mercredi 18 septembre 2019

Pic Seron traverse

One of Susie's old students Saskia popped in for a visit whilst on her summer break from London Contemporary Dance School. Saskia had never climbed a mountain so we took a quick afternoon traverse of Pic Seron. Ascending by the West ridge and after a late lunch on the summit descending by the North ridge. The path which is cairned on the west flank to regain the track from the Col de Cerda is now almost gone, though the cairns mostly remain. In dense cloud we lost the track and took a direct course back to Gerac across the huge boulder fields (felsenmeer). Not too difficult but slower work then we'd imagined. 

William is now ram apron no 4, having trashed early versions made from tarp and canvas, he's now on his second leather one fastened with studs to the belt!

Watching the storm clouds gathering from Joubac

mardi 10 septembre 2019

Bergerie and sheep

First snows snows of autumn on the mountains overnight.

The Bergerie is nearly complete, just the backs on the hay feeders to finish

William is sporting an apron to prevent him from mating with the ewes this autumn. He shredded the first one but the second I made more robust and it seems to be surviving. The grass is regrowing on the land we cleared on the Pla d'Artigue so something for the sheep to get their teeth into at last, plus some apples and pears which they love!

Juvenile green woodpecker on the lawn

jeudi 5 septembre 2019

Trois Seigneurs (VN)

A beautiful day out with Alun, Breezy and Sandrine on the normal route of Pic des Trois Seigneurs. Ascent via the Etang d'Arbu and descent via the ridge. We had planned to traverse the Pic and return via the Gragnots and Col de Rose but the views were too fantastic today to descend so soon.

On the descent we took to the ridge after the first col for some "scrambling" on the granite.

Thirsty work on the ascent

Lunch on the summit (photo Sandrine Rousseau)


Plenty of parapentistes flying from the launch site above the Etang de Lers

samedi 31 août 2019

Tuc de Bignau

At last a little rain

After a 6 week absence due to the heatwave, work and sheep, we finally got back into the mountains with Sheri and Michiel. Up to the Port d'Aula then along the ridge to Tuc de Bignau then a wander along the flank below Tuc de Berbegue.

Back at the ranch...a lot of fencing work to keep the sheep in (replacing 4 strands of electric wire with pig-netting) and after a community effort to fetch start clearing some of the hectare of rubbish at Honsos, we up-cycled some roof sheets for the bergerie, which is progressing. A little more cladding, guttering, feeders and gates still to do.

samedi 24 août 2019


For the last week or so I ve been working on building a new bergerie. Although we've managed to reduce our flock from 29 to 20 sheep, the old sheep shelter still isn't big enough and there isn't enough room for hay  feeders, shearing, to catch and treat the sheep when needed, or to keep them inside during bad weather.  So after demolishing the old shelter, digging out a new platform and casting foundation pads, the new frame has gone up. Mostly the wood is recycled from the old dry toilet building.

The roof off the old shelter provides the internal walls at low level. Next jobs are external timber cladding, roof, gates and feeders.

samedi 17 août 2019


It's been an incredibly dry year and coupled with the extreme heatwave we've been experiencing for most of the summer, we have a bit of a grass crisis. It grew much less than normal in the late spring and then got burnt to a crisp in the summer and now we have very little indeed and the sheep don't like it! 

In the search for greener food they have been escaping 2 or 3 times a day and it's been driving us insane. It's not so bad if they wander into the woods but more often than not they want to trespass into neighbours gardens. For a few weeks we took them on twice daily walks, but its a huge drain on our time especially if they decide they want to graze for 3-4 hours or go "off piste" into the brambles. We've sold 6 sheep and 3 are going to the abattoir, but more may yet have to go to reduce the burden on the dead fields.

Changes to our fencing, more land clearance and a new bergerie are in the pipeline, but most of all we need lots of rain so that the grass can grow back.

lundi 12 août 2019

Chickens mites and lice

Poor Mister Quincy and a couple of the hens have been suffering with mites/lice this summer (partly the reason why we replaced the hen house). We've been treating them and the house with diatamaceous earth, but Quincy hasn't been responding as well as we'd hoped and started losing feathers, so a few days ago I netted him (not an easy job) and we gave him a detailed check up. Beneath his feathers he was overrun with mites and lice so we've pulled out all stops to treat him.

