Yogurt cake recipe

Epine: Mr Farjon, the plant man, returns

  Capture plein écran 14082012 121905

Mr. Farjon came by to drop off this newspaper clipping (see our son, Max, posing with our town's mayor after a military march). Mr Farjon brought a few other things when he came to visit. Read today's story for more.

une épine (ay-peen)

    : thorn

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence: Download MP3 file or Wav file

Les épines, ça ne sert à rien, c'est de la pure méchanceté de la part des fleurs. Thorns are good for nothing. Just a flower's way of being spiteful! —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


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

I had an unexpected visit from Mr Farjon the other day. It was such a coincidence, as I had been thinking of him recently—nostalgically remembering all the visits he paid me a several years back.

Just like old times, Mr Farjon parked his ancient Peugeot (a bicycle) outside our portail, leaning it against a giant wine barrel, one of two that flank the entrance to our courtyard. Running up to the gate to greet him, I noticed how stiff his legs were as he walked, slightly hunched over. Instead of leading him to the picnic table, beneath the old mulberry tree, I offered him a seat on the steps beside it.

I was eager to point out our new friends in the garden.... Four years ago, there wouldn't have been any mirabilis jalapa, or marvel of Peru, growing here—and forget about the lily of Spain, or valerian, which now shot up throughout the courtyard, in splashes of raspberry red! Today our garden is home to many a drought-tolerant flower, thanks to those who have sown the love of plants in my heart.

Despite the drought (read: we did not water our grass this year, and parts of the garden suffered the pinch), there were a few plants I wanted to show Mr Farjon, now that the plant whisperer had re-appeared after a 4-year absence.  

But it was difficult to concentrate on my guest, what with Smokey hovering between us. Like a gawky and attention-vying sibling who wants to join in, Smokey wagged his entire body, inching between my friend and me. His full body wag said I'm so happy to see you!, never mind the two had never met before. Indeed, it had been that long—a dog's life—since Mr Farjon last came to visit.

Despite the giant fly of a dog buzzing between us, I managed to speak to Mr Farjon.

"What have you got there?" I asked Monsieur. Waiting for the answer, I casually pushed Smokey aside, but the dog just wiggled back in again, so I gave in.  

Smokey and I watched as Mr Farjon selected a long and thorny stem from the pile of just-picked weeds beside him.

"It's a chardon. We call it chausse-trappe," he explained. With that, my friend told the story of how the plant got its name: the roman army dug ditches and filled them with this needle-sharp weed. And the poor used it as well, piling on rooftops....

"To keep away thieves?" I guessed. 

Mr Farjon shook his head, repeating, simply, that the dried plant was piled on housetops. (I guessed again: for insulation?)

As I tried to picture the thorny rooftops, Monsieur Farjon presented the next specimen, aigre-moine .

"Sour-monk" I mumbled, trying to translate the term.

As with each plant he brings, Monsieur took pains to point out where he had uprooted it. "Next to the telephone line. Beside the ditch—just up the street, after the fork in the road."

If I made the mistake of showing a blank look, Monsieur repeated himself, in addition to his usual stuttering, until I nodded convincingly "Yes, beside the telephone line, up the street--just after the fork in the road!" It seemed important to Monsieur that the plant's location was understood, and he insisted that certain plants were very rare these days. When new vineyards are planted, many of these rare plants are torn out. "You can find this plant by the telephone pole," Monsieur repeated, sending an unmistakable order that I should stop and observe the weed the next time I drove by.

"It contains tanin," Monsieur spoke a bit about the aigre-moine. "It was used to color wine." Just as I began to wonder whether or not to run and get Jean-Marc from the wine-cellar (wouldn't he love to know about this one?!), Mr Farjon set down yet another specimen.

"Epine du Christ."

"I remember that one," I said, softly. Mr Farjon had once showed me the thorny weed, otherwise known as "Christ's crown". It was this weed—found here in our neighborhood, that was used to torture Jesus.

We paused in time to move to the picnic table, where I asked Mr Farjon if he would note the names of the plants in today's lesson.


As he wrote, I noticed his hands--the hands of a plant man! Long nails, perfect for pinching or cutting weed samples, and dirt beneath the tips--evidence of the morning's plant harvest!


To some people, long soil-stained nails equal unkempt.  Others might notice the beauty of these nails, with their hard, smooth surface and elegant curve--perfect for scooping out a plant's delicate racine. As I stared at Mr Farjon's nails, I was unexpectedly envious. I wished my own nails were as healthy looking (though, admittedly, I couldn't own up to the caked dirt part--but that is only because I have not earned the right to wear dirt on my person--or under my nails. But a plant genius may sport soil wherever he pleases and the world would do well to respect him for it!)

