lundi 28 septembre 2009


The end of summer and the arrival of autumn is marked here by the Autumn Crocus and the woods are carpeted in purple at the moment.
Le fin d'été est marqué ici par le crocus et le forêt a un tapis de violet.

In the morning I finished the windows in John and Sandrine's gite, installing the glass with some help from John. All went very smoothly.

Ce matin j'ai fini les fenêtres dans le gîte de John et Sandrine. John m'a aidé installer la vitrage.

Mushrooms are fruiting and a walk this afternoon "off the beaten track" produced Cep, Shaggy ink-caps, Sparasis brevipes, Giant parasol and Chanterelles...a mushroom risotto for tea I think!

Champignons partout et j'ai fait une petite promenade hors sentiers afin trouver des ceps, coprin chevelus, Sparasis Brevipes (nom latin), coulemelles et pense que je fisse une risotto des champignons ce soir.

dimanche 27 septembre 2009

Toad and friends

This morning I went hunting with some of the locals for hare. I had a shot at one and even though it was barely 15m away, I somehow managed to miss!

Le matin je suis allé à la chasse de lievre. J'ai eu un essaye à un, mais je l'ai manquè malgré il etais 15m de moi!

In the afternoon I shifted the dung heep outside the barn upto the vegetable garden by the house. Hard work despite using the tractor.

L'après midi j'ai bougé la molle de fumier dehors la grange au potager. Un boulou!

For tea tonight "toad in the hole" only the sausage was joined by several wild mushrooms and some courgette.

Pour le manger "saucisse au crôute" avec des champignons de bois et des courgettes.

samedi 26 septembre 2009


Back home, after my hols in Cyprus.
Je suis rentré après mes vacances en Chypre.

The sheep had been mis-behaving whilst I was away and I spent most of today rebuilding gates and fences around the barn (which the sheep had trashed) whilst they have been banished to Paul's field in the woods.

Les brébis etaient mauvaise pendant que j'etais en Chypre et aujourdhui j'ai eu besoin réperer les portails et les clôtures à côté de la grange. Pendants ce temps les brébis sont de le pré de Paul.

Plenty of mushrooms here particularly orange birch bolettes and parasols.
Pleine de champignons ici - les bolettes et les coulemelles.

Below some cheesy 80's ski footage which I found on another blog - look out for the descent in a catamaran, plus some great skiwear.

Au dessous un movie louche des anées 80's - regard la descente de la piste en catamaran - drôle, en plus les vêtements de ski de l'epoch.

mardi 22 septembre 2009


Clare's House

I have been taking a few days holiday in Cyprus, staying with Clare in her lovely house here.

My first impressions of Cyprus on the journey from Larnaca were not altogether good. There was a lot of litter, not much green vegetation and a lot of ugly new villa developments which seemed to have completely replaced the local vernacular. Away from the coast however things improved and Clare's little village of Pachna still has a few of the old stone houses, Clare's among them.

We have spent the last few days in the Troodos mountains - the pine forested, rocky centre to the island. Here, development has been controlled and there seems to be more respect for the natural environment. The old centre of the village of Kakopetria is virtually 'unspoiled' and one can glimpse the original Cyprian architecture. The houses are built of rendered mudbricks, have large balconies on their upper floors and the houses are tightly packed together in a maze of tiny streets. No need for air conditioning with an architecture which has developed to respond to the island's climate. So sad that Cyprus has lost so much of it's heritage.


...and yes Jon, Clare's house has a swimming pool.

lundi 14 septembre 2009


On Friday I saw a newly born calf in the field in front of the house, but something wasn't right. It was trying to feed from all the cows in the herd, each of which was pushing it away. It didn't really know what to do either, other than rub it's head under the belly. I didn't see the farmer come to check on the cows on Friday or Saturday and when I left for the christening the calf still seemed without a parent.

Vendredi dernier, j'ai vu un veau juste né dans le parc en face de chez moi, mais quelques chose etait pas bien. Il essayait de prendre du lait de toutes les vaches mais elles l'ont toutes réfusé. Il n'a pas su quoi faire, sauf de frotter sa tête sous leurs ventres.

