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Entries from September 2010

vendange

Mr_espinasse
My better French half, "Chief Grape": king of the vines in his grenache-tinted "robe" (photo taken 3 years ago). Today we begin our 4th harvest for the red wine! 


la vendange (von-donzh) noun, feminine

    1. grape/wine harvest or vintage
    2. grapes (harvested); grape crop


vendanger (von-don-zhay) verb
    1. to pick or to harvest grapes

synonyms: la récolte (harvesting, crop), le ramassage (collection), la cueillette (picking)

.

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

Welcome to Grape Camp!

Grab a bucket and follow me out to the vines today. Got a windbreaker? Casquette? Sunglasses? Courage? Good, you'll need them!

Now reach into our flat-bed camion and get yourself a pair of sécateurs and some gants. Pull them on. Voilà!

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Go ahead. Choose a vine row. There are many! Trip over a giant galet or two as you make your way over to the grapes. Set down your bucket next to a gorgeous pied de vigne—its leaves already burnt orange and crumbling from the ten day old Mistral. Feel the wind whip your hat off and gasp, mournfully, as you watch your sun shield billow over a field of vines. One less comfort... Get used to it!

Reach down, down, down, and gather a bunch of grapes. Take precautions (distinguish your fleshy fingers from the blue fruit). Now position your shears.... Clip! Relieve the branch of its heavy fruit. Aahhhh.... Watch the vine spring back, feeling lighter on its feet. As for you, you'll carry that weight, bucket by bucket till the sun goes down. Hup, two, three, four! Hup, two, three, four....

By the eighth or ninth vine put your hand on the small of your back, feel the pain in your reins, and let out a nervous chuckle—mumbling something about how you ought to take up yoga! Now look up, amazed, at the reality before you: an interminable field of vines! Listen as your chuckles turn to chokes, sobbing chokesMon Dieu, whatever gave you the idea that harvesting French grapes was something like romantic?
DSC_0012

Continue to bend, stoop, and sometimes sit.... the 40-year-old vines "en goblet" are back-breakingly low to the ground. They hide their grapes well under a parasol of leaves (you'll need to crawl under the slumping vine in order to reach the grapes). The wind, now in full force, gives you a little kick and, fast as that, you're kissing the trunk where all the little balls of fruit are clustered. Chuck those grapes in the bucket, push yourself back up off the ground, and get a move on! This isn't a vacation, c'est la vendange!

Crash! You've stumbled again. Time to take your pick of juicy French expletives (you've learned plenty from the pickers) and curse those *@#!! WEEDS that have just tripped you up again, leaving scratches and, soon, swelling. Curse organic farmers and their fields of mauvaises herbes! On second thought, hats off to organic farmers and their fields of meter tall weeds (while they may be a harvester's hell on earth, weeds are a sign that the grapevines have been spared of herbicides).

What's that? You say you need to use the powder room? Well, Laaah DEEE daaaah! The "powder room" is right here! Ne soyez pas si prude! Just drop your drawers! 

Huh? Worried someone might see you? Well, then, there's a cypress tree at the end of this field. But hurry up, we need you back here illico presto!

Off you trot while your fellow harvesters giggle and snort. Oh, go on, no one's watching!

Back to work now and shhh! Don't talk so much. See that big guy over there with the queue de cheval? That's my brother-in-law (the self-elected supervisor). He checks buckets by the minute. Make sure yours is full and don't blame it on the dull shears (as I did, last time he checked) or he'll teach you an old French farming dicton:

"Il n'y a pas de mauvais outils, il n'y a que de mauvais ouvriers!"
(There are no bad tools, only bad toilers!)

What's that? You say you're thirsty? Didn't you bring a water bottle? Never mind. Have a slug of this. No, it isn't milk. There's water (albeit murky) inside.... It was the only container Chief Grape could find. Lord knows he isn't finicky about gourdes, only grapes. Grapes! Grapes! Bring in the grapes!

DSC_00121
"Ten more buckets and you can stop!" Chief Grape shouts. No, he's not talking to you, Grapehead! (Nor, to me!) He's talking to our twelve-year-old son, telling him that the boy's shift is almost over.

Mwahahaha! As for you—we have YOU for the day. Now get on with it! No talking! ALLEZ! Hup, two, three, four. Hup, two three four.... Welcome to grape camp!

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections and comments are most welcome. Thank you for leaving a message here, in the comments box. 

