quatre quatre (4X4) + photos of French landrover

Toy cars in Vaison la Romaine (c) Kristin Espinasse

"Traffic" in the town of Vaison-la-Romaine. A car lover will appreciate today's edition, which focuses on a unique off-road vehicle, the UMM. Thanks for forwarding the post on to a friend!

quatre-quatre or 4X4 (kat-kat or kat-ruh kat-ruh) (see sound file below)

    :  four-wheel drive

Audio File and Example sentenceDownload MP3 or Download Wav

L'apiculteur est arrivé avec son 4X4 pour monter jusqu'aux restanques et deposer les ruches. The beekeeper arrived with his 4X4 to climb up to the rock terraces and place the bee hives.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

This morning Mr Pottelet, the beekeeper, came to deliver four hives.  Jean-Marc met the apiculteur at the edge of the gravel driveway, where the two men took a steep passage that leads to several hillside agricultural terraces, where Jean-Marc will plant his vineyards.

I hurried to dress, grabbed my camera and rushed up the other side of the hill, just behind our house, but it was too late. The men were already headed back down the hillside, having placed the buzzing ruches

Zut! I'd missed the bee-installation. Never mind. My attention soon caught on the unique vehicle driven by the beekeeper. I watched the tail end of the rover disappear down the steep path, at which point I hurried down the stairs beside our house, to our driveway, where the quatre-quatre was now arriving.

Shaking the beekeeper's hand I couldn't wait to ask about his four-wheel drive.  "An UMM?" I questioned, amused by the metal lettering on the front of the car.

Lately I've been fascinated by the Citroën Méhari and the history of this off-road vehicle. The beekeeper's 4X4 looked like a mix between a Méhari and a taller landrover.

UMM or 4X4 manufactured in Portugal (c) Kristin Espinasse
The most famous UMM is probably the one that transported Pope John Paul II in one of his visits to Portugal. --Wikipedia

"It was meant to be a mix between a tractor and a truck," Mr Pottelet explained. The vehicle was originally conceived by the French engineering company Cournil as a prototype. Its raison d'être was to function as something between a tractor and a truck. 

UMM vehicle belonging to the Service Departementral d'incendie et de secours or fire rescue department (c) Kristin Espinasse
The design was sold to the Portugese who manufactured the UMM for the public until 1994. Currently, they are made for the military and utility services only. --Wikipedia The apiculteur's UMM was used by the fire rescue department

I circled around the tractor-truck, wishing more than ever that it were my own. Jean-Marc has wanted to trade in my Citroën C3 but, being only 8 years old, it is hard to justify the need for a new car.

"Does it get good gas mileage?" I asked the beekeeper, who told me the diesel engine doesn't consume much.

"But it can't be that comfortable," I pointed out, "how was the two-hour drive getting here this morning?"

"Elles sont très agréable à conduire."  "They are very nice to drive," the beekeeper said, summing things up.

dogs of France. Meet Kek (c) Kristin Espinasse
Most of the known Portuguese off-road drivers started their careers driving UMMs. --Wikipedia (the off-roader pictured beyond the window is called "Kek". He's the apiculteurs gentle Corgi/Westie mix... or was that a Jack Russell/Westie mix?

  UMM or 4X4 land rover (c) Kristin Espinasse

And it must be quite useful for him, I thought, what with the four buzzing hives he was able to transport.

I began to wonder how I might justify the need for such a vehicle of character?... Two golden retrievers and a steep and winding driveway... was that enough to justify it?

"Je peux vous demander une question indiscrète?"  

I wanted to know what a car like this costs. The beekeeper said he paid around 4000 euros after finding it in Le Boin Coin, the local classifieds.

4000 euros? By now Jean-Marc, who had been anxiously following the conversation, was looking relieved--interested even.  What with so many French Riviera women driving little Mini Coopers ($$$), he might count his lucky stars that his wife's set her sights on something grander.

bee hive and four-wheel drive (c) Kristin Espinasse
Now all my husband has to do is sell several hundred jars of honey to pay for it. Better yet, maybe he can trade for it? Wine and honey for a lemon? But this baby is no lemon!

The UMM rover arriving high up on the third terrace. The beekeeper, who also has 12 donkeys, tells us these dependable workers would be ideal for clearing this land.... Don't tell Mama Jules, or she'll pass out in excitement. After a gypsy trailer, or roulette (or maybe even before it), she dreams of having a donkey.

Move over Popemobile... UMMs are THE beemobile! 