We've been spraying him (and some of the less infested hens) with a mixture of garlic juice, water and essential oil every three days and giving him extra rations of iron rich foods (in particular scrambled eggs which he loves). We've also started putting garlic in their water - apparently a useful deterrent.

He seems to be responding well but the war with the parasites is not yet over!

mardi 6 août 2019

Carte de la commune d'Aleu

My map of the commune of Aleu and the surrounding area is now finally finished, printed and for sale.

The map covers an area stretching from the L'Arac river to the North, Sausolle to the West, Courmariau, Antras and Pentusse to the South and the Cols de Boulogne and Bidal to the East. Approximately 1m x 1m at a scale of 1/5000 it is provided folded in a plastic wallet.

In addition to the usual topography, roads, buildings and river, four walking tours, tourist information, all the old chemin comunal as well as many previously unmapped paths, tracks and pistes are also illustrated.

Available at the Mairie, the Post Office in Castet or direct from me for 16€.

Ma carte de la commune d'Aleu et de ses environs est enfin terminée, imprimée et disponible à la vente.

La carte couvre une zone allant de L'Arac au nord, à Sausolle à l'ouest, à Courmariau, à Antras et à Pentusse au sud et aux cols de Boulogne et de Bidal à l'est. Environ 1m x 1m sur une échelle de 1/5000, il est fourni plié dans un portefeuille en plastique. Outre la topographie, les routes, les bâtiments et la rivière habituelle, quatre promenades, des informations touristiques, l’ancien chemin communal ainsi que de nombreux sentiers, pistes et chemins non encore cartographiés sont également illustrés.

En vente à la mairie, à la poste de Castet ou directement chez moi à 16 €.

samedi 27 juillet 2019

Rain at last!!

A day of rain at last - enough to refill the water butts with 2 cubic meters of water but nowhere near enough to restore the vegetation in the fields which are parched and yellow. We are having to take the sheep on long walks along the roads and into the woods so that they can find food to eat.

lundi 22 juillet 2019

New Chicken Shack

Our old chicken house was a bit too small for our over size rooster Mr Quincy and over the years had weathered and time for a new one. Built from the "up-cycled" old outside-loo materials and mounted on wheels it provides a much larger and easier to clean home.

lundi 15 juillet 2019

Pickled Shallots

It's turning out to be a very hot and dry summer. Both of our 1 cubic metre "cuves" of collected rainwater are already empty and there is no rain forecast for at least two weeks, just 30+ degrees of heat. The garden is giving in abundance whilst the water holds out and we are busy preserving for the winter to come. Pickled shallots for me and kimchee for Susie.

vendredi 12 juillet 2019

Col de Crusous to Col de la Serre du Cot (Mines de Salau to Rouze d'en Bas)

13.5km, 1420m of ascent, 1720m of descent, about 20 summits and very hot...but a magnificent day.

Alas Susie had a sore knee and elected not to come, but Al, Breezy and I had a great day. We left a vehicle at Rouze d'en Bas, then drove to the mines at Salau to start the walk. Apparently the permit for the exploratory works to appraise reopening the mine has been revoked because the mining company can't meet the EU anti money laundering regulations...they are of course appealing so it may only be a temporary reprieve. We climbed steeply up to the Col de Crusous in 1hr 50min where we stopped for a break and refreshment. The route from here is straightforward - turn left (north) and follow the ridge for about 7km. A rocky scramble at first, the ridge slowly becomes more and more gentle as you head northwards until finally on reaching Pic de la Tèse it becomes broad and grassy. The first peak Pic de l'Arrech is the highest at 2350m

The ascent of Pic de l'Arrech

 Looking back over the Col de Crusous towards Cap de Ruhos

 Summit of Pic de l'Arrech

 One of the many summits on the ridge

After about 11.30 we were in and out of clouds (until our descent from Pic de la Tèse after lunch) adding to the drama of the position. Some vultures and a very distant isard shared our day, as well as some horses and cows.

 Looking back towards Pic Montabone

 My reflection in a droplet of dew

Merens horses

A long descent on GR10 which became a bit of slog in the heat finally led us to the car and a quick drive back to Salau for a well earned beer.