French Vocabulary

la casquette = cap
le camion = truck
le sécateur = pruning shears 
le gant = glove
voilà! = there you go!
le galet = stone 
le pied de vigne = vine stock
le mistral = a powerful, cold, northern wind
le reins = lower part of back (avoir mal aux reins = to have pain in the lower back)
mon Dieu = my God
en gobelet = vines that are low to the ground, untrained, shaped like a gobelet
c'est la vendange = it's harvest time
les mauvaises herbes = weeds
ne soyez pas si prude = don't be such a prude
illico presto! = right away!
queue de cheval = ponytail
la gourde = water bottle


 DSC_00031

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:: Audio File ::
Listen to my daughter (9-years-old at the time of this recording...) pronounce today's word & quote:
Comme les vendanges, les amours tardives* sont les plus délicieuses.
Download vendange.mp3
Download vendange.wav
.

Terms & Expressions:
  une vendangeuse, un vendangeur = a grape picker
  une bonne vendange = a good vintage
  les vendanges = grape harvesting time
  un vendangeoir = a grape-picker's basket
  la vendange en vert = a green harvest (crop/cluster thinning)
  vendanger une vigne = to harvest a vine
  pendant les vendanges = during the grape harvest
  faire les vendanges = to harvest or pick the grapes
  vendanger de bonne heure = to get an early start on the harvesting

  DSC_0025

Comme les vendanges, les amours tardives sont les plus délicieuses. / Like the grape harvest, love gathered late is the most delicious. --Jean Amadou

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fut

Les Chaises (c) Kristin Espinasse
Colorful chairs, in Cassis, remind me of diversity—and all the new faces that we'll soon see: harvest volunteers coming from as far away as London and Californie!

fût (fuu) noun, masculine

: keg, barrel, cask
: stock (of rifle), handle (of saw), stem (of candelabrum)

Audio File : Download WAV or Download MP3 and listen to these French words:

Jean-Marc a fait livrer des fûts de bière. Jean-Marc had kegs of beer delivered.

 

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

I stare, suspiciously, as another piece of equipment is delivered to this farm. I have my doubts, as I did when the sea cargo containers arrived... after all, this is a vine-yard and not a ship-yard!

And while we are minding misnomers, let's get one more thing clear: what we do here is wine—not beer!

I study the installation: this time no heavy cables, cranks, or cranes are needed to transfer the units from the truck's flatbed to the ground—only three sets of arms... and three beer bellies! 

  DSC_0072

 Beer on tap! Chief Grape has just had two kegs delivered! Just a little extra motivation for our volunteer harvesters, who will soon be braving the heat and all the hard work! Judging from last year's harvest, beer is the unanimously popular refresher.

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                                                               Coffee anyone? Only one whisker-faced taker.

But why beer? And why not chilled wine? you ask (Don't ask!). I quit asking months ago, but that doesn't stop me from doubting:

"I do not think this is a very good idea..." I comment, sharing my doubts about unlimited draught. "After lunch, the harvesters are going to zigzag back to the grape field!" And what will this amount to vis-à-vis grape yield???

DSC_0083

I ask Thierry (pictured above) the delivery man from Brasserie Alphand, just how many liters are there in those fûts

"Cinquante de blonde et trente d'ambrée."

"Quatre-vingt litres!"

(Jean-Marc points out that there are two kegs of bière blonde...)

I do the arithmetic: one hundred and thirty liters of beer divided by 14 days of harvest, divided by 12 harvesters.... 

DSC_0074
What with the bad boys and their toys... looks like we're in for a rock-n-roll vendange this year!

 

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, questions, and comments are most welcome! Thank you for leaving a message here, in the comments box

 
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Smokey says Beer! The bees won't be the only ones buzzin' round here.

DSC_0012

Smokey would like to share this French saying, sent in by his dear friend Carol, in Belgium:

La bière après le vin c'est du venin mais le vin après la bière c'est super!
(Beer after wine is like venom but wine after beer is super!) 

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rabais

Smokey

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Today's Word: rabais

rabais (rah-beh) noun, masculine

: discount, reduction

Listen to our daughter, Jackie, pronounce these words: Download MP3 or Download WAV

Obtenez un rabais de $7 dollars quand vous achetez mon livre.
Receive a $7 dollar reduction when you buy my book. 



