jeudi 30 septembre 2010


The fields below Pentussa (Cominac)

The last few days have been balmy and warm and I've been busy making fence posts, fencing fields, logging more fallen trees (in the beech forest) and clearing the path through the forest between Gouteto and Courex.

Today I walked over to Cominac to see two local farmers - La Panchard and Le Gabach. The latter had a hay-tedder for sale and after seeing it I was invited for lunch. In the afternoon the clouds descended and the temperature dropped, so I headed for home.
Chateau Mirabat with Mont Valier towering behind from Icart (Cominac)
Here's the Tengboche/Ama Dablam version, which is how it looks to me!

Tonight I'm blanching some of the sweetcorn harvest prior to freezing.

dimanche 26 septembre 2010


Today was the "Boeuf" in Massat. An annual day of celebration when an ox is spit roasted in the park and all the inhabitants of the Canton are invited to partake. There are usually 500-600 people and everyone is amply feed. It was unusually cold this year but I met up with Justin and Emily, the twins, Alun and Breezy, and a host of other people for a fine afternoon.
Enough for everyone

...even the dogs

Aujourd'hui etait "La Boeuf" à Massat. Un jour chaque l'année quand il y a un Beouf mechouie dans le parc de Massat gratuite pour toutes les inhabitents du canton. Il y a d'habitude 500-600 persons. Il fait froid c'est année mais j'ai rencontré Justin, Emily, les jumelles, Alun, Breezy et quelques autres pour un bon fête.

samedi 25 septembre 2010


A short spell of wet and colder weather has crossed the Pyrenees over the last couple of days. Cool enough for me to light the Rayburn for the first time and to bring a couple of inches of snow to mountains above 2000m. Hopefully, I'll post a photo if the clouds clear.

Un court period de temps humid et plus froid a été traverser les Pyrénées ces derniers jours. Sufficement froid pour moi a allumé le Rayburn pour le premier fois et pour quelques centimeters de la neige au dessus 2000m.

mercredi 22 septembre 2010


A busy few days taking the woodburning stove and flue out of my house and installing in the house at Pont de la Taule. I have a smaller woodburner with a smaller diameter flue arriving soon. With the Rayburn and the thatched roof I just don't need such a big stove anymore.

I have also completed pointing the front wall of the house - hopefully that will keep the wasps out and stop the wind blowing through it! Still a bit of the gable-end to finish pointing but as it's South facing it's less important.

Très occupé les dernier jours j'ai sorti la poele et tuyau de chez moi et emporter à la maison à Pont de la Taule. J'ai acheté une poele plus petite avec un tuyau plus petit aussi, ils arrivent bientôt. Avec le Rayburn et le toit en chaume je n'ai plus besoin une poele grande comme celui-ci.

J'ai fini les joints de la fa&ccedil'ade de la maison - j'espere que il soit empecher les geps d'entrer et le vent de souffler dedans! Encore un peu plus de faire.

dimanche 19 septembre 2010

Acute Mastitis

It's been a lovely day but there's a feel of impending autumn with the first leaves starting to fall and the trees heavy with apples and nuts. Some scything in the morning and then clearing out Larcher's barn where I'll probably put the sheep for some of the winter. La Panchard's cows have finally arrived and are in the woods for the time being.

In the early afternoon Alain and Guillaume drove by (this weekend is the start of the hunting season). I joined them below Pinsou at the Pouts Redoun but we saw nothing. On the way back Patrick, Michelle and Susan invited me for coffee and we spent the rest of the evening chatting.

Leia (the ewe who had the abscess on her mammary gland) now has further ones forming - she's almost certainly got acute mastitis. The outlook isn't good and she needs to be culled, but so too does Jean-Jeanie (who had such terrible trouble with trying to lamb) and at least one of the castrated male lambs (Luke or Damien). Seems I'll have less sheep but more hay and meat than I expected this winter. Leia was a good mother, it's such a shame she has developed complications.

samedi 18 septembre 2010


After a hot bath and a good long sleep I am at last feeling better today.

