26 January 2009

We were lucky

Southwestern France was really devastated by the storm this weekend. More than a million households were without electricity until yesterday, and more than 500,000 still are today. It will take the rest of the week to get all the current turned back on.

Eight people were killed in storm-related accidents, many because of falling trees. Rooftops and roof tiles were torn off.

Three-fourths of the pine forest, France's largest, in the region called Les Landes has been destroyed. The last storm of this intensity hit at Christmas in 1999. Back then, people say, the ground was dry but trees were just broken off above ground level by hurricane-force winds. This time, the ground was saturated with water and the trees were mostly uprooted.

Trees fell on 1500 km, 1000 miles, of rail lines across the southwestern region, blocking the tracks and pulling down the power lines used to run electrified locomotives. It will take a while to repair all that.

So that's the 7:30 news. I'm translating what I just heard on France 2 TV's Télématin newscast.

Aspen trees, called trembles in French, line the ravine
formed by a stream near our house that runs down to the Cher River.

Here in Saint-Aignan, lucky us, there was rain but no wind. It rained all afternoon again yesterday. We didn't see any hunters' cars during the day — on Sunday afternoons in wintertime, a little red van and a little white van are often parked out by the wine-grower's shed out in the vineyard, which we can see from our back windows. Those are "our" hunters' cars.

At about 4:30, I decided to take Callie out for her walk, despite the steady rain. As I stepped outside, I heard hunters' horns, dogs barking, and gunshots. So instead of walking out into the vineyard, in the direction of all the commotion, Callie and I walked down the paved road, around the neighbors' big yard across the road from our house, and then through a little section of woods to the vineyard plots on the north side.

Trees on the edge of the vineyard — you can see
a big ball of mistletoe in a tree on the far left,
and smaller ones in other trees.

As we got out there, away from the road, the noise of dogs baying and some other animal, I think, barking or crying very stressed, panicked sounds — almost shrieks — seemed to be getting closer and closer. I made Callie stay close to me, hoping we wouldn't see whatever animal was being tracked or the dogs tracking it. Callie would probably take off to join the pack if she saw that. I wondered if the hunted animal was a roe deer, or maybe a fox.

The animals got pretty close to us — they must have been very near our house, but on the other side — before they suddenly started moving away. Callie and I looped on around toward the back gate. The barking, panicking animal was definitely moving farther out into the vineyard, toward the tree-lined ravine at the bottom of which there is a little stream that runs down to the Cher River. Its high-pitched squeals were definitely not the barking of a hunting dog.

Looking back toward our hamlet from out in the vineyard.
I took all the pictures here last Wednesday, 1/21.

It was with great relief that I shooed Callie into our yard and closed the gate behind us. And with a slightly sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I hate Sunday afternoons during hunting season, which, I'm glad to report, ends next weekend.


  1. We have so many hunters here too. It's impossible to go into the woods. At least the ONF posts a warning that it's le jour de chasse.
    Glad you avoided le meutte. They can be scary.
    Also glad you weren't hit by the storm. We got hit very badly in 1999, and everytime the wind picks up my husband and I get shaky.

  2. glad y'all kept ur electricity.....and that there was no damage in Loire area
    I hate hunting.....one of my neighbors goes bow hunting for deer....man that thing is scary lookin.....

  3. It's good to read that your area didn't get hit.

    I would like to point you and Walt to this picture ( vu que vous êtes fanas de la photographie):


    You can zoom and pan around. Gives a better idea of the immense crowd than the TV did.
    CNN was demonstrating a new software that "blend" together thousands of photos sent by
    viewers to make on big one that you can pan around and zoom as well. The details are on cnn.com/themoment

    btw- my wv : ingrate

  4. I suggest those hunters whoever and wherever they are should go to Afghanistan to fight Al Qaeda. It will be so much more fun than chase a hapless and innocent animal! It will be more dangerous too, so maybe they don't want that.
    As a sharpshooter, Mr. Cheney would be great too.

  5. CHM

    I dunno- does taliban make great tasting saucisson? I'm not a great fan of some of the wilder hunting experiences we see, but we do like game :¬)

    (Reminds me of an old joke.. At a house party in the 1920's an old duffer looks at a pretty young thing and say's "I say - you're a pretty young thing. Are you game?"

    She replies "why - yes"

    So he shot her.

  6. Hi Simon,
    To be frank, I've never tried "taliban saucisson" that you can get only in non muslim countries. Since it would be made with "ces cochons de talibans" it is against the holy book to eat pork, and consequently would be banned in its country of origin.
    Not being a religious person, I would not mind trying "taliban saucisson" if the taste was right. Just in case it was smuggled as a delicacy here in So Cal, I'll look for it at my neighbourhood grocery store. I'll keep you posted.

  7. I'm not absolutely opposed to hunting, but I have to say that the cries of that animal really distressed me. I hope it was at least an animal that could be eaten, if it was actually killed. Somebody told me a few months ago that fox hunting season starts about this time of year.


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