Wind Chill – Froid Ressenti – and Ice Walks

Snow covered frozen lake

The phrase froid ressenti is appearing on the weather forecasts a lot these days. It translates literally as ‘cold felt/experienced’ but is pretty much the same as refroidissement éolien (wind chill factor) – nothing to do with windmills (éoliennes) this time!) Frequently the froid ressenti is 7 or 8 degrees colder than the actual temperature. I imagined that someone was estimating this, but the computation of wind chill factor is based on very sound science.

Wind chill is the felt air temperature on exposed skin. The first wind chill formula was created by Paul Siple and Charles Passel while working in Antartica. You can see what must have motivated them! They expressed wind chill in watts of heat lost per square metre of skin.  This didn’t catch on terribly well, so the formula was revised a few times by other people and these days it reflects the notion of equivalent temperature. This is what the formula looks like:

Twc = 13.12 + 0.6215 Ta – 11.37 V+0.16 + 0.3965 TaV+0.16

where w is the wind chill index in Celsius, Ta is the air temp in Celsius V is the wind speed at 10 metres (standard anemometer height), in kilometres per hour (km/h).

Simple! So, the figures appearing on the météo each day have been carefully worked out after all.

Caiti hijacked Rusty Deux briefly!

There wasn’t too much noticeable wind chill today, which has been a balmy minus 4 actual temperature wise, although that’s dropping fast now that evening is coming. We fired up Rusty Deux the tractor to deliver hay bales to the llamas, sheep and goats. Then we drove down to the cabin to fetch the gas bottles. Our central heating is dodgy so we might need to get the gas heaters going.

One way to carry gas bottles around

I love the passenger seat on Rusty Deux. You get great views from up there. It’s quite deadly trying to take photos though, since it’s a bumpy ride and the seat is a small square of metal with a tiny bit of rail behind it so very easy to slip off!

And I did the famous End To End Ice Walk today – my death defying walk across our lake. It’s used to be a Christmas Eve tradition (the rest of the family were nobly prepared to share my pressies between them if I fall through the ice) but the last two years we haven’t been iced up by then. So it’s slipped back a bit. I don’t know how long the lake is exactly but it’s a 10 acre lake so it’s pretty big! It’s also pretty deep so I’m very careful on the way. Any cracks or strange sounds send me scuttling to the bank right away.

Tomorrow we’ll profit from the big freeze to do some tidying up along the banks. There are over hanging branches that need sawing off. It will be a lot easier doing them standing on the ice than from the rowing boat, which is what we’d thought we’d be having to do this winter since it started so mild.

Icicles over the stream

Winter Woes!

Well, it’s all happening here. Our coldest ever weather is proving to be quite a handful. Our thermomenter showed  its lowest ever reading of minus 12.7 degrees C yesterday morning, and there were a good few more degrees of wind chill out there.

We anticipated at least some pipes freezing up, and that’s what has happened upstairs. Our old farm cottage faces optimistically south with the back wall taking the full brunt of the wickedly cold north winds that make Creuse winters so memorable. Despite thick layers of insulation on the inside, and the layer of enduit (plaster) on the outside that Chris applied during the summer, and not forgetting the two foot of stone and mud in-between, the cold gets through.

I had a nice hot bath on Thursday night, and the water is still sitting there on Saturday morning. It won’t drain away. Chris has drilled, poked, prodded as far as he can up the offending pipes but there seems to be a lump of ice just beyond his reach. The kitchen wastewater pipes have frozen too with some washing-up water joining my lurking bathwater before we realised what was going on. And I can’t use the washing machine for similar reasons so I’ll have to wash through the kids’ clothes for school next week the old-fashioned way this weekend. Rors gets through so many socks!

And last night, for fun, the electrics in the kitchen decided to stop working for reasons we can only imagine are connected with the extreme cold. Luckily, the kitchen is currently colder than my fridge at about six degrees (that French window facing north is the main culprit), so at least food won’t be going off! The main worry is that someone will trip over or strangle themselves in all the wiring and extensions Chris has strung up around the place to bring some power there.

I cancelled my trip with Caiti to Grenoble for the journée portes ouvertes at the University there because of the adverse weather. It was disappointing for us both, but sensible. Last night I took Rors into Boussac to see Le Chatpotté (Puss in Boots) at the cinema. I was well out of my comfort zone driving in, as the D2 had sheets of black ice over it in places. Specifically in places where certain farmers have taken down the trees and ripped up the roadside hedges. Why can’t the leave them alone? I didn’t go over 50km till we got to the main Boussac road, which is one that’s maintained by the Département, as opposed to the commune, and was blissfully clear and salted. The minor roads are dealt with by the communes and so subject to widely varying standards of treatment. It doesn’t look like Bussière does anything. Their stretch of the  D2 was worse even than our tiny little road which the maintenance guy at Nouzerines had bulldozed with his multi-purpose tractor/digger/hedge-distructivator.

Anyway, the film was fun and Rors got his long-promised treat, and a second one one when he saw a huge rat scuttling along the pavement! The things we do for our kids. (OK, my gesture doesn’t quite match Sarko’s action in flying his tummy-bug struck son home from Turkey in a private jet at a cost of €35,000 to the taxpayer, and a huge carbon footprint, but hey.) I survived the stress of the drive. But I don’t think I would have driving 500 km to the Alps in ever dropping temperatures. So hopefully we’ll be able to get Caiti up to Paris next week to visit the two universities there that she’s interested in. I hope so but the extreme cold is continuing for the next ten days with more snow on the way. So we’ll see.

