mercredi 30 avril 2008


Despite my extensive cataloguing of flowers here last year, I still occasionally come across a new species like this Herb Paris.

I have started building a simple shelter for the sheep in field 4 as it's ready for its first animals. The grass which has germinated in field 1 is still far to young to survive grazing. I managed to drive down across the fields and through the woods with some of the old roof sheets from the house in the trailer to within 20m or so of field 4, which saved some legwork as the sheets weigh a tonne! Rain stopped play in the mid afternoon, but should have it finished tomorrow.

dimanche 27 avril 2008


Two more glorious days with the temperature in the shade in the high twenties. Philippe, Sophie, Pierre and Alice are staying at John and Sandrine's gite for a week. Yesterday morning Philippe and I finished clearing the stream all the way to the main brook (about another 200m). It was so blocked up lower down that the channel was completely dry for the last 20m - but not any more.

Scything continues with more fields this year but sheep to help me - though at the moment everything is growing so fast they can't manage to eat it quickly enough. The bracken is sprouting again and although there are same number as last year (alas), this year they are much, much smaller - which I take to be a good sign that I'm exhausting them. The grass seed in the new field has germinated which I hope will speed up the bramble eradication.

Sheep are now sporting leather collars and bells. I 'dagged' them this morning (cutting the wool around their backsides and on their tails). It stops the wool getting clogged with droppings which attracts blow flies who lay eggs is the wool - the maggots from which cause dreadful problems for the sheep frequently leading to death. I'll treat them against 'fly strike' with a pour on treatment (a replacement for old fashioned sheep dip) but the dagging is a good first defence. I think the blow flies don't exist in the high mountains so once my pasture is improved I may well put the sheep in the mountain 'estive' during the summer. Keeping the summer pasture for hay for the winter. It's amazing how thick and tough the wool is even though they're only lambs. They wont need shearing until next year when they've had their first winter coat.

This afternoon I went for a walk up the hills behind the Col de Sarraille which I can see from my house (1083m). There was no path, though fortunately the dead bracken from last year is still fairly well flattened from the winter snows. I nearly trod an a pair of adders near the summit. The views were interesting but not that dissimilar to those from just up the road.

vendredi 25 avril 2008

Another full day

Another beautiful hot day and tomorrow is set to be better still. An early start saw me finishing the path clearance all the way to the stream and clearing out the culvert. A final finishing cut with the brush cutter and it all looks pretty neat. There are two big trees which lay across the path still to clear but at the moment they're easy to step over. I spliced some rope to make a hand rail which goes around the big oak to ease this tricky passage.

Before lunch I planted the cabbage and cauliflower seeds in some seed trays - I'll transplant once they've germinated.

In the afternoon - I went to Pomt de la Taule, rehung the shutters which are now painted and scythed the land around the house.

Then in the evening back to the stream where I started to clear it of all the branches, leaves and other blockages which have reduced it to near stagnancy. It became quite addictive and by 9.00pm (to the sound of crickets and still in shorts and T-Shirt) I'd cleared it to where it drops steeply to the main brook and it was flowing like - well like a stream ought to.

jeudi 24 avril 2008

Warm again

A lovely hot day which brought out the grasshoppers for the first time this year. In the morning some scything, then planting out the haricot beans, mangetout, fenouil, onions and leaks.

At lunchtime I moved a couple of lengths of the trunk of the neighbours felled walnut tree which they said I could have - I'll take it to the sawmill to be planked for air drying (perhaps I'll make some new dining chairs with it eventually).
In the afternoon I descended to field no 4. Just before it on the left are two ruined barns and a few days ago I discovered an ancient path which descends from them to the stream - contouring the hillside between wood and meadow.
It was completely overgrown with holly and small trees and many trees had fallen across it. Nonetheless it was once a major route and is beautifully cut into the hillside and when it reaches the stream, the water is culverted under the path. So today I cleared it to within 15m of the stream (perhaps a 100m stretch). At one point a huge oak tree almost completely blocks the path and its a squeeze to get past.