This morning it was still managing to stagger around, but looked very weak and thin. Again no visit from the farmer (and he doesn't have a phone remember).

Le matin il etait très faible et mince. Pas de visite du fermier (et il n'a pas de téléphone).

When I returned from a walk this afternoon, I spotted the calf lying on the ground alone and away from the herd, barely moving. I climbed into the field and could see that it was very weak and probably wouldn't make it to the morning - obviously abandoned by it's mother or perhaps orphaned.

Quand je suis rentré d'un promenade cette l'après-midi, j'ai aperçu le veau sur la terre et tout seule, guère vivant.

I couldn't watch it die, so I picked the calf up, loaded it into the back of the car and drove off in search of the farm. I thought it was in Aliou and called into Alban's farm on route to ask directions. He told me it was actually in Cominac. So after about 25 km in the car I arrived and after asking several locals for directions found the farm and delivered the calf. It was whisked away to receive warm milk etc. and hopefully will survive.

Je n'ai'pas pu le voir mourir, donc je l'ai porté à la voiture et on est parti afin chercher la ferme. Je pensais que elle se situait à Aliou, et en route je me suis arrêté à chez Alban à demander la route. Il m'a dit quel la ferme etais à Cominac. Alors après 25 km de route, je suis arrivé mais seulement aprèes avoir demander plusieurs paysans le chemin, je l'le livré. Il a été vite emporté à recevoir du lait chaud. J'espère que il va survivre.

The Christening

The twins, parents and Godparents

Yesterday was the christening of Justin and Emily's twin girls - Myla and Thea. With much to do and nearly 70 guests arriving for the party after the ceremony, a group of us spent the weekend helping Justin and Emily with all the preparations and catering. Weather was glorious, the girls were perfectly behaved, the spit roasted pig was cooked to perfection, there was live acoustic music and excellent company.

Hier etait la baptême des jumelles de Justin et Emily - elles s'appellent Myla et Thea. Avec beaucoup à faire et presque 70 invitèes à la fête après, nous amis aidions Justin et Emily avec toutes les préparations. Les temps etais beaux, les petites etaient calme, le cochon méchoui etais déliciouse, il y aurait la musique acoustique et les amis sympas.

I have the honour of being one of Thea's Godfathers.
Je suis parrain de Thea.
My God-daughter Thea and I
...and again (thanks for the photo Sarah).

vendredi 11 septembre 2009

Carrots and logs

I harvested the carrots yesterday, the voles got about 25% but they left about 12kgs for me. After washing, blanching and freezing them this morning, I dug over the kitchen garden.

Hier j'ai recolté les carottes, les topes mangaient 25 percent mais elles ont laissé 12 kilos pour moi. Après les lavent et gardent dans le congèleteur, j'ai creusé le potager.

The huge pile of logs from the lime tree (which fell in the storm last year) stacked behind the kitchen garden, fell over narrowly missing me! It's been threatening to topple for a while now. Time to move it to the log store - which took all day (there's probably 5 tonnes).

Les fagots de la tilleul (qui a abattu dans le tempête l'annèe dernier) etais gardé derrière le potager sont tombé presque sur moi! Ils menacaient de tomber pendant quelques mois. J'ai les importé à l'abri de bois, mais ça me prends toute la journée (il y a à peu prés 5 tonnes)

lundi 7 septembre 2009

Pic de Lampau and Pic de Pomebrunet

Mont Valier (left), Pomebrunet and Lampau (right) from my house. I traversed the
skyline from Lampau to the lowest point in the middle of the photo - Col de Crusous

Pic de Pomebrunet (right) from Pic de Lampau

Set off from Col de la Core (1395m) at 8.30 this morning (later than planned) so pushed the pace to make up time. I climbed to the Col de Crouzette (2237m) and then descended to the Cabane Espugues where a helicopter was ferrying materials from the valley as it's currently being rebuilt.

Je suis parti de Col de la Core à 8.30 (un peu tardif) donc j'ai marché vite. J'ai ascendu au Col de Crouzette et puis descendu à la Cabane d'Espugues, la un hélicoptère etais porté materiaux de la vallée pour la réconstruction.
The stiff climb from there to Pic de Lampau (2477m) took under an hour and I was on the summit 2hr50mins after leaving the car. A quick snack on the summit and after admiring the view it was time to press on along the ridge to Pic de Pomebrunet (2569m).

