The Day The Vineyard Died

Well, it was dead awhile ago, but the big, brown piles have been set ablaze.  No longer will I hum, “Sigmund the sea monster and Johnny and Scott are friends” as I go off on errands.  To me they’ve always resembled little Sigmund.  To others they might be Daleks or Pleasure GELFs.  Either way, they’re gone now and we can move on with getting the pasture lush and bountiful for the herd.
I'm not sure why I took this photo

There are LOADS of volunteer vines throughout the old vineyard.  I’m planning on digging some up and erecting a little mini-vineyard to remember what this farm once was.


Brent picked up the kids from school and they saw ten giant bonfires.  They were giddy with excitement.  We all hung around the one located outside of the villa and tossed wood in.  They quickly learned that the white stuff on the ground was actually really, really hot.

There will be a few more Sigmund burnings today.  When all the piles burn to the ground, the vineyard-burning man comes around and digs holes to bury the metal.  And that will be that.

Adishatz, vineyard and thanks for all the grapes.



I’ve always been a HUGE fan of generic.  There’s nothing I hate more than paying extra for marketing.  It’s soap.  You tell me that it’s going to make all my smelly problems go away and flowers and fairy dust will swirl around making my clothes cleaner than ever.  But, that’s not true.  Soap is soap is soap.  In fact I should probably go back to using baking soda (bicarbonate) for damn near everything.  I will always give generic a go.  I’ve developed a preference for various generics.  The best generic I’ve ever experienced is Kirkland brand by Costco.  That is seriously a case of running the generic label right after the expensive brand.  Churn out your shipment of Huggies, switch out the label maker and then make them Kirkland.  Same shit different tag.  I’ve even tried the Kirkland Champagne and found it not only drinkable, but enjoyable (forgive me Erin!). I’ve tried all the generic brands I could find in France including Eco+, Top Budget, Carrefour <wank> and Carrefour Discount.  Carrefour not only has a generic label, they split it up into classes of generics.  It goes from high-end generic to welfare generic.  America sort of did that with “white label.”  White label “BEER” was my all time favorite; of course I can’t seem to find a web image for the stuff.  The lowest you can go is Carrefour Discount.  That’s your welfare class generic.  Of all the generics I’ve tried, Carrefour Discount is as close as I’ve gotten to my beloved Kirkland.  It’s as low as you can go, yet still you can buy Carrefour Discount Roquefort as well as Carrefour Discount Bayonne Jambon Cru.  See, even cheap white label generic sounds great in France (viva la France!).

I can generic damn near everything, but I’ve somehow excluded shampoo.  I discovered Aveda before Estée Lauder messed it all up.  This is my I-liked-Nirvana-before-they-were-famous moment.  I hooked up with Sapmoss when it was a wee free sample.  The lather, the smell, the joy of washing my hair was beyond words.  I LOVED this shampoo.  I would gift it to people with sort of a “first one’s free” intention.  I never branched out to the other products in the Sapmoss line.  I stood by my shampoo and that was that.  Until, it was discontinued.  One of the hair ladies tipped me off to this atrocity.  In a crazed run on all Aveda stores, I managed to grab hold of three large bottles.  These babies go for near two hundred US dollars on ebay.  Knowing this was the end, I’ve not opened them.  I was waiting for the right moment.  Maybe squirt out a few beads on special occasions.  In the meantime, I’ve been running through French shampoo.  All of it okay, but nothing to blog about.  Then, I picked up some Carrefour Discount shampooing for the kids and gave it a go.  My hair loved it.  I’ve tried the olive oil one as well as almond.  I dug out the Sapmoss to try it side-by-side.  Carrefour Discount held its ground.  Now there’s no shampoo out there that will give you that Sapmoss smell, but for eighty-four cents a bottle you can get the same lather and the same bouncy loveliness in your hair.  I’m shocked and excited and somewhat embarrassed.

Thanksgiving In Parts

Back in America we would host Aliens Thanksgiving.  Every year, Seattle has a lot of foreigners wandering around on the fourth Thursday of November wondering, “where the heck is everybody?”  We’d turn on a little turkey beacon and invite them in.  I was usually the only American at the table and was forced to explain the meaning of thanksgiving.  I’d mumble something about crazed European nutters taking over other people’s land in search of help from the locals to get up and running while simultaneously killing themselves and the natives with disease, laughing it all off at the end of the day with some corn on the cob.  Now please, pass the stuffing.  No, but really it’s a feast of brown and good friends and warming up the imminent cold, dark days.

Lucy sets the table for everyone.  She refused to do a “kids table.”

