semence

Musical Shutters (c) Kristin Espinasse
The melody of flower seeds, in today's story.... Why not forward this edition to a green thumb, or main verte?

une semence (seuh mahnce)

    : seed

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

En agriculture, une semence est une graine sélectionnée pour être seméeIn agriculture, a seed is a grain selected for sowing. --Wikipedia

Improve your French now: buy a copy of The Ultimate French Verb Review and Practice  


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

The Significant Matter of Seeds
(or, for a more soulful title, how about "Inner Growth" or, simply, "Seed Junky"?) 

I recognize it as a little bit obsessive, the manner in which I've been stalking our flowers... especially the Belles de Nuit, or Beauties of the Night. I can't seem to leave them alone! It isn't that their yellow or fuchsia blossoms and their long confetti-tipped tongues have a hold on me... No. My infatuation, these days, centers on those inky, grenade-shaped seeds! 

But the Belles de Nuit aren't the only graines that stir up these feelings. Have you seen what the hollyhocks put out? Or the coquelicots or the morning glory? Whether flat as a disk (indeed, some seeds resemble mini-CDs!) or tiny as a grain of sand--their forms are as fascinating as the flowers that come of them.

And have your ears ever experienced a seed jamboree? The larkspur are quite the melody-makers! Encased as they are in fluted coques all it takes is bumping into a dry branch-gone-to-seed to set the tiny "tambourines" drumming. I love to stand in the garden, shaking a stem of dried delphinium husks. Inside, the tiny black seeds ricochet off the dry walls and, now more than tambourines, I wonder whether it is cymbals I'm hearing?... the effect is jazz, blues, soul-stirring... 

Of all the pleasures of seeds, freeing them is the most thrilling. Pinch certain pods and they'll burst! Drop a dried, boomerang-shaped husk of a California poppy (the shell so different from that of the Provençal variety).. drop it into a sack and it will explode on contact! Others (read Amaranthus) come out of their furry hideouts only after a good thwacking against a stone murette. The powdery black seeds are tiny as spider teeth!

Not all seeds are visible to the eye and with certain flowers you wonder where their offspring are hidden. The little yellow faces framed by white petals of the feverfew are perplexing and the idea of a seedless flower is distressing... Unsure of how to proceed, I collect the dried blossoms and trust that, once in the paper bag, they'll break down in time to release some sort of powder-fine progeny. 

On the subject of storing seeds, I do it haphazardly, saving up paper sacks or stealing envelopes from my husband's home office... I enjoy marking the packages "Mixed flowers" or "artichokes" or "sunflowers" or "rose trémière: noir!"... before storing them in the kitchen armoire, where they vie for shelf space with the pastis and the pasta. I'll eventually move the sacks, emptying the dried contents into great glass jars (that's the plan, anyway)... For now I enjoy the close proximity of the seeds, which literally put the "campagne" in our country kitchen.

If I'm feeling reckless, I might forgo the drying and the classifying of the seeds -- in favor of scattering them willy-nilly. Chances are they'll be eaten by granivores... Risking this, I'll toss a handful of just-picked hollyhock seeds next to the clothesline, or spray poppy seeds over near the beehive mailbox, or send off a jet-stream of delphinium seeds in front of the telephone pole...  in my active mind's eye I see Jack's Beanstalk rising and I am filled with awe... at the potential of a tiny inert speck of organic matter! 

Yes! Of all the reasons to marvel before a humble seed, the thing that most inspires me... is a seed's sacred mystery. I am reminded of a favorite passage in The Door of Everything:

Let us return to the tomato seed and look at it more closely. Is it strictly a seed, a little collection of molecules that cling together in a certain way to form a certain kind of matter? If you had never seen a tomato seed, and had never heard of a tomato, the seed probably would appear to be no more than an insignificant bit of matter capable only of a short, unproductive existence followed by decay. 

However, if someone told you about the tomato seed, explaining that within those apparently inactive molecules a divine pattern was held in waiting, eager to come forth, a pattern for a fragrant, leafy plant which would flower and bear delicious fruit, you would find it hard to believe. Knowing nothing at all about the reality of tomatoes, you probably could not visualize such an impossible thing as a big green plant with red fruit growing out of an uninteresting-looking seed. You would, no doubt, laugh uproariously at the quaint idea that all you had to do was bury it under the dirt, then keep it watered, and the forces of nature would co-operate with it to bring about its amazing change of form.

***

This post is dedicated to Malou and Doreen. Read the story "Altruism in the Garden" about the Dirt Divas backbreaking efforts to raise a flower bed from the concrete ashes of our garden. The fruits, or seeds, of their labor are, truly, an eternal gift. 

Le Coin Commentaires 
Ever harvested seeds? Understand that giddy feeling? Share your thoughts, here, in the comments box.

 

Re the "tomato seed" passage above, it is from a book that my mom gave me. "I was a little hesitant to share it with you," Mom admitted, "it's a little new-agey...". I'm so glad Jules took the risk and shared The Door of Everything with me! Click here to order the book.

 

 French Vocabulary
(under construction. Check back soon for the translated terms, or offer your own in the comments box.) 

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Pictured: The Artichoke seed harvest. It was messy, sticky, and scratchy! Can't wait to plant the seeds!

