27 March 2013

Deprived of sunlight

The news on France2 TV reported yesterday that March 2013 has been the grayest month of March in at least 10 years. A lot of people here are suffering from SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder — a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in winter and early spring.

That's especially true since this March came on the heels of a winter over which we had the fewest hours of sunlight in at least 30 years. That was the other news headline. It just goes from bad to worse.

Tilling up a long strip for lettuces etc.
But not really. Yesterday, finally, we had a sunny day with no rain. It hasn't rained enough recently to keep the ground wet, so walks with the dog are a little less muddy and mucky. Sun, a dry but cold breeze, and sparse rains are doing their job of drying things out.

I actually got the rototiller out  and started it up yesterday morning. I figured I might as well take advantage of a few rays of sunshine to see if the ground is dry enough to till. It is, if only barely. I tilled up a long row where Walt wants to plant lettuces, radishes, and other early spring crops. That'll keep him busy while I'm in the U.S.

The rototiller finally gets some exercise.

And then I tilled up the rich little patch of well-composted soil out in the back corner. We plant something different there every year. This year, we might put some dill in there. I'd like to try making dill pickles a the end of the summer.

The rest of the garden will have to wait for my return from North Carolina in mid-April. One plot still has collard green and Swiss chard growing in it (and lots of weeds). One has the big burn pile on it — we'll either burn it or move it in April. The two other plots are covered with dead leaves, so they aren't overgrown with weeds. I'll till the leaves into the soil there in April.

Dill and other herbs might go here this year, by the plum tree.
So there's some garden news. The other news is that it's still cold — the temperature is right at freezing this morning. It's been cold for so long, the noon news on television reported, that people all over France have had to buy more fuel oil to run their furnaces and boilers so they can make it through spring, which can be cold.

That's what we've had to do. We bought our winter supply of fuel in early December. Last week, I had to buy more — a thousand liters. That set me back more than a thousand euros (US$1350). It was an unplanned expenditure for us and for a lot of people, according to the news reports. In our case, however, that much fuel oil should take us well into January or even February 2014, so it's not so bad.

Gardening is what everybody around Saint-Aignan does in spring, summer,
and autumn. We're getting a fairly late start this year.

And we ran completely out of firewood, by the way. It's kind of late in the season to start looking for more now. That's why we really needed to have the fuel tank refilled.


  1. Our soil is like yours -- barely workable. There is some new weather and climate research which is finding a strong correlation between the activity of the Arctic ice and the northern hemisphere weather. Last year the weather in March in the Arctic was exceptionally cold, and the jetstream concentrated over that region. As a result we got an exceptionally warm March. This year it's the opposite, with the ice breaking up at record speed and a huge jetstream loop sitting further south. We are fortunate to just be on the fringes this year.

  2. Hi Ken,

    I think I suffer from SAD. Ten years ago mu lab had another lab built on to it, meaning that I lost my windows and outside door. Prior to this in all sorts of weather my door would be open. Now I have supa dupa lighting and some skylights but no windows.

    If I'm using Bunsen burners I even have to close the skylight blinds because the flame can't be seen.

    How I miss them, even when the sun isn't shining!!

    Hope the weather picks up for you (and us) very soon.

  3. The transformation on peoples' faces yesterday morning was wonderful to see... smiling, chatting... and also walking more upright.

    Our collard greens have started to sprout... wonderful, tender, sweet sprouts... had some steamed with butter the other day. Along with a selection of other sprouts... kale, cabbage, rocket... and brussel sprout tops.
    But the main leaves are still really tender, too.

  4. I just heard on Télématin that the northern part of France is experiencing its coldest month of March since 1997.

  5. That sounds about right to me, Dean.

  6. it snowed today when i was doing chores... we are languishing in The Never Ending Winter..... such a joy to see you about to be outside!!!

  7. We finally have a very sunny day here, too, today-- I love it, too! It's exciting that you're getting tilling done-- but, I'm amazed that you already went through that huge stack of wood. Wow!

  8. That is one huge fuel bill, but as you said it is for nearly an entire year - thank goodness.
    Will you be able to look forward to at least some radishes when you return from the U.S.?

  9. Tim, collards, steamed, with butter? Never heard of such a thing. Collards boiled with salt pork, yes....

    OFG, sorry about your snow. We are still getting freezing temps for a few more days.

    Mary, maybe radishes, maybe lettuce. I'll be happy with both, or either.

    Judy, that wood went up in a puff of smoke...

  10. Ken, it is the young flower spikes that I'm talking about... they are really lovely!!
    And we have found that steaming the collard works just fine... been having that with some S&P and a bit of Vigean's "Frooty and Nuts"


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