The End of Summer

Autumn colours 10-15 1

Autumn leaves

Autumn is now truly upon us. We have had some lovely, warm days recently, but as soon as the sun dips under the horizon the air cools quickly. Some mornings, the temperature has been close to 0 degrees C already. The walnut trees started dropping their nuts early this year, but we have had a surprisingly good crop, despite adverse weather conditions. And our lawn has been studded with rosés des près, the white mushrooms that start as balls and then flatten out into plates as they grow.

I must admit that autumn is my favourite season, despite the fact that it’s going in the wrong direction. I love the colour of the leaves as they turn and I enjoy walks in sunshine that is still warm but not baking hot. It’s also fun to gather sweet chestnuts on some of our walks, where they fall in abundance. There’s something particularly pleasing about gathering wild produce.

autumn-colours-at-la-lune

Last October’s autumn colours

Poetic thoughts

Autumn is a season that appeals to poets, perhaps because of the melancholy associated with the end of summer. The French poet Sully Prudhomme (1839-1907), who can usually be relied upon for a good quote or two, wrote a poem about autumn. I particularly like this stanza:

Mais l’oeuvre de la sève est partout accompli :
La grappe autour du cep se colore et se bombe,
Dans le verger la branche au poids des fruits succombe,
Et l’été meurt, content de son devoir rempli.

Everywhere, the sap has completed its work:
Bunches of grapes blush and swell on the vine,
In the orchard the branch bends beneath the fruit,
And summer dies, satisfied that it has fulfilled its task.

The translation is mine (no comments, please). Prudhomme goes on to encourage people to fulfil themselves during the summer of their lives so as not to regret an empty life during their autumn.

Summer 2017 weather

On that unusually philosophical (for me) note, I’ll turn to more material matters. Those of you who have been reading this blog for some time will know that my husband (referred to here as the Statistics Freak – SF) has been collecting statistics about the weather in our corner of SW France for nearly 20 years. He likes to take a comparative look back over the summer, which for him runs from 1st May to 30th September.

Everyone agrees that summer 2017 was bizarre. The weather veered between heatwaves (canicules) and periods of damp, cool conditions. We never stopped mowing the lawn and we have never seen it green in August.

We assign every day a subjective score: plus for good, minus for bad and zero for indifferent. The SF notes that over the five-month period, we had only 84 pluses. That might sound quite a lot, but it’s 10 less than last year and 26 less (almost a whole month’s-worth) than 2012. September here is normally a glorious month, but this year’s took equal bottom place with the worst we have had in 1998.

If you look at the rainfall over that period, May, June, July and September all had more than average. The total for May to September was 380 mm; the average is 321.2 mm.

Rainfall 2017 to date

Rainfall to date 2017

I’m hoping that October will be better. It didn’t start well, but improved last week. Here’s a dicton (saying or proverb) of which French country folk are so fond:

Nuées de septembre, pluie de novembre, gel en décembre – Clouds in September, rain in November, frost in December.

September was certainly cloudy. We’ll see if what this presages comes to pass.

Autumn colours 10-15 3

Rose hips – particularly abundant this year

You might also like:

A Walk Around Castanet
Chestnuts and Chestnut Recipes 
Walnut Time

Copyright © 2017 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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14 Responses to The End of Summer

  1. I love autumn too … summer was very strange this year and the wet earth brought an extraordinary invasion of moles: our dog was completely lost for choice! The box caterpillar has been disastrous and I’m really hoping for a hard winter to kill them off. Pheromone traps seem to be the best solution (especially if we have a warm wet winter again) but obviously no-one will do this in the wild valley places which all look so sad now with the skeletal box trees 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Yes, we also had a mole problem owing to the damp soil. We took a friend’s advice and put a small amount of petrol in each hole, which has driven them away again. The box caterpillar is an absolute disaster and some of the woodland places are desolate now.

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    • I’ve been running my thumbnail down the stems of the wild box and they’re still green so let’s hope for the hard winter that will kill the moth and then the box should resprout in the spring 🙂 Fingers crossed!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Stuart Webster says:

    Vanessa, I always look forward to reading your blog and the inspiration it provides to plan my next visit to France. Have you any more articles planned regarding events in your region that took place during WW2? Best wishes Stuart

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Thank you for your kind comments about my blog, Stuart. I’m always interested in what happened down here in WW2, although sometimes the locals who still remember that period don’t feel inclined to talk about it. However, I have two WW2 novels up my sleeve, for which I am doing a lot of research and some of that research will find its way onto the blog in due course.

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  3. Osyth says:

    Autumn is my favourite of favourites too. Here we have been blessed with a better summer than our Western compadres and the last few weeks have been like a plane landing in upcurrents – each drop followed by a surge upwards but each surge less warm than the last. It is certainly pleasing watching a different landscape colour. I particularly enjoyed the poem and will only comment positively on your translation – bravo, say I! I think Autumn is a time of reflection and I enjoyed your reflective post and as usual, frustrated weather girl that I am, enjoyed the retrospective stats from your hubby.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I feel a bit cheated this year, since September was nothing like as luminous and glorious as it normally is. And October has continued the trend of variability that we’ve seen throughout the summer. However, I’m sure we’ll still get warm days, which are a joy in October, and which we make the most of on our walks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        My husband has a theory that nature rebalances her weather over time. I feel very fortunate that I was here and not the US this year …. quite apart from the ghastlies they have had a pretty washed out summer, I believe. Being on the Atlantic side of France, I guess there is a tendency to follow the same pattern in some way. Though Boston, which always surprises people is actually on the same latitude as Madrid. Enjoy the warm ones and your walks!

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        I think your husband and mine would agree on that. It does seem that the east coast of the US gets increasingly violent hurricanes, so we should be thankful that we live in a much less difficult climate.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        I spoke to him earlier and he was being quite sniffy about the tail end of the last Hurricane (Meg or Nate, I forget which) arriving in Massachusetts today. It’s only a category one – a lot of fuss about nothing really, he proclaimed. I remarked that I thought that being in the eye of a Cat 1 was not somewhere I would want to be …. on the whole, I think I would rather have our slightly more docile climate (though the winds in Grenoble are rather more dramatic than I would have expected!) 💨 💨 💨

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        I totally agree with you. Even a category 1 hurricane is still a hurricane!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Gaynor Taylor says:

    Are you affected by the plague of caterpillers on the box? The hillside behind my house is devastated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Yes, they are awful. All the box bushes in our garden have been affected, some worse than others, and they look terrible. Some woodland areas around here contain extensive stretches of wild box and they have been devastated, too. In fact, it’s unpleasant to walk there, since you risk being covered in the caterpillars.

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