mardi 30 septembre 2008

Woodshed complete!

After 4 days of solo effort the woodshed is rebuilt. In contrast to the old woodshed, this one should keep all my firewood dry and I won't have to move the car everytime the wind blows for fear that it will colapse.


After...Much neater than the old woodstack covered in rusting sheets of corrugated iron weighed down with old tyres. The water from the roof will be collected and piped to the barn for feeding the animals.

lundi 29 septembre 2008

Boeuf and roofs

Yesterday after a spot of finishing off on the garage I headed for the Beouf in Massat. A huge spit roasted bull for all the people of the Canton (district). Justin and Emily phoned to say they weren't going and Penny and Andy didn't show, but I bumped into a few people I knew and spent most the afternoon with Austin (who butchered one of my pigs for John and Sandrine) and some of his friends (who knew me through my blog!). Forgot my camera for the second year running so no photos.

In the evening injections for Jeanie then l'apero with Claude and Susan.

Today a trip to the sawmill for a few extra pieces of wood and the fixings for the roof sheets on the woodshed. Fixing these has proved to be a pain in the arse and this evening I'm only a little over halfway my day in the mountains tomorrow is postponed as Wednesday I have to go to Foix and Thursday rain is forecast. Hopefully all done tomorrow and photos of the fruits of my labour.

samedi 27 septembre 2008

Wood, sun and sheep

Two long hot days spent rebuilding the woodshed which is nearly finished now (photos on Monday). Just the roof sheets to put on on Monday. Tomorrow is the "boeuf" in Massat, a huge roast steer for all the occupants of the Canton.

This evening Jeanie is showing the first signs of blue tongue. An out of hours trip to the vet for drugs and I've dosed her up with anti-biotics and anti-inflammatories. Fingers crossed she'll be OK.

mercredi 24 septembre 2008

Sheep - Vet Magnets

Today was the day of my theory exam for the Permit de Chasse (hunting permit). The first exam I've taken in a very long time and certainly the first in a foreign language. However I passed with 100% correct answers! The practical exam follows in three weeks time.

When I got back and checked on the sheep, Una (who snapped off one of her horns as lamb) had ripped off another of her horns completely leaving just the raw horn core. I have no idea how she managed it or where it is. This has bled a lot down one side of her face. It seems to have stopped now. It's too late to call the vet, but in any case tomorrow I have to take all the sheep to the vet for their final FCO (blue tongue) vaccinations - two trailer loads of three sheep again - an all day affair. Even then it will be 60 days before they are fully protected. The vets here are too busy trying to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of sheep and cattle against FCO to make a house call to me with 6 sheep.

Meantime, this evening despite it being fairly cold today, there are clouds of midges everywhere (the culprits for spreading the disease). I've shut the sheep in the barn this evening so they are out of the worst of it. But it really is in the laps of the gods if any more of my sheep get infected or not.

mardi 23 septembre 2008

Gypsies in the Woods

Despite the many mushroom collectors in the woods this weekend, these Gypsy Mushrooms seem to have been ignored. I think they're not that common here as this is the first year I've seen them, but to my palate they are about the most delicious mushroom you can find, with a slightly cinnamon taste and not as overpowering as ceps. Apples and blackberries completed the evening harvest today.

Yesterday Justin and I got all the rafters on his new barn roof - a very productive day in the sun.

dimanche 21 septembre 2008

No mountains

Was going to go into the mountains today but overslept...doh! Weather was very hot and sunny so busied myself with sorting out all the foundation levels (built a set of legs for the ranging pole which now stands up by itself). After quite a bit of trigonometry and measuring, I marked out all the column base locations on the foundations. The hammer drill needed collecting from Pont de la Taule, then I bolted all the column bases to the foundations.

Moved the sheep back into field 3, before Dédé, Minsou and Louise came over for a chat and some eggs. "Toad in the hole" for tea.

Tomorrow will probably give Justin and Emily a hand again.

samedi 20 septembre 2008

Woodshed and Mushrooms

Woodshed no more, just my new concrete post bases.

