dimanche 31 décembre 2006
samedi 30 décembre 2006
8 hours on the hill and we even managed to get some sun for lunch.
vendredi 29 décembre 2006
mercredi 27 décembre 2006
samedi 23 décembre 2006
mercredi 20 décembre 2006
mardi 19 décembre 2006
lundi 18 décembre 2006
On the way back we passed a horse skeleton picked clean by vultures. As one of the legs was separated I couldn't resist the 'jake the fake' routine.
Tonight it is snowing lightly at Quelebu - the first time this year - but probably the last snow until January.
I have a creoste problem with the Rayburn chimney mainly resulting in a creosoty smell when it is first lit . I think its a problem caused by the old uninsulated chimney (can't replace until next year when I do the whole roof) and the wood I'm burning being green (next year my wood pile will be much dryer as most of it was felled this year). I'm using a weekly additive to reduce the problem but there is little I can do until next spring.
mercredi 13 décembre 2006
lundi 11 décembre 2006
Battery now on charge.
Apparently in these parts one leaves the car in gear and releases the hand brake to stop it all freezing together.
Alas today is beautiful - clear blue ski, very cold, ideal for skiing. Tomorrow the forcast is not so good - Oh well winter has only just begun, I'll have to ski another day.
dimanche 10 décembre 2006
Several ski resorts are partially open and tomorrow I'm going to go skiing at Baqueira in Spain (I hope). Best to find my ski legs before launching out on a ski mountaineering expedition!
vendredi 8 décembre 2006
Oh the joy of slow cooking!
mercredi 6 décembre 2006
dimanche 3 décembre 2006
On offer were a raspberry and apple fruit cobbler with custard (me), a dessert of apricots in set semoulina served cold (Susanne), plums and apricots from Celine's garden stuffed with homemade marzipan (Celine), a peach and apple tart (John) and finally a lemon tart made with a sugar substitute that went kinda' wrong(!) and didn't taste as it should (John too). All washed down with Gaillac Premier (local equivalent of Beaujolais Nouveau) and a white Bordeaux pudding wine.
vendredi 1 décembre 2006
mercredi 29 novembre 2006
lundi 27 novembre 2006
dimanche 26 novembre 2006
Over the past few days I have been painting the bedroom floor, little by little as the paint gives me a migrane if it's too overpowering. Downstairs, I've sanded back a piece of floor to see if it's worth sanding all of it...I think it is. Not sure if it's oak or elm - probably oak. I'll hire a sander next week but I know from experience just how much dust it will make, plus there 40 years (at least) of varnish to get through first.
Also I've been clearing field no.2 or rather clearing all the dead, damaged and fallen trees and thinning the overstood coppice. A huge beech tree was blown down about 3 years ago and it took about 8 other trees with it and crushed several coppices - clearing up the mess is a long and tricky business. Fortunately the big beech's two main boughs went either side of a maple which has stablised it (it's firmly wedged in fact) so de-limbing it is much safer as I know the tree is unlikely to move.
In the evening, I'm reading 'Edible Garden Forests' a practical permaculture guide (a weighty tome). So far it's very interesting, though I haven't got to the practical bit yet. Up until now, whenever I've looked at permaculture, there's been lots of theory but little actual practical advice, so this book promises much! I've certainly got the perfect opportunity to try it.
mardi 21 novembre 2006
I lit the Rayburn for the first time in over a week - which was a good excuse to bake a fruit cake.
Paul has lent me his DVD's of 'Back to river cottage' so after so many people have drawn parallels, I can at last see the series for myself. I've only watched episode 1 and there are definite similarities though they seem to have edited out all the hard graft (or perhaps Hugh had a team of helpers to speed the filming along?)
mardi 14 novembre 2006
lundi 13 novembre 2006
dimanche 12 novembre 2006
samedi 11 novembre 2006
Disappointed with french puddings (or the lack them) I have decided to start the Quelebu pudding club. The first meeting is tomorrow evening and I've cooked up something on the Rayburn (plus it gave me the chance to start getting to grips with the Rayburn oven).
We have Lemon Meringue Pie, Apple Pie and Squidgy Chocolate Roulade (unfortunately made with French cream which is a bit on the sour side, but the chocolate sponge is quite bitter so I hope it'll be OK).
jeudi 9 novembre 2006
Another walk today. I was late setting off because the car wouldn't start. It was my first visit to the village of Salau since Ollie and I were walking the Pyrenean Haut Route, as then I ascended the Col de Crusous - only this time in fantastically clear conditions. When Ollie and I climbed here it was zero visibilty and raining ( I remember a long slog in knee length wet grass). In fact it's a spectacular ascent. From the col I turned right and ascended the steep ridge to Cap de Ruhos. It's a great peak with stunning views but because of it's more famous neighbours (Certescan and Mont Roig) it's often overlooked. The views were even more far reaching than from Pic de l'Har a few days ago. Aneto, Maladetta and Posets are all unobscured and even Vignemale was clearly visible to the west (80 miles away as the crow flies).
From here I continued to the nearby Pic Montagnole then took to the narrow arete, scrambling west as far as a crazy quartz pinnacle just after the Passage de Montareino - mostly on the Spanish side where it was warm in the sun, or balancing along the crest...the french side was icy as it was still in the shade. I wanted to try and descend from here directly into the Cirque d'Anglade to make a circuit but I couldn't see if there were steep cliffs barring the way (the map said yes, but it looked OK as far as I could see). With lots of frozen streams and verglas on the rocks in the cirque I decided to retrace my steps. It'a amazing that there's so much ice here as the daytime temperature in the sun is still in the twenties! At Quelebu it was 30 in the sun yesterday with a nightime temperature of 3!
