French? No, Jane Goodall speaks Chimpanzee!
We will never forget

brindille and a fun and sustainable activity + Winner of book giveaway!

Les brindilles-twigs

Notice the flower bed to the right--filled with hand-picked brindilles! Twigs = free mulch, and they're fun to gather, too! (Had I to redo this picture, I'd put bright fluffy pillows in the garden chair, and hang beaded curtains across the cabanon's entry. Can you picture it?)


Beautifully renovated and decorated home in the Luberon. 4 bedrooms and a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. This villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.

une brindille (brein-dee)

    : twig, stalk, sprig

ramasser des brindilles = to gather, collect, or pick up twigs

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc. God knows I should! Download MP3 or Wav file

Les brindilles sont des rameaux minces. Ces petits morceaux de bois protègent et nourissent les plantes. Twigs are thin branches. These little pieces of wood protect and nourish plants.

Thanks to modern technology, I can now email my husband the example sentences (such as the one above). He then uses his Smartphone to do the recordings (killing the motor of his tractor, in time to do me the favor.) Then, presto!, he emails the file to me and it travels virtually--across the vine fields to our bedroom--where I type up these editions) How about that?!

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse


That rough patch we went through, me and you-know-who, eventually smoothed itself out--and would you believe a new passion grew out of it? I'm not talking about a rip-your-clothes off passion (not when my family--and you, Dear Reader--might be reading), no, I'm referring to a new interest, an accidental hobby that's keeping me grounded these days.

Funnily enough, it was a real rough patch--one teeming with rocks, weeds, and concrete--in which my husband and I signed The Peace Treaty, using garden picks and not Sharpies. I had been bee-lining it through the yard, on my way past Jean-Marc (harrumph!), when I saw the riot of weeds in the cobbled stone lit. Ever since moving here, in the fall of 2012, I'd been meaning to tame that flower bed, but all the misplaced concrete was a put-off.

That's when I remembered a sure-fire remedy: Sweat Equity! It's a tool we sometimes use when suffering from The Couples' Blues and it goes like this: Why not put our energy into building up our homestead instead of tearing it down? Fast as that Jean-Marc and I were ripping out the weeds and chiseling concrete, with a goal of planting one more lavender row (oh the rows we've sowed!...).

Removing the misplaced béton from the bed was tough business--requiring a sledge hammer and a ton of elbow grease. My husband teased me when he noticed I'd sneaked off to work on a side-project, but I assured him my work was just as vital: by gathering all these little sticks, or brindilles, I was making sure my partner's work would not be in vain. (The last time Jean-Marc cleared a garden bed for me--it quickly grew back its weeds!)

Brindilles or twigs

By piling, around the plants, these broken branches--or what the French called BRF*--we could keep weeds from growing back--as well as keep moisture in! Plus, the twigs would eventually decompose, nourishing the lavender in its tidy row (a further advantage of all the hand-picked twigs: neatness). 

Hunched low to the ground, I noticed how relaxing the twig-gathering activity was. Were those endorphins coursing through my body? As my fingers roamed the earth's floor, I marveled, uncovering all kinds of treasures. Aside from twigs, there were broken faïences, dried almonds from the tree above, and even a metal pendant with rhinestones. Gosh, maybe it was platinum with diamonds? What did I know? 

I tucked the charm into my pocket, just as I'd done as a kid, filling my poches with findings from the wash, or flood bed, behind our neighborhood. How invigorating to roam the Phoenix desert, weaving in and out of the palos verdes, hunting for treasures and returning with wildflowers for my mom and the neighbors.

Scooting over to the Provençal boules court, on my hands and knees, I hit pay dirt. Some of the planks, which line the court, were rotting--shedding small piles of sticks. Mulch city! But there was competition, and I watched the omnipresent ants hauling off their share!

Les fourmis weren't the only obstacle. Gathering twigs when Smokey's around, c'est presque impossible! My golden can't resist poking me with his nose until HE is the unique object of my attention. And this is how I quickly became a one-armed forager. Luckily, the activity is just as agreeable with a furry arm rest on one side and, below, l'embarras de choix -- or an embarrasing variety of choice. (Don't you love the French expression for abundance?)

Back now, foraging beside my husband, who has almost finished excavating the flower bed, I notice he has on his new favorite shirt (you can see it at the end of this post). He's got a real color theme going for this summertime, and it's neon jaune. His shoes are yellow, too--and so is his Smartphone!

"I've got a new name for you," I say.

"Ah, bon. Qu'est-ce que c'est?"

"Mellow Yellow."

The joke is not lost on him and we both laugh at how riled up we can get when we disagree on things.

Next, I'm careful to laugh at myself. Passions are an all or nothing thing for me. I can't just collect a few brindilles, I've got to have a giant stick factory!

What a picture, squatting there, fists full of my favorite new commodity, a mile-high wood pile growing beside me. Just call me "Twiggy."


To respond to this story, click here. Note, I'm still editing today's post, feel free to share corrections in the comments box. Thanks. Will add to the vocabuary section soon, here

French Vocabulary

le lit = bed
le béton = concrete
la faïence = earthenware
une poche = pocket
*BRF = bois raméal fragmenté ramial chipped wood


New rental in Provence. In the charming village of Sablet--this spacious home is the perfect place to return to after sightseeing, bicycling or hiking. See pictures here.

  Seeds of Hope Jane Goodall

WINNER of our book giveaway....

Dana, are you reading? You were comment number 30 (automatically generated number) in the "humble oneself post" and you've won Jane's book: Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants. Email me, Dana (who wrote "Those naughty dogs might have led you to a new friend"), and I will ship you your book. Félicitations!

Smokey and rock wall
 Out of time now... so much more to say about les brindilles. What a soothing activity, now part of my daily routine. P.S. Can you spot Smokey? And the boules? No, that's not a hulo hoop! It's a piece broken off of my husband's wine barrel. Hey... more mulch! Comments welcome here.

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