Dried Acorns and Mirabelle Vodka

Of all the things dropping to the ground this summer, rain was particularly scarce.

The area of eastern France where we live is always hot in August. This year, though, after a rainy spring, June started heating up. And then July was hotter. As hot as August, but weeks early.

#wheat #wildcarrot #summer #sunshine #flowers #countryside #running #France

Wild carrot blooms along the verge of a wheat field just before harvest.
Photo: PKR

The minimal amounts of rain we got weren’t enough to keep the fields irrigated, so like other farmers around Europe in this hot season, our local farmers brought in the crop early to salvage what they could.

#harvest #summer #rain #countryside #running #France

The dry running path beneath gathering clouds.
Photo: PKR

The sunny mirabelle plums on our garden tree ripened weeks ahead of time, as did the wild blackberries all around the area. Tasty and delightful, but almost unseasonable in their timing.

#vodka #plums #mirabelles #garden

The last two mirabelle plums picked from the tree, and a bottle of some plums from earlier in the season. They’ll steep in vodka with a sprig of garden thyme and some sugar for a few months.
Photo: PKR

Acorns, too, carpet my running path – they should be hitting the ground in late summer. Hopefully the squirrels and other animals have noticed the weird clockwork of this year, and are taking a cue from the farmers by harvesting early.

Out on runs, I sometimes hear the boom of thunder somewhere in the mountains, and I watch for signs of relief. Often, the skies cloud over, and I’ll see rain falling somewhere nearby – but only for a few moments, and only over a limited area.

Of course, it’s not that there haven’t been heatwaves in the past. But even in the twenty-odd years since we moved here, the heatwaves have gotten more frequent, hotter, and longer.

This week, the heatwave finally broke and we’ve gotten a few evenings of rain and wind. It’s a welcome change to listen to rainfall rather than the constant thrum of fans, because of course an old place like ours doesn’t have central air conditioning.

The stone walls were usually enough to take a few weeks of August heat and still stay cool inside. We used to be able to lean against them, bare skin on stone as a quick refreshment. Not anymore – the stones of our house are heated through and radiate inward.

#harvest #summer #rain #countryside #running #France

A rain cloud brings a bit of relief.
Photo: PKR

Of course, we aren’t alone with our heatwave – it’s a phenomenon shared around the world this year. With any kind of luck, the slow climb of temperatures will come in fits and starts. With any kind of luck, we’ll have some time to take action, to adapt, to correct. With any kind of luck, a bit of luck will be on our side.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep using the luscious mirabelles for making plum vodka cordial, something to keep the winter nights warm once the heat has left the stones again.

#summer #acorns #oak

Acorns picked up during a run.
Photos: PKR

Water Middlemen

Rock formation Roth Kroonkop Photo: Simone Brunton, Univ. of Cape Town

Rock formation Roth Kroonkop
Photo: Simone Brunton, Univ. of Cape Town

It’s only been three days since the heat of summer started in earnest here after a cold, wet spring and a long winter. And yet, I’m already scanning the skies for a welcome downpour.

When water is present, we either take it for granted or (as during this past soggy spring) we wish the skies would kindly stop dispensing. When it’s not there, it’s all we think about.

An ancient rain control tower known as Ratho Kroonkop (RKK) found in South Africa shows another facet of water anxiety. Farmers employed shamans from the San, an indigenous hunter-gatherer people of southern Africa, and the chiefs of the farmers groups would have been tasked with maintaining good relations with shamans in order to ensure rainfall.

Using tunnels accessible only to select shamans, water rituals and animal sacrifice were carried out atop the 1000-foot-high (300m) rock formations. The remains of over 30,000 animals were found at the base of the RKK site, which is located in a semi-arid region near Botswana and Zimbabwe.

It seems that when it comes to water, it’s not easy to avoid the necessity of the middleman, whether water company or shaman.

Rock paintings made by the San people in the Drakensberg mountains. Photograph: Alexander Joe/AFP

Rock paintings made by the San people in the Drakensberg mountains. Photograph: Alexander Joe/AFP



LiveScience article – Shaman ‘Rainmaking’ Center Discovered in South Africa by Owen Jarus