Semence: Sowing seeds for a French flower garden

Scarecrow (c) Kristin Espinasse
Only scarecrows are immune to canker sores. The rest of us are sitting ducks! (photo taken in the Queyras Valley, in the French Hautes-Alpes)

If you are new to this word journal, I hope not to scare you away with an ugly first word. (You could always skip to the story column and learn sores--I mean scores--of flowery vocabulary...)

I've been nursing a burning and painful aphte for a few days now. Is it all those oranges I've been eating? Or a food allergy or hidden stress? Or maybe an acidic mouth? Jean-Marc tells me to sprinkle baking soda on it and there he goes again, citing yet another "remède de grand-mère". His grandma must have been a wizard... or une sorcière...

un aphte (pronounced "unnaft")

    : a canker sore, a mouth ulcer or lesion

Terms and phrases found in an internet search:

soigner un aphte = take care of a canker sore
soulager un aphte = to find relief from a canker sore
traiter les aphtes récividants = to treat recurring canker sores
guérir des aphtes = to heal canker sores
un aphte sous la langue = a canker sore beneath / under the tongue

Un aphte est une ulcération douloureuse... A canker sore is a painful ulcer. --French Wikipedia
Le mot aphte vient du mot grec "aptein" qui signifie brûlure. The word aphte comes from the Greek word aptein which means "burn".

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Lackadaisy is not a flower

I woke up Sunday morning in an empty bed. Jean-Marc had left in the night to make it to the Nice airport by 5 a.m. and so begin his USA wine tour.

Beyond the bedroom window the skies were gray and the forest was capped in black clouds. On closer look there was a steady stream of rain, just as my husband had predicted. The cold, wet weather led to a guilty inclination to linger in bed. But if Jean-Marc were here, I thought, he wouldn't be indulging in la grasse matinée or so called "fat morning"—no! he'd be kicking around in the utilities room or the cellar or in his maritime shipping container which doubles as our extra-storage room (I think it is his French equivalent of The Sunday Garage, where husbands tinker and putter on weekends).

Wherever, he'd be getting stuff done! And so would I... with him by my side. But without him would I turn into a couch potato? I found myself seriously considering this fate on Sunday morning while languishing in a half-empty bed. I reached for my IPad, thinking to share my potato-metamorphosis on Facebook... but then—quelle horreur!—if I went over to FB I might lie in bed all morning until I began to sprout little green shoots!

I sprang out of bed and ended up in the covered carport, that mythic hangout of weekend industrialists. Looking around at the piles of wood and the piles of stuff that needed a home, I heard myself nagging my invisible family, "Ceci ce n'est pas un débarras! This is not a junk room!" How many times had I said it in the months since moving to our new old home? 

I noticed an old shop table belonging to Jean-Marc's grandfather.... I could use it to set out rows of plastic garden pots and begin filling them with compost and vegetable seeds—lettuce, tomato, cucumber, peas!

Only, returning inside to get the seed packets, another inspiration hit when I remembered Mom's suggestion that I not hoard flower seeds. "Use them!" She recently urged me. Mom is right: why not gather all the soon-to-expire seeds and toss them around the perimeter of the house? A rainy day was a perfect day to sow wildflowers!

There began an exhilarating back-n-forth sprint beneath the gentle rain. As my rubber-soled slippers collected mud and my pajamas grew soaked, I perfected a system whereby I would fill a pouch (whatever could be found in my flower seed box—an envelope, a coffee filter, the rest of a seed packet) with a mix of semences... next, I dashed through the kitchen, out the carport and beneath the wet sky, scattering seeds all the way!

I haven't a clue what many of the flowers were called or what they looked like (some seeds were taken from mixed wildflower packets) but I had fun imagining which ones I was haphazardly tossing....

And so I scattered "pennycress" and "love in a mist" (I guessed) along the path beneath the front porch...

Then up the stone stairs leading to the back yard, I tossed the orange Mexican poppies (in honor of the lovely stranger on crutches) and purple "Granny's bonnet".

