moitie moitie


"Exotic" grass
Hello from Sainte Cécile, where the vine rows are newly-plowed and the ravens and magpies are out, pecking the fresh earth, much to the alarm of the earthworm.... In other news, read about the "red grass", above, in today's story column...

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Special thanks to South African writer Marita van der Vyver, for her generous write up on French Word-A-Day in her column "Reading Space". Also, thanks go to Lynn McBride, the journalist I wrote about a few months ago. Her article, "A Family Affair, " about this word journal, appears in the May issue of France Magazine.

désherbant (day-ser-bahn) noun, masculine

    : grass / weed killer

synonym: herbicide


A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse

Our neighbor, Jean-Marie, stopped by the other day to drop off a forklift--something we needed for our latest mise-en-bouteille.* While Jean-Marie was here, I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about gardening. Jean-Marie and his wife, Brigitte, have 50 hectares of vines... and a few potagers* to boot!

"I'm thinking of moving the tomatoes up here," I said to Jean-Marie, as we stood on the patch of grass just above the creek.

"In that case, you'll need to put up a wind-breaker... a row of thick buissons,* or something."

He had a point. After all, we were standing smack in the middle of the Rhône, where the wind blows down the valley... like a fleet of jet planes--upending anything that isn't anchored to the ground (or at least deeply-rooted, like our vines... or cemented in, like our home!). The tomatoes wouldn't stand a chance.

Speaking of thick buissons, or hedges, I asked Jean-Marie to identify a certain scratchy patch, just beyond the clothesline.
"Do you think we can burn that down?" I asked. "It is difficult to cut down, with all those thorns!"

The truth is, every time I hang out the clothes, that prickly hedge reaches out and bites me from behind!

Jean-Marie explained that those were chestnut shoots, fallen from a nearby arbre.* He added that they would make nice trees if we thinned them out.

I tried to picture the trees, and the soothing shade they would offer... instead of the stinging "bites"! Too bad we couldn't move the entire scratchy hedge over to the new tomato patch, let them sting the Mistral into submission instead!

Our next stop was the portail,* beside which I had been transplanting local flora, including a new, unidentified favorite: a rusty red grass that Mom and I had seen growing, en masse, near the town of Tulette. This vibrant herb would make a lovely contrast to the purple irises and Spanish Lily, two other "locals" that have made their way into our garden.

Mom and I had dug up a few samples of the exotic and colorful grass... and quickly transplanted it into our garden....

a vineyard near Tulette

Jean-Marie took one look at our botanical "find"... and chuckled as he identified it:

"C'est Roondoop".


The plant's name did not disappoint; it had just the je ne sais quoi that I would expect for such an exotic variety: Roondoop. I loved it!

"Oui..." Jean-Marie continued. "The grass turns red like that after the herbicide takes effect.

"Grass killer?"

That is when the dots connected: "Roondoop" was really "Roundup"! A désherbant used by some farmers to keep the weeds down in the vineyard.

No wonder we didn't have any of that "lovely red grass" growing here at our farm...

I quickly yanked the dead grass out of our garden before my organic-wine-farmer husband returned from his US wine tour... in time to scream "Quelle! horreur! Quelle horreur!"

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Feedback, corrections--and stories of your own!--are always appreciated and enjoyed. Thank you for using the comments box!

***Don't miss Jean-Marc's article "Désherber" and find out his views on herbicide.***

Also, see pictures from Jean-Marc's tour, in his "Thank You" post.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
la mis-en-bouteille (f)
= bottling; le potager (m) = vegetable garden, le buisson (m) = bush; un arbre (m) = tree; le portail (m) = gate

An excerpt from Saturday's Cinéma Vérité:
I named this court-métrage "Blond", so that I might share a scene with you from my first arranged meeting with Jean-Marc. There we were, February 1990, in a bistro along the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence....

It was our first date. I wore an over-formal black coat-dress, three-inch high heels, and many layers of make-up, behind which I peered out, amazed, at the young Frenchman who had asked me for my number, just days before. As he sat there, in jeans, studying me, I wondered what he was thinking (was everything okay? Was that an approving glance?....).

He was smiling, and he smiled as he spoke these words: ...

Read the rest of this story, and see the one minute movie (below) over at Cinéma Vérité.

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