23 August 2007

From bad to worse, weatherwise

It's a good thing that I got out Tuesday afternoon for a nice walk in the vineyard with the dog and the camera. It started raining again Tuesday night and it was still raining yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon. Here it is Thursday morning, and... well, whadda ya know... it's raining.

Touraine grapes in the Renaudie vineyard, 21 August 2007

Callie had a very rainy birthday. In the morning, she and I headed out down the gravel road through the vineyard for our normal walk, but in a light drizzle. By the time we had gotten about a quarter of the way out (it's about a mile out to the end of the road), the rain really started coming down. So we had to turn back. The poor dog was antsy and a pain in the butt all morning, because she had so much pent-up energy.

Callie wading in and drinking out of the puddles
in the vineyard Tuesday afternoon

I had to fire up the Peugeot and go out yesterday morning. I had an appointment with our insurance agent, Mme Janvier, and I needed to go to the Ed supermarket to pick up some supplies. I spent a good 30 minutes talking to Mme Janvier.

One of the things we talked about was the weather, of course. Her office windows overlook the Cher down near the bridge in Saint-Aignan, and I could see the rain falling and speckling the surface of the river. « Les gens vont vraiment déprîmer cet hiver, parce qu'ils n'auront pas beaucoup vu le soleil cet été », Mme Janvier said. People are going to get really depressed this winter because they won't have had their time in the sun this summer. I'm sure she's right. Just thinking about winter is depressing at this point.

Callie the border collie, 21 August 2007.
She'd just been playing with her dog friend Lilli.

The French national news has been carrying big stories about the depressing weather and about the vacationers and tourist industry people who are having to suffer through this été pourri — rotten summer. Campers who went out to the coast in Brittany and farther down toward Bordeaux have been pulling up stakes early and heading back home. Sidewalk cafés near the beaches are just a collection of empty tables and chairs. Nobody is buying ice cream.

The movie theaters are full of people, evidently. And the people most enjoying this ducky summer are the ones in Paris and other big towns who sell... umbrellas. Parapluies. Pépins. Pébrocs. Foreign tourists interviewed for the French news shows swear they are still having a great time in Paris and that it is beautiful despite the rain. Since they've probably never been there before, they don't really know what they are talking about! If they could only see it when the sun's out!

More Renaudie grapes, probably Sauvignon Blanc

Yesterday Bruno of the Domaine de la Renaudie winery was out on his tractor spraying the grapes again. He's the one who told me last week that it was a good thing, on the day I saw him, that it wasn't raining. It was just gray and gloomy that day, and the last thing the grapes needed was more moisture. Tough luck, really, because these days, it's very wet and just as gloomy.

I assume Bruno was spraying the grapes with what is called the Bordeaux mixture (la bouillie Bordelaise), a fungicide/bactericide that is used to control rot. It's a combination of copper sulfate and hydrated lime, evidently, and you can see it as a blue powder on the ground and the grape leaves much of the season — except when the rain has washed it all away.

This morning's French weather forecast

For him to be out there spraying in the rain, Bruno must be desperately trying to save as much of his grape crop as possible. In Champagne, Beaujolais, and Alsace the harvest has already started. They are saying that the exceptionally warm weather we had last April gave the grapes a head start on the season, so they are ripe early this year. They are probably also trying to get them in before the rain ruins them completely.

Harvest dates are set by the AOC people. In other words, to get the Appellation Touraine, which is a guarantee of authenticity and quality, the grape-growers can't harvest until the "experts" give them the go-ahead. Bruno told me the vendanges wouldn't start before September 1 this year. Let's hope there's something left to harvest.

A zoomed shot looking out across the Cher to
a little housing development on the other side

Another news report said that even the tomatoes grown in hot houses are not doing well this summer. There isn't enough sun to warm things up, and the humidity penetrates everything. Lettuce, of all things, is doing poorly. Farmers are finding pests and diseases on the leaves that haven't been seen in years. Carrots are rotting in the ground.

Meanwhile, there are having their third severe heat wave of the summer in Greece, according to the news on France 2 TV. Temperatures there are over 100ºF (approaching 40ºC) these days. I think the same is true in the U.S. Southeast. Evelyn, our friend in Alabama, says in an e-mail that she was out yesterday and after having lunch with friends "the temp in my car read 114, yikes. Everyone is talking about the weather. It sucks the energy right out of you, a bit like yours which sucks your good spirit out I think." Evelyn is right about our weather, so I know she's right about hers.

Susan says in a comment that her garden in the Oakland Hills, San Francisco Bay Area, is a disaster zone like ours. "Our summer here in Oakland is pretty similar to Bellingham's," Susan wrote. "All but one of my tomatoes failed to set fruit, the pepper plant has exactly one pepper, and the cucumbers simply up and died." Susan, I didn't realize you were having that kind of summer there. Others have told me that the weather in the Seattle area (including Bellingham) has been dismal this summer too, but that's less surprising that hearing about yours (apologies, Seattle).

