Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Old Lady Climbs the Crags

Our brother-in-law Eddie arrived this week. It was  good to see him. He came for a brief visit last year on his way back to the UK but he stayed longer this visit.

Firstly, we took him on a grand tour of the Nature Trail including the path across the top.
View from the top
This old lady has clambered up the route across the crags, without the help of ropes or crampons. It was tough going, but thanks to Daniel and Amelia, possible, although a couple of signposts might be a good idea. Also, it would be good if you could come back, both of you, and put in some more steps and handrails to aid the infirm. 
I could see that the only choice with the route was to arrive at the far end of the River field but it would complete the circuit if we could have a bridge across the river at that point and end up in the Pumpkin field. Perhaps that is Stage Three of the Nature Trail.

Beefsteak Fungus
On the first climb I found this fungus which I identified as a Beefsteak fungus. As it was small I knew I would have to go back a few days later and take another picture so when I did go the second time I approached it from the other direction. The mushroom still hadn't fully developed so I will need to go again. Next week perhaps.

Tuesday evening - we decided to try and find the restaurant on the road to Boisset that we passed last year and thought that it might be good for an evening meal. A bit of research with maps and the internet threw up a possibility and we finally tracked it down - La Planche du Souq. 
We had a drink there, and Rufus found a friend but we decided later that the ambiance wasn't quite right for an evening meal - perhaps lunch sometime.

On Wednesday we went to Conques again to show Eddie. Very pleasant sunny day and I never tire of a gentle stroll around Conques taking pictures. This time I concentrated on the incidental details in the buildings rather than the panoramic views.

An evening of Scrabble which we haven't played in a while. I had forgotten most of the 2 and 3-letter words. I shall have to learn them again.

Usual trip to the Maurs market on Thursday and in the evening a meal at Castra Nea in Leynhac. This is a new/revamped place and very nice it is too. We had a wander around beforehand and saw some interesting buildings that we hadn't seen on a previous visit. We agreed to go back in daylight although I did manage to get a few pictures in the fading sunset.

In need of some T.L.C.?

This looks an interesting building - what was it?
The meal was good - all served together on one plate (not the desert!) They do lunch which perhaps we should try on another occasion.

We took Eddie to Figeac on Friday afternoon and had a stroll around. There was a small exhibition on in the Musee Champollion, Memoires Indiennes.
We had a look at the facsimile of the Rosetta stone and found a group of children hard at work.

Back home to a supper of fish and chips (homemade) and later three games of Scrabble. I am remembering the small words now.

Eddie left this morning. He will do the journey back to L'Olleria in Valencia in one day - approx. 9 hours. A long trip. I footled about all day waiting for the broadband to be reinstated so that I could write this blog and Jim progressed with his masonry.

While I was sitting on the terrace in the sun with a book the walnuts were hammering down, occasionally rather too close. The family of great-tits that had previously fed off the bird table have now turned their attention to the mess of cracked nuts on the road and dart out at intervals to peck at the remains. Any sudden movement on my part sends them back to the safety of the hibiscus or hortensia bushes. I love watching them. Rufus has his eyes riveted on the upper branches of the walnut trees looking for squirrels.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Well, Do The French Like Trees?

Sunday 4th September 
Daniel and Amelia left today. Jim drove them to Capdenac Gare where they caught the train to Toulouse and then on to Madrid by air. We shall miss them. They have worked hard and cheerfully during their stay here and we have learned much from them about their lives in America. They are planning to marry next year and perhaps buy a small farm and raise sheep. We wish them well in their endeavours and hope to see them again sometime. They have kindly suggested that we might like to visit them in the USA next summer - we shall see.
Note the different sized claws - the right being larger than the left
Malek and Yasmina also left this evening after ridding the Millpond of a quantity of American crayfish. We are happy about this as the French ones have been decimated.

So we are back to being on our own and the house is rather quiet. I am back on my diet for a few days as the constant intake of bread, cheese and wine is having a deleterious effect on my waistline.
The weather is now rather dull and colder.

After spending the day doing very little I took a walk with Rufus along the nature trail to see any development in the Octopus Stinkhorn Fungus. Although I hadn't marked it's exact position I was pretty sure I knew the stretch of the path where it was but it was not to be found. I retraced my steps back and forth and used the photo on my camera as a guide - there was a walnut leaf nearby in the picture but I could find no trace of the mushroom. What has come of it? Perhaps some marauding slug has devoured it, smell and all. I looked around for other examples but found none. I will keep my eyes open during the next few days perhaps more examples will appear. If so, I will be careful to mark their position.
I think the Stinkhorn might have been responsible for the malodorous brown smears on Rufus last week when I was obliged to take him and myself into the shower for a thorough wash. He has taken to rolling in stuff and we couldn't make out what it was on that occasion.

