How to say "little girl" (or small bottle) in French: une fillette + Maternal instinct
Zipper politics in France (!)

mangetout + the thrill of sowing seeds

sugar pea bean stalk (c) Kristin Espinasse
Smokey and the Beanstalk... this snapshot reminds me of a favorite fairy tale. (Pictured: the near transparent "mangetout" bean that sprang up in December--alongside the wire fence of the dogs' pen.  I love the camera perspective. Had the lens been moved that much more we might have placed Smokey on a branch... and sent him on a celestial journey. To think that even a slight shift in perspective could put us on a higher path today....) 

mangetout (manzh-too)

    : sugar pea or snow pea or snap pea

Mange tout means, literally, "eat all"--for the sugar pea's popular advantage: no need to shuck it, you can eat it whole

In old French a mangetout is a reckless spender--somebody who eats up his or her savings.


Beautifully renovated and decorated home in the Luberon. 4 bedrooms and a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. This villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.

Audio File:
listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence Download MP3 or Wav

On ne l'écosse pas le mangetout. On le mange comme ça.
We don't shell sugar peas. We eat them as is.

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

This week I'm as restless as a leaf. I don't feel like writing stories. I feel like sowing seeds!

There is nothing more fun than rushing outside with a handful of graines--especially in the morning when the ground is dewy and pliable! I love to poke seeds at random--par ici et par là--increasing the odds.

The things that come up! And in the most unexpected (or forgotten) places: sugar peas in the dog pen (in December!), snapdragons beside the restanque (in January!), melons in a field of cane! 

Planting par hasard is the fun way to garden.  No longer limited by rules ("plant 5cm apart, in partial shade, after frost") you can enjoy a try everything! freedom:

Try over there by the clothesline... try there by the parked cars... try there by mailbox... try there by the telephone pole... try there by the barbeque and there by the compost bin and there by the water spout.... 

Sow tomatoes and sunflowers and that pit in the apricot you're eating. Why not! Then be amazed when a snow pea blossoms along a crooked fence, its bright green leaves embellishing it. Enjoy the faint purple hue of coriander flowers beside the yellow garden hose. Be astonished when the snapdragon seeds you shoved in your jean pockets, in Spain--then accidentally ran through a wash cycle--offered up a fuchsia bouquet in France!

Begin to feel like maybe, just maybe, you're a budding gardener genius after all. Feel a little heady that the grain of creation you hold in your hand--the seed that is no longer than an eyelash--will, in three months time, tower above your 74-year-old aunt!

Meantime, rush outside--any time of year--to your yard or another's. Keep plugging seeds under the snow, beneath the leaves--even in the pockets of the trees!


Post note: ever heard of seed bombing (a.k.a. aerial reforestation)? It's also a movement whereby citizens make seed balls (water+clay+variety of seeds) then "bomb" unsightly curbs, forgotten industrial yards, and your neighbor's junk yard. Imagine sunflowers growing where garbage once collected, or snap peas climbing a broken fence! 

To respond to this story, click here.

French Vocabulary

une graine = seed
par ici et par là = here and there
la restanque = stone terrace used in agriculture
par hasard = by chance

 Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone. Click here for photos.

This nigella, or "love in a mist" appeared beside the cellar, born of seeds gathered from our former garden.

You may remember this beauty, which popped up beside the pool at our old home. I harvested plenty of its seeds and planted them here in the back yard....


After trying my luck the past few years--planting seeds beside the garage, by the clothesline, in Jean-Marc's wine barrels... last March we had rock beds built! (But it's still more fun to plant everywhere else!)


I seeded the beds with a wild sweep of the hand (picture skipping stones, only you're holding seeds instead). In addition to some whole plants I bought (zucchini, raspberry) hundreds of seeds grew.  See what came up, here!



Pancho says: what are "tree pockets?"

I'm on my way outside, now, with a pocket of seeds--and also an answer for Pancho! I leave you with a letter I received this week:


I had to forward this to you to read as Claudia and I were made known to each through your French Word a Day blog. Maybe this will help you understand just a bit of how much we appreciate your writing. God bless and love to Jules.

Best regards, Barbara (and Claudia) 

Thank you Barbara and Claudia for the story you sent! Here is the link for others who might enjoy it, too--and the wonderful artwork!

In the town where my husband was born, it was a thrill to see author George Sand's garden--which reminds me to tell you this: notice the plants and flowers all around--especially when they go to seed. Then fill your pockets with seed magic! To know that a little bit of George Sand's jardin is growing in my back yard--it's enough to make me want to settle down, finally, and write a story!