In French music: Putumayo Presents: Paris
My sister-in-law enjoyed the Persepolis book. There is also the French film: Persepolis 

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Thank you very much for reading! Do you know of anyone else who might enjoy French Word-A-Day? Please pass it on! A sign-up form can be found here. (Photo taken in Alsace, in Colmar, last month).

"Caked On"read a bilingual story written by our 13-year-old daughter "On The Right To Wear Makeup!" (The English version follows the French text).

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Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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bestiole

DSC_0022
On the way to meet Malou and Doreen ("The Dirt Divas"), Jules and I ventured through the town of Valréas. That's Mom... Her smile has returned.

bestiole (bes tee ohl) 

    : little creature; insect, bug

Example sentence:
Elles ne savaient pas quel genre de bestiole c'était. They did not know what type of insect it was

***

I just ordered this book for my mom, Jules. It's in rupture de stock, here in France, so we're waiting patiently for its arrival!:

The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris

The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work. Order The Greater Journey here.
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A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Smashing Bugs!

If you were that collared dove cooing from the giant plane tree above, the view from the sky might provide curious sight...

There, on a South of France garden patio, among great clay pots filled with lilies à gogo, two women are dancing a kind of "gardener's twist".

"It's called 'The Lily Bug'!", Doreen explains, out of breath as she lifts her foot for another leg-twisting "Diva drill"--designed to literally squash out the competition! I follow her example and dance over to another of Malou's towering lilies, where I select a red-jacketed "dance partner" (the shy, would-be suitors are hiding among the lily leaves... and each time we reach for one, off it slides, via its elude-the-gardener defensive strategy). 

"They're sly devils!" Doreen warns, lifting her foot and slamming it to the ground. Without missing a beat our Dirt Diva selects another red-winged bestiole, one that will soon become "patio paste" (I wince as the little scarlet-backed bugs meet their fate via a tap-tap-twistaroo of our shoes).

Doreen is teaching me bug control. After the "wringing of the worms" (a horrifying fate in which invasive, hard-shelled worms meet their death by a swift thumb-to-forefinger twist), I am learning the lily-bug-squash technique.

It seems to be the most efficient means for eliminating the lys plants pire ennemi: the sometimes gooey lily beetle!
"Take that" (step-step-step... squash!) and that (twist-twist-wipe!

The turtledoves in the tree above look on, awestruck. Their featherless friends, below, are putting on quite a show!

 ***

Post note: Meantime, beneath the old plane tree, or platane, my mom, who came with me to Malou's home (where Doreen joined us), sat at a garden table, poring over Malou's knitting magazines. Every once in a while, Jules looked up, delighted by the table's spread: there were Moroccan cookies on a painted earthenware tray, and a selection of colorful sirops (banana-kiwi, lemon, lavender, mint), a large painted pitcher filled with fresh water and ice cubes decorated the cloth-covered table which overlooked Malou's magic garden.

"That Malou is smooth," Mom nodded her head, impressed. "She makes it look so easy." From my spot, over there on the bug-speckled patio, I had to agree. One day I would learn the art of hostessing. Meantime, I'm in bug boot camp being trained in the swift-kick-removal of unwanted guests: those lilioceris lilii, or lily snatchers!

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections and comments are welcome. Thank you for sharing your story or message in the comments box. 
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An announcement from Chief Grape:

We are happy to let you know that Rouge-Bleu wines got some very nice scores on the lastest Wine Spectator issue : 90 points for Mistral red 09 and 87 points for Dentelle red 09. This link will help you locate them.

 

DSC_0052
Just a few of Malou's lilies. There are many, many more! Thanks, Mom, for taking these photos, here and below.

French Vocabulary

à gogo = galore

la bestiole = bug

le lis (lys) = lily

le pire ennemi = worst enemy

le sirop = fruit drink made of one part fruit syrup, ten parts water (more or less...)

Reverse Dictionary

collared dove = la tourterelle turque


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   Dancing among the lys, or lilies. Read about how I met the Dirt Divas. Click here.

Sirop Amazon has a big selection of refreshing drink syrops: add a swirl of grenadine to a glass of water, top with ice, and voilà - refreshing summertime! Check out all the sirop flavors and order one, here.

Check out the latest prices for Kindle, click here and consider ordering today! Your purchase helps support this free language journal. Merci beaucoup!

DEVENIR MECENE - BECOME A SUPPORTING MEMBER
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


couter la peau des fesses

Window Whimsy (c) Kristin Espinasse

As a newbie gardener, I'm wondering about mulch and whether I really need it. The faux flowers in the window above assure me: Nah, not if you want to plant the likes of us! Ah, ok. Thank you very much (and no offense to your charming appearance) but I want real plants. So mulch it is! Read on...
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coûter la peau des fesses (koo tay lah poh day fess)

    : (literal translation) to cost the skin off one's arse, or "behind"
    : (figurative translation): to cost an arm and a leg 

* note: today's term should have been the French word for mulch (le paillis)... but I got to thinking: just how many readers are into mulch?

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

"Sitting on Pay Dirt"

I am sitting like a child on a seashore, driving a shovel into the ground between her sunburnt legs. Only, this is not the beach and my legs are not burnt (they're still as white as un cachet d'aspirine).

Here, in the most unsightly part of our garden, I reach down and tug out another dent-de-lion, tossing it into the pail beside me. Only, it isn't really a pail, it is a used wine carton that should have been tossed out by now, along with the growing pile of garden clippings. But instinct suddenly has me saving these biodegradable materials...

