Lulu Lundi* in our UnFrench Potager
Monday July 31st 2006, 12:22 pm
Filed under: daily life,language,lulu/dogs/cats,nature

lulu yawn
In French, the word potager means kitchen garden. I love how the whole idea “vegetable/herb/fruit garden” can be neatly consolidated into just one word, a perfectly wrapped delicious package. Like a lot of our French neighbors, we too, have a potager, but I’d refer to it as an UnFrench potager, and it certainly isn’t as neat as the word nor as tidy as our neighbors’ gardens. You see, our French neighbors’ potagers, my French inlaws’ potagers and all the French potagers I’ve seen thus far, have been perfectly manicured and lined up so precisely you could take a ruler and see that each plant is the exact distance to the next. Absolute straight lines. Right angles. Rows and rows of potatoes, leeks, onions, carrots, radishes etc. – are no less than impeccable. I could swear they used mathematical algorhythms and numerical equations to achieve perfect symmetry. By the way, French potagers always have gobs and gobs of potatoes and leeks.
Even if I were the world’s most brilliant mathematician gardener, which I’m not (and I’m just a newbie gardener at that), a perfectly lined up garden simply isn’t my style. Ours is very asymmetrical and unpredictable. Hardly anything is lined up and instead I’ve planted things along borders, in containers, in a triangular pattern, but mostly just randomly. That’s probably not the best method to gardening, but that is how it is for me. And everything has survived and things seem to be alright. You can see above how the pumpkin has grown right next to some tomatoes and there are 5 different kinds of tomatoes planted here and there. That is probably bad to do, too, in the garden world but whatever. Sidebar: Our winter was so long and cold and ran into spring, the tomatoes in this area are still not ripe. (except the cherry varieties).
Our one and only bellpepper is pretty cool (I think, anyway!) though it got splattered with mud after a hard downpour. It looks like we are only going to get just one this summer but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Behind Lulu in the photo at the top, there is a growing Japanese cucumber plant. Love those! Lulu isn’t very interested in them, in fact, one could say they bore her to tears, but she can always go for the sweet cherry tomatoes (we are growing 2 different kinds of cherry tomatoes). We might not get any of those if she devours them all. That’s fine with us. It’s a good source of vitamin C for her.
cherry tomatoes
Lastly (for this post, anyway) to add a little spice to the unFrench potager chez nous here’s our cute and wonderful chili pepper plant. There’s just one in the photo but it looks like more are on their way. Yay!
We have other veggies and lots of herbs that I’ll try to post in the near future – as a little reprieve from heavy environmental posts, issues related to disabilities awareness and other serious subjects I’ve been known to blog about! ;-)
Lulu Lundi* features Lulu, our Boston Terrier, somewhere in France every Monday.

Upcoming Summer Events in France
Sunday July 30th 2006, 7:49 am
Filed under: events,travel and places

It’s always fun for me to list more unusual events going on in France if I can find out about any, and since it’s peak summer, there are lots of things happening right now. Check them out.

pink garlicAugust 4, 2006 – La fête de l’Ail Rose de Lautrec – The Pink Garlic Festival in Lautrec takes place every year on the first Friday of August. Famous for their pink garlic, Lautrec, located in the southwest of France (near Toulouse), hosts this aromatic annual event. The goings on: pink garlic galore, local food, wines, competition where teams of 7 to 8 people braid the longest manouille (tress) of garlic as possible in 3 hours, competition for the best pink garlic tart, sampling of garlic soup and other offerings, plus a ball and live entertainment in the evening. (reservations necessary) Free admission to the open fair. For more information, contact: Syndicat de Défense du Label Rouge Ail Rose de Lautrec, (Lautrec Union for the Protection of Pink Garlic), Rue du Mercadial, 81 440 Lautrec, France, Tel : (+33) (0)5 63 75 90 31, email:

August 5 (12, 19), 2006 – 3pm-5.30pm – Joutes Nautiques Provençales – Water Jousting Championships take place at the old port in Marseilles. Water Jousting is an official sport discipline in France. Oarsmen in provence take their boats out and compete to knock their opponent into the water. Free admission. Port de l’Estaque, Quai des Pêcheurs – 13016 Marseille, France

liarsfestivalAugust 6, 2006 – Liars’ Festival. I’ve mentioned this before (last year), but it’s always good to list the less orthodox festivals because they’re harder to find. Town Square, Moncrabeau, France. See details about the event here: France: Home to the King of Liars.

August 7, (15, 24), 2006 – Festival d’Art Pyrotechnique – The Fireworks Festival in Cannes is a three year old annual event where teams from France, Canada, England, Italy and Spain duke it out to win the title of Best Pyrotechnics Team. The competition takes place over a period of 6 days. Who will reign supreme? In any case, you will see lots o’ fireworks. For more information: Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, Esplanade Georges Pompidou – Cannes – France, Tel. 04 92 99 33 83, email:

French Guys Got Game
Saturday July 29th 2006, 1:56 am
Filed under: people,sports

frenchcanthrowersIf aluminum cans could replace basketballs, these guys would be the next Tony Parkers in France.