Back to work now.... Don't forget to forward this post to a car enthusiast (or even bee enthusiast!) Thanks. (P.S. Just look at all the work there is for a donkey. Is this justification enough??)


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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etre tout sucre, tout miel

Jasmine Window (c) Kristin Espinasse
Squint your eyes and you might see the whimsical warning (beneath the flowy jasmine); the door sign reads: "Attention, Chien Bizarre!"/"Watch out for Strange Dog!" (Notice the little hearts on the ironwork. Photo taken in Brignoles, while on a stroll with Mama Jules. Imaged enhanced by Picasa's free "lomo" filter.)

être tout sucre, tout miel
(to be all sugar, all honey) 

    : to be the picture of sweetness (kindness)... or to appear to be!

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wave file

Une personne qualifiée comme étant 'tout sucre tout miel' montre une apparence lisse et extrêmement gentille - voire trop - mais ce n'est qu'une apparence. On utilise cette expression lorsqu'on soupçonne que derrière les sourires et l'affabilité de façade se cache autre chose, un caractère ou une envie bien moins avouables.

A person who is referred to as being "all sugar all honey" exhibits a smooth and extremely kind appearance—indeed too kind—but this is only an appearance. We use this expression when we suspect that behind the smiles and the apparent graciousness, something else is hidden: a character or a desire that one perhaps would not want to admit. —French definition from FrancParler.com


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

The Control Freak & The Honey Harvest

This is not how I imagined it to be, waking up on what might have been a relaxing samedi. My plan was to stroll into the newly clean and orderly kitchen, make a cup of coffee in the calcaire-free coffee maker, and enjoy the morning ritual from this side of smudge-free windows. The coffee... the view... what more could a reformed slacker wish or do?

So much for four weeks of spring cleaning! And the house had been coming together so nicely... My eyes locked onto the offender, my stubble-faced soul mate. There he stood at the kitchen table, surrounded by every pot and pan in our nicked and handles-bent collection. Even the oven's roasting pan had been brought out... 

All in the name of honey!

ruche honeycomb beekeeping
                          One of those sticky frames pulled from the ruche.

It appeared to be bottling time. After three years of misses, Jean-Marc now had a hit! The amateur beekeeper had finally struck liquid gold!


"Oui!" he answered, oblivious to the mess. Jean-Marc continued to hum along to a favorite song. As he hummed he scraped the sides of the sticky wooden cadres. For this, he used our biggest kitchen knife which was now encrusted with beeswax!

Le gâteau de miel! There seemed to be more of it than the honey... and whether more or less both conspired to make one great sticky mess! The shambles continued all the way over to the kitchen sink, where a host of jam, pickle, and tomato jars were draining. But were they sterile enough to hold honey? My eyes returned to the suspicious surfaces and to the floor... where golden droplets glistened in the morning sun. 

I wasn't the only one staring goggle-eyed at the sticky drops of honey across the kitchen floor: Smokey and Braise, who stood outside, noses-flattened against the kitchen window, were already drawing up a Whose-is-Whose proprietorial map. I could almost hear Braise:

"Son, I'll take the sticky sector beneath the table. You get to lick up the floor by the sink."

"Oh no you don't!" This plan, real or imagined, would not see the light of day... not if I had it my way! I felt the remnants of a stubborn will... as it welled up from within me.... 

I looked over at the honey maker. Presently he was licking his fingers

"But you can't do this that way!" I cried. There had to be a more orderly and sterile system for bottling honey! 

"Laisse-moi faire!" Jean-Marc was calm, but firm in his suggestion. 

"But I..."

"Let me handle this!" he repeated.

I looked over at Braise and Smokey, who by now were drooling beneath their window-smashed noses. 

"Laisse-le faire! Laisse-le faire!" The dogs seemed to urge, all the while their eyes shined... as brightly as those glistening honey-drops which fell glop-glop-glop spot after spot.

The next morning I dragged my feet into the kitchen. On the stove were two great casseroles. I lifted the lids... 

Just as Jean-Marc had promised, the sticky process had worked itself out, thanks to a little heat! There, in the pan, was a perfect waxen disk. Below it, pure honey!

As I stared at the miracle of miel—and the perfect order that had arisen from chaos—the words from the song that Jean-Marc had hummed the day before came to mind. As I hummed, I thought about the control freak inside of me and how, in order to break free, one might chance to be wild—wild as honey....

You can go there if you please
Wild honey
And if you go there, go with me
Wild honey

You can do just what you please
Wild honey
Yeah, just blowing in the breeze
Wild honey
Wild, wild, wild...




