French? No, Jane Goodall speaks Chimpanzee!
We will never forget

brindille and a fun and sustainable activity + Winner of book giveaway!

Les brindilles-twigs

Notice the flower bed to the right--filled with hand-picked brindilles! Twigs = free mulch, and they're fun to gather, too! (Had I to redo this picture, I'd put bright fluffy pillows in the garden chair, and hang beaded curtains across the cabanon's entry. Can you picture it?)

une brindille (brein-dee)

    : twig, stalk, sprig

ramasser des brindilles = to gather, collect, or pick up twigs

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc. God knows I should! Download MP3 or Wav file

Les brindilles sont des rameaux minces. Ces petits morceaux de bois protègent et nourissent les plantes. Twigs are thin branches. These little pieces of wood protect and nourish plants.

Thanks to modern technology, I can now email my husband the example sentences (such as the one above). He then uses his Smartphone to do the recordings (killing the motor of his tractor, in time to do me the favor.) Then, presto!, he emails the file to me and it travels virtually--across the vine fields to our bedroom--where I type up these editions) How about that?!

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse


That rough patch we went through, me and you-know-who, eventually smoothed itself out--and would you believe a new passion grew out of it? I'm not talking about a rip-your-clothes-off passion (not when my family--and you, Dear Reader--might be reading), no, I'm referring to a new interest, an accidental hobby that's keeping me grounded these days.

Funnily enough, it was a real rough patch--one teeming with rocks, weeds, and concrete--in which my husband and I signed The Peace Treaty, using garden picks and not Sharpies. I had been bee-lining it through the yard, on my way past Jean-Marc (harrumph!), when I saw the riot of weeds in the cobbled stone lit. Ever since moving here, in the fall of 2012, I'd been meaning to tame that flower bed, but all the misplaced concrete was a put-off.

That's when I remembered a sure-fire remedy: Sweat Equity! It's a tool we sometimes use when suffering from The Couples' Blues and it goes like this: Why not put our energy into building up our homestead instead of tearing it down? Fast as that Jean-Marc and I were ripping out the weeds and chiseling concrete, with a goal of planting one more lavender row (oh the rows we've sowed!...).

Removing the misplaced béton from the bed was tough business--requiring a sledge hammer and a ton of elbow grease. My husband teased me when he noticed I'd sneaked off to work on a side-project, but I assured him my work was just as vital: by gathering all these little sticks, or brindilles, I was making sure my partner's work would not be in vain. (The last time Jean-Marc cleared a garden bed for me--it quickly grew back its weeds!)

Brindilles or twigs

By piling, around the plants, these broken branches--or what the French called BRF*--we could keep weeds from growing back--as well as keep moisture in! Plus, the twigs would eventually decompose, nourishing the lavender in its tidy row (a further advantage of all the hand-picked twigs: neatness). 

Hunched low to the ground, I noticed how relaxing the twig-gathering activity was. Were those endorphins coursing through my body? As my fingers roamed the earth's floor, I marveled, uncovering all kinds of treasures. Aside from twigs, there were broken faïences, dried almonds from the tree above, and even a metal pendant with rhinestones. Gosh, maybe it was platinum with diamonds? What did I know? 

I tucked the charm into my pocket, just as I'd done as a kid, filling my poches with findings from the wash, or flood bed, behind our neighborhood. How invigorating to roam the Phoenix desert, weaving in and out of the palos verdes, hunting for treasures and returning with wildflowers for my mom and the neighbors.

Scooting over to the Provençal boules court, on my hands and knees, I hit pay dirt. Some of the planks, which line the court, were rotting--shedding small piles of sticks. Mulch city! But there was competition, and I watched the omnipresent ants hauling off their share!

Les fourmis weren't the only obstacle. Gathering twigs when Smokey's around, c'est presque impossible! My golden can't resist poking me with his nose until HE is the unique object of my attention. And this is how I quickly became a one-armed forager. Luckily, the activity is just as agreeable with a furry arm rest on one side and, below, l'embarras de choix -- or an embarrasing variety of choice. (Don't you love the French expression for abundance?)

Back now, foraging beside my husband, who has almost finished excavating the flower bed, I notice he has on his new favorite shirt (you can see it at the end of this post). He's got a real color theme going for this summertime, and it's neon jaune. His shoes are yellow, too--and so is his Smartphone!

"I've got a new name for you," I say.

"Ah, bon. Qu'est-ce que c'est?"

"Mellow Yellow."

The joke is not lost on him and we both laugh at how riled up we can get when we disagree on things.

Next, I'm careful to laugh at myself. Passions are an all or nothing thing for me. I can't just collect a few brindilles, I've got to have a giant stick factory!

What a picture, squatting there, fists full of my favorite new commodity, a mile-high wood pile growing beside me. Just call me "Twiggy."


To respond to this story, click here. Note, I'm still editing today's post, feel free to share corrections in the comments box. Thanks. Will add to the vocabuary section soon, here

French Vocabulary

le lit = bed
le béton = concrete
la faïence = earthenware
une poche = pocket
*BRF = bois raméal fragmenté ramial chipped wood

  Seeds of Hope Jane Goodall

WINNER of our book giveaway....

