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Past Postcards
May 21 - Tree woman April 02 - Gardening in a Warmer World July 24 - La Boucherie J.-C. Malavard June 13 - The Unsung Muse of Istanbul May 02 - Potager passion 2013 January 30 - Wounds and Wildflowers September 27 - Coq Story March 29 - The joyous lavender farmer March 27 - Consulting the oracle February 15 - Abdullah's olives November 10 - The living willow fence--one year later October 25 - Ode to crème fraîche September 08 - Le Grand Mechoui at Revest-des-Brousses May 10 - An island of serenity March 23 - Blood and guts February 10 - Birdie! January 13 - Planting a living fence November 25 - The clay connection June 09 - Bee story April 21 - Of dandelions and Camembert March 12 - The secret shops of the Palais Royale. February 01 - The pleasures of winter September 30 - Pigeon September 10 - Health care à la française June 11 - La Ferme aux Escargots June 04 - Nest of flowers April 10 - Potager passion March 25 - Pépette II--The sequel January 27 - Meditations on mustard January 14 - Provence wears it well...snow, that is. November 20 - Our part-time dog November 11 - A new university for the 21st century October 14 - Mushroom madness September 04 - Road trip with Paula Wolfert June 18 - The Pottery of Sampigny June 02 - Le Temps des Cerises May 20 - It's that intoxicating time again... April 23 - Where la vigne is queen March 27 - The joys of la cueillette February 14 - Bringing in the blue January 16 - Bonne année 2008! November 07 - Fire at the heart of the home October 19 - Manna from heaven... September 19 - My neighbor's lamb July 26 - The way to a woman's heart... June 18 - Guinée rocks the rue de Logelbach May 15 - A passion for farigoule April 16 - Sowing the seeds of content April 04 - Bruno's world March 14 - Putting down roots February 14 - La Fête de la Truffe December 20 - An olive branch November 30 - Happiness is a hot chestnut. October 31 - Uncovering the soul of a mas October 02 - High horsepower September 21 - The magic of Moustiers June 21 - The cencibelles of Cliousclat May 22 - In possession of a potager... April 26 - A spring morning amble through Aix-en-Provence March 20 - The staff of life en pays Berbère March 08 - Why I love my quincaillerie February 22 - Le pays de Forcalquier February 14 - Valentine surprise in Verona February 06 - La Truffe December 20 - 12/20/2005. La Source December 01 - 12/01/2005. The pool at the Club Waou November 26 - 11/26/2005. Fall Trilogy III--Le Chemin de Randonnée November 23 - 11/23/2005. Fall trilogy II November 21 - 11/21/2005. Fall Trilogy I November 15 - 11/15/2005. Jammin' November 09 - 11/09/2005. Civil unrest in France October 31 - 10/31/2005. Flu season October 10 - 10/10/2005. Our own little piece of Provence October 04 - 10/04/2005. China--a window on the future? July 26 - 7/26/2005. Elegy for a potager July 07 - 7/7/2005. La Bonne Etape June 27 - 6/27/2005. Our royal tourne-broche June 22 - 6/22/2005. La dermite des prés June 13 - 6/13/2005. A spring foray in the Pyrenees May 16 - 5/16/2005. Lights, camera, action! April 28 - 4/28/2005. April in Paris April 06 - 4/6/2005. Vinegar porn March 06 - 3/6/2005. The miraculous monarch February 16 - 2/16/2005. Valise de rêve December 15 - 12/15/2004. Diversity for all December 09 - 12/9/2004. Fécamp--Destination gourmande November 24 - L'Ostau de Baumanière November 16 - Rice, bulls, and gypsy caravans November 15 - 11/15/2004. And the winner is... October 27 - 10/27/2004. Lunch heaven October 13 - 10/13/2004. Oh-so-French pharmacies October 05 - 10/5/2004. Vézelay--la colline éternelle September 07 - 9/7/2004. Where in the world... July 15 - 7/15/2004. Road trip through Auvergne June 02 - 6/2/2004. La fête du pain normand April 26 - 4/26/2004. A sun-drenched weekend in Collioure April 14 - 4/14/2004. Denis' Easter card April 01 - Lights, camera, action! March 29 - My life as an enzyme March 18 - Life in a food-crazed nation March 05 - Marabout February 26 - Tale of two towers February 23 - La Fête des Violettes February 05 - My precious levain January 28 - Surviving the salon January 13 - La Poste and I December 01 - Home alone November 19 - Those dirty French! November 03 - Three years at 10 rue de Logelbach October 20 - A Paris weekend September 16 - Paris on wheels September 03 - The sleepy magic of the marais Poitevin July 29 - Dejeuner sur la (mauvaise) herbe July 23 - Blue is the color... July 10 - My famous hat June 10 - 06/10/2003. Dr. Death and the Giant Lobster June 04 - 6/4/2003. Summer in a skillet May 13 - 5/12/2003. Oysters for Breakfast. April 29 - 4/29/2003 Dateline Dakar March 27 - 3/27/2003. Le Moulin d'Arbalète March 17 - 3/17/2003. A spring day in the Pays de Caux February 26 - 2/26/2003. Residents of Nice take to the streets... February 14 - Some winter violets for turbulent times February 03 - Ramblings on the week's news from l'Hôtel de Ville January 20 - The mother of all vinegars January 07 - "Brrrrr...Il fait froid!" December 11 - La crise de foie November 20 - War of the waters November 13 - The weekend of three tails October 30 - Gender issues September 18 - Figs, green walnuts, and pêches de vigne September 18 - La rentrée August 01 - Paris in August July 25 - The Gymnase Club July 15 - French ads June 27 - Sojourn to Ardèche May 23 - France ushers in spring with muguet des bois. May 23 - The Concours Lépine--or the French at their most eccentric April 19 - Going to the polls in Paris April 08 - The bounty of Belleville March 28 - First the poubelle, now the tri... March 15 - For women only March 07 - French Country comes to Paris February 21 - Paris underground February 15 - Everything's on soldes! January 31 - A breath of spring January 25 - Paris...the soul of discretion January 16 - Winter rolling toward spring January 03 - Bonne Année!! December 10 - Christmas roses November 28 - Wild mushroom season in Paris November 16 - Leaving home November 06 - The Camondo cuisine October 23 - Paris, Post-September 11 October 17 - 10/17/2001. Paris Mayor Says NO to Doggie Turds October 05 - 10/05/2001. What am I doing here? October 05 - Why I love my butcher October 04 - A dog's life in Paris.