All three lakes are well and truly frozen now. At least that will keep the cormorants off them. We went down to inspect the big lake and found hundreds of little roach wiggling around in the mud just below the ice. We’ve never seen this before in the yearly lake freezes. The fish seem to be displaying spawning behaviour by shoaling together in the shallows. We’d noticed some going on a week or so ago, when it was still unseasonably mild. But why they should be doing it in such cold, I’m not sure. They don’t seem to be stuck there, although the cold is making some of them dopey. Most of them wriggle away after a while. It’s quite a mystery.


Nessie wasn’t bothered by that, and was happy to sit on the ice and watch the world go by, with a couple of metres of very cold water underneath her!


Le Grand Froid à la Ferme i.e. It’s Freezing at Les Fragnes!

We’ve been on vigilance orange (amber alert) for froid (cold) all day today in Creuse, and it’s set to continue and get worse, at least overnight. So we’re taking some special measures around the farm to cope with the extreme conditions.

First up, we’ve brought the generator indoors so it’s handy if things go black. We’ve lost the power before during bad weather, many times, so we’re being prepared.

I must be spending at least an hour a day just filling up water buckets with hot water for the animals as the current supply either freezes or is drained by thirsty animals. They’re all indoors eating hay and that makes them drink more than normal. When they’re eating grass, llamas go for days without needing water. The watering cans are staying in the kitchen between uses to keep them warm. Relatively speaking, that is. It’s been around 8 degrees C in the kitchen today, and that’s with the radiator on. Putting French windows in the northern end of the room wasn’t our best idea!

All the animals are either in or have access to shelter. It’s a bit crowded in the corner stable where Denis the llama and Maisy the goat have been temporarily joined by Dude and Dudette (aka Cuppucine and Zebulon, the two small alpine goats we inherited for reasons that still escape me!) D and D drive us insane since they’re typical goats and a right pain, but we haven’t been driven to turning them into curry yet!

A bit crowded but cosy

White Bun is looking after herself just fine. She spends most of her time in the hay barn but comes to nibble grass every now and again. The guinea pigs moved into the barn a while ago and are keeping cosy in there.

The cats spend a lot of time trying to get into the house and generally being rebuffed, unless they look really pathetic, but for the most part they curl up in one of the stables in the hay. The chickens and turkeys refuse point blank to come out of their stable any more, so I keep them topped up with straw, grain and water. Even the sheep are staying in their shelter, despite their mega thick woolly coats.

So all the animals are warm and coping well. As for us, we’re keeping the fire stoked up and wearing a lot more clothes than normal. Gloves, scarfs and socks get wet regularly since we’re sloshing so much water ar0und, and trudging through deep snow, so there’s always some drying in front of the fire.

And we’re eating a lot of pumpkin soup! The grand froid isn’t getting us down. (Well, maybe just a little since we have some frozen pipes …)

Wednesday Warm Up

It’s minus 4.3 degrees C and falling fast out there, so time for something warming. And what better than pumpkin soup! Regular readers will know of my love/hate relationship with pumpkins. Only veggies beginning with p seem to grow well at Les Fragnes so we end up with pommes de terre (potatoes), poireaux (leeks) and potirons (or citrouilles – pumpkins). And of that lot, the pumpkins always do best of all, meaning we have a lot of them to eat. The kids are not terribly partial to pumpkin, apart from when it’s served up in pumpkin pie form, so it’s Chris and I mainly who munch our way through many kilograms of them each year. The guinea pigs help us out when we can’t face any more.

Caiti bought this book of traditional French recipes, in French, for Chris a couple of Christmases ago to extend his culinary repertoire and also his linguistic abilities. It has entire sections of recipes featuring a particular winter staple – such as, you guessed it, pumpkin. But there are also recipes using endive (chicory), topinambour (Jerusalem artichoke), noix (nuts), poireaux (leeks, you’ll remember) and more lavishly dattes (dates), mangue (mango) and extremely extravagantly truffes (truffles).

Chris plumped for Soupe Auvergnate today and duly began the exciting task of peel pumpkins this morning. Ruadhri happened into the kitchen, and, as with the mince pies back in December, announced a desire to help. At lightning speed he found himself with a knife in his hand and a small pumpkin on a chopping board in front of him. He happily chopped away for ages and without inflicting any wounds on himself, I’m glad to say.

Chris's soupe Auvergnate

The great pumpkin soup cook-off ensued. Chris produced a large pan of his Auvergnate while Ruadhri, helped by his dad, plumped for ad hoc herby pumpkin soup. Both are very nice. No one can remember what Rors put into his, but here’s the recipe for Chris’s.

Soupe Auvergnate

1.5 kg of pumpkin flesh cut in cubes

3 small leeks

Veg oil

1.5 litres of chicken or veg stock

150 g of grated Cantal or Bleu d’Auvergne cheese

1/2 litre cream or fromage blanc

Sauté the pumpkin and leeks in the oil until soft, then pour on the stock. Simmer away for half an hour. Just before serving mix in the cream/fromage blanc (optional) and the cheese. (Now, I can’t eat blue cheeses since I’m allergic to penicillin, and that’s the only cheese we had in the fridge, so Chris sprinkled his over his bowl of soup rather than mix it in. It worked well like that.)

Ruadhri's herby pumpkin soup

We’ll be eating the soup for several more days but that’s OK. It’s all part of the winter experience chez les Dagg.

And a couple of unrelated snippets to finish. I’ve very kindly been given an award for my blog, the Leibster award, by awesome blogger and freelance writer Vanessa, for which I’m very grateful, and will blog properly about soon. Also, if you have a mo, do pop over here and read a guest post I’ve written for an upcoming fantasy author, Gary F Vanucci, whose short stories I recently had the pleasure to edit.

With that, I’ll shut up and go and eat soup!