While Walt was in Albany, I was walking Tasha the Sheltie twice a day. We had the full range of local weather over the course of the week he was gone, including high winds, heavy rains, sunny spells, and just gray days. All that was missing was some snow and ice, but it hasn't been that kind of winter so far. A recent news report said that January 2020, for example, was the warmest January ever recorded in France. I think the same will be true of February.
I mostly walk out into the Renaudière vineyard when I go out with the dog. There are other paths in the ares that I could follow, but some of them are too muddy right now. One advantage of walking in the vineyard is that we very seldom see a car, another person, or another dog out there. There are a lot of rocks, however — this is rocky ground compared to the land down in the river valley, half a mile away, which is mostly sand. Some rocks I can't resist picking up and taking home. The white one in the photo above has to be chalk, and I believe I can see some seashells embedded in it. They say that prehistorically this area was seabed. You can zoom in on the images here by clicking on them a couple of times.
Last fall, while I was on my most recent trip to America, the biggest apple tree in our back yard split in half and fell to the ground. It wasn't a surprise, because it had lost several big limbs over the past five or six years. We had a landscaping crew come and cut up the wood, which we kept for firewood. Here's what the stump looks like. It's hollow, and it had a lot of ants and other insects living in it. The stump was cut off at ground level, and it will eventually finish rotting a way. Maybe it's a good candidate for the rock salt treatment. Our friends and part-time neighbors who live in Blois told me that a linden ("lime") tree in their back yard suffered a similar fate back in November. It broke in half and they saw that the trunk had been hollowed out by insects or fungus or whatever.
I'm glowing kale out in the vegetable garden. It's the Red Russian kale variety, also called Siberian kale — even though it is most likely native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Asia Minor. Kale is a loose-leaf cabbage as opposed to cabbages that form a hard head as they grow, and greens like kale and collard greens tolerate freezing temperatures so can be grown over the winter in our climate. They don't really like dry, hot weather, so I wasn't sure these plants would survive the June-to-October drought we lived through in 2109. But they did. I like the color of this variety's leaves. And they're tender and tasty too.
Here's another example of a tree — an apple tree — that has succumbed either to disease or to extreme weather conditions, including long dry spells like last summer's, or prolonged rainy periods like the weather we've had since October 2019. It's hard to believe it was drought that killed this tree, because it grows within a few feet of a pond that has never gone dry since we've lived here. Its roots have to have been well watered. The tree used to produce little green apples that were sweet and crunchy. The man who owns the vineyard once told me that he considered them to be the best apples out of the dozen or more varieties that grew around the vineyard. Now the tree stands dead — even the mistletoe that grew in the tree has died now — and one limb after another falls to the ground as winter windstorms blow through the area.
As I just wrote, it has been exceedingly rainy here for five months now, and the recent weeks have been no exception. Rain or shine, the dog needs a walk, so out we go. Sometimes the walks aren't very long, and that was especially true over the week when I was going out twice a day. Rain like the rain making these ronds dans l'eau on the vineyard road is not hard enough to discourage Tasha, or me. The vineyard road is full of pot holes and puddles, but it's made of gravel so not too muddy. This morning a hard rain is falling — it started sometime right after midnight.
This is the view facing west as we walk out on the vineyard road at sunset. The gravel road is nearly a mile long from its starting point near our back gate, ending out where it intersects the next paved road. That one is marked on maps and by signs as a pretty road through the local vineyards for tourists driving, biking, or hiking through the area. At least some of the grapes grown here go into wines that carry the Touraine-Chenonceaux label of quality.