After fitting the chainsaw with a new needle bearing and sprocket I finished tidying up the remains of the old woodshed, logging the old rotten beams and posts. I have built a homemade dumpy level out of a clinometer and a camera tripod and was hoping to take the levels on the foundations, but there was no-one around to hold the ranging pole.

Some mushroom collecting - chanterelles, horn of plenty, hedgehog of the woods and amethyst deceivers was followed by some sheep shearing (well trimming). It's strange, some the sheep just love having their fleece cut, they go into a sort of chance with constant tail wagging. Mini, however doesn't like it and it was she who I was trimming. She's worked out she can get under the electric fence by taking the wire on her horns then letting in slip onto the big pad of wool on the back of her neck. She 's the only one with wool there, or at least she was until I trimmed it off. Hopefully she'll now get an electric shock like all the others when she tries to get out of the field.

vendredi 19 septembre 2008

Bonfires and Evolution

After the next mass extinction, eventually man will evolve again. Obviously nipples on men is a mistake and hopefully won't re-occur...could we have more flesh on our shins next time too please? Mine get smacked all the time when I'm working and it hurts.

Spent the day burning all the crappy timber - its still burning now. Once the woodshed had been emptied it fell over by itself. So a total rebuild is now obligatory. Although it was unstable, like everything here at quélébu it was built strongly. Taking it apart has taken all day. More nails than wood, lots of chainlink and chicken wire, even the rusted corrugated roof sheets were held on with 5 inch nails (lots of them). Last two foundations pads are now in. A long workday, 12 hours.

Tomorrow a level survey of the foundation levels so that I can prepare the cutting list for the timber frame.

jeudi 18 septembre 2008

Jam v Marmalade

Up early to remove the formwork from the latest foundation pads, then into St G to order the wood for the new frame for the woodshed, to do some food shopping and collect some stuff from the builders merchant for Justin. Then over to Justin and Emily's to lend a hand with the barn again before rain stopped play. When I got home, the sun came out (briefly) so I finished emptying the woodshed, there's a lot of crappy, rotten, pine planking which came out of the house stacked there - tomorrow may be a day of many bonfires!

In the supermarket I bought a jar of bitter marmalade (or so I thought) some evil bastard had put a jar of apricot jam in amongst the marmalade and I picked it. I like apricot jam but not on my toast for breakfast - who'd do such a thing?

I'm currently listening to Radio 2, Bob Harris Country. I'm eclectic in my musical tastes but man I HATE country music, sorry but it sucks big time.

mardi 16 septembre 2008


A beautiful sunny clear day yesterday revealing snow on the mountains. Spent all day at Justin and Emily's helping them with carpentry on the barn they are building.

Today I spent the day moving a years worth of firewood out of the woodshed so that I could get access to cast some concrete pads on which to put new timber columns (replacing the existing rotten ones). Cast five pads bringing the total to eleven - two more to do.

My planning application to rebuild/enlarge the woodshed was refused on the basis that rebuilding the existing woodshed exactly the same as it is currently, would be out of keeping with the existing buildings? Very strange.

Anyhow, I will now have to repair the existing woodshed instead - which amounts to the same thing.

Leia is back with the flock and seems to be happier, apart from being lame (a symptom of blue tongue) she's back to normal.

dimanche 14 septembre 2008

Can't go too long without mixing concrete

Put six of the thirteeen foundation pads for the new garage/woodstore in today (ran out of ballast after six). Snow on the mountains and a great play of sun and clouds in the afternoon.

vendredi 12 septembre 2008

Leia update

Leia seems much better today. Still obviously ill with some ulcers around her nose and her mouth, but much brighter and with all the swelling now receeded. Current advice on isolation is 60 days - but this appears to be based on a single research paper which managed to retrieve virus from an infected animals tissue 54 days after infection (Takamatsu), no-one else has managed to retrieve virus more than 7 days after infection. So given the cold weather (snow above 2100m last night) and Leia's stress at being removed from the flock I might consider repatriating her after 7 days. Will take her to the vets early next week for a blood test to confirm the virus strain.

jeudi 11 septembre 2008


The explosives were finally taken away today from Pont de la Taule and hopefully I should soon have a revised quote for installing a sceptic tank. Meantime I've started knocking doorway number two through one of the half metre thick walls. Although, getting through was not too difficult, the lower couple of feet is a solid outcrop of marble and the rest is composed of enormous blocks, so it's very difficult to get a plumb door jamb without de-stabilising the whole wall. May have to call in some help. More trips to the dump - amazing how even an 'empty' house can contain so much junk.

