Friday, July 21, 2017

Sun baked, or soaked

It is high time the 2017 weather gods came to their collective senses. We are now in the seventh month of their year and they are still behaving as though they are in the second. They blow tempestuous short term tantrums, hot, or cold or wet, sometimes a combination of two in a 24 hour period, other times successively but with no predictable order. Behaving exactly like human two year-olds.
one storm, with lightning, blew the top off an oak tree

At this rate the Périgord will soon be short of black cockerels and residents will no longer believe in the efficacy of chicken sacrifice. No one will predict whether this will lead to extra egg production, or less. But definitely more sleep for humans.

It is worrying, here at La Chaise, because it looks as though we might have a very good plum and apple harvest this year. The trees are heavily laden with as yet small fruit. Therefore what we want is steady warmth (not heat) with occasional gentle rain for the next two months. Then a gentle dry period for harvesting from mid September to end November because this will include the walnuts.
damson jelly, anyone?

A lot of our neighbours have suffered considerable damage to their early fruits, especially the vignerons who have seen hectares of their grapes destroyed by cold and wind. The grain farmers were also badly hit in certain areas, too wet, too cold.

The wonderful cherry harvest that hung with heavy promise on the trees did not materialise. This was not because of bird damage – they had had a surfeit of cherries. Unexpected rain came, the cherries swelled more and more – then rotted on the stem.

Sudden bursts of heat this July have dried up the grapes on the vines over our terrace. The vine on the Farmhouse pool wall suffered first as it is directly hit by the sun. Nice for bathers, not good for grapes.  My herb garden has suffered also - two thyme bushes have dried up, the Moroccan mint is looking sorry, the sage leaves are drooping.

Fortunately the previous owner here was briefly a vigneron, but using the wrong grapes.   So he had built a three chamber cuve or wine reservoir holding about 200 litres (we think).  This now holds rainwater so that potager and herbs can be liberally watered.  There are vague plans to attach a pump and a long hose...very vague.

Then, mid July, temperatures dropped from around 35C to bounce around 22/24C, no wind, sun covered by clouds. The tree crickets went into a sulk and shut up. Even the birds stopped their chatter. As I write – 21/07 – they are still silent.

This erratic climate is not just bad for vegetation and animals (I include humans in the latter category), even the old chalk stone houses are beginning to suffer. They move as their stones alternate between damp and dry. When baked, they break.

My kitchen window - minus shutter