lundi 29 mai 2017

Now we are six

Louise in the front with her matted coat

At last the two remaining ewes were caught and we went to collect them. Thelma and Louise, the latter being the mother of Comfrey. Both completely freaked out and nervous and Louise in terrible condition with 3 year old matted, infested, fleece and infected eyes. We left them a day to acclimatise and reacquaint themsleves with the males. Louise is definitely the matriarch of the flock. Today we eventually succeeded in herding all the sheep into the shelter. Louise's fleece was disgusting (it went for compost) and and it took 2-3 mins to wash her eyes clean of all the encrusted muck - now she can blink properly. Signs that during her escape shes been attacked by dog on her rear end, scabbed wounds but it seems to be healing fine, no wonder she's so nervous. Thelma's fleece was the best of the lot, I think she's probably a year old.  Whilst the sheep were penned we gave them all a dose of anthelmintic and tagged Apache (Comfrey's ears are still so small he'll have to wait for his tags). I think the two new ewes are part ouessant part tarasconnais judging from their faces and that fact that Louise has small horn buds - female ouessants don't have horns.

Both ewes obviously much happier and slowly calming down. 

Thelma right, Louise left sporting their new cleaner look.

dimanche 28 mai 2017


Our most recent gite guests were leaving this morning when the driver dropped her satnav in the footwell of the car. As she reached down to get it, she veered off the road. thank god she was driving very slowly as the car came to a halt precariously teetering on the edge of the 300ft drop! I secured the car with a rope to a nearby telegraph pole until the recovery vehicle arrived and successfully winched it to safety. Fortunately no harm done to driver or car...but a lucky escape.

Tuc de Berbégue

After a thuinderstorm yesterday evening some of the humidity cleared so Susie and I headed for the hills. A repeat of a walk I did 7 years ago and one with a bit more exposure than Susie is used to, but she coped no problem. 

From the Col de Pause (1500m) we headed up towards the Port d'Aula but a little after the Etang de Prat Matou we headed left to the little col (2336m) between Tuc de Bignau and Tuc de Berbégue.

As we arrived at the col we were greeted by two bearded vultures.

From here we followed the frontier ridge for about 2-3 km, sometimes narrow and rocky over Tuc de Berbégue (2477m), Cap de Hoque Prégonne (2481m), Pic de Montagnol (2454m) then a steep descent to the Portanech Aurénere (2331m).

On the way we saw some alpine accentors...

...plenty of expansive views...

...and a myriad of alpine flowers.

 From the Portanech we descended a snowy coombe before mounting the ridge to our left to find the Cabane Berbégue.

From here in the far distance we could see the path we needed to follow but as the last time I did this walk no trace of path to get to it. The terrain is complex, often steep and traversed by many gulleys. It took a frustrating hour or so in the 35 degrees of heat to eventually reach it. Looking back we could see a section of zigzags (which bore no resemblance to anything on the map, but no other trace of the path. Once on the path things were easier and after crossing the Col de Courbe, where Susie found a slow worm, we were soon back at the Refuge Forestiere beside the Etang d'Areau.

7 hours including stops for lunch and about 1200m (4000ft) of height gain.

vendredi 26 mai 2017


After washing the fleeces, Susie has started carding the fleeces into rollags. Spinning may have to wait until the autumn unless we find a good spinning wheel in a vide grenier. 

jeudi 25 mai 2017

Elderflower champagne / Champagne de Sureau

9 litres of elderflower champagne successfully bottled and another 9 on the go...good to reduce our weekly wine shopping bill - especially now the temps are in the mid 30's!

mercredi 24 mai 2017

Another lamb and sheep shearing

After making a few more additions to the sheep shelter - an outside fenced area, gate and rainwater tank, we headed off to collect sheep number 4. A ewe lamb (the remaining lambs from our first purchase have still not been caught!). 4 months old and two tone, we decided to call her "Apache". I carried her down to the field and put her in with the other three, who completely ignored her. She, having been snubbed by her new field mates, immediately made a run for it into the woods. Without a bell or ear tags we could easily have lost her if we'd lost sight of her. 15 minutes of running through dense undergrowth and I eventually succeeded in "heading her off at the pass" and catch a hold of her. This time I put her in the new sheep shelter and locked the gate. A few shocks from strand of electric fence pinned to the fenced area trained her to stay within the fences next time.

The other sheep were still completely disinterested in her so in the end I caught William and dragged him into the shelter with the other sheep following him. In fact it was the first time they'd entered, having been too cautious to go in. A bit of mutual smelling and they were all friends.

Now we had them all penned in, we decided now was a good a time as any to shear them, check their feet and put collars and bells on them. Much easier with a smaller sheep and an extra pair of hands, we soon had the two year old (or more) matted coats off William and Moe-Chee, Apache and Comfrey just need collars and bells. Ear tags and de-worming will wait for another day.

All shorn

We kept the sheep in overnight to bond, then today they've been free to come and go, which they have been, having decided that they rather like the shelter for sitting in the shade, away from the flies and chewing the cud.

dimanche 21 mai 2017

Sheep rescue

Off to collect the sheep this morning and alas as is often the case, when we arrived the poor things were in pretty awful condition and being kept in pretty awful condition. One of the 7 had apparently been killed by a fox since we agreed to come and see them last weekend - though I suspect it had died of blue tongue. One of the ewes had loads of snot issuing from her nose and I'm pretty sure she had the disease. The sheep are all tagged but other than that I don't think they've been well cared for or vaccinated. Their shelter had no bedding and their paddock no grass left. When we went to see them, the 3 ewes escaped leaving us with just two males and a lamb. We took them and are returning tomorrow to try and collect the others - but not the ill ewe who was as thin as a rake poor thing. We'd love to try and rescue her don't want to risk infecting our or other sheep - the disease is spread by mosquito's biting an infected animal then spreading the virus it to it's next victim. 

Once here I think the sheep thought they'd died and gone to heaven. They seemed wild and scared at their old home, but here they are at once calm and content. De-worming, vaccination, hoof trimming and shearing in the coming weeks and hopefully we can give them a better life.

vendredi 19 mai 2017

Sheep Shelter

We're collecting some of our new ouessant sheep on Sunday, so we've spent the last couple of days hurriedly building a shelter for them from mostly salvaged and left over materials. More photos of the sheep as soon as they arrive.

Susie and I are celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary today.

lundi 15 mai 2017

Pic Cabanatous

A hastily organised walk organised by Cherie who's off to Alaska next week. Pascale (Kim "" Chevalier's daughter) joined us too. Beautiful weather and walk from Coumbiere upto the col at 1944m that usually leads onto Pic de Rouge de Bassies, but turning left, crossing Pic de Cabanatous then descending to Etang d'Alate before returning to Coumbiere via the Col de Saliex.

On the col 1944m


On the Pic

Still plenty of snow

The frozen Etang

Etang d'Alate

Ice, ice, baby

Mr Froggy

mercredi 10 mai 2017

Tuc d'Eychelle

More pointing, log splitting, looking for new sheep and a new sign for the gite...time for a trip to the mountains!

We set off from Col de la Core and were expecting deep soft snow so took snowshoes, but in fact the snow was firm even in the late afternoon, crampons would have been more useful. We made easy progress and reached the Etang d'Eychelle, still partially frozen, in a couple of hours. 

We had lunch at the cabane d'Eychelle and watched ski tourer descend from Tuc de la Messe, 2 hours of portage seems barely worth the effort for 20 minutes of ski descent.

We headed up towards the peak but a little before the Col de la crouzette the snow was getting very firm, so we avoided the shadow and headed left to the Col d'Aubies. The last few metres were free of snow but scrappy and unstable, whilst on the snow a sizeable rock narrowly missed us.

From the Col we headed North eventually reaching the Tuc d'Eychelle. I re-erected the summit cross which had fallen over, then we descended directly to the Cabane d'Eychelle once more.

Susie with Valier appearing behind Tuc de Quer Ner


We lazed at the Etang d'Eychelle watching the frogs jumping in and out of the lake, a Red Kite overhead and later a paraglider, before heading home.

samedi 6 mai 2017

It's rude to point!

Two and a half days of pointing and the South and West sides of the barn are complete..probably the first time it's been pointed since it was built in May 1861, if ever. A tiny hole left in the middle of the South wall for some nesting blue tits, who tolerated me hanging about. Even flying to within a foot of me to make feeds. For the last two years they've nested in the West wall.

lundi 1 mai 2017

Amphitheatre field

Much neglected over the past few years, Susie and I have been re-clearing field 8 which forms a lovely natural amphitheatre. Lots of brambles and even more year old trees. The lower terrace was never very successful because of the copse of oak trees and the enormous beech which cut out all the light...both had to go and now finally it feels like it'll be a success.  Could this be where the sauna goes??