I lined the pétanque court with "starflowers" and "physalis" (aka amour en cage) careful that not one seed should hit the special yard (real French men do not like "love in a cage" encroaching on their playing field).

I scattered Cosmos and Bachelor's Button in the dog yard... until it occurred to me that all the tall flowers might attract ticks. Zut, trop tard...

I knelt beside the sweet stone cabanon and covered the floor before it with "pinkfairies" and "roses of heaven", as well as baby's breath and pieds d'alouette, or larkspur. I tucked in several mammoth sunflowers that would tower over the little hut, come late summer. I also planted some artichoke seeds for the vibrant purple contrast beneath the sunny yellow flowers.

As I rested on the ground I could smell the freshly turned earth which woke up all of my hibernating senses. I felt my heart beating and my skin was tingling from the fresh air and the rain. I thought about my bed, the place I secretly wanted to spend my morning. How dead it seemed compared to this!

I don't ever want to be a lazybones, I admitted to the little flowers, still in seed form scattered all around me. And I'm not sure if it was the "baby's breath" or the "love in a mist" or which flowers whispered back first, but I took the hint: Keep coming back... they suggested, one after the other. With water! 

I smiled down on the cheering chorus of seeds. Yes, that ought to keep these lazybones out of bed! That plus I can't wait to see what the little cheerleaders will grow up to be, whether Poppies or Soapworts or Busy Lizzies.


To comment on this story, click here. Share your own stories of lackadaisy, or maybe you wanted to share a home remedy for canker sores? Click here to read the comments.

French Vocabulary

quelle horreur!
= Awful thought!
une semence = seed
la pétanque = game of petanque or boules
zut, trop tard = shoot, too late

  Camomile (c) Kristin Espinasse
"Flowerboy" Among the seeds tossed out on Sunday were camomile, the actual plants were gifts from the Dirt Divas. I had save the flower heads (unsure of where exactly the seeds were...) I tore up the flower tops and threw them round... hoping they'll turn into what you see in the photo above (our garden back in Sainte Cécile).

Jacques and Kristi weaving lavender
Brother-in-law Jacques and I, weaving lavender wands or les bouteilles de lavande. Have you planted lavender in your garden or in pots on your window sill? You, too, could make a lavender wand this summer! Watch Marie-Françoise make one here. Photo taken in 2008.

Italian gardening (c) Kristin Espinasse
Space-saver gardening, for when you don't have a field to scatter seeds--this is just as sweet!

Thanks for forwarding this edition to a friend. 

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


"Le Roupillon" (The Snooze) : the healing qualities of rest. Smokey, leaning a sore cheek on mamma's fur, so soft and sleek.

argile (ar-zheel) noun, feminine

    : clay

Audio File & Example Sentence: Download Wav or Download MP3

Tous nous sommes faits d'une même argile, mais ce n'est pas le même moule. We are all made of the same clay, but not the same mould. --Mexican proverb

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


It has been 4 weeks since the attack and our puppy's wounds are still open. After several visits to the vet, who assured us all is well, we are still concerned about our dog's recovery -- especially after the feedback of friends.

One reader wrote in to tell me that her dog, having survived three more months after an attack, eventually succumbed to its infected wounds.... Another reader warned that, due to the location of the plaies* (near to the brain), we must be persistent in clearing up this infection -- lest it get into the blood stream and cause brain damage

Needless to say, we are anxious for Smokey to heal, illico presto!* I will be taking him back to the vet. Meantime, Aunt Marie-Françoise, who helped us with yesterday's mise-en-bouteille,* has prepared a healing pack for our puppy: argile!*

Marie-Françoise related to us several first-hand temoignages* on the efficacy of argile. It began with her own dog, who was scheduled to have its leg amputated after an infection reached the bone and began ravaging it. As a last resort, my aunt applied a clay pack to the wound. The argile, she explained, pulled the infection right out! Each time she changed the clay, she could see the pus. The last few changes of the dried clay contained only a rose-colored liquid: the healing was complete. When she returned to the doctor to view the X-Rays, the latter was speechless: Ce n'est pas le même chien que vous m'amenez, Madame!* My aunt assured him it was. Her dog's bone had reconstituted itself as the infection cleared. The bone went from "cotton" to costaud!*

Marie-Françoise shared two more incidents in which argile treated a deep wound. In one case, a child walking along the beach stepped on a needly oursin.* One of the urchin's needles was driven in, beneath the skin,  impossible to remove. My aunt wrapped the child's foot in argile, which eventually dried, pulling out the needle from deep inside!

