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

Snow On Tuesday – It’s Cold In Creuse

I’m cancelling Cheese on Tuesday this week because of the snow. We’ve waited all winter for it, so now that it’s here, it’s time for a snowy blog. Boursin can wait yet another week!

Nessie surveys the scene

It’s not the snowiest it’s ever been here at Les Fragnes, but it’s pretty impressive. We were on vigilance orange (orange alert) for snow all of yesterday, but it didn’t start falling till we were walking back with Rors from Nouzerines around half past five last night. And it just kept going. Announcements were made online and on the radio in the evening that school transport was cancelled in Creuse for the 31st Jan so Ruadhri went to bed happy in knowing that he’d be skiving off next day.

Ruadhri in the snow

The animals have varying reactions. Nessie loves it. The young cats were wary at first and aren’t massively impressed but are taking it in their stride. Suddenly Wendy doesn’t look quite so white any more.

Wendy looks a bit grubby!

The camelids are being wimpy so far. They’ve been hanging around the stable and not venturing far. But that could have something to do with the new bale of hay we put out for them in there two days ago. Llamas and alpacas are equally greedy.

No one's going far

The chickens and turkeys don’t like snow. Limpy has found a cosy place to shelter.

Limpy Chick and Number 28

We had a walk round the big lake after we’d sorted out the livestock. The trees are beautiful down there.

And finally my attempt at an artistic shot!

Off to check out what the road is like next and then after dinner I think a bit of sledging is in order. Usually we sledge down the hill and out onto the frozen lake – great fun. However, the lake isn’t frozen yet so we need to remember to brake in time!

Stay safe and warm if you’re snowy too.


Chats in space

I learned something fascinating today. France sent at least one cat into space in the early days of space travel. Her name was Félicette. In 1963 the French government were training a lot of cats for space missions. They were put through centrifuge and compression chamber tests. It can’t have been too bad for them since ten of them were taken off the programme because they were too fat!

Space cats in training at NASA

Félicette was a last-minute replacement for Félix, who was meant to be the first cat to go into space. He was a tabby street cat. He obviously stayed street-cunning, as he managed to escape, which is why his female counterpart was blasted into space on 18 October 1963 in his place.

Félix - the escapee

Félicette was a black and white cat. Her flight lasted about quarter of an hour. Throughout her brief foray into the atmosphere the electrodes implanted in her brain sent back impulses to CERMA (Centre d’Enseignement et de Recherches de Médecine Aéronautique). Apparently she made a valuable contribution to CERMA’s research. She was safely recovered from the capsule after her flight, but there don’t seem to be any records of what happened to her after that. The world press called her an ‘astrocat’. Her official photo was issued afterwards, with her pawprint on it, and the sentence: ‘Merci pour votre participation à mon succès du 18 octobre 1963’ (Thank you for taking part in my success of 18 October 1963).

Brave Félicette on a postage stamp

If CERMA wants to restart this programme, we have a black and white cat they can have. Lucky, whom we inherited when her owner went back to the UK, is pushing her luckiness at the moment! She has become rather naughty. However, she’s a very affectionate cat, who loves to come for walks with us, so maybe we won’t send her into space just yet …

Treacle, one of our other cats, is far too tubby - and too busy sunbathing - to go into space!

Photos of the space cats from


Write back where I belong

Well, I’m writing again. No, I don’t mean this blog (although obviously I am writing it) – I mean books. I’ve had quite a long break from it. My last books were published in Ireland in 2005, bringing my total to 31. (My first came out in 1998.) I’ve only been dabbling for the last five years, mainly writing stories for the kids’ private consumption. But there’s a good reason for this apparent laziness. Moving to France. Yes, it’s given me a wealth of material, all yet to be harvested, but it’s been physically tough going and I frankly haven’t had the energy for serious writing. Falling asleep in front of the telly at nine o’clock was enough of a challenge every night. But finally the vast majority of all the heavy work is done, with just some gentle barn-to-shower-room conversion to finish, several acres of vegetable garden to establish, and a kilometre or so llama fencing to erect! No excuses any more.

Adult fiction beckons. I’m 100,000 words into a fishing-related story, I’ve got a chick-lit book started and a knitting mystery is underway. Seriously. There is quite a demand for this genre, and as an addictive knitter, I’ve got the know-how. I just have to hatch the fiendish plots. There’s plenty of inspiration around me. Our chickens, for example, are selfish and pitiless. The cats are scheming, merciless killers. Our dog is blindly prejudiced (against herons). A couple of the llamas are cunning and one is jealous and bad tempered. OK, the goats are plain stupid, but ignorance can be eveil. I need look no further than our farmyard to harness the ingredients for extreme villainy.

