vendredi 28 novembre 2008

jeudi 27 novembre 2008

Laying tracks

Our tracks in the powder - mine are the slightly hooked ones due to poor technique!

Ian and I headed for Guzet today.  Although the resort doesn't open until the 13th Dec, we were able to skin up the pistes a couple of times then ski back down through the powder - and very nice it was too.

Ian et moi sommes allé à Guzet aujourd'hui.  Bien que le station de ski n'ouvre que le 13 Decèmbre, nous pouvions monter les pistes sur nos peaux de foq et ensuite nous avons fait une belle descente sur la neige poudreuse - ça va très bien!

mercredi 26 novembre 2008

mardi 25 novembre 2008


Snowed through the night and again today - a good 6-7 inches. The electricity went off at 2.00 in the morning and didn't come back on until 8.00 this evening. No electricity means no central heating pump and no phone (land line or mobile) so busied myself with painting a new direction sign for Quélébu and Pinsou.

Went exploring during the morning towards Saradaou and took some great photos (which I've just deleted by mistake). The postwoman couldn't get any further than here because of the snow, so in the afternoon I played postman and delivered all the mail further along the road.

The sheep have finally had little option but to eat the hay - something they've been avoiding in favour of bark, leaves and acorns. So a trip on the tractor in the slippery snow was necessary to collect some more from Paul's barn.

Il neige toute la nuit et encore aujourd'hui - entre 15 et 18 cms.  Un coupure de courant entre 2 heures et 20 heures donc pas de pompe de chauffage centrale et pas de téléphone. Je me suis occupé de la peinture d'un nouveau panneau de Quélébu et Pinsou.

Le matin Je suis allé dans le direction de Saradaou et pris des belle photos (mais malheuresment je viens de les annuler par erreur!).  La factrice ne pouvait pas continuer plus loin que chez moi au cause de la neige, donc l'après midi j'ai devenu le facteur.

Enfin les brebris n'ont plus de choix et elles ont dû manger le foin -  bien qu'elles préférent l' écorce, les feuilles et les glans.  Un voyage 'glissant' sur le tracteur a obligé de ramener un peu plus.

lundi 24 novembre 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Hunting at the weekend in heavy rain and an icy wind but this time I was moving with the dogs rather than waiting at a post getting cold (at least for the first half of the day).  A good work out in difficult terrain and conditions and two sanglier to divide up.

Today it's snowed most the day with the snow settling above about 900m or so.

À la chasse ce weekend dans un déluge et un vent très froide, sauf cette fois j'allais avec les chiens plutôt que attendant m'geler à la poste (au moins tout d'abord).  Un bon exercise physique dans le terrain difficile et les mauvais temps, de plus il y a deux sangliers a partager.

Aujourd'hui il niege pendant le pluspart du jour avec la neige couche au dessus a peu près 900m.

vendredi 21 novembre 2008


Strange clouds visible early this morning ahead of the stormy weather this evening.

jeudi 20 novembre 2008


A day at Pont de la Taule painting the external new door which opens from the living room to the patio (installed a few days ago) and three windows destined to be installed upstairs.  
Tomorrow St Gaudens for the last free Suzuki service.
Snow building up nicely - skiing soon.  Most big resorts are partially opening this weekend ahead of the regular opening the weekend after.

mercredi 19 novembre 2008

Google Chrome

I have been using Google Chrome as my internet browser for the past week or so. It's GREAT but....

There's some problem with Java which still isn't fixed. Despite having the latest version (Java6 U10), Chrome won't open any Java applets on web pages and continually prompts for Java6 U10 to be installed - which it is already. Tried everything posted on the numerous help pages and forums as possible fixes and none work. With out Java working it's a 75% browser. Come on Google - get it sorted.

lundi 17 novembre 2008

An odd day

Headed over to Pont de la Taule early this morning to install the windows and doors. I picked up cement from Jason's en route. Then over to Ercé to collect the windows and doors, which according to a phone call on Friday, were ready.  But the joinery shop was closed.  At Pont de la Taule (empty handed) I set-to with the continuing saga of the bathroom doorway.  I removed a few more stones but needed to remove more of the solid rock to get an acro prop in place, but the (incredibly cheap chinese) kango hammer that I recently attempted to repair, wouldn't work.  Refusing to be beaten I transferred my attention to the retaining walls - but after 30 minutes of work I dropped a huge rock on my shin when the end I was holding in my right hand snapped off.  It wasn't my day so I abandoned ship.

