Saturday, March 31, 2012

Garden Gates

This little rue along the river serves as access for villagers who own tiny plots of land here that they use for their potagers, vegetable and kitchen gardens. Each garden is different. Each has its own unique flavor...a dilapidated garden shed, a leaning trellis for a vine, scattered garden tools waiting for more settled temperatures. A few have been cultivated; a few have piles of manure on standby. But none have been planted just yet, so there are no beautiful flowers or emerging plants to show you. Each garden, though, has a gate that intrigues....
I think this pale green gate was my favorite. It looked so pretty against the dark green ivy.
Even though it's not a garden gate, this small window cried out to have its picture taken.
Lucie and I did finally find the chapel we were looking for. I'll share it with you next.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Along the River's Edge

It's been so pretty the past several days. I try to not miss any opportunity to get out into the beautiful spring weather. One day this week I took Lucie with me when I made a trip to the grocery store in Cajarc. With my purchases safely stowed in the back of my car, the two of us took a stroll along the river's edge. We started here.
We walked along the pedestrian path on the suspension bridge across the Lot

and had a great view of my favorite house on the Salvagnac-Cajarc side.
Trees were flowering, grass was growing, and the afternoon was  clear and warm. I decided to search for a small chapel that Laury told me about, so Lucie and I returned to 'our' side of the river. I'll share what I found in my next post.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Desk in the Sunroom

I've wanted a desk in my sunroom since I moved in last fall. I tried something over the winter, but it really didn't work so well. And since it was really cold, I let it go. I thought about buying something at BUT; that was a bit of a misadventure that didn't quite work out. I finally came up with a solution! You can see it journal is open and ready; in fact I journalled about watching the sunrise over the causse this morning. While I was sitting here, I saw a lone duck v'ing his way across the river and spied the widening circles of some newly-hatched insects touching the surface of the water. With the window open, I can hear the church bells across the river toll each hour and half hour. I can hear the river lapping gently against its banks.I can watch as the trees green up right before my eyes. It's great!

'Wait a minute'...I  hear you say, 'that looks a lot like an ironing board cover...'

And you would be right. My new desk is actually my ironing board! After I gave up buying something to fit into this high, skinny space, I decided to put my ironing board there. I might as well have a nice view while I iron, I reasoned. voila! it hit me. With a few books and cushions piled on a dining room chair, this could work very well as a desk. I don't need a lot of room, just a place to write and put my laptop. I tried it out; it works. One of the first books I used to get the right height, though, was my French verb text. Not sure if I thought I could absorb its contents through my butt or what! I exchanged it for something else, since I think I really need to read it if I ever want to learn those dratted conjugations! There are a couple of negatives to this arrangement. It's really too bright in the mornings to easily see my computer. And at certain times of the day, the traffic noise is bothersome.. cars zip past right under my window while bus and truck drivers and I are eye-to-eye. I think the positives, though, far outweigh the negatives. Just look at my view and see if you don't agree...

It's definitely inspiring!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Perfume of Spring

While I can't quite catch the perfume from Laury's gorgeous blooming plum tree,
when I step out my back door,
I do smell the sweet spring fragrance of these wild plums along the wall of the Chateau.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ladies Who Lunch

On Friday, Laury and I took a road trip to have lunch with a fellow American who has made her home here in the Lot. Laury met Clare through her blog. They share a common interest in old stone barns. Laury has dreams of restoring hers, while Clare has just completed a renovation, turning her barn into a beautiful living space. Clare drove here a week ago to meet Laury in person and take a peek at Laury's barn. As the gods of coincidence would have it, I had actually met Clare months ago! We shared a brief conversation at the Immigration Office in Toulouse while we were both there completing our visa paperwork and obtaining our residence permits. It's funny how Americans seem to attract each other like magnets!
We shared a lovely lunch on the sun-lit terrace with good wine and good conversaton. Not too much of the grape for me, though, since I was the designated driver. Clare has done a very nice job with her barn conversion and hopes to rent it out during the summer months when she returns to the States. Located at the edge of Degagnac about an hour and a half northwest of Cadrieu, it's in a part of the Lot that neither Laury nor I had visited. It's very hilly and wooded with lots of chateaux in the area.
We told Clare to give us a call if she gets the urge to speak American! I'm always up for a road trip and exploring new country.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On With the New

New tiles waiting in the staging area along the train tracks...
to be moved down the tracks by this big guy...
and then lifted up to the men on the roof who will place them where they belong.
The front and one side are complete; only part of the back and the side closest to my house are left to finish.'s hard, labor-intensive work. Many of the tiles have to be cut to fit or at least 'trimmed' with a whack of a hammer. I predict they will be done by Friday, making this a full, two-week project.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Off With the Old...

