mardi 25 juillet 2017

New Sheep

Four more ewes to join our little flock of ouessants - 10 in all now, although we'll try to sell the black ram as we already have a white ram. Our sheep are now Moe-chee (black ram), William (white ram), Thelma, Louise and Faith (ewes), Comfrey (male lamb), Apache, Hopi, Sioux and Nanook (female lambs).

Scything the top field I managed to stumble upon a asiatic hornets nest on the ground, famous for their aggression and powerful sting I got stung on the head above my ear. Incredibly painful for 24 hours. The pompiers used to remove nests free of charge as they are considered dangerous (several attacks have lead to deaths in the past in France) but apparently this is no longer the case. I'll have to buy a special product if I want to go in the field again this year.

jeudi 20 juillet 2017

Animals and vegetables

Very changeable weather at the moment, either incredibly hot and humid, or stormy or drizzly. Susie rescued a field vole from a weasel - having saved him, he then bit her to say thank-you!

The onion harvest is in.

Plenty more produce to come in the polytunnel and vegetable garden.

Sheep are still doing well and will soon be joined by another 4 ewes.

Emily (Susie's niece) is staying for a few days. Yesterday we did the Cascade d'Ars / Etang de Guzet circuit in the morning as a big storm was forecast for the afternoon but it never really arrived. Today we'll probably head to the swimming pool/spa in St Girons.

One of chickens has had a respiratory problem - wheezing and coughing - which is always cause for concern. We isolated him from the other chickens and have been keeping a close eye on him. There are no other symptoms (like inflamed comb, running eyes or nose) so we're hoping its nothing too serious. None of the other birds are showing any signs either, so we'll keep them apart for 3 days as a precaution.

dimanche 16 juillet 2017

Old Man of Woods

A lovely meal and catch up with Alun and Breezy last night - and wicked fruit gin!
Today a rare find - old man of woods - delicious.

L'auberge des poules was originally built for 4 hens and a cockerell, now there are 7 hens and 3 cockerells - so an extension was urgently needed. The 2 hen houses are joined internally and share the original 2 nesting boxes in the auberge.

lundi 10 juillet 2017

Mixed weather for the last few days, sometimes hot, often overcast or misty, a few storms at night. As always been keeping busy!

New photos of the gite for the website (last ones were in spring before the leaves came out). A visit to get the gite its "classement". We got 3 stars - "hébergement de très bon confort". There's a national rating system and (alas) to get the 3 stars we had to install a T.V. I suppose it useful for guests with small children when the weathers bad and in winter, but I have to say I did it somewhat grudgingly. TF1 and a couple of other minor channels have poor/no reception - but no-one checks that!

The field opposite the gite got completely topped, the "regaine" will please the sheep. They're currently in the two terrace field which scythed last week. All the sheep have now had their final F.C.O (blue tongue) inoculations. More sheep arrive in 3 weeks time.

The big field in front of the house had all the bracken scythed out of it this morning and the trees felled in the amphitheatre field have at last started to be split and stacked - better late than never. 

This afternoon I lost my trusty opinel which I've had for over 35 years (pictured below). I thought I'd lost it about 3 years ago, but miraculously it turned up a month later under the sofa. This time I realised I'd lost it in almost the exact same place I thought I'd lost it last time, only this time I know I DID have it with me. I retraced my steps to the last known place I had it, then retraced them again. The chances of finding a wooden opinel in a forest deep in leaf litter and branches under undergrowth, when you've not been following a path and it's been 1/2 km since you last knew you had it, are remote....but amazingly I found it!! Hurrah!

I also found a new path leading to an intact charcoal maker from the 1940's and eventually to the monster badger set I discovered maybe 3 years ago - Susie and I are going to go watch the badgers when she's back.

Plenty of mushrooms at the moment, having them at least once a day.

mercredi 5 juillet 2017


After a week of temperatures in the high thirties, we had a week of rain and storms and even lit a fire in the house a couple of nights running! But the heat has now returned. I've finished off the South East end of the house with a roof to protect the back door (slates coming sometime soon). Susie is in the UK for a week visiting friends, sisters, Jasper and Ruby.

 A baby red deer in the field

 Clouds after one of many storms

The new rear porch

mercredi 28 juin 2017

Terrace building last few days

Day 1 progress

45sqm of decking and 1310 screws later...

Crazy stormy weather this week with some pretty impressive storm fronts coming in from the North-West.

mardi 27 juin 2017

More photos from the portering trip

One of the guides on my mountain portering trip - George Manly - sent me these breath taking pictures of the Etang Long from our trip. Well done George, beautiful shots.

mardi 20 juin 2017


A collection of butterflies from the poly tunnel - Purple emperor, large white, speckled wood, marbled white and a white admiral.

lundi 19 juin 2017


139 bales safely made and stored away...Tough work in a temperature of 36 degrees celsius in the shade (97 fahrenheit). Very itchy and we drank a litre an hour of home made elderflower lemonade!

dimanche 18 juin 2017

Hay making

Hay making last couple of days. just cutting the flattest part of the field in front of the house for starters. In the heat it only takes a day to dry. After a swim with Susie and Sandrine in the river, Nathaniel very kindly dropped by with a borrowed "andaineur" to put the hay into rows ready for bailing. When I pulled the bailer out of its parking place, one of the tyres disintegrated - which threatened to put pay to the whole operation (the bailer only cost 50 euros!). Then I remembered the old identical bailer abandoned on the Plat d'Artigue. I quickly whipped the wheel off destroying my car jack in the process! We managed to swap the wheel with the damaged one on my bailer and after several hours of fiddling by Nathaniel we got the knotters back in action. A quick 30 or so bales of hay to check all was working and we're ready to do the rest of the field tomorrow. We should get 150 bales - enough for the sheep this winter.

vendredi 16 juin 2017

Chemin de Liberté

Spent the last four days being a porter for a UK film crew filming a documentary to air in the autumn on UK television (channel 4). I can't talk about the subject matter yet. There were supposed to be 3 or 4 porters with us each carrying about 10 kgs plus personal gear, in the end there was only me after day one, so my load was pretty horrific (over 20kgs) mostly masses of rechargeable batteries and rechargers, lunches and rubbish - lucky I travelled light and took a 80 litre rucksack. Although the distances each day were short with relatively little height gain (2000m in 3 days), the weather was very hot and with much filming 'en route' the days were usually 12 hours between huts. One camera man got ill and had to be evacuated on day 2.

A new col for me above the Etang Long on day 3 which gave some nice views of the Port de Barlonguere, before a descent into Spain.

launching the drone - 'de rigour' these days

The team

Looking down on the Etang Long towards the Port de Barlonguere

Monty in front of Valieret

Back home and caught a huge horse fly in the poly tunnel Tabanus Sudeticus fully 27mm long!

Tomorrow with hot weather forecast for the next 2 weeks, we'll make some hay.

samedi 10 juin 2017

Terrace, garden and broody hen problems

Busy for the last few days lifting the old stone patio (which after 11 years was full of weeds) and casting a new slab and foundations for a timber terrace. The timber doesn't arrive until the end of the month.

Susie's garden is looking amazing and starting to become productive - lettuce, chard, artichokes, leeks, spring onions.

Shelly our broody chicken is broody again only 8 weeks after the last period of egg sitting. We don't have room for more chickens so we've been trying in vane to stop her broodiness. Cold baths (which have worked in the past with other hens) have failed and this morning we thought we'd had success with getting her to sit on some frozen apricots! She left the nest and joined the others...but after a few hours she once more trying to sit.

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.