I drive the shovel, or spade, into the ground again and again, stabbing at the little islands of unsightly crabgrass that have settled onto the "presto sod": almost two inches of earth built up by the Mistral wind, and gaining volume from the falling leaves from the tree above. Speck by speck, over the ugly, unfinished concrete patio beneath it, the dusty, leaf-chipped mass has grown, topping itself off with an eyesore of thriving weeds!

This is not where I want to be: sitting on presto turf tugging out weeds. I want to be building a garden! but the compost pile that I have begun could take a year to turn into mulch, and mulch, I am learning, is the stuff in which gardens grow! 

But where to find the "black gold" -- besides in the pricey mulch section at the pépinière? Decomposed matter, it turns out, çela coûte la peau des fesses! As I drive the spade into the shallow ground, the answer suddenly wriggles out at me!

A worm. A giant writhing worm! I carefully pull the spade aside and study the evidence. Where there are worms... there is nutrients-rich soil!

I have been looking for mulch everywhere and here it has been all along, right beneath me! not far from the skin on my arse -- and it didn't even cost la peau des fesses

Giddily, I collect what I had thought to be bane of my garden's existence. And though there isn't much of the wormy rich soil... there is enough, after all, for a beginning. 

 

Le Coin Commentaires
Leave a response to today's word or story, or share a story of your own here in the comments box. And thank you for sharing any and all garden tips with us here as well! We're thirsty as seedlings for garden knowledge!

***

French Vocabulary

blanc comme un cachet d'aspirine = white as an aspirin

une dent-de-lion* = dandelion

la pépinière = nursery

*Our friend, Newforest, notes: The word "dandelion" comes from "dent-de-lion". Its leaves are so deeply toothed that its name in Old French used to be "Dent-de-lion" ('lion's tooth'), a name reflecting the shape of its leaves. So, why "pissenlit"? The roots and leaves act on the kidneys as a diuretic. So, knowing "pissenlit" means "pee in bed", one can understand the connection with its diuretic properties!

 Bestselling books on the French language:

 1. The Ultimate French Verb Review and Practice  
 2. Exercises in French Phonics

Not so best-selling... but a fun book on the French language!
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France 

 

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This "lawn chair" seems to be a hit... even with Smokey! Did you see it last time? Click here to find it in the "semer" edition. 

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I can't wait to tell you how I (think I) solved mulch problem here... Can you guess what's surrounding these plants--keeping out weeds and keeping in moisture? Piles of it exist here at the farm, where we continue to sit on top of all sorts of yet-to-be-discovered mulch sources!!! P.S.: Don't miss the messy "before" picture of this tomato garden, here (at the end of the "heurter" post).

Capture plein écran 15042011 094839
Please join me in reading this book, which I have just ordered! Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding!

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DEVENIR MECENE - BECOME A SUPPORTING MEMBER
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
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remuer

P1010022
Hey Bud, you'd make a good future candidate for compost (read on in today's story...)! This beautiful California poppy is growing in the South of France! Malou transplanted it from her garden to mine with the help of Doreen. Thanks, Garden Angels :-)

remuer (reuh mheu ay) verb

    : to stir

remuer ciel et terre = to move heaven and earth
remue-toi un peu = get a move on!
arrête de remuer tout le temps! = quit fidgeting!
le remue-ménage = stir, bustle, confusion 

Verb conjugation:
je remue, tu remues, il/elle remue, nous remuons, vous remuez, ils/elles remuent  (pp = remué)

Tune Up Your French (click here) with over 900 essential expressions will help you to hone your French-language conversation skills!

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

"Garden Grist"

Compost! Compost! Compost! Compost!

It's a little early on into this compost affair to be writing about the stuff, that is "the stuff of the garden gods!", but, just as the one smitten cannot wait to talk about the object of her affection, I am impatient to share this steaming heap of burning love with you!

Speaking of steaming... that is what our compost pile is supposed to be doing, n'est-ce pas, steaming? (Something about aerobic bacteria? Something about C:N ratios?) Ah, well! Steaming will come! Restons simples! No need to complicate the compost pile. As Scott Meyer, editor of Organic Gardening says: "Compost happens!" For composting, at its most basic, is simply the piling up of waste. It will eventually break down of its own accord!

Meantime, with amorous abandon, I am tossing banana peels, egg shells, tea leaves and coffee grounds, grass clippings, cardboard, fumier, dried leaves and... weeds? I wonder whether I can add weeds into the compost pile? 

A quick internet search reveals that les mauvaises herbes are okay--just be sure to remove the seed heads! I don't trust my seed-heads judgment, so oublions weeds for the moment! All that's left to do now is to observe the brown-green ratio or that C:N business we mentioned earlier. This delicate ratio seems to be the key... to steam! Finding the right carbon to nitrogen balance will mean the difference between two months and one year (the time it will take to break down the plant waste). 

Because I can't wait another second, I will now employ the French verb remuer! And now, chers fellow composters, remuons! Besides the C:N conundrum, we'll need oxygen to get the compost heap heating up. For this, il faut le remuer.

The only other ingredient in the simple "C Now"* (I want to see my Compost NOW) is W for "water"! For that I will take advantage of all the spittoons that "build up" this time of year, when wine tasting season picks up along with the arrival of vineyard visitors. We used to empty the spittoons into the garden... now they'll be emptied on top of the compost pile!

