Drought: The Shape of Things To Come?

First, can I say thank you to all the recent subscribers for signing up and for reading. This goes for everyone who reads Life on La Lune. Some of you have been with me for a long time, and I hugely appreciate it. This month is a special one for Life on La Lune, but I’ll come to that presently.

The preoccupation at the moment is, naturally, the series of heatwaves and the associated drought across the whole of France. In July last year, it never stopped raining. In July this year, it never started.

No rain

The total rainfall for July was 2.5 mm (0.1”), which is negligible, and the least we have had in any month since we began to record it in 2004.

The lawn is brown and crunches when we walk across it. The plants are gasping. The trees have gone into autumn mode and are shedding their leaves, their defence mechanism against lack of water. They did the same during the extended heatwave of 2003.

Fields behind the house

We have just had our third episode of canicule (heatwave) with temperatures touching 40C (well over 100F) or more. Another one is forecast next week. Every time thunder is forecast, it disappears by the time we get there.

During the day, we stay indoors, rather like during the winter. We make only brief forays outside to hang out the washing, which dries in minutes, or collect the mail from the box. The sun has been so fierce, that I have resorted to swimming with a hat on.

Much of our département, Tarn-et-Garonne, is on red alert for drought, as are many others. For a week, we have had a blanket hosepipe ban: no watering gardens, except for vegetable patches, and only between 8pm and 8am, or topping up swimming pools from the public water supply. Farmers are subject to severe restrictions on irrigation.

It’s like something out of Marcel Pagnol, whose novels Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources were made into excellent films. Two cunning Provençal paysans block a spring on a property that a man has inherited from his mother. They hope lack of water will force him to leave and sell them the land. I won’t give any spoilers, but drought and water shortages are themes throughout, and the two get a suitable comeuppance.

Wildfires

So far, no brush fires have broken out in our immediate area. You might have read about, or seen on TV, the devastation caused in the Gironde and the Landes, South of Bordeaux, by a series of wildfires. These areas are thickly forested with pine trees, and fire takes hold fast.

One evening, I went outside and could smell a faint odour of burning tyres, which I concluded was smoke carried on the prevailing westerly from the Landes, some 250 km from us. It even reached Paris.

Wildfires have broken out in other places that rarely experience them, such as Brittany, which is normally noted for its cool, damp climate. Unfortunately, human agency is often the cause, either deliberate or accidental (lighted cigarettes chucked from car windows). You wonder at the mentality of people who do this intentionally. They are sometimes, sadly, pompiers (firefighters) themselves. Sick as they are, they deserve every penalty the justice system can heap on them for putting lives at risk.

Last year, barbecues were out because it was too cool and damp. This year, they are out because they are a fire risk.

A rare commodity

At least we are not (yet) subject to restrictions on drinking water, although around 100 communes in France already are.

In many ways, we are spoilt. We turn on the tap, take showers, run the washing machine and the dishwasher without even thinking about it. It’s not so long ago that piped water was extended to rural villages; the 1970s in the case of one local village, Espinas.

The water network came here in about the 1960s. Before that, the people who lived here relied on wells and cisterns. We have two wells and a cistern. I shudder to think of the idea of drinking the water, though.

One of our wells, lovingly restored by the SF

Before they sank the wells, they had to make a 3km round trip to a stream to collect fresh water. This explains why the stone éviers (sinks) in our house are so shallow. They didn’t want to waste a drop. I guess that personal washing came well down the list of priorities.

One of two éviers in our living room

Sourciers (diviners) provided a much-solicited service. Today, as we search for new underground water courses, they are becoming popular again. A feature on last night’s TF1 news showed a sourcier giving a well-attended course in water divining.

We are keeping fingers crossed for rain soon.

In other news

This post is brought to you by ingenious means, since we are without an internet connection for the nth time. Although Orange supposedly fixed it, the connection was unstable, and the livebox finally gave up the ghost yesterday. It probably expired in the heat.

The good news is that we have a date in four weeks’ time for the installation of fibre optic cable to the house. We hope this will improve things significantly. In the meantime, we still need a phone line and an internet connection, so I will be back to doing battle with Orange tomorrow morning when their helpline reopens.

On a much happier note, this month it will be 25 years since we moved to La Lune from the UK. A quarter of a century sounds a long time, but it has gone in a flash. Look out for some celebratory posts.

Meanwhile, keep cool or warm, depending on where you are in the world.

You might also like these posts:

Canicule: the Dog Days of Summer

Well, Well, Well: Finding Water in Bygone Days

Copyright © Life on La Lune 2022. All rights reserved.

14 comments

  1. Happy 25th anniversary! It certdoes go by in a flash. We’ve been here in SW France for 2 years now and keep wondering where did that go!!
    Love those 2 movies, Jean de Florette and Manon de Source, didn’t expect to be experiencing Provencal weather in the Perigord Vert! Goingvto blooming at ways to save rain water and gray water for the plants. We are using our washing up water as much as possible, quite hazardous on my slippery tile floors 🙂 but worth the effort. So far, no hose pipe bans where we live, but we try to use only what is necessary to keep the veggies alive.
    Hope your Internet is restored!
    Stay cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! We haven’t quite hit the 25 yet – not until the 27th Aug, which is when we moved in to the house.

