Back in France

I have been to California. This time it was MM’s turn to accompany me. He did a great job. It felt good to be love-bombed by my friends for a couple of weeks. The photos and my thoughts await processing. When that is done, I’ll tell you more about it.

I have just gotten back to the house. While I was gone, it rained. We were spared the floods, fortunately. The Vendee is protected from the worst parts of any weather front and, as regular readers know, the Vendee is basically four-hundred-year-old infill, with well-maintained canals reliably carrying excess water to the adjacent Atlantic Ocean. Floods do happen, but to judge by house prices along the flood-prone coast, not often enough for folks to take seriously. I live half an hour inland and, thank you architect Drohomirecki, the house is raised on a roughly one-meter plinth.

Floods are not my issue. Weeds are. Julien hits the large areas with the mower and strimmer, but he leaves the handwork for me. That means weeding the flower beds and deadheading the roses, basically.

Some weeds are easy. On go the garden gloves, up come the weeds. But what do I do with this? I’m sure it’s wheat. With few exceptions, the farmers here grow wheat and corn. It’s all about the cash crop. What is the status of wheat in France? If I harvest this, is there any chance I owe Monsanto money? Can I save the grains and replant them? How much wheat is needed to make a loaf of bread?

It shouldn’t be such a quandary, but I am desperate to find organic produce that is not malformed or bug-ridden and which tastes good. Here in France, they have not yet mastered the fine points of organic farming. I have taken to growing things myself and here is this gift of wheat. What to do, what to do.

Deadheading the roses will have to wait. The ground is soft after so much rain and I want to keep it that way, so no walking around in the flower beds. Besides, I’m more of a wannabe than a real gardener. Am I pruning too close to the new growth? Leaving too long a stub?

I can uproot a few more weeds, but I think today is more for drinking tea, searching YouTube for rose pruning tips and taking care of Jacques. He thinks he helps by rolling in the burrs lurking in the grass, a kind of speed-weeding, but no, not really.

18 thoughts on “Back in France

  1. The weeds are incredible. With all that rain, they grow faster than anything else. I have been going around with a spade to loosen on all sides of particularly big ones and then yanking them out, sometimes with 2-foot-long roots. I have fallen over on my butt more than once.
    Husband has three approaches to the yard, none of which are organic: liberal use of Roundup (which I have forbidden, but he LOVES it); mow everything because a green stem is a green stem, whether grass or weed (no….weeds are nasty hard lumps that trip you when you walk across the yard); and just pave everything (because who doesn’t prefer to live in a parking lot).
    I have never spent so much time in the yard. And the clock is ticking. Once the sun comes out for good, the ground will be rock-hard and it will be impossible to pull out any weeds.

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    1. I keep a spray bottle of vinaigre menager (14%) mixed with salt. It’ll kill most weeds, but also anything around them, so spray carefully. As it comes in contact with earth it loses any effect, so it’s fairly safe – acid nonetheless but less harmful than roundup 🙂

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    2. Unfortunately, that’s the deal with weeds. They are so successful because they are so aggressive. I got over Roundup when I saw all the studies that it doesn’t just do its thing, then immediately degrade. It’s bad for the bugs, so that’s the end of that. Julien used to be a mow everything kind of guy and hey, he’s the guy with the mower. Fortunately he’s changing. This time when I showed up, he proudly showed off the hollyhocks that had been spared the chop. So, you’re right, the big thing is to weed while we can. Summer is nearly upon us.

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  2. Weeds are a horror here. We get valley winds and strong rains, and the combination makes for hellish quantities of weeds. I’ve come to consider weeding an activity like cooking or using the bathroom :/


    1. Hahaha. I would put it after those two, but no question that if I spend less than an hour gardening each day, I feel like a slacker. We get wind from the ocean, less than does Brittany, but some days not much less. I need to plant some windbreaks.