As for that heap of burning love just outside the door, it's calling me now... I'm off to remuer le monticule of plant matter... which will, soon enough (I hope, I hope!) turn into dark compost caviar... good enough to hand-feed to the other loves in the garden: the tomatoes, the flowers, and the trees.

***

Comments & Corrections welcome!
I am a compost newbie! Please share your ideas on how to succeed in composting! Apart from the C NOW essentials, below, and the banning of animal waste (apart from le fumier from herbivores), what can you tell me about compost? Thanks for joining in today's discussion here, in the "compost" box!

Carbon (brown/dry materials: leaves, straw, "clean" paper, cardboard)
Nitrogen (green & wet materials: fruit/veg cuttings, house/garden plants...
Oxygen
Water

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French Vocabulary on the way... check back shortly, here.

n'est-ce pas? = Isn't that right?

restons simples = let's keep it simple

le fumier = manure

les mauvaises herbes = weeds

oublions = let's forget about that

remuons = let's stir

remuons le monticule = stir the mound

 

. 

Bestselling books on the French language:
 1. The Ultimate French Verb Review and Practice  
 2. Exercises in French Phonics

Not so best-selling... but a fun book on the French language!
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France 

 

 

IMG_6045
Read the French Word-A-Day archives: you'll find a lot of "Abandoned Chair Lust" and other stories... click here. Photo taken in Les Goudes... at the end of Marseilles...

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Smokey "R" Dokey on his way to visit Mrs. Canard... who lives in the brook just below, with her soon-to-be born ducklings, or canetons (boys) and canettes (girls).

DEVENIR MECENE - BECOME A SUPPORTING MEMBER
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


semer

"Leaves of Grass" (c) Kristin Espinasse
A veritable "Lawn Chair". You know you have work to do in the garden... when the grass grows high enough to tickle your lazy butt into gear! Read on.

semer (seuh may) verb

    1. to sow

Audio File: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French word "semer", along with its conjugation and the example sentence, just below. Download MP3 or Wav file

Verb conjugation: je sème, tu sèmes, il/elle sème, nous semons, vous semez, ils/elles sèment (pp = semé)

L'amour est comme une plante: il faut le semer et il poussera.
Love is like a plant: you need to sow it and it will grow. Chow Ching Lie

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

"Altruism in the garden"


The Dirt Divas came over on Friday and I am sad to say that this is the last we will hear of them... for dorénavant they will be known as Garden Divas!

After receiving a few letters from the UK—in reference to "dirt"—it began to dawn on me that dirt is something you wash off and not, as we hicks know, an affectionate term for soil. (Truth-be-told "soil" kind of creeps me out, ever since the movie "Soilent Soylent Green"—soil/soilent soylent...) Thank you, English (as distinguished from North American) readers, for the suggestion to use "earth" in the place of "dirt" when talking about soil. I will try to remember that. And, hereafter, we'll call the earth angels in question "Garden Divas".    

But back to our story. The Garden Divas showed up, opened the car's trunk and bada bing bada boom! what did they produce? Another carload of future blooms!

Next, the Dirt, or Garden, Divas quickly went into action lugging a motley crew of plants to the nearest shady spot. Any and all sorts of containers were used: there were buckets, cardboard boxes, wooden crates, and pots in tin and terra-cotta! The divas' no-fuss flower-farming was a lesson in itself (I'll never forget a previous "delivery" in which the baby plants arrived... in plastic yogurt cups! I guessed at the Divas' no-fuss philosophy: "If it's sturdy and you can poke holes in it, then you're good to go!")

After several aller-retours to the car and back to the shady spot, the Garden Divas went to work using their own tools to "crack" the cement-like earth that is our flower bed... and by the end of the afternoon bada bing bada boom!, the beds were looking very nearly groomed!

I noticed the Divas' discretion in overlooking those plants that had withered and died since their previous visit.... The frost accounted for one or two of the potted plants (it had been suggested to me that they come inside for winter)... the remaining losses were the result of precarious planting (on my part).  

Watching the Garden Divas toil, I had that humbling feeling, the kind you get when witnessing others give "without strings": they help, asking nothing in return, they reach out... and we mortals eventually learn.  

After the Garden Divas left, I remained outside until sundown, tossing California poppy seeds and wondering about that altruistic "do unto others" mystery: doing, giving, helping, smiling, encouraging, nourishing... flourishing!

I told the Garden Divas that I did not know how to thank them. Mais, il n'y a pas de quoi! Their reward, they said, will be in watching my garden grow.

The next day, while out planting more of the seedlings, I caught myself daydreaming. In my mind's eye, I was taking a motley crew of potted plants that I'd grown from seed... to a friend in need. That is when the full meaning of the Garden Divas "reward" revealed itself to me.
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Le Coin Commentaires
Join us now in the community corner. Ask and answer each others questions and help to make this an enriching place in cyberspace. Click here to participate by leaving a message.

French Vocabulary

dorénavant = from now on
aller-retour = round trip
Mais, il n'y a pas de quoi! = why, it's nothing! 

 

DSC_0109
Merci encore to Malou and Doreen, the Garden Divas. Read another garden story, click here.

Kissing Bench In garden seating: The French Kissing bench! Click here for more info.