Now that we’re in France, I’ve missed our cloud of aliens eating, drinking and giggling.  Each year we’d meet new people as the aliens would get married, have children or bring other aliens.  One dude married an American who increased our native count to two (love ya Kris!!).  Brent did most of the cooking, Kevin played sous chef and I picked up the rest.  Kevin caught a moment during 2002 when Brent, dressed in chef wear, had just pulled out the Turkey.  Bassam is playing the role of restaurant owner.  This photo is in my kitchen and I cherish it.

The dust of our new life in France has settled a bit and we’ve managed to put on a proper American feast.  Brent is officially American now so as a family, we are the aliens.  We had British and Australian representation as well as a lovely Scottish accent and a Swede at the table.  I cooked as much as I could the day before and prepped the rest the morning of.  It was a little difficult because I burnt the crap out of my hand two nights ago.  Not unlike Mr. Toht from Raiders of The Lost Ark, I felt I should model a replica of the scar and see if it will lead to forgotten treasure.  Instead I prepared the turkey with the fat-salt-pepper routine and learned first hand what salt does to an open wound.  With thanksgiving dinner locked and loaded, I could relax and giggle with our guests. It was an enjoyable evening.


Tosca rests up for an evening of dropped Thanksgiving bits.

Having Thanksgiving in France forces a few tweaks in a traditional meal.  The main difference is in our part of France we can’t buy a whole turkey to roast.  I had dreams of raising a turkey for this day, but other important things took priority.  Instead, I went to the shop to pick up a small collection of turkey parts.  I managed to locate four turkey legs and two turkey roasty ball things.  So we had a four-legged, two-balled turkey.    I did a few turkey part roasts in the past and I’m starting to prefer this way of cooking turkey.  You can pull the legs out early and let the thicker breasty-ball-roast keep cooking.

The other Thanksgiving tweak is we eat on Saturday.  France is alive and working on the fourth Thursday of November.  Our giant meal doesn’t fit with school the next day.  The cool thing about having Thanksgiving on Saturday in France is that the next day is Sunday.  On Sunday in France nothing is open.  This means you are not enabled by giant money-saving super sales preying on your trypto-coma to spend your money.  It’s a “spend nothing” day.

I wish all the Americans, Aliens and European nutters out there a Happy Thanksgiving.

Otto plays with the plasma ball

A Farm Held Together With Baling Wire and String

We are starting a beef farm.  We feed them grass.  There are so many projects on our whiteboard right now, I sometimes lose sight of that.  Amazingly, I’ve actually managed to cross off projects that have been completed.  It feels so good.  It feels so right.  While Brent works with all the aspects of getting our cows fat and tasty, I stay closer to the homestead with our one-year old (yep, she’s one!).  Part of getting this farm up and running is getting it neat and tidy.  We’ve made progress with Project Tidy, yet still it feels like hardly a dent has been made.    The bones of this farm are solid.  We have the right size land.  The land has great soil with some steady improvements being implemented by Brent.  The cows are extremely happy and somewhat spoiled with the food they get each day.  Brent is working out systems to get the grass for the cows to taste good, keep them fat and healthy without spraying chemical fertilizers.  All that stuff is moving and shaking.




Project Tidy looms.   The out buildings have solid foundation and fairly good walls.  The doors, windows and roofing are mostly held together with baling wire and string.  Project Tidy means getting the old bidet, toilet and sink being stored in the attic and tossing it to the big bin of gravel (VERY satisfying … let me tell you).  But Project Tidy also means: solid.  We have to do away with broken plastic windows.  No more giant doors hanging on hinges and itty bitty steel wire.  I suppose it’s time now to get welding.  I read the first page in my Farm Welding book a few months ago when Zélie was a newborn.  After reading the list of ways I will kill myself welding, I put the book aside and let all that sink in.  I’ve met a few people in the area who know how to weld and I think before I crank up that giant glue-gun, I’ll have an expert nearby to laugh at me or catch me, which ever comes first.  Soon I’ll be welding like I’ve never welded befo’.



… little one-year old 🙂
Thankfully, she’s held together with sugar and spice.

A Fleeting Moment On My Kitchen Bench



I set my glass of wine down as I was looking up a recipe in Fannie Farmer for apple pie and suddenly I felt a photo coming on.  This counter is oozing with Autumn.  Market apples for one fiddy, pumpkins from the neighbor and field mushrooms brought in from Brent’s pasture walk sit patiently as I prepare for processing.  Last year’s garlic and shallots hang expectantly next to some dried peppers we received from another friend.  I hope next year I will hang my home grown ones.  They are snugged in nicely in our new veggie patch.  Now I wait.

He Shoots, He Scores!

