The Marks We Leave

In keeping with this year’s trend of hot weather and no rain, October in our neck of the woods is, well, hot and dry. The lawn has the consistency of shredded wheat, and a pair of Eurasian magpies has been busily digging it up for insects. I’m still watering plants to help them stay alive…

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Dry Run

Just when I thought autumn had finally arrived with a two-day rainstorm, the winds changed and summer is back. It’s as dry as ever, and no end in sight. In keeping with this year’s extreme weather, I noticed something different on my running loop. Earlier this year, after a wet spring, a local meadow was…

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Dried Acorns and Mirabelle Vodka

Of all the things dropping to the ground this summer, rain was particularly scarce. The area of eastern France where we live is always hot in August. This year, though, after a rainy spring, June started heating up. And then July was hotter. As hot as August, but weeks early. The minimal amounts of rain…

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Rock Fountain

We have a small flagstone terrace at the entrance to our old house in eastern France. It’s modest, and when we moved here, it was just flagstones surrounded by the gravel of the driveway. There was one additional element to it: An old millstone next to the front door. The millstone is basically a big…

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Shifting Perspective

The dirt track between vineyards on the shores of Lake Geneva looked nothing like a road, but my GPS system insisted this was the way to my destination. As it turned out, the tractor-rutted road did lead to my friend’s house, but the route was neither the most direct nor the best maintained. On my…

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After The Rain, Before The Storm

The nightly storms that send rain pelting down upon our humble home and illuminate the sky with lightning are impressive. More surprising though, is waking up every morning to blue skies. It’s not that we aren’t used to wild weather here in the Lake Geneva region; when you live between two mountain ranges, you expect…

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Juggling Interactions

There’s a lot of talk these days about supporting biodiversity, but what does that really mean? Once, my personal understanding of biodiversity involved a focus on the big, noticeable species – the endangered animals like whales and polar bears and elephants, as if biodiversity was the same as protecting threatened species. It’s much more than…

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Tough Puffs

Dandelions are one of those plants that people love to hate. They’re tenacious, perennial, copious; their tap roots run deep and even cut blossoms will still turn to seed heads if they aren’t culled early enough. Their leaves spread flat and wide, smothering anything beneath. If we didn’t hate them, we’d love them for their…

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Jurassic Garden

There’s a lot of evidence that gardening with plant species native to one’s area can promote a healthier ecosystem for plants, insects, animals and birds. But how do we even go about planting a truly native garden, and what are the challenges involved? A few years ago, I walked around the hedgerows and fields of…

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Fling The Stars

Several villages in the corner of eastern France where I live have started shutting off town streetlights from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Until now, I never realized just how much having streetlights had formed my idea of what a community looks like at night. Last year, flyers were hand-delivered to homes, informing us that…

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