                   "Mon Coeur"/"My Love" Do you see the big heart in the center?....

Please forward this edition to a friend who loves French. 

Here is that honeycomb-turned-"lid" that I found in the pan, on top of the pure honey. Please put your honeycomb or beeswax project ideas (candles? furniture wax?) here, in the comments box. Jean-Marc is looking for things to do with beeswax and ways to use this precious natural "cake". Thanks! Flowers from Anne and Karen

French Vocabulary

le samedi = Saturday

calcaire = chalky, hard water deposit

la ruche = bee hive

oui = yes

le cadre = frame

la cire = wax

le gâteau de miel = honeycomb

laisse-moi faire = let me handle this

laisse-le faire = let him handle this

le miel = honey


Fran and Katie by Alex and Joanne Polner
Jean-Marc, Fran Rorie, and Katie Dyer by Alex/Joanne Polner. Alex and Joanne took this next photo, too...


Jean-marc by alex or joanne polner

Katie dyer team fur
Katie notes: Here is a recent photo of the Team. Windsor is the smiley red boy in the back.  Aslan, half brother to Nigel and Smudge, is the silly blond in the middle, and Smudge is the naughty girl in the back row. Smudge's mother, Lizzie, is in the front next to her son, Nigel, who is Smudge's littermate.


Related Stories

  1. Bobbing for Bees - Smokey gets into some stingy mischief! Click here.
  2. "The Beehive/mailbox" - a cool idea -- but not so postman friendly! Click here.
  3. "On Entertaining Angels... or Unannounced Apiculteurs" -- another lesson in hospitality. Thanks for taking the time to read this one.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

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apiculteur and abeilles beekeeper and bees (c) Kristin Espinasse


un apiculteur (aah pee kuul tuur) noun, masculine
    : beekeeper, apiarist

Example Sentence: (note: the sound file will be back soon... some technical difficulties today!)

Aujourd'hui on fait la connaissance de l'homme qui murmurait à l'oreille des abeilles. Today we meet the man who whispers to bees. 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

"On Entertaining Angels"

It was the apiculteur, the beekeeper who arrived unannounced, or seemingly so (I would later learn that he and my husband had another one of those French arrangements whereby the one Frenchman had mentioned to the other that he would be by "dans la journée". Such are the specifics down south).

As the plans revealed themselves to me, there beneath the looming mulberry tree, I hunched over my lunch plate, as would a dog thrown a new bone: selfish-prone. I might have picked up my bone and moved it a dozen meters, over to the bush behind the clothesline, as Braise or Smokey might, but for a human snag called "manners". 

Seated with the harvesters at the picnic table, my nose now buried in a plate of charcuterie, I could not hide and so I tried, once again, to eradicate this stubborn sin: one of not letting others in.

I did my righteous repetitions...
Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.
Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.
Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise. 

I did my many mea culpas...
Lord, forgive me!
Lord, forgive me!
Lord, forgive me! 

Until my husband, more of a hands-on type, came over and all but plucked me up by my evangelical ear:

Chérie, c'est l'apiculteur.

I stood up and nodded as only a dog with a bone in her mouth could: with an are you going to take it from me or may I keep it? stance. (Time and Space being my meaty bone.) 

Thankfully, our unexpected visitor was spared the war going on in "there": inside my heart I knew that a warm welcome was the only way. I could catch up on "alone time" at some point in the future. In Heaven, for example. If I ever make it there.

Bonjour, Monsieur! I managed a smile. I stood there now, in front of the picnic table, debating whether to invite the man to join us for lunch. It's almost one o'clock, he must be hungry.... or maybe he had eaten?  

I stood. And I stood.... And when Jean-Marc began chatting on about the harvest... I slipped away, right over to my plate, and shoveled down my lunch. The food was tasteless, as good as guilt.

Chérie, Jean-Marc said, as the apiculteur walked off, Monsieur is going to check the bee hive. Why don't you go and get your camera?

"And what about your camera?" I countered, returning to my conversation with harvester Lou. Soon, I slipped away from that too. I could not concentrate. I became a distant listener, my eyes scrambling over Lou's shoulders and up to the front gate to spy on the bee guy.


The apiculteur put on one of those bee "space suits". He wore the classic rattan hat with a slight brim. A net covered his gentle face (for he did have a gentle face, that much I saw). 