Bestselling books on the French language:
 1. The Ultimate French Verb Review and Practice  
 2. Exercises in French Phonics

Not so best-selling... but a fun book on the French language!
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France 

 

DEVENIR MECENE - BECOME A SUPPORTING MEMBER
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


enfance

DSC_0032
"Frozen"... or the "permanent press" cycle in Provence. 

enfance (on fance) noun, feminine

    : childhood

Expression: vivre une enfance heureuse = to live a happy childhood. Audio file and many more expressions, here.

French christmas musicFrench Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". Order CD here.


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

An Olive Harvest and The Fruits of Memory

Jean-Marc and I are picking olives. The sun is beginning to set out to the west, where leafless vines in a field recline under the weight of winter. We are standing along the dirt driveway that leads home. Our dogs are wrestling on the rocky path and every now and then their roughhousing is halted by breathy barks on either wrestler's part.

Hey-oh! Calmos! Jean-Marc calls, when the dogs whip past the backs of our legs and it's all we can do to grab on to the olives-laden branches or be knocked down by the bent backs of our knees!

As I drop olives the color of ripe raisins into a half-filled sack, I am thinking that it would be nice to have orange trees, too! Wouldn't oranges and purple olives go well together? I could just smell it now. There's something so Mediterranean about it... and yet it is the desert that wanders through my mind....

Though my hands continue to harvest olives, I am far far away... somewhere in the Southwest, in the Valley of the Sun. I can smell the citrus grove and see the puckered peels that cling to the fruit. I can see where the sparrows have snacked, leaving the oranges gaping from the attack.

Alone in the forgotten field, I am afraid, but the sunny scent of citrus fruit and the delicious adventure through the orchard emboldens me—as witnessed by the scrapes on my eight-year-old knees. Beyond the tortured trees, I can just perceive the back of a trailer park. Our mobile home is the last on the row, in the single-wide zone. 

To one side of the trailer park ran the Black Canyon Freeway, but to the other side, beyond the oranges, there was a vast wash where Palo Verdes flanked the dry creek bed. Therein was my childhood Never Never Land.  When the wash, or creek bed, was full I would sit on the banks and hunt indefatigably for guppies. And when it was dry, or nearly so, I would venture down its cluttered center, like Christopher Columbus in my own desert jungle. Here and there the banks were littered with beer cans and "skin" magazines. I guessed other adventurers had gone before me; I hoped they'd gone on, at least....

Frightened now, I would hightail it out and over to the open field beyond. There, I would stare up in the distance to Shaw Butte. In summertime the little mountain (some call it a "hill") was lit by the fireworks that seemed to fall upon it. My sister and I would climb to the top of the tin shed which butted our trailer and watch the sparkling Fourth of July show, a pint-size patriotism growing from within, as yet unbeknown to us. 

Back down at the field, past the wash, I remember kneeling down on the sweet-scented earth and studying a green patch. As the monsoon season and rains had just passed, the earth was soft enough for me to quench my curiosity. I tugged at the leaves, which resembled parsley, and out popped a carrot! 

Gnarled and thin, it didn't look like the carrots at the supermarket, but I recognized it as one and the same. Just to be sure, I dusted off the clumps of earth and sunk my teeth in. I felt the rush of rustic life course through my veins... as I feel it now... as my teeth sink into an plump purple olive! The taste is not sweet, but bitter. So unlike my memories.

Soon these olives will be crushed and lose their bitter taste. As for an Arizona childhood, what I'd give to return to such a magical time and place.
. 

.

French Vocabulary

Hey-oh! Calmos! = Hey there! Calm down!
le raisin = grape

 

 

DSC_0185-1
I miss my family back home... meantime, here's a French family that adopted me back in 92'. (I recently wrote about Baptiste, here.) Click to enlarge photo.

Passion of joan of arc Last night I watched, and was mesmerized by, The Passion of Joan of Arc (a silent film that was lost (to a fire) until a copy of the film was miraculously found -- in the janitor's office of a Norwegian mental institution). Joan of Arc and Maria Falconetti are two people I will line up to meet in Heaven. Read the reviews, here. Bilingual subtitles (to the screen images of this silent film) make this a great way to learn French!

 

DSC_0001
Somewhere south of Grenoble, on the way home from Laurence and Philippe's.

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Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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aviver

Poppy (c) Kristin Espinasse

It's Vagabonde Vendredi -- time to stray from our comfortable way. I have been saving this favorite flower from my garden for you. Enjoy!

THE GIFT OF GAUL

 Click here to sign up a friend or family member to French Word-A-Day. It's free & inspiring.

 
 
aviver (ah-vee-vay) verb

 

    : to stir up

French verb conjugation:
 j'avive, tu avives, il avive, nous avivons, vous avivez, ils avivent past participle: avivé

Audio File & Example sentence: listen to Jean-Marc:  
Download MP3  or Wav

Pour que la muse vienne vous visiter, bousculer vos habitudes, avivez votre matinée! For the muse to come and visit you, shake up your habits, stir up your morning.

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


Take a new path each day. Shake things up. Do the unexpected

These things run through my mind as I type, fresh dirt beneath my fingernails, along this chattering clavier. (Have you ever listened to the sound of typing?  Stop. Ecoutez! What do you hear?I hear the sound of hailstones hitting the front patio. Did you hear it too? Type on and listen closely... Oh, chameleon keyboard, when I am in the moment, listening with all my might, I hear falling pebbles of poetry.)