Another fungus - as yet unidentified
Typical Monday morning - wet and dull. Plenty of washing and cleaning required after the visitors have gone. Also, I have to finish the arrangements for Thursday when we set off for Patrick and Eleri's wedding in Aberystwyth. We are flying from Bergerac to Bristol by Ryanair which means carry-on luggage only. Crafty packing needed.

Jim has embarked on fixing the bedroom floor which has developed a bow, due to dampness I suppose.

We arrived safely at Bristol airport where we had to hire a car. I had been unable to do this before we left due to broadband failure - again! We had to take a Megane Coupe - manual gears which I have not used for 10 years. We managed to get to Graig Fach however without incident. A delightful time here with grandchildren Joni and Ben. Here are some gifts they gave us:
A drawing by Ben showing dinosaurs - some with spines and others with sharp teeth

Joni gave us a plate she had painted. It depicts the longest sausage dog in the world!
Two pictures of Eleri and Patrick's wedding for the record. A very pleasant occasion and even the sun managed to shine for the photographs.

Patrick is in the Royal Navy hence the uniforms and the swords. Eleri is training to be a doctor. We wish them a happy life together.

We spent two nights in Eastgate (it was looking good) before our return to the Moulin. On the Monday night we went down to the theatre to see how the performances of the play were going and to give some advice on set and costumes. Camilla seems to have everything under control.

Wednesday 14th - back in Fournoules. All as we left it except perhaps the weeds have grown a bit more.
Weather much warmer and sunnier here at the moment. The walnuts and chestnuts are now falling and Rufus keeps dashing out after imaginary? squirrels - we haven't seen any. The quinces are large and I have got a bagful picked ready to make some jelly.

So, do the French like trees? A silly question really because I suppose some of them do. This part of France is quite densely forested but everywhere you see signs of cutting and clearing. This year a huge area of hillside visible from Peter's Place has been felled and the whine of the chainsaws spoiled many a quiet afternoon.

Even our neighbours across the river are at it:

But more recently the EDF sent some men with chainsaws to cut a swathe through the trees where the electricity cable went. This had an element of sense to it although I was reluctant to admit it and Jim was a trifle surly with them. However the resulting damage isn't too unsightly except for the mess they left - all the cut off branches and chopped trees just left where they fell. 

Then there is the custom of lopping branches off trees in public places and sitting areas to force the trees to compensate by growing extra large leaves which provide good shade in hot weather. Again, another sensible sounding idea but for half the year the sight of those tortured trees makes me sad - they look so ugly.

Of course, we occasionally cut down trees here at the Moulin as a brief look back through the weeks will show. Sometimes a tree is in the way or the wood is needed for another purpose - like the pergola for example but for use in the woodburners we have plenty of dead timber. We have also planted some trees - a Sequoia, some fruit trees and the previously mentioned Sumach - all of which we brought from the UK and I expect before our time is done here there will be more planting.

On the work front the terrace extension is growing:

and I have nearly finished weeding the boules piste although I have to do a bit every day just to keep up with the new growth.

Here are the two largest pumpkins drying off in the cave roof:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Do the French Love Trees?

This will be written up next Sunday - we have been back to the UK for a wedding in Aberystwyth. Hang in there!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Warthog or Collared Dove? That is the Question.

This weeks quiz question - what is this? Answer at end of post*
Sunday 28th.
Cold this morning but sunny weather is forecast. After coffee Gill and I explore the route over the crags that Dan and Amelia have been working so hard on. It looks good. So far an old lady can manage it but we didn't go right down the other side, after admiring the view we retraced our steps.
Gill and Brian are leaving after lunch. We are going to Le Poterie du Don with Dan and Amelia.
Le Poterie du Don - back view
At the poterie we claim the plate that we bought previously and are pleased to note that there is a lot of new stuff including these delightful raku animals:

and these figures:

We were tempted to buy this Collared Dove - part of the exhibition we saw last time, made from paper porcelain clay.