After a bit of farmwork, a short wander in the woods gave a good haul of mushrooms - Hedgehog of the Woods, Chanterelle, Cep, Orange Birch Bolette, Shaggy Parasol, Giant Parasol and a Gypsy Mushroom. With a handful of dried Horn of Plenty from last year a mega wild mushroom risotto is in the offing.

Après un bain chaud et un nuit pendant que j'ai bien dormi, je sent mieux enfin.

Après un peu de travail au ferme, un court promenade au bois me donne quelques champignons. Ce soir un risotto.

mercredi 15 septembre 2010

Port de Salau to Pic des Mulats

Pic de Géu (right) and Mont Rouch (left in the far distance)

This was the planned route for today. There are only a few peaks and sections of the skyline here which remain unclimbed by me and the frontier ridge after Pic de Géu towards Mont Rouch has been long overdue for a visit.

Ben and I left at a reasonable hour this morning but in separate cars as Ben was heading home after the walk. Somehow we got our wires crossed: I thought he was going to wait at Kercabanac where I'd pick him up and we'd continue in my car. In fact he stopped at Castet d'Aleu. I drove past without seeing him or him seeing me, and when I got to Kercabanac and he wasn't there I assumed he'd headed on to Salau and the start of the walk. Of course he wasn't there and after much to-ing and fro-ing and driving around trying to find each other we eventually met up but started the walk later than we had planned from Alun and Breezy's place.

We made the Port de Salau 2087m in a little under 2 hours for the 1100m of ascent but I felt very hot in the sun and unusually weak. As we progressed along the narrow grassy ridge over the succession of peaks to Pic de Géu 2499m (this section I had done before) I began to feel weaker still and decidedly ill. We pressed on but I was getting slower and by Tuc de Bassibie 2524m I was feeling weak and pretty sure I was going to vomit imminently.
View from the ridge to Alos d'Isil in spain and the Encantados beyond

There remained only two more peaks and the best (narrowist) part of the ridge to do. Although Ben offered to descend with me I could see he was itching to continue. This was the second mountain trip in a row I'd had to "bail out of" so after a quick discussion we agreed that I'd descend and Ben would continue to finish the ridge.

I didn't want to return the same way (that would've been the 4th time on this ridge!) but quickly found a short down climb to the north and picked a very steep and sometimes precarious route down through the cliffs to the coombe of Lauzeron. I headed for a little cabin marked as ruined on the map but in fact in excellent condition.High on the mountain a slip on some damp gispet (a notoriously slippery grass) nearly spelled disaster but I managed to stop the slide snapping my walking pole in the process.
From the cabin I found a path down through the woods and emerged at the Cascade de Bégé.
I called in on Alun and Breezy (the agreed rendezvous with Ben) looking at their latest progress with the renovation of their barn/home and visiting their new tree platform. I still felt pretty nausious and tired. Ben arrived a couple of hours later. He said the last section of ridge was probably the best knife edge he'd ever climbed - better than the stuff he's done in the Pennine Alps and on better rock...Grrr, return visits to the this ridge and Mail de Bulard North ridge are now being booked into the diary.
Looking back from Pic des Mulats over the last section of the ridge

mardi 14 septembre 2010


Another lovely day splitting logs in the morning and scything in the afternoon. In the evening Ben came over (mountain walk planned for tomorrow) so we decided to taste the 'just about ready' meadow sweet champagne - it's fantastic! Also I've found out that meadowsweet contains aspirin so the champagne even cures your hangover if you drink too much of it!

Ben brought some produce from his farm (beetroot, chard, runner beans and kohlrabi which I'd never tried before) which we mixed with some of my potaotes, an ox tongue fungus and an orange birch bolette, for a rather odd but home-grown dinner.
Les beaux temps encore, j'ai fendu les bouches le matin et fauché l'apres-midi. Le soir Ben est arrivé (une rando ensemble demain) et nous avons décidé de gouter la champagne de Reine du Pré - c'est formidable! Aussi j'ai découvri que il y a aspirin dans Reine de Pré - alors on peut boire comme vous voulez sans un mal au tête le matin prochain!

Ben a emporté des légumes de sa domaine (béterave, chard, haricots et Kohlrabi) avec mes pommes de terre, quelques champignons (langue de boeuf, bolette du boulou) nous avons fait un repas.

samedi 11 septembre 2010

Reptile food

Another hot balmy day with fires on the flanks of Mont Valier.