Despite the warm temperatures theres still plenty of snow and with clear skies at night ski touring and climbing are possibilities with an early start. Hope to get out in the coming days.

dimanche 20 avril 2008


Yesterday was the Diner de Paques in Aleu - Easter may be long gone but it's the 'Easter holidays' for the school children - not that there were many at the dinner. It was useful to meet some more new people who have homes (mostly second) in the village. The lunch was a 3 1/2 hr alfresco affair with l'apero, mussels, salad, saucisses, cheese and a dessert omelette plus plenty of wine! 'One for the road' at Pauls ensured that after the walk home I felt slightly hungover.

Today it has rained heavily nearly all day. I scythed field no 4 early this morning then stripped, sanded and painted the first floor shutters from Pont de la Taule later in the day. The rest of the day I've been 'cabin' bound. I baked a walnut and cinnamon cake in the afternoon, it was a new recipe and is a bit too sweet even for me.

The new hen has at last been accepted by the cockerell but the other hens still chase her away. It's been two weeks now. I think I may have to cram them all into a tiny cage for a day and let them fight it out - at the moment, without all the birds keeping close together, letting them out is a liabilty.

vendredi 18 avril 2008


The Sheep now have names:
Una (with one horn), Jeanie (ear tag number 501, like the levi jeans) and Tara (as they're Tarasconnaise sheep).

mardi 15 avril 2008

Q for Quelebu

A lovely spring day today, clear and sunny but with a cold wind in the morning turning warmer in the afternoon when the wind turned to the south. The leaves are out on the hawthorn, birches and fruit trees - the hazel, maple, chestnuts and oaks won't be far behind. This morning I worked on the septic tank plans for Pont de la Taule and this afternoon I planted my potatoes.

Overhead a passenger jet pilot (a blog reader?) drew a Q for Quelebu with his vapour trail.

dimanche 13 avril 2008

Stormy weather

After a hot balmy day a storm is brewing and tonight/tomorrow there will probably be more snow. The wind turned to the WNW and bam! 60mph winds and in come the black clouds...Storms arrive here so fast its almost scary!

samedi 12 avril 2008

Save the best to last

Today Justin and I went skiing in Andorra. About 15 cm of snow fell yesterday on top of the nicely compacted 1 m 40 cm or so that is already there. The skiing and the weather were excellent and there was plenty of beautiful fluffy powder off piste which we made the most of. We started from Pas de la Casa and skied across to Grau Roig, Soldeu and El Tarter before heading back. The pistes were deserted. Probably the best skiing and conditions of the season - shame most resorts have already closed and Andorra closes tomorrow.

jeudi 10 avril 2008

All the weather

Been a strange day today - warm most of the day (mid twenties), some sudden but short lived gale force southerly winds at lunchtime, brief rainstorms in the afternoon in between hot sunny spells, then tonight the wind is changing direction and by tomorrow we may well have snow.

mercredi 9 avril 2008

My Three Sheep

Haven't decided on names yet.

mardi 8 avril 2008

New Animals

A busy day finishing off the hurdles, building a hay feeder from an old iron bedstead, tidying the barn and attending to fences. Then a trip to St G to collect the new chicken and some hay for the lambs. The introduction of a new chicken was pretty as brutal as the cockerell asserted his dominance, then the other hens established their pecking order. Hopefully tomorrow things will have calmed down and the new chicken will be accepted.

The sheep arrived at about 9.00 just as it was getting dark. We carried them down to the barn and put them into their pen - photos tomorrow. They're Tarasconnais - a local mountain breed, hardy, with long legs. Need to get them some bells but in the local agricultural co-op even the smallest ones are 38 euros each! Think I might have to take a hammer to some old tin cans and make my own.

lundi 7 avril 2008

Un Tour de Pays d'Aleu

The clouds were low and after the snowfall on the mountains last night, it was still cold this morning. I decided to go for walk. I descended to the stream crossed it and climbed up to the barns at Coumes.