Watch this fun video of some French guys throwing cans. (at YouTube)

It’s so much more entertaining than it sounds.

Will France Do the Right Thing With Diester and other Biodiesels?
Friday July 28th 2006, 6:40 am
Filed under: articles,environment,politics,weird
~ ~ ~
“The biggest truth to face now – what is probably making me unfunny
for the remainder of my life – is that I don‘t think people give a damn whether the planet goes on or not…I know of very few people
who are dreaming of a world for their grandchildren.“

~Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country (2005)


Each time I’ve driven along a nearby national route, I’ve passed by this sign and have been wanting to look further into the subject. The sign has been there for several months now. Here’s a translation of what it says, “I grow rapeseed for Diester here, and I fight against the greenhouse effect. Diester with diesel is greener.” The logo with FDSEA represents the national union for rural agriculture. I did some further digging into Diester.

What is Diester? (In France, pronounced DEE-eh-stair)

Originally, diester, also known as colza methyl ester, comes from the contraction of the words “diesel” and “ester” and in a generic sense, pure diester is made up of 90% vegetable oil extracted usually from rapeseed (colza) which is the predominant source in France, but flaxseed, sunflower seed or peanuts can be used. The remaining 10% of diester is composed of methanol. Methanol is a type of alcohol and is said to be (sometimes) necessary to break up the viscosity of the colza oil, important particularly during colder weather where the fuel without methanol is vulnerable to freezing. These two compounds then go through a process called “esterification” that essentially creates the final liquid product of biodiesel.

However, today in France, “Diester” is a registered and trademarked product by the company Sofiproteol (Prolea is their parent company). It is made up of the compounds as is described above, but is only used as an additive to diesel in France.

For the purposes of this post, I am making a distinction between biodiesel and Diester, the branded product.

Diester vs. Biodiesel

Diester should not be confused with biodiesel but I’m afraid that the words “Biodiesel” and “Diester” are now used interchangeably in France. Diester, the branded product, is currently not sold as pure biofuel in France. It is mixed with diesel in a tiny amount. In addition, the methanol used within Diester is of petrochemical origin, whereby, other biodiesel sellers can opt to use methanol from a more clean source like wood, for example. Some biodiesel makers also do not use any methanol whatsoever, and simply provide filtered extracted oil, which apparently works on older model diesel engines without the necessity of modification, or very insignificant modification(1). The practice of independently selling pure biodiesel is illegal in France, however, it is nevertheless sold “unofficially” to consumers.

Biodiesel is a renewable energy source and a clean burning fuel that does not use any petroleum-based or fossil fuel products and emits less CO2 emissions, sulfur, aromatics and particulate matter into the environment than diesel and other petroleum-based fuels. Diester, on the other hand, is only used as an additive to diesel, so, in effect, still pollutes because of the diesel content.

How much Diester is Mixed with Diesel in France?

Although cars with diesel engines do not need major modifications in order to run on 100% Diester fuel, in France, Diester is sadly only available as an additive to regular diesel fuel in the following proportions: For captive fleets (buses, waste collection trucks and utility vehicles) 30%(2) Diester is added to diesel, and a mere 1.5%(3) of diester on average is mixed with the consumer diesel. By comparison, Germany is already using 100% biodiesel like Diester in their car engines and it is readily available at pumps. Additionally, no blends are admitted in Germany. Why is France still using just a miniscule amount of Diester in their blend?


Employers in France: Overcoming Biases

The part-time temp employment agency, Adia, launched a very eye opening and much needed awareness campaign encouraging employers to set aside their biases against people with physical differences, and instead, to adopt a more tolerant, compassionate and intelligent attitude. I hope prospective employers will see these ads, learn from them, then act accordingly.
adia emploi
Click on photo to enlarge.


(in large letters): This girl can not do anything
(in smaller letters): without passion. It wasn’t what you thought when looking at her, was it? However, at Adia, we can always offer her part- time jobs that meet the standard of her expectations and her strengths.
(tag line): Do not rely on appearances, rely on abilities.

This is the other poster ad from Adia I saw advocating tolerance showing a pregnant woman.
adia emploi affiche
Click on photo to enlarge.


(in large letters): This woman is (dead) weight.
(in smaller letters): a heavyweight of knowledge. With Adia, she lives her life according to her own rules, deciding her own schedule and availability. Today, she chooses to carry the weight of an ambitious project that will lead to a unique experience. Tomorrow, she’ll be able to count on us to find her a balance between her professional life and her family life.
(tag line): Do not rely on appearances, rely on abilities.

Last year, Adia collaborated with France’s state unemployment office, ANPE, and began a program to help disadvantaged youth having difficulty entering the French workforce. The barriers to entry for this group are colossal because of intolerance and problems linked to racism. Adia’s work is admirable and their mission to embrace the attitude of being as socially responsible as possible and to protect human rights, is not only brave but also crucially necessary.