How to say mermaid in French?
How to say "stranded" in French?

What's a "marsouin"? + French garden tour!

les annonces dans la fenetre (c) Kristin Espinasse
A wild boar, a hedgehog, a dog... lion... chicken. I can't find a photo of a porpoise to illustrate today's word--thankfully these furry and feathery volunteers behind a shop window are happy to pose as one. (And the handwritten ads were taped to the window by students looking for work).

le marsouin (mar-swehn)

 : porpoise 

In old French le marsouin was pourpois (poisson-cochon, or fish-pig)

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following sentence Download MP3 or Wav file

Le marsouin est aussi appelé le cochon de mer.
The porpoise is also called the sea pig.

Porpoises are related to dolphins and whales. Do you have any other trivia or something to add for this marsouin entry? Do you collect marsouins or have you ever seen one? Where? Thanks for sharing here in the comments box. 

Entrance to kitchen garden, or potager (c) Kristin Espinasse

Smokey says Come along on a garden tour with me...

How to say arugula in French (c) Kristin Espinasse
And see poppies, roquette, and zucchini!

Kale, cucumbers, fava beans (c) Kristin Espinasse
Inside the stone beds there are cucumbers, kale, and lots of fèves

Stone restanque (c) Kristin Espinasse
There are stairs leading up to an ancient rock wall... once hidden behind masses of thorny brambles. 

King of the hill (c) Kristin Espinasse
That's me, says Smokey, humble King of the Hill. 

And these are tomatoes, peppers, and poppies from the field. 

Butiner or pollin gathering in French (c) Kristin Espinasse
Here's how bees and hummingbirds pollinate. Help save these creatures--allez make haste!

Raspberries and soucis, or marigolds... does the latter really work or is that an old wives' tale?

 Some of the materials have been reporpoised. (Sorry to interrupt your story, Smokey, but the word you are looking for is "repurposed".) 

Smokey: This re- re-puh... re-puh... reporpoised wood comes from the French railroad tracks below our house. 

Tourguide (c) Kristin Espinasse
Hope you enjoyed my garden tour. Be kind to bees, purposes, and the earth.

(Smokey, I think you meant "porpoises" this time.)

Future kitchen garden (c) Kristin Espinasse
Back in February, Jean-Marc and I planned out the garden. But we didn't always see eye to eye...

This old panier has had many reincarnations: once used in a produce shop, it has since held bath towels, dried herbs, fresh pots of lavender, bottles of shampoo and bath supplies. Currently it holds a tie from a bale of straw, the string could now be used to tie up the tomatoes... or mend a broken corner of the basket....

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Françoise Pierron-Mathevet

Hi Kristin,

When I first read the word "marsouin" in your post, I didn't think of an animal, but of a soldier:

""Troupes de marine soldiers are known in French as marsouins ("Harbour porpoise"), allegedly because, like porpoises, they accompany ships without really being part of the crew."" (from Wikipedia, in english, about Troupes de marine.)

The first (and only?) "marsouin" I heard about and saw on TV, a long long time ago, was singer Johnny Hallyday, when he had to do his Military Service, in 1964, in Germany. He became Sergent.

Thank you for reminding me the real meaning of french words... which I tend to forget too easily.

Wishing you and your family a lovely summer,

Heather in Arles

Smokey, you are a fine ambassador for Goldens everywhere. I see in that first photo that you are in the midst of doing that sly slow tail wag... :)

Kristin, "Blossoming in Provence" arrived today! Hooray! I am saving it as my reward for finally finishing "The Museum of Innocence"--or it will be my consolation if I give up!

Kathleen from Connecticut


Le jardin est tres beaux. I didn't realize that your jardin was so extensive. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.


Alyssa Ross Eppich

Superbe! I love the cheer of the colors(red is mostly what I saw) in your garden this morning as I read from here in Maine. And kudos to Smokey-Dokey for his assistance. Merci beaucoup!


Stunning stonework in the garden!

