Settling in

Posted in Journal, Paris at 17:12

Mystery bulbs have flowered!

My broken wrist is finally nearing normal these six months later, and the cats are very happily installed in our new home and garden. Work has been very busy, but this week I realized how much I miss writing. I don’t do much of it any more, apart from necessarily-short email missives, which are honestly a bit painful when you love the written word. Their brevity is important, fewer words mean fewer opportunities for misunderstandings, but that too calls up an absence.

Misunderstandings are part of what make us human. To misunderstand, or one could say, to understand differently, to interpret, is human. Of course it’s important to have shared understanding, yet it is also in the empty spaces of differing comprehensions that we learn about ourselves; learn about each other. To span these spaces we build conversational bridges, or urge ourselves to look up a definition, a reference. Or the opportunity goes by unnoticed, in the cases of incomprehensions so profound that one is convinced of one’s correctness.

My garden is growing happily in the dappled Parisian sun and regular spring rains. Shown above are surprise bulbs – as I moved in at mid-autumn, I had little idea what was hidden beneath the dirt. These bulbs started sprouting in January, so I originally thought they might be daffodils or hyacinths. Instead they look to be bluebells. I have also planted some English lavender and seeded quite a bit of annual and perennial flowers. All of them are sprouting, we’ll see how it looks in another month or two.

Watering cats and growing pumpkins

Posted in Cats, Gardening, Home improvement at 15:53

Two weeks ago, I removed the glass shower door in my bathroom. The surrounding floor and walls were starting to rot, and I knew the door blocked much of the airflow needed to dry out the rest of the shower properly, so I decided to just take it out myself and put in a shower curtain and rod. While taking out the door, I discovered that the previous owners hadn’t waterproofed any of the seams… which is mainly why things had been rotting. However, it did make it much easier to remove the door, since all I had to do was unscrew it from one wall and pull it out of the other (it hadn’t been bolted in on both sides). As a reminder, they hadn’t waterproofed the floor beneath the tile shower they installed either. Every time I discover something like this, I’m glad I bargained down the price on my place — I had been very hard-nosed about it since some of the electrical work they’d done was borderline dangerous, which I suspected meant the rest of their “improvements” might be similar. Score one for intuition.

Putting in a curtain really improved the airflow, along with letting in a good deal more light… and a certain water-loving Maine Coon mutt! The video above shows Kanoko playing with the falling water this morning. I could keep him out by shutting the bathroom door, but his never-ending delight brings a lot of joy into my day, and so some old hand towels have now become Kanoko’s shower towels, and he’s happy as pie with the arrangement. When we finish showering, he saunters out alongside me, purrs while being towelled, then contentedly preens while I get ready for the day.

I mentioned some surprise seeds all sprouting in the last post — my pumpkin patch is growing well. All four are still healthy, those two are the largest. And they’re still just young’uns!

Spring in my bit of Nice

Posted in Gardening, Nice at 13:55

Patio, end of April

After an interminable winter of rain — and I say that as a native Oregonian who enjoys the rain! — the sun has finally begun to emerge from the clouds, and plants are finally growing. Ever since October we’ve had dark, windy, rainy, and even snowy weather the likes of which no one has seen in living memory. It was so dark that my daffodils and irises never bloomed; so much colder than usual that seeds that typically sprout in March have only begun to grow just now. And yet we’re still getting rain every day, with very rare exceptions. (Every. Single. Day.)

This winter I bought a few pumpkins to make pumpkin soup. With the last two, I realized that since they were organic, I could try planting their seeds. I figured that only some of them would sprout… well, all of them have! And I planted four! What am I going to do with four full-size pumpkin plants? For now I’ve repotted two of the seedlings in a planter; the other two are already in pots that should keep them happy for another month or so. Provençal pepper seeds I planted a month ago have just begun to sprout as well, and I’m looking forward to tasting them in autumn.

Renovation on my apartment is continuing too. I started pulling up linoleum in the entry last week, and have nearly finished. It will be nice to have an entry no longer in a state of flux.

Hyvää juhannuspaïvää

Posted in Gardening, Journal, La France, Nice at 11:20

Light catcher
Juhannuspäivää is the name Finland gives to midsummer. On midsummer day, Finland and the Scandinavian countries have huge communal parties that are immense fun, and so on 21 June I always have warm thoughts of Helsinginkeskus (Helsinki city center) overtaken by youths in graduation sailor caps, dressed in overalls and, well, drinking. Lots of drinking. For at least 24 hours straight.

This is my patio as it looked a few moments ago. In a month or two I’ll finally get my tax refund and have paid off the majority of the non-mortgage loans I had to take out in order to furnish my apartment last year. (My previous apartment was a furnished rental, so I had practically no furniture of my own and, especially, no appliances.) To pre-celebrate, yesterday I got myself something I’ve wanted for the longest time: a deck chair! It’s a solid oak frame, sold by Habitat and on sale once a year — which happens to be now. Once the tax refund has well and truly arrived, my next purchase will be a small oven, since I’m going mad without one. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a gluten (wheat, oats, etc.) and casein (all animal milks) intolerance, which means I can’t just order out for pizza, for example, and nor can I buy regular pies and cakes. Gluten- and casein-free baked goods are sold frozen and require an oven to cook them. Homemade pizza, freshly-baked lemon and apple pies… I can hardly wait.

Meanwhile I’m making do with delicious market finds. Today there were vegetables grown in Nice for sale, so I got some courgettes trompettes (flower zucchini) and an aubergine. I also got a type of melon I’ve always wanted to try, called le puits d’amour, “the love well”. Last week I tried a Charentais Carlencas melon, which was the most divinely delicious melon I have ever had the pleasure to savour.

I do have an update on my mentally ill, abusive neighbor: a few months ago she once again put crap (literal crap) on my patio and screamed at me, so I called the cops on her. Three VERY large gendarmes (national police, not local) took statements from another neighbor, myself, and the culprit. Two of the policemen had a private chat with her. When they returned they were visibly unnerved and said she was clearly off her rocker and among the most abusive people they’d had to deal with. The good news is, whatever they said to her had a strong effect: ever since, she hasn’t dared to speak to me, much less touch my patio (apart from some benign things like broken pens and paintbrushes). It has been wonderful to be able to use my patio. I do still keep a close eye on the kitties, of course. Her divorce should be final soon, and according to the police, she’ll have to move, since being unemployed (and unemployable in her mental state), she likely won’t be able to afford to buy out her husband’s half to her apartment. We’re all hoping that’s the case.