The temperature at our house this morning is +1.3ºC — I put in the plus sign to make sure what I'm saying is clear. According to the weather report on Télématin, the low in Nevers this a.m. was -5ºC. And Nevers is not much more than 100 miles east of Saint-Aignan.
Here are the equivalents: +1.3ºC is 34.3ºF. That's in Saint-Aignan, at our house, and decimal point matters when it's this cold. In Nevers, that -5ºC is equivalent to 23ºF! At least it's bright and sunny during the daytime right now. Thanks to Scandinavia for sending us a packet of frigid air.
Yesterday, while Walt was working on the hedge some more — it's very close to being done for another year — I pulled out a lot of tomato plants. Remember, we had about 35 of them. I think there may be 15 more out there, waiting for me to dispose of them this morning. I also brought a dozen or so potted plants into the house to protect them from the cold.
It always feels good to clean out the garden plots in the autumn. Now it really is autumn — witness the cold snap. And we are lucky this autum to have dry weather during the time when we have all this dirty work to do. Soon we'll have that big bonfire to get rid of all the yard trimmings and dried up garden plants.
I'm not just ripping the tomato plants out of the ground by brute force, you know. First I have to cut or undo all the string and plastic-covered wire ties that held the plants to their stakes. I don't want all that stuff on the ground when next I run the roto-tiller out there. Then, or before, I have to gather all the little — and some not so little — green, yellow, pink, purple, and even red tomatoes left out there. The photos will show you what I'm talking about when I describe the end of the 2009 crop.
We spent time a day or two ago picking up apples again, but there are still plenty of them on the ground and on the trees. Ninety percent of them go into the compost pile. That said, we've also eaten no fewer than three Tartes Tatin and two apple cakes over the past couple of weeks.
And whenever I go out to walk the dog, I grab an apple off a different tree from last time to see what it tastes like and what the texture is — crunchy, sour, sweet, mushy, crisp, mealy, bland, sharp, and so on. The apples off one of our neighbor's trees definitely have a vanilla flavor. I'm still getting to know all of them. There are probably a dozen varieties growing on trees all around the hamlet, and not very many get picked.
Did I mention another tree that has thousands of big, hard quinces on it? Should I make quince jelly again? Or apple jelly, or apple sauce? These are the big existential questions of the day.
I'm putting on my long johns under my blue jeans before I take Callie out for the morning walk in about 15 minutes. The first glimmers of light are showing through the curtains right now. And hey, we had a wood fire in the stove yesterday afternoon. Walt built a top-down fire, and it worked great. I'm sure he'll be telling about it at some point.
Lunch today? Oeufs en meurette, which is a concoction of poached or baked eggs in a red wine sauce with onions, smoked pork lardons, and some herbs and vinegar. It's Burgundian. More about that later.
P.S. 9:00 a.m., just back from the walk. A man hired by the village is out back cleaning up around the communal pond, cutting down tall weeds, brambles, and even small trees. I greeted him with a remark about the cold weather. « Moins deux ce matin, » he said. « C'est un temps de saison. » — "Minus two [that's 28ºF]. It's normal for the season." It's true that there was a lot of frost out in the vineyard, and that our thermometer is close to the house in a protected spot.