As for Mr Farjon, he was oblivious to all the thoughts bubbling up in my head, thoughts about how and how not to appear to society. Thankfully, Monsieur's attention was focused on the task before him.

Watching him write, I had a hunch that the moment was something to capture. It may not have been history in the making, and this may not have been an historical figure, but the moment and the person were just as fascinating. I ran to get my camara.

It occured to me to try and capture a shot of the two of us, by using the automatic timer. I wished I had put on make-up or styled my hair, but that was a poor reason to miss capturing the moment. 

The first photo didn't turn out, for my hand flew up as I fell down in the seat, just before the camara clicked.

Voilà, the second photo worked. Notice Mr Farjon's concentration. He would eventually look up, to question what all my running back and forth was about.


"Now look into the lens," I said, coaching my subject.

 "I'm not photogenic," Mr Farjon demured.

"You are beautiful!" I assured him.

"My birthday is tomorrow," he confided. 

(He was turning 83.)


The trusty Peugeot... I took a photo of the two when I first moved to Sainte Cécile. I didn't know Monsieur at the time, but thought I'd spotted an unforgettable character. (Now where is that photo... somewhere in the archives here.) 

 I sent Mr Farjon off with some samples from my own garden. He very much wanted the two kinds of chamomile growing there, gifts from the Dirt Divas. I tucked several dates inside the bag, for a sweet surprise--nourishment a plant genius needs while burning the midnight oil, poring over plantasauruses or thesauruses or dictionaries, rather. 

Then I watched as he rode off into the blue and green horizon.


As Mr Farjon took a right at the end of the lavender row, I wondered if I would ever see this man again. And this, not because of his advancing age.


Click on the highlighted words in today's story to read the corresponding stories, such as "Love in a Cage" in which Monsieur asks: is your husband the jealous type? Click here.

Meet Mr Farjon's older brother, a wine farmer, in the story "to help out"

Meet several of Mr Farjon's "friends"--that is, the wild plants that grow in this part of Provence

Read about another visit from Mr Farjon, in the story "fleurette".

More garden posts here.


Mr Farjon's handwritten notes botaniques, above

Capture plein écran 14082012 121756
Here's the rest of that newspaper clipping that Mr. Farjon thoughtfully clipped for us.

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


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What a handsome young man Max has become. You must be very proud of him.

Sandy Maberly

A very happy birthday wish to M. Farjon. Such a lovely gentleman for the care and attention he pays to nature's gifts. My mind wonders if you might be moving when you say that you may not see him again. Hmmmm. I didn't even recognize Max in that photo. Such a tall, handsome young man. Guess it's impossible to keep them from growing up and away. I loved today's example of epine. Le Petit Prince is where I first learned the word "epine" and about how proud the rose was for having hers. Can hardly wait to hear your news at the end of the month.

Marcia Fyfe

Hi Kristen,
I'm a little late with my guess but from today's post I think I'm correct that you will be uprooting your family to move closer to the sea.
Jack and I have come south to the island of Grenada here in the Caribbean to wait out the hurricane season and often speak with fondness of meeting you on our trip to France.
Please keep writing. We love to hear about your life
Ciao for now,
Marcia on s/y Rights of Man

Robert Wildau (fellow Provencal)

Another totally lovely story, Kristen. You have much to be proud of.

Louis Plauche'

Looks like you are back in top writing form...loved reading it...MORE!


Bruce in northwest Connecticut

This is one of those days when I say to my wife, "You really need to read Kristin's column today." Very touching, very moving.

Jules Greer in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Kristi Darling,

You are totally forgiven for not posting yesterday, I must have checked you sight ten times. Your account of our precious Mr.
Farjon is a moment to treasure. Surely he has been one of the great gifts you have received at Domaine Rouge-Bleu. I do believe you have enough past-posts on Mr. Farjon to fill a complete chapter in a furture book regarding your vineyard life. I will never forget your very first photo of him as he pushed his bycycle through the narrow streets of St. Cecile. You photo's of the two of you today show your loving bond. You must remember to have a few of these photo's framed for Mr. Farjon.

You look so adorable in the first photo - just as I always remember you as a little girl - you are still ten years old in my heart and mind.

Thank you for this beautiful story. I will treasure this one forever.



Sue J.

a sweet post -- love the plantasauruses reference! Meanwhile, you are hinting about relocating?

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

How blessed you are to know M. Farjon. And to have such a handsome son. The story and pictures were worth the wait.

Marcia Stoub in Minneapolis, MN

This is a most beautiful story. I will read it again and again. Thank you Kristin!!