A similar case involved a foot injury, this time the foot belonging to a hunting dog who had followed its master deep into a thick patch of roseau.* The bamboo-like reeds were broken in bits along the ground and one of these bits got stuck, painfully, between the "fingers" of the dog's patte.* The long and thick splinter was lodged deep into the dog's foot... until Marie-Françoise made up an argile paste and wrapped the dog's wound. The splinter was sucked right out thanks to the "pulling" properties of clay!

Like that, our Smokey is covered in green argile on the left side of his face and just below his jaw. I will be taking him back to the vet soon, for a professional avis.* Meantime, please keep our pup in your prayers and mille mercis, mes amis,* for your letters, comments, and healing remedies. I have read each and every email and comment and regret not having the chance to get back to you at this time.



In books: Living Clay: Nature's Own Miracle Cure & products: French Green Powder Clay or Indian Healing Clay

Comments are most welcome. Mom and I agree that your words and stories are the best part of French Word-A-Day. We love learning what city you're are writing in from (this was my dad's excellent idea) and the local weather report, too!

Corrections are always appreciated -- and most often needed! Add them to the comments box, or send them to me directly.

French Vocabulary
illico presto = right away; la mise-en-bouteille (f) = bottling; l'argile (f) = clay; le témoignage (m) = testimony; Ce n'est pas le même chien que vous m'amenez, Madame! = This is not the same dog that you have brought me, Madame!; costaud(e) = strong; un oursin (m) = sea urchin; le roseau (m) = reed; la patte (f) = paw; un avis (m) = opinion; mille mercis, mes amis = a thousand thanks, friends; amicalement = warmly (kind regards)

Pizza herbes

Herbes de Provence (Special for Pizza) in Crock:
Herbes picked in Provence with a blend of Oregano, Thyme, Basil & Marjoram

Pre de Provence Lavender Soap. Imported from France: Pré de Provence, literally translated, means "Meadow of Provence." Transport yourself there with this triple milled savon.

Un, Deux, Trois: First French Rhymes:
...a collection of 25 traditional nursery rhymes for children



Pictures from Yesterday's Bottling

That's my gorgeous husband (who recorded today's sound file. Did you listen to it?). If you could put a voice to this photo, that voice would be saying "Veuillez acheter mon vin?" Would you please buy my wine? (Here are some locations, places in the U.S.A. and Europe, in which to buy Domaine Rouge-Bleu!

And, below, Aunt Marie-Françoise (middle), and Babé (bah-bay) right.

It was cold (we bottled the wine outside, on board the rented bottling truck)! We all had our bonnets on! The black and green bonnet that I am wearing was a gift (for my son...) from a reader in New Zealand. Thanks, Sarah!

...10,000 bottles waiting to be filled, three ladies overly chilled! It took all day to do the work.


One of our mascots, "Kiwi" (my cousin Audrey's dog. Buongiorno Cousin Audrey, over there in Italy. Thank you for your Facebook message!)

Uncle Jean-Claude, below (yikes, I forgot to ask permission to post Uncle's photos. I hope that's okay). He turned 70 recently. I wished him belated happy birthday, yesterday, to which he replied, 'I've gotten over a hurdle (in French: "J'ai passé un cap!" Notice he also has a cap on his head. Oh, the cold we suffered at yesterday's bottling!)


Rouge-Bleu Winery Visits: Readers tell their stories
Still up for some stories about life here at the grape farm? Read Larry Krakauer's report about his visit to our winery. He brought his lovely wife, Margie, along with him. See all of the photos at his site.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety