Tuesday, April 30, 2013

More tomatoes!

Georgette, Clair and I are re-energized after lunch and are ready to finish canning the bountiful harvest of tomatoes from the garden.

The cooking pot holds nearly 20 gallons of tomatoes. Georgette adds handfuls of spices. Clair and I heave the very full and very heavy pots onto the propane gas burners. These are set up in the workshop adjacent to the garage.

There are at least two upright freezers and one chest freezer to keep Moumoulous and all its visitors well fed throughout the year.

Georgette uses a stick blender periodically to keep the sauce well mixed and the consistency smooth. Notice  the wooden table to the right in the photo, canning jars have been washed and dried, placed on paper waiting to be filled.

The jars are soon filled, rims wiped cleaned and lids closed tight. We work carefully but quickly to ensure the contents are not contaminated.

I can attest to the heavenly aroma that filled the room, the beauty of which almost came close to the deep rich color of the sauce in the sparkling glass jars.

Almost finished.

The last batch is ready to be placed into the water bath where they will simmer under boiling water until the optimal internal temperature is reached. This pot holds 24 jars, 6 jars stacked 4 deep, the metal you see in the photo below is part of the rack that holds the jars in place.

There were 8 or 9 extra jars will go into the house to be processed in a smaller pot. Not shown in the photo was the large garden rocks Georgette placed on top of these jars so they would not float around in the water as it bubbled and boiled.

At 7 pm (1900 h), we call it a day... a very good day. Between the three of us we canned more than 60 jars of tomato sauce. I was delighted to take home a few jars to enjoy, but even more was the pleasure of being asked to join in this annual event.


And if you have, thanks for reading...

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Our cousin Georgette plants and maintains an exuberant garden each year. She has a several long time neighbors who help each other with the big jobs, plowing, pruning, preparing foie gras, butchering farm animals. They share in the work and the bounty.

I was invited to join Georgette and new friend Clair to prepare the garden tomatoes for canning.

I arrived at Moumoulous about 11 am.

Chairs, knives, buckets of piping hot water to wash and loosen the peels. And of course tomatoes. Lots and lots of tomatoes!

The hot water works quickly and so we must, too!

We work under the shade of  the Mulberry tree. Each tomato is peeled and cored. There are buckets and tubs of tomatoes waiting just out of view of the camera. 

But wait... there's lunch to prepare and enjoy! And you guessed it, the menu includes Tomatoes, lots of them!

Clair sliced tomatoes added green onion chiffonade and finely minced fresh garlic. 

Chopped parsley


A dash of vinegar and olive oil. 

Tomatoes au gratin!


Oven roasted Chanterelles!

And of course the cheese course 

Stay tuned for rest of the tomato story.

And if you have, thanks for reading...

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Near Bassoues the fields are a shock of color. The color winds like a river around the sycamore and cypress lined creeks and the oak covered hills.

The flower heads follow the sun throughout the day gathering strength. We call them Sunflowers the French say Tournesols (turn to the sun)


We pull off the road, park the car and take a closer look, at first glace they all appear the same.

As we walk between the rows we notice each flower is unique. One flower per stalk, each near the same height and near the same color, but...

Each just slightly different.

Flatter or darker or...

Smaller petals

There's always a comedian in the crowd!

A real stand-out.

A bumble bee stops by


and if you have, thanks for reading...

Monday, April 8, 2013

Montegut gets a face-lift!

The most recent bit of sprucing up came along in the mid 1960's.  The story is told that one year there came storm after storm, causing massive flooding and damage to Montegut as well as many farm houses in the area. Flood waters nearly reached the window sills at the front of the house, the walls held tight, absorbing the water and barely resisting collapse. Even the front door fought against the sheer volume of the crushing weight of the water.

Major repair was necessary and the work was done by family members and local tradesmen. The exterior was plastered using cement as was the "new" trend. The cement was trawled by hand, smoothed and marked to look like concrete blocks. In fact at first glance it still looks exactly like concrete blocks.

Unknown at the time was the cement would seal the walls so well that moisture had no way to escape and would migrate inward. Now we know that cement was not the best solution, at the time it seemed like a good idea. Lesson learned. The building materials used in these old farmhouses were simple and accessible. The building methods used have proven to be sturdy and reliable. It would be easy to Americanize the house and buildings, using techniques currently used in the US. We are proceeding slowly and being mindful about the technique and materials. Respecting and honoring the hard work of our ancestors is our mantra.

Most of the work on our list has focused on the interior and we thought it time to polish up the exterior a bit too!

Down came the shutters.

In the south west homes traditionally reflect the color of the soil and the shutters the sky. I collected a few color samples and asked family members to place a check or X on the paint sample they thought was closest to the original color. No one can remember when the last time they were painted, but EVERYONE had an opinion as to what was the original color!

In the lower right corner you can see the winner! I started with the cement planters at the entry, everyone agreed it was the perfect hue.

Shutters were removed, lined up against the garage wall, washed and left in the sun to dry. A quick sanding was all they needed before heading to the "paint station".

Painting outdoors in August is tricky, the heat dries the paint quickly... almost too quickly.  Paint drips would run down and across the back of the louvers before I could turn the shutters around. A solution was found  by the second set of shutters and things progressed smoothly.

I painted the shutters, Barry was up and down the ladder repairing and painting the plaster trim around each of the windows and the door. Joseph would frequently check on our progress, we referred to him as Chief Inspector for Quality Control. Joseph was the "Institutional Memory" of the family, he could recite dates of every major event, or project as it related to Montegut and the farm.

We were determined to have the front of Montegut polished for the family reunion the middle of August. Family from all over France come to Montegut each year around 15 August for the Annual Fete. Many would see Montegut for the first time since our purchase.

The shutters are back in place and it is nearly complete. Planting flowers for the window boxes would be the last and final touch before the family began to arrive.

And the early arrivals approve!

.... and if you have, thanks for reading.

Inspiration for a Day Dream

Day dreaming is a great pastime, especially when it is gloomy and threatening rain... like today. It is an activity that is highly under-rated! I found additional photos of Monet's gardens taken almost two years ago, thought I would share them... and brighten your day.

Even in Giverney on a gray and gloomy day in May the garden out shines anything I could have imagined. The grounds are beautifully designed and exquisitely maintained without looking too structured.

Monet's home is spectacular, as colorful inside as are the gardens outside. Both the home and the gardens have been stunningly preserved. Meandering along the paths was a dream come true.  Monet was an artist whose life story intrigued me as a young college student and continues even now, 35 years later.

These tulips stood at least 3 feet tall, each flower larger than the palm of my hand.

Each step brought another color washed vista into view. Layering color upon color, under-planting created a spark of light at the base of these tulips. A technique used in nearly every flower bed, who needs a color wheel?

 It is easy to understand Monet's obsession with light, his attempts to capture it's dance across the water near the famous bridge...

This play of light fascinated Monet. Sunlight, moonlight or dappled light sprinkled across his most famous paintings.

But it was the color that took my breath away.  Everywhere we turned and from any angle the design of the gardens were splendid, the combinations of color and texture. A most splendid day!

... and if you have thanks for reading.