A bilingual message from Jean-Marc + Un Petit Accident while preaching
Gaga for Galets! Rock collecting: caillou, roche, gravier, pierre and other stones in French

The French words are in the story (Some Assembly Required!)

Diy bricolage kristi
Putting the finishing touches on our new spinning composter...My excuse for not putting the finishing touches on today's post. But if you read through to the end you will pick up a lot of French vocabulary! Edits are always welcome in the comments section. Merci! 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Our new composteur rotatif arrived! It's a spinning contraption that'll transform kitchen scraps into garden compost within weeks...4? 6? 12?--on verra! I was surprised by the size of the package (picture a slim rectangular box), étonnant, given I'd ordered large barrel on a frame. Perhaps this delivery was for Jean-Marc? Had he ordered flat-screen TV?

Opening the cardboard colis I saw two stacks of long plastic panels and, beneath them, three large discs. D'accord! J'ai compris. The spinning tonneau and its frame were to be assembled entièrement! This flat puzzle was supposed to turn into a 3D moving entity! Looking at all the pieces--including a ton of nuts and bolts, I thought, Jean-Marc can put this thing together! He actually enjoys bricolage and is creative with it: witness his impressive sea urchin mop-spear--slapped together using my kitchen mop and stolen pieces from the silverware drawer, ie missing forks...).

On second thought, I'd better assemble it myself--or suffer a contraption-jalopy-of-sorts that might very well spit out screws and few prickly urchins (which reminds me: once this monster is built, I'd better let my husband know the compost rules: no animal proteins)!

Naivité and ignorance are necessary when diving into a DIY project or no one would persevere to the end. I opened the flimsy instructions pamphlet--more like a comic book comprised of squares: each square had an illustration of the next step. Only a handful of words involved. One of those words read "mark." I was to search for the panel with "the mark". Examining all the panels I may as well have been looking for The Mark of The Beast: hidden, elusive, deceptive.... 

Aha! Found it--an evil triangle no less! Why didn't the instructions indicate an "arrow," which is what this "mark" turned out to be? Ah well, no use arguing with a cartoon book! Onward!

The first step was awkward: balance (somehow!) the two giant disks three feet apart while attaching the panel (horizontally) to connect them. The rest of the assembly was straight forward: attach the remaining 6 panels in the same way. This would require a tournevis and some sort of outil to hold the bolts...

As for gathering the necessary tools: pas de problème! Gone were the days where I had to search in a messy, chaotic, storeroom. Last spring, during lockdown, my sister-in-law organized our cafoutche! Currently, I breezed in, selected a screwdriver and a wrench from the Wall of Tools, and whispered Merci, Merci, Cécile! once again on the way out of my She Cave. Admittedly, this composting tumbler is the first project I have gotten to.... (Though the She Cave is visited daily, as our dog food and chicken feed are now stored there.) 

Bon, back at the table on our front porch, it was hot and there was a ways to go... I grabbed the first screw and struggled to secure the bolt on the other side. 48 screws later my mind said SCREW IT! I'm done! My thumbs and my fingers were sore and I regretted working in the pretty top Mom had given me, when I should've worn an old T-shirt. But when my son suddenly arrived home from work, I had to keep going, if only to show off! Only, instead of noticing me, Max hurried in and out of the house, "I'm on my way to tennis! Love you, Mom!"

Mom? Don't you mean Brico-Mama? Queen of DIY? Did he even see my turning barrel contraption? It was almost done. But the mosquitos were now eating me alive, no thanks to all the sweat. 

I quickly assembled the frame and decided to leave the last screws (the ones I'd failed to put in first and now it was impossible to place them down deep in the barrel. Jean-Marc could help tomorrow....). I put down my tools and headed around the house to Mom's studio. I was going to say a grumpy goodnight and was in no mood to chat, so when Jules said she'd love to see my new composter, I explained:

"All that's left to do is lift the barrel and put screw it onto the frame. But I'm not going to do it now. I'm done! Too tired!"  

Mom was already following me back around the house, to the front porch. "Wow! I am so impressed!" she praised. "I am really proud of you! Look what you have done! You are a Marcus!" Mom said, referring to her family of beer-drinking builders and rebels.

I could almost taste a cold pression about now! Hélas, my beer drinking days are over. As for rebellion. Yes! This DIY project might be about that: a rebellion against the hamster wheel (even in France you can find yourself on one of those--always functioning in the same way, doing the same thing, day after day, year after year. Never testing the well of skills inside of you. Leaving others to do certain things for you. This composting tumbler project was a way to spin things around!

Mom, ever-willing to go for a spin, was already holding one end of the rotating barrel and I the other as we lifted it onto the frame in time for me to screw it into place. Those last two screws were almost impossible to tighten but Mom held on and as long as she did I didn't give up. 

Holy moly! The barrel was in place! It was revolving! But as it spun I saw a few holes here and there.... Oh no! Those last 8 screws were not extras after all.... I was ready to throw in the towel. Screw those screws! 

"I remember when your Dad built the storage shed..." Mom began.