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

Yesterday was a BIG day for Chief Grape. His wine cellar expanded twofold! Space has been one of the biggest issues (or casse-têtes!) since Jean-Marc decided to produce wine here at the farm. For the past three years he has littéralement worked around the problem: crawling on hands and knees over the cement tanks (the tops of which double as storage space...) and squeezing in and out among the cases of wine which line the center of his cave. Lately, things have become so pinched that it's all he can do not to suck in his stomach when inching past the equipment. Pardonnez-moi for these little amplifications of the truth, but if Chief Grape hasn't exactly had to rentrer le ventre, he has indeed been pinched for space.

The space problem may not have caused the accidents that he has had in the cellar (in particular, the one in which he fell off the grape press... and the other in which he was nearly knocked out by a piece of heavy, falling equipment), no, these accidents were due more to fatigue than to lack of space. But what is sure is that lack of space has greatly led to fatigue! 

After studying several space-expanding possiblities—all too pricey or legally dicey (for in building an extension to the cellar some rules might be overlooked...)—Chief Grape settled on a unique solution: the maritime shipping container!

Photo

These former cargo containers, or conteneurs "Dernier Voyage" (so called after their retirement from years of ocean travel) are a welcome addition to our eclectic grape farm!  Jean-Marc will soon fit them with a heating and cooling system, while Uncle Jacques will take care of insulation. Eventually these dented "dernier voyagers" will be stocked with farm equipment and wine!

Initially skeptical of their ability to feng shui or groove with this Gallic winery... a recent revelation has me thinking that they are not the eyesores I thought they would be. Perhaps this has to do with their history... and all those bumps and bruises they sport (for who can help... but feel compassion for their sort?). 

So bienvenue dear, retired seafarers! Do make yourselves at home, here in the wild and windy Rhône.  

***

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, questions, and comments are most welcome here, in the comments box. Click here to leave a message. 


French Vocabulary

le casse-tête = headache (problem)

littéralement = literally

la cave = wine cellar

pardonnez-moi = excuse me

rentrer le ventre = to hold in the stomach

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boheme

The other Jackie (c) Kristin Espinasse

In a sea of vines... a favorite friend of mine.

bohème (bo em) m,f

= bohemian

 Synonyms: vagabond, indépendant, original, or counterculturist
. 

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

"Harvest Heroines"

(Part I of the harvest is over and the girls have gone. This story is for them.)

Heroines with hot peppers in their hearts, they sizzle with mystery and soul. I want to wade in the whites of their eyes, lingering long enough to ride the evening tide. Into their hippy hearts I shall slide!

There, on the surface of the sea, above the soul's cavity, I will be wild and free, tattoos on my hips, tattoos on my knees. I'll cut my hair hither and thither, or shave it off altogether!

Hélas they are gone and yet I remain, little much more than squarely the same.

***

 

My sister-in-law Cécile
My sister-in-law, Cécile

Jackie and Aurelie

Pictured: "Jackie from Scotland," left, Aurélie, right. The girls will be back on Sunday for the second part of the harvest. (Photo taken last year, when Mama Braise had her puppies. I think that might be Smokey, there in Jackie's arms.)

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, questions, and messages are most welcome  here, in the comments box. 

 

Jackie, Jean-Marc, Aurelie, and Daniel (c) Kristin Espinasse
Hither-thither-haired Jackie, left, Aurélie, right. Far right: Daniel-Gérard (American), who wishes he spoke better French so as to appreciate the fun and funny girls.

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montagnes russes

DSC_0012
On the fold-out bed, comparing notes. From left to right: Aurélie, Jackie ("Jackie from Scotland""), and I. More harvest photos on the way....

montagnes russes (mohn tan roos) noun (f,pl)

: roller coaster

 

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

A full day. What more can one hope for but a full day? Yesterday was one of those: plein!  

Here is but a compte rendu:

  • Max began lycée
  • Our golden retrievers ran away
  • The grape harvest began
  • And, finally, a second edition!

With equal parts excitement and emotion, we rode the roller coaster, with its mountains of grapes and its valleys of escape (where were the dogs? Where had they gone?!)

During uncertain times it helps to remember: we are but passengers. We ride the montagnes russes, we do not drive or conduct them. The best we can do is to buckle our seat belts and have faith (or wear a crash helmet).

So it was that at the end of the day... the grapes were picked and the wine was already being made. And, before the moon rose over Mount Windy, I looked east and offered one more plea:

Come home! Braise! Smokey! C-o-m-e h-o-m-e!

My eyes bore into the field beyond, vines laden with ripening fruit. I was scanning night's horizon when two flickers of Golden light caught me by surprise, putting a stop to these wildly roving eyes.


