23 July 2009

Flashes of lightning and balls of fire

We have Internet service this morning. That's comforting. The France Télécom « expert » did not call yesterday between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. as had been promised. I guess there was no need to call since everything was working normally again.

Before 6:00 p.m. I took Callie on her walk out into the vineyard. I went out to see if I could find any evidence of a lightning strike out there. I couldn't. Everything looked perfectly normal — no big burned spot on the ground anywhere that I could find, no trees broken or scorched. Maybe I imagined the whole thing. But I don't think so.

Walt's basil garden in the mini-serre

I ran into Roland, who does gardening work for two of our neighbors. He was out piling up some grass trimmings and cut branches for, I imagine, burning later. I told him my story about the lightning bolt. He said sometimes you can get the impression that a lightning strike was much closer than it really was. He said that the sharp bolt and nearly simultaneous thunder I saw had happened just before 1:00 a.m. — he was awake and watching the storm too.

It rained this morning.

In French, people say that lightning "falls" from the sky — « la foudre est tombée sur une maison », for example. It's just an expression, but I think it's a funny one. One French lightning expert I read put the verb tomber in quotation marks when he used it in this context. His name is Christian Bouquegneau, and he says that balls of lightning probably occur but there is no scientific proof of their existence.

One night, 10 or 12 years ago in San Francisco, where lightning and thunder are rare occurrences, we had an electrical storm. I was standing in front of a sliding glass door and watching the display. There was a crack of lightning and I saw — I swear I did — a ball of fire or lightning or whatever it was fall into our little back garden and zoom, bouncing, across the width of the yard before disappearing into darkness.

Morning sky, 23 July 2009 at La Renaudière

I had never seen anything like that in North Carolina or Illinois, where we often had awe-inspiring, violent, scary thunderstorms. I told a guy I worked with in California about the ball of lightning that had skidded across my back yard. He said he had seen the same thing one time — at his grandmother's house in Missouri. But in his case, he said, he and his grandmother watched the ball of fire come in a window on one side of the house, bounce and roll through the house, and go out a window on the other side.

Emm's comment on yesterday's post reminded me of all this. I guess I never thought there would be such violent weather here in the Loire Valley. I do remember rare but impressive thunderstorms in Paris back in the early '80s, when I last lived there. Usually the weather here in northern France is very mild, though.

Tomatoes in the garden

It was extremely hot yesterday afternoon, with temperatures again approaching 90ºF. The humidity was high. It started raining, with just distant rumbles of thunder around Saint-Aignan, early in the evening, and I have the impression that it rained all night. It's raining now. It's the kind of light steady rain that sinks right into the dry earth.

By the way, yesterday I made plum sauce with those little wild red plums. It has salt, sugar, hot red pepper flakes, vinegar, and diced ginger root in it. We're going to have some with grilled pork chops for lunch today.


  1. Your plum sauce sounds wonderful. Those wet apples and tomato photos are very nice to look at.

    As for storms the most awesome frightening ones I remember occurred in my teen years in Louisville. My house had a big picture window facing West and we liked to watch storms come. I never saw a ball of lightening though and am not sure if I want to see one.

    When I was young I feared another flood like the one that happened along the Ohio river in the 30s.

    We had really pelting heavy rain with lightening many summer nights in the heat of the summer.

  2. I am back (with saddness). I will drop you an email about the great trip we had. While in France, 2 weeks ago, I watched a fascinating show on storms. In "the Cantal", they actually captured lightning balls... on film. I learned more in an hour than I ever did before.

  3. Hi Nadège, I wish I had seen that show about the Cantal. We are making plans to go down there soon.

  4. Oh, that plum sauce on grilled pork chops sounds delicious. Kind of like plum sweet/hot bbq sauce :)

    Welcome back, Nadège :)


  5. we have inpressive lightening displays here in western NC......none so far this summer tho.....yrs ago my family experienced ball lightening....it passed thru the kitchen between about 4 people standing in there....came in one window & went out door.....we have also had a bold strike the house (came up thru the plumbing....which is why u should stay away from the bathroom during a storm!) It also came within a couple of feet of the propane tank (the workman who came to fix the plumbing said "Y'all would have been crispy critters") indeed

    we finally got some much needed rain too......my maters will not ripen tho

  6. Judy, the sweet and spicy plum sauce is delicious. That was the best way to use those plums, considering that I have about 3 quarts of plum jam from 2007 down in the cellar.

    Melinda, do your tomatoes have the late blight? I read about an epidemic of it on the East Coast, affecting most back-yard tomato gardens this year. We had it last year, I'm convinced, because it rained too much but stayed fairly warm. Our green beans in 2008 loved that weather, but the tomatoes and eggplants just perished.

  7. Could you please share your recipe for Plum Sauce? It sounds heavenly. Also other than pork what would you use it on?

  8. If I were Ken or Walt (am I'm not) I would make egg rolls or spring rolls and use it on them.

    Me being the not-cooking-chinese-food kind of person I am, I would buy egg rolls and use it on that.

  9. Hi Ch., we need to see if we can buy some egg rolls around here. We might have to drive up to Blois to find some! Actually, we have a plan to make some samosas and have plum sauce with those.

    Kendall, I'll do a topic about the plum sauce but I don't really have a recipe. Some of this, a pinch of that, just enough of something else... It was an experiment, but it is good.

  10. A little theme music (hope blogger permits the link):



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