L'ascension rude à Pic de Lampau a pris moins qu'une heure et j'ai été au sommet 2hr50 après avoir parti la voiture. Cas crôute au sommet puis après avoir surveillé la vue j'ai continué sur l'arête vers Pic de Pomebrunet.

I've stood here twice before looking for the route of descent from Pic de Lampau. It's scary - there's a steep grassy rake with a 1500ft vertical drop at the end, having avoided slipping you arrive at tiny gravelly notch. To your left the drop, to your right a nasty looking overhanging off-width crack drops for perhaps 10m onto some steep shiny slabs, straight ahead a wafer thin fin of rock inclined at 45 degrees overhangs the drop then seems to end above the abyss. I thought long and hard about the crack but it just didn't seem possible, so cautiously I edged along the fin. From the far end I could see it was possible with extreme care to descend steeply for another 30m of vertical and so reach the easy ground below - but the rock was rotten and the exposure seemed to unsettle me.

Je me suis levé sur la sommet de Pic de Lampau deux fois avant, cherchant pour la route de descente. Il fait peur - il y a une court pente raide et herbeuse qui finis avec une falaise de 600m, si on ne glisse pas on arrive à un petit col caillouteuse. À gauche l'abîme, à droite une fissure surplombante qui descendre à des dalles glissantes et raides, toute droite une lame de roche fine incliner à 45 degrées et au dessus l'abîme. Je pensais longtemps de la fissure mais enfin j'ai décide d'essayer la lame. De l'extremité de la lame je peux voir une route de descente de 30m, mais c'etais raide sur les mauvaise roche - impressionante!

The descent from Lampau: the off-width crack descends into
the red scar, my descent took the rocks to the right of it.

Carefully down, I followed the ridge for another 1hr 20mins, always narrow and exposed with a succession of rock towers to cross or traverse around eventually to reach Pic de Pomebrunet.

Avec prudence, J'ai poursuivre la crête pendant 1hr20, toujours etroite et arienne avec plusiers gendarmes à traverser ou contourner, enfin à arriver à Pic de Pomebrunet.

Retrospective view of the last section of the ridge before Pic de Pomebrunet

Amazingly there was someone on the summit! A french guy photographing vultures, he'd come up from the Etang de Crusous - my onward route of descent. A narrowish ridge, then a steep grassy descent but much easier than the ridge from Pic de Lampau. I thought of turning left to climb Pic de Caries but that looks pretty scary and I'd had enough.

Incroyable il y a un autre au sommet! Un français qui etais photographer les vultures, il a fair l'ascension de Etang de Crusous - ma route de descente. Un arête peu etroite puis les pentes herbeuse et raides, mais plus façile que la route de Lampau. J'ai pensé de fait l'ascension de Pic de Caries mais j'en ai assez.

Looking from the peak towards Mont Valier and the easier descent ridge

On the long walk back to the car I suffered from the earlier fast pace and lack of water (burst platypus). Only 1670m of height gain but I was knackered at the end of the day and my feet are sore.

Au retour j'ai suffri de l'approche vite et j'ai manqué d'eau. Seulement 1670m de dénivilée mais j'etais fatigué.

dimanche 6 septembre 2009


After all the recent carpentry (at Justins), today was all joinery. I finished the windows for Sandrine and John's gite in the morning, gave them a last coat of varnish (repairing some hazel fences whilst it was drying) and then installed them, complete with zinc flashings in the late afternoon/early evening. Just need to order the glass and do some internal linings then the "jobs a good 'un" (as they say in the west country).

Après toute de la charpenterie ( à chez Justin), aujourd'hui etait toute de la menuiserie. J'ai fini les fenêtres pour la gîte de John et Sandrine le matin, une dernière couche de vernis (j'ai répèré des clôtures en noisetier lorsque ils sechais) et puis J'ai les installé avec le zingerie. Seulement la vitrage à commander.

