Archive for June, 2008

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.

Oak table surprise

Posted in Journal, La France at 19:33

Oak table

My “new” oak table in its new home. Due to the dark, light-absorbing patina it’s hard to photograph well. When I purchased it, the description did say it had an extension, but I didn’t really look for it, since the secondhand store in question has a habit of keeping extensions separate from the items displayed on the floor. The table was also a good size for me as is, able to seat four very comfortably, and six cozily, so an extension was merely an extra.

Imagine my surprise when the table was delivered in not two, but three different pieces. I was even more astonished to see just how the extensions work. After all, the table has no straight edges, so where would any extensions go? The answer is one I’d never seen before: the extensions are curved. Look carefully at the photo above: there are three grooves in the table edge. The middle “groove” is actually the space between the table top and an extension. When the extensions are pulled out, there’s only a single groove. The inner edge of the extensions have ridges that fit into the central table’s grooved edge! This photo shows the fine fit, as well as the patterns on the wood. I love the craftsmanship on this table.

As mentioned previously, it does have some minor damage, but all of it can be buffed out with a sander, which is a project I’ll take on another month.

On holistay

Posted in Gardening, Journal, La France, Nice, Travel at 19:59

Cherry tomatoes growing

The Daily Show’s Holistay bit is great. I had a brief “heh?” moment when John Hodgman snootily says he’s going to Monaco, not necessarily because it’s a 20-minute, 10-euro train ride from where I live, but because it’s a rather boring place to visit. I worked there over a period of a year; I know all too well! But of course it has its cachet with rich folk. It does feel strange sometimes to think that I can actually call the French Riviera home. Not a bad place to have a “holistay” at all!

My cherry tomato plants are in various stages of blooming, and now little green tomatoes are forming. A big summer batch of strawberries is in the making as well, since all of my plants have an amazing amount of blossoms. Malo still hasn’t used the cat door — he thinks it’s a cat window, since it’s transparent — but he’s been enjoying the terrace anyway. I should have it clean enough for some decent photographs tomorrow.

Malo approves

Posted in Cats, Gardening, Journal at 21:55

Malo approves

EDF, the main French electricity supplier, finally hooked me up yesterday (Monday), meaning Malo and I fully moved in just then. All of my things had been moved two weeks earlier; luckily I’d kept essentials — and Malo — at my old place just in case any unforeseen problems arose. A simple yet big one did just that: I realized that I have a macerator on my toilet. Toilets hooked up to macerators do not work without electricity…! For the last three weeks I’ve been going back and forth between furniture and appliance deliveries, work, moving smaller things to and fro, watering plants at both places, and chasing after EDF trying to get the electricity turned on.

Helpful advice for anyone in France needing electricity: do not use EDF’s website. I got a grand total of one reply to my request to be hooked up, and then… nothing. I had to phone them twice to get it straightened out, because their “email service and telephone service are separate”. Meaning that a customer request via email, cannot be handled by telephone. Which makes no sense, but whatever. Just phone EDF, that way you’re sure to be hooked up. However, pay attention to the contract offered! Use their website to read up on the different offers before phoning so you know exactly what to ask for — and how to say “no, I do not want X and Y.” EDF are particular pains in the rear end when it comes to making perfectly innocent-sounding assumptions about the contract you want, never once asking you anything more than the power level you need.

A very positive note was the incredible rapidity of my internet provider (Free). They switched my line in four days! Of course, without electricity, I could’t use the modem… but on Monday it was among the very first things to be turned on. I still haven’t managed to reply to anyone’s email though!

As a result of my exhausting running around and juggling far too many things at once, I also haven’t taken very many photos yet. I’m taking a short vacation next week (to be spent chez moi), so more will come soon. In the meantime, in addition to monsieur le chat Malo perching contentedly on the bar:
o New refrigerator in its nook — omigod I am in love with my refrigerator. It’s quiet, bright, the perfect size, and I thank myself every time I open it for paying the extra for a fridge-on-top, freezer-on-bottom combination. I also love the layout of my kitchen: the refrigerator and bar shelves are right behind the stovetop, meaning everything is right within arm’s reach.
o Terrace / patio before replanting. My now-previous landlords said I could take the bougainvillea with me, which is great since it should be quite happy with room to climb. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw it and the other plants on the new patio — they filled my previous balcony, but look downright tiny at the new place!
o The terrace / patio after replanting shows the same: you can barely make out the bougainvillea in its new home.

When pulling out the old, dead trees to replant, I was surprised at how crumbly and healthy the earth felt. Then I came across an old friend I hadn’t seen in eleven years; one I saw all the time, often carousing about underground in groups, when gardening in Oregon. An earthworm! One of my new neighbors stared at me quizzically when I burst out, squiggling earthworm in hand, “mais il y a des vers de terre ! C’est super !!” (“There are earthworms! Awesome!!”)