I’m going to be more organised this time round. I was a very scatty children’s writer (all my books to date have been children’s fiction). I’d start one book, think of another before the first was finished and get diverted onto that, then a third idea would develop and off I galloped in that direction and so on, and I would always have far too many projects on the go. While I firmly believe you need at least two projects on the go at a time, because you’re bound to hit a wall with one from time to time, it’s all too easy to go overboard and find a dozen or more works in progress sitting on your computer. So I’m being strict! Or trying very hard to be.

So the washing up sits around for a bit longer than usual while I sketch out a plot. So Youngest Son gets to do the odd extra half hour more DSing while I finish a chapter. So the two teens have to occasionally forage for food in the kitchen while I back my hero into an awkward corner. It’s hardly serious. And I’m happy. I’ve missed creating alternative realities. Playing God. Messing with words. Whatever writing is, I love it.

I’m determined to get a few more books with my name on the spine on the bookshelves. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Oh – and please wish me luck!

What’s in a Name?

Several visitors to the farm have asked me what the ‘Fragnes’ in its name, ‘Les Fragnes’, stands for? And these visitors have been French! If they don’t know, then there’s not much hope for me. We had a theory that it might mean ‘hovel’ since there were two of them when we bought the place. (I’m glad to say they are hovels no more.) Not so very far away, across the border in Indre, is Le Fragne. I took the kids there for a look around, but I didn’t spot one of anything that we have two or more of here. So I conclude that ‘Fragnes’ is just a name.

Nestlé Moschops (Nessie for short) bravely hunting voles last winter

There are other mystifying names on our farm. These belong to the animals which the children are usually responsible for naming. There has been The Big Cheese (a rabbit), Panic Attack (a duck), Dreadnought (another duck), Evil Twin (a cat) and Leopard (a bantam). The currently best-named animals are Nestlé Moschops the dog and Majority the hen.

Since The Big Cheese we’ve given up naming the rabbits. They’re not pets, shall we tactfully say? I originally had a very organised plan of naming each litter with a particular letter of the alphabet, working our way through systematically. Letter A went well, as the buns all looked different from each other. However, next came a litter of clones which made it trickier. Then we sadly lost a couple of litters. Should we count those in the alphabetical run through? The system crumbled. So these days the latest female to have babies is always Momma Bun and if we give names at all to the offspring, they’re pragmatic ones like ‘And Gravy’, ‘Curried’ or ‘Tagliatelle’. (Do try Gordon Ramsay’s rabbit tagliatelle, by the way. Excellent.) We’re currently running down our stock of bunnies as we’re not especially fond of rabbit, apart from the tagliatelle dish, and they’re a lot of work.

Our first two turkeys were suitably and purposefully called ‘Cranberry Sauce’ and ‘Stuffing’. But since then we haven’t named them beyond temporary nicknames. At the moment we have White Turkey and Black Turkey. Black Turkey should really be Grey Turkey as she’s a dinde grise, but compared to our other turkey, she’s black! Both have been laying eggs for us, so they’re no longer oven-bound. Black Turkey is broody at the moment, sitting on three duck’s eggs which may be fertile. We had two batches of bantlings last year i.e. ducklings hatched and brought up by bantams. Will this year see turklings?

Our guinea pigs began with a gem theme, with Amber, Ruby and Jasper. We diverged slightly into fossils, Ammonite, and then an astromonical theme took over – Supernova, Stardust. Since then it’s become a free for all. We have Poorly Pig who was attacked by a cat when she was tiny and was very poorly for a while: there’s Archer, Mario, Blackberry and Scratchy – the latter because she is. Amongst the poultry we have Sham, Puma, Matilda, Hotel (he’s a duck and his mate was Tokio – but she flew away! If you don’t get that reference, then ask any tweens or teens in your household.)

Windermere Lady Coulemelle (aka Windy) - a calm, serene lady

The llamas and alpacas mostly have sensible names – Katrina, Ciara, Oscar and Bernard, for example. More unusual is Windermere Lady Coulemelle – but we didn’t come up with that one. She was prenamed by llama breeder Bernard Morestin. He called her Windermere after the lake and Coulemelle because she was an October baby and there were coulemelles (a type of mushroom) growing in the fields. She was also a similar colour. I think he added Lady because it sounded nice. We also have Lulin, named after the comet that was in orbit over the earth when she was born. It’s a cool name for a llama.

So what’s in a name? Quite a lot on our farm!