It is always a good time to be in the moment. The same goes for writing a thrice-weekly journal on a deadline. This edition will go out, automatically, "preprogramedly," in four hours. Between then and now a lot could happen... such as:

Bees! I could bolt back outside, to where I left my trowel... and look at bumble hides. Yesterday, while visiting with the Dirt Divas (pictured, below), Doreen pointed out the blanched-butted bumblebees.  (Did she call them "white bums"?)  Just thinking of their name makes me light.

Light, this is how I'd like the next four hours to pass—légèrement—and not lourdement. "Heavily" happens when we're over-serious. Why not be neither heavy nor lighty-flighty... why not shoot for "whimsical weighted"?

But back to "what could happen in the next four hours"... Isn't this an exciting thought? Perhaps one might leave the work desk and take a spin around the block (or building, or airport, or internet café) or wherever this letter finds you reading....

Then, there's always a free moment for a one-minute meditation: time to clear the mind and replace any negative (defeating, fearful, muckity-puckity pensées) with positive ones or, better yet, Godly ones.  "Meditate on the Word" my mom, Jules, might tell me. She might also tell me to do something new (and so be renewed?), such as ride my bike to Camaret and give my new friend Liliane a jam jar of jardin jewels: those ruby and sapphire and citrine splendors in the garden.

(Alas, a few hours have now passed... and I haven't managed to lighten up. Worse, I feel weightier than before. Perhaps this is the ol' "one step forward, deux en arrière" snare?)

Never mind. What's important is to keep marching on and with a sing-song in one's step. And if, by chance, you need a guide, you might chance to follow a certain blanched-bumed bee hide...

as it bumbles,  and as you stumble, from one good intention to the next. At least you tried :-) 

 

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

Thanks for stopping in to say "bonjour" today. Click here to comment. 


 No picture of the blanched-bottomed bumble bee... Will you enjoy this blue-winged one instead?
 
  Blue Wings (c) Kristin Espinasse

  

 The dear
Dirt Divas (Malou & Doreen), who never fail to make one smile. I hope their generosity is contagious. 
  DSC_0008

   French Vocabulary

écouter = to listen to
légèrement = lightly
lourdement = heavily
le jardin = garden
deux en arrière = two (steps) backwards

 

"PAL POETRY"

There's fan fiction and now "pal poetry": study my latest poem (on the previous page)... and see  how Newforest gussies it up here, below, finding just the right French words and making it even more meaningful:

 ............................................................................................

"Le Point du Jour"  

(Poème de Kristin revu par 'Newforest')

........................................................................................... 

 

 

 Ce matin je me suis levée avant les ipomées. 

Coucou, levez-vous!

Je me suis penchée vers ces fleurs matinales

Qui dorment encore, serrant leurs pétales.

Coucou! Levez-vous!

Plus loin, les grillons répètent sans cesse leur cricri strident,

Mais les jolies fleurs bleues, pas encore éveillées, 

Savourent les plaisirs d'une grasse matinée.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

  Morning glory
  Photo by Andrew Farrell

 


 

 

 

Poetry vocabulary 


 

- une Ipomée = Morning Glory

  

 

 

 

 

(un volubilis is a synonyme)

   

 

 

 

- se pencher = to lean over

  

 

 

 

- encore = here, it means still (still asleep)

  

 

 

 

- serrer = to tighten, to grip tightly

  

 

 

 

- un pétale = petal 

  

 

 

 

- plus loin = further

  

 

 

 

- le grillon = cricket

  

 

 

 

- sans cesse / continuellement = non stop

  

 

 

 

- le cricri is the French word for the sound made by crickets

  

 

 

 

- (être éveillé) = (to be) woken up

  

 

 

 

- savourer le/les plaisir(s) de ... = to enjoy

 

- faire la grasse matinée = to sleep in 

please help me to thank Newforest for this new and improved poésie. Click here to leave a comment. 

  


 

 

***

Sixty Slices of Life... on Wry  Sixty Slices of Life... on Wry (The Private Life of a Public Broadcaster) is a tongue-in-cheek memoir, proceeding chronologically from what the author learned about life from his dog when he was eight, to when he learned that he was an old man in the Paris Metro at age sixty-eight. Click here for more info.
 

Exercises in French PhonicsExercises in French Phonics is... 
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"high quality material, good value for your money" --from Amazon customer reviews. Order your copy here.

 

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Tune Up Your French: Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French In French film: Le Trou In a Paris prison cell, five inmates use every ounce of their tenacity and ingenuity in an elaborate attempt to tunnel to freedom. Based on the novel by José Giovanni, Jacques Becker's Le Trou (The Hole) balances lyrical humanism with a tense, unshakable air of imminent danger. Order this film.

DEVENIR MECENE - BECOME A SUPPORTING MEMBER
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


sarcler

  DSC_0045
For the purposes of this edition (there's always the need for an illustrative photo) Smokey pretends to be a weed. But we're not buyin' it, are we?

sarcler (sar-clay) verb

    : to weed


Yabla French Video Immersion.
The fun way to learn French

.

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

(Note: this story was written one year ago.)

Our neighbor stopped by the other day to drop off a forklift—something we needed for our latest mise-en-bouteille. While Jean-Marie was here, I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about gardening as he and his wife, Brigitte, have 50 hectares of vines and a few potagers to boot.

"I'm thinking of moving the tomatoes up here," I mentionned to Jean-Marie, as we stood on the patch of grass just above the ruisseau.

