arrosage: hand-watering the vineyard, this week's visitors and Paint in Provence!
Poilu : a semi-truck, a hairy person, or a soldier?

Fleurs des Champs & medicinal plants in our vineyard

Phacelia or purple tansy flowers and Mom (c) Kristin Espinasse

Purple tansy, or phacelia cetifolia, is an excellent insectary plant and heaven to the local pollinators (a veritable bee magnet!). While phacilia is known to attract les abeilles, my husband, alias Chief Grape, uses it to clean the soil of his vineyard (folding it into the soil, once the flowers have passed). The parcel, above, was planted with grapevines last year. See what the field looks like now, in the pictures just below. (That's  my Mom, upper right. She will be here in 6 weeks!)

une fleur des champs

    : wildflower, field flower

Nov2014Mas de Perdrix. A home in France that artists and writers love to rent.  Work on your creative project in this inspiring environment.

Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence.
Download MP3 or Download Wav file

Dans un grain de sable voir un monde et dans chaque fleur des champs le Paradis, faire tenir l'infini dans la paume de la main et l'Éternité dans une heure.

To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour. William Blake

Improve your French pronunciation with Exercises in French phonetics. Click here. 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
Mediterranean and medicinal plants in our vineyard

Come with me, now, on a stroll through our vineyard and let's identify some of the wildflowers growing here. I will add more, as the season unfolds--like the petals on this white and fuschia fleur, just below...

fumeterre or fumitory plant and flower
Jean-Marc, hunched over (see his foot) to reach a baby vine, at pruning time. 

"smoke of the earth"
I first noticed this flower in a field beside Cousin Sabine's house. Her father, André, explained that he planted it as a fire repellant. Only, now that I've typed those words, I'm beginning to doubt my memory--for how could a field of delicate flowers prevent the spread of flames?

But I do remember talking to another uncle, Jean-Claude (see both uncles, here), who tells me he collected these flowers as a kid, for the pocket change it brought him. The explanation:

L'infusion de fumeterre est un vieux remède des Provençaux pour soigner une mauvaise digestion. Fumeterre herbal tea is an old Provençale remedy to treat indigestion.

In the book Ces Précieuses Plantes de Méditerranée, it is noted that people here in Provence used to swear by its longevity properties: "qu'elle avait le secret de faire vivre à cent ans!" (that it had the secret to make--or keep you living--at the age of 100)

Fumeterre, from the papaveraceae family, grows in our vineyard here near Bandol. I've seen it jutting out of the rock walls, or réstanques, and lying low between the newly-planted vine rows. 

A google search of "fumitory + medicinal uses" brings up more info, including it's various names "earth smoke" and "beggary", and vast properties--everything from intestinal spasms to conjunctivitis.


 Too bad it can't help Smokey, who suffered nerve damage to his tongue some years ago... Good news is it doesn't keep him from smelling the roses and les fleurs des champs. 


 Bon, that was a quick stroll today. We'll play this flower game again soon. For now, I've got to get Chief Grape his lunch before he changes hats again (taking off his field hat and putting on his accounting hat: it's tax time soon and our dear friend Rachel (marraine, or godmother to our daughter Jackie, is on her way over to help with the comptabilité). 

Have a lovely weekend and on se voit la semaine prochaine (see you next week)!



Meantime, if you can identify any of the other flowers in this edition, the comments box is here.

Smokey says, "Have a look at our sponsors, below." 


      A just-pruned, one-year-old mourvedre vine.

The various wildflowers and "weeds" growing in this vineyard attract so many helpful* insects, such as la coccinelle, or ladybug. Here she has landed on the cire, or wax that protects the newly-planted vines. This being last year's crop of new vines, the wax is breaking off and the red cire is now back to its natural color.

*A ladybug in a vineyard is a good sign that chemicals are not used to treat the vines. Also, ladybugs eat those insects that would normally damage the vine plants.

COMMENTS WELCOME: by adding notes to this page, we all learn more about French language and culture (in this case: plant culture :-) Click here to comment or to add a correction.

A centuries-old olive tree is still producing. Beyond, in the nearest vine field, Jean-Marc planted those phacelia flowers. The flower field is gone now, but a few purple tansies return each year...

Another bright reminder of this new-born vineyard's agricultural history.

Thank you very much for reading this post. By sharing it with a student, teacher, family member or friend, via the share buttons below, you help to get the word out about my French language journal. I really appreciate your word-of-mouth, or bouche-à-l'oreille referrals.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Kathy Casey

You are so lucky with the beautiful flowers and blue skies. I just saw my front yard yesterday for the first time since Dec. Even so, little flowers are beginning to push thru the soil. I love spring, just hope it doesn't snow too much anymore. It is only mid-March here in the Midwest.


I love that poem by William Blake. And I am fascinated by medicinal plants. I'm looking forward to learning more about the plants growing on and around your property, Kristi.


I should also mention, all these pictures are warming my heart. The snow has just started to melt here in Ontario this past week, and we are rejoicing at the arrival of spring. However, I imagine it will yet be another few weeks before we start to see the first signs of life emerging from the frozen ground.


So happy Smokey made it through that horrible injury. There is something about his tongue that makes him even more sweet and adorable. Allez Smokey!


