24 August 2007

Early birds

The early bird gets the worm. In French they say that the future belongs to those who get up early — l'avenir appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt. Didn't Benjamin Franklin say something about that?

In this case, the early birds get the nice sunrise. And they weren't even that early this morning. Callie started trying to wake me up at about 5:00 a.m. She comes over and licks me on the ear or on the hand or on the elbow. Sometimes that works. If I'm not careful, she sticks her tongue in my mouth. Then I jump up sputtering and grumping.

Walking out into the vineyard at 7:00 a.m., looking west.
Another gloomy morning, I was thinking to myself.

I fended Callie off until almost 7:00 this morning. She wasn't too persistent, actually. She waited quietly most of that time, dozing like me. It was still pretty dark at that hour. The thick layer of low gray clouds and the morning haze hugging the ground didn't help brighten things up any.

I put on my rubber gardening shoes because everything is so wet and muddy. I've never seen the vineyard so wet, with so much standing water everywhere, not even in January.We were walking toward the west, away from the house. Then I realized the light had changed. I turned around and looked behind me.

I turned around and saw the sun coming up behind me,
over the vines. Callie was following along.

A break in the clouds on the eastern horizon was letting pink sunlight shine through to brighten the sky. I stood and watched for a minute or two. It was amazing.

A few seconds later the clouds really let the sun shine through.

I hadn't bothered to put on my glasses, so I couldn't see the screen well enough to know whether the camera was going to be able to catch the event. Fortunately, however, I had grabbed the camera and put it in my shirt pocket as I left the house. It's a habit.

The camera even captured the scene when I zoomed in on it.

Even with the lousy weather we've been having, it is a real treat to live here and have the vineyards out back as our stomping grounds. By the way, I emptied another 14 mm of water out of the rain gauge this morning. That brings us up to 67 mm for the month of August so far. And that's more than 2½ inches.

Since January 1, we have had 440 mm of rain at La Renaudière, or over 17 inches. I think the average annual rainfall here is about 25 inches, so we are probably within the norm. I got used to not having rain in the summer after spending nearly 20 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, and for the first four summers we spent here were also pretty dry. San Francisco gets about 20 inches of rain in an average year, nearly all of it between October and April.

As I walked back toward the house a few minutes later,
the clouds had closed back up and it was gray and damp again.

But the fact is that last August in Saint-Aignan we had two inches of rain, compared to this year's 2½ inches so far, and I remember the news reports saying we were having the wettest August in 50 or 60 years. But it's all relative. Where I grew up, on the coast of North Carolina, the average annual rainfall is about 60 inches. So the 25 inches of rain we get annually in Saint-Aignan is comparatively low. And the average rainfall in August on the N.C. coast is not 2½ inches — it's 7½!

Anyway, the orange slugs are really having a banner year around Saint-Aignan. I'm seeing them all over the vineyard, in places where I've never noticed them before. In past years they were only visible in the shadiest, dampest parts of the woods. Now they are getting closer and closer to our house and garden.

An orange slug I saw this morning, near the house, was
about four inches long. I had to use the flash to get this picture.

These impressive slugs might actually find our garden before long. There's not a lot out there for them to eat, by the way. Well, that's not really true. Walt just brought in half a dozen cucumbers and two oversize zucchinis.


  1. Hi Ken !

    How does that old saying go ? (grin)

    "Red sky at night, sailor's delight.

    Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning !"


  2. Those big zucchini must make the most of every sunny moment.

  3. Chris, hi, it's interesting, isn't it, that our zucchini are doing so well. And those big zukes are hiding under big green leaves, hardly getting any sun at all. W. made three loaves of zucchini bread this morning (two for the freezer). We're going to make fajitas this weekend and eat them with flour tortillas...

  4. Wonderful photos! Even of the slug (eeeewwwww!)

  5. That slug looks like a relative of the banana slugs here we have in California's coastal coolness. Ours are about the same size, but are as yellow as--well, as bananas!

  6. What a spectacular sunrise. Looks like you and the new camera are getting along well.

  7. Whoa, that purple sky. Unbelievable!

    I'm glad you have a crop of something, too, to make your garden feel worthwhile. It's tough when you have a bad year, because you have to wait a whole 'nother year to see if things'll be better. Like your grape growing neighbor. It's tough being a farmer, but when things are good, it's amazing.

  8. A garden pest control course I took at the University Of Washington said the most humane way to kill a slug is to.....are you ready for this?....put them in a ziplock bag, zip it shut, and put it in the freezer....they just go to sleep. They also advised us to go out at night with a flash light and pick up every slug you see.

    Victoria, Bellingham, WA

  9. Ellen, I posted a picture of a California banana slug here. They are very similar to our orange slugs in size.

    L'Amerloque, there aren't too many sailors here in Saint-Aignan. But when I think about it, the people who used to pilot boats on the Cher, when there was still river traffic, were called mariniers...

    Victoria, I'm not gathering slugs. No way. If the weather ever dries out, they will go away. Besides, if I put them in a ziploc bag in my freezer, I might thaw, cook, and eat them by mistake. No way. Good idea though, for the truly motivated.

  10. Check out the websites of newspapers in the US Midwest, the Chicago Tribune, for example. The rains and flooding have impacted on tens of thousands of people. In the slug department, did you know that the mascot of the University of Santa Cruz in California is the banana slug?

  11. Ken - Any chance of you showing us how Walt made the zucchini bread and giving us the recipe, please? I too have lots of zucchini in the garden and would love to try and make this. I love all the varied things you and Walt write about but particularly the food ones with all the luscious photographs -and now you have the new camera - can't wait! Many thanks! Angela


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