Speaking of seeds, check out what I gave my best friend for Christmas--I got this package for the variety (and not for fear the world is going to pot. Then again... :-)


A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


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Bill in St. Paul

Great pictures, Kristin. Your weather must be a LOT milder than here in St. Paul. It was above 30 yesterday, but a week ago we were around -20 or colder depending on the wind. So we won't be doing any planting for several months yet.


Not feeling like writing a story, hey?

I do love planting anywhere too. results are always unexpected and... great ! Your artichokes are a paradise for ladybirds ! I see achilleas... they remind me of beautiful dry "bouquets de fleurs" !

And.. the expression "as restless as a leaf" makes me smile ! Tu as la bougeotte !

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
Love the photo of the nigella and the photo of George Sand's garden with mustard plants? I love the bright yellow! I think people meet through your blog more than you know. I now follow Rose's blog, "Write Moments with God" because we found each other through your blog. Nice how things like this pull people together in a joyous way! Thanks!

Eileen deCamp

Hi again!
I have to admit that I didn't know who George Sand was. Jean-Marc is from Nohant? Loved learning about George Sand when I googled the name and learned she was a brilliant writer and lived a scandalous lifestyle. She lived with Chopin for twelve years.
Thanks again for the lovely, freestyle gardening technique. I am going to try it. We won't have our last freeze for awhile though, probably at the end of April. I saw a little air gun and a box of wildflower seeds the other day at a local garden store. Just load the little clay seed balls and shoot away!

Sh'reen Morrison

Hi Kristin,
I am the one who went to the Ammo Cafe in Hollywood, CA to have dinner and meet Jean-Marc. My name then was Lynn Tilson. I changed it legally
to Sh'reen Morrison. A name I have wanted for 20 years.
I have given some of your wine to the chef and manager at Mimi's Cafe in
Yuma, AZ. Also to a friend in Yuma who owns a vineyard in Placerville, CA.
I is called Miraflores.
Your photography is always glowing with life and as is your writing.
Both get better and better !
Have a good year. I think about you and Jean-Marc often.
Sh'reen Morrison.

Marcia Douglas

I did a double take too, seeing that you are sowing seeds, when last week here in NW Indiana it was a windchill of -40 F! Although, I can sow seeds indoors too! Refreshing to see green again!

gwyn ganjeau

oh kristin. how perfect that you included the link about the story of claudia and barbara. you sow waaaaaaaay more seeds than you give yourself credit for. my goodness. there are people who garden--and then there are people who ARE gardener. you, my dear, are the latter. you nurture more growth than you could possibly imagine.

Ruth Massaro

You are encouraging me SO much to take some chances in the dirt! I am too tentative: "Would it be ok to plant this here?". Thanks for the inspiration...."Just sow it !" my new motto. First up, Nasturtium seeds everywhere...
I am an avid reader of your posts, though I haven't commented much...I love your writing, expressions of feelings, often exactly what I feel, would say, would observe, if i had your talent and drive. Just gotta write you a fan letter now and then so you know....oh, yeah, and your photography! Breathtaking! Epoustouflant, oui ? Thank you!



So much to say regarding today´s of my all time favorites now. Loved the photo of your bedroom, first time I´ve seen it because the Fig tree has now dropped all of her leaves. Poncho can climb up to your terrace via the fig tree...all the photos are just fantastic. Also, years ago I am the one who told Barbara about your blog...he-he! just had to point that out and I also turned Eileen on to you a few years ago.

I could read a story like your´s today everyday of the kind of garden tale.

I love you Honey and wish I was with you right now.




I got a little carried away trying (confused) learning the phrase - see my Day 12 post (nobody reads it really except my friend Barry who is learning French now too)


Today's story was so encouraging after several days (last week) of extreme sub-zero temps (referred to above). Need to think about spring! But what I loved was the photo of the artichoke. Have that same plant on my own camera, from our visit two and a half years ago!!

Nancy,                     Cambridge

The weather here in Boston has been similar to Bill's in St Paul; not a chance to sow seeds today, but your story gives me hope that spring will show up soon! The last few years, I have had pumpkin, melon and tomato plants surprise me growing in places that were not planted by me...maybe old compost or a little help from the birds. It is indeed a delightful surprise- but it takes an experienced gardener to recognize the plants and not destroy them for weeds!.