In the afternoon million of flying ants (and other insects) - the air was thick with them. Easy pickings for the lizards!

Un autre jour, doux à chaud avec des feux sur les flancs du Mont Valier.

Dans l'après-midi il y a des millions de fourmis volantes (et d'autres insectes) - l'air était épais avec eux. une proie facile pour les lézards!

vendredi 10 septembre 2010


A very light dusting of snow on the mountains this morning above 2700m, but here it's still late summer/early autumn with the temperature in the sun in the low thirties.

In the morning I set to logging some of the beech trees which fell in the May snows in my bits of forest. the chainsaw is working fine again after a bit of TLC. I have a lot of firewood's the stock take (1 stère = a stack of 1 cubic metre of wood).
Woodshed: 8 stère (acacia oak and lime)
Field 1: 3 stère (ash and walnut) plus some big bits of walnut to be planked
Field 2: 6 stère (walnut, acacia and oak)
Field 3: 1 stère (oak)
Field 4: 2 stère (ash and chestnut)
Field 5: 7 stère (chestnut and a little birch)
Field 6; 2 stère (cherry and oak)
Field 7: 2 stère (birch)
Field 9: 5 stère (birch, oak and ash)

About 36 stère in total a good 6-8 years worth of firewood!

The meadowsweet champagne is starting to develop a slight cloudiness just the like the last batch...I suspect boiling water isn't enough to sterile the bottles properly. Weirdly I kept some of the last batch (which was cloudy and flat) strained and re-bottled it and now it's fizzy! I might filter this batch immediately and re-bottle so it can finish fermenting.

Une sapoudrage très léger de la neige sur les montagnes, ce matin au-dessus 2700m, mais ici c'est encore la fin de l'été / début de l'automne avec la température au soleil de trente dégrées.

Dans la matin, je me mis à l'exploitation forestière certains des hêtres qui est tombé dans la neige du mai dans mes parcelles. La tronçonneuse fonctionne parfaitement après un peu de nettoyage. J'ai beaucoup de bois de chauffage maintenant ... voici le stock.

Woodshed: 8 stère (chêne, acacia et tilleul)
Champ 1: 3 stère (frêne et le noyer) et quelques gros morceaux de noyer à planches
Champ 2: 6 stère (noyer, l'acacia et le chêne)
Domaine 3: 1 stère (chêne)
Zone 4: 2 stère (frêne et châtaignier)
Champ 5: 7 stère (châtaignier et bouleau)
Champ 6, 2 stère (cerisier et chêne)
Zone 7: 2 stère (bouleau)
Zone 9: 5 stère (bouleau, chêne et frêne)

Environ 36 stère au total, assez de 6-8 années!

Le champagne de reine des prés est en train de développer un léger nuageux, juste comme le dernier lot ... Je soupçonne l'eau bouillante ne suffit pas pour steriliser les bouteilles correctement. Bizarrement j'ai gardé quelques-uns des lots dernière (qui était nuageux et plat) et apres épreuve et re-mis en bouteille il est pétillante! Je pourrais filtre ce lot immédiatement et re-bouteille afin qu'il puisse terminer la fermentation.

jeudi 9 septembre 2010

The end of summer.

After a reminder about my statutory rights, facewest agreed to refund the purchase of the faulty Suunto Lumi...glad to see the back of it. Shame the retailer takes the wrap for Suunto's incompetence.

No sign of La Panchard's cows even though André said he'd put them in fields 4, 5 and 6 and I have kept the "regain" for them (the growth after the first cut of hay that would be the second cut). So I've put the sheep in there instead, much to their delight.
The other fields are all one by one being topped and the next job will be starting to collect the wood which is stacked in them.
Field 1
Field 2

With the summer compressed into the last few weeks the vegetable garden is finally producing - I must have 25kgs of tomatoes and they are still coming. The courgettes are finally doing well, the carrots are big but they're staying in the ground this year until I need them and the sweetcorn will soon be ready.

Après un rappel de mes droits légaux, facewest accepté de rembourser l'achat de la mauvaise Suunto Lumi. Tant-pis que le détaillant souffre pour l'incompétence de Suunto.