Pat Cargill

The garden is very impressive! Beautiful, and obviously required many hours of construction! You have definitely developed a green thumb, Kristin. Smokey is a perfect guide, showing true appreciation/interest in your creations--as in the photo with his nose in the squash plant! Thanks for the tour.

Sherry Langevin

love love love your garden! You are so lucky to live in a climate that accomodates it! Here in Maine, each year is a challenge; when to plant, or pot (and finding enough of them to make it worthwhile) so that the tomatoes, sprouts, cukes, etc can grow, while there is still enough daylight hours to help them... yes, fava beans, kale, chard, lettuce, all of these can do well without bright sun or hot weather--BUT---with all the rain/cool temps we usually receive in spring/summer....the slugs eat very well!!! ACK!!


Awwww I love Smokey so much!!! Il est bien élevé!

Lorraine Poirier


These posts always make my day. I love how your garden turned out. Well, I envy how your garden turned out :-), but I surely don't begrudge you the results of all your hard work. Thank you for sharing!

I am wondering about the . . . Would you call them petits annonces? I would LOVE to show this photo to my students. Your work here and in your book is irreplaceable to me in my personal AND professional life and I tell people about it all the time. While the family/marriage/daily stuff is my favorite, you can imagine that my students prefer stuff that reflects their own lives--or differs from it. While we do have baby-sitting offers, I've never seen a student in my area offer to do household chores :-). I don't need a translation, but I need a bit of help filling in the French, if you have time--or if any reader can see it better than I can . . . [?Clémentine?] jeune fille dynamique et motivée, veut [va? veux?] offre ses [mes?] services pour faire le ménage chez vous. Disponible à partir de 15 heures tous les jours. Je suis [something] au . . .
Jeune étudiante sérieuse en droit (serious young law student?) recherche des heures de ménage et de baby sitting. Je suis expérimentée, dynamique, et responsable. Disponible tous les jours à partir de 15 heures 30. Contactez-moi au . . .

I love your eye for things. After living there so long, some people wouldn't "see" things anymore that would be interesting or different for us. We are so lucky to have you!

--Lorraine Poirier, PA, USA . . .


Enviable garden. Good work. Nothing is even germinating up here in the Lot yet.


Who did all that work to make such a beautiful garden? The stonework must have been done by a professional. I am contemplating a raised-bed garden, and am now wondering whether stone would be better than wood for the retaining walls - maybe a combination of both.

Holly K

Love your garden! I would like one just like it, but I'll settle for my sandy expanse of weeds with my chickens clucking about...
You requested porpoiseful stories... I just returned from a vacation at Virginia Beach. I have a timeshare right on the beach and every year we go, we spend the whole week being entertained by the local dolphins! They come in real close and do rolls and flips! Love watching them!

Bruce Bartrug

What a lovely garden! I like how the neatness of the beds contrasts with the melange of what grows in them. Gardens should be like that.


Hummingbirds? (colobri). My friend Claudine, whose family has lived in the La Cardière region since Roman times says there are no colobri in France. Is she mistaken? I've never seen one.

Priscilla Fleming Vayda

Bonjour Kristin: I love your garden. Truly wonderful. And surely you have someone to help with some of the work! Everything is so neat and organized ... just lovely. I want to add one raised bed to my garden but alas there are few stone walls in La Nouvelle Orleans.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor and keep the photos and letters coming. Meanwhile I will continue to garden in the heat and humidity while writing and painting. Not too bad a gig when one looks at it!



Secretly Smoky approached me while I was in France with his proposition to 'Rock the Blog World' with his take on Life with Kristi.

Of course I spent many insightful moments in the 'Forest' telling him not to feel shy, "Look what Kristi has done with me, you can go just as far as Kristi has when she first started telling tales of me. Family rule is "follow the scent." Dog talk Grandmere Jules has perfected.

So now my precious Smokey, just cause G-Jules is far away in the land of mucho porpoises in the Bay of Bandaras where thousands of porpoises hang out doesn't mean that we can't continue on along your new path.

