Saturday, November 30, 2013

Soil, Thanksgiving, and Self-Improvement


It's another lazy morning here in France- the air has gotten colder (although not as cold as at home), I'm sitting in my house writing my blog, drinking my coffee and listening to some lilty folk music and Christmas music (Karen Carpenter's voice just sounds like Christmas). Of course by lazy morning I mean afternoon, but I woke up late so it feels like the morning.


In the past week we've focused largely on geology and pedology (soil science). A really key part of viticulture that is often overlooked as proper adaptation of the vine rootstocks to the soil. Within one vineyard you can have multiple types of soil (and the same soil in two different locations can treat plants very differently if the climate isn't the same). Grapes are very adaptable plants and you can get them to grow in a very large range of soils, but it takes a lot of planning to get everything to optimal conditions. Our recent field trips have involved lots of digging in the soil and seeing if we can make "boudins" with the soil (that is, if there's enough clay in it you can turn it into a sausage).

I'm having a bit of trouble understanding all of my lectures- but the main idea is that the soil is the medium for growing your grapes and it's necessary to adapt the vines to best fit the soil where it is. Since all grapes (except in Chile) are grafted onto other rootstocks, you can choose roots that work best for the soil type (e.g. if the soil retains a lot of water you can pick a rootstock that is adapted to that sort of situation). The climate and the landscape both affect this choice, and ultimately these factors taken together contribute to the final product at a very basic level.

That stick digs into the ground to pull up the different layers of soil. That one has a sandy soil in it.

Meanwhile, I'm doing a project to discuss the "terroir" of the Mont r gie region of Qu bec (between the New York border and Montr al). It's actually a pretty fascinating region and I fully intend to go there when I return to North America. One of their specialties is ice cider (which I believe I mentioned in my post about Calvados), and interestingly almost all of the wineries also produce cider. Since I am equally interested in producing both wine and cider, familiarizing myself with the region will be very good for me!


Since I wasn't home for Thanksgiving, I decided to do it myself! Last Sunday I had some Americans (and some non-Americans) over to be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I made a turkey that I bought at the nearby butcher. Apparently the butcher specializes in terroir products (which here means 'very expensive'). I guess part of the official subject of my degree is "terroir management," so it's appropriate to get a terroir turkey

There was lots of love in that turkey.

The butcher also had this sign up in the window:

This poster is advertising for tripe products that apparently have super powers.

Naturally I saved the leftovers to actually eat on Thanksgiving:

These were my leftovers from Sunday that I saved for Thanksgiving.

I'm still nursing the two blisters I got from cutting, boiling, and shelling the two kilograms of chestnuts that I mentioned in a previous post- but it was worth it!


Although I try not to think of myself too often (I admittedly have a lot of difficulty with that- I'm working on it), it's important to try and find ways to improve myself (for my own good and the good of those around me- it's all for good, so it's good. Good?). I've been focusing on reading and exercising in the past couple weeks- and it's going pretty well.

I'm usually one to read multiple books at a time- and having a Kindle makes doing that a whole lot easier. For some reason I never actually read The Wind in the Willows when I was a kid (although my family did take me to some sort of exhibit that told the story that I only vaguely remember- it wasn't a play), so I rectified that situation. I also have been reading L'Histoire d'uneme, which is serving as a triple play of reading, practicing my French, and allowing for prayerful meditation and reflection. Reading a chapter is exhausting, but it's worth it.

Speaking of reading, self-improvement, and trying not to be self-centered, I encourage all of you to take the time to find a copy of The Neverending Story and read it. I'm not talking about the movie (which I enjoy, but only talks about half of the book and removes all of the truly wonderful and enriching parts of the story). Without spoiling too much of the story, there's a poignant chapter where the main character goes to a village where nobody has a name and there is no sense of self. There he has to integrate into the society and forget certain things about himself so that he can learn a more profound lesson about life. Sometimes as a foreigner in another country I feel a bit like that (not that France is like that village- people here definitely have personalities and are individuals)- that I need to forget some things to learn something deeper. I'll definitely be a different person when I return. I might be due to read the book again (sadly there is not yet a Kindle edition). For what it's worth, The Neverending Story is my favorite book and I'm tempted to learn German just so that I can read it in its original language. If you want to read the book, you should work hard to find a copy with the text written in two different colors (it's worth it).

Can someone get this eReader Cover for me? Please? Please? Pleeeease?

Part two- I've been exercising again. Only a little, but I'm working my way back into it. Here's a short history of me and sports/exercise:

* I played soccer when I was 5 and when I was 6. I wasn't very good at it. I played baseball when I was 7 but I always had to pee when I went up to bat. I held the game up multiple times so my mom wouldn't let me continue.

* After 8 years of happily not doing exercise, I was somehow convinced to join the swim team in high school. That was a good decision. The end of my first swim season was also the first time I did yoga- in the most awkward way possible: on the pool deck with about 15 other 15-18 year old guys in our Speedos. I'll leave it at that.

* I bought a gym membership every year of college, for what that's worth. It's the thought that counts, right?

* My junior year of college I lived with 17 other guys in a Christian mens' house (the same one that I managed last year, though I didn't live there my senior year). In the spring of that year, one of the guys decided to get the whole house together to do P90X. After about a week, the numbers went from about 15 participants to 4. A month later it was 3, and a few weeks later it was down to 2: my friend Nick and me. The fact that we were the last two remaining was a surprise to everyone (us included)- but we kept on going until the end of the semester. In one of the videos, Tony refers to one of the women, Pam, as "Blam!." That's why I now refer to my friend Nick as "the Brick" (which he says is much better than some other nicknames he's gotten). Doing P90X we got to do all sorts of weird kicks, punches, and yoga. Towards the end we started telling everyone that we got up early to Jazzercise (and indeed one morning when we didn't feel like doing the P90X video we pulled up YouTube videos of Jazzercising and Sweat to the Oldies with Richard Simmons). I still have a DVD of Jazzercise somewhere that Nick gave me as a gift- I don't think I ever opened it.

We considered getting matching leotards, but they were just too expensive. * Last year I took full advantage of my student ID at Ithaca College (where I took my French class) and I went swimming in their gorgeous new pool at least 3 times a week. It was a great feeling to get back in the water.

Now I've started getting back into things. I've been using my resistance bands and doing some yoga (which often quickly devolves into me doing the Happy Baby and calling it a day). I feel pretty good- I plan on keeping this up for a while.


* Monday I will be leaving for a 3-day trip to Bordeaux with my program. I'll tell you all about it next week!

* I signed up to go to the TaizEuropean meeting in Strasbourg for New Years! My first trip to France in 2009 was a weeklong stay at Taiz , which is an ecumenical Christian community in Burgundy focused on prayer, dialogue, and peace. The experience I had there was a key part of my development as a person, and I look forward to returning to the community.

* The folk music kick that I wrote about a couple months ago is still going on pretty strong (I'm sort of surprised by that, but it's probably because it's easy to sing along). I just bought "Foreverly," a cover of the Everly Brothers by Norah Jones and Billie Joe (from Green Day)- and I like it a lot. I can't stop listening to it.

* I had a conversation in Italian at the market today at the Italian food stands. I've forgotten a lot of my Italian since beginning French- but I understood everything that the woman said (she insisted on speaking Italian) and I was able to slowly get all of the words out after some hard thinking. It was refreshing- I really miss speaking Italian.

* The Christmas Markets have started in France- I plan on going to the one in Angers this afternoon!

I suppose that's all for now.

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