"In that case, you'll need to put up un coupe-vent.. a row of thick buissons, for example."

Jean-Marie had a point. After all, we were standing pile-poil in the middle of the Rhône, where the wind blows down the valley like a fleet of jet planes, upending anything that isn't anchored to the ground (or at least deeply-rooted, like our vines... or cemented in, like our home!). The tomatoes would not stand a chance.

Our next stop was the portail, beside which I had been transplanting local flora, including a new, unidentified favorite: a rusty red grass that Mom and I had seen growing, en masse, near the town of Tulette. This vibrant herb would make a lovely contrast to the purple irises and Spanish Lily, two other "locals" that have made their way into our garden.

In a field on the road to Tulette, Mom and I had dug up a few samples of the exotic and colorful herbe... and quickly transplanted it into our garden....

a vineyard near  Tulette

 

 

 

 

Jean-Marie took one look at our botanical "find"... and chuckled as he identified it:

"C'est Roondoop."

"Roondoop?"

The plant's name did not disappoint! It had just the je ne sais quoi that I would expect for such an exotic variety: Roondoop. I loved it!

"Oui..." Jean-Marie continued. "The grass turns red like that after the herbicide takes effect.

"Grass killer?"

That is when the dots connected: "Roondoop" was really "Roundup"! A désherbant used by certain farmers to control weeds in the vineyard.

No wonder we didn't have any of that "lovely red grass" growing here at our farm...

Just then I remembered Chief Grape, my organic-wine-farmer husband, who was about to come onto the scene and discover some foul play in the near vicinity of his precious raisins!

I quickly went to work yanking out the chemically-loaded grass, discretely shoving it all into the closest container of trash, before I myself got roondedup by Chief Grape.


*     *     *
:: Le Coin Commentaires::
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about today's word or story or simply sign in and say "salut"! Click here to comment.

French Vocabulary

la mise en bouteille = bottling
le potager
= vegetable garden
le ruisseau
= creek
un coupe-vent
= windbreak, windbreaker
le buisson
= bush
pile-poil = smack, just, exactly
le
portail = gate
l'herbe (f)
=  grass
je ne sais quoi
= that certain something
un désherbant
= weedkiller
le raisin
= grape


Example sentence: Le sarclage étant plus difficile lorsque la terre est sèche, il est judicieux d'arroser le terrain légèrement une heure avant de commencer. Weeding being the most difficult when the earth is dry, it is a good idea to lightly water the area one hour before beginning. (Suite101)


  DSC_0052
Here's Smokey—pretending to be a blade of grass—in order to get out of today's chore here at Domaine Rouge-Bleu (we're bottling 6000 units today! I had thought to ask Mr. Smoke to take my place, only he was no where to be found... Meantime, he blended in beautifully with the scenery....) To his left, les "soucis" (marigolds). Above, "la monnaie du pape" (coin flowers). To his right (background), his favorite "snapper"dragons. Now who, pray tell, would want to break a back bottling wine all day when you could lie flat-bellied in a forest of flowers?

 

Books & Language Tools:
The Ultimate French Verb Review and Practice
Buying a Piece of Paris: A Memoir
Cuthbertson French Verb Wheel

 

 

DEVENIR MECENE - BECOME A SUPPORTING MEMBER
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


creuser

DSC_0059
A breakthrough in the garden in today's story column.

creuser (kreuh-zay) verb

    : to dig; to hollow out, to make a hole in; to sink, bore, cut, plow, drill
.

Audio file: listen to Jean-Marc conjugated the verb creuser:  
Download Wave
. Download MP3

je creuse, tu creuses, il creuse, nous creusons, vous creusez, ils creusent (pp: creusé)

creuser sa propre tombe = to dig one's own grave
une idée à creuser = something worth pursuing
.

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

I am a slow learner, in many respects, and this may be why it took me so long to begin to know how to garden: truth is, it wasn't until my forty-first year that I learned how to make a dent in the earth.

After failing the first time around, le jardinage, like math, put me off for some time. That's because I had not made a simple, first-things-first connection: behind every juicy tomato, behind every towering tournesol,* is a gardener who knows how to haul!

Haul dirt, that is, out of the ground. I'd quickly given up on digging once I discovered that our front yard was made of concrete.
"Ceci n'est pas du béton," this is not concrete, my husband pointed out as I stabbed at the ground, trying to turn it over in time to tuck in a tulip bulb. 
"La terre est sèche," the ground, there, is dry, Jean-Marc explained offering what would be the golden gardening rule:

Ajouter de l'eau. (Just add water.)

I guess I'd rather do things my own, more scientific, way.  My husband's way, with his elementary water puddles that preceded those dug holes, seemed slapjack, slapstick, or simply slapped together -- as if he were making up the rules along the way. Besides, what a mess!  All that sloshing and slopping around. Leave it to him to make mud pies, not me, I would make artifacts out of my carefully "creused" corner: I'd dig like a pro.

Off I'd trot  to creuser* a calculated hole somewhere else, away from all that splashing, all that muddiness.  And dig I did -- as one chisels stone, or drills pavement.

"I hate this! I hate gardening! I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! " I'd end up lamenting. Stupid, dumb, idiotic tulips! Only, I hadn't yet figured out that none of this was the fault of the flower bulbs.

* * *

I am a slow learner and so it is no surprise that it took two years for the golden gardening rule to sink in.