This Week's Postcard

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Tree woman

If I were a well-organized, prescient person with Facebook posting potential at all times foremost in my mind, I would have taken a photo of our pagoda dogwood at the beginning of this adventure.  But, I am not.  So you'll just have to take my word for it.

I was in the yard of our Normandie house and I had just finished minutely weeding my peony hedge, fertilizing and watering the plants, and tying them to supports as their ever-swelling buds pulled the stems outward with their weight.  For the fourth year in a row our part of Normandie is suffering a spring drought.  I had watered the peonies the evening before and the difference was astounding: their buds, before as tightly closed as little fists, had swelled and were showing color.

 Feeling  rather proud that at least this little part of our neglected garden was fully as it should be, I rocked back on my heels deciding what I should attack next.  My eye caught sight of the nearby pagoda dogwood.  I suppose you could say this tree has prospered, as it is nearly 30 years since it was planted during the regime of Denis' ex.  As such, I admit I never had done anything to take care of this tree over the years other than throwing it a hose when it's leaves began inevitably to droop at the onset of hot weather.  I considered the dogwood HER tree.  This bad attitude of mine took root after a phone call from her early on in Denis' and my relationship.  Back then, she was still using the Normandie house from time time to time.  She shrieked at me that I had cut down her beautiful tree peony (pivoine arbuste!, her voice rising into the ultra sonic zone on the last syllable). In fact all I had done, kindly enough (I thought), was trim off last years foliage from the two herbaceous peonies which existed at the time (and which I have now incorporated into my peony hedge.  They never had it so good!)

Anyway, what a digression.  Now I squinted at the dogwood.  Were those actually entirely dead branches I was looking at?  They were.  I grabbed my pruning shears and went to work.  I take a perverse pleasure in gathering dry twigs and branches to use as kindling in our fireplace.  Doing so fills me with an inordinate sense of virtuous thrift (as if collecting dry branches somehow saved us money, albeit in a currency recognized only by me).  So I was fully motivated to trim off a few crackling dry branchlets.  But--ouf!--here was one too thick for my shears so, a bit reluctantly, I went to look for my loppers.  I wasn't feeling like getting involved in a project that was going to steal much time from my "own" projects.  Not two minutes had passed before my eyes followed the ends of a dead branch downward to discover its origin was too thick for anything less than my ultimate pruning weapon:  my ARS Japanese pruning saw. ARS pruning saw Reluctantly, I trudged off to get it.  With its usual inexplicable efficacity, the saw breezed through the branch as if it had been slicing warm butter.  The branch crashed to the ground.  I stepped back to view the effect.  The tree definitely looked better.