A path then follows the wooded crest of Serre de Rapheu with (normally) spectacular views. At Pas de Sausech I began the descent to another stream before climbing steeply to the hamlets of Galas d'en bas and Galas d'en haut. A little higher I called in on Alban Sentenac - who I bought my pigs from. I ended up buying 3 lambs from him which will arrive tomorrow night! A little more uphill then just before La Bernadole I descended to Galassus and then the Moulin d'Aleu where I called on the Belgium couple who moved in about a year ago but whom I only met for the first time a few weeks ago. After a coffee I followed the stream until the final steep ascent through the woods to Quelebu. 14km and 800m of ascent in all.

As the lambs are still quite young they'll need to stay in the barn for a while, so I got to work in the afternoon making some hazel hurdles to make a pen for them and tomorrow I'll need to have a bit of general tidy up and get some hay.

samedi 5 avril 2008

Etang de Lers

The plan had been to cycle from my house to Massat, up to the Etang de Lers, over the Col d'Agnes, down to Aulus, over the Col de la Trappe, then back home via Pont de la Taule and Seix. I met Penny at Massat who is in training for a big race in the summer. The climb upto Etang de Lers was long and fairly steep, by the time I'd got there I'd climbed about 970m and the legs were complaining - I got the feeling Penny wasn't finding it quite so stiff but she's been training and this was only my second outing on a bike in about three years (not that I'd done much in the twenty years before that).

The weather was perfect but after the Etang the road was closed because of the snow (they don't clear it as they still think it's a Ski de Fond venue). Not one to give up easily, I decided to see if we couldn't press on through the snow for the last kilometer or so to the Col d'Agnes. Penny wasn't so enthusiastic. I tried to pursuade her that the cleats on her cycling shoes were in fact designed to double as crampons. I pushed on (literally) for a several hundred metres but the snow was upto the spindle on the wheel of the bike and my feet were getting wet so I had to admit defeat.

After a retreat a similar chain of events unfolded as I tried to reach the Port de Lers (the other col heading eventually to Tarascon). I'd read on another blog about a skier and two cyclists who'd gone through the Port de Lers a few days earlier and said it had been cleared of snow by the DDE. There was no sign of any snow clearance when we were there today but below is the photo on their blog of the pair at the Port de Lers....strange! Did someone shovel the deep wet snow back over the road yesterday night?

The descent back to Massat was easy and a beer eased the disappointment.

After rebuilding the headset on the bike which had been creaking all day , I thought I'd cook a cheese fondue but couldn't find my excellent recipe. Some improvisation produced a ball of fried cheese. I added some alcohol to try and break down the fat (I'm sure there was some schnapps in my recipe) it caught fire giving me a flambéed, fried cheese ball. Somehow I managed to smeared it onto my nicely prepared french bread cubes and boiled vegetables.

vendredi 4 avril 2008


Several bonfires burnt;
Field no 1 seeded (not sure how much will germinate if we don't get rain soon);
Drainage installed to barn to take away ground water after heavy rain (and put it in the pond);
Path to river from field 4 cleared (a bloody long way);
Replacement chicken on order - arrives Tuesday;
Land between field no 1 and woodshed cleared - cos I hate brambles;
First cuckoos arrived.

Planning drawings are now underway for the house at Pont de la Taule and I have all the necessary forms. For the barn I am thinking of building a dry/composting toilet, for the occasional visitor the expense and hassle of a sceptic tank just doesn't seem worth it.

Tomorrow a day out on the bike.

mardi 1 avril 2008

Sun again

Finally finished field no 1 clearance and fencing - just a big bonfire required to finish off and perhaps some grass seeding! A beautiful hot day today and crystal clear too revealing the mountains in full snowy raiment.