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  3. I’m in New England … I thought I knew what weeds – I did not! Jacques is looking extraordinarily chipper and dapper and delightful amongst the dog roses. Bon courage with the wheat though it might be wheatgrass. If you decided to cultivate wheat you would need rather a lot for a bag of flour and it is a labour intensive process to extract it – dehusking before you can grind it is difficult by hand. If it is wheatgrass the romans swore by it for its beneficial qualities and these days mostly I think it is served juiced. I’m certain you will live for at least 1000 years comme Methuselah if you do take to downing a glass a day 😉


    1. I think it got there the usual way, pooped out undigested by a passing bird. That argues for wheat, as the local farmers grow a lot of it. If it’s wheatgrass, though, it could be a keeper. Maybe wheatgrass is all that grass that comes up with the wheat? Could I be that lucky? Nah….

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          1. I thought it was. I used to buy it powdered in London and then found it in Grenoble. I was introduced to it by one of the smartest people I have ever met who gave up his high-level teaching career teaching Latin, French and Russian to start a business based on wheatgrass products. I figured if someone who basically came across as the most boffiny professor was a convert I should try it too. It’s good 🙂

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  4. Looks as though Jacques has managed to put his snout into that soft earth!

    Here in the Rancho, we are the rankest of amateur gardeners but insist on growing our Asian veggies without chemicals. It’s fair to say that we have embraced misshapened produce. We celebrate misshapened produce. We defend its virtue. In other words we don’t much know what we’re doing and therefore employ the “good offense is the best defense” strategy to criticism from neighbors with gardens of their own. As to the bugs we have found that Neem Oil is a life saver, or maybe veggie saver is more accurate. It takes a certain diligence to maintain a regu;ar application cycle but the results have been spectacular so far this year, especially on the Japanese eggplants.


    1. Neem oil. I used to find that in my toothpaste. If I can find a less gloppy source, I’ll try it. Thanks. Did you see the household vinegar with salt idea, for the weeds? With the bugs and weeds gone, my stuff stands a chance.

      I’m okay with misshapen. I generally cut everything up, anyway. It’s bug-infested and mealy that get me. I do miss the Asian veggies that I bought in California, so I’ll be trying the source you recommended. Tokyo Fish, in Berkeley, is my favorite market ever. I brought back tomatillo seeds — not exactly Asian, but a start. French ingredients only take you so far, though if anyone asks, I’ll deny I wrote that. We are expanding the kitchen garden and I’m having great fun with it.

      Jacques, though. He just rolled in freshly mown grass. Now he’s green, too. Chlorophyll is good for you, right? Even when applied externally?


  5. I love it, Lynn. Carry on!

    On Tue, Jun 12, 2018 at 7:14 AM, French Country wrote:

    > Bizzy posted: ” I have been to California. This time it was MM’s turn to > accompany me. He did a great job. It felt good to be love-bombed by my > friends for a couple of weeks. The photos and my thoughts await processing. > When that is done, I’ll tell you more about it. ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dogs are convinced that they are helping you…or they are even more sneaky than I imagine.

    I am studying the seed catalogue described by Maxwell the Dog…I think we will need a shelter from the heavy rains but we will try to get the seeds through CR customs without detection as the offerings are too tempting not to try.

    Too right…French ingredients only take you so far…and I won’t deny saying it, being thousands of kilometres away from the ‘everything French is wonderful’ brigade.
    Costa Rican ingredients are, shall we say, limited….though I am gradually collecting veg plants from old boys whose descendants turn up their noses at them.

    Keep your own seed? In France?
    Don’t tell anyone or you will have the heavies on the door seeking that most French of things, an Obligatory Voluntary Contribution, which goes to contribute Monsanto for the loss of your custom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kitazawa seeds, yes. Payment of social charges, even though I am excluded from benefits, etc., etc., taxatious effing etc., no, really, it’s already too much.

      Their seeds do look good, don’t they? I remember seeing Kitazawa seeds at Tokyo Fish and thinking some day… Shipping to France would cost much more than the seeds themselves, so I think I’ll have them sent to friends who still travel between here and the States. I never thought I’d miss pak choy, but going through their site, I realize that it needs a place, well-hidden if necessary, in my garden — and soon!


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