First of all - let's get the facts straight on who found the hidden rock wall behind the thicket of thorn bushes last year - Smokey led G-Jules into the thicket chasing a butterfly - so that's how the real story of the garden begins....

I'll be back later with more of 'Smokey's Tails'.




Lorraine, j'ai ajouté les mots qui vous manquent : Clémentine, jeune fille dynamique et motivée, vous offre ses services pour faire le ménage chez vous. Disponible à partir de 15 heures tous les jours... Je suis joignable au . . . Moi aussi, je trouve ses annonces très intéressantes. Kristin, que le potager est beau !


Smokey's cuteness abounds and what a nose to have found the Great Wall that started it all. Thanks for filling us in Jules. Grand garden Kristi and yes, I do believe Marigolds are a natural bug deterrent


A beautiful garden, the stonework is really lovely, what a great idea for a raised bed.

Julie Farrar

What fabulous raised beds? Did you construct them? My grandmother always told me to surround a vegetable garden with marigolds to keep the bugs out. Don't know if it worked, but my gardens always looked pretty.

Shannon, Alexandria, VA

I'm jealous! ;) gorgeous garden!! :)


Great photos, thanks for sharing. Marigolds work well for us with tomato bugs and squash beetles. But we plant them throughout the garden. I've also. read to leave the roots in the ground at the end of the season here in the north. Liquid SEA PLUS fish emulsion works well on other bugs like leaf hoppers, etc. Good luck and keep up the great work. John

Marcia Douglas

Love your new garden! I'm jealous! It's just beautiful! My first experience with moursin was when I was a newlywed on vacation in Sanibel Island, FL. We charted a little boat and had a guy take us to deserted islands to do shell hunting. The marsouin followed alongside our boat. Then when my children were abt 6 and 9, we went on a cruise to the Bahamas on the Big Red Boat and did a Caribbean marsouin experience. We were able to get in the water and swim with them a little. It was unforgettable.

Vance Anderson-Inks

I'm so pleased that Jules and Smokey are collaborating, although it could get a bit devious and/or risque.


Votre jardin est si beau!

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Love this! Smokey's tour photos, the garden, the insight from Jules. Magnificent!

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Bonjour Kristin,

I love your garden. It is so neat & beautiful. But, bien sur, Smokey is the star of this post. He looks so content and peaceful.

I can't wait to read more adventures with Jules & Smokey.

Stay well!

Mary Deignan

What a beautiful garden! How fortunate you are to have all those stones to create raised beds. I can see there's been a lot of work put into this project. Nicely done.

Edie Schmidt

Merci for the lovely garden tour!
When I worked at a university aquarium hereon the Georgia coast we had a visit from a diverse group of environmentalists including Flipper's trainer. They were trying to save a sick pregnant dolphin who had beached herself on one of the nearby islands. She was put in a sling in a pool on the University property and a concerted effort was made by many to save her. The group was ready to helicopter her to a wild life preserve. Unfortunately she didn't survive which was a shame, but by the time she was found she was too ill.
Sometimes when these animals get infections they become disoriented and beach themselves. We also worked with wounded sea turtles and a number of them survived and were released back into the wind.

Edie from Savannah

Edie Schmidt

See post above which should have read "back into the wild". The marine biologist that I worked with were also part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network here on the coast of the Southeastern US. They were on call to help when there were sightings of stranded animals. Don't know if there's an organization like that in France?

Edie from Savannah

Mark Forster

Like Françoise when I saw the word "marsouin" I immediately thought of the French Marines. They and the Foreign Legion formed the bulk of the professional Army troups in the days of conscription, which only ended officially in 2001.

Although it started life as a nickname, Marsouin is actually the official title of a Private Soldier in the Marines.

Unlike the British Royal Marines which are part of the Royal Navy, or the US Marines, which are a separate Corps, the French Marines are part of the Army.


I loved Smokey's garden tour! How could anyone resist following that face?? ( :
Your garden is as beguiling as Smokey - just beautiful.

