29 April 2009

Still waiting

Despite all the nice warm weather we had in April, I just got confirmation that we are having a very late season. Or at least the plants are. I realized that when I started looking at pictures I took in late April over the past 6 years.

Two years ago, the peonies and the sage were already in full flower. This year they have yet to bloom. We are still waiting.

In 2004, there were big fields of colza in flower all over the region. This year, the colza has just barely started blooming. Colza is also known as rape, and rapeseed oil is marketed in North America under the name Canola Oil. Here in France, it's huile de colza, and it's reputed to be the healthiest of all the vegetable oils you can use in your everyday cooking. Rape is a big crop around here.

A field of yellow colza in nearby Châteauvieux, 28 April 2004

It was interesting to look back at the old pictures. In late April 2003, we were leaving San Francisco. We had stopped out in the desert in Southern California for a couple of days to visit CHM before driving on to Illinois and then North Carolina. Our dog Collette rolled in something putrid and we had to give her a bath in Lemon Joy in CHM's back yard before we could continue our trip.

In April 2004, we were in Saint-Aignan. A friend who lives in Seattle was visiting and we spent a day at the zoo in Saint-Aignan (one of the best zoos in France, by the way). It was our first spring in Saint-Aignan.

In 2005 I was in North Carolina in late April. I have lots of pictures of beaches and boats. In Saint-Aignan, we had just finished our biggest DIY project of the past 6 years — scraping, sanding, and painting the walls in our big living room. It had taken us about 2 months to get it done.

In 2006, we were in the Dordogne with a friend who was visiting from California. We stayed in a gîte rural near Sarlat. The weather and the scenery were gorgeous. None of us had ever seen that area before.

In 2007, we had had a gorgeous, warm, completely dry month of April and we were just enjoying being outside in the back yard every day. Everything was in flower by the end of the month. We were anticipating the drive down to the breeder's to pick up our new dog and bring her home.

In 2008, by April we had had Callie for nearly a year already. And at the end of the month we had emptied out the kitchen and started scraping and sanding the walls to prepare them for painting. We had a temporary kitchen (microwave only) set up in the dining room.

This year, the weather has turned gray and chilly. The garden is ready, but not planted. It's a good thing we decided to wait. I don't think the tomato seedlings would be enjoying the cold rain that is falling this morning. The temperature is in the low 40s F.


  1. We have had a much harsher winter in England, with proper snow and a long cold spell. I wonder if we have got used to winters being milder lately and plants being earlier. Things are later in our garden this year. Perhaps that's more "normal".

  2. The rape was fully out down our way 2 weeks ago - I was suprised to see it so soon. I am sure it is about 2 weeks advanced of last year, but will check my photos and get back to you.

  3. Todays entry really interests me. First, your remarks about Colza. I'm both worried and interested at present as I have been told to use it for health reasons but a friend was told by a chef it becomes toxic and never to use it..my dilamma!
    I'm in Dordogne at present sitting beside my woodburner. It has been cold and wet for the past week. Warm sunshine would be so welcome now!

  4. Nice picture with the colza field.

    Word verification is flocon. Isn't that appropriate?

  5. zut, I planted my tomatoes about 10 days ago, hope they make it. it does seem like a late season here too.

    and now I know what the name of the plants are for the oil! thanks, there are fields in bloom all over here...I thought it was mustard!

  6. Anon 2: The trouble is there is oil and there is oil and there is oil. It is useful to know whether an oil is a monosaturate (eg olive oil) or a poly-unsaturate (eg colza), but all oils become saturated (like animal fat) to some extent when they are heated. To really decide how 'healthy' your oil is you need to know how it was extracted (chemical, low heat or cold pressed) and how stable it is when heated ie at what temperature it starts converting to a saturated fat. The advantage of Colza is that it remains stable up to a higher temperature than any of the other cooking oils, but the disadvantage is that most of what is available is cheap mass produced stuff stripped of any nutritional value except fat, and even if you use a high quality Colza, it does not have the nutritional value of an equivalent Olive oil, for example. There are all sorts of other issues with oils to do with how quickly they become rancid (which is what I am guessing your chef friend is alluding to), but it is pretty difficult to find sensible, independent, trustworthy information on the subject.

    NJNRR - colza is closely related to mustard.


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