Leia is a bit brighter today, but might take her to the vet tomorrow for an obligatory blood test and another anti-inflammatory injection. Weather has turned and is cold and mosquitos wondering whether to put Leia back with the other sheep for a few days as she is quite stressed away from the herd and spends all day with her nose pressed to the fence hoarsely trying to bleat to her half-sisters, who respond.

mercredi 10 septembre 2008

Blue tongue (FCO)

Yesterday, Leia was off her food, so I've been keeping an eye on her - this morning it was clear she'd contracted blue tongue...very swollen face, trembling (fever) and blue lips/nose. Although all the sheep were vaccinated on the 2nd September, it doesn't begin to offer much protection until the third injection (3 weeks after the first two) and even then full protection takes some weeks to accrue. So just bad luck I guess. I separated her from the other sheep and after a trip to the vet she's on antibiotics and anti inflammatories. She seems a little brighter this evening.

The disease is only spread by mosquitos spreading infected blood, so although the other sheep can't catch it from Leia, the likelihood of a mosquito biting her then biting one of the others is much higher if they're all together.

The general advice is to keep the sick animal inside, but as I only have one barn that means leaving all the healthy sheep outside with the mosquitos. In the end I've brought the pig arc back into use and put the Leia in there allowing the other sheep to continue to use the barn. It's very sad to see an animal so visibly ill and distressed, plus separating her from the rest of the flock puts her under additional stresses. Just hope the others remain healthy.

dimanche 7 septembre 2008

Hunter Gatherer

After yesterdays rain today was clear and dry. I took advantage of the cool weather to dig some of the foundation pads for the new woodstore/garage. I'd almost finished when 'twang' I put my back out. Sudden intense searing pain (partially slipped disc?). After managing to limp to the house, performing a number of gentle stretchs, hangs and appplying lots of deep heat, I decided best thing was to try and keep it moving so it wouldn't seize up. Some gentle scything, a very long walk around the commune and it still hurts a lot...a hot bath is next.

On my walk, before, after and in-between visiting Paul and Dédé I collected some mushrooms (horn of plenty, hedgehog of the woods and chanterelle) - enough to make a 2 day risotto, and some apples, damsons and blackberries - enough for a huge crumble. At this time of year it's easy to be a hunter gatherer and eat well.

samedi 6 septembre 2008

Radio 2

We're getting the backwash from the torrential rain hitting the UK at the moment. This morning I managed to get out to do some hedge maintenance, but all afternoon it has rained heavily, so I stayed inside. The sheep have loved the poor weather, sitting out in the rain all day.
I put radio 2 on and when Dermot O'Leary asked "What is the strangest thing you've found in a new house?", I couldn't resist e-mailing him about the dynamite and detonators found at Pont de la Taule. What do you know it got read out on national Radio 2!

mardi 2 septembre 2008

Blue Tongue

Una, Tara and Leia looking none the worst for their adventure

After months of waiting for the Blue Tongue vaccine and mortalities getting ever closer (the next village a few days ago) it finally arrived today. As it has to be administered by the vet for certification I had to take the sheep to St Girons.

In the morning I enlarged my Heath Robinson sheep transporter to take 3 sheep, then with some help from John, I loaded the them. I made two journeys to St G with three sheep each time to get them vaccinated. It's a hell of a job as each sheep has to be caught then carried into the back of the trailer (they are heavy now - perhaps 40 kg each). Each received two injections but unfortunately there's a third injection in three weeks time so I'll have to do the whole thing again.

In fact now I think of it - don't think I announced the new sheeps' names: Mini, Leia and India