A big parental sigh has been let out as Otto has discovered an interest in basketball.  We are in the land of Rugby.  When the men meet Otto and are told his age, they immediately begin plans for him to join Rugby.  Try as I might to steer clear of eye-gouging and concussions, I suspect Rugby is in the cards for my only son.  For now, it’s basketball.  I LOVES me some basketball.  I was privileged to see Michael Jordan win one of his final games in Seattle.  I had also started the audition process to become a Sonics Girl. Reason One, to see a lot of basketball.  Reason Two, so Brent could say he’s dating a Sonics Girl.  I never got my act together to complete the Sonics Girl process, I joined silly ol’ High-Tech instead.

Basketball is an American game.  And of all the places in all of France we happened to move into a set of villages who play a lot of basketball.   I’m thrilled.

Otto got a little bump from the ball, no doubt practicing his charging.  The lady took him over and gave him (as Brent describes) the “magic sponge.”  He sat out for a tiny bit and then got back into the game.



Otto had his first match yesterday in Barcelona (in the Gers, not Spain).  They play three on three.  He is a “mini-poussin” which means “little chicken” in French.  There were three teams at the meet: another little-chicken team and clearly a big-chicken team.  The kids in red were much taller than the others and they scored quite a bit more than either little-chicken team.  Otto’s team won one against the green team and lost to the big-chickens.  Otto made a few points. Go Otto! I found the games to be fast, fun and interesting.  The kids were clearly into the game.  They all tried their best while practicing the skills they’re learning.



Now I need to email Kevin so he’ll tell me what setting to use for fast-action, indoor sports. I think I’ve got close-up food down. My basketball shots are blurry and funny.



The beginning of Zélie watching a whoooole lotta basketball.


Culinary Nirvana


On the door of our fridge, I rolled out some white board contact paper. On it I list “what’s in the fridge.” A few days ago I hit a chef’s dream. Not only did we have various animal fats to cook with, we had a surplus of duck parts and pastured pig.

I’m very proud of the contents of my fridge.  I try very hard to keep it full of local food free from packaged nonsense.

On the list was:

To Cook:

Duck Breast

Sausage Meat (made by me! and like, it tastes good! OMG!)

Foie Gras

Duck Hearts

Pumpkin Purée

Poitrine fumée

Duck yum for stock



Brie de Maubert



Mirepoix on standby, champagne chilled, I was ready to cook damn near everything. I’ve not picked up foie gras in awhile because it’s been out of season as well as expensive. When our grass-fed beef is sold and loved, I hope to add our weekly foie gras back in the budget. This set of duck parts was given to us by our neighbor. Their brother accidently cut down our a boundary hedge and fence which was REALLY disappointing. Brent called them on it and they felt very bad for their mistake. A few weeks later the lady stopped by with a pile of duck. When we shared our experience with an American friend of ours, he pointed out that often this type of mistake is usually resolved with a lawsuit rather than foie gras. Honestly, I think I prefer the foie gras route.


We’re still in warm-mode. The only fires we’ve burned have been more for novelty than necessity. On the Nutella Weather Station, we’re still spreadable but with chance of stodgy bits. The Nutella is beginning to need a bit of warmth to spread. Bug the cat has assumed his winter position under Fremont. Every once in awhile he’ll step out to cool down before another warming session. GreyCute, our house-cat-in-training, has following his lead by snugging for hours on the green chair.

spreadable with need of warmth

housecat in training

Hola, Jalapeño

hola jalapeno
A friend of ours gave us a peck of peppers.  I’m not sure if there were literally a peck, but in this day-and-age, a peck to me means a shitload.  We are grass fed beef farmers.  I am a native southern Californian.  This means I know Mexican food.  Some of my bestfriends are Mexicans.  I know what I like and I know what tastes good with beef.  And so, my experimentation begins.  I am aiming to offer a few lovely sauces to accompany our beef.  I have two in mind.  One, a mild tomatillo sauce that will be like crack, but better.  I have my tomatillo seeds locked and loaded waiting for their time to grow.  The other sauce, is a hot sauce.  A few drops will do.  Brent and I have experimented with a wide range of hot sauces.  Two that stand out are Dave’s Insanity Sauce and Dixie’s BBQ “The Man.”  These are not sauces of Mexican origin, but they are fricken hot.  I would like to keep closer to baja roots and add some Southern Californian notes that will be enjoyable as well as spicy.  I will refer to this magic as Substance P.  That’s ‘P’ for pain.  We are working on names of this sauce.  Wait now, that’s it! Substance P™ .  Of course a name can’t stick until you taste it.  We’ll see how this batch goes.

Whenever I spend time in the kitchen, I have my peanut gallery.  Tosca, Legend and Bug eagerly await meaty treats that fall on the floor.  Legend picked up quickly that this dish wasn’t putting out.  Tosca was the last animal standing.  She finally groaned over for a nap without leaving her spot should any calories fall her way.

waiting for fud


Hola, Jalapeño is a favorite kids book.  “Cheese is melting out your end!”