Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Morning mist over the millpond
The family arrived in the afternoon and we were ready for them. Over a pot of tea plans were made for the week and various projects discussed. 

Monday morning - Saskia, the girls and I went shopping while Jim and Matthew started on the first project. It is situated in the abandoned  Pumpkin Field.
Work begins

For lunch Saskia made pumpkin soup with the flesh of one of the large pumpkins. It was delicious.
After lunch we tried our skill/luck with the junior potters wheel we bought for five euros at a vide grenier. I was rubbish - I didn't get on with pottery at college and I haven't improved since then.
Do it like this, Bo . . . 
I'm watching . . .

There - perhaps not a masterpiece

Slowly does it

The rest of the pumpkin is being put to good use. I will make pumpkin pie and Matthew has carved a Halloween Lantern.

Day two of the Project but it is raining which has slowed progress. Tess has a cough so we are playing indoors today. Bo has discovered the games on my iphone. 

Matthew spotted a Fire Salamander on retiring to the gite. I was very pleased to hear this as I thought we may have lost them due to being worried by Rufus.

Wednesday dawned fine and warm and we decided to go to the Animal Park at Gramat - about an hour's drive away. Jim stayed at the Moulin to do some chores and to keep Rufus company. The rest of us had a very pleasant day.

Bo with the goat she called 'Opa Jim'!

Market day as usual on Thursday but it was sadly depleted as the day started wet and now that winter is upon us not so many stalls set up shop. We needed to buy groceries for our 'Apero' this evening. We had invited Cyprien, Marie-Therese, Den and Caro round for drinks and snacks this evening to say  goodbye to them. I made a pumpkin pie and various others bites. We shall be sorry to go - we have made good friends here and had a wonderful seven months.

Unfortunately the kiln is not going to be finished this visit. It has become a work in progress. The wall is unfinished too but I managed to get the tins and tubs planted up between the showers. Various tidying and cleaning jobs were accomplished. A couple of trees came down in the heavy rain last night and these had to be cleared away as one of them was blocking the road.

Matthew and family left on Saturday morning and I felt bereft. It was so sad to see the last of our vistors and to finally realise that our extended holiday had come to an end. Nothing for it now but to pack up our stuff and clean the house leaving it ready for incomers. 
We left on Monday morning in the rain - not quite as early as I hoped and we did not get to Orleans until dark. However, this time the GPS managed to find the Ibis Hotel without any fuss.
Tuesday night was spent in Kent - in a pub called The Oak in Charing which was excellent which is why I am mentioning them in this blog. They were very welcoming especially to Rufus and allowed him to sit with us during our meals there and several customers tried to make friends with him but he was very confused and shy until a female Jack Russell appeared and then he became quite frisky. We thoroughly recommend this hotel to anyone coming from the Channel Tunnel and looking for a bed for the night. The food was good too.
We arrived home safe and sound on Wednesday 9th November. It was raining here too. So ends our second summer at Moulin du Clout. We do love it there and have had a marvellous time - not learning a great deal of French but enjoying the company of many people of several nationalities and learning something of the French culture. We hope that we may spend more time there in the future although not staying for such a long period again. A big thank you to all of you who have shared our adventure and also to those who have kept pace by reading this blog. Perhaps you will visit us next time.
A bientot.

P.S. Next year's calendar in production now - 'Portals of the Auvergne' - if you would like a copy just ask. Visitors to the Moulin will automatically get one.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Les Couleurs d'Automne

Inukshuck on a rocky outcrop
I ended last week's post with the same picture as above. Some of you may not know what Inukshucks are. Here is an explanation taken from Wikipedia:
An inuksuk (plural inuksuit), alternatively inukshuk in English (from the Inuktitut, is a stone landmark or cairn built by humans, used by the Inuit, Inupiat, Kalaallit, Yupik, and other peoples of the Arctic region of North America. These structures are found from Alaska to Greenland. This region, above the Arctic Circle, is dominated by the tundra biome and has areas with few natural landmarks.
The inuksuk may have been used for navigation, as a point of reference, a marker for travel routes, fishing places, camps, hunting grounds, places of veneration, drift fences used in hunting  or as a food cache. The Inupiat in northern Alaska used inuksuit to assist in the herding of caribou into contained areas for slaughter. Varying in shape and size, the inuksuit have longtime roots in the Inuit culture.

