What does “Féerique” mean in French? + compare translations of our bilingual book synopsis
From huppes to rapaces--birds in our French garden, les oiseaux dans le sud de la France

Arsenic in my omelette? Animal instincts + French vocabulary you won't find in a textbook (like the slang word for concierge...)

Irish cob horse in provence
A scene from Cousine Sabine's, where we enjoyed Sunday's "cousinade" or family reunion. The horse is an Irish cob.

Today's Word: un abreuvoir

: watering hole, drinking bowl, trough, birdbath, fountain

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read in French and in English

Study the sentence below, then click on the following sound file to hear the French and English
On peut conduire un cheval à l'abreuvoir, mais non le forcer à boire. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
I was in our chicken pen, refilling the water bowl and collecting the "oeuf du jour" when I had an inspiration: Go over and flip the straw bale! that inner voice whispered.

"Come here, Edie," I said to my chicken and the two of us headed over to a knee-high botte de paille. Ready? Flip! And there, on the underside of the humid mass, the potato bugs were teeming! Dozens of them! What a feast my little hen would have!

"Go on Edie! Eat! Bon appétit!

Edie approached the writhing wall of insects and cocked her head, left, right, left...and her pupils dilated as she moved in for a closer look. If you know chickens, you can picture my hen's jerking motions, which I feared would scare off the bugs. "Go on, Edie! before it's too late!" (If you know potato bugs, you'll recall their protective mechanism: these “roly polies” instantly curl in on themselves, making a repulsive hard shell barrier).

"Edie! What's the matter with you? Look at that live feast! A veritable bug buffet. "Eat, Edie, eat while you can!" But my chicken just stood there, her neck seesawing, her head jerking as her giant side eye followed the critters up and down the slithering wall. I had the urge to take her by the beak and lead her to the high protein lunch but the use of force would have been unkind, not to mention futile.

On peut conduire un cheval à l'abreuvoir, mais non le forcer à boire

It reminds me of the saying, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. (You can present somebody with an opportunity but you can't make them take it!) Clearly, Edie wasn't seizing this chance to swap out those bland pellets for some crunchy isopods!

Frustrated and disappointed, I left my cocotte to her own devices and went to check in on Mom, whose studio is across the driveway from the poulailler. Mom and a newly-groomed Smokey were in bed watching cat videos on Youtube. 

Giving my best impersonation of a stubborn, wide-eyed, head-jerking chicken, I recounted the story of the Supreme Potato Bug Festin that Edie refused. Mom and Smokey were amused and when I was done flapping my wings and pecking at thin air it suddenly hit me, another kind of folly: we act the same before our own Beloved's gifts (whether that be God, a loving family member, or friend). We fail to recognize the goods being set down before us--whether food, advice, or care. We think we know better. We go and eat soggy, day-old pellets instead.  

"See you later," I said to Mom and Smokey, leaving my beloveds and heading around the corner into the house for an afternoon nap. Before I fell to sleep I surfed the net and there is where I saw a serendipitous post from a permaculture site I follow. Can you believe they were talking about potato bugs? Quelle coïncidence! It turns out potato bugs or "cloportes" are excellent workers in the garden as they eat up heavy metals in the soil, such as mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and plomb de la terre which are dangerous to humans. 

La Sagesse de La Nature/Nature's Wisdom

Aha! If my hen turned her beak at my generous offering it was because her instincts were telling her Don't do it! Don't eat that! 

Yikes! If she had eaten those metal-charged crustaceans, would I then have arsenic in my omelette? Lead in my Eggs Benedict? Francium in my frittata?  Adding to the confusion, the internet says potato bugs are okay for hens to eat. What then, is the answer? If not to let my chick decide for herself, and trust her own animal instincts!

It all makes me think about the current times we are living in. So many of us are trying to lead our stubborn loved ones to the water. But we can't make them drink it! It is frustrating, unnerving, disappointing! As for me, I am glad my chicken did not drink the "water" I offered her. After all, what do I know? I would do better to entertain friends with my Jerky Hen Impression than to tell anyone what to do.

Bonne chance et bon courage. I'll be back next week with more French words. If you enjoy this letter, please share it with a friend.


P.S. Some trivia: did you know "cloporte", or potato bug, the subject of today's story, is also French slang for "caretaker"? Cloporte means "concierge" in French! It is fun to think we have hundreds of concierges in our garden :-)

P.S.S. Please consider following my Instagram account -- apart from the photos I post of our area in France, it is a good backup. Should this newsletter experience a glitch, you will always be informed of a new post via Instagram 

un abreuvoir = trough, watering hole
l'oeuf du jour = egg of the day
la botte = bundle (also "boot", see post)
la paille = straw (paille expressions, here)
boire = to drink
le poulailler = henhouse, chicken coop
le festin = feast, banquette (see post here)
la cocotte = chick, chook, in French child speak (see "baby talk" post)
le plomb = lead
la terre = earth, soil
bonne chance = good luck
bon courage = be brave
amicalement = kind wishes

Sainfoin fleur flowers
In front of Cousin Sabine's, a field of pink "sainfoin": a plant of the meadows which was formerly cultivated as fodder. Une plante des prairies qui était autrefois cultivée comme fourrage. Below, after one of Cousin Sabine's relatives hung it there decades ago, an old mailbox disappears into a venerable plane tree.

plane platane tree swallows mailbox

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


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I love this piece of writing ! Thank you. I learnt several things... so important that everyone listens to that still, inner voice :-)

Mary Elizabeth Gex Bloom

This was a delightful segment to read. I took French as a girl and learned enough to get by in France when my late husband and I traveled there on an excursion. The French people were delightful and we enjoyed Paris and the countryside all the way to Normandy. This post gave me pleasure and made me forget about the loss of my husband. Thank you for sharing you Chicken Tale! I am subscribing to your French Word-A-Day... Merci beaucoup!