Back when I lived in Indiana, I had a buddy who made a living doing "tree work."  It permitted him to buy a collection of antique gizmo trucks--big, high vehicles bristling with winches, cranes, and other, well, gizmos.  My friend named his business rather awkwardly "You, Me, and the Tree."  "You know," he'd say, smiling broadly, "You, me, and the tree!" More of a motto, I thought.  Anyway, if you asked what he did for a living, he'd always pull himself up to his full 5'8", puff his chest a little, and answer, "I'm a tree man."  This afternoon, I was beginning to understand what was meant, on a small scale of course, by "tree work."

Under my pagoda dogwood (notice it's no longer an orphan; I've taken full possession), was a jungle of dockweed, our awful Normandie buttercups, thriving clumps of elderberry knocking their heads against the tree's low canopy, and to my irritation, a lot of fresh lawn clippings.  I had heard Denis instruct the  lawnmower guy to dump the clippings beneath trees, but not, I thought in rage, on huge established weeds.  That was literally fertilizing them!  I fetched my king of spades, the Ughetti Ughetti spadetree-planting spade, and attacked the mess.  This wasn't easy, as I had to crouch on my knees to do it.  I made my way around the tree, furiously flinging weeds out from under it.  Suddenly, I bumped up against a major branch which emerged from the trunk practically at its base.  Why hadn't I noticed this before?  In fact, thanks to the grass clippings, the branch was layering and sending up unattractive shoots.  We were headed toward having a grove of pagoda dogwoods!

I crawled out from under the tree to get some perspective.  It didn't take much reflection to decide that branch had to go.  Crouching low, I dispatched it juste comme il faut, placing my cut just outside the branch collar so the would would heal, but not leaving a stub that could rot.  I crawled out once more and dragged the reluctant branch out into the open.  The removal of this branch created a kind of nook with an overhanging, shading canopy that was quite pleasant, as we will see.

I took stock of the tree.  I could see a branch at the very top that was partly dead and partly cloaked in sparse foliage.  What was going on there?  I crawled back under--much easier now that I had removed that low branch--and traced those failing branchtips downward.  In fact, about two feet off the after picturethe ground, the trunk split off another subtrunk, which gave rise to the failing branches.  On closer inspection, I saw that this subtrunk was fissured for a good part of its length.  Naturally not much of a pruner--of live wood, anyway--I pondered whether I dared taking out this entire  (sub)trunk.  What would the tree look like if I did?  Actually, after evaluating its branches, I decided the tree would look better.  Once more, it was the ARS saw, me and the tree.  It was a difficult cut as this subtrunk was snugged up against the sound trunk, but with  much sweat I finally completed it.  I sort of jerked back to avoid the "Timber!" moment--but nothing happened, proof that I was a rank amateur after all.  I had forgotten to cut off all the upper branches first, which would have left the trunk free to fall.  As it was, it only sagged slightly and tangled its branches firmly in the rest of the tree. 

I was able to reach a couple of them with my loppers by pulling the branches down into reach with a branch hookhook, but the rest?  Clearly I was going to have to climb the tree with my saw.  For someone who only intended to spend a few minutes snipping dead twigs, the situation was definitely completely out of hand.  But I'd come this far; I felt compelled to finish the job.  I grabbed the ARS and up I went, clinging to the good trunk.  I sawed the branches and flung them clear.  Finally, the trunk crashed down.  Fortunately, I was left in the tree and was able to make my own way down. 

Mission accomplished!  I was covered with mud and smeared with stinking, partially rotten grass clippings. My hair was festooned with twigs, moss, and leaves.  My back hurt and I was pretty--make that very--tired.  Plus, I had just spent 2 hours not in my potager.  But, I pulled myself erect to my full 5'4" and pulled my shoulders back.  My age might be creeping into--let's just say, well into the double digits!  But I was still capable of climbing trees, armed with a saw no less, and executing a new skill.  For those two hours, I'd been Tree Woman.


PS  No more than an hour after I finished the job, this is what I saw.  Remember that shady nook I was talking about?...Denis and tree


About Paris Postcard
Here's where I share the frustrations, humor, and sometimes almost heartbreaking beauty of daily life from the perspective of an American expatriate living in Paris. I'm writing to you exactly as I write to my family and friends, so what you read here is usually not about gardening. Rather, these weekly postcards are a way for you to get to know me, and I hope, to occasionally laugh out loud--both with me, and sometimes at me. Barbara Wilde
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