Aucun signe des vaches de La Panchard, même si André a dit qu'il avait de les mettre dans les pres 4, 5 et 6 et j'ai gardé la "regain" pour eux . J'ai mis les moutons il y a lieu, à leur grande joie.

Les autres champs sont tous un par un faucher et le prochain travail sera de commencer à recueillir le bois qui est empilé en eux.

Avec l'été compressés dans les dernières semaines le potager est enfin produire - je devais avoir 25kgs de tomates et elles sont encore à venir. Les courgettes sont finalement bien, les carottes sont grands mais ils sont rester dans la terre cette année jusqu'à ce que j'ai besoin d'eux et le maïs sera bientôt prêt.

mercredi 8 septembre 2010

Those bastards at Suunto....never buy a Lumi!

In the morning chainsawing the last of the trees in field 9 (Paul's field) which fell in the May snows, a large oak. The chainsaw despite being cleaned yesterday was playing up - not enough bar oil getting on the chain...seems to be an intermittent problem with my ageing Husqvarna 350. I'll strip it down tomorrow and try to solve the problem but maybe a new saw is in the pipeline? The husky has had really heavy use for nearly 6 years and maybe I should get a professional level saw next time and maybe.....a Stihl!

The middle of the day was spent trying to get a refund on the Suunto Lumi, checking out my consumer rights and sending e-mails. No luck yet. One thing is for certain, the Lumi has major design faults. I've looked on sites all over the net: web sites, blogs, forums, retailers sites with customer opinions, ski-touring sites, climbing sites, watch sites and they're all full of the same negative experiences of the Lumi and the log function/altimeter inaccuracy is a recurrent theme.

I'm really annoyed that Suunto:

a) Launched a product they hadn't tested properly particularly when peoples' safety depend on it
b) When they realised it was faulty did nothing
c) Have now stopped production of the Lumi but continue to let the stock of faulty watches be sold by retailers
d) Seem to have got away with it

In the afternoon Mike and Henri came over with a recoil pad for Mike's rifle that I said I could shorten the stock on. I did the work in the afternoon and they came to collect it in the evening. Forgot to take a picture for the blog.

After a lovely morning a cold front has swept in this evening and we have some rain falling - all good for the winter vegetables - cabbages, cauliflower, chicory and spinach.

Le matin j'ai abattre la dernière des arbres dans le champ 9 (pré de Paul) qui ont tombé dans les neiges de mai, un grand chêne. La tronconneuse dépit être nettoyé hier n'a pas marché bien. La chaine monque de la huile... ca semble être un problème intermittent avec mon Husqvarna 350 recentment. Je vais démonter demain et essayer de résoudre le problème, mais peut-être une nouvelle tronconneuse est proche. Le "Husky" a eu l'usage vraiment dur pour près de 6 ans et peut-être je devrais obtenir une nouvelle de niveau professionnel et peut-être ..... une Stihl!

Le milieu de la journée j'ai essayé d'obtenir un remboursement sur la Suunto Lumi, vérifier mon droits des consommateurs et l'envoi quelque e-mails. Pas de chance pour le moment. Une chose est certaine, le Lumi a des défauts de conception. J'ai regardé sur des sites sur le net: websites, blogs, forums, sites avec les opinions des internautes, les sites de ski de randonnée, sites d'escalade, sites de montre, et ils sont tous pleins de la même expérience négative de la Lumi et le inexactitude fonction log altimètre / est un thème récurrent.

Je suis vraiment fâché que Suunto:

a) A lancé un produit qu'ils n'avaient pas testés correctement particulier lorsque la sécurité des montagnards en dépendent
b) Quand ils ont réalisé qu'il était défectueux n'a rien fait
c) Ont maintenant cessé la production de la Lumi, mais continuer à laisser le stock de montres défectueuses être vendus par les magasins
d) Semblent être sortis avec elle

Dans l'après-midi Mike et Henri est venu avec un talon de recul pour la carabine de Mike que je dit que je pouvais réduire le stock. J'ai fait le travail dans l'après-midi et ils sont venus le récupérer dans la soirée. J'ai oublié de prendre une photo pour le blog.