On the way home I dropped in on Ian and Nina who have moved into their new home in Soulan.  After a spot of lunch, as I had the trailer, I collected their freezer which hopefully I will part exchange for my smaller one. Back at Quélébu after transferring the freezer contents, it was time to butcher the half deer waiting in the workshop.  I tried a few new cuts - a boneless rolled shoulder joint and a sirloin knuckle.  It's all in the freezer now but am looking forward to some delicious winter game.  It's strange how each animal has its' own very distinct smell when you butcher it.  Something that if you buy your meat from a supermarket or butcher you are entirely unaware of. 

dimanche 16 novembre 2008


Yesterday a cold but sunny day with the chasse.  A huge roe deer (chevreuil) passed within 60m of me but at fall speed and through the thick undergrowth - I didn't even have time to shoulder my rifle.

Today I've been digging out some of the paths below the house which have a strong camber, to make using them with the tractor easier.  Heavy work, but a fun time testing them all with the tractor this afternoon. 

Collected some clouded clitocybe mushrooms - one of those species that can make some people sick and with a strong flavour.  As with all new mushrooms I've only tried a couple of slices - not to my liking so they're in the bin.  This evening a knock at the door and the mayor produces half a chevreuil for me.  Apparently the chassers got three today!  I need a bigger freezer.

vendredi 14 novembre 2008


A lovely day: clear blue skies and snow on the mountains. Spent it making gates and fences around the barn. These should provide access to the barn for the sheep, whichever field they are in and also provide a way through for the tractor (and any pedestrians using the communal path).
The sheep are bemused by it all

mercredi 12 novembre 2008

Calendars 2008

Spent last night helping Sandrine (my neighbour) build some blogs to display her 2008 range of Calendars: 'Trees', 'Mont Valier', 'Seascape'.

Sandrine is a photographer and the pictures on the calendars are beautiful. The images in the 'Mont Valier' and the 'Trees' calendars are all taken here in the Ariege, whilst 'Seascape' has collages of photos from Cornwall and Orkney. The calendars always sell-out before christmas, so if you haven't bought all your christmas gifts already, take a look at these beautiful calendars now by clicking the links below...and if you have finished all your christmas gift shopping already, then why not treat yourself!


Mont Valier


mardi 11 novembre 2008

Pic de Fonta

Although the weather today was a bit miserable, Sandrine and I ventured upto col de Pause with the aim of climbing Pic de Fonta via the south ridge called Serre Durban. Unfortunately the descent from point 1835m was across very steep wet snow resting precariously on wet gispet grass. Sandrine had forgotten her axe and an unstoppable slip into the Valley d'Aula 1000m below was not worth thinking about. We retraced our steps and after a short circuit around the Cabane d'Areau headed for an early return home.
On route we saw a huge male isard, from the length of his horns, quite old.Yesterday evening I got my first share of game - a piece rump and a leg of sanglier. Tonight sanglier slow cooked in red wine.

dimanche 9 novembre 2008

Wall Building

Wasn't cold enough last night to keep the snow powdery and today was balmy so opted to start rebuilding the two 2 metre high retaining walls at Pont de la Taule. Found a lovely riven slab of marble so made a little bench seat in the wall as it catches the afternoon sun. Another days' work should see this first wall complete.
I also found a masons' mark with a date of Oct 1813. Probably the age of the house.

samedi 8 novembre 2008

Spot the deer

The view from Joubac, Aleu village below in the near distance

Last night Justin, Emily, Ian and Nina came for dinner. A mountain of washing up this morning meant a late start, so a day in the mountains was abandoned in favour of joining the chasse for my first dry day out with them. Once more we were posted high on Joubac only this time the views were spectacular (good for choosing a route in the mountains tomorrow).
Spot the deer ... no neither could I

Alas not a sniff of game for me, but three sanglier (wild boar) were shot lower down in the valley. Tomorrow, in the mountains.

vendredi 7 novembre 2008

Early this morning...

