The Secret Revealed: word for rip current or undertow in French
N'importe quoi: Deported from France, Kristin dusts herself off and imagines the ideal career.

Tractopelle and Goings on Around here

Olive trees, sunflowers and more grape vines on the way! Thanks for reading today's story, below.

TODAY'S WORD: Tractopelle

    : digger, backhoe

Hear Jean-Marc pronouce today's word and example sentence
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Pour préparer le terrain de mes futures vignes, j'utilise un tractopelle qui enlève les souches des arbres et permet de niveler le terrain. To prepare the field for my future vines, I'm using a backhoe that removes tree trunks and allows the terrain to be levelled. al properties throughout France

by Kristin Espinasse

There's a rumble out in the fields, clouds of dust are floating down through the meadow and I don't trust that giant roving tractopelle around my dog! Such are my thoughts as Smokey and I remain holed up inside this morning, while the land around our farmhouse is being leveled for the next vine planting in March.

Today Jean-Marc is away helping another Bandol winemaker bring in a harvest.  So that leaves Smokey and me and this disconcerting bruit! Yesterday, that giant backhoe was like a bull in a china shop. As I stood out on our bedroom terrace, watching its massive arm claw towards our home, I called to Jean-Marc who stood behind the house. "It hit the olive tree! The tractor hit the tree!" shouted. The cracking sound from the  300-year-old tree being repeatedly whacked as the tractor cab whipped back and forth was too much to bear.  I ran inside and called my mom.

"Kristi," she said, "You need to go for a drive somewhere and let those men work. Quit torturing yourself." I followed Mom's advice and headed to peaceful ground--the supermarket. Food is a good comforter!


This morning that old olive tree is intact, and so am I. The kitchen door is cracked open should I be called on for help, and in case I can't hear the call, I have Smokey here beside me practicing his own little rumble in cadence with all the unusual sounds. 

When Smokey's growls turned to barks, I opened the door to Roland, who is back to restore an old puit, or well, located in the field above our home. Roland gleaned many of the materials from our yard, including an iron lintel which was discarded when we knocked out part of a wall to put in the giant window seat.


Near the lintel, you can see where Roland is replacing the missing stones, using mortar to hold them together.

"Do you have an old door?" Roland asked, his eyes already roving our front yard.

I stepped out of the kitchen and joined Roland in the search, pointing out a few possibilities: "There is our old wedding table," I said, as we passed by the tabletop leaning against the wine cellar. Wouldn't it be nice to give it a new life--as a door?

Hélas no, the broken tabletop would not work. Roland and I continued our scavenger hunt, past the sunflower field, its drying flowers slumped over their wrist-thick stems. We crossed over the pétanque court, stepping over a carpet of fallen figs. And there, behind the house, I saw it, an old wooden shutter.

"Cela fera l'affaire!" That ought to work, Roland announced. "And there are gonds, too. Parfait!"

As Roland walked away with the old shutter and the salvaged hinges, I felt a skip in my step returning to my post as "standby helper". A much better position to be in than that of a worrywart.

*    *    *

Thank you very much to the previous owners, Michael and Maggie, who sent us some photos of what this land looked like in the 60's. You can see the field behind our house, where Jean-Marc will plant more vines this spring. But it looked nothing like this photo (taking in 66') when we moved here. The field had returned to its natural state, bursting with thyme, rosemary, and a jungle of interesting plants. In the photo where you see petit pois, or peas, Jean-Marc will plant his vines.

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


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Julie in St. Remy

Love this post, Kristin! I love the idea of using old bits and pieces for new seeing the how you head to the grocery story when you're that that beautiful olive tree survived. Just great! xx

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you,  Julie. =-)   We are having a wine tasting on the afternoon of the 26th of September if you,  or friends reading here,  would like to join us.

Lee Mears

As a long-time member of the "Worry Wart" club, I can truly empathize with you after reading this post! For example, here's my worry wart instant reaction when I first saw the photo of the well with the open door (before I finished reading). "Oh my gosh, Smoky could fall down into that well!" See what I mean? That's a typical "worry wart" reaction.


