Another Saturday and another visit to the market at Villereal. Today however, I didn't take the kitchen table with me, mind you, I don't often take the kitchen table with me, it's just that my camera was still on it when I arrived at the market.
Today, the talk all around the market was of the "secheresse", the drought. This spring has been extremely dry here, In fact, it was dry last autumn, through the winter and now in spring. It's getting harder to believe that this area might be known as Aquitaine because the Romans thought it was a wet place.
Normally, in this part of the world, we have a very dry summer and a dryish autumn, then the winter and spring rains come and refill all the aquifers, reservoirs and even restore the rivers and lakes. Then the cycle starts again. However, this year the cycle has been sadly distorted.
I read today that Biarritz, a little way south of here, normally gets about 138mm of rain during the month of January. This January they had just 18mm. Apparently, in the ten weeks from the 1st March, the weather authorities have recorded about 60% less precipitation than normal, with my own garden records showing just a few millimetres of rain in the past three months.... that's February, March and April, which should be the wettest quarter....
Laurent, one of the greengrocers at the market told me that he was already seeing price rises on fruit and vegetables and that he expected the situation to get worse. Rene, a friend who runs a Permaculture farm just a few kilometres away was also telling me how the drought was affecting him. He has just finished planting a field of potatoes, right next to the river so he can pump the water easily for irrigation. Now, as a result of restrictions imposed because of the drought, he has been banned from extracting water from the river. We all recognise the need to leave what water there is, still flowing to support the wildlife, but it's astonishing that these measures are needed in May
Here in my own garden things are equally bleak. I've already taken the decision not to plant numerous beds this year as the drought really bites, and then, today at the market, I discovered that the "departement" to the north of us has now imposed restrictions banning the watering of gardens!
On the other hand, our vacationing guests are all enjoying the sunshine and hot dry weather! I even took a dip in the pool myself today to cool off a bit
At the moment I'm still able to water and I have cut right back on plantings. I'm hoping to get enough water to get beans and tomatoes but some of the other things won't go out unless we get a change in the weather. I'm glad that most of my orchard is well established and hoping that I'll get fruit crops to make up for the other losses. We got off to a good start with a great crop of cherries.