Wise Words for March

Here are some traditional French sayings from the 1932 and 1933 copies of La Prosperité à la Campagne magazine.

Autant de brouillard en mars – autant de gel en avril

There’ll be as much frost in April as there is fog in March.

(A saying from the South-West)

Autant de brouillard en mars – autant d’orages en été

There’ll be as many thunderstorms in summer as fog in March.

(A saying from Haut-Rhin)

Une Hirondelle ne fait pas le printemps

One swallow doesn’t make spring. This is followed by an extra note that usually swallows don’t arrive before 20th March in Rousillon, the 1st April in Gascony and 15th-20th April in the rest of France. I shall be watching out this year.

Quand en mars il tonne – l’année est bonne.

When it thunders in March it will be a good year.

Quand il gèle le 25 mars – les prés diminuent du quart.

When it freezes on the 25 March – the meadows will be a quarter less productive.

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Quand mars entre en mouton, il sort en lion.

When March comes in like a lamb, it goes out like a lion.

Quand il pleut à St Aubin – il n’y aura ni lin ni foin.

When it rains on St Aubin’s Day [1st March] – there will be neither flax to make linen nor hay.

Well, it certainly rained yesterday, 1st March, so not looking good for the hay. We’ll just have to wait and see if they sayings prove to be true.

How did February’s rustic predictions turn out? (These were in my blog for the beginning of February.) We had sun at Candlemas (2 Feb) and by golly did it turn wintry just after that. We’d have been better off with a ‘chandeleur noire’ which would have meant better weather by now. There was running water in the streams on 5th February, and there wasn’t a frost on 27th February, so those augur well for the summer. But there was a tempête on 27/28 February as I expect you’re aware. There was a red alert, a rare event, over part of France and sadly it was accurate, with a great deal of damage and lives lost in that area. We were braced for strong winds, and they’ve taken some tiles off the barn and blown some fencing down, but fortunately weren’t as bad as we’d been expecting. February is proving to be the worst month weather-wise here in Creuse.

March came in like a lamb, with warm sunshine yesterday in the morning, although it didn’t last that long. So I hope the leonine weather that’s coming at the end of the month won’t be as bad as the end of February’s …

Shrove Tuesday – Mardi Gras

So it’s Fat Tuesday – that’s what Mardi Gras means. What a great name. Traditionally it marks the last day of the ‘carnaval’ period that began at Epiphany and which ends with Lent (Carême). Quite who would have been celebrating all that while I’m not sure. Certainly not the ordinary people who would have been battling with the hardships of winter. We’ve found this winter hard going with all our twenty-first century accoutrements – electricity, running water (most of the time), central heating to boost our reliance on our wood burning stove, supermarkets etc. It must have been really, really miserable in times gone by.

But Mardi Gras is an excuse for a knees-up with dressing up and tucking into nice rich food. There was a good reason for the latter in the past. The Church forbade people to eat rich food like eggs and cream during lent so they had to use these ingredients up before it started. Pancakes – crepes – we all know about, but bugnes are also very common. These are little fried doughnuts. There are regional variations on the precise ingredients that go into them. The French cookery website www.750g.com has 1276 different recipes for bugne batter! More than one way of making them.

Ruadhri has only been at school for one Mardi Gras (he’s been on winter holidays for the others). That year the children were asked to come along in their déguisements, so the tradition of wearing costumes for this day is still going strong, among children at least. Ruadhri went as an ankylosaur!

We’re hoping Mardi Gras will see the last of the cold weather. It hasn’t been above freezing for nearly a week now and we’ve had our deepest snow too. That’s the third time we’ve been snowed in this winter. The novelty’s wearing off!

All hail

Twice in the last few weeks we’ve had a ferocious hailstorm. The most recent one was the worst. I was convinced the skylights were going to break. The noise was incredible. Once the worst was over, we went outside to check the llamas, and found ourselves crunching over walnut sized hailstones. This means the hailstorm had an intensity of H2 to H5, according to a hailstone classification chart I came across on the web. Worryingly, the range goes up to H10. Now that means coconut sized hailstones, and those I do not want to see. The hail we had did enough damage. Both the cars are dimpled all over, our pumpkin patch – Chris’s pride and joy – has been reduced to a mess of ragged leaves and scarred pumpkins, and one of our two surviving sunflowers has been beheaded. All the other plants look very bashed and battered, and our tomato crop has taken another blow. Continue reading “All hail”