Valerie McCaffrey

Orrrrr as my marvelous Uncle used to say “ You can lead a horse to drink but you can’t make him water:) so

Kristin Espinasse

Bonjour Mary Elizabeth, Thank you. It is wonderful to have you with us. Bienvenue!


Thank you Kristi for another informative post - my new "word of the day" which you have taught me is "potato bugs".

As a Brit I'm wondering from your description whether these are what we would call a woodlouse (probably you aren't describing a Colorado beetle - a more destructive beast of potatoes altogether)

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Ian, I love it that you learned an American word in today’s post. Thank you for the English equivalent. Woodlouse is a good synonym (even if the second half of the word is a little itchy!)

Chris Allin

Thank you, Kristi, for this story today. It brings back
thoughts of my mom. She was an animal lover,
surrounded herself with horses, dogs, cats and more. Always trusted animals’ instincts over people’s


Merci pour les faits saillants aka ... trivia worthy useless info.. que j'aime apprendre pour utilisation futur. Surtout merci pour le rigolo et la sagesse pour ces temps rempli de défi!


Kristin Espinasse



Maybe cloportes came to mean concierges due to the felicitous combination of clos+portes and the fact that a lot of them are short and round. The Portuguese gardienne of my building in Paris certainly fit this description.


You remind me of myself, constantly going to the “worst case scenario” today I put on my phone wallpaper “Try on the frequency of the best case scenario” have a great day!


Wonderful post, thank you. Barbara

Stacy Lund

Delightful story, Kristi! One of my favorite sayings and such truth to it. I'm always turning over items around the farm looking for treats for my chickens. I had no idea potato bugs did such good work. Cousin Sabine's place looks idyllic.

Ellen A.

"You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think."
Dorothy Parker, When asked to use the word "horticulture" correctly in a sentence
US author, humorist, poet, & wit (1893 - 1967)

Apologies to anyone offended, but I think this is still PG. Great story today, Kristi!


Dear Kristin,

Per your story above of giving others one's own advice, do gather your photographs together into a book for us all!!!
Your works are so very Beautiful!! It is obvious that you have been given a true artist's eye!! I would immediately purchase one!! At 77, I love seeing the beauty of God's works recorded. I paint in oils and love it very much.

God bless you all so very dearly,

Sarah LaBelle

What are potato bugs? When I looked that up, I found Colorado potato beetle, which has no connection with arsenic that I found. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado_potato_beetle It is on French wikipedia too.
This article refers to that Colorado potato beetle and another species, the Jerusalem cricket.

Oh I hate bugs and hope not to encounter either kind!
There are no chickens here to enjoy them. You seem unfazed by them, and write about them cheerfully.


In the southern United States we call them pill bugs, roly-poly or sow bugs! As a child we loved playing with them. Being careful not to squish them, of course!


Our dear Kristi,
Another wonderful, uplifting post-- filled not only with your always inspirational words, but also beautiful pictures and terrific vocabulary!!
Thank you!! You made my day!!!
Natalia. Xo


Love it! Love just about anything Dorothy Parker said or wrote.

Kitty Wilson-Pote

Love hangin' out with You and Edie and Jules and Smokey every dang time, Kristi! Another wonderful read full of vitality, flashes of insight with lasting energy, and a story for both heart and mind. Hugs to y'All!

Judy Feldman

Great story, Kristi! Love your humor and such a fun read. Also, beautiful photos!

Louis Bogue

Another cute little story you tell so we'll.love lou, looks like I will be in Antibes the month of Sept. Would get in touch.

K. J. Laramie

We lived on a wildlife preserve along the Great Atlantic Flyway for seventeen years and were treated to watching millions of birds fly through, rest, linger, and then move on. The spectacle of different, colorful flocks every year, such as black ibis, vireos, etc., always dazzled, but one mixed race couple stood out and always showed up on time, AND claimed their usual spot ... a Roseate Spoonbill and her faithful beau, a very large Woodstork. You could set your watch by it!

Len R

Dorothy Parker was known for these one-liners. Here are several, quoted from The Portable Dorothy Parker:
Brevity is the soul of lingerie.
Reacting to the news that the very-laconic President Coolidge had died, she said, "How do they know?"
Reviewing a novel by Theodore Dreiser: "Theodore Dreiser/Should ought to write nicer."

Please forgive a slight correction (according to the Portable Dorothy Parker): Playing a word game, she was challenged to use "horticulture" in a sentence, and her answer was "You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think."

And now a challenge to Jean-Marc and Kristi: Give us some examples of this kind of word play from French wits. It's OK if we have to scratch our heads if some of the remarks contain double-entendres that may not be immediately apparent to us thick-headed anglophones.

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