I watched him pry off the ruche-top, then stop to re-apply smoke to the area and so put the bees at peace (if not to sleep). Next, he began lifting out the honeycombed slides inside. 

bees and the beekeeper (c) Kristin Espinasse

I asked Lou to excuse me while I ran into the house in search of my camera. Arriving near the scene, one slow step at a time, I felt a strange calm. The apiculteur was carefully studying the slides which were half full with honey. He stared at his stinging subjects and their honey stores as if for the first time. He stared as Romeo to Juliet. He stared as Narcissus on seeing his own silhouette. It was love. Apiculteur amour.

honeycomb (c) Kristin Espinasse

The beekeeper gently set down one slide, returning it to the ruche, and picked up another. A cloud of bees surrounded him, some stinging his bare hands. With each piqûre he calmly reached down and plucked out the dard. Eventually he reached for his gloves, slowly pulling on the protective wear. His motions were as punctuated as peace: no stops, no goes, all movements came together in one even flow. Smooth as honey.

apiculteur or beekeeper and bees or abeilles (c) Kristin Espinasse

I gravitated toward this serene scene. Perhaps, I wondered, quiet as a honeybee I, too, might touch him... taking with me some of that calm and inner peace.

Post note: After experiencing the beekeeper's bonhomie, I could not get to the kitchen fast enough... in time to pile high a plate with the best our kitchen had to offer. It was simple fare but judging from the look on the beekeeper's face, it might have been the next best thing to honey.

Le Coin Commentaires
Comments on today's story are welcome, here in the comments box:

More life lessons in my book: Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France. Please order a copy here:

Your book purchases help keep this word journal going :-) 

French Vocabulary
un apiculteur = bee keeper
dans la journée = sometime during the day
la charcuterie = cold cuts
Chérie, c'est l'apiculteur = Dear, the bee keeper's here 
Bonjour, Monsieur = Hello, sir
une ruche = beehive 
la piqûre = sting
le dard = dart 
bonhomie = good-heartedness  


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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The sign says "Products from the beehive". Picture taken in Serre Chevalier.

The Ultimate French Review and Practice: Mastering French Grammar for Confident Communication

abeille (ah-bay) noun, feminine

La diligente abeille n'a pas de temps pour la tristesse.
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
--William Blake

Thank heavens the vines are abuzz once again! And, no, it isn't the grape pickers that are causing so much commotion--but the honey harvesters. That's right--the bees are back!

When the "girls" jumped ship two months ago, leaving their hive as hollow as a hull, I gave Jean-Marc a verbal thump on the side of the head. "Qu'est-ce qui s'est passé?!"* I cried from the other end of the telephone line.* Jean-Marc wasn't sure what happened, but I had a hunch:

Juggling happened. Newly acquired vines (and the tending of them), renovation, moving homes, bees... too many ballons* in the air and one fell. Make that *flew* for everyone knows that bees don't jump ship.

But beekeepers do, or can, or can do if they don't get their act together! No use getting mad, besides--every jongleur* deserves a second chance...

And so it was that, still smarting from that thump, or verbal "bee bop" alongside the head, my jongleur/husband raced right out, empty beehive in hand, and found his queen another colony--this, after much negotiation at the bee brokers (or would-bee brokers. The bee boutique in question doesn't officially sell bees but, faced with one head-thumped and hiveless husband, they quickly changed their pollinator policy.)

The bee homecoming (new bees, old home) was grand and included all the pomp and circumstance of a Provençal parade. (The "pomp" being Jean-Marc's Gallic march down to the blackberry capped creek....followed by an ear-shattering scream I heard out in the field...


...the "circumstance" being a footloose vine and one fallen Frenchman, the latter having tripped over the former, beehive in hands and 60,000 "girls" strong...


Meanwhile, clueless from the balcony and admiring the full moon above, the shriek caused my eye to wander from the moon and catch on an erratic movement below. Next, I saw a streak across the horizon and could have sworn it was a shooting star disguised in a bee suit. Those silly stars.

                                      *     *     *

Post note: our "juggler" succeeded in placing the beehive on its stone platform beside the creek, beneath the shimmer of stars above. But he's up to his old tricks again, with yet another ball in the air (French Wine Label Design). Check out his progress in the "Vineyard Update" at the end of this edition.

References: qu'est-ce qui s'est passé = what happened; the other end of the telephone line = the kids & I were still living in Les Arcs, Jean-Marc had already moved north to begin pruning season; le ballon (m) = ball; le jongleur (la jongleuse) = juggler; merde! = sh--!

