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How "to pamper" in French & some intruders...

Late, late... with the kitchen update! May this snapshot hold you over. Don't mind the compost, and ignore the wires coming out of the wall. And those bottled plants (euphorbia, but which kind?) are a failed attempt to screen the electrical "juttings."

bichonner (bee-show-nay)

    : to pamper

se bichonner = to pamper oneself, to doll up

Example Sentence:
Ses jeunes vignes? Il les bichonne!
His young vines? He pampers them!

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

Le Bichonneur et Les Intrus

Some twenty years ago, while helping Uncle Jean-Claude harvest in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, my husband fell in love with wine. 

He quit his job as an accountant in Marseilles, drove his family an hour north and snapped up a Director of Sales position at a vineyard in Trets-en-Provence. Our son was 6 months old at the time, meaning I have watched my husband's passion grow and develop alongside a living, breathing meter.

Max (who turns 19 in May) helped his father plant his second vineyard last week. Along with my brother-in-law, Jacques, and winemaker friends, 3500 grapevines have now settled at the foot of an ancient olive orchard. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the multi-centenarian trees whispering... their encouragements carried forth by the sea's breeze:

"Patience, les minous, in three years you'll have mature fruit!"

Meantime, Jean-Marc is doing all he can to build their leafy immune systems, giving his dream vines a head-start in life. For two weeks now, from sunrise to sunset, Chief Grape's been pampering his young mourvedre. He began my "making their bed":  sowing soil-enriching flowers including phacelia and mustard flower seeds. As the plants die back and fall to the ground they will feed his growing vines.

Next, he planted his babies, so closely together that he'll have to manually treat them (no room, along the rows, for a tractor to go!). While tucking in his new crop, the rebel and traditionalist in Jean-Marc could not resist adding a few intruders--or what winemakers call "les intrus": grape varieties outside the rigidly-ruled appellation. (At our former vineyard in Ste. Cécile, these intrus were already there: the white grapes, called Rouxanne, were planted by our anti-conformist "forefarmers" to add fraîcheur to the wine).

This being his first chance to plant intruders all on his own--and with our "forefarmers" now smiling down on him--Jean-Marc honored his favorite wine regions (after Bandol, bien sûr!): Barolo and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The nebbiolo grapevine is one he dragged home from our weekend in Italy, two Christmases ago. And the grenache vine is a meaningful gift from Uncle Jean-Claude's Domaine du Banneret. The intruders are easy to distinguish and as conspicuous as a tourist in Paris--what with their bright green leaves hanging loosely about, while the native vines are still wearing their fitted red caps. (Baby vines are sealed with red wax, but the leaves will eventually burst through).

Finally, to guarantee his vines adaption, Jean-Marc individually watered each plant, stopping to dig a ditch each time to catch rainwater. Given there are 3500 baby vines, it's no wonder my husband's been MIA for the past two weeks. But neither of us is complaining; the activity of bringing life to the hillside benefits everyone, not least of which les abeilles (who gladly drank nectar from the flowering amendments added to the soil beneath the grapevines). 

I think one of the things Jean-Marc loves most about wine-farming is the opportunity for innovation. He is always coming up with a solution to a problem, like "How to efficiently distribute and bury the tiny flower seeds among a hundred rows without a machine?" Oh, I can just see my husband's mind cranking out a lively answer: 

Be The Machine!

Indeed. Fueled by inspiration, his shoes cakes with soil, Jean-Marc sprinted from the field into the house, to collect an old rake and our son's 10 pound dumbbells....

Sacré Jean-Marc! There he goes again! My mind recalled the infamous mop-spear: half mop, half silverware (my fork, or place setting!)--the whole tied together with shoelaces... or was it duct tape? 

This étrange invention aided my husband during a sea-urchin hunt off the island of Porquerolles. (It also attracted many dubious, and downright uneasy looks from strangers sharing the ferry with us from Hyères. Do you remember the story?)


This time, in place of my mop and my silverware, Jean-Marc used our garden rake--weighing it down with Max's workout equipment (the dumbbells). Tying the contraption to his backside with a bungee cord (what else?), he flung himself out into the field and became, once again, a one man show.

Quel spectacle! As Jean-Marc sowed his plant-nurturing seeds, driving them into the ground with the help of his curious tail (the "dumbbells-rake"), traffic slowed beneath our vineyard as motorists enjoyed an eyeful: a pregnant man (forgot to tell you about his contraption for seed distribution) and a rake piggybacked by barbells!

There is just no word for it, and no term to describe the man. So I'll borrow a funny phrase from my mother-in-law:

"Jean-Marc, c'est un phénomène!"

 *    *    *

Comments: To comment about our phénomène, or lively character, click here. You may also wish him bonne chance with his dream vineyard! After 15 years of wishing for it--he's got his Bandol vines!

Chief Grape watering

Read about this French "phenomenon," here in this tender short story memoir. A chapter called Malentendu opens with a Meet The New Employee disaster (Jean-Marc gets a job at a wine bottle machine factory, and his wife orders a shot of scotch). Click here to benefit from the new book price!

What readers are saying about First French Essais:

 Delightful and full of joy.

The book will make a perfect mother's day gift!

Beautifully written with charm, warmth, humor and love.

...filled with French you won't find in any textbook.

...and it's a darn good thing I ordered TWO of your books -- one to read and one for opening wine bottles!

Thanks, Cynthia--and to all who are leaving positive reviews and ratings at Amazon. Your endorsements are most helpful in getting the word out to French learners who still do not know of this book's existence. More than a friendly and useful tool for language-learning, this book series is an inspiring story of following one's dreams to France--and staying put when you are flailing like a fish out of water.

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There is friendly price when you buy all three! See the special offer here:

 Thank you very much for your book support! Whether you buy a copy, or enjoy the stories here, for free, I hope these essays will help to grow your vocabulary and your understanding of another culture. Mostly, I hope you'll go away, as one reviewer said, with a warm smile on your face for days

Smokey, book-ended by yellow kale blooms, would like you to know that he's busy too! While Jean-Marc labors in the field, and while I type away at my desk, Smokey sees to it that this sundried sunflower stalk will be re-purposed. But where are you taking that, dear Smokey?  To the compost bin? To the tool shed? To Jean-Marc for his next inspired creation?

"I'm taking it to play with!"

Smart dog. We could all learn a lesson from a happy-go-lucky!

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