The Secret Revealed: word for rip current or undertow in French
N'importe quoi: Deported from France, Kristin dusts herself off and imagines the ideal career.

Tractopelle and Goings on Around here

Olive trees, sunflowers and more grape vines on the way! Thanks for reading today's story, below.

TODAY'S WORD: Tractopelle

    : digger, backhoe

Hear Jean-Marc pronouce today's word and example sentence
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Pour préparer le terrain de mes futures vignes, j'utilise un tractopelle qui enlève les souches des arbres et permet de niveler le terrain. To prepare the field for my future vines, I'm using a backhoe that removes tree trunks and allows the terrain to be levelled. al properties throughout France

by Kristin Espinasse

There's a rumble out in the fields, clouds of dust are floating down through the meadow and I don't trust that giant roving tractopelle around my dog! Such are my thoughts as Smokey and I remain holed up inside this morning, while the land around our farmhouse is being leveled for the next vine planting in March.

Today Jean-Marc is away helping another Bandol winemaker bring in a harvest.  So that leaves Smokey and me and this disconcerting bruit! Yesterday, that giant backhoe was like a bull in a china shop. As I stood out on our bedroom terrace, watching its massive arm claw towards our home, I called to Jean-Marc who stood behind the house. "It hit the olive tree! The tractor hit the tree!" shouted. The cracking sound from the  300-year-old tree being repeatedly whacked as the tractor cab whipped back and forth was too much to bear.  I ran inside and called my mom.

"Kristi," she said, "You need to go for a drive somewhere and let those men work. Quit torturing yourself." I followed Mom's advice and headed to peaceful ground--the supermarket. Food is a good comforter!


This morning that old olive tree is intact, and so am I. The kitchen door is cracked open should I be called on for help, and in case I can't hear the call, I have Smokey here beside me practicing his own little rumble in cadence with all the unusual sounds. 

When Smokey's growls turned to barks, I opened the door to Roland, who is back to restore an old puit, or well, located in the field above our home. Roland gleaned many of the materials from our yard, including an iron lintel which was discarded when we knocked out part of a wall to put in the giant window seat.


Near the lintel, you can see where Roland is replacing the missing stones, using mortar to hold them together.

"Do you have an old door?" Roland asked, his eyes already roving our front yard.

I stepped out of the kitchen and joined Roland in the search, pointing out a few possibilities: "There is our old wedding table," I said, as we passed by the tabletop leaning against the wine cellar. Wouldn't it be nice to give it a new life--as a door?

Hélas no, the broken tabletop would not work. Roland and I continued our scavenger hunt, past the sunflower field, its drying flowers slumped over their wrist-thick stems. We crossed over the pétanque court, stepping over a carpet of fallen figs. And there, behind the house, I saw it, an old wooden shutter.

"Cela fera l'affaire!" That ought to work, Roland announced. "And there are gonds, too. Parfait!"

As Roland walked away with the old shutter and the salvaged hinges, I felt a skip in my step returning to my post as "standby helper". A much better position to be in than that of a worrywart.

*    *    *

Thank you very much to the previous owners, Michael and Maggie, who sent us some photos of what this land looked like in the 60's. You can see the field behind our house, where Jean-Marc will plant more vines this spring. But it looked nothing like this photo (taking in 66') when we moved here. The field had returned to its natural state, bursting with thyme, rosemary, and a jungle of interesting plants. In the photo where you see petit pois, or peas, Jean-Marc will plant his vines.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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