     => Dont miss "A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them"
     => Langstroth's Hive and the Honey-Bee: The Classic Beekeeper's Manual
:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word & quote:
Abeille. La diligente abeille n'a pas de temps pour la tristesse.

MP3 file: Download abeille.mp3
Wave file: Download abeille.wav

Don't be caught in customs without it: Burt's Bees Head To Toe Starter Kit
Orange blossom honey from Provence
In Music: "Vive la France" by Jazz great Sidney Bechet including "Petite Fleur" "Moustache Gauloise" "Dans Les Rues D'Antibes"

Terms & Expressions:
  une abeille maçonne = mason bee
  une abeille tueuse = killer bee
  une piqûre d'abeille = bee sting

English Terms & their French Equivalents:
  to have a bee in one's bonnet =avoir une idée fixe
  it's the bee's knees = c'est chouette! c'est extra!
  bee eater (bird) = un guêpier

:: Vineyard Update ::
Thanks to a flurry of feedback from "The Wine Label Poll" Jean-Marc has come up with a new prototype that he will enter into our October 1st contest. Check out his latest here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


My husband "King Bee" looking for a Queen. Thanks to our neighbor, Jean-Marie, he found a swarm (see it in the photo? just above the word "bee". Now to pry the buzzing mass from the underarm of that branch...

un essaim (eh-sehn [silent "n," nasal sound]) noun, masculine
  : swarm (of bees)
  : crowd, swarm (of people); bevy (of girls)

Ce qui n'est point utile à l'essaim, n'est point utile à l'abeille.
That which is not good for the swarm, neither is it good for the bee.

My husband isn't one to flirt with ideas. He homes in on a fancy... then sees that it doesn't pass! He's done this with wine, women, and now...worker bees. For the wine, he left audit, or accounting; for the woman, he left Owch,* and for the worker bee he's leaving allergies--my allergies--in the dust.

That dust! How it pours out from behind his giant tractor wheels... From the tractor cab, Jean-Marc points to the flowers and wild herbs which crowd in along the rows of grapevines. "I'm going to make honey!" he announces. "It will cure you!" He theorizes that the abeilles* will collect the local pollen (from all those sneeze-inducing blossoms) and that if I eat enough honey I'll be immunized! He really just wants to wear one of those bee space suits, if you ask me. It's the closest thrill to walking on the moon.

Speaking of space, I can tell you from experience that a Vauclusian vineyard in wintertime looks just like Mars: flat terre* all around, nothing but gnarly alien claws jutting out of the barren ground.

Those bare "claws" grew green heads over the past month and when I visited our wine farm last week the organic fields had returned to their earthy selves. Next to the leafy vines, just down by the creek, I saw where Jean-Marc had placed the ruche.* The glass-sided beehive was chosen a few weeks ago after we spent an hour in a bee shop in Bollène. A very patient saleswoman, "Véro," helped us assemble the most basic beekeeper start-up kit which basically stopped our credit card in its tracks. But, when Véro explained we could make more than 20 kilos of honey, I got to calculating... Things were looking lucrative until Véro asked if we had a "sehn"... We'd need one to begin the honey process. A sehn, a sehn, a sehn...I mumbled. There'd be no honey without it.

The first week I told anyone who would listen that we needed a sehn, which in my mind was a fancy queen bee and entourage, but in the mind of the French--and judging from the intrigue written across their twisted faces, it must've been something entirely different. Turns out I had been telling everyone that we needed a boob.*

Do you think I was embarrassed? Sure, but there have been worse language gaffes and I've said things, unintentionally, that only a French obstetrician can say without flinching. Such are the hazards of hijacking a foreign tongue (which to me is less risky than flirting with 50,000 worker bees and a few hundred doomed drones). I'll leave that to King Bee.

References: "owch" = my husband's ex-girlfriend, so-named for the stinging effect she had on me -- read about that here; une abeille = bee; la terre = ground, earth; la ruche = beehive; boob = the French word for "breast" is "le sein" (sehn) which sounds like the French word for swarm (essaim) (eh-sehn)
:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word, then the quote: Download Essaim.wav
Ce qui n'est point utile à l'essaim, n'est point utile à l'abeille.

Terms & Expressions
un essaim de jeunes filles = a gaggle of girls
essaimer = to quit the hive and form a new colony, to hive off
faire l'essaim = to swarm; to spread out, expand
un essaimage = swarming

The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden
Thousand Flower Le Grand miel honey in decorative metal pail - 26 oz from Bernard Michaud, France

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.