Monday, December 31, 2012
No one from our New World life would ever accuse Tom of being normal. Up at 4 am to start painting, asking dinner guest to leave some time around 9:30, eating peanut butter and potato chip sandwiches, and goodness knows what other quirks.
With the constant noise of tractor work the neighbors began to take notice. What was going on in the Vieth’s garden? Word spread through the village that a new studio was being built by the artist-- a wood structure, and he’s doing it by himself. Is innovation or anarchy? Or is this what American's do?
But imagine being French with Old World sensibilities and trying to figure out this crazy man. He doesn’t drink a drop of alcohol, he has no interest in foie gras, nor an appreciation of most other culinary specialties of France, he never hangs out in the local cafe and now to top it all off he is building a structure in wood.
For Tom is making great progress on his new art studio. And what a studio it is going to be.
It all started with leveling out the entire football field-sized lawn to the west side of our property. With the bonsai collection moved out of harm's way and into their new garden room, the ground breaking could take place. Never was anyone so happy as Tom as he gouged out soil on his beloved tractor.
And then neighbors started stopping by. Most of them retired. Some we didn’t even know were neighbors. To Tom’s chagrin, all of them are absolutely sure of their expertise in building matters. (Never shy even if they have never been closer to a wood house than the span of the Atlantic ocean.)
Now Tom’s idiosyncrasies were more out in the open than usual. Construction noises came from the work-site from first light (no heading off to the local cafe for a quick shot of espresso and a small glass of pastis to get the work day going), right through lunch (no time for a hot meal and a nap), to after sunset (just in time to clean up before a big American style dinner). Actually the work/noise seemed to go pretty much nonstop seven days a week, rain or shine, even Sunday’s day of rest. How could he have chosen to live in France and not understand that life is not a big rush, food is important, and going to the cafe is fun?
Then the wooden frame went up and suddenly the foundation seemed way too insubstantial to hold up such a big building. The questions now turned to veiled criticisms of stone versus wood construction. Doesn’t he know the story of the Three Little Pigs? How can that thin layer of wood possibly provide insulation? What does one do to treat the wood siding?
Lately the few breaks that Tom gives himself during the day are prompted by the next visitor to the work site. He carefully explains that volunteering for Habitat for Humanity taught him a lot about building. That wood is light when compared to stone or cinderblocks so it is no trouble moving things around alone. And well, he grew up with wood houses and just simply likes the look and feel of it. His nod to the local architecture are the wide corner boards and window trim. These echo the way masons use cut stone and mortar to reinforce walls that are made of field stone, mud, and stucco. To top it off, all the boys were relieved to see local tile go onto the roof.
For being a one man building company he’s made a lot of progress. Someone stopped me in the village today asking about the progress of the project and told me how brave she thinks he is. The tone of the questions has shifted from veiled criticism of folly to becoming tinged with admiration for a job well done and the gusto to keep it on track.
Tom might not join in the daily parts of French life, but his love of the countryside, the beautiful villages and daily life will soon be coming to life on canvases painted in his new wooden studio building. The future neighborly questions will involve which corners of the village will be the inspiration for paintings to come.
Regardless of the sanctitude of repose in France, it is always entertaining to get caught up in the unpredictable whirlwind of a energetic artist/lunatic.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Bourdeilles is transformed into an old fashioned Christmas scene ribbon by ribbon.
Tom likes the plastic Christmas tree stands.......
I love the happy additions to my favorite part of the day - crossing The Bridge.
Our neighbors added a little snow to keep the snowmen's toes cool.
Merry Merry Christmas to all of you that we love so much!
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Monday, October 15, 2012
I’m often asked, “What do you do all day?”
For some reason I take a perverse pleasure in saying, “Oh I don’t know, just sit around sipping coffee in the morning, eating bonbons at any time, and sometime in the late afternoon I start in on the wine.”
Because, after dragging home various treasures from the antique fairs, what else could one do?
These are treasures to be used in our ‘new’ house.
Treasures with rich colors that can only be found in hand-made materials.
Treasures that have a patina of age.
Treasures that have come from another home that no longer exists - because someone wanted new things in that home.
There! That someone is the person who is really out eating bonbons all day! But what’s the fun in that?
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Ready or not here we come…
When he hasn’t been pouring concrete, tiling floors, building kitchen cabinets, plastering walls or reconfiguring the entire back forty, Tom has found some peaceful moments to be an artist.
He has completed a new body of works and these new paintings are already winging their way to the United States, invitations to art shows have been mailed out and we have started packing our bags. Well Susan has, Tom will wait until the night before we leave to realize that he doesn’t have any pants without holes in them and that there are paint splatters on his favorite sports jacket that he had planned on wearing to look a little less like a homeless person dragged off the street into our gracious hosts' homes.