But in the end we took a fancy to this sweet Warthog who now reposes on the harmonium. Well, wouldn't you have done the same? Perhaps we will get the Dove next time although we really ought to stay away from there - it's getting rather expensive to visit. 
Dan and Amelia were given a view of the pottery workshop and we got some clay as they would like ago at some raku themselves.

Walter the Warthog
A good afternoon out - we went via the Valley of the Lot and came back through Montsalvy, Junac and Cassaniouze. We took the back road down into the village and found Piers and Hazel at home. They offered us tea despite the fact that they were working hard to install a shower before their visitors turned up at the end of the week.

Monday morning – no telephone, no broadband. We haven’t had a storm and Jim checked the wiring for mouse toothmarks – nothing. I walked up the rough road to Peter’s Place to get a signal on the iphone. I think I sent an email asking for an engineer. After lunch I dashed into Maurs to log on at Le Parisienne to pick up any email and to send another message to UKTelecom. Then I paid the salaries and also printed out the bank statements so that I could do the accounts for the month's end. No engineer arrived.
Jim, Daniel and Amelia did some pottery.

We have now learned that the whole commune is without phone connection so I went into Maurs again to see if I had any urgent emails. I am expecting one from Malek (French visitor from last year) to let me know when they are arriving. It is on Wednesday. Good time to get the bed linen ironed.

There is progress on the terrace extension and Dan and Amelia cut down some shrubbery by the river. It now needs a fence there.

Busy day on Wednesday. Cleaned the gite aided by Amelia in preparation for Malek and some of his family. Then prepared the house and a meal for a visit this evening by Piers and Hazel.

Storms were forecast and we had just sat down to eat when one began. Very soon the lights went out and Jim dashed outside to replace the fusible while I got candles lit. Then it started to rain very hard with thunder and lightening. I unplugged the Neufbox as a precaution and the lights went out again. Jim delayed going out a second time as it was raining so hard. Then 'crack!, crack!' like gun shot. This was large hail stones hitting the polycarbonate roof of the serre. Although puddles formed on the floor the roof seemed undamaged. We finished eating by candlelight.
Later we received an email from Malek indicating that he would be delayed so when we retired for the night we left lights on for him and also for Dan and Amelia who set off for their tent in the River field. Just as well as a few minutes later they returned having found the tent rather damp. They slept in the little bedroom instead.

Next morning the only depredation we found was a swathe of mud, stones and debris across the 'lawn' which had been washed down from the bank.
Path of the water across the grass

Stones washed down the bank

Rufus inspecting the damage
We went into Maurs for the market and met Den and Caro who reported that they had lost their peach tree in the deluge.

I did nothing for the rest of the day although Jim put the pottery into the bin to fire and Dan and Amelia finished their fencing project.
Fired works of art
The Mayor and another fellow came and inspected the fencing over the bridge. They told Jim and Amelia that the commune's plan was to replace the rusty wire fencing with a decent railing - probably next year sometime.

Met Malek's sister, Yasmina. They gave us some lovely cakes, honey and fresh milk. They are generous people.

On Friday I finished the books and banking. Jim, Dan and Amelia finished odd projects around the domaine. Here is Amelia in charge of the tractor:

I went in to Figeac to get myself an outfit for the wedding next week. It is brown cotton and has all the fashionable pockets, plackets, ties and crumpledness necessary. You might get a picture later.

On Saturday we made another trip to Belcastle using the new GPS system I have bought. It keeps getting the lefts and rights mixed up! We got there and back but by a circuitous route. What a joker!
A nice meal again in Chez Anna.

In the evening we invited Malek and his sister Yasmina down for aperitif's. Amelia got to practise her French with them although the subject matter was largely about fosse septiques and plans d'eau. Malek and his sister had spent some time fishing for crayfish in the millpond and Dan and Amelia went up to the gite to look at them - there were quite a number and they were large and American of course. They will be eaten.

*The picture at the top of the post is an Octopus Stinkhorn Mushroom (Clathrus archeri). It is indigenous to Australia and Tasmania and an introduced species in Europe and North America. The young fungus erupts from a suberumpent egg by forming into four to seven elongated slender arms initially erect and attached at the top. The arms then unfold to reveal a pinkish-red interior covered with a dark-olive spore-containing gleba. In maturity it smells of putrid flesh.
Dan and Amelia spotted it along the nature trail - it would seem to be the only example. I joked that perhaps Bart (from Tasmania) had brought it to France on his boots!