Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Weather 2012

Statistical data cumulative for 2012
To view click here

April and May were wet and since then it has been very dry and hot. In July and August the average maximum temperatures approached thirty degrees Celsius.
The drought naturally has led to a failure of many crops only kept going with some irrigation from rain water stored in our cistern from the earlier part of the year.
The walnut crop this year will be poor but oddly there is a large crop of figs.
We make fig jam each year which serves as a substitute for Marmalade.  This year I have made 25 pots which should last till the next fig season.
The problem with fig jam is that it does not set without encouragement.  The fault lies with the acidity of the fruit.
This recipe solves the problem
To make 6/7 jars of Fig Marmalade
1.6 kg of ripe figs, cut into small chunks
One Lemon - use the zest and juice and as much pulp as possible.
Three large slices of crystallised ginger cut finely.
One rounded teaspoon of cinnamon powder.
1.6 kg of sugar (with pectin added if possible)
FOUR tablespoons of red wine vinegar.
Bring the figs, lemon, ginger and cinnamon mixture to the boil.  Macerate with a hand-held blender.
Add the sugar and boil quickly for about 6 minutes.  Test for setting. 

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Bimonthly weather report January-February 2012

It has been  a disastrous season - at least if we only remember February.  January was reasonably mild but February was Arctic!  The average night temperature was nearly minus three, but there were ten consecutive nights below minus eight.  We suffered as did numerous friends and neighbours from burst pipes.  One gushed like a fountain and our guest flat had three centimetres of water throughout the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.  The consequence of that inundation is not entirely resolved in March.
The amount of rainfall has been appallingly low. We had only 7 millimetres in February.   Last year we had 44 and the year before 38. 
The snowdrops were delayed.  The first one was seen on the 23rd January  but it and its buddies soon hit the frost and the real flowering appeared on the 28/29 February.
Nearly all winter vegetables in the garden were killed.  Brussels sprouts  pulled through.  The roses which  were planted last autumn have been seriously damaged and possibly some have died.  This is a terrible shame  because they were a special planting to commemorate my wife's birthday.
No celandines appeared before March and of course the early flowering plum tree is still shut up tight even as I write this on the 10th March.
No migrating cranes (birds) have been seen during these two months.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The Sorcerer's Heart -Clathrus ruber

My wife said "There is something odd in the hedge".  We were in the car returning from shopping and just turning the corner of the lane to enter our driveway.   It wasn't an old discarded ball but this astonishing fungus.  It is astonishing at any time.  But to see it on January 2nd (2012) is truly extraordinary.   It is only the third time I have seen it.   The last time was some years ago when I came upon a specimen growing just under the walls of the ruined chateau of Montsegur,  That place is remarkable enough; perched high on a small mountain, bleak and forbidding.  It was the last refuge of the the religious sect - the Cathars - massacred on this spot by the bigots of the Catholic Church.
Clathrus ruber is usually said to be a southern species desiring warmth.  On January 2nd it was 4 degrees in the morning. So that seems odd.  It is rare in England, having mostly been found very close to the south coast, though are a few records close to the east coast of Scotland.  Perhaps it needs warmth during the previous year? It certainly needs warmth to let its stink pervade the air.  For, so it is said, the spores are distributed by flies attracted to the stink.  This specimen attracted no flies and I had to get my nose to within 15 centimetres of it to detect its characteristic smell of rotting flesh.
The specimen was  no mean size, having a diameter of over fifteen centimetres.  The cage like structure had slightly collapsed towards the left.  It expands out of an 'egg' the soft papery casing of which can be seen at the base.  The mass of spores immersed in a brown slime is contained in the very centre and this is surrounded by a the girders of spongy red tissue.  This net of girders expands quite quickly creating a cage with the greeny-brown gooey stinking mass of spores (the gleba) sticking to the inside of the cage like structure.
It seems incredible that anyone would attempt to eat the thing, but I read from an American journal (1854) that a young man ate a portion and he suffered convulsions and lost his power of speech and became unconscious for 48 hours.   Another scientific account details that the fruit body is more than usually rich in the element manganese. That does seem odd.  Manganese is important in various enzymatic processes.  Perhaps it is important in whatever processes make the net like ball  expand rapidly?
Though it is rarely seen,  It is usually found in places with much leaf mould.
Flies which distribute the spores probably not only do this on their feet but also through their digestive tract.  I hypothesise, but it would seem not unlikely. You might suppose that the red colour (which is due to carotenes, and similar to the chemicals that make carrots red) might, in being similar to the colour of red meat, also be attractive to flies.  But do flies see colour?  If they do not, what then is the reason for this colour?  Other related species have this same colouration.
By the 6th January the gleba had almost totally been washed away by the rain and the girders, now pale pink, were left with a consistency of polystyrene foam, not at all slimy  and with little smell.
This article was first published in  http://blogs.angloinfo.com/an-english-naturalist-in-france/

Monday, 2 January 2012

Bimonthly Weather Report November December 2011

To view statistics click here

December was by far the wettest month of the year, with 91 mms.
The comparative figures  for the other months from January onwards are.
23,38,45,04,19,37,22,38,33,58,29 and then 91. == 437 mms (17.2 inches)
In 2010 the rainfall was 648 mms (157 mms in June!) == 25.5 inches
In 2009 the rainfall was 671 mms = 26.4 inches

December was also quite mild 
The average temperatures for December (degrees C) over the past three years being.
2009   3.65 min/ 7.42 max
2010   1.61 min/ 6.52 max
2011   6.65 min/ 9.97max

Night frosts were 2009 - 8  2010 -14  2011 -2

Flowers open over Christmas included Mexican orange blossom in plenty, winter jasmine.  Rose bushes are growing their buds. 
The damned moles are having a whale of a time, as I write this on January 3rd 2012