There's been a bit of excitement in the neighborhood the past ten days. The neighborhood being my house, Laury's house and the vacant house in between us. That vacant house is getting a new roof. It's an old Quercy style stone house with a sloping, pointed roof that looks a bit like a witch's hat. Watching the crew of 3-4 men remove tiles has been quite entertaining. They have a very organized system. First, they built the scaffolding to put them at the right level to work. Then they manvevered a big tractor with a bucket lift on it to haul off the old tiles, to move pallets of new tiles to a staging area, and then to lift the pallets of new tiles up to roof level. Even with the big equipment, it's very labor intensive work. Here you see them removing the old tiles, each one being handed to the man who stacks them on the lift.

Half of the roof tiles have been removed. The old horizontal supports were replaced with new lumber, but the vertical supports were not.
Here are some of the pallets of used tiles stacked along the railroad tracks. I wonder if they recycle them?
The old has been removed and the new is being applied. Check back to see the progress!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Remembrances Everywhere

As I wandered through Limogne last month waiting for the truffle market to begin, I came upon this plaque. No memorial, just a plaque secured to the wall of a non-descript building on an almost-deserted side street.
Gaston Bach was a Resistance fighter.
I wanted to take some photos of the Chateau and was surprised to find a WWII memorial just outside the gates to this imposing house on the hill. It commemorates two more Resistance fighters assassinated on June 1, 1944.
 Assassinated 'ici'...'here.'

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Favorite Blue House

The last couple of days Laury has been posting photos of the houses along the Lot in Cajarc. They've included my favorite blue house. Thought I'd share a couple of my takes on this colorful maison.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On Taupe Patrol

Taupes....people here hate the little devils. We know them as moles in the States, and I don't think anyone likes them there either. This time of year when the villagers are beginning to get out and work in their gardens and potagers, there is a lot of conversation about the best method for getting rid of them. Nothing really works great, though. (You can click over the this blog for a more detailed discussion about taupes and their habits.) Thank goodness, this is not my yard! It's actually a narrow strip of land along the river just in front of my house. Taupes love it here as you can see by all the little taupe mounds that they've left. Lucie is funny; she can hear them, I think. When we walk here, I'll find her staring intently at one of the mounds. Suddenly, she'll begin to dig like fury...there must be a taupe in action down there! I don't think she's ever caught one, but she keeps trying.

Here she is ...on taupe patrol in my backyard. She's my preferred method for controlling the little diggers

Monday, March 12, 2012

Paperwhites and An Update on Spring

My paperwhites have bloomed. I catch whiffs of their sweet fragrance as I sit here at my computer.
Yesterday as I drove through the Aveyron countryside, I saw a few wild plums full of blossoms, and along the Dourdou, the willows are leafing out.
The big plane tree in front of Christiane's house has received its spring 'haircut.'
The days are getting longer (although France doesn't begin daylight savings until March 25th), and the birds are just crazy-happy. They're up and singing 'way before dawn. I've even begun hearing a sweet rooster crowing from across the river. Not this guy...he's sitting on top of the Mairie in Conques!
If the 70 degree days predicted all this week materialize, spring will be popping out all over soon,

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In Search of Sainte Foy

Lucie and I took a road trip today. I've felt pulled to Conques ever since I arrived last fall, so today we went. It's that St. Foy...I think she wants me there for some reason! The day started a bit cool and cloudy, but it was pleasantly warm and the sky was mostly blue by the time we drove the 70 kms deep into the Aveyron. The trees haven't begun to leaf out yet, so it was a good time to get a look at how the land lies as I drove up the narrow valley to Conques along the Dourdou River. How quickly the soil turns red once you turn up river. How quickly the roofs turn from Lotois tiles to Aveyron slate. There were some others visiting Conques, but most of the village was still closed for the winter and was very quiet. My first stop was the church where I visited a bit with St. Foy and lit a candle in her chapel. I slid into one of the pews and sat quietly...waiting for St. Foy to declare herself. The church was so still. As usual, there were only one or two visitors there, speaking in whispers, reluctant to disturb sleeping saints or praying people. The creamy white walls were cold; the quiet was a physical presence. A few candles flickered. It was a 'deep breath' kind of moment...relax and be present to the centuries of energy that fill this magnificent space. As I sat, the sole person in the pews, I heard a clear, lilting soprano voice. At first I thought it was a recording coming from a hidden speaker somewhere. But then I realized, it came from this woman slowly walking the ambulatory and singing....
While I don't know for sure what she was doing, my guess is that she will be performing here at some future date and was checking out the acoustics. Which are absolutely superb...her voice carried all the way to the top of the vaulted ceilings three stories high and rang clearly throughout the entire abbey church. I think the folks following her were part of her entourage. St. Foy sent me a unexpected pleasure this day and I'm so grateful.