N, San Antonio, Texas

I am very concerned about Braise! They are usually together but not today! Have missed some of your postings. I hope she was napping in the shade!

Bill in St. Paul

Great photos of your garden, but I think Smokey is sayinng in the first photo: "Would ya quit followin' me!" Then in the last photo I think he's saying: "Are you leaving soon? I want to be alone." Still waiting for Spring in St. Paul.

Gwyn Ganjeau

Oh my gosh, i'm not sure if i was more blown away by the rock work or the TOMATOES!!! they hang like grapes on that plant! I just planted mine last week! i am tomato-green with envy.

and rock work like that has always been such a marvel to me. i guess it's a life lesson in many ways--make all the little pieces and parts fit together organically to build something solid and strong and connected. that rocks. (no pun intended--well, maybe it was.)



Karen  W   -    Towson, Md. USA

Well done!! That took lots of labor from the body and soul. So true, what you and Smokie say about our bees. We must all be vigilant in an effort to repopulate.

Did you raise your beds to save your back, for formal order, or for another reason? They are just lovely!

Karen  W   -    Towson, Md. USA

Thanks for explaining the rock wall discovery, Jules. I'd love to know it's history or original poirpose - uh... purpose.

Lisa A.,Los Angeles, CA

Absolutely Beautiful!
Le jardin est tout à fait beau!



WELL !!! IT LOOKS like Kristi has disappeared out into the waves of the Mediterranean as Jean-Marc must be crusin into the various Calanques along the coastline showing Papa Kip & Beautiful Marsha (Kip's lovely & brilliant trophy-wife, and a well deserved asset to his life...) ha-ha, just teasing...around the neighborhood.

Smokey and Braise are attempting to fire up Kristi's computer to share their secrets.

I thought by now Kristi would have called me...maybe Marsha will after she reads this. Hello Marsha - I grant you full-use of my beautiful yellow canoe along with my snorkel mask that JM swiped before I left. I should be there right now - Kip's hair would turn snow white with the two of us shaking up his life.




Love that garden - you laid it out beautifully so it's practical & most attractive. More of Smokey Dokey please.

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

Smokey, thank you for the tour of your beautiful garden. Kristin, you have accomplished so much in such a short time!
The old stone wall along with the stonework around the beds give it all a nice natural look. About the marigolds: they really are supposed to repel insects.... maybe due to the pungent odor they themselves have.

Porpoises are commonly seen here (Ocean City MD) during the Summer swimming offshore in the Atlantic. They are always a joy to watch. Thanks again for the lovely tour and photos.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
Great garden! I love all the stone work. Don't you wonder about the people who put up the ancient stone wall? Smokey looks like he enjoys checking things out!

Cheryl in STL

What a lovely garden! We now live in a house surrounded by woods and I so miss the big garden at our old house!!

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

First, you have my DREAM garden! This is exactly what I’d imagined. I just love it! I chose to use rock as it was local and more convenient. I do love the tidiness of the bed design allowing for the free-flowing of the flowers and plants. Now, as mine is still a work-in-progress, what did you use for the groundcover around your raised beds? Great work, Kristi and Jean-Marc! How pleasing to have created a garden so beautiful and productive!

Secondly, and certainly not in order of importance, Mr. Smokey you have given us the most enjoyable tour today. Thank you for sharing your sweet loveliness with us.

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

Hi Jules! So it was Smokey, a butterfly and you who found that amazing rock wall? Smokey's Tails reads like something out of an enchanted forest/enlightened Indiana Jones adventure! Do tell us more!


Funny that you bring up Porpoise today. We actually saw 3 on the drive home from work, circling around bait fish in Tampa Bay. It is one of the pleasures of having to take the bring from Tampa to St. Pete Florida twice a day. Pelicans flying along side the car and porpoise jumping in the water.

Bill Facker

A garden to grow and a Puppy to pet as the sun softly sinks on a perfect summer afternoon ... life is good. Enjoy Famille Espinasse Enjoy!

