can no longer
kneel, they built me a small granny garden, and i bought a green house! gardens are so important.

Patience Tekulsky

Kristin, this is really a message for Jacki. She has been on my mind since her last posting asking for some ideas on her future. The response was wonderfully supportive and I want to add some 'doing'things for her to look at a career with something to do with la Mode. 1. Start a note book of styles and designers you love. A loose leaf with clear plastic sleeves can hold your favorites and the best of's can be put in a folder. 2. Learn to sew. A sewing machine would be a great birthday present and just buy a pattern and get started. Design and sew your own clothes. Your mom can help get you started. 3. Get involved with the theatre group in your school. Design and sew the costumes. You'll have fun and learn a lot. It all takes research and that will get you to the library and help you be a better student. Good luck. I am cheering you on.


Ah composting. So easy! Where I live (Oakland, CA) we have big green bins that take all your green waste—including meat and bones! Apparently they grind it up and somehow it does compost since most of the whole is yard waste. We use that for such things, but also have our own compost bin full of bugs and worms. To be honest, we're very lazy so we throw our kitchen scraps in there and leaves or the aftermath of our weeding. Then when it's full or we have some time we turn it. We've asked our neighbors to throw their stuff in too so we get more. It works for us, though it rarely gets to steaming. Nonetheless it still composts into lovely dark dirt.
Yards also love something called "compost tea" where you steep water in compost (this page is a nice explanation:
Also, if any of you (like me) find you have old ALL cotton pants, sheets, shirts with holes that can't be mended, throw them in the compost! Cotton's a natural fiber so it'll eventually turn into dirt. I threw a holy bed sheet in last year and about two months ago the last bit had disintegrated into dirt. Quite lovely! However, has to be all cotton or of an all natural fiber.
Happy diggin in the dirt :)


Sorry, I cannot offer any advice, but if someone has some for me it would be appreciated. My one attempt brought in the raccoons who decimated the pile and later kept coming back. They became a fixture, attacking one of my dogs, getting into a crawl space in the ceiling and you do not want to know the rest. So now I have to go get my compost somewhere else. Plus, I don't really have the heat here....alas!

Jan R.

Hi Kristin,

My husband and I are fanatical composters and I'll bet you will be, too, once you see that wonderful black, loamy soil you can produce from kitchen and garden scraps. And then see the veggies your garden will produce this summer!

Wonderful composting tips from everyone! Thank you! Will give them a try this year.

Here are a few of our tips from our experience in the north of Spain. We do our major composting in the fall when we clean up the garden for winter. I think this is called "cold composting".

All the clippings are chipped up (green fresh ones + brown dried ones which have been put aside earlier and allowed to dry out). They are mixed with horse manure and put into large composters (without the lids) and left to cook over the winter. Sometimes we do "composting in place" by putting all the ingredients directly into the vegetable beds or into long trenches dug into the soil. We don't turn our compost; we just try to get the proportions right and let Mother Nature do the rest. So far, that has worked for us.

The following are things we've been told not to put into the "cold" pile: too many grass clippings, weeds, seeds, large amounts of wood ashes, fish, meat, bones, dairy & cheese and fat. This should keep vermin away from the pile.

My husband contributes liquid nitrogen when we put the piles together.

We use a separate composter for kitchen waste all during the year and whenever we add new scraps we immediately cover them with a layer of dried leaves. This eliminates or greatly reduces any problems with flies.

Every Spring, I am amazed at the beautiful black gold produced from this simple process. I love turning waste into something so valuable and every summer we enjoy bumper crops of veggies as a reward for our work.

Kristin, I am glad you've caught the composting bug. And now you can pass it on to your kids!

cheers and hugs from Spain,

Jan R.


"Silence ca Pousse!" on France5 has fast become my favorite emission on television. I think pondering the chemsitry of compost would be an excellent topic of discussion for the gracious paysagiste/horticultralists and hosts, Stephan Marie and Noell.

Jules Greer

Hi Kristi,

It's Sunday morning and I have been enjoying all of the comments. My computer was down for a couple of days...then it mysteriously came alive.

I spent quite a bit of time checking out what Patience Tekulsky had to say to Jackie - very impressive. I think she is right on about the sewing maching - you don't remember but I used to make lots of little outfits for you and Heidi. Then I was a master at the mini-skirt, I would buy beautiful upholstery fabric for my simple little A-line mini...they were just beautiful. I hope you will print out Patience' comment to Jackie, she is already getting her organized with a list. Emily Mackinzie and her Dad's music.

I can't quite figure out Patience as when I clicked I went to Emily's page - but it certainly was a treat on this beautiful Sunday Morning.

One of these days I will tell you about my garden...truly a little piece of heaven. How lucky I was to have had this experience.



Pam Luckey

Kristin, my husband and I have been gardening the organic way for more than 40 years, so here are a few tips from Grandmere et Grandpere Jardin :
Never put food scraps into the compost heap that contain salt, oil, or meat ( cooked or uncooked!)
Sawdust, in small quantities is good to add now and then, also weeds and yard clippings, as well as grass clippings.
Raw vegetable and fruit parings are good.
Make sure that your compost pile can be turned now and then. Use a cultivating fork, which is much like an over-sized table fork, to do it.
Some say it is best to tarp the top, but we never do and are quite successful.
The compost will often be acidic, so when you go to use it you can sprinkle a tiny bit of lime (not the fruit kind) as you are working it into the soil.
If you have to contend with a lot of wind, you may want to construct a simple bin with a loose-fitting lid just to keep the misral from claiming it. Ours is an open concrete block affair with three bins and no bottom except terra firma. If you go online under compost bins, you'll find an endless supply of differing sizes, shapes and materials. But, no need to fret about design....nature is very good at working with whatever you provide!
Keep those lovely photos coming..they are the icing on the cake!

JF Ilika

Hello. it is probably best not to put any tobacco products in the compost pile as they can carry a virus that will infect tomato plants. And yes, I did read the above glossary that points out that fumier is manure, not tobacco. It's probably good to know both of these facts.

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