We first learned of them when we visited Canada a few years ago and on our return built our own in the garden of Eastgate. The domaine here has some fine suitable stones and plenty of good places to put them. Our good friends, David and Johanna left us some to find during their stay here in the winter.

Jim and Peter built the one in the top picture and more are planned in other craggy places.

It has been a quiet week on the social front and we haven't been to any new places or dined out. Our time has been taken up with finishing chores already started, getting ready for Matthew's visit and preparing for our journey home on the 7th November.

The patchwork quilt is finished -

The kitchen is painted, although the ceiling could use another coat - 

And much progress has been made on the wall of the extended terrace -

Jim has nearly reached the top - he has to added a flat top (a coping) that I can stand the tubs of flowers on that I will be preparing tomorrow? - like this -

Axel has fixed the dishwasher and we now have it reinstalled and working. What a pity that we didn't get him to look at it in the beginning of our stay rather than at the end.

It has rained a lot this week and 'les couleurs d'automne' are now fully fledged and in the weak sun the trees are dazzling. Alas when I took these pictures there wasn't any sun, weak or otherwise. The forecast is better for the days to come which I hope will materialise as Matthew and his family are to spend our last week here.
From the Nature Walk
From Peter's Place
From the Nature Walk

Across the Redwood Field
Across the Redwood Field - the Sequoia in the background

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Yellow-necked Marankas

After lunch we visited the Pumpkin Festival at Calvinet. Here are some pictures:

We have many apples trees in the domaine, mostly rather old and of unknown variety. I use one of them - a russet type for cooking but the rest largely fall to waste and lie rotting on the ground. Peter decided that some of them were quite edible and so we had a tasting session. He picked 11 possible apples in reasonable condition (many of them are a bit scabby etc) and labelled them for his own purpose and then cut them into slices for the three of us to taste and rate for juiciness, sweetness etc.

The Russet is the sixth from the left
There was a fair bit of discrepancy in our opinions but the 'russet' was a clear winner. The first one in the row was also praised. I think we have identified it's position in the domaine.

Tuesday - Set off early for Sarah's - she lives the other side of Auch in the Gers - an area in South West France known as Gascony. A five hour journey with a break for coffee so we arrived in time for lunch. Sarah lives here:
- in a domaine of rolling fields and woodland. Absolutely charming. We met two of her girls Jo Jo and Gabby and her mother-in-law Lucy, a remarkably lucid and interesting 92-year-old.
Sarah has chickens, a horse and some goats with curious horns.

On Wednesday the four of us went to see a museum devoted to D'Artangan, the Musketeer.
D'Artagnan was born in Lupiac. His father, Bertrand de Batz (de Baatz), was the son of a newly ennobled merchant, Arnaud de Batz, who purchased the castle of Castelmore. Charles de Batz went to Paris in the 1630s, using the name of his mother, daughter of an illustrious family, Fran├žoise de Montesquiou d'Artagnan. D'Artagnan found a way to enter into the Musketeers in 1632. While in the Musketeers, d'Artagnan sought the protection of the influential Cardinal Mazarin, France's principal minister since 1643. In 1646, the Musketeers company was dissolved, but d'Artagnan continued to serve his protector Mazarin.
The account of the exploits of the Musketeers as written by Dumas is highly fictionalised.

Thursday - Before we left Gascony for the Auvergne we went to the market in Eauze. We bought a few things and then had lunch in an open-air cafe it was so warm in the sun. 
Sarah, self and Peter in Eauze
Excellent. We took a different route home as suggested by Sarah - Condom, Agen, Cahors, Figeac, Maurs and it was indeed very pretty, especially with the autumn colours but, not, I think any quicker that the route we had used before.

Friday - A day for mooching about the domaine doing various jobs. Jennifer and I went shopping in Decazaville and I spotted some half-price fruit trees. I bought a cherry tree and managed to cram it into the car. Jim and Peter planted in the orchard.
Later in the afternoon when taking Rufus for a walk we saw and identified these birds:

They are Yellow-necked Marankas - quite rare! Also found three more Octopus Stinkhorns.

The Mourjou Chestnut Festival - the event of the year and where we were to have had a stall of our home-grown and Halloween carved pumpkins. Luckily we could not do this for several practical reasons, not least the failure of our pumpkin harvest. We have got pumpkins but not a huge amount and most of them are rather small.
Anyway we went on Saturday - the weather was fine and sunny.
Pizza Ovens

Caro Face Painting

A Group of Musicians
And to finish with - 
The Inukshuck