Jane El-Safty

I loved reading your post today and I agree with the others, I think you are going to be moving, and I hope that it will be moving closer to us

Jeanne in Oregon

Thank you for sharing a treasure from your life with us. Mr. Farjon reminds me of some of the wonderful older men I have known. At 65 (almost 66) they are harder to find, but we have a 92 year old at church who holds a top spot in my life these days. He works out at the gym daily, briskly walks through his neighborhood regularly, and leads us in prayer for the offering during all of our services. A "retired" preacher (who started life as a farmer), he has so many delicious stories and the sweetest spirit I've come across in years.

Thank you for taking time to appreciate and share Mr. Farjon with the rest of us. Through your story, perhaps some of your readers will recognize a Mr. Farjon in their own lives.

Trish et JeanClaude

Joyeux Anniversaire, Monsieur Farjon; Congratulations, Max; and Thank You, Kristen, for this beautiful, affecting vignette! Love the photos as well.

Mark Holmberg, Minneapolis

A wonderful touching story and a "hint".......

Karen Whitcome - Towson, Md USA

What an interesting person and a special visit. It could have been another scene from the movie/book A Year in Provence. Your story just slowed down my daily pace because I could sense the sedateness of breaths, thoughts and conversation you shared with him. You really have a gift of conveying the rythme of events so well, Kristin.

Did he ever really give you a definitive answer on the use of that plant "chardon"?

Wow, Max looks so much like an adult in that photo, I never would have recognized him. How nice of Mr. Farjon to bring it by. I, too, was alerted at a possible hint of relocation (to the beloved sea, perhaps?) when you wondere if you'd see Mr. Farjon again.

Barbara Barclay

What a lovely story and remembrance for you. You are in top writing form!
Many ladies have spent much time and money and manicures to get such beautiful nails. You always help me to look T some little things with new eyes. Maxine is a very handsome young man.


I love French penmanship. M. Farjon's writing reminded me of that. My parents had friends from France when I was a child and I used to adore the postcards that they would send us from their many trips.


Oh, I loved reading this, Kristin. But I'm so curious to know why M. Farjon has not visited in 4 years? Did he say? Do you know?

Also, yes Max is so grown-up & handsome. Goodness.


Kristin Espinasse

Thank you all for these encouraging comments. I was unsure about writing today--and then the fear struck me that if I cower away from the journal updates then I might get off track for good! Also, I am never entirely comfortable (no matter how much it seems the opposite) about writing about another person. I am happy you saw the beauty in Mr Farjon, which means that his spirit was captured, if only by a glimmer, in words.

Susan, Re why Mr Farjon stayed away for 4 years, I think he quit driving (he drove his blue car his some days), and may not have felt like riding all the way out to our farm -- far from the town center, where Monsieur lives.

Suzy, Madison, WI

The very definition of a charmed life. Thank you ever so much for sharing.


This was one of your most touching stories. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Why do you believe you might not see M. Farjon again?

David Navarre

Kristin, it was a beautifully written post. I also sometimes get apprehensive about posting - especially about a specific person - but you should feel free. Your writing conveys your thoughts and impressions so well that it often seems a "little dusty" here in my office.

Jan in Monument, Colorado

Your post today took me back to my childhood on the coast of New England. An old, weatherbeaten Portuguese fisherman would walk to our house waving a recently received letter from his sister in the Azores. Costa could neither read nor write and he'd chosen my mother to be his conduit. He'd yell out his thoughts to his sister in his gravelly voice as though she were sitting next to him (and possibly hard of hearing!) and my mother would dutifully transcribe each word to be sent to his loved one thousands of miles away. He had one good eye and another that was mostly closed--not a pretty sight but truly an unforgettable character! I can still hear his voice echoing through our house. Thanks for taking me back so far in time and place.

Kathleen from Connecticut

What a lovely story about M Farjon. And I wish I had such beautiful nails, but I'll forgo the dirt,although whenever I garden, my nails are caked with dirt. In the beginning of your story, I thought that he was going to say that the plants he picked were invasive. We have been having a few warnings about invasive plants here in Connecticut.
And Max, how grown up. I too would not recognize him.
I hope that you are not moving,but only buying more land. I think that you love your vineyard, as does Jean-Marc. You have such a wonderful house and vineyard in a great location. I associate the two.
Have a great day!

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Your son is very grown up & handsome! I also enjoyed today's story. M Farjon is a unique, interesting person. Thank you for writing this wonderful story.

Please keep up this journal --- I missed it yesterday! It is such a pleasant and needed touch of France.

Stay well!


You made me smile again!

