18 December 2007

Brrrrr! An early winter

OK, back to the future. Saint-Aignan is living through a prolonged cold wave right now, as is all of northern France. It's not even winter yet. This morning our low temperature was -6.2ºC — that's about 20ºF. We awoke to thick fog, which is freezing on the ground and on all the trees and vines. Luckily, freezing fog doesn't cause the damage that freezing rain can cause.

Those apples, again touched by hoarfrost

On our thermometer, the temperatures have been in the 23º to 26ºF range (that's -6º to -3ºC) other mornings, and we are lucky if the temperature gets above the freezing point in the afternoon. Roselyn the Bread Lady tells us our thermometer reads high; it's much colder according to hers. She lives about 6 miles east of us along the Cher River.

Birches bordering the vineyard —
you can see the sun was out yesterday afternoon

Shady spots in the yard and around the vineyard — in the shadow of our bay laurel hedge, for example — stay frosty all day. The frost is building up and some patches of it are starting to look like snow, although we haven't had any precipitation for a while.

Barbed wire on the donkey pen

Luckily, we haven't had any wind to speak of either. That would make it really unbearable. I know it's all relative, and some of you reading this may be in areas where the weather's a lot colder and nastier than it is here. But our basically uninsulated concrete and tile house feels chilly these days. This is very cold weather for the Loire Valley.

Callie coming when called (but not thrilled about it)

We also just had to order 1,000 liters of fuel oil to keep our boiler and radiators going through the winter. The price we paid for fuel oil is €0,83 a liter, and that comes out to 264 U.S. gallons of oil for about $1200.00 U.S., or more than $4.00 a gallon. How much does heating oil cost in the U.S. these days?

Frosty blades of grass around the vineyard

We still take Callie out for her morning and afternoon walks, despite the cold weather. She doesn't mind. Walt and I both have long johns (des caleçons longs) to wear on cold mornings. I brought two pairs back from my trip to North Carolina, and I'm glad I did. I sure needed them this morning. I put on a short-sleeved tee-shirt, a long-sleeved tee-shirt, a corduroy shirt, a fleece vest, and my heavy coat. Not to mention the long johns, gloves, and a wool hat. Callie just wore her regular coat.

A dried-out hydrangea flower lasting into the winter

I'm not sure it feels a lot like Christmas, but that's because we have no special plans and I don't go out much. There are Christmas decorations around town and in some of the stores. OnTV, the national news is running a series this week showing different chefs and cooks trying to plan and buy the food for a Christmas dinner for six people on a budget of €150.00 or less, including wine. It's not easy.

Oak leaves turn golden but stay on the trees all winter.

Has anybody else in France noticed how much food prices have jumped up this fall? Vous qui habitez en France, êtes-vous d'accord avec moi que les prix des produits alimentaires montent en flèche depuis la rentrée ?


  1. It's cold here too, but also sunny, which is quite pleasant for Christmas.

    As for the prices, I don't know about "depuis la rentrée," but I know that some food items have gotten very pricey over the last year or so. We're lucky enough to be able to buy the food we enjoy, although we hardly indulge in really expensive stuff, but I know a lot of people who are complaining about not being able to feed that family correctly on the salaries they earn.

    Salaries have stayed quite low in France for a long time, and I think people are finally truly feeling the pinch. I guess that's what all of the "pouvoir d'achat" debate is about.

  2. Reading both blogs - Ken's and Walt's - I feel so lucky to be in a place where I don't have to negotiate snow, ice, and cold weather. Here in Salton City the night temperature is in the 30°F and daytime is in the 60°F, and we are 10 degrees cooler than normal! However, there snow in the mountains over Palm Spring and we know it's winter!

  3. Two weeks ago we paid $3.059 a gallon for heating oil in Pennsylvania. We could have bought a little cheaper earlier in the year, but the price at that point seemed high to us, so we waited. After Christmas we'll switch to burning wood, which gives the best heat.

    Do French homes not have insulation? I realize older ones wouldn't, but yours is new. Perhaps it hasn't been much of an issue in your climate.

  4. Food prices are up in the US too; there have been stories in the newspaper about it. A friend priced prime rib for Christmas Day at $12 a pound, and decided to go for the turkey instead.

    We're having a nice big chicken that I bought on sale two weeks ago at $.69 per pound. I'm very proud.

  5. Our house is 40 years old. It is minimally insulated. The walls are hollow brick or concrete block. The air spaces in the brick and block are what passes for insulation.

    This house was built as a summer and, eventually, a retirement home. I'm not sure insulation was a priority in the 1960s, at least for the people who built this place.

    CHM, if you weren't so far away you might have company. We'd like to spend the winter in the desert and enjoy the dry, relatively warm weather.

    We heat partially with wood too. Thank goodness. The French government actually subsidized our purchase of a wood stove in 2006 because it represents a shift to use of renewable resources for heating. Wood is still much less expensive than fuel oil, but who knows how long that will last.

    More about prices in the next couple of days...

  6. Hi Ken !

    Yes, food prices have skyrocketed, in M and Mme Amerloque's view.

    Chrissoup's friend might like to know that prime rib is even more expensive here. (grin)

    It's cold out in Normandy, too ... very, very ... in the woodframed farmhouse it's pretty cosy, though ...


  7. Ken,

    The price of heating oil is in the $3/gallon range, as one of your posts indicates. It has been a cold, snowy December in Boston with already over two feet of snow (we're several inches ahead of the snow total for all of last winter--but wait, winter doesn't officially arrive til Saturday.

    We've noticed that food prices are higher here, too. It may be in part because of the surge in corn prices, now that ethanol is the rage. Fresh fruits and vegetables seem out of sight.

  8. Fantastic photos! Love the barbed wire.
    Claude from Blogging in Paris

  9. Yep...it's cold! Good thing you've got your long-johns and a full fuel tank that will keep you warm. Stay bundled and active; that will help.

    And with all the good dishes you cook, it's bound to help. Prices seem to be rising everywhere, non?

    Meilleurs voeux!!


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