"Fabrique en France" - This is a consumer warning not a statement of national pride.
"ACME" - Manufacture (mostly in France) poorly designed things that break, no wonder Wylie Coyote never managed to catch Road Runner.

jeudi 6 novembre 2008


I was awoken this morning by a distress flare - the sheep had abandoned ship in life rafts. My hopes of a quick fix to the barn flooding problem hadn't worked after all. In fact the 36 hours of torrential rain have produced exceptional conditions here - even the pond was flooded. Seems I will have to lay drainage outside the barn - a big job. In the meantime I built two large sleeping platforms for the sheep out of wood left over from the woodshed, above the flood level, which will do for the moment.

When the rain abated I took the tractor for a spin, down to Paul's field to collect all the fencing. There are some very steep muddy sections and with the rain it would be a stern test. A huge logging crawler with chains on it's wheels was stuck there for a month in lesser conditions. Although the very worn front tyres (which need replacing) struggled for grip, the little beauty crawled it way slowly up through the mire. A job which used to take half a day of ferrying loads took less than a hour.

With the early snow, people are already ski touring here and providing it stays cold a trip is on the cards.

Apologies for the recent lack of photos - more on their way soon.

mercredi 5 novembre 2008

Phone Problems

The phone has been out of action for a few days so no posts recently. Yesterday after the final servicing tasks on the tractor, I dewormed the sheep, then two trips collecting a tonne of gravel from St Girons later, I shovelled it into the barn to raise the ground level above the water table - as despite installing some drainage it still floods after very heavy rain - not good for the sheep.

Today another day hunting with the Aleu Chasse. Alas another day of torrential rain and no game. Anyone who knows me or reads my blog will no I'm not someone who can stand still doing nowt for very long - I remain to be convinced by 'chasse en battue' which involves a lot of standing still doing nowt. Ultimately I think I'll be searching for somewhere to go stalking, but for this season at least, I'll stick it out here. The good news is that so far (in spite of the rain) the barn appears dry.

dimanche 2 novembre 2008

La chasse

My first hunt in France today. A rendezvous at 8.00 at the hunting lodge in Castet d'Aleu to enroll and meet about half of the chassers. A boar and a roe deer were hanging from yesterdays' hunt and after skinning were moved to the cold store. The weather was atrocious - rain then sleet and snow even at Castet 400m lower than Quélébu. We all stayed around the fire chatting as the weather was too bad to venture out. Hunting of wild boar, roe deer and hare is always done as a team here. No stalking. But for my first season it's good to see how it's done here, meet more local people and discover parts of the commune off the beaten track. The season for hunting Isard (chamois) in the high mountains is all but over, so that will have to wait for next year. Many people have commented that with the life I live here and now with me joining 'la chasse' that I have become more french than the French. As if to underline the point when I enrolled I was presented with a beret. An orange one (wearing something orange when hunting is obligatory for safety). In fact the beret is the traditional hat of the south west of france (Gascony) not all of france as is portrayed in the UK. Here it is worn pulled to the front and equal on both sides, not pulled to one side as in the UK and other parts of France.

After an early lunch (11.30) the general mood was to get out and do something and the rain seemed to be easing.

The plan was to hunt on the north side of Joubac a hill of about 1000m altitude. We drove upto the airstrip on top of the hill and were briefly above some of the weather. Four of us were posted on the narrow ridge which drops very steeply at the extreme western end from point 977m. The going was wet and slippery over rocks, through broom, heather and dead bracken. I forgot my camera and gloves. The dogs which flush out the game, I think didn't come close enough to us (there was much debate afterwards) but we saw and heard nothing. At the eastern end someone took a shot at a sanglier and another killed a fox (good news for my chickens). The rain mostly held off but it was 'fresh'. Occasionally the clouds would clear revealing amazing views to the l'Arac ravin far below. After 2-3 hours the chasse was over and two of us descended the steep wooded hillside to the river where we were picked up for a brief reunion at the lodge.