07 January 2009

Coldest morning in years

It was negative 10.8ºC at 8:00 this morning, or about +12ºF. At the warmest spot in the house, it was +13ºC, or +55ºF. In the downstairs pantry (le cellier where we store wine, canned food, and things like rice and noodles) it went down to 41ºF (+5.7ºC). That room is not heated; it's on a north-exposed exterior wall and has a dirt floor. A few days ago, it was over 50ºF (+10ºC) in there.

Scenes from yesterday afternoon, when the sun came out

This is the coldest morning we've had since we moved to Saint-Aignan in 2003. The next coldest was two or three winters ago when the temperature went down to minus 8ºC (+18ºF). If that doesn't seem very cold compared to where you are, remember that houses here are not built to withstand such temperatures. This is a pretty rare occurrence in Saint-Aignan. Our house has very little insulation except the air spaces inside the brick and concrete blocks it is built out of.

The neighbors' property across the road from our house

So far we haven't had any frozen pipes — and that makes me think I might do well to go check the downstairs shower, which is in an unheated room and has pipes running right up against a cold exterior wall. And so far our heat is working fine. We usually just turn on the boiler and heat up the radiators in the morning from about 7:00 until noon or a little later. Then we turn it all off and when it starts to feel chilly in the house we build a wood fire.

Today I think the radiators might just have to stay on all day. I just checked the temperature in our little "sun porch," where I put vulnerable outdoor plants to spend the winter. The temperature there is down to +2.4ºC (36ºF). It's the first time I've ever seen it colder than 6ºC (42ºF) out there.

We're trying to keep food out for the poor birds.

I hope those plants survive. I'm afraid many of the plants I left outside for the winter, thinking we would have another mild one like the last two, will be lost. Some are in pots and I didn't have room for them inside. Others, like the artichokes and collard greens, are in the ground. We hope our wisteria won't freeze, or the cala lillies. Or the thyme and rosemary bushes. And so on. We'll see.

The frigid back yard

Our outdoor thermometer is in a protected spot on the north side of the house and it reads a little warmer than what the official MétéoFrance temperatures show. According to MétéoFrance, it is minus 12ºC in Tours this morning. Romorantin, on the other side of Saint-Aignan, is usually colder than Tours, but I haven't seen reports about it.

This is the top of the hedge.
We'll have more turkey-barley soup for lunch today, I'm sure. I'm glad I made it, because it's very warming. I'll post about what goes into it in a day or two. We both thought it turned out to be very good.

P.S. It's 11:00 a.m. and the sun is shining brightly. The temperature has "warmed up" to minus 8.6ºC!


  1. Awesome pics!
    Not related to the images but why the soil (in the summer)in the vineyards is white, along the Loire valley; especially in Saumur, Chinon? On one side is chalky white(of the river) on the other, is black.

  2. I don't know the answer, Anonymous. Do you?

    Here on the hills along the south bank of the Cher River near Saint-Aignan, the soil is clay with a lot of flintstone in it. There's also a lot of limestone around here -- the stone that went into the building of a lot of the famous châteaux was quarried just down the river from us in Bourré.

    I imagine the black soil has other geological origins. Could it be mostly sand with a lot of organic matter in it?

  3. Yikes, that's cold! The snow photos are lovely, nonetheless, King Ken :)
    That was a cute story yesterday about Callie enjoying her first romp in the snow.


  4. Hi Judy, this is the coldest weather France has had since maybe the early '80s, right after we were in Paris on the Alma program. I also remember the winter of 78-79 as being cold like that. I was in Paris for a month at Christmas back then and the pipes in the apartment where I was staying (you know the one, I think) froze. There was no water for a few days. The streets of Paris were snowy and icy. It was amazing, because I had already spent three or four winters in France by then and I had never seen anything like it. I lived in Illinois back then in between Paris stays and knew what frigid weather was all about, but France usually had mild winters.

  5. I was going to say "yikes" but Judy beat me to it! We have had some bizarre effects from the cold here in the UK, like frozen rivers and even harbours - we've become rather used to dull, grey, mild winters.

    Still, the forecast says you should be back in positive temperatures by the weekend. And the days are getting longer, now.

    Keep warm. Think of spring sunshine.


  6. Your wisteria can tolerate a freeze - we had an awesome one in Pennsylvania that froze every winter, and another that suffered the same in Ohio. Neither one held it against us when it came time to bloom. I wish I could say the same for the rest of your plants.

  7. Good grief!! Eat barley soup and stay warm.


  8. Monday it struggled to get above freezing here in Waco and was gray all day. Today it was sunny and alomost 70. We will appraoch 80 tomorrow. Then it will be back to the 40s with lows in the 20s. It has been that way for a month or so now. I wore shorts Christmas Eve and Christmas, followed by heavy jackets a couple of days later. Then I was back in shorts this weekend before the ice on Monday. The result is that the highs are swinging by almost 60 degrees in just three days. Crazy.


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