Weather has been ace today, should have gone in the mountains - oh well there's always tomorrow.

Les beaux temps aujourd'hui, je devrais aller aux montagnes - tant pis, demain?

samedi 5 septembre 2009


Yesterday I did some more field clearance work - clearing the low boughs and branches between my barn and Pauls (my winter tractor route to collect hay) and clearing a large fallen tree in Pauls field. Whilst I was at the sawmill in Ercé, La Panchard came and collected his cows (or at least put them in the woods). On my return I started to build John and Sandrine's windows from the wood I'd collected, before preparing supper for "the boys" - Ian, John and Jason came over for tea and scrabble - though we never made scrabble.

Hier plus de fauchage des prés - abattant les branches entre ma grange et la grange de Paul (la route pour mon tracteur en hiver) et nettoyant une arbre qui tombée dans la prairie de Paul. Quand j'etais à la scierie d'Ercé, La Panchard est arrivé et cherché ses vaches. En retour j'ai commencé de faire les fenêtres de John et Sandrine, et préparé le repas pour Ian, John et Jason qui seront arrivée le soir pour manger et "scrabble".

Today the rain from yesterday cleared so I did some scything, more window making and a late afternoon walk with the rifle.

Aujourd'hui la pluie s'arrête, j'ai fauché, fais les fenêtres et du soir j'ai fait une promenade avec mon carabine.

jeudi 3 septembre 2009

Godin Stoves - death traps!

After shopping this morning in St G, I decided to quickly sweep the chimney. The Godin fire in the living room has a back outlet which supports the flue. Most stoves of this type have a removable fire back which allow you to access the flue. You sweep the chimney from the top and all the soot etc ends up in the stove - you remove the fire back, clean out the detritus and hey presto, job done.

My nodel of Godin appears to have a removal fire back, but on closer inspection it can only be removed after removing the top of the stove. To do this involves dismantling virtually the entire stove. After two hours of skinned knuckles, searching for hidden nuts and bolts in the gloom, drilling out rusted fixings, and eventually having to dismantle the flue, I finally gained access to the hidden area between the firebox and flue connector. It was 75% blocked with soot and tar (and that was before I swept the chimney). It appears the designer at Godin forgot that fireplaces need to be cleaned regularly and as a result they have built a stove which is impossible to clean (without dismantling the entire fireplace or throwing away the flue connectors they provide and finding some that will allow for flue cleaning without disconnection). The stove is a potential death trap. If the flue is completely blocked one risks CO poisoning and if partially blocked there's an increased chance of a chimney fire.

I wondered why neither the literature that came with the stove nor the Godin website has any information about how to clean their can't! My advice - think very carefully before buying a Godin.

Des grandes problemes avec la nettoyage d'un pôele marque "Godin", trop compliqué d'expliquer en Francais! - jamais achèter un Godin!
Then there was a stampede outside as 40 odd cows stormed down the road - escapees from Courex. I managed to herd them out of my front garden and away from the vegetable patch and after much effort fenced them into the field in front of the house. There's a mixture of females, calves, males and bulls and they're big animals all with horns, so one has to be careful. I called the farmer whose cows I thought they were, but when he arrived he told me they belonged to another farmer 'La Pancharde'. Unfortunately he doesn't have a phone!! Incredible. So the cows stay here until they realise there's no electricity in the fence wire, then they escape again.

Il y a un débandade dehors comme 40 vaches approchent chex moi! - elles ont échappé de Courex. J'ai réussi de les chasser hors ma potager et mon jardin et après des efforts j'ai les enclôturé. Il y a un mélange des males, femelles et petites, toutes avec les cornes! Donc prudence! J'ai appellé Alban mais quand il est arrivé il m'a dit que elles ont les vaches de "La Pancharde". Malheuresement, il n'a pas un téléfon! Incroyable. Donc les vaches restent ici jusqu'au elles aperçoivent de il y a pas de courant dans la clôture éléctrique!

mercredi 2 septembre 2009

Images of today

The view I never grow tired of
Field 5 after some tree clearance/felling this afternoon

The beautiful beech woodland below the house
An orange birch bolette found there this evening
Sheep in the barn