Archive for the 'Gardening' Category

Joie de vivre

Posted in Cats, Gardening at 15:57

Grass, delicious grass

This is truly a photo that speaks for itself.

These are pots of grass I planted for Kanoko — real wheat seeds I found in the seed for sprouts section of an organic grocery market here (Diététique Malausséna). This way I have a big bag of seeds that I can replant as often as needed. Kanoko loves his pots of grass: he’ll sit on them and enjoy himself.

Today I got Kanoko a harness, and am delighted — he understood it wasn’t a toy after just two “no”s when he tried playing with the lead, and then trotted around the apartment building hallway without a problem. As soon as he’s less wary of the hallway we’ll venture further. Malo abhorred the harness I tried on him as a kitten… even after several patient, gentle tries he would wail and fight it so energetically that I could never get the lead on. It’s great that Kanoko seems to accept a harness! I would love to walk him on weekends.

Three months old

Posted in Gardening at 13:47


Today is about when Kanoko turns three months old. I took an hour to attempt photographing him outside — as those familiar with kittens know, they have two states: hyperactive and asleep. I somehow managed to get three good pictures of him though: the one shown here (which can be compared to a photo taken three weeks ago), a shot of him on his scratching post where you can see how his whiskers are growing out, and a photo where Kanoko shows off his muscles. He’s pretty good about climbing less often, and he does come down on his own when I say “descends !” (“get down!”), but… he’s a kitten.

It’s clearer now that he’s not a full-bred Maine Coon since he doesn’t have the tell-tale tufts of fur between his toes, plus he has an undershot chin. (Not that the standard matters to me personally — he’s a beautiful and adorable cat.) He certainly has a lot of Maine Coon in him anyway: his gradual-length coat, very full tail and tufted ears are really characteristic. It’s merely a question of curiosity, to have an idea of what to expect in terms of his future size and personality. Considering how his paws still seem to be growing faster than the rest of him, he’s probably going to be a big one!

I am still gardening too. My tillandsia (air plants) are doing well, with one of the ionantha rubra now growing a baby plant. No lemons have ripened yet — they do take a while, and the main crop will probably be in winter. I’ll start watering my cyclamen again soon, as it’s the time of year when they start to come out of their summer hibernation period. I’m looking forward to their beautiful colors.

Terrace in August

Posted in Gardening, Home improvement, La France, Nice at 13:17

Terrace in August

First thing this morning, I went and bought some more fine wire to cover the terrace’s remaining hand-sized holes and prevent my inner courtyard neighbor (her part is to the left in this photo) from carrying out her threats to poison my kitten. The entire terrace is now enclosed with wire that has 1cm squares, so unless she takes wire cutters to it, Kanoko (kitty) is much safer now. It’s a huge relief.

In France, the vast majority of stores are only open from 9 or 10am to noon, then from 2pm to 6 or 7pm, and from Mondays to Saturdays. Chain stores generally stay open at lunch time. Almost no stores are open on Sundays (in general it’s best to expect they’re all closed). I’ve come to appreciate it because it’s better for the employees, and it makes you get things done during normal waking hours. The obvious downside is that in an emergency, such as a neighbor threatening to kill your 3-month-old kitten on a Saturday evening after closing time, you have to either take a day off work to go to the store, or wait until the upcoming Saturday to buy what’s needed to keep the neighbor at bay. (I made do until Saturday with leftover wire on a particularly vulnerable part, only letting Kanoko outside after I’d checked the whole perimeter, and then keeping a close eye on him and neighbor-lady. I’m still going to keep a close eye on things.)

I do love the terrace. It’s very quiet and full of light, but stays cool since it faces north. There’s plenty of room for my clothes drying rack too — I photographed the terrace with it on purpose, since lately I’ve heard/read quite a few Americans wondering about alternatives to electric clothes dryers. I’d honestly forgotten how common they are in the US… here in France, and Europe in general, almost no one has an electric dryer. Most everyone uses a clothes rack, which is ecological, free once you’ve paid for the rack (mine cost 18 euros and I’ve had it for two years), and doesn’t damage the fabrics like hot dryers do. No balcony, or rainy weather? Dry clothes indoors, cracking a window open to refresh the air. Racks that fit over bathtubs are quite common here. Cold weather? Ha! When I didn’t have enough room inside, I dried clothes outside on a rack in Finland. Winter temperatures when I was in Helsinki were between -5°C and -15°C (20°F to -10°F). It even got down to -30°C (-25°F) for a week one year. Once they’re folded and put on, the clothes regain suppleness, no matter how concrete-like they may feel from being in the cold. It’s actually kind of fun.

