La Rafale: The Gusts of France: An Ode to the Mistral Wind
Doggone it! A Travel and Dog Lovers Edition

A Horticulturist, A Lawyer, and a Cat walk into a Chat bot...

Purple delphinium and cabanon
Today's entry won't whisk you into the blossoming fields of Provence or take you on a tour of Paris's catacombs. Our destination is cyberspace (of which France is part of, n'est-ce pas?) and the mission is to keep up with technology. This journal will return to its bucolic roots very soon, so please don't leave the room. Without further delay, here's our word of the day:

DÉBROUILLARD (day-broo-ee-yar)

    : someone who is resourceful and able to find solutions to problems on their own
    : quelqu'un qui est astucieux et capable de trouver des solutions à des problèmes de manière autonome.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Navigating New Technology: A Cat's Guide to Using ChatGPT"

In the dozen or so hours I've poured questions or commands into Chatgpt--an artificial intelligence chatbot--I've had many amusing exchanges--especially when I ask it to respond as a specialist in the field, i.e. "answer as a horticulturist or a lawyer or a cat..." Did you know it could do that? The answers are delivered in very specific ways depending on "who" is talking. 

Recently I asked Chatgpt to help with a current garden dilemma. I carefully worded my query as follows:  "Answer as a horticulturist: there are tomato plants sprouting in the same pot as my 4-year-old lemon tree. Will the tomato plants be ok?

Here's the answer I got back:

"As a horticulturist, I would advise that it is not recommended to grow tomato plants in the same pot as a lemon tree. Lemon trees have different nutrient requirements than tomato plants, and their growth patterns are also different..."

Next, I asked it to answer as a lawyer...

"As a lawyer, it is important to note that the answer to this question may vary depending on the specific circumstances and applicable laws in the jurisdiction where the lemon tree and tomato plants are located."

Then I asked it to "answer as a cat"...

"As a cat, my answer would be to first sniff and investigate the tomato plants and lemon tree to satisfy my curiosity. If they are safe and non-toxic to cats, I may choose to lounge in the pot or nearby area, or use the leaves and branches as a fun toy to bat around."

Finally, I asked it to answer as a life coach...

"As a life coach, I would say that having tomato plants sprouting in the same pot as your 4-year-old lemon tree could be seen as a metaphor for life. Sometimes unexpected challenges or opportunities arise, and it's up to us to find ways to adapt and make the most of them."

Answer as Kristi?
I could have gone on for hours, asking the chatbot to reply in various "voices" (while enjoying the colorful output), but it was time to resolve my garden dilemma. In the end, I decided to go with the voice of experience. And in my own experience I have seen tomato plants and citrus plants live together in harmony (in fact, the two tomato seedlings that sprang up last year--in the same small pot as our kumquat--grew into hardy plants yielding a dozen tomatoes! 

So the moral of the story is: have fun with artificial intelligence, but call on and trust your own experience as far as possible. In other words, when it comes to new and unfamiliar technology sniff and investigate, then do some lounging in time to mull things over. Indeed, we must continue to think, and not delegate all our problem-solving to a robot.

Now, what would the cat say?

*   *    *

Lili and the kumquat
Lili and the Kumquats. Sounds like a cool band! This year our kumquat tree welcomed dozens of calendula or "souci" blossoms after seeds sprouted in the same little pot as the tree. I'm about to pull out the last of the flowers as more tomato sprouts have appeared this year. It's some kind of magic pot that houses that old kumquat! (Notice one of our doves, above.) 

Lemon tree
The lemon tree was a gift from Mom. In the background, our old farm table which we still haven't replaced after the fire.

Now you can enjoy another video from Be sure to do the whole listening exercise here. And for David's French listening course, go here.

Ce que je dis toujours


I received this suggestion from Mary, regarding the sound file:

"It would help me immensely if Jean-Marc would say the English word first, then the word in French. I read your article first, then listen to the words - but I cannot remember what the word meant when he speaks it. I love to hear him speak - and really want to know how to pronounce the words correctly - and it would be very beneficial to hear the English word, then in French."

Here you go, Mary! In the following sound file I say the words in English, first, and Jean-Marc pronounces the French:

Click here for the audio file

The horticulturist = L'horticulteur
The tomato plants = Les plants de tomate
The lemon tree = Le citronnier
The nutrients = Les nutriments
Growth = La croissance
The lawyer = L'avocat
The circumstances = Les circonstances
The jurisdiction = La juridiction
The cat = Le chat
Curiosity = La curiosité
Non-toxic = Non-toxique
The life coach = Le coach de vie
The metaphor = La métaphore
The experience = L'expérience
The kumquat = Le kumquat
Harmony = L'harmonie
The problem = Le problème
The technology = La technologie
To resolve = Résoudre
Thought = La pensée

Kristi and smokey and lemon tree
Memories. Making parsley pesto with Smokey. That's another lemon tree we had at our vineyard. I wonder what ChatGPT's life coach would say about all the lemon trees we have tried growing--on the vineyard and now near the beach? Are they metaphoric?

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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.

Anne Umphrey

Merci, Kristi. It does help for me to hear the English first, then the French. My ear, understanding what I hear isn’t very good and this makes all the difference.

Suzanne in NJ

Oui! I like the addition of the English word first in the sound file. I think it will help the memory more.

This post was fun! Trust your experience and observations rather than a programmed robot. But it was amusing.


I love your yards - every on of them! You make them home - wherever you land. That my friend, is inspiring! And, lemons are so enjoyable to look at and taste and smell. Thanks for delightful pictures and post!


I've subscribed for a few years to the Fluent Listener newsletter. The excerpts are spoken by pretty fast French speakers, but I try to listen and learn from it. My Italian is much better & he is going to start having excerpts for Italian listeners. I look forward to hearing those.

jean b palmer

Re the French vocab list. I also find it helpful to slow down the speed to .75 when listening (click on the "dots" - there is an option there). I also do that with French television shows. amazing how much easier all is to follow by just doing that, at least for me.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Jean! I never noticed those three dots and have just located them. Good to see the speed option!

Carmen Clarke

This is a great essay about Chat GPT. I heard the hype but had no idea what to do with it. What fun!

jean b palmer

Apologies - also meant to thankyou for your beautiful gardens, your always thoughtful pieces that always make my day (!) and details about Chatgpt. You are simply amazing!!

Kate Dickerson

The various Chat GPT responses absolutely cracked me up! They sound pretty canned but amusing. I think I'll stick with basic Google to answer questions like yours. I look forward to seeing pictures of your happy pairing as they get bigger.

BTW, the one plant I do know tomatoes cannot grow alongside is nicotiana.

Cheers, Kate

Suzanne Dunaway

So funny. SO SCARY!!! Put those tomato plants immediately into big pot and have tomatoes by August....

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Suzanne. Good idea. 


Coucou Kristi,

Comme je suis coach de vie et je me debrouille en Francais
voila ma reponse au sujet du citronnier ... ca te fait sentir comment? Est-ce que ca t'apporte de la joie, de bonne santé? Ce te fait rappeler du soleil en été?

J'adore que tu utilize coach de vie avec gptchat!

Bisettes Kristi
voici, la recette qui a été aimée par tout le monde:)

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