Après une belle matinée d'un front froid a balayé le soir et nous avons un peu de pluie tombant - tout bon pour les légumes d'hiver - choux, choux-fleurs, endives et les épinards.

mardi 7 septembre 2010

Meadowsweet Champagne

Quélébu Champagne take 3. This time no added yeast and no metal containers and meadowsweet flowers rather than elderflowers. Smells divine, already fizzing - fingers crossed they don't explode this time!

Champagne de Quélebu essaye 3. Cette fois pas de levant, pas de cuve metallique et reine-des-prés plutot que fleurs des surreau. Une belle aroma, deja gazeuse - j'espere qu'il ne va pas exploser.

dimanche 5 septembre 2010


It's been a beautiful sunny weekend, with the temperatures in the mid-thirties. On Saturday I was rushing around collecting sand and cement for some further works at Pont de la Taule, before a trip around the market in St Girons to buy winter and spring cabbage and cauliflower plants (I've been too busy and too late to plant seeds). I met loads of friends in the market and finally after a slice of pizza with Ian and Nina, met up with Justin, Emily and the twins for lunch.

This morning I topped field number one. In the afternoon I just RELAXED and played my guitar in the's been a while.

A stroll in the evening looking for mushrooms and I soon bumped into André and MarieRose just before Bauch. Eventually we wandered back to their house in La Bordasse for l'Apero where I identified all the peaks they can see from their terrace for them.

C'etait un beau week-end ensoleillé, les températures dans les trentaines. Le samedi, je me dépêchais de chercher de la sable et du ciment pour certains travaux complémentaires au Pont de la Taule, avant un voyage autour du marché de St Girons à acheter legumes d'hiver et les choux de printemps et les chou-fleur (je l'ai été trop occupés et trop tard pour semencer les graines). J'ai rencontré d'amis dans le marché et, enfin, après une morceau de pizza avec Ian et Nina, rencontré Justin, Emily et les jumeaux pour le déjeuner.

Ce matin, j'ai fauché le champ 1. Dans l'après-midi je viens détendu et joué ma guitare sous le soleil ... ça fait du temp.

Une promenade dans la soirée afin recherche de champignons et je me suis vite tombé sur André et MarieRose juste avant Bauch. Finalement, nous avons erré à leur maison de La Bordasse pour l'apéro où j'ai identifié tous les sommets qu'ils voient depuis leur terrasse pour eux.

vendredi 3 septembre 2010

Suunto Lumi - a piece of junk

When my old Finnish built Suunto X3 HR watch/altimeter died this spring after years of abuse I decided to buy another and the Suunto Lumi seemed to fit the bill, offering all the functions I wanted.

Alas within a couple months the altimeter had started to go wrong (I was getting crazy readings on the altitude log). Suunto boast a 7 day repair service with free collection and delivery. In fact the collection and delivery ended up costing me 16 euros and the repair took nearly 3 weeks. The watch arrived this afternoon and it is a 'new unit' as replacement for the faulty one. But this one doesn't work either (same fault as the last one plus the compass is 110 degrees out and won't recalibrate). What kind of company would send you a new faulty watch as replacement for a old faulty watch? Clearly one with no internal quality control.

After some research on the net, I find out that "Lumi" and it's brother the "Core" are the first two Suunto models to be fabricated in China, further both are plagued by problems. Even the Suunto watch forum has posts from hundreds of disgruntled owners. Someone has even suggested a class law suit against Suunto as these products clearly do not work and from the frequency of many identical problems it may well be the Finnish design which is at fault and not the Chinese assembly (in fact the build quality appears excellent). I'm only on watch number 2, but some people have had upto 6 replacements and are yet to receive one which functions.

Apparently manufacture of the Lumi has been discontinued, but the masses of watches which have already been manufactured are still being sold to an unsuspecting public. The Core has undergone some internal changes to try to reduce the number of problems but there are still loads of the older watches out there with retailers as Suunto didn't do a recall, so buyer beware.

I'm going to send mine back to the retailer I bought it from - facewest - and hope that they will refund me. This is definitely a product that doesn't do what it says on the tin.

Thinking of buying a watch/altimeter? I'd give the Suunto Lumi and the Suunto Core a miss.