mercredi 29 novembre 2006


After two days of mindless noise and dust the floor downstairs is 'partially' finished. At the end of day one after 10 hours of sanding the floor looked worse than when I'd started and I began to wish that I'd never started. Thoughts began running through my head like 'paint it instead'. After the second day of sanding it's not 'the floor of my dreams' - perhaps the varnish will bring it to life? I still have all the perimter to sand before I can start that and as the following photo shows there still another day of sanding yet.

Still not sure what kind of wood it is...perhaps chestnut or sycamore? Whatever it is, it is very hard and that coupled with the useless underpowered and knackered old sander I hired, has made for some hard slog!

lundi 27 novembre 2006

Climbing in Iraq

Here are Jon and I climbing in the Iraqi desert aka Fairy quarry (Somerset), I'm in the mujahedeen hat! And here I am again disciplining a young wouldbe suicide bomber, aka Luke Hadfield.

Field number two

Here is field number two. It has too parts, above is the first...

...and this is the second which is lower down. On the left is the large fallen beech tree.

As you can see it's pretty big, though I've cleared a lot of it already. Compared to field number one it's a bit smaller and the vegetation looks a lot easier to clear. It borders some lovely mature forest and has several small stone walls along it's boundries.

John and Sandrine have been clearing a piste to their grange 'project'. A JCB has been in full swing and for the first time you can see it from the road.

dimanche 26 novembre 2006

Edible garden forests

Although the days are getting shorter and a little colder, the weather is still incredibly mild (today peak temperature in the sun was 28). The mountains have some snow on them but each day it recedes. Skiing at Christmas? Not unless the weather turns soon.

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

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

At last we have had some rain in the last couple of days (falling as snow on the mountains). This morning I laid some more hedge before 'rain stopped play'. On the way back I found some small parasol mushrooms which made an omelette for tea.

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

Hedge Laying

The amazing weather continues, last night it was 4 degrees (slight ground frost) and today in the sun it was 34 degrees! I spent the day laying hedges around the field. I've never done this before but actually it's quite enjoyable and after all the scything its much less effort. I don't think my hedges will win any prizes - in places there's not much to play with - but I'm pleased with my efforts. I tried to take some pictures but they're difficult things to photograph - so here are some more autumn colours with a bit of hedge in the foreground.

I have also made a start clearing the second field - starting with the perimeter - as there are a lot of fallen trees and overstood coppice to be cleared with the chainsaw. Unfortunately, it's impossible to get the Suzuki there, so there is little I can do with all the wood - except carry a couple of logs back under my arm each time I visit.

lundi 13 novembre 2006

The new bookcase

The picture speaks for itself!

dimanche 12 novembre 2006

Pudding club

The first pudding club has just finished and I think it was a success, though perhaps there was too much pudding! Still it was good to have all the inhabitants of Quelebu and Pinsou together (except for Patrick and Michelle who had to return to Toulouse).
From left to right: John, Saskia, Philippe, Sandrine, Natasha, Hannah, Claude, Yves, Celine and Susanne.

samedi 11 novembre 2006

Pudding Club

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

Cap de Ruhos

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 this case beautiful stonework...such a shame.

dimanche 5 novembre 2006

Pic de l'Har

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


Went to the market in St Girons this morning and bought a nice Afghan hat. The market was busy and Philippe my neighbour, who sells his honey there, showed me the empty space next to his stall ready for me to sell eggs, saucisson and pork chops!

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


Found the original operating instructions for the Rayburn on the web yesterday. Just as well as I needed to move the firebricks for central heating operation. Of course these broke when I tried to move them as the Rayburn has never been cleaned before and the bricks had certainly never been moved before. I managed to fix them with some fire cement and now they're in their proper place. Also discovered that it is possible to access the flues which direct heat to the boiler. These were completely blocked!! Tonight I am firing the Rayburn for the first time - so far so good.

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

New table

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