Wook at the pwetty flowah!

Posted in Gardening, Nice at 14:00

Venus Flytrap

For eight years now (since I arrived in Nice), I’ve wanted to visit a little bonsai shop called “Bonsaï Center” nestled in an alley between apartment buildings on Boulevard Cessole. I finally went yesterday. It’s by far the best self-proclaimed bonsai store I’ve ever been in — and there are some good ones on the US West Coast, so that’s saying a lot. They have Japanese and Chinese soils (!), as well as a huge selection of gorgeous pots, true bonsai scissors, and fertilizers, also all from China and Japan. And, of course, bonsai trees.

I couldn’t afford any of the bonsai, and anyway, already have a beautiful maple and my stone pines. (I may train the stone pines into bonsai eventually.) I did like the Venus Flytraps in the greenhouse section, even if I couldn’t quite figure out what they were doing in a bonsai store. Since I’ve always wanted one, have a humid greenhouse-like patio and plenty of bugs for it to eat, I got this plant here. The Carnivorous Plant FAQ is one of the more informative sites I’ve found.

In kitten news, Kanoko is looking more and more like a “cat” now. I think he’s definitely going to be big — just look at this photo I took today, compared to only a week ago. His face is more feline, and he has BIG paws. I’m also happy to see that his whiskers are growing back, though a bit angry too because now it’s clear that whoever abandoned him had cut them right down to the skin on one side (there was no stubble and I actually thought he had fewer whiskers there, but now whiskers are reappearing). He’s a very cheery, well-behaved kitten; it’s wonderful to have him.

Garden of discovery

Posted in Cats, Gardening, Journal at 21:04

Whee, strawberry plants

I’ve let Kanoko onto my patio every morning and evening, under supervision until he’s grown a bit bigger. The cat door is lockable, so he won’t get into mischief during the day while I’m at work. Kittens have a real flair for getting into situations you didn’t imagine until seeing them perform with your own eyes. I hereby submit the following evidence:
Kitten in an aerial position
Proof of height attained by kitten as related to previous submission

Kanoko is a wonderful kitten: intelligent, well-behaved and sweet. As shown by the photos, he figured out how to climb up, and also how to get back down — I didn’t help him. (I did that on purpose, so he’d become uninterested in climbing. It worked; he only climbed twice and then stopped, playing elsewhere for an hour.) And he knows what “no” means and listens! After just four days he’d learned that there was no point in trying to get on the table when I eat, for instance. He doesn’t scratch me or furniture, since he has plenty of opportunities for play, with toys I use (left over from Malo), a scratching post (gift from the neighbor who gave me Kanoko, since it’s one her adult cat dislikes), and feathers gathered from the patio. I plan on getting a harness soon and familiarizing him with it so that when he’s older, I can walk him to a big park that’s only two blocks away. Despite months of regular, gentle attempts while a kitten, Malo never got used to a harness, but apparently Maine Coons do well with them.

Another new addition

Posted in Gardening, Journal, La France at 12:44

Lemon flower

Yesterday I transformed into Bricol’Girl (DIY Girl), getting a hacksaw with blades for both wood and metal, a level, and another screwdriver for my ad hoc set. (I’ve bought nice screwdrivers on an as-need basis for the last four years, and have seven now. It’s a nice way to make sure they’re all good quality and that there are no extraneous types or sizes that just never get used.) Once home I sawed down the yucca trees that came with my terrace. They’d grown well above my terrace roof, are a plant that’s discouraged in this area since there are far too many (mimosa too are discouraged for this reason, which surprised me when I learned it at our required composting session), and… I don’t like yucca trees. Once I’d removed them, I was astonished at how much more light I had.

