mercredi 26 décembre 2007

Christmas dinner

After skiing on Christmas eve at Guzet the slopes were beginning to get a bit stony, so this year I didn't go skiing on Christmas day. Visits to neighbours and a spot of scything (in the sun) instead. In the evening I had arranged to have dinner with Justin and Emily, and took along a homemade xmas pudding.

Alas no sooner had I got there than Justin began to feel unwell (he had Oysters for lunch - which are as christmassy here as mince pies in the UK). Evidently one was off and he spent the rest of the night hugging the toilet bowl. Still the dinner was fantastic even if the company was somwhat diminished.

Today I finally managed to burn the piles of thinnings from the hedge laying - yippee!

vendredi 21 décembre 2007


The local ski station - Guzet Neige - opened today. I went mid-morning to collect my season pass and practise. They only had a couple of pistes open (some others looked fine but I think they're saving them for the w/e or more snow which might just arrive tomorrow night). The place was deserted I think a dozen people at the most. Still, 4 hours skiing and I felt back to the level I reached last year so hopefully from here on in, my skiing improves!

jeudi 20 décembre 2007

Moon halo

After a couple of weeks of cold weather, it was decidedly warmer today - typical as the local ski station opens tomorrow!

Strange atmospheric conditions tonight created this strange ring around the moon, must be some kind of diffusion effect caused by ice crystals I think. Difficult to capture on a photo - if you can't see it in the image above it's about 10-12 times the diameter of the moon.

I'm burning birch on the Rayburn at the moment (usually burn ash or oak) it burns completely leaving almost no ash but gives out very little heat. So shall save the rest for the late spring!

The cold weather has also brought some rodents into the house. Some wood mice downstairs (which fell foul of my mouse traps) and this afternoon a tiny weeny mouse no more than 3 or 4cm long was scurrying around my feet as I sat at the computer quite oblivious of me. No loires...yet!

samedi 15 décembre 2007

More ski practice

Yesterday morning an early start saw me skinning up Le Picou at Guzet at 9.00am. The cold days and nights meant the snow cannons had been working hard but without any pisting the slope was a near continous sheet of hard ice (ski crampons obligatoire!) - only the fringe retained any powder and that had a definite crust. My descent was apalling with several falls as I struggled to gain control and confidence. By the time I reached the bottom I was angry and frustrated with my poor performance.
So the skins went back on the skis and up I went again. Half way I met Penny, Andy and John, here to practice on their new ski-rando equipment. Leaving them at the col I reached the top again and had another go - where the sun had now touched the snow, conditions had eased a little, though everything was more variable (hard ice one minute crusty powder the next)...but at last I began to ski better and regain my confidence, carving my turns, and getting a rythmn going. Phew! I was beginning to think I'd forgotten how to ski!

mercredi 12 décembre 2007

Ski tour

Ski tour with Ian today - making the best of the first snow. Nice ascent in perfect weather up to the Col de Pause then through it and up towards Cour Vic until it was time to turn around and head for home. My descent was 'sketchy' in parts - but managed!

Ian is pleased with our first turns of the season

mardi 11 décembre 2007


First ski of the season today. Went to Guzet which had its first snow yesterday. Nothing had been pisted yet and the resort is officially closed but I skinned up to the top of Picou and then skied down the main run. Off piste is something I need to practice so today was good investment. I had planned to meet some friends there but couldn't find them - only saw one other person out on skis.

lundi 10 décembre 2007


Plenty today on the mountains and perhaps 1-2 cm here.

dimanche 9 décembre 2007


Gales and rain for most of today and tomorrow - hopes of more snow on the mountains didn't materialise today but maybe tomorrow? Hoping to grab a ski tour before high pressure sets in in the middle of next week.

This morning I built a vegetable and wine rack for the kitchen, interrupted only by a desperate call from Sandrine who was trying to get to the Christmas market at Salau to set up stall, but found her way blocked by two trees which had fallen in the gale. By the time I got there with my chainsaw someone else had beaten me to it. The rack is just waiting for a top (there's a tray balancing there at the moment) hopefully a friend will bring the necessary piece of beech worktop with him from Ikea when he visits on Friday.

In the afternoon I went to the christmas market before returning home to finish the rabbit pie and feed the pigs.

vendredi 7 décembre 2007

Rain, mud and rabbit pie

After another pointless attempt at burning the branches from the hedge laying, the rain started. Mostly horizontal rain and the pig sty now resembles a mud wrestling arena, no in fact it's more like a swimming pool that's had a nasty sewage leak. I braved the weather and mud to take photos.

Tonight rabbit pie. A classic recipe or 'receipt' as he prefers to call them, from W.M.W. Fowler's 1965 book 'Countrymans Cooking' (a great book recently reprinted - full of interesting ways to cook rooks, cormorants, etc). The rabbit is fried with onions then cooked in cider, before being deboned and put under the pastry with hard boiled eggs, bacon and mushrooms. Afraid the flash makes the pastry look a bit anaemic.

mercredi 5 décembre 2007


After the past few days of rain today was bright and sunny - positively balmy with the temperature reaching 31 in the sun! Fat chance of an early start to the ski season - in fact with high pressure over Spain there are no 'big dumps' of snow on the horizon, probably not this side of Christmas anyway.

With the good weather I felled the last few oaks and after making about 35 fence posts created a woven hazel enclosure around the barn. It will keep the pigs from pulling stones out of the barn walls - which they love to do - destructive little buggers.

I didn't finish until dark so I'll post long overdue photos Friday (oops forgot today).

lundi 3 décembre 2007


Today it pissed down with rain all day. I usually go a bit cabin crazy when the weather is poor as I spend most my time outside, but after all the hedge laying a rest was good. Strong winds forced me to finish the stays on the shutters and tie the door on the barn shut, in the afternoon I baked a Madeira cake in the Rayburn which turned out perfectly - delicious. Also finished my UK tax return!

You'll have to wait for photos of recent works though.

dimanche 2 décembre 2007

I'm a fire starter...not

Yesterday evening and last night it rained. I went over to Claudes for l'apero with Claude, Susan, Yves, Patrick and Michelle. We talked a lot about bears in the Pyrenees and whether or not they ever inhabited the area around Aleu.

This morning dawned clear and sunny and I was able to finish the hedge laying and generally tidy up the path to the barn. Try as I might though, I couldn't burn the huge bonfires of twigs. I tried everything (firelighters, straw, even petrol!) but couldn't get enough heat to get it really going...really frustrating. Will try again tomorrow. Two smallish oaks very close to the barn to fell then all is done. A few days off in order, then I should start turning my attention to the house at Pont de la Taule again.