"Really? Dad built those sheds?" How could I forget them, on either side of our trailer. They held whatever would not fit into a single-wide home--including, eventually, Dad. (Mom admits her own rebellion led to that. But we can't go back! We can only share our lessons with our children, helping them to persevere through the ups and downs of life.)

"And your rocking horse, do you remember?" 

"You built that?"

"Well, I had help," Mom said. "You always need a partner, a helper..." I looked up and saw Mom, tightening the last of those screws. It was finished! We stepped back to admire the amazing composting tumbler. "I'd leave it right there," Mom suggested.

On our outdoor dining table? Well, why not? At least until a few more family members could see it. Which reminds me, I now had a true appreciation for my husband's DIY projects. They may not be parfait, but the patience and perseverance involved--now that is perfection!

Thanks, Mom, for snapping the photo above, and for all the talents and wisdom you share. xoxo 


composteur rotatif = composting tumbler
on verra = we will see
étonnant = surprising
le colis = parcel, package
d'accord = OK
j'ai compris = I understand
le tonneau = barrel
le bricolage = DIY, home-improvement
le tournevis = screwdriver
l'outil (m) = tool
hélas = alas
la pression = beer-on-tap, draught beer
parfait = perfect

Help understanding French at FluentListener.com - if you, like me, have any difficulty hearing/understanding spoken French, give David Tolman's French listening program a try. David has taught French online for 20 years, from his office here in France. Click on the words, below, to access one of David's lessons, and be sure to sign up for his helpful emails.


Mille mercis, Cécile, for cleaning up our cafoutche and creating these tool walls and more!

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Ian Pitt

Congratulations Kristi - what a talent!

I've often wondered whether these rotating composters live up to the claims made by those selling them, and have been tempted (but resisted temptation to date).

Will be very interested to hear how you get on with yours, and what the quality of the compost you (eventually?) get out of it ... guess I'll have to wait for another post in a few months time!

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,
I've got a big green tumbler but haven't used it yet. I watched a webinar on composting and I have instead been digging holes all around the garden and putting the kitchen scraps in the hole and covering up with soil. We'll see if it works.

Lynn McBride

Kristi, Only you could turn a story about assembling a composter into something interesting, enlightening, and heartwarming. What a fun read, thank you.

Linda R

Your mom is a treasure and so are you.

Ruth Fuchs Hallett

Brava, Kristi! I'm impressed by your determination. Looking forward to hearing how long it takes for this to produce the compost.
I am beyond impressed by the cafoutche! Wow! What organization!

I noticed a couple of typos and you did say you welcome editing. In the paragraph that begins with "naivete," the word should be "examining" and in the paragraph that begins with "bon," it should be struggled (after grabbed). Sorry, can't help it. I'm a writer and worked as an editor. But you deserve a pass after working so hard.

Love the photos!

Lisa Bowers

Kristi- I had to same experience last year! It was a trudge putting it together. I think I had to screw then unscrew a few panels (that I realized after the fact I had put on backwards). It was quite the puzzle! A year later it is still standing and I use it every day.

Andrew Kleeger

The story was, as usual, mildly interesting and fun, but I didn’t really perk up until the line about your father in the shed ... you can’t just leave that hanging out there unexplained! I’m certain there’s an interesting and very funny story!

Terry Littman

We put one together 10 months ago. It has made composting tres simple. It does become heavy when filled, so be sure to place it in a good spot. You won't be moving it.

Marsha D in Tennessee

She Shed, Kristi, it's a She Shed! No caves for us. :-)

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Lynn! That means a lot coming from you.

Kristin Espinasse


Kristin Espinasse

So helpful, Ruth. I will fix these right away. Corrections are always appreciated!

Kristin Espinasse

Andrew, I realized, on rereading that sentence, that I had inadvertently placed my father in the shed! To be clear, he never lived in the shed. :-)


Great story. I also appreciate how your vocabulary list has the articles with the nouns. They are so necessary for learning not to dislike writing in French!


Bravo Kristi! And Jules - love her ♥


Our dear Kristi,
As always,you totally have my admiration for not only a wonderful story(with pictures!) but also for being able to put such a thing as a large composter together!
This coming from someone who is all thumbs!
Natalia. xo


Congratulation on your accomplishment! My husband once ordered a 4-slot kayak trailer which arrived at our house in several flat boxes. After dumping out all of the myriad screws, bolts and long metal pieces ,it's amazing to see what it turns into. I can so relate to your travails. It's like working with those erector sets we had as kids.

Gail Accuardi

I hope you will keep us informed on how well it works. Most gardners use composters for their gardens and this sounds quite marvelous.

Kristin Espinasse

Marsha, Love the "she shed!"


Great job!!!