Today I got an aerier, less dense replacement for the yuccas, and one whose fruit I’ll be able to eat. I’d never seen its flowers before, or if I had I didn’t recognize them — this is a lemon tree’s flower! I’d hoped to be able to get a dwarf lemon tree, but settled for a regular citrus limon plant. To ensure it doesn’t grow too tall I’ll keep it in a pot (progressively bigger ones as necessary) and prune it regularly (all citrus trees need pruning anyway). I also got some cute little succulents, purely because they were cheap and I couldn’t resist.

The Compostopedia

Posted in Gardening at 21:01

I’m posting for one reason and one reason only: The Compostopedia. It includes The Big Book of Compost, readable in-line at that link or by download. It’s “a searchable PDF of the 1956 World Health Organization manual on Composting”; “one of the best resources on composting [they] have ever seen.” Indeed it is!!

New terrace friend

Posted in Gardening, Journal, La France, Nice at 20:19

New composter

The City of Nice, through La Maison de l’Environnement, is giving out free “individual” composters currently, as they do every year. (Several other French cities and communes do the same — check with yours. I’ve also heard of US and UK cities with similar composter giveaways.) You have to live in Nice (they request ID and proof of address) and have a garden, since you’ll need access to the bugs that make compost possible. They won’t ask to see your garden, but if you’re interested in the compost action actually working, you need a relatively large, ground-level garden/patio/terrace where bugs can get at the composter from underneath (the composter bottom has holes). Mine is in a corner with earth in the back, where I’ve seen plenty of bugs hanging out.

La Maison de l’Environnement is also requiring you register for a course to learn how to use the composter. It only takes a half an hour, and is worth it since you get to see composters in action, and visit their gardens at the same time. Then you get this 450-liter “individual” (it’s big, thus the scare quotes) composter.

I didn’t think it would be so big since the advertisements for them specifically say “individual”, but it’s all right. Composting takes a while; compost from it won’t be ready for use until 8-12 months from now. Considering all the fruit and vegetables I have and get at market, plus the piles of dead twigs and leaves I’ve pruned over the years, it’s a great addition. I’m looking forward to using compost from it to mix with earth and pot new plants next spring!

Summer has arrived

Posted in Gardening, Nice at 20:06

Clover flower opening

After three months of on and off rain, which is not at all normal for Nice (usually the late spring-early summer rains only last about a month), the sun has finally started to heat up the city.

As I’d hoped, the technician was able to coax my refrigerator back into behaving this morning. There was oil blocking the coolant from circulating properly; he didn’t really know why, though it could be simply because it’s new. I hadn’t turned it on right after delivery (you’re supposed to let it sit for a few hours, but in any case I had no electricity), so something else must have caused a hiccup.

My clover plant is very much into flowering now. The blossoms don’t stay open all the time — I’ve noticed they open in the morning, then close for a few hours and reopen in the early afternoon, but only briefly. There’s also a picture with a furry clover leaf (kitty likes to browse my plants) and a photo of lavender flowers.


Posted in Cats, Gardening at 15:20

My cat is... weird

This is my cat. As you can see, he may pretend to be sweet and snuggly and sleepy and all that most of the time, but in reality, he’s a stealer of souls and strikes when you least expect it.

Today I had to phone about my refrigerator, which, bizarrely enough, decided it no longer wanted to keep things cold three days ago, the same day we had public transport strikes. Naturally, I first tried to explain to it that it’s not a tram, nor a bus, nor a train. Then after trying different thermostat settings to no success, and checking the back for damage (it has plenty of room on the sides, behind and above it), I gave in and called technical assistance today. One of the things they asked was the temperature inside my place. Keep in mind that in this part of the world, Celsius is used. I answered “75”, which is only 25 degrees from boiling water in centigrade. The technician went “QUOI ?!” (“WHAT?!”) Realizing my mistake, I laughed and said I was American, so had read the Fahrenheit side of my thermometer without thinking. In Celsius it was 24. The tech had a good laugh. Someone’s coming tomorrow; perhaps they can talk my refrigerator back into behaving.

Not so weird, but surprising to me, one of my four-leaf clover plants is now flowering.