"Ajouter de l'eau. Just add water".

A couple of seed packets in my hand, I stared at the ground below: parched, unpoundable. A certain concept returned to me, along with the image of my husband and his mud pie maneuvering. Only those weren't pies he was pushing around. With basic common sense (just add water... let the earth rest, then dig in!), the "concrete" earth was putty in his hands: now tame, now tender, soft enough to shovel. 

* * *


It is the first week of May and I've dug enough holes to host a colorful cast of characters out in my potager.* There are over a dozen tournesols (I've since learned to dig a trench!), seven tomato plants, four pepper plants, two aubergines,* two courgettes,* verbena for tea, and strawberries.  

I have learned that planting is easy, it is reckoning with a rock-hard patch of earth (whether on the ground... or in one's stubborn spirit) that's tricky. Thankfully, I've begun to grasp a few astuces* along the way: to dig when the earth is soft, for example, after a rainstorm, and to profiter* from a light pluie.* More importantly, I no longer need to dig like a doctorate (no more calculating, no more "scientific" shoveling), though I do enjoy making a mud pie or two, and find it softens the heart just as water softens soil.

*     *     *
Comments, corrections--and stories of your own--are always helpful and appreciated. Thank you for reading my stories. Please know that I enjoy reading yours, too, in the comments box.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
le jardinage (m)
= gardening; le tournesol (m) = sunflower; creuser = to dig; le potager (m) = kitchen or vegetable garden; une aubergine (f) = eggplant; la courgette (f) = zucchini; une astuce (f) = trick (tip); profiter = to take advantage of (opportunity); la pluie (f) = rain


DSC_0107
You know you've caught the gardening bug when your upended front gate begins to look like a good place to tie up tomatoes! (Do you see the shadow of my son's basketball hoop, just above my head? Maybe I can tie a string to that, too, and send sweet peas climbing sky high!) Photo by Jules Greer.

Listen to French!
I leave you with a "creuser" video. (I have reserved another fun find for you in this Saturday's Cinéma Vérité. Don't miss it, along with the latest batch of photos taken in Visan!)

Three Random Words:
le quatre-épices = allspice
râlant,e = infuriating
la variole (f) = smallpox

DEVENIR MECENE - BECOME A SUPPORTING MEMBER
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


jardinage

Red door 
I love this red door, which decorates the side of a mas in the town of Serignan. The owners must think I am a garden stalker... Each time I take this side road, I slow my car to a creepy crawl... in time to enjoy this lovely corner with its bricks, chipped paint and crumbly wall. 

A few temptations before we begin this edition:
1. Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France
2. Learn French with Rosetta Stone Levels 1, 2 & 3
 
3. Coffee Sugar Flour and Tea red white metal check traditional metal canister set--in French!

Tin canisters

 

le jardinage (jhar-dee-nazh) noun, masculine

    : gardening

faire du jardinage = to garden, to do some gardening

Audio File: (note: these audio files will return soon... with the return of our tech master, Jean-Marc... who has been away--but will soon return to sort out our computer crash problems!

 

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

I need to leave for the airport in Marseilles in the next hour, to meet Jean-Marc--who has just completed his two-week wine tour! I hope my husband will be delighted by the changes taking place here at home: this, thanks to some jardinage!* After losing electricity, week before last, it finally occurred to me to throw all that nervous energy into digging, planting, and pulling (mauvaises herbes*). The pulling part, I am discovering, is an effective stress reliever (perhaps better than pulling on... and snapping... the nerves of those around us?).

Tools of the trade 
That's me, the newbie gardener (the driving gloves are a dead giveaway).

Before I sign off, I wanted to share a wonderful gardening site by my friend Bonnie Manion. I had the chance of meeting Bonnie last year, when she and her husband, John, visited our vineyard along with our friend Jacques Combe. I learned that Bonnie is an avid gardener... and that she adores her chickens! Her gardens and hens have been featured in several publications and, lucky for us, she publishes her own column over at VintageGardenGal. Perusing her blog archives, you'll enjoy the French antiques that make their way into her backyard... center stage along with those star chickens, her "Hollywood Girls"!

I'll be back on Wednesday, with more about the planting and propagating (a new English word for me...) going on 'round here.

Tree garden
Mom and I have been transplanting local varieties (wild orchids, irises) that push up and grow in groves (droves? troves? how about in loads!) along the neighboring canals. We'll see how they do. P.S.: That's Braise in the lower right corner. She loves to sit on plants and flowers, or "scratch her back" over the strawberry patch. Grrrrhhhhh!

*     *     *
Comments, corrections, and stories of your own are always welcome and appreciated. Thank you for using the comments box!

.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
le jardinage
(m) = gardening; les mauvaises herbes (f) = weeds

I leave you with an excerpt from the weekend edition, Cinéma Vérité:
I hurried through the narrow, winding streets, aware of a hush... it was my own breath exhaling in awe before the endangered architecture: the old painted storefront façades. There was a "Droguerie" in rusted tones, orange and red, and a blue "Alimentation du Moulin". My heart sank, knowing that anytime now the old French façades would be painted over. Construction and renovation loomed, threatening to strip yet another French village of its colorful character.

(15 photos were published, along with the story. It's not too late to enjoy them. More info here.)

DEVENIR MECENE - BECOME A SUPPORTING MEMBER
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.