And speaking of hosts here is a list of where we will be. If you are interested in attending one of these art show evenings please contact us and I will get back to you with details. The shows are casual and we encourage you to think about coming by to see us, bring a friend, or send along friends that you know living in the cities where we will be.
Andover, MA November 2nd, 3rd, 4th
New Canaan, CT November 7th
Princeton, NJ November 10th
Baltimore, MD November 14th
Annapolis, MD November 18th
Even if you can’t make it to a show we invite you to take a look at Tom’s recent works at www.thomasvieth.com. These paintings show Tom’s love of our adopted region, his love affair with the colors and lively vibrancy of the weekly markets, the exploration of the compositions of the ever-changing working fields that surround us, and the intimacy of small corners of the villages where one can sense the elegance and calm of layers of culture. Tom’s vision in painting is to paint the things that he loves in a way that speaks to scenes you may have seen and of places you may have visited. Mostly these paintings are about a sense of comfort, of being home. Because Tom is never more than thirty minutes from home. No need to venture further. Every thing that he loves about painting is to be found here, inside and around Bourdeilles--our small village in France.
Friday, September 28, 2012
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Sunday, September 23, 2012
One of my favorite summer memories is of Granddad and I sitting on his back door stoop with a salt shaker and a basket full of big red tomatoes. We’d laugh about what we were getting ready to do, and then we’d open our mouths wide and take that big first juicy bite. I never escaped having seeds and juice running down my chin, but Gramps was an expert back porch tomato eater, so no mess on him. After that first bite it was a shake of salt, more bites, more salt. Not a snack to be eaten in proper company, nor even in the house, but this back stoop treat was the perfect way to savor summer.
Turns out I’m not the only one that sat in a special place on a hot summer day with her grandfather “eat’n like heath’ns”. As soon as I mentioned home grown tomatoes to an English friend she started in with the same story that I thought belonged to only my Granddad and me. Her memory was sitting in her grandfather’s greenhouse on an upturned plant pot, a tomato in one hand, salt shaker in the other, her Grandfather on his own upturned pot. She also gobbled up strawberries sitting in the middle of the strawberry patch, and the same with peas in the pod.
Now here in France I watch my neighbor’s grandchildren sitting on the patio with their grandparents, a basket full of colorful tomatoes on the table and a salt shaker in each child's hands, seeds on their cheeks and juice spots all over the table.
The French are crazy about this fruit that came over from the New World. We can find just about any variety that we used to have in our garden in Vermont. This spring I was able to find plants of 4th of July, Brandywine, and Cherokee Purple along with several varieties we had not tried before. They have thrived in the summer heat and continue to produce now at the end of September, something quite remarkable to a former Vermont Gardener.
In the late 1800’s the “phylloxera plague” (another introduction from the New World) wiped out 90% of the vineyards in France. Tomatoes rose in production as it was hoped that this would become the cash crop to replace the lost grapevines. Ketchup replacing wine?! The farmers hopes were raised with the arrival of the train system that could carry produce quickly from the Dordogne to the markets of Paris or London. But then came along Dutch tomatoes, ripened at all times of the year with natural gas. The French farmers were once again out of luck.
Nowadays in the Dordogne the king of tomatoes is tomate de Marmande. This variety is the work of hybridization done in various horticultural centers in the Dordogne between the two world wars. It won all sorts of agricultural fair prizes and has proven to be a consistent favorite ever since. It ripens early, is a beautiful lively red, has a true tomato smell and a slightly sugared taste. It’s a lot like a beefsteak tomato.
Here’s a delicious recipe that my neighbor shared with me the other day.
Tomatoes de Marmande Farcies
Stuffed Beefsteak Tomatoes
Select 4 large firm tomatoes
Cut the tops off making a hat.
Scoop out the largest seeds. Salt and pepper.
Place the tomatoes in a pyrex dish, lightly oiled
Heat oven to 350
In another pan sauté 1 diced onion and several diced garlic cloves to taste and ground beef or ground sausage cooked until brown
In a small mixing bowl beat 1 egg, add salt and pepper, a pinch of hot pepper, a small handful of parsley finely chopped and add to the meat mixture.
Stuff the tomatoes.
Cover with herbed bread crumbs.
add a cut of butter and a sprinkling of grated cheese of your liking.
Put the hats back on and bake for 30 - 40 minutes. Frequently baste the tomatoes with their pan juices.
Serve hot with a salad of roquette and walnut oil.
(Editor’s note: Our apologies to any heathens who might take offense.)