It's called broadcasting seeds when you toss in a wide arc. After a bike ride in the gorge de Nesque, we were walking/snooping around Malaucene seeing 4 o'clock flowers everywhere and in all colors...they verigate. I started picking up the big black seeds and brought them home to San Francisco. They don't like the foggy weather here and never produced the beauty in that corner of France. Tant pis.


I live in Southern California, and the weather is cooperating so I am totally inspired to get busy planting thanks to your beautiful prose. FYI, I wound up on Barbara Andolsek's website because I was struck by Claudia's story and the beautiful art, and just bought one of her paintings: a bouquet in a jar. Tres apropos(?!?). Love it, what a beautiful day of discovery. Merci, Kristi, you brighten our lives in more ways than you know.

Heather in Arles

This post was such a lovely gift to those of us struggling with the winter blues--yes! Sow seeds and then look forward to the results. Wonderful. I don't have a garden right now but I can take that idea and apply it to other things too...

karen mckeon wilson

Your photography is as creative and unique as your writing! I love the one of Smokey and the bean stalk. The ideas in your writing are like seeds that will grow into something unique. Keep sowing the seeds and being a part of the magical creative process.

Karen from Phoenix

I too love the photos. Poncho loves getting up in the trees.

I have over years passed empty lots and thrown wildflower seeds. Nice to see them bloom beautiful flowers. Years ago a friend had died and at her funeral seeds were given out to make the word a more colorful place. I loved that.



Our dear Kristi,
Wht a beautiful post!Gorgeous pictures!You have made us want to embrace Spring in January!
Interesting how it has been so warm at both your home and ours here in the Western US.
I never remember such a mild Winter!
Natalia. xo

Joan Linneman

Very nice post today. It's interesting to see how the weather across the USA is so different and how we all deal with it. I'm one of the ones who was blasted with 15 below zero and didn't leave my house for two days. There's nothing like a pot of stew on the stove, popcorn, a ridiculous football game (like the Packer's playoff game) to enjoy on TV, all the time knowing that school has been canceled for the next day due to our "polar vortex."
I loved the art work in the attached story. "So many blogs, so little time!"
Joan L. in Kankakee, IL

Judi Miller

What an amazing job you and Jean-Marc did in creating your garden and potager! I want to find that first beauty - nigella, or "love in a mist." Smokey is a great docent! Very cute story!
I loved reading the story of your two readers and their wonderful connection. Thank you for sharing!

Nancy B.


Thanks so much for your positive voice. I have been enjoying your blog for some time now. I had to let you know how much I appreciate your perspective and kind voice. I was reading our local newspaper this morning and there was a story ( I didn't finish it, it was so upsetting) that was about evil and cruelty and I was having a hard time getting it out of my mine. I read your blog and it made remember that we all can do good acts and be kind and do our best to make life better. I will try to remember to press on with kindness and random acts of beauty. That is really all we can do. Merci.


Today's post made me long for spring. I have planted tulips for spring blooms but must wait for vegetables and other flower seeds to be sown.

Devra Long

I have always enjoyed being part of the FWAD community and I especially liked reading about Barbara and Claudia's special friendship! Although we are not pen pals, I have become facebook friends with Debbie Schuessler Zoernig who I "met" on this site! Last week she sent me birthday greetings in French and I was so touched!

Diane Young

What I wouldn't give to sow seeds and get all the great variety of things you get. It's pretty cold here right now (mornings in the30's), which is weird for Florida, but it happens some years. We are due for more below 32 degrees weather next week. So I think it's too soon to sow seeds, but as soon as it warms up some I'm going to try it. You make it look so appealing. Mme Johnny Appleseed, n'est-ce pas? How great the friendship that two
FWAD readers have now. Doesn't that warm your heart? Continuez votre bonnes faites.

Denise K.

This reminds of the the Book..The man who planted trees...L'homme qui plantait les arbres. It is a very nice story I use it in my classroom . Thanks for reminding me about it . DK

Vivian Wright

I had a home for many years in the Luberon region of France, where I became enamored of the light, the food and, of course, the gardens. I now live in Florida, and when renovating, I wanted to bring a bit of Provence into my home and garden. Imagine my joy when I walked into Authentic Provence in West Palm Beach (also online at The owners have sourced the most incredible French and Italian garden antiques and products: statues, fountains, planters (note especially the classic Caisse de Versailles, and Anduze pottery), terra cotta shields, stone animals, copper pots, garden spouts, and on and on. They have created an environment that took me right back to many afternoons spent in the beautiful homes and gardens of Provence. They are also very helpful in giving advice and even sourcing special items, and can arrange shipping anywhere in the USA. I highly recommend this business!

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