What a joy in your lives to watch things grow , mature, change!! I get to see my daughter for five days in Chicago next week and I know exactly how you feel about your joy in looking forward to seeing your Mom in a few weeks. Mothers and daughters grow, mature, and change, too. Pure love!


I love this post, as natural remedies fascinate me! Also, the ladybug is amazing. I worked at an elementary school at one time. We would ship in ladybugs (there are not too many naturally in Arizona) and we would let the students "release" them into the community for these same purposes - eliminate pests. The kids loved this annual tradition at the school and it is quite amazing to see thousands upon thousands of lady bugs taking flight and landing on the little noses of the children. What a joy! Thanks for sharing today :-) p.s. I think the purple tansies are so pretty ! Bless you dear Kristin.

Audrey Wilson

I really enjoyed the walk around the vineyard & learning about the flowers growing there Many thanks
p.s I wish you could send the ladybird over here . We suffer from aphids on the roses ,but I have never seen any lady birds in the vicinity more's the pity.


("That's my Mom, upper right.")

Telle belle épouventaile.................!!


Your nature photos are like a piece of heaven & eternity - always. Makes it so real that this ancient land now belongs to someone I feel connected with! Also love these ancient olive trees....remind me of Carol Drinkwater's books /memoirs of her olive farm in south france. That ladybug right there is priceless!
Thank you so much.

Eleonore Miller

I see a couple of dandelions in one of Smokey's photos. In French "pissenlit" which sounds a bit naughty. Kristin, know the origin of this word? I don't but am curious!

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks,  Eleonore, for identifying the pissenlit. The French say that if you eat it (in salads, for example, with fried lardons) youll surely wet your bed,  just as the name implies in French. I believe Herm told us this story once. Are you reading,  Herm?

Marti Hinman

Thank you for the wonderful post today. My mother's oldest sister
had a vineyard in South America where I spent numerous vacations
as a youngster. It truly is, "labor of love" owning one. I am so
delighted to know M. Chief Grape goes for the more natural ways
of growing things in your beautiful property. You illustrate so well
with your amazing photographs of that piece of Paradise!! I wish
I was your mother ;-)
Bonne journée,


Sorry my comment is a correction, but the misuse of its and it's is one of my pet peeves.
It's means it is.
Sorry but everyone in my family is in the "grammar police".
I love your photos and your honest essays.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

Each photo of Smokey is more endearing than the last. And his life story must have many of life's messages, starting with survival...and living with a handicap. It would make a great children's book. What a sweetheart~

And Jean-Marc's "little lucky bugs" remind me of a song from
childhood...Lucky Ladybug. It is a happy dance kind of song!

Cynthia P. Lewis

Just in case Herm doesn't read the comments today, I'll take the liberty to answer Eleonore's question about the origin of the word "pissenlit". If you break it down into three short words in French its true meaning is there for all to see. This is because the dandelion, if eaten, has mild diuretic properties. Even this word sounds lovely when pronounced correctly in French !

Many thanks for the wonderful photos you shared today. I could almost smell the blossoms and the soil warmed by the sun of Provence. Bon week-end à tous.

Joan L.

Your post is always a great reminder that as much as I love Paris and seeing it with my students every other June, I am always SO relieved the day we leave Paris to spend time in the real "belle France." Bon weekend a tous!

Leslie in Oregon

After years of listening to each of your MP3 or Wav files, I haven't been able to find them when I open them. The page opens to the file format, but there is no file there. Is it just me? In any case, thank you for the particularly delightful post!

Faye, Gleneden Beach, Oregon

Great post and I love the photos. It's a good start to my day.

Merci and Stay well!


Our dear Kristi,
What a beautiful post today,especially with those gorgeous pictures of sweet Braise and oh!those flowers!
Absolutely filled with Spring!
Wonderful news that lovely Jules is visiting soon!Have missed seeing and hearing about her!
Natalia. xo


excellent, I see the correction

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

The sound files work fine for me. Quicktime is on my computer -- it pops up when I click the link, and plays the sound file. I do not 'see' a file, I hear it play on the player.

Kristin Espinasse

Sarah,  thanks for responding to Leslies question. Leslie, have you made any changes on your computer recently? Or it is the change I made,  last November,  on listservers (maybe not  as some people are able to click on and hear the sound files.) Please email [email protected] and let them now the issue. Let me know how this goes.

Heather in Arles

Oh I loved this post Kristin as I have SO much to learn here! We rented a tiiiiny (5 by 5) plot in our community garden and it is so wonderful but truly humbling. Happily, the other gardners are taking pity on us "city folk" and telling us exactly what to do. :)

Susan Wardell

Love your stories and your beautiful photographs!

Marian A. Mohr

Hi Kristin,

I love your newsletter, I started my garden, which consists of raised bed, large pots in the end of Feb. I have Tomato plants, red bell peppers, artichoke, water crest and lots of fresh herbs. I live close to San Francisco, Ca. USA. I have lots of fruit trees, so my lemon and orange trees are in bloom and I get to enjoy the flowers and smells, while I garden every morning. I just started sour dough starter, so now I can make sour dough bread and pancakes. I love working out in the garden, will travel to France in the next few years. Of course I will need to rent one of the places you talk about, Love Marian

Edward Bornet

The flowers are lovely and Spring has come to the South of France. Smokey looks like he is happy it is Spring also. I hope Smokey is a happy dog. He looks so sweet.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)