This post of Monsieur is at once touching and loving. You should never feel concerned to write about another would never use hurtful words. And your thoughts are always kind to them. So stop the fear and write away!

Everyone should have a Monsieur in their life. They impart wisdom and acceptance which we all need.

Max! Wow....he looks so much like Jean-Marc in this 'clipping' photo. I see that he has your smile. Such a determined young man.

Write when you can. This journal is a work of worries about us...we will be here for you.

If you are moving and it is good for you and your family...then move with joy and peace. If you are adding to your vineyards and you (& your family) are happy with this...then add with joy and peace.


I have just this morning discovered your delightful column, and immediately signed up to receive it. I am a Southern California girl, but a longtime francophile. I plan to purchase your books too. What a joy to read your writing and see your pictures! Thanks for sharing your life with the rest of us!

Pat - Roanoke, VA

This story reminds me of my grandmere, Mollie Wise Yoder, who used to take me on tours around her gardens telling me the names of the plants. I could never remember anything, though. Thinking of her in her garden has been one of my sweetest cherished memories. I am going out for some much-needed maintenance in my garden this afternoon and will have her spirit with me. Thanks for this lovely story of M Farjon, beautiful photos and ths shot of Max in uniform!

Pat - Roanoke, VA

....oh, and bonne anniversaire M Farjon....may your cycling be full of lovely, and perhaps a few surprising, plant viewings! Chaque jour, une fleur.


I am absolutely 'giddy' with all of the great vibrations I have received this morning from Kristi's story - and then from all of your heartfelt comments.

As I always say - The words from all of our precious commentors seem to intensify the the mood of joy your writing brings to us each time you open your heart and share. This post should be featured in a garden magazine - and should be translated into French for Mr. Farjon along with the complete collection of all the wonderful stories you have shared with this special Frenchman. Now Kristi I know you are rolling your eyes as your dear old mom organizes more ways for you to spend your time, I sometimes wonder if you can even remember all of the advice I have given you.... I could help you with this project when I visit, what a joyful day we could have visiting Mr. Farjon and placing the fruits of his labor into his beautiful hands. I'll bring my new video camera (the old one of yours that I am hoping you will give me for my birthday.) Our visit with Mr. Farjon will be one of my first projects for Provence. Oh, it's so much fun to daydream in your comments box. I am absolutely wired this morning dreaming about my visit in September. I have so many plans and dreams percolating - I was up at 5 a.m. wandering around the boats in the Marina here in Puerto Vallarta, embracing the fresh ocean breeze pretending that my stroll would build up my muscles for the trek through all the airports on the way to Marseille.

How much longer do we have to wait for you to release the news...I want to talk about this with all of my friends here in the comment box.



Suzanne Codi

Wow, Max has really changed since last summer, he looks like a ( VERY handsome) man in that uniform!!!You must both be so proud of him!!!
Not guessing what your announcement is, I love surprises and suspense!!!
Hope you are all enjoying the last few weeks of summer. I'm enjoying listening to the cicadas while I'm gardening, they are so loud and wonderful this time of year. Thanks for the great gardening post, Mr. Farjon reminds me of Grandma Rose, who worked in her garden well into her nineties!! May we all be so lucky... xox

Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ

I always enjoy your stories about M Farjon so I am very happy he made the trip out to see you. Like Jan, today's post took me back to my childhood when I would visit our elderly neighbor, Mrs. Haidee Fuller. She wasn't a plant person ... her expertise was was antiques. She would let us hold them and move them around. As she once told my mother, "Better a broken antique than a broken heart." People like M Farjon and Mrs. Fuller are treasures.

The hint. Could you be contemplating a move to a vineyard in Chateau-neuf-du-Pape? We will just have to wait.

Brenda Brown

Tell Mr. Farjon, for me, that he is "very" photogenic! What wonderful pictures.


What a lovely story. M. Farjon is a treasure and your affection and appreciation for him is infectious. And look at Max. What a good looking young man, almost grown up. You must be very proud.


Kristin, I just love the stories you have written about M. Farjon and the plant discoveries. I think you should write a little book with him..maybe "The Roadside Botanist" or "Treasures of Forgotten Plants"..something like that. Who still knows these things? Who will keep alive those stories and that wonderful heritage? I am sure there are still some others, but they, too, must be elder and soon this heritage will be lost. You have a start in all the stories you have already written, and I think there must be many others like me who would love to know these things.
Your Arizona friend,

Julia - Falling Off Bicycles

Fabulous photos and lovely story. Thanks for this, Kristin!

Karen from Phoenix

What a beautiful story. Again, thanks for sharing.