      I love Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources and have watched them so many times, I can say all the dialogue as it goes on! We are also saving washing up water etc., but I’ve had to make decisions about which plants to keep and which to allow to die, in the hope that they might come back next year.

      Our internet is back on, and the technician assures me it will hold at least until we get fibre installed in three weeks’ time. I wish I had got that in writing!

      Like

  2. Hi Vanessa. Fascinating blog as ever but very pertinent and worrying. Particularly for us on our boat as canals and rivers are closing all around us. We hope we can get to our winter mooring without running into a problem. Am reading an amazing book called The High House by Jessie Green grass(lovely name) a novel about climate crisis but it reads like a blueprint for your lives, our time, this in-between stage. Brilliant book but giving me sleepless nights so I have stopped reading it before I go to bed! Everybody should read this book, particularly people who think nothing is wrong!! MJ

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope you don’t run into problems. Thunder and rain are forecast for the weekend, but it remains to be seen if it happens. Haven’t read The High House and not sure if I want to now! Sorry for shortness of reply. No Internet for 10 days except for brief resumption last Friday. Doing everything with phone is hard work! Hope to be reconnected tomorrow.

      Like

  3. The drought and multiple heat waves in France and in the rest of Europe is quite worrying. I certainly hope that our leaders and the entire population will wake up soon and measures will be put in place to reverse the current trend but I am not too hopeful. Stay cool…(Suzanne)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have been reading about the drought in France and of the terrible fires. As Australians, it is all to familiar for us as we have such vast areas of dry country and drought declared areas. It is crazy at the moment as our weather patterns change. Here parts of Australia have been hit with devastating floods, sometimes twice in a few months and we are being told to expect a wetter spring this year. The problem with our large country is that rainfall can be so uneven.

    A couple of years ago we travelled out into the outback when it was dry and it is heart breaking to see the country so dry and unable to support livestock. We live in a small provincial city and have had very strict water restrictions at times. However, a lot of people who live in cities with reliable water supplies have no concept of what people in other areas have to do to conserve their valuable water. Many years ago, my husband’s work took us to a small country town with no treated water supply. We had a rainwater tank for drinking and water for the house came directly out of the muddy river. It was pumped up into a high tank and we had to add a chemical to settle the mud before it then could be used for showering, toilet etc, but certainly not drinking. it makes me appreciate being able to turn on a tap but we still try to not waste this vital resource and have a tank for our garden, such that it is.

    Here’s hoping the rain gods smile in you soon. We were hoping to go camping to the coast this week but there is more rain coming. If only I could send it to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s all upside down, isn’t it? And only just over 2 years ago Australia had the most dreadful wildfires. I’ve never lived anywhere that didn’t have a reliable drinking water supply, but this kind of weather makes us appreciate it much more. Thunder is now forecast next weekend, but let’s hope it brings rain and not hail. If you know any good rain dances, let me know! Sorry for the short reply. Without Internet, I have to use my phone, and the keyboard is tiny and tricky.

      Like

  5. Thank you Vanessa your eloquent writing flows masterfully no pun intended ( especially during drought )😊love your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another excellent post! It is all very frightening really and considering that so many politicians have been dithering over Climate Change since the 60s we should have been well prepared for this. However, I’m well impressed with what France is doing, like putting a huge covered area of Solar panels over the Le Clerc car park in Villefranche de Rouergue.. With the difficulty of present gardening, I am mixing Dandelion leaves and Purslaine to my salads … the “weeds” carry on nonetheless and are delicious. Looks like another Canicule this coming week too … I’m off to the river!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is worrying, isn’t it? This seems to happen with increasing regularity. There are things going on individually, like the Leclerc solar panels, but it’s all rather uncoordinated. Even our weeds are struggling! Hope this week will be the last Canicule this year.

      Like

  7. Happy Luna-versary! Crazy times and sadly, I think such restrictions will increasingly be part of our future. I saw your post a week or so ago on Funny Pearls by the way, and really enjoyed (regret that they have no way of commenting or reacting on that blog). Perhaps that’s one ‘source’ (no pun intended) of new followers? I know the site which I also follow and even recently submitted a story. Maybe one day you’ll see a post from me! P.S. Hope you do get fibre, it will be life-changing. As for the landline, we recently cancelled ours as it literally served no purpose with good mobile network and a fast internet connect here in CH.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! And for your kind comments about the Funny Pearls piece. I’m not sure if people are coming from there or other places my stories have been published. They seem to come from all over, which is lovely. Hope to see your piece there soon.

      We are hoping fibre will revolutionise things, but I’m not holding my breath. Posting an entire post with the phone is incredibly hard work, but I learned new things doing it.

      Liked by 1 person

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