It’s been hot, hot, hot. Yes, I hear you say, the same where you are too! What a summer! We have had a measly 19 days of rain since January and temperatures regularly above 38C for long stretches over the last couple of months.
Scorched fields, grapes drying on the vines and wildfires – it’s hard to find the positives. But there are some, like this gallant local firefighter who, during a long battle with a blaze which ravaged 75 acres of woodland near Nozières, managed to save this baby boar, it’s feet were scorched but it is now being cared for in an animal sanctuary and is doing well.
The courage and dedication of both the professional and volunteer firefighters has been frankly awe inspiring. Just look at what this young man is wearing, given that the temperature that day in our courtyard was topping 40C and that he was in the midst of a blazing inferno which, from les Sarziers, looked like a volcano.
Whole villages have been mobilized to support their efforts with, typically, the baker providing bread and the local shop ham for hundreds of sandwiches, along with their entire stock of bottled water, to keep the soldats du feu fed and watered, and the salle des fêtes opened up for them to be able to rest between shifts.
The most dramatic part of the operations is always when the aerial reinforcements arrive. In this case, the first was a Dash aircraft, which dumped ten tons of red fire retardant, returning three times to repeat the operation.
Then three trusty Canadairs trundled overhead, making for the blaze.
They banked and circled, the pilots assessing the best angle at which to dump their load – eight tons of water per aircraft.
Then one by one they swooped down into the smoke, disappearing for a heart-stopping moment before soaring up and away back to the Rhone to pick up another cargo of water. This they do in flight, skimming the surface of the water and swallowing their load in just ten seconds.
The daring and professional skill of the pilots is magnificent to witness and Markus did a pretty good job getting these shots. Here are two professional photos from the local paper.
In all they made 24 drops, before heading off to deal with other blazes – unfortunately there have been nine along the Doux in the past week and another dreadful fire in the neighbouring départment. The 150 firefighters stayed all night, finally bringing the blaze under control in the early hours of the following morning. Although the campsite had been evacuated and a remote farmhouse threatened, fortunately there was no loss of human life. And at least one boar piglet was saved!
In other news . . .
Although Roger’s potato crop was completely ruined by the ferocious hailstorm which hit us on July 5th, we have been enchanted, and somewhat surprised by a delightful single row of sunflowers which is thriving at the top of his patch above our courtyard wall. No one grows sunflowers here, they are far too thirsty (apart from one farmer who is not entirely in sympathy with environmental issues around irrigation, and even he has been obliged to desist as the water level in the Doux drops ever lower).
We asked Roger about them. I remember that last year a rogue plant appeared among the potatoes, which I was sure was going to turn out to be a sunflower, although Roger did not agree. “Well” he said “you were right about that plant last year, so I collected the seeds and, as there was a spare row in the potato patch, I sowed them – you never know”. Waste not want not. I am sure that the hens, and even the rabbits at La Mouna, his cousin’s farm, won’t turn their noses and beaks up at a little extra exotic feed this winter.
Now this year, three other unusual plants have appeared amongst the potatoes. Unfortunately I did not think to get a picture of them when they were still in flower – beautiful, rather unusual deep purple gladioli a bit like this one.
I thought I’d try Roger with gladioli! “Oh yes” he replied, not turning a hair “they are just markers to indicate where Dorian’s potatoes end and Vincent’s begin”. Of course!
And finally, here’s a cheery picture of our friend Kiki, who has been staying. Roger enjoys her visits almost as much as we do and cut this enormous bunch of verveine for her to take back to Paris for her tisanes. It looks like that will see her through the winter!