Friday, March 9, 2012

View From My Window--Words

A couple of days ago, Laury forwarded me this quote that she received from a friend.

Like Stones, words are laborious and unforgiving, and the fitting of them together, like the fitting of stones, demands great patience and strength of purpose and particular skill." Edmund Morrison

Since we are both writers, Laury thought I might find the quote interesting. I found it thought-provoking in a way that has had it niggling my brain ever since I read it. I think this viewpoint does words a disservice.
For me, words are not heavy stones, but are vibrant points of light and color. Instead of the stone fitting metaphor, I submit that words are more like the tiny dots of color in a pointillist painting. Each can stand alone as a speck of turquoise or ruby red or deep ochre, but placed side-by-side with others, these dots shimmer as an image or an emotion. They can make an idea crystal clear or can conjure up a deep mystery. To describe words as 'laborious and unforgiving,' drains them of any joy and makes the process of putting them on paper feel heavy and hard
.Finding the right words to make a thought or a feeling come alive is an act of pure joy, purely creative. I don't feel as if it takes either great skill or great patience. What it takes is the willingness to let yourself explore the choices and delight in the process. It takes putting each little point of light, each speck of color on the page with courage and then trying them out. Maybe even reading the words aloud to see how they roll off your tongue. Does that word feel right? Does it shimmer with its neighbors to paint the right picture in the reader's mind?
The writing of words should not be a labor-intensive ordeal  Words are how we writing as well as verbally. While I take nothing away from those who earn their living writing (they do work hard), making words feel like a burden and endowing those who write them with special skills and strengths only makes people afraid that words can only be written by special people, not every day folks like you and me.

Words are not things to be feared and dreaded. The words you write might not lead you to a book deal or secure your place in a book of great American quotations, but they will enrich your life just a little.And perhaps give you the courage write even more words.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Little of Limogne

Arriving early for the Friday truffle market in Limogne, I had some extra time to wander through the church and around its neighborhood taking a few photos

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Last Truffle Market in Limogne

Being not quite 'truffled out,' I decided to make the short drive to Limogne yesterday morning for its last truffle market of the season. I thought that at this smaller market I might learn more about the actual buying and selling of these intriguing lumps of black flavor. This market was, indeed, much smaller. Perhaps 10 sellers and maybe 20-30 buyers gathered in the open area in front of the church. Buyers appeared to be more local here. The sign above reminded everyone that truffle transactions were not to begin before the whistle blew at 10:30am.
 I was able to pick up and sniff a truffle. I wish I had a more educated nose to explain the aroma. To me, it was a melange of rich soil, horse manure and musky mushrooms with a lingering, slightly sweet smell. Not unpleasant, but not exactly a mouth-watering fragrance least not for me!

The best part of this truffle experience was getting to meet a fellow blogger, Vanessa, from Life on La Lune. We chatted about our common and not-so-in-common experiences living in France while we watched the market unfold. We both noticed that one of the sellers had a notable lack of customers. As luck would have it, a very nice French woman began a conversation with Vanessa in French. She explained that she was a truffle grower herself and usually sells here and at Lalbenque. She wasn't selling this morning as she was using her last truffles to 're-seed' her truffiere. She reported that this past growing season was excellent for her producing 9 kilos of truffles as opposed to her normal 1 kilo yield. She even explained why the man we noticed had no lookers or buyers. His price was too high! He was asking 450 euros/kilo for his crop. She said if he had lowered his price to 400 euros, he would have been competitive. As it was, he gathered up all his unsold truffles in their dish towel and took them home.
This man must have priced his little basket of truffles just right...he sold all of them!

If you are interested in more about truffles, try this link to an NPR story from 2008 about the Lalbenque market or this more recent one about truffles in America.