Dana, are you reading? You were comment number 30 (automatically generated number) in the "humble oneself post" and you've won Jane's book: Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants. Email me, Dana (who wrote "Those naughty dogs might have led you to a new friend"), and I will ship you your book. Félicitations!

Smokey and rock wall
 Out of time now... so much more to say about les brindilles. What a soothing activity, now part of my daily routine. P.S. Can you spot Smokey? And the boules? No, that's not a hulo hoop! It's a piece broken off of my husband's wine barrel. Hey... more mulch! Comments welcome here.

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


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So glad to hear of the sweet harmony back in your life : )

Eileen deCamp

Great story today Kristin! I can picture a little pillow and a beaded curtain on the cabanon. I bet your mom would love to spend time there! Glad there is household harmony! :-)

Chris Allin

Aha...the technology twist to your recordings would explain the occasional wind behind the voice! You both seem well grounded, Kristin, with roots that run deep. No surprise that after the storm, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow runs over. Thanks for the new perspective for the multitude of twigs in our woodland garden. Mulch....but of course!

Kathleen from Connecticut


I never thought of using sticks or twigs for my garden. I buy mulch to spread all around my plants. What an unique idea.

I have been watching my lavender and it has not been sprouting new leaves. I hope that I did not cut it back too much this year. I don't want to have to buy new plants, so I will keep my fingers crossed that it does start to grow soon.

I love to garden but I have to keep warding off the deer and rabbits and an occasional ground hog. They love the salad bar which I provide for them.


Darlene Pajo

The pseudo hula hoop could be transformed into the frame for a mirror. Or perhaps I've been browsing too many home decorating websites!


J'adore votre blog! je suis indienne et j'apprends cette langue maintenant. votre methode d'explication est tres bon! pardonnez-moi, il n'y a pas des accents sur le laptop de mon mari!

Bon chance!


Lavender & mulch! Aha! You're giving me gardening ideas!


You are such a wonderful writer! Your stories are from the heart, of the heart and for the heart. Thank you from the bottom of mine!

Suzanne Dunaway

The brindilles are very charming, but it will take years for them to break down, whereas paillis breaks down very, very fast and you will have NO WEESDS--EVER!!!!Cuts down on work no end, but the gathering of twigs appears to be a pleasant pastime so...
my twigs all go into the fireplace!

Suzanne Dunaway

Make that "weeds"...

catharine ewart-touzot

think the pillow and door flap sound charming..wondering if you and your daughter also use the boules court..when I was last there women were definitely "discouraged". I have taken to sharing this on facebook, with many positive comments.My "dog account"has
1000+ Old English Sheepdog fanciers worldwide..quite a few in France although my time there I never saw another Old English.


Thank you very MULCH :-) Kristin for this charming posting.


Linda R.

l'embarras de choix - quelle bonne expression : ) I like your backyard court - colorful pillows and beaded entry might be lovely as well. "Summer-like weather" has finally arrived along the Montana Hi-Line - brings a smile this morning. Bon weekend.

Susie Wampler

I live on San Juan Island in Washington State and we are a non-GMO county. People that care are working hard. Love our Farmers! Thanks for sharing Kristin. xoxo

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

I love this post Kristin --- thanks. The photos are great, but where's the photo of JM in his summer outfit? Did I miss it?

I love the phrase Mellow Yellow! Be well.

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Oops! Found the photo from the LAST post! Merci!

Kristin Espinasse

Chris, good to know you can sometimes hear the wind and the background melody!

Darlene, great idea for a mirror. The old wine barrel belt has been begging for a project. Sadly, it does not live with a crafty gal :-)

Avi, welcome! We are so happy to have you with us!

Suzanne, I did take your idea and use the straw. Boy did it break down fast! 

Catharine, Thank you for sharing these on FB! Re girls and boules, Jackie sometimes plays and I rarely do, though I see French women enjoying the sport.

As Alain says, thank you very mulch for these delightful notes. What a pleasure to read your feedback! Happy weekend. 

Diane Young

Great idea - twigs as mulch. The price is right. Glad you and JM are reconciled once more. Here we will be celebrating Memorial Day on Monday. Let's all commemorate the brave who gave that we might live.


Dear Twiggy, I must follow suit and go out to gather brindilles. The base of the pine tree in front of our house needs a lot of work. It's a great idea to use twigs as mulch.


Our dear Kristi,
Only you could write about brindilles and
turn the story into magic!Ekphrasis all over again!
Best part: harmony in your life has returned. You've been in our prayers.
What a wonderful way to begin the weekend!
You've wrapped us in hugs!
Natalia XO

Debby Howell, West Linn, OR

This is an adorable, wonderful story. All charming and positive and informative!

Cynthia Lewis

That Smokey is one lovable fellow and constant companion. I can feel the love and happiness in your writing glad for all of you. My best wishes, Cynthia

Leslie NYC

I love your photos. The one of brindilles could be a beautiful screen-saver. And Smokey is the same color as the rocks and boules court--native camouflage. It's good to have mulch that doesn't break down quickly, unlike compost, in my experience.
I also find it impossible to be depressed or cross if I am out gardening. It brings me right into the present and towards something other than myself.
Glad you are in a better rhythm than before. You were due for some ease in life.
Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm`

GREAT ideas, Twiggy!

Happy Mother's Day!

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