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

Your garden looks fantastic.
I assumed you used raised beds to get good drainage and the best soil for the edible plants. Plus you added the good straw mulch. Jealous, I am.

Was all that gravel present already? Did you have to cart it in to make the pathways?

The old stone wall is magnificent. I recall mentions of before but did not imagine it as lovely and strong as it is.

Marigolds benefit beneath the soil. A tried and true method with scientific verification. This article from the University of Rhode Island has many ways to use interplanting and companion planting for the home garden with explanations of why it works.

Yes, my poor tomatoe plants have not even set flowers yet, boding ill once again for no fresh tomatoes here. Yours look fantastic.


Our Florida manatees are also known as" sea cows". So slow moving and bulky large compared to a sleek marsouin. Smokey is a wonderful "tour guide". I would follow him anywhere. Your garden! Such memories of ours "UP North". Not beautifully landscaped as yours. Just a plain old garden. But, we grew flavorful tomatoes and corn which cannot be grown here in sand.

Kristin Espinasse

Sarah, Thank you for the link to companion planting--the article is fascinating and full of interesting info on soil and plant life. Highly recommended!

Mom, you are right--been busy enjoying Dad and Marsha. Had dinner in the garden and Marsha helped all day (we had special guests...). Marsha made the most beautiful table... And she even brought out your easal (sp?) and one of your paintings! It made an original set up and we all felt like you were here with us!

Fran, thank you for the info on French marines being called marsouins!

JollyG, funnily, the stone beds were made by the men who made our new septic tank! They happen to also do landscaping. The team included two brothers from Croatia. We are so lucky to have found them.

I will answer more of these questions at the next chance. Thank you so much for your warm responses to Smokeys story. He is sleeping soundly, beside his dear Mama Braise.

Jan greene

Your garden is miraculous ! In such a short time you have made a heavenly spot! Thank you for sharing it with us!!


What an absolutely beautiful garden and so functional. You will appreciate that you don't have to bend so far and you can control both soil and water. Besides it is tidy and organized. Love it. Can't wait to see what you do with it over the coming years. You have become quite the gardener and it is fun watching you learn and use your exceptional creativity to make something so beautiful. The old stone wall is a treasure - no matter who discovered it. Do you have a drip water system set up yet? It is the best way to water and also saves lots of water and is easy for you once it is in. You can even put it on a timer so it is never forgotten and you can go away if you want to.

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Wonderful garden, Kristin! Those tomatoes would never make it to a bright red maturity at my house. Oh, how I love fried green tomatoes!

Its 111 degrees here in Phoenix today. Very few gardens plants can survive. Even my lawn furniture by the pool is standing on three legs, alternating legs, to give each foot a break from the hot concrete!

Sue, Australia

Kristin et le beau Smokey, votre potager est merveilleux!

Gordon Lyman

Here's a Lewis Carroll quote (or paraphrase?) Smokey might want to use in his literary work:


Georgia Schall

How wonderful to see such a beautiful and porpoiseful (well I had to try to go with the fun) garden and you have not even been there a year yet! Clearly you and Jean Marc have extraordinary green thumbs what with grapes (past and future) and all those veggies and flowers!
We just returned to Northern CA after six weeks away to find our tomatoes plants producing young fruit in various sizes and garlic ready to pick! Peaches, too, from our miniature peach tree planted in a pot.
Thanks to Smokey for such a fun tour!

sandy howell

My mother swore by marigolds around her tomatoes, and she grew some lovely ones :-)


Lorraine Poirier


Merci bien!!


Diane Heinecke

Dear Kristin,
You have worked so hard on your new home and gardens. The stonework is amazing. Your homegrown produce looks so lush and healthy. I don't know how you have time to cook, help your kids, or write for French-Word-A-Day! But keep it up! I feel closer to your family than to my faraway ones who are so busy, I don't know what's going on in their lives.