Carolyn Chase

Marvelous story (and I'm jealous - always wanted one of those composters). I remember the days of moving into a French rental house in Dijon. Light bulbs hanging from wires, no curtain rods, towel racks, etc. Jack built a frame for our waterbed out of the packing crate in which equipment had been shipped over. And we assembled many pieces of furniture. Some good stories to go with all that! Also required some real ingenuity as we weren't supposed to put any holes in the walls!!
As my garden tools hadn't arrived yet, I was using un tounevis as a weed digger, and later in the year, with the first snow fall, a dust pan to shovel the walk so when the school kids and parents arrived it wouldn't be trampled into ice. "the crazy American"
You're right also about the lovely blouse you wear in the photo! I noticed that first thing!


Don't ever tell a woman something can't be done. I am pretty good at DYI, and my sister is the master. And that is a most impressive wall of tools. I need someone to do my house first, then my tools which are scattered in about 4 places now....is Cecile available?


Félicitations, Kristi, Tu as écrit une histoire, non, une mémoire en même temps drôle et douce. Je voudrais te dire merci pour cet espace à pratiquer mon français et aussi pour l'inspiration à préparer une leçon qui s'agit de l'art impressionniste pour les petits enfants de mon neveu et ma nièce qui manqueront leurs études traditionnelles cet automne. J'apprécie ton exemple d'un attitude positif; le temps d'apprendre les nouvelles habiletés c'est à présent! Àmitiés . . .

Francine Gair

I love the tool wall! I have just bought pegboard to tidy up my very random tools. I hope they will make as fine a display as yours.

PS: Another edit: "... as our dog food and chicken feed is now stored there" should be "are" -- like Ruth, I can't help myself!

Cerelle Bolon

Good for YOU, Kristi...and your Mom!
One never knows what one can do until you try.
Enjoy and hope it makes lots of fine compost for your flourishing garden!
Hugs from hot Phoenix as we wait for the monsoon rains to start...You know the drill.

Linda Wanless

J'ai compris is past tense - I understood. Je comprend is present tense - I understand. I love the story and can certainly relate to it as I have done many of these DIY projects! Good for you for sticking through it and for Jules for giving just the right kind of help and support!
Linda in Portland, OR


Great job putting together the composter. And I am really envious of your cafoutch. I need to organize our garage and I am so amazed at all of wrenches hanging neatly on the wall and all of the other tools. I wouldn’t have thought of doing that but it makes a lot of sense. I need to put up peg board and hooks for rakes, shovels, etc. We could use Cecile talents.
Thanks for a wonderful story.
Peace, Kathleen

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Francine. So helpful! On my way to fix this now. Bon weekend 🌞.

Suzanne Dunaway

BRAVA!!! You did that really well and how wonderful to have the garbage OUT of the kitchen and into the composter. Remind me one day to tell you about fixing a john when my honey and I were first together in our first house............but love won.

Sandra Allen

How about an electric screwdriver or a small drill? Too easy?


Chère Kristin,
It’s always an inspirational entry & « thank goodness «  someone else feels how I do!! I don’t like reading too many directions (big turn off) , or anything that needs more than 1-3 steps. Otherwise, « hère Mike, hère Chuckie « .. my son & husband are « bricoleurs « .. can fix or create anything.. ! Sooo, kudos to you & mom!!
Amicalement, Teresa

Dr Nicholas Keegan

Hi Kristi

Enjoyed the story. I've had a few frustrating assembly projects like that over the years.

I spotted a few typos - sorry, I'm like that!

'Had he ordered flat-screen ...? I insert 'a' after ordered.

'On second thought.' Perhaps that's an Americanism, but usually we'd say 'thoughts.'

'.. and few prickly urchins' Insert 'a' after and.

'the first screw and struggled to secure the bolt.' If it's a bolt you would usually have a nut at the other end. I think you may have misused screw and bolt throughout the story. Jean-Marc would love to tell you the difference!

All the best.


Dr Nicholas Keegan

Hi Kristi

Spotted two more typos, one of them mine! Where I said: 'I insert "a"...' Delete 'I', make 'insert' 'Insert.'

' .. is lift the barrel and put screw it onto ...' Delete 'put'.


Kristin Espinasse

So helpful. Thank you, Nick! Will fix these at the next chance.

Patricia Sands

Job well done! Story well told! As always!
Bises to you and Jules

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Patricia!

K. J. Laramie

Your ‘I can do anything’ inspirational attitude is so beautiful. And Jules’ maternal wisdom, too, is always so refreshing. Kristi, I hope you have a matching chair to move about the garden with her in celebration of Life. 🌈

Curtis Johnson

Love my tumbling composter. Exactly the same. Just be sure to add plenty of carbon -grass clipping , plant waste even paper towels help balance and makes compost in months

Marianne Rankin

"Naivite" should be "Naivete."

I'd never heard of a rotating composter until I read this story. Great idea. Maybe I will get one. I'd considered a "regular" composter, but for various reasons decided against it.

I found out that one can create compost occasionally by procrastination. Because of an injury and general busyness, I'd not cleared leaves from the brick patio for a couple of yeqrs. I finally got around to that, and under the top layer of leaves, there was some soil, presumably created by the action of weather and maybe insects over time. It seems to be really good soil, too, dark and rich. Maybe you can set aside a small spot in your yard for leaves. Let them sit for at least a season, and see what happens.

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