Lee Isbell

I feel like I'm late to the party today to comment on how really grown up Max looks in the picture, but I do recognize the Jean-Marc in him.

I'm on tenterhooks about your announcement: Will I like it or won't I? Will I ever get to visit you again or won't I? Whatever it is, if it makes you and your family happy, it's good.

Bill Facker

Great writing, Kristin, as always. The true testimony of this post is you being the type of person M. Farjon wants to associate with. What a great testament to your character that is. Aloha from Kauai, Bill Facker

Misty Fowler

Oooh, you're secret must be a move! I'm so happy to have this little hint!


It has been awhile. there is just too much to comment on. No help from Jean-Marc on hints but I think I have figured it out. There is to be a movie made of two very interesting, intelligent and beautiful people who have a vineyard in France. And of their romance! A beautiful gal and a hunk of a guy. Glad you enjoyed such a well deserved and well chosen place to vacation. Picture that Mr. Fargon brought you-I thought the caption would list Max as the second in picture. OMG! I can't keep up with you guys. Shirley


What a lovely post and photos, and I can see that the suspense is killing everyone. I'll be checking in to see what happens!


Your story is so tender. I think it is a beautiful story about this man and his love of his land, his friends and his simple transparency. I think it also says something about you and your ability to open up this gem and share it in your story. Bravo!

Holy Cow! Max has leaped from a boy to a man.


Hi dear Kristin,
Your stories (and photos!) are always so wonderful(!!!) but this one today is absolutely at the top of the list. Starting with the clipping of your handsome young Max(Oh! how proud you must be!) and then continuing on to share gracious (young at heart) Mr Farjon with us.... your words have captured our imaginations and your thanks to your gift
as a storyteller,stolen our hearts.
Absolutely WONDERFUL,Kristin!
THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!
Natalia XO


How handsome Max is! And growing up so fast...

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

I love the photos of M Farjon.
The one of him riding away, past your lavender, with the backdrop of vineyards and on far off hills, more vineyards? -- is especially good. Touching.

My father in law is 87, but cannot use a bicycle now. Motorized scooter is his preferred way to travel, when his truck will not do.

M Farjon is quite a friend, bringing news clips of your son and unique plants for you, too. Definitely a visit to remember.

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

On the contraire, Mr. Farjon is so very photogenic! He reminds me of my favorite local friend, salt of the earth, born on the neighboring farm 76 years ago who never fails to warm my heart. Such a sweet, touching story Kristi, I adore the self-timer photos!

Susan B.

Thank you Kristin for today's beautiful and touching story - it gave a lift to my day and heart.


83 and still riding the bicycle, what a strong man, M. Farjon. May he have a Happy Birthday today and many more to come.
I own such a Peugeot bicycle like M. Farjon's.
I can recognize Max from the crowd. He looks like both JM and you, Kristin. C'est un très beau garçon!

Candy in CO

Kristin, this is one of my favorite posts ever. Thank you for your words of affection and photos of M Farjon. I wish that I knew him!

Diane Young

Ou va le temps? It seems like only last month that Max was a little boy and now he is a handsome young man. I know you and Jean Marc must be very proud of him and wish him well in his activities. I can't figure out the hint so I'll try to be patient. We all hope it is a wonderful thing for you and all your family.


"I wondered if I would ever see this man again. And this, not because of his advancing age."
You ARE moving! That is the gentle hint, n'est-ce pas???

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I love this post! I am reading this while at work. No customers coming into our little shop today so I have time to catch up on FWAD. Love the photo of Max also!

Gaelle (Gail) in Arizona

Dear Kristin,

I loved reading about Mr. Farjon and how you told him he was beautiful. He really is, too! I also have an 83 year old friend, a neighbor woman. She has collected things her entire life. Her home is like a museum, but her stories are what I enjoy hearing most. What treasures these older friends are to us and what lessons they have to teach us!! I also loved the photo of Max...he is a handsome young man! Please never be hesitant to write....we all love reading what you post!!

Zoe Willet

You should have given him a bottle of wine too!


Hi Kristin, typos:
theives = thieves
specimin (2nd mention) = you know!
camara = you know!


What a handsome young man Max is :-) I loved the story of Mr Farjon! Your photographs of him are wonderful.

Fred Caswell

I envy Mr. Farjon. It is easy to understand why he has won such a place in your loving heart. Another beautiful story from our Kristi. Encore, merci beaucoup!

I so hope you found time to read my last, lengthy comment following your previous story. Comme joujours, de Fred

Rose Chandler Johnson

I'm just now reading this delightful story. I love it. Thank you for sharing with us about this dear old friend. Joyeux anniversaire M. Farjon.


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