Monday, July 12, 2010

Mad dogs and Englishmen

The hot weather has rolled right in to the south west of France during the past few days and we have seen temperatures in the mid 30's C (mid 90's F) every single day.

I learned the other day, that this period of hot weather is known as the "canicule".  Canicule gets it's name from the latin  - canicula, which, as all you latin scholars will know gets it's stem from canis or dog, in English.

Apparently, canicula is the Latin name for the star Sirius, which in the skies above France , raises about mid July and disappears again about mid September.... and here, of course, that corresponds to the scorchingly hot period of summer.

One of the things I truly love to see as the hot weather arrives is the wonderful fields of sunflowers, all turning their heads to catch the sun.  In French they are called tournesol, or turn to the sun.  I planted some sunflowers in the vegetable garden recently in a bid to attract more insects and have a fun flower and they are looking quite good at about 150mm (6") high.   However, on the drive to the market on Saturday, I passed field after field of sunflowers, all a good 4ft tall (1200mm)  and all with bright yellow flower heads, obediently searching out the sun.  I really hope mine will catch up, but I'm sure they will.

My time in the kitchen has taken a back seat too, during this hot weather, relying on cold salads rather than preparing food, but I did make a salad today using lots of fresh produce from the garden, including this year's first French beans..  which were so sweet, they could have been peas.

I didn't think to take my camera again on Saturday, which is a real shame, as the fields deserve a photo.   As I mentioned field after field of sunflowers, interspersed with fields of hay, the big "wheels" of hay sitting in the sunshine, waiting to be collected.  I even noticed that one or two of the farm lads had had a bit of fun, constructing a tractor out of bales of hay.  It seems this is a part of haymaking in this part of the world, and happens every year.    Even the local hay co-operative had a hay tractor outside it's store last year.   The one I saw on Saturday was a particularly fine example and had been adorned with a plough.  The first hay tractor I've seen this year and it has certainly set the bar quite high.  Maybe I'll go back, and get you some photos.

Well, I've talked a lot about Latin, but I think it was the ancient Greeks who originally called this time of year "Dog Days".  I gather it's something to do with what later became imortalised by Noel Coward "Only mad dogs and Englishmen" and this year, I'm really learning what they meant:

Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun"....maybe.


Maggie said...

Hi Ian,
We have been watching the Tour de France every evening and have seen the fields of sunflowers as well as all the other wonderful sites on route.Although it is cold here we are enjoying our garden and not having to spend time watering our plants.

pam said...

we love your pictures and will be glad to see them when they come on. Planted some "chocolate" sunflowers this year and will be anxious to see them in bouquets on the table. our weather has been cooler than normal and that makes the lettuces last longer but questionable tomatoes.