Sigh... I wish I could take our herb group, the Queensland Herb Society on a tour of your garden... Such a wondrous potager.
Here in Brisbane, I have to hand pollinate the cucurbits.
The native insects are interested in other plants!


I love your dog and I love your garden! I have been following for quite a while now and I enjoy your blog. I wish I was living in France! Happy gardening! Jeannine


Such a beautiful pooch! Huggable beyond imagination. In Hong Kong, I met Goldberg, a Golden Retriever. Handsome with broad head like a bear's and somewhat large for a GC. Loved to swim. Alas, HK's warm damp climate was not like Scotland's where his breed began. At length this skin infection made him miserable and consumed him.

Who did yr garden's stunning stone work? Looks like the results of some long extinct Inca civilization.

Languages, dogs, and construction are some of my faves.


Final thought.

Lange d'oeil French (the kind that says 'oui' for 'yes) became very standardized after Cardinal Richelieu. If old French dictionaries were written, I have none to consult as a basis for what follows.

Yet your noting that other words for 'marsouin' or 'porpoise' are 'pig of the sea' leads me to suspect that 'marsouin' means exactly 'sea pig' in another form.

Latin for 'pig' was 'sus'. Possibly 'sus' later morphed into 'souin'. But 'souin' also looks v. like 'swine'. Today's standard French for 'sea' is 'mer', but 'mar' as it remains in Spanish. Both are from Latin, 'mare' which looks too close for coincidence.

I am a rookie in etymologic matters. Such discussions bore many stiff. They interest me because, true or imagined, they serve as mnemonic tricks to help me remember foreign words' meanings.


That garden is incredible. And those squash blossoms have my name on them....stuffed with goat cheese and deep fried. Do you have asparagas?artichoke? Both would grow quite well there. Does the straw keep the moisture in the soil?
I have seen many marsouin when out whale watching, but the best was one day on Carmel Beach and there were about 6 playing in close to shore. I walked out and was within about 10 feet of them and wanted to just dive in and swim out, but alas our water temp is made for wetsuits. I have a hard time accepting those that you can swim with at resorts(as much as I might like to) because if any animal was born to be free in the ocean it is the porpoise.

Marianne Rankin

The gardens are lovely, and I would be pleased to have that type of stonework. I bought some planks for a raised bed, but you've now given me the idea to try stones for another one. I've also planted marigolds to deter bugs.

Max, I don't find your comments on etymology boring at all; I'm fascinated by how language evolves, and how different ones are related.

Bette Goode

Hi Kristin,

I loved looking at your garden. Your vegetables are so much ahead of mine. It must be your sunny weather. Here on the northwest coast of North America, we are just getting into the good weather.

It is interesting that you are growing kale. My gardening enthusiast friend says its very difficult to find kale seeds in France. Maybe its just in her part of France. I brought her some on my last visit and she was quite enthused about growing her own kale.

Happy gardening!


Wonderful garden, Kristi. Who did the stonework? Was it the gentlemen who shared their lunch with you that day? Fine work, it looks really swish! WHO does the watering every day??? Lotta work that......

Kathleene in Northen CA

I meant to comment when I first received the post - I am so impressed with the obviously hard work you and your family have put in to achieve such a beautiful garden. I look forward to hearing more about the hidden treasures you uncover as you explore the property.

Barbara Michels

It appears that Smokey has learned to carefully navigate the cacti along the path. The hat you are wearing looks like something your mother may have brought you.

Carolyn  Dahm,  Sharon, MA

Beautiful gardens and landscaping Kristi! Thanks for sharing them with us Smokey-we've always known what a talented member of the family you are! Include your Mama Braise in the next story as we love her too!

Nancy,                     Cambridge

You have certainly hit upon a popular subject when showing us your garden. It is obvious you have been working hard this first year. Why not use the garden as the subject for one of your video tours? There seems to be a lot of interest in how it was planned, built, being cared for, etc.. My own garden improvements have been slow in becoming reality, but I would like to create a boules court in the middle of my garden. Any thoughts about doing something like that there?

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