Heatwave and a drought

We are in that delicious waiting phase. Am I allergic to wasps? I have been stung quite a few times in the last twenty years, but there is always a fun waiting game to see.

I managed to get slammed by a pesky wasp while I was working in the potager just now. Just the soldier wasp guarding the nest. But he got me twice and the stings are really, really sore. Back of the leg – gap between trousers and sock.

I have raced up to the house and hauled out the mini first aid kit (as opposed to the giant box of medicine that could stock a local army field hospital). I have sucked out the poison with my suction syringe. Applied cream, taken an antihistamine. And now we wait.

Our lovely neighbour José was the last one to feel the effects of a wasp sting and ending up in hospital. He puffed up like a balloon, couldn’t breathe and they had to call the Pompiers. So it’s all rather a thrill.

And more thrilling than watching trees die.

It’s our second year in a row for drought. But this is our worst heatwave in a while. We are having pretty relentless 36C (96.8F) days here right now. And it’s all Alerte Rouge warnings and everyone taking care.

And there is a familiar routine to the day. Up at 6am (or 0520am when I woke and couldn’t get back to sleep) and haul open every window and door. There isn’t that much fresh air coming in – a surprise as we are at altitude – but it helps. But then by 9am everything seals shut. And we enter the phase that my friend Lisa calls Stygian Gloom.

Everything is shaded indoors with heavy curtains and hush. And one creeps about by 11am because there is no way you are going to put a foot outdoors unless it’s absolutely necessary. Cooking? Err no. It’s salads all the way and thank goodness the tomatoes are fantastic and plump.

I am not looking forward to this afternoon’s physio session in a town that registered 42.5 Celsius (108F) yesterday. But needs must.

I am even doing my uphill reps to try and get back some strength in my knee. All done before 9am of course and I have a steep hill in the shade which helps. But it’s hard. Because hand watering the stricken trees takes time. And you just count every minute between six and nine as precious because it’s your only chance to work.

Still. Not all gloom. The Dry Garden has some gorgeous plants; all thriving. Just avert your gaze from the crispy leaves of all the quince trees on the bank.

May I sound the gong for cistus which is merrily looking evergreen and cool under a bone dry patch near a pine? I must take more cuttings and see if I can add to my stock.

And the glorious bupleurum of course.

There are lots of phlomis and ballota which look exceptionally desiccated. We have to see what will come back if we ever get rain. And the lavenders and artemesia look crispy.

That’s my trusty wheelbarrow in the background where I fill buckets of the last water from my rainwater tank and trudge to distant trees. We are still on our spring water which is just as well as watering gardens is now banned. And you can only water your small vegetable gardens after 9pm at night and before 8am if you use town water. Stocks are so dangerously low.

But give me some cooler weather next week and I shall set to with secateurs and give everything a tidy and we shall see what thrives.

I’ve never seen the ballota looking so parched. I can only find handsome stalks from the shrubs that are growing in deep shade down near the stables. All the rest are doomed for a prune.

Here is a sneak preview of the flower bouquets I picked this week. I usually make about 12. But that’s not happening.

The dahlias are very short stemmed and very slow to grow. But enough for four posies. So not all doom.

have crammed the vases with eucalyptus leaves, choiysia stems, some asparagus and the last of the lovely agastache flowers which smell great but are not full of delicious blue stalks And the mighty bupleurum of course.

You would think this post was sponsored by the Bupleurum Fruticosum Appreciation Society.

Okay. Half an hour is up. I am not swelling up, but am ready for a cup of tea, a lie down and more crime novel delights – set in the downpour towns of Pyrénées. One can dream.

(Not much chance of kiwis this year.)