18 August 2009

Dry, dry, dry

And I'm not talking about the wine (though it's dry too). I'm talking about the summer of 2009. Everything around Saint-Aignan is parched. The water holes (les trous d'eau) scattered around the vineyard are either dry or nearly so. The level of the little pond out back is very low.

It's not so much that it's hot. Our high temperature did not go above 27ºC/81ºF yesterday afternoon, and it is cool this morning — 14.5ºC/58ºF. It's true that Saturday and Sunday were 90º days (or close), with temperatures near 32ºC. The weather report on TV right now says it will be that hot again today.

The pond is very low and the fish are at the surface, gulping
for air. It has also been invaded by a non-native weed.
a link to a picture of the pond in winter a couple of years ago.)

But this is nothing compared to the summer of 2003, the year of the great canicule or heat wave, when so many died of dehydration and exhaustion in France. But it is probably just as dry this year as it was back then, our first summer in Saint-Aignan.

I just looked back at rainfall statistics we've kept since 2005. Summer precipitation totals, for June, July, and August, look like this:

It seems obvious that a normal summer's rainfall here would be between 4 and 5 inches. Look at 2007 — that explains our failed garden that year. The surprising year is 2008, because looking back on it, it seemed like a cool damp summer. Maybe it was humid and cool, but it wasn't all that rainy, according to the figures. The impression depends on whether the rain falls steadily and often, or hard and infrequently.

Callie us used to getting a drink from this water hole
in the vineyard. But right now it is pretty much dry.

And August 2009 isn't over yet. The weather might change. We are probably due for a rainy spell. September is often a dry month, however, and that's good for the grape harvest.


  1. Interesting figures Ken. I suspect that 2003 was wetter, although it was hotter there tended to be storms or rain every couple of weeks or so in 2003. The 2003 Tour de France Time Trial around Nantes was held in pouring rain.

    It is also interesting to see the low rainfall for 2008 as people tende3d to remember last year as a rainy summer. It wasn't – just cold.

  2. Our little stream at the orchard has been dry now for 5 days.

  3. Susan, as I said, the water holes have all dried up and our pond (the village's, actually) is drying up too. We are watering regularly. I'm ready for some rain. And even cooler weather.

    Jim, you're surely right about 2003 and 2008. We thought we would die of heat exhaustion in 2003, just having arrived here from summer-less San Francisco. And I thought 2008 was very wet, but I guess I was wrong. Our tomatoes sure had the blight though. Must say the green beans were great though.

  4. I remember 2003 well. We sweltered in Hotel du Soleil in St Remy. We saw some parched wheat fields on our drive up to Normandy that summer and the canicule came later as I recalled. Our trip was in July I think and the canicule was in August, non?

    A drought is discouraging. A normal year is a blessing. The weather seems to have real swings nowadays.

    We're watching the storms develop now. We have Bob who will hopefully pass by before Linda's flight out of Tallahassee on the 27th.

  5. Are the water holes natural springs? Or are they fed from a source somewhere else? I'm always interested in how water gets where.

    I hope for rain for you (and for the fish!) soon.

  6. Let's have a blog toast with champaign or fac simiie when you get to your 100,000 mark!

  7. Ellen, I think the water holes — there are three that I know of — are filled just by rainwater runoff. Our little pond is too, except when they haul tankloads of water from the river to fill it during dry weather. But nobody has come to fill it this year.

    Evelyn, that's Walt who is approaching 100,000 visits on his blog. He has several bottles of Aubert Vouvray sparkling brut down in the pantry. We'll open one here or in the Cantal when we are there.

    Haven't heard about Bob. Must look at the tropical weather reports.

  8. Evelyn, it's Bill not Bob and it's supposed to stay out in the Atlantic, passing somewhere between North Carolina and Bermuda. I'll keep my eye on it.

  9. Here in Victoria, Australia our reservoirs are below 30% capacity and water restrictions have been operating for a few years now.
    We just drink more wine.
    PS - Sue contributed to the blog with her home made pizza and a superb bottle of Macon wine that we brought back from Dijon.

  10. Canicula is the Latin name of the Dog Star, Sirius, in the Canis Major constellation. Sirius rises and sets at the same time as the Sun from July 22 to August 23. It usually is a period of great heat, that's why it is called canicule, as well as dog days for the same reason.


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