Loved your post this morning as usual. I'm sure jean-Marc is exited to add to the vineyard. I wanted to say Don't let fear take over you. I too have a new fear I haven't shared to anyone yet. I haven't been afraid of anything in a very long time. With everything that has been happening here in America, I am starting to second guess going to a movie or other places at certain times. I feel safer at work, which is crazy because that's where something can really happen, and I will be responding to it and helping those in need. We have been doing active shooter drills with police. I guess at work I subconsciously feel protected. Most we come in contact with are just ill or injured, not out to harm anyone, but there have been exceptions. I won't go into it, but I wanted to say I handle it. I don't watch the news but my parents and a friends keep me updated at times, knowing I don't want to know what is going on out there. Let's not let fear take over us. It is not a good feeling.

On a good note...Loved the pictures today. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,

Love this post and looking back at the old photos of your home! It's nice to look back and fun to look forward to what you are doing with the property! Hopefully one day I will be able to join in on a wine tasting!

Kathleen from Connecticut


More vines. That is great. As we headed to Sanary sur Mer we stopped at the restaurant on a corner to get a lunch ( but our timing was off as usual). We thought that maybe that was your road and viola, it was. You now have vines to street. You are growing by leaps and bounds.

Kathleen and Dean,now in Montpellier

Cynthia P. Lewis

Thank you, Kristin, for a peek into a day of living next to a vineyard in progress! Your photos are wonderful and you and Smokey are "holding down the fort" with panache even though a soothing trip to the grocery store was needed. ( No doubt you will have of your delicious tomato tortes ready for dinner). Best wishes!


Our dear Kristi,
You are awesome!You face a fear and overcome it!
I only wish I showed the same courage and wisdom when dealing with similar,worrisome situations.
Also loved how you headed to the market("when things get tough,the tough go shopping!")
Beautiful pictures and another beautiful post!
Natalia. Xo


Enjoy this mornings post very much - I would have been worrying about that beautiful olive tree just like you did. such a wise mother you have - go away and the grocery is always good in a stressful time. Did you buy the ingredients for mac and cheese? thanks for a heart warming start to my day. Nancy

Joan L.

Are "les gonds" hinges? Joan L.


And I think you meant "discarded" when you wrote that the iron lintel had been "disguarded."


As Mara said: it's discarded rather than disguarded.

And I can't 'bear' to see 'bear' spelled 'bare'!
I'm likely to "sortir de mes gonds!".... Just kiddiiing :)


Oh, my! This whole clearing business looks like a major effort! I just can't imagine the fortitude. It looks like way more work than I can even imagine and I so admire the drive, the resolve to further the vineyard!! Amazing devotion! Hear, hear, Jean-Marc!! And, that dear sweet stone well - fabulous! I loved the pics today, as always. Please send one when the shutter door gets placed. It reminds me of you getting the heart door onto the cabanon. Your Mom is so smart - good for you taking her up on her suggestion!

Kristin Espinasse

Than you all for taking the time to write.  I love to read your comments!
Jacqueline  and Mara,  your corrections are so helpful,  and yes,  Mara,  a gond is a hinge. The French also say,  sortir de ses gonds (to come unhinged or to come undone),  as Jacqueline hinted.

Diane Young

Formidable! I would be going nuts, too, with all the "bruit". Life certainly isn't dull for long at chez vous. It's kind of exciting to see all the recycling of things, showing the Gallic imagination.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

The olive trees at Mas des Brun are enchanting and seem to have had new life breathed into them after the grand pruning. So glad the one tree stood up to the brutal backhoe beating! And now the field is being transformed. Imagine how peaceful it will become after all the noise and clatter, as the baby vines expend their quiet energy putting down roots and thriving in the nurturing sun (hopefully interrupted by a gentle rain now and then) and being watched over by the olive trees.

I loved Jules' advice to leave the chaos. And I loved the fact that you found purpose in helping Roland. And sweet Smokey, always offering a photo op. Amazing how you capture him in motion and frame him in the most creative ways. (I still think of his Mama Breizh...)

We appreciate everything you share with your readers about life in France. It almost makes us feel as if we are there with you~

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Thanks for sharing, Kristin. We are not only entertained, but we learn and grow as you learn and grow. I wish many blessings to you, yours, and your property.

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