30 November 2010

Un froid de canard

That's what they say in French: "duck cold" (maybe that should be "ducking cold"). According to the dictionary, the underlying meaning has to do with ducks flying south when the weather turns frigid. The temperature this morning is –5ºC. That's the lowest yet, and is the equivalent of about +23ºF. This is officially a "hard freeze" — one in which plants suffer damage. Mine have all been brought in.

A homeless man was found frozen to death at the door of a shopping center in the Paris suburbs. A woman was found dead in Marseille yesterday morning in similar circumstances. There are associations that organize night-time patrols to locate homeless people who are sleeping outside and in danger of dying from exposure.

Our back yard: un froid de canard

In the house the temperature was 12ºC, or 54ºF, when I got up at about 6:45. That's chilly. We don't keep the heat on overnight. I went down and turned it on and now the place is warming up. Yesterday afternoon and evening, we had a hot fire in the wood-burner, and that's enough to maintain a comfortable temperature through the whole house.

Looking out over the vineyard yesterday morning

I wonder if the bread-delivery lady will try to make it up the hill this morning. Sometimes in winter, when the roads might be icy, her husband makes the rounds with her, at the wheel of the little white bakery van. We do need bread but I could always make some if she doesn't show up. Our hill is steep and the roadway might be slick.

No matter the cold, I have to walk Callie this morning. I just have to be careful on the dirt road, with its ruts and puddles. They will all be frozen solid, of course, and I don't want to slip and fall down, or hurt my ankle again. Callie enjoys running and playing in the snow. I don't know how her little feet can stand the cold.

Yesterday afternoon the sun came out for a while,
but the temperature started dropping.

As for me, I have a wool cap, thick gloves, a fleece jacket, over that a flannel-lined windbreaker with a hood, long underwear, and waterproof hiking boots with heavy, ridged soles. Bundled up in all that, I probably won't get hurt even if I do fall down. I'll just bounce off the rock-hard ground.

It's useless taking my camera out with me because I can't operate it with gloves on.

Predictions are for continued cold and more snow. A front is moving up from Spain, over the Pyrenees, and will bring a snowstorm to areas south of us today — especially the Auvergne region, which is mountainous. By tomorrow, the snow is supposed to arrive at our doorstep. The question is whether it will stay east of Saint-Aignan. It's kind of moving that way. We'll be right on the edge, as we often are.

This picture from 29 November 2007 shows what we
had come to consider "normal" weather for this time of year.

We haven't had any more power cuts, so the central heat and water heater are working just fine (je touche du bois). The house gets chilly, but that's our doing. The roof is covered with snow again, and with the current cold snap it's likely to stay that way for a while.

The first light of dawn is appearing in the sky at 7:45 and it's nearly time for me to venture out. It'll take me a few minutes to get dressed.

* * *

I'm back. I don't know why the cold has settled so specifically on the Orléans region, just north of us, but according to MétéoFrance it has. The low in Orléans and Chartres this morning was –13ºC (+9ºF), which is a lot colder than in Tours and here in Saint-Aignan.

The view out a skylight window yesterday
after the sun had melted much of the snow
that was covering it.

Of course depending on where you live in the U.S. (or elsewhere), 23ºF might not seem very cold. Walt grew up in Albany, New York, where it gets much colder than that in wintertime, and I lived for several years in central Illinois in the Midwest, where it's not only a lot colder than it ever is in Saint-Aignan, and windy too.

I had only one close call while out walking. I stepped on an icy patch on the road and my feet went sliding forward while my head and torso stayed behind. I caught myself and found a steady footing before I actually fell though. Then I headed home. Enough is enough.


  1. I am glad to hear that the central heating is still working! We had our first dusting of snow last night but still seem to be one of the few places in Englang which has escaped any problems. There is more forecast though. I just hope the man who is coming in to finish our new kitchen will come today, at the moment we have no water in the kitchen which is a challenge!

  2. I so enjoy reading your posts during my travels. But for now I am in south western Australia and it's bloody hot! But many of my friends are in Europe...and your recipes still work here in WA through all the seasons. I hope you enjoy your seasonal produce...

  3. Holy cow! 9° in Chartres?!?

    Your photos are great :)


  4. Sounds like a good day to stay inside and bake some bread and make homemade soup. Be careful when you guys go outside please.

  5. YOWEE! That's cold. Even though we (Eugene) had low 20's last week we're now back up to a high of 50 yesterday and today will be in the low 40's.

    I am glad you caught yourself, Walt, on the ice. Nasty walking on slippery surfaces.

    How high on the hill are you?

  6. You know about checking Callie's feet for ice between the pads, don't you? She'll let you know soon enough if it's bothering her, and it's easy to clean out. Lucky that she's walking in an area where the snow is clean and not car-fouled.

  7. It is approximately the same temp in Chicago as it is here in San Jose -- mid-50's. The temps in Chicago are going down. Am hoping that ours are going in the opposite direction. Stay warm, eat hardy!

  8. Hi Cheryl, sounds like it would have been a good time for a trip to Chicago. Judy has said they've been having snow in St. Louis, though, if I remember right.

    Emm, Callie gets her paws washed off in warm water in the downstairs shower nearly every morning after her walk. She did have ice between her paw pads yesterday morning, I noticed.

    Mary, We are at the top of a steep hill, which is actually a plateau that vineyards are planted on. It's a steep climb up our road, and I think we are as much as 300 feet above the level of the river. Not sure about that though. When the road is icy or snowy it's dangerous.

    Hi Caroline, having no hot water is bad enough, but no water at all in the kitchen is even worse. Hope the work got finished. Good luck with the snow too.

  9. No, Ken, no snow in St. Louis.... cold temps, with lows about like yours, and lots of rain on a couple of days. I did mention that I looked at the forecast for your area, and it had snow possible almost every day and night this week :)



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