Something useful to do during the dry season...



noun, feminine


If you were to sneak over to our backyard fence, part its curtain of faded jasmine, and look past a ditch full of wild fennel grown as tall as our older child, you'd spy our next-door voisin showering beneath the fiery heavens at daybreak, scrub-a-dub-dubbing right in the middle of his potager!

But you wouldn't see a steel nozzle above his head or an anti-skid mat beneath his feet. Only a sturdy kitchen stool separates him from the muddy ground below, with its neatly trellised vines—vines which are, oddly, bursting with fruit during this, The Year of the Drought....

There, amongst ripe red tomates, stands my eco-conscious neighbor, garden hose held high above his head. I see no shelves on which to set his shampoo (is that a vinegar rinse he is using?... they say old wine is good for both hair and plants!), and no modesty's-sake shower curtain protects him from this housewife-voyeur (hence those bright blue swim trunks). On closer look, there is a serene expression on the showerer's face, as water from the tuyau trickles over it, splashing and quenching the thirsty légumes beneath.

In this period of sécheresse, the municipal Powers That Be forbid us to water our gardens... but no one said you couldn't wash yourself! I watch as the shower water rains down over the would-be parched vegetables, and I am impressed with my neighbor's clever solution to irrigating his garden.

"You ought to try it sometime!" the man in the blue swim trunks calls out. I freeze, as would any nosy neighbor who has been found out.

My cheeks turn as red as those well-watered tomatoes and I quickly release the jasmine, letting the floral curtain fall to a close.

French Vocabulary
le voisin, la voisine = neighbor
le potager = vegetable garden
la tomate = tomato
le tuyau (d'arrosage) = garden hose
un légume = vegetable
la sécheresse = drought
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French definition of sécheresse by Petit Larousse: "état de ce qui est sec."

L'amitié est une plante qui doit résister à la sécheresse.
Friendship is a plant that must resist drought.
 --Joseph Joubert
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French Pronunciation:
Listen to Jean-Marc's sentence:
C'est une année de sécheresse. It is year of drought. Download secheresse.wav

Terms & French Expressions:
la sécheresse cutanée/oculaire = dry skin/eyes
dire quelque chose avec sécheresse = to say something curtly
The French word sécheresse is referenced in these books:
The Song of the Earth  
The Song of the Earth by Hugh Nissenson
"The French call Evian water le Champagne de la Sécheresse--'drought Champagne'." (p. 11)
Jacques-Felix Lelievre's New Louisiana Gardener  
Jacques-Felix Lelievre's New Louisiana Gardener by Jacques-Felix Lelievre and Sally Kittredge Reeves
"In 1903 drought (secheresse in French) devastated livestock farming in Mauritania." (p. 127)

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety