samedi 17 août 2019


It's been an incredibly dry year and coupled with the extreme heatwave we've been experiencing for most of the summer, we have a bit of a grass crisis. It grew much less than normal in the late spring and then got burnt to a crisp in the summer and now we have very little indeed and the sheep don't like it! 

In the search for greener food they have been escaping 2 or 3 times a day and it's been driving us insane. It's not so bad if they wander into the woods but more often than not they want to trespass into neighbours gardens. For a few weeks we took them on twice daily walks, but its a huge drain on our time especially if they decide they want to graze for 3-4 hours or go "off piste" into the brambles. We've sold 6 sheep and 3 are going to the abattoir, but more may yet have to go to reduce the burden on the dead fields.

Changes to our fencing, more land clearance and a new bergerie are in the pipeline, but most of all we need lots of rain so that the grass can grow back.

lundi 12 août 2019

Chickens mites and lice

Poor Mister Quincy and a couple of the hens have been suffering with mites/lice this summer (partly the reason why we replaced the hen house). We've been treating them and the house with diatamaceous earth, but Quincy hasn't been responding as well as we'd hoped and started losing feathers, so a few days ago I netted him (not an easy job) and we gave him a detailed check up. Beneath his feathers he was overrun with mites and lice so we've pulled out all stops to treat him.

We've been spraying him (and some of the less infested hens) with a mixture of garlic juice, water and essential oil every three days and giving him extra rations of iron rich foods (in particular scrambled eggs which he loves). We've also started putting garlic in their water - apparently a useful deterrent.

He seems to be responding well but the war with the parasites is not yet over!

mardi 6 août 2019

Carte de la commune d'Aleu

My map of the commune of Aleu and the surrounding area is now finally finished, printed and for sale.

The map covers an area stretching from the L'Arac river to the North, Sausolle to the West, Courmariau, Antras and Pentusse to the South and the Cols de Boulogne and Bidal to the East. Approximately 1m x 1m at a scale of 1/5000 it is provided folded in a plastic wallet.

In addition to the usual topography, roads, buildings and river, four walking tours, tourist information, all the old chemin comunal as well as many previously unmapped paths, tracks and pistes are also illustrated.

Available at the Mairie, the Post Office in Castet or direct from me for 16€.

Ma carte de la commune d'Aleu et de ses environs est enfin terminée, imprimée et disponible à la vente.

La carte couvre une zone allant de L'Arac au nord, à Sausolle à l'ouest, à Courmariau, à Antras et à Pentusse au sud et aux cols de Boulogne et de Bidal à l'est. Environ 1m x 1m sur une échelle de 1/5000, il est fourni plié dans un portefeuille en plastique. Outre la topographie, les routes, les bâtiments et la rivière habituelle, quatre promenades, des informations touristiques, l’ancien chemin communal ainsi que de nombreux sentiers, pistes et chemins non encore cartographiés sont également illustrés.

En vente à la mairie, à la poste de Castet ou directement chez moi à 16 €.

samedi 27 juillet 2019

Rain at last!!

A day of rain at last - enough to refill the water butts with 2 cubic meters of water but nowhere near enough to restore the vegetation in the fields which are parched and yellow. We are having to take the sheep on long walks along the roads and into the woods so that they can find food to eat.

lundi 22 juillet 2019

New Chicken Shack

Our old chicken house was a bit too small for our over size rooster Mr Quincy and over the years had weathered and time for a new one. Built from the "up-cycled" old outside-loo materials and mounted on wheels it provides a much larger and easier to clean home.

lundi 15 juillet 2019

Pickled Shallots

It's turning out to be a very hot and dry summer. Both of our 1 cubic metre "cuves" of collected rainwater are already empty and there is no rain forecast for at least two weeks, just 30+ degrees of heat. The garden is giving in abundance whilst the water holds out and we are busy preserving for the winter to come. Pickled shallots for me and kimchee for Susie.

vendredi 12 juillet 2019

Col de Crusous to Col de la Serre du Cot (Mines de Salau to Rouze d'en Bas)

13.5km, 1420m of ascent, 1720m of descent, about 20 summits and very hot...but a magnificent day.

Alas Susie had a sore knee and elected not to come, but Al, Breezy and I had a great day. We left a vehicle at Rouze d'en Bas, then drove to the mines at Salau to start the walk. Apparently the permit for the exploratory works to appraise reopening the mine has been revoked because the mining company can't meet the EU anti money laundering regulations...they are of course appealing so it may only be a temporary reprieve. We climbed steeply up to the Col de Crusous in 1hr 50min where we stopped for a break and refreshment. The route from here is straightforward - turn left (north) and follow the ridge for about 7km. A rocky scramble at first, the ridge slowly becomes more and more gentle as you head northwards until finally on reaching Pic de la Tèse it becomes broad and grassy. The first peak Pic de l'Arrech is the highest at 2350m

The ascent of Pic de l'Arrech

 Looking back over the Col de Crusous towards Cap de Ruhos

 Summit of Pic de l'Arrech

 One of the many summits on the ridge

After about 11.30 we were in and out of clouds (until our descent from Pic de la Tèse after lunch) adding to the drama of the position. Some vultures and a very distant isard shared our day, as well as some horses and cows.

 Looking back towards Pic Montabone

 My reflection in a droplet of dew

Merens horses

A long descent on GR10 which became a bit of slog in the heat finally led us to the car and a quick drive back to Salau for a well earned beer.

mercredi 3 juillet 2019

Map and another news

My 1/5000 map of the commune of Aleu and the surrounding area is nearly finished. It extends from beyond the commune to the Col de Boulogne and Col Bidal, Cominac, Anilac, Courmariau, Tuc del Four and the bridge to Soulan, so includes the Serre de Rapheu and valley Régude. On addition to landuse, buildings, roads, tracks and buildings, all the old chemin communal are indicated and there are contours at 10m intervals. Overal the map measures approx 1m x 1m and will be available in August, folded in a plastic wallet for around 15 euros.

Other news, the crazy heatwave last week is thankfully over - temperatures exceeded 40 degrees i the shade - at least some hay was made without mishap (the bailer worked perfectly this year). 

Susie was away at the B12 dance festival in Berlin last week, an opportunity for her to train and keep her technique up to the minute.

The rug is finished and incredibly soft...another project needed!

vendredi 21 juin 2019


The loom is finally threaded and ready for weaving. 

We broke a rear suspension spring on the car but fortunately the part is still available. I made a spring compressor from some old EDF u-bolts and fitted it this morning.

Susie is off to B12 dance festival in Berlin next week. Although she bought tickets and accommodation back in February, we completely forgot to book the flights, which has proved rather expensive....especially as I accidentally bought return tickets from Berlin to Toulouse rather than vice-versa!! "Twat-tax" (the cost of occasionally being an idiot).

lundi 17 juin 2019

Mont Beas ...and bears

A planned day walk with Sherie on Sunday had to be cut short because of a gite changeover, so Mont Beas seemed a suitable trip for a 3 hours excursion. Short steep and a bit airy the route follows the narrow ridge from just below the Col d'Agnes. We had vultures swirling overhead and a carpet of wild flowers below our feet.

Fantastic panoramic views from the summit.  Last time I did this peak I descended to the Col de Dret and made a circuit, this time we had to hurry back so returned by the same route.

Another encounter between a walker and a bear just a few miles from here in the valley Estours. A walker early in the morning came upon a bear cub on GR10 and was charged by its mother. Fearing for his life he turned and ran (not the right thing to do, but very understandable in the circumstances), the bear fortunately stopped and returned to her cub. With about 60 bears in the Pyrénées and about 85% of them in the Ariège and the Val d'Aran, an accident here is probably just a matter of time.

dimanche 2 juin 2019

Quer de la Fourche

An attempt to repeat the trip I made in July 2012, following the Chemin de Liberté from the col de la core, over the Col de Craberous then a return by the Col de Crouzette. It's been very hot the last few days and yet there remains quite a lot of snow in the mountains. Susie and I set off and reached the Cabane de Subera in about 1h30. Previously I'd found the old direct path but climbs straight into Les Clots, but it's over grown as the longer more gradual variant is now signposted. Above Les Clots we reached the snow and heat and progress slowed. It's complicated terrain and without any markers we just headed up on very soft snow and flattened gispet grass.

The corries under Pic de Pomebrunet, Pic de Lampau and Pic de Caries are still full of snow and quite spectacular and the ridge joining the peaks still have some very large cornices waiting to collapse.

At the false col that has to be crossed before the final snowfield we finally got a view of the state of the Col de Craberous and quickly decided that it was still charged with snow and in the heat was too dangerous to climb, another steep snow slope that gains access to Tuc de la Messe was in a similar state so our way forward was barred. We stopped for lunch and soon heard the boom of an avalanche which we watched fall from near the summit of Pic de Pomebrunet, pour down through the cliffs, then slide down the snow slopes below.

Col de Craberous

Lunch spot

We climbed a little higher to look for any other alternatives and stopped close to the pothole of the Grande Glacier du Quer de la Fourche. We climbed the Quer before retracing our route of the morning to the Col de la Core. A long roasting day of nearly 8 hours and 1350m of ascent;

Quer de la Fourche

This boulder fell on the path in the couple of hours between our ascent and descent

I recently got a MCON-P01. It's a lens that fits on the front of my Olympus 14-150mm lens and turns it into a macro lens by shortening the focus distance to about 25cm. It's much cheaper than buying a dedicated macro lens and the results are quite good really.