The views into Spain were fantastic too. Especially looking down onto Lac Mariola.
I got back to find work underway on the house/grange opposite, like most french construction this seems to involve spraying vast quanities of concrete on everything...in this case beautiful stonework...such a shame.
dimanche 5 novembre 2006
Went for a walk today with Sandrine my neighbour. The weather was fantastically clear and we climbed Pic de l'Har which has superb views. We passed the abandoned mines de bentaillou....
...before ascending the peak with great views extending from Pica d'Estats in the East to Monte Perdido in the west. Managed to get some good views of the Couloir Tartereau and the Central Couloir de Pic Crabere - future winter climbing routes.
The area around the villages of Sentein and Eylie where the walk started, is very picturesque. Every field has two stone barns built into the steep slopes, not sure why there are always two.
samedi 4 novembre 2006
L'apero with Claude and arrangements for a walk tomorrow with Sandrine, then it was time to try the Rayburn oven and the bath.
The roast chicken and roast potatoes cooked in the Rayburn were delicious. The bath, the first I'd had in over a year, (I usually shower thank-you) was fantastic - however I'd forgotten that I was going to make some plumbing alterations to facilitate emptying the bath afterwards. Lots of futile and frustrating fiddling with the sink waste and improvisation with funnels and hosepipe later...I conceded defeat and using some breather hose from the car managed to drain the bath out of the door! There was water everywhere but the floor needed a wash anyway!
Some more work required me thinks, for the effortless bathing experience.
vendredi 3 novembre 2006
Today I built a cupboard to enclose the electrical meters and distribution board with a boot rack below. It has transformed the living room, hiding loads of mess.
Tomorrow, I'll get in some of the wood still waiting to be collected from Philippe's as it might rain on Saturday night.
mercredi 1 novembre 2006
Yesterday I built a new table to go over the bath and it's chariot. Constructed from floorboards with a stained frame and decorative studs around the perimeter - it looks the part. The plan is to hinge it to the wall to make using the bath easier (but I haven't any hinges at the moment so that'll have to wait). Its a decent size so at last I can entertain. Going to start the Quelebu Pudding Club when the Rayburn is up and running.
Spent the afternoon logging a large tree that was blown in over in the storm and was blocking the path. This meant taking the Suzuki 'off road'. It's a capable little machine and not only managed to squeeze through all the tight gaps and rough terrain but also managed to pull a fully laden trailer up some formidable slopes on the way back.
Here's a few pictures of Provence.
The Gorges du Verdon
View towards Cannes from the Esterel
lundi 30 octobre 2006
On Wednesday night there was a tremendous and unforecasted storm (I think it sunk a load of race yachts in the Bay of Biscay). There was no rain just a warm hurricane force wind (which was fortunate as I could go outside in my dressing gown to try and tie things to the ground - like the car!). I was up all night as 100 mph winds tried to rip the roof off the house. The large lime tree by the workshop has a trunk nearly 1 metre diameter, it was bending in the wind...a lot...I thought it would be blown over. As I'm surrounded by forest the noise of the wind through the trees was deafening and the power flickered on and off all night. I consolled myself with the thought that the house has stood for 150-200yrs weathering all sorts of storms...but the new slate roof and the workshop have not! I went out and locked all the window shutters over the windows and weighted down the corrugated iron sheets on the wood pile with loads of tyres (to no avail - I heard the wind pick them up and hurl them down the road).
In the morning the worst of the storm was over and amazingly everything had survived. Healthy trees had lost large branches, several had been blown over (more logs for the winter), a few telegraph poles in the village had been snapped in half and generally there was lots of debris everywhere. I spoke to John who has lived here 7 years and he has never experienced anything like it.
I left the carnage behind and set off for Provence. The 7 1/2 hour drive was awful as for the first 5 hours I travelled with the weakening storm and the Suzuki being high sided with a short wheel base and noisy at the best of times, hates cross winds. My complete lack of sleep didn't help either.
Fortunately, hospitality was waiting at Claviers. Howard and Stella's home in Provence is lovely and as always I was treated to fantastic food, drink and company. The weather in Provence was beautiful the whole time we were there.
On Friday we headed to Theoule-sur-Mer in the bay of Cannes and swam in the Med, before an excellent lunch in a beach side restaurant 'the Marco Polo'. A walk through the Esterel completed a lovely day.
Sheila and Kevin, who were also staying at Howard and Stella's, were excellent company and we all drank and laughed late into the evenings.
On Saturday morning I did some logging to help out, then Kevin and I took off for a tour of the Gorges du Verdon and the Lac de St Croix - my old stomping ground. It was strange to be back after 14 years. I visited Comps sur Artuby, Aiguines, Bauduen and Aups - little has changed really. The gorge was more spectacular than remembered, I should have arranged to stay longer and redone some of the walks I used to lead.
All to soon it was time to leave. Even though I love Provence and it's picturesque villages have an unrivalled charm - it's good to be home in Pyrenees. My heart is definitely here.
Photo's to follow (very slow internet connection tonight).
mercredi 25 octobre 2006
mardi 24 octobre 2006
Most of the field is now clear, 2 more days should do it, but it was hot work and every hour I had to go and drink a litre and a half of water!
Will probably do the climb tomorrow, as the weather is still supposed to be good, but there will be a strong southerly wind which might make the ridge 'interesting'.
Then off to see Howard and Stella in Provence on Thursday.
jeudi 19 octobre 2006
From this jungle...
...to this fertile meadow!
Unfortunately, I managed to snap my scythe 'snath', not surprising after all the abuse it's been getting. I've glued and lashed it whilst I await a replacement.
Went to the local agricultural market in Seix yesterday looking at pigs!! Look at these lovely little porkers.