***
Post note: After a 10 hour escapade, Smokey made it home first, followed by Mama Braise. Grateful, thankful, reconnaissant - what word can describe the feeling? No words, finally, only jumping and squealing.

 Le Coin Commentaires: 
Corrections, questions, and comments are most welcome. Click here to leave a message.


French Vocabulary


plein(e)
= full

le compte rendu = a run down, report 

le lycée = high school

montagnes russes (fem. and always used in the plural)  = roller coaster

reconnaissant(e) = grateful

 

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Our two newest harvesters: Daniel-Gérard, left, and Alexis, right.

DSC_0011
Sharing recipes... stay tuned!

DSC_0007-1
Smokey and his belles de nuit. Gone is the cone! He is healing beautifully.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
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emission

Max and the Crew
Our son Max, left, joking with the camera crew. Enjoy a free subscription to French Word-A-Day via Email or RSS 


émission (ay me syon) noun, feminine

: transmission (television), broadcasting; program; emission (sound, fluid)
. 

Audio File and Example Sentence listen to 15-year-old Max pronounce these words: Download MP3 orWAV


Jean-Marc va à Marseille pour l'enregistrement d'une emission télé.
Jean-Marc is going to Marseilles to tape a television program.

 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
"Chief Grape goes to Follywood"

Not everything that could go wrong did... and only a few mésaventures yesterday morning when a film crew showed up at our winery. 


DSC_0018

Par exemple, I hadn't planned to mop the floor (minding all those camera cords) minutes before the interview, but who could blame Smokey for loosing his "waters," what with all the commotion?

DSC_0005
(Can you see Mama Braise in the background?)

DSC_0043

While the équipe de France 3 scoped the property, my husband—for whom all this mise-en-scène came about (he will be appearing soon on a TV program called "Talent")—had a word with me:

"C'est bon, chérie," that's good enough, Dear, Jean-Marc said, shooing me away from the balai espagnol and the wet kitchen tiles in time to get fitted with a microphone. It was time to chat with the interviewer... about Chief Grape, our talented winemaker!

DSC_0002-2
(Notice the pink rose trémière or hollyhock... one must always stop and look at the roses. By the way, it is September 1st and this beauty is still giving us flowers—since the second week of June! P.S.: meet the crew: Frédéric (above, left) and Franco, right and below, left. Jeff, below (middle) and Hervé, right)

 
DSC_0005-1
So far the set is looking good, and the crew, too! Only one thing they forgot to bring... a make-up artist!

"Pas de souci!" I dashed back through the kitchen, over the wet floor, and up the stairs to fetch my trousse de toilette. Returning with a powder and a giant brush, I dusted the journalist

DSC_0027

"Sérieusment," I said to the crew, "si vous avez besoin d'une maquilleuse... je suis disponible!" If you need a make-up artist—I'm yours!  

DSC_0026-2

Instead they politely asked me to take a seat.... C'est l'heure!

I told Hervé, pictured above, middle--arms in the air--that he was just begging to be tickled guili-guili, standing there like that. Teasing the lighting engineer and the crew helped ease any green-room jitters (the green room being all those grape vines in the fields beyond.)

DSC_0030

After a half-dozen takes—illico presto!—we were done. Next, they wanted our son!

DSC_0038-1
Max, right, talking about life as a winemaker's son.

DSC_0040

Meantime, Chief Grape (right), Mama Braise, and Alexis (Jean-Marc's apprentice) carry on. A farmer's work (seemingly glamorous) is never done!

Post note: For those of you who live in the South of France, you might tune in to France 3's émission "Talent" on September 25th at 4:15!  And many thanks to Jeff, Franco, Frédéric, and Hervé for coming out here to film us!

Le Coin Commentaires
Questions, corrections, and comments are most welcome. Thank you for leaving a message here.

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.
French Vocabulary

une mésaventure = mishap

par exemple
= for example

l' équipe (f) de France 3
= the team at France 3  

la mise-en-scène = the stage setting 
la balai espagnol = mop

pas de souci = no worries

C'est l'heure = It's time

le guili-guili = tickle tickle 

la trousse de toilette = makeup bag (also toiletry case) 


When you buy any item at Amazon, via the following links, your purchase helps support this French word journal.
 


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"La Vie En Rose" cooking is fine compilation of rustic French foods... --Publishers Weekly. Check out this book for click here to order!

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 DSC_0007

DSC_0019
Jean-Marc was not interviewed for this segment. Here he is, taking a break from cellar work. The swelling around his eye (from the wasp sting) has gone down....

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
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