New discoveries: wine

Barrel Stain
Wine barrels in the cave of the Pierre Fil winery in the South of France.

 

Checking out the bottling truck
A friend and I recently visited a local vineyard that we quite like, and while there, we learned that the bottling truck would arrive a few days later. I’ve been intrigued by these trucks since I first landed in the South of France, and had been hoping for an opportunity to photograph one in action.

Annabelle, our host, was very welcoming of the idea, giving me a big smile and opening her arms to say that I would be welcome to watch, learn and take a few photographs.

Gasp! You mean the wines aren’t tenderly bottled by hand at each winery?
Some wineries still do their own bottling, but it’s an expensive, time-consuming and error-prone process. Here’s a list of the necessary steps: clean and dry the bottles, fill with wine, cork and cap, add labels, place bottles in cartons. Each step requires its own machine and/or operator. The equipment is precise, it needs to be maintained, and it can break down during bottling. There is also the complication that different wine varietals require different bottles, along with their own unique labels. If someone inexperienced is operating the machine for corking the wine or for placing the labels, things can go wrong, which means that while the wine inside might be perfectly fine, the bottle doesn’t look good enough to sell, so it’s set aside, and if that happens too often, there’s a problem with profits. Of course, the entire process must be done under strict hygiene restrictions. It all adds up to a nightmare of organization that many vintners are happy to hand off to the experts.

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In honor of Juneteenth

Juneteenth
A group of freed slaves at the harbor in Galveston, Texas. (Bettmann Archive)

 

Juneteenth is a date that should be in every American child’s history book, but it certainly was not in mine. Here’s a brief statement from the History web site:

Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday.

That was a start, and maybe, over 150 years later, we’ll finally start seeing more needed change.

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I can’t breathe

I’m having trouble breathing today. Words are zipping around inside my head, screaming to get out, while emotions batter against my heart.

What are the depths of hatred and fear that compel a policeman to forget (ignore?) his sworn duty to protect, instead suffocating a man to death while being filmed, while people are begging him to stop, while the man is saying he cannot breathe?

I can’t breathe.

Do you know what it feels like to have nothing left to lose? Absolutely nothing left? I don’t know what this is like. Throughout my life I’ve had the good fortune to have what I needed, even in lean times. There was never a sense of hopelessness, of having not one single thing left to lose.

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Going postal in London

EVIIR full
If you have a letter to mail in the U.K., you’ll find one of these red pillar boxes on most any street.

      

Part one: there’s a lot of red stuff
Like the red double-decker bus and the iconic red telephone box, a red mailbox is ubiquitous in Great Britain. Americans call it a mailbox, while in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and former nations of the British Empire, it’s more often called a post box or a letter box. This story is about British post boxes and the huge rabbit hole I fell down once I began to pay attention to them.

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Huzzah for Gaia!

Lichen Garden
A miniature lichen garden at the foot of a tree in the garrigue near my house.

 

Mother Earth, who has been beleaguered by all manner of human assault for far too long, is staging a tiny comeback. While much of the world shelters in place, the cities have cleaner air, animals feel safer to explore this home we all share, and the skies are not full of noise and contrails. Huzzah for Gaia on this Earth Day 2020!

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This ain’t no April Fool’s Day joke

Jimmy Fallon
Late-night TV host Jimmy Fallon asked people to share their experiences with cabin fever, and here are a few responses.

 

As the saying goes, March came in like a lion, and it left like a … lion. Lots of wind, cooler temperatures, a little rain. In between, we had some lovely lamb-like days that had colorful spring wildflowers popping out all over, giving all of us a cheerful sense of hope and life and renewal.

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