Clouds moving back over us on an August afternoon

Finally, Claude (who blogs at Blogging in Paris and in French at Vieux c'est mieux) is out in Normandy, about a three-hour drive north of Saint-Aignan, near the coast. Up there on the English Channel, she reported the other day, she has turned her heat on, or at least the radiator in her living room. It's that bad. The temperature in our house is holding at about 66ºF, and yesterday I kind of wanted to have a fire in the woodstove. Instead, I wrapped up in a blanket and took a nap in front of the TV.


  1. Same difference this morning. I can't even take a photo of the clouds, as what I am getting is solid grey!
    I wonder if the summer will come in september.
    I am getting claustrophobic!
    I think you're doing a tremendous job with that new camera!

  2. Hello Ken !

    /*/ ../…. In Champagne, Beaujolais, and Alsace the harvest has already started. ../… /*/

    Yes ! Le Parisien reported a few days ago that there are not enough laborers for the vendanges down in the Beaujolais. Lousy pay compared to other manual labor jobs (picking grapes is tough) … plus many winegrowers are no longer lodging and feeding them as they used to do … times change …

    Yes, the weather is pourri in Normandy this summer. (sigh)


  3. I enjoy my daily visits to your blog. I notice that you are including lots of photos of your dog. There is a site called Oliver out of Provence that has a cult following in that it features two dogs. People try to outdo one another in attributing quotes to the photographs. See here: http://textism.com/oliver/daily/2007/08/21/

  4. the weather here in western north carolina has ben record breakingly hot & dry....I'm near Hendersonville and we've only had 2 rains since early June.....things i planted turned to dust (and that's with watering) the water table is 13 inches under what's needed....

    Maybe Callie shouldn't drink water from the vineyard if it's got run off from spraying ?

    Love the new camera shots...keep those pics coming.....I was thinking about all those people who haven't seen the sun....this winter will be hell for some

  5. Hello Ken,

    I just checked the french weather and it looks good for this weekend and next week too!!Let's all hope for better weather this fall especially since my son and his new wife will be spending their honeymoon in Paris Sept 2-8.


  6. 30 miles west of Oakland, in San Carlos, the tomatoes and beans are doing fine. We had a good crop, even though I had to plant the beans five times. I think the soil was too cool until the end of June for the beans to sprout. The zucchini didn't do much though. The weather has actually been pretty nice this summer.

  7. Hi Chris, interesting about the zucchini. That and pumpkins are about the only things growing here. Oh, and green beans. A lot of ours didn't come up either, but the ones that did are producing. I assumed that snails and slugs were eating the shoots as soon as the seeds sprouted. But who knows. Glad your other crops are doing well.

  8. John, thanks for the link. I'll be looking at that blog.

    Marsha, the weather here is supposed to improve this coming weekend. I hope the good weather lasts through September, especially for your son's honeymoon.

    Melinda, I've heard about the extreme heat wave you all have been living through in NC and surrounding states. Hope it breaks before too much longer. About Callie, I can't stop her from drinking or wading or splashing around or jumping up on me or chewing on the chair and table legs or ... well, not much of anything. She is a good dog thought. Whew!

  9. Thanks, Claude. Managed to get out for a walk with Callie this afternoon. There was a fine mist in the air but we didn't get too wet, except our feet and ankles. What a muddy mess the vineyard is! Here's hoping for a summery September.

  10. Hey - just wanted to say that a few weeks ago my wife and I found your blog and now we come back frequently to see what's up. We are in Sausalito, on a houseboat (which we have grown some great tomatoes on this year), but are wine-country lovers be it Napa, Argentina or your area of the world. Anyway, just wanted to say that we are enjoying the stories...

  11. Ken, I didn't want to rub it in (and I'm very sorry for your extremely wet summer), but we've had a banner year for tomatoes. I've already cut up two zip-lock bags and put them in the freezer because I couldn't get to them for sauce in time.

    I'm making a big batch of fresh salsa for Gabe's going-away BBQ on Sunday. Wish I could send you some tomatoes (and sunshine).

    Hang in there!

  12. Ginny, don't apologize for your good luck! Wish I were there to eat some of those tomatoes with you all. At least we are getting zukes and cukes. And we had a great year for fruit.

  13. Hello to The Underground, thanks for the comment. If you get to the Loire Valley some time, get in touch. There's some good wine tasting around here.

    Bonjour l'Amerloque, I know you know about the wines all over France. Here in Touraine, a lot of the harvesting is now done by machines. The grapes here are still beautiful, but I'm sure the growers are getting nervous. Predictions are for nice weather starting today or tomorrow, however.

  14. What a difference a few miles makes! Ginny and Chris live less than an hour away and seem to be having a real summer. The same is true for our friends on the other side of the East Bay Hills. Like you, Ken, we're hoping for a summery September here in Oakland



What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?