Monday, March 28, 2011

Week 44: Between Heaven and Hell

Photo taken of the Green Room this week. Filters applied in Photoshop.

This week our weather forecast looked like this:

We're talking centigrade here, so 18º translates to the mid-60s in fahrenheit; the warmest weather we've had since fall. At the weekend rain was predicted, but we didn't see it until late Sunday evening. It was the most glorious week in recent memory. The heat was turned off, the fireplaces left unlit. We flung doors and windows open, since it was actually warmer out of doors than in. A whole new group of birds arrived in town. A finch, hopped past as I walked down the hill one day. Neither one of us seemed to have a care in the world. We took several steps side by side before the pretty stranger flew away displaying black and white striped wings. Chattering, scouting for nesting sites, collecting in the terrace garden to argue and discuss from early morning until sunset, the village bird population filled our week with pleasure. Huge bumble bees began visiting the lavender plants, even if they have no blooms. The bleeding heart, the fastest growing plant I've ever met, began its annual take-over and is showing a few red and white blossoms.

What could mar such an idyll? Jack hammers day after day chipping away at the house next door. The noise rattled our brains from 8:30 until 5:30 (with the blessed lunch break from 12 noon exactly to 1:30). For three days this noise carried on, until it became so normal that I no longer heard it.

In the photo below you see the workman's truck parked in front of our house to the right. The road between our house and the jack hammers is a narrow one. Houses here are made of stone.  Originally all the houses, as ours still, were covered with a skim coat of enduit (lime mixed with sand and water). In the 60s and 70s there was the unfortunate convention of replacing the enduit with cement. To resurface such a house a jack hammer is required to remove the cement.

You can see how intimately we lived with our neighbor's masons during the week. This photo is taken from the Green Room. I actually like the way houses look without the enduit, but they are never left with the rustic look of bare stone.

It turns out that workmen, like the birds, descend upon the village in spring. While Simone, next door to our left, is having her house resurfaced, the house across the street is getting a whole new roof. This work, as you can imagine, can only be done when no rain is expected. All the slate tiles and  insulation below have been removed, leaving only the bare wooden beams which support the tiles. You can see the roofer on the back side of the house, clinging to the wooden slats. This is not a job I can imagine enjoying. By the end of the week the beams were once again covered with a board and next week the tiles will begin to be replaced. The roofs in our area are either slate or ceramic tile

On our right side there are workmen as well, repairing the windows on the village exposition hall. We are surrounded currently with industrious workers. It has put us deeply in the mood for a profound spring cleaning. Rick began by resetting loose floor tiles. Since they are held in place with sand and lime, and no hard cement or grout, they do begin to wobble after a certain time and each year there are some to re-seat.


The sunshine and jack hammer sound track were perfect excuses to spend quite a bit of time in the garden, preparing the beds. Rick has a nice edging tool given to us by our English neighbors. It keeps the bed well defined. One by one the beds were weeded and the earth cultivated around the perennial plants which seem ready to take off. We have many roses, a whole bed of beautiful white iris and various other favorites. We will fill in with some annuals during April.

I love the wild flowers that volunteer around the edges of the garden. These are just a few of them.


I took my camera on a recent trip into town, hoping to catch a few images of spring. One of my favorite visions, as we drive down the road, is black and white cows against the green green grass. These, who live on the grounds of a local castle, are particularly nice ones. They're kept so clean.

They seemed like such friendly cows. They followed me from one end of their pasture to another while I took their photos.

They live on the grounds of this lovely little castle down the road from our village. I think of this as a garden-variety castle. It is really just someone's home. There are many castles in France, including the one behind our home, where history was made, where tourist buses disgorge day-trippers and where people pay admission to visit, then there are the ordinary castles where people live ordinary lives.

This is how spring begins in our region. It's still a bit barren but along the rows of wintry hedgerows, a few fruit trees begin to show their colors. The grass is so green it almost burns your eyes. It's douce, as we say in French, sweet, soft and heart-breakingly temporary.

One of our neighbors has a garden made for these few days of spring glory. He has a huge tulip tree, several cherries, a quince and many forsythias which all bloom at once.

It is such a pleasure to pass by and enjoy the show.


On Saturday night, after dark had descended and dinner was simmering on the stove, someone rang our bell. We so rarely get walk-in clients, especially this time of year, that we are always taken by surprise. The couple who presented themselves told us that they were icon painters, and had spent the day painting at a local church and needed a place for the night before heading back towards Paris the next morning. At breakfast we had such a nice conversation with them about their work. They told us about St Jean de Shanghai who is buried in a church in San Francisco. We had never heard of him, but he is revered in the Russian Orthodox church. Our clients did not paint the following icon of St. Jean, but it is similar to work they do. I found it here.


I met a very nice photographer on line this week and he convinced me that I should make some of my own photographs available in my Etsy Store. I printed a few of my favorites onto rice paper and have made them available there. My photo of the Green Room, which opens this post was put up on Etsy's front page. That's a first for me.

Cooking Peche de Vigne in the Dordogne

Sunset in the Dordogne


  1. Nancy, I definitly love this post ! For many reasons : pictures are gorgeous and especially the first one of the green room. I do like this manner. Then, the way you relate about Spring and your busy environment : birds, animals, jack hammer and everything. For me it is great litterature like the english writors of the 19 century. I am not very fluent in english but I learned some pieces at school and it reminds me of : all the details and very sensitive look at. Thanks a lot for that.

  2. Good Morning Nancy,

    YES!!! I love that opening has such a haunting look to it. I love photoshopped has become an art form in itself.

    Once again you have filled your post with lovely images...and just think, in the very beginning you even doubted if you should keep this could you have doubted yourself?

    I look forward to your post every week, so please don't stop.

    My cows should be back in my fields any day now. A farmer rents the field behind us and I have adopted these black and white creatures as 'My Girls'.

    Every post finds me closer to jumping on a plane ;->

    your friend,
    Janet xox

    Regards to Rick!!

  3. Congratulations Nancy on your Etsy success! It's a beautiful atmospheric photo and the processing suits it perfectly.