28 December 2011

Late December days

It's hard to believe that we still have flowers blooming in the yard and out in the vineyard in late December — roses, for example, and a few wildflowers. We haven't yet had a freeze this year. By this time in 2010, we had had a major snow snowstorm, after which snow stayed on the ground for a couple of weeks and temperatures stayed frigid.

A rose blooming in the garden on December 27, 2011

Last year, with snow and rain, December was the wettest month we'd had since we put a rain gauge (un pluviomètre) out in our back yard in 2004. We recorded 130 millimeters of precipitation over the course of that month — that's slightly more than five inches. But wait — this December, we've already had more rain than that: nearly 150 mm, or six inches. A normal month produces two inches of rain.

I was out at sunrise for the morning walk yesterday, in the fog.
Sunrise was at 8:40 a.m. — no heroic effort was involved.

Overall, 2011 has been very dry. And according to the news, it has been the warmest year in the history of meteorological record-keeping in France, which began about 140 years ago. 2011 was warmer overall than2003, the year of the great canicule, or heat wave, which welcomed us to Saint-Aignan nearly nine years ago. The heat has been less extreme than back then, but lasted much longer.

The vineyard crews have been pulling out a lot of old, rotting
support posts and replacing them with new ones.

December isn't over yet, and now we're going into another rainy period, after a period of cold, gray, but dry weather that's lasted for several days. Tomorrow a rain front off the Atlantic will sweep cross the country. Another big area of rain will cover most of the country on Friday 12/30 and Saturday 12/31.

As recently as October, the waterholes all around the vineyard
were completely dry. Now they're nearly full.

Rain at this time of year usually brings warmer temperatures, and this episode won't be an exception. We're expecting afternoon highs around 10ºC/50ºF, rather than in the 30s F (single digits C). Morning lows will stay well above freezing. That's nice for us — we'll use up less firewood and less fuel oil. Home heating oil and diesel fuel are selling at near record high prices in France right now.

Two more views of the state of the Renaudière vineyard
in late December 2011

One factor in those high fuel prices is the slight decline in the euro against the U.S. dollar. Oil is priced in dollars, so as the dollar appreciates and the euro depreciates, it takes more euros to buy a liter or gallon or barrel of petroleum product. The U.S. dollar is trading at about 76 eurocents right now, compared to 67 or 68 cents just a few months ago. As a result, for example, my U.S. retirement pension is now worth 12% more in euros than it was last spring. That's significant, believe me.


  1. I'm sure it's significant, and it
    sounds as though it will continue
    to improve for you.

    Would like to bury my nose in
    that rose!

  2. Two of my former students are in Paris right now, and they posted pictures of the fog around la Tour Eiffel-- it was quite a sight to be unable to see above the first platform, even with it all covered with lights!

    Good news about the 12%...oooh!


  3. Those old support posts look like they'd make make great firewood.

  4. That dollar rate should certainly help people in the tourism industry [viz: Simon and Susan] if it does stay... and brings more travellers.

    We've had the "humide" all day [blame Pauline, she was going to do a wash!]

    WV is "nonsist"... the next level down from subsist!

  5. Wonderful rose in the photo :-).


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