October has sneaked up on us from somewhere and, with it, autumn has arrived with a vengeance. Ten days or so ago, it was still summer, and we were swimming. Two days later, the pool temperature had plummeted by 10C, and we lit the wood burner for the first time in months. A reminder that when the weather changes here, it does so completely, and that any month or season can be glorious or ghastly.
Our resident statistics expert, the SF, tells me that in the first four days of October, we have already had 84.5 mm of rain. Is October set to be a record wet month? Watch this space.
However, this is nothing to what the folk in Alpes-Maritimes have had to endure: several months’-worth of rain in the space of 24 hours, causing rivers to swell dangerously and landslides to threaten life and property. Watching some of the video footage, I am extremely glad we don’t live by a river or on the edge of a cliff.
Watch it come down…
Nonetheless, we had our own mini landslide, caused no doubt by torrential rain after a very dry spell lasting several months.
The SF heard a crash outside and went to investigate. I was out. The side wall of our terrace had collapsed, which, to be fair, it had been threatening to do for some time.
The terrace was constructed when the house was restored (not by us) in the 1970s. The property originally comprised a stone cow byre, which was demolished when the restoration took place. It must have been a large building, because the rubble from it was used to create the terrace, itself quite extensive. You can see the rubble in this close-up. Maybe we’ll find the treasure in there, at last.
Years of leaf mould, aided by bags of soil, have at least provided some purchase for drought-resistant plants.
Being different characters, I see this event as a problem. The SF sees it as an opportunity. This is just as well, since he is the dry-stone wall builder in the family. Something to keep him busy during the autumn and winter.
Wood, glorious wood
Autumn brings other seasonal tasks with it. First, taking delivery of, carting and stacking our wood for the winter. Monsieur B, a new supplier for us this year, arrived in his rattling lorry with the first of two loads: eight cubic metres in total (a cubic metre is une stère in French).
Naturally, he arrived shortly before the rain began. We valiantly barrowed half of it into our garage/lean-to before covering the rest with a tarpaulin, which the wind then blew off. A brief respite of a few days of sunshine at the beginning of last week enabled us to finish the rest.
Seventy wheelbarrows in all. Plus another 12 to shift around a cubic metre of sawdust to our garden rubbish heap. Monsieur B had sawn the wood into 33 cm lengths on the lorry itself.
It’s a satisfying feeling to have got that job done.
Nuts in October
Next up, harvesting the walnuts. We have two grafted walnut trees, which produce beautiful, egg-shaped nuts of excellent quality. Unfortunately, the former owner who planted them put one too close to the house and the other too close to the well, and both of them too close to the drive.
The rain and high winds brought down the majority of the nuts in the past few days. It also brought down the outer casings onto the gravel drive, where they turned black and slimy. Picking up the walnuts also necessitates clearing away the wet casings.
However, we appear to have a good crop again this year, despite the number of black husks on the trees following the drought.
We also had a reasonable crop last year, but we weren’t the beneficiaries. We collected the nuts and put them in boxes to dry in our lean-to, prior to bringing them in for the winter.
“I thought we’d collected more than that,” the SF said after a few weeks, scanning the half-empty boxes.
I shrugged. “Maybe not. It wasn’t a brilliant year for them.”
We both put the deficit down to the elements and poor memories and thought no more about it.
Until this spring when, exposing the inner recesses of our wood pile after the winter, we saw that it was full of nutshells. The mice had profited from the autumn bounty.
The rain is coming down yet again, but it’s refilling the aquifers and greening up the grass. My geraniums don’t like it, but the roses don’t seem to mind. And the autumn crocuses are blooming on our heap. I’m not sure how they got there, but they brighten up a dark corner.
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