Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Maiden Firing!

Matthew and family arrived safely on Sunday after lunch and old favourites were quickly discovered.
Bo on the Walnut tree swing
Tess with her pony
New projects were started:

But not necessarily finished:
'Ray Mears' survival shelter needing more leaves

On Wednesday we all went to the animal park at Colombier. The weather was very hot but it is an attractive place and we had a good day out.

There were bears, lions, wolves, monkeys, deer and owls to be seen.

We were able to explore parts of the chateau:

After watching someone else do it the girls decided to fill their caps with water to cool off.

There was no restaurant but a shop serving drinks, ices and souvenirs and plenty of excellent pic-nicking places. Several games were available for people to play. Here is Tess playing chess with herself.

There was also a formal botanic garden but we were all so hot that we gave that a miss, sadly.

Last year Jim and Matthew started to build a Japanese Anagama kiln in the abandoned pumpkin field but after two days of heavy rain the project had to be postponed until this year. After several days of building it has been completed and on Thursday was lit for the first time. There were some pots made last year put in the kiln to test it's effectiveness.
An anagama (a Japanese term meaning "cave kiln") consists of a firing chamber with a firebox at one end and a flue at the other. Although the term "firebox" is used to describe the space for the fire, there is no physical structure separating the stoking space from the pottery space. The term anagama describes single-chamber kilns built in a sloping tunnel shape. 
The anagama is fuelled with firewood. A continuous supply of fuel is needed for firing, as wood thrown into the hot kiln is consumed very rapidly. Stoking occurs round the clock until a variety of variables are achieved including the way the molten pots look inside the kiln, the temperatures reached and sustained, the amount of ash applied, the wetness of the walls and the pots, etc.
Burning wood not only produces heat of up to 1400°C (2,500 °F), it also produces fly ash and volatile salts. Wood ash settles on the pieces during the firing, and the complex interaction between flame, ash, and the minerals of the clay body forms a natural ash glaze. This glaze may show great variation in color, texture, and thickness, ranging from smooth and glossy to rough and sharp. The placement of pieces within the kiln distinctly affects the pottery's appearance, as pieces closer to the firebox may receive heavy coats of ash, or even be immersed in embers, while others deeper in the kiln may only be softly touched by ash effects. Other factors that depend on the location include temperature and oxidation/reduction. Besides location in the kiln, (as with other fuel-fired updraft kilns) the way pieces are placed near each other affects the flame path, and, thus, the appearance of pieces within localized zones of the kiln can vary as well. It is said that loading an anagama kiln is the most difficult part of the firing. The potter must imagine the flame path as it rushes through the kiln, and use this sense to paint the pieces with fire.
The length of the firing depends on the volume of the kiln and may take anywhere from 48 hours to 12 days or more. The kiln generally takes the same amount of time to cool down.
A 'professional' Anagama kiln

Anagama kiln
1 Door about 75 centimetres (30 in) wide
2 Firebox
3 Stacking floor made of silica sand
4 Dampers
5 Flue
6 Chimney
7 Refractory arch
Showing the top opening for loading and removal of pots

Collecting mud/silt from the leat
Covering the top

Lighting the fire

The fire gets going
And so does the smoke

I have had no satisfactory answer to my query about who is going to stoke the kiln throughout the night!

Well, it wasn't stoked throughout the night and it was opened the following day after curiosity got the better of Matthew and Jim. Not good. The pots were not fired. Verdict not long enough in the oven and possibly not hot enough either.

Friday was spent feverishly packing the car, roofbox and trailer. I think I can even get a good many of my jigsaws back home.

Last week I had been contacted by Ray and Lindy from South Africa. They came via another Moulin blog where they had learned that the place was for sale. I replied telling them that we already had a purchaser and were hopeful that the sale would complete. However, mindful that 'there's many a slip twixt cup and lip' I agreed that we would entertain a visit from them on Saturday morning before we left.

They seemed to like what they saw and asked to be kept informed about the progress of the sale to Bernd. Malek also asked us this and I will endeavour to do so.

We left the Moulin du Clout on Saturday afternoon hoping to return in about six weeks to clear out the rest of our belongings and to hand over the property to Bernd. We have had some good times here as this blog will testify but I am not writing this as the end of the chapter until I am certain that it is. We may yet be back again next year although only for a few weeks in the spring. Watch this space!

It has been suggested that I carry on writing a blog about our adventures! in Cowbridge but I cannot imagine that they will have the same appeal as reading about our Cantal Capers.

I have decided that any additional blogging will be under my earlier blog www.underthevirginiacreeper.blogspot.co.uk and will feature any topics that I find interesting or activities that we have been involved with.

I will let Rufus have the last word.

The Calendar this year will either be Flora and Fauna or Portals.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fishing but not Feasting

View from the extended terrace
A trip to the Poterie du Don again today - (Sunday). We hope to get a replacement lid for the teapot brought from here as well as viewing the new exhibition and perhaps making a purchase.

These two by Emma Rodgers and the ones below by Elaine Peto:

And our favourite which we bought, also by Elaine Peto:

We met Den and Caro at the pottery with their family. 

Malek and his wife Christiane arrived Monday evening for a few days. I hope the weather is kind to them.

On Tuesday the students from Toulouse came to look at the fish in the river again. They came last year. They catch some of the fish, weigh and measure them, check their health and then put them back. Here is a picture of Malek showing them some his samples he caught fishing in the millpond.

Thursday market day and in the afternoon I sat on the terrace in the sun working out my rehearsal programme for Dangerous Corner. Very pleasant. 

Our granddaughter Joni phoned and told us she had shaken hands with the Prince of Wales! Something about he was visiting the area to apologise about a bomb being dropped on their village during the war!

We invited Malek and Christiane together with Caro (Den has returned to the UK for a few days) to supper on Friday. A good evening. Caro told us about the miserable day she has had. Apparently during the night a cow fell into their swimming pool, wrecking the cover, fouling the water and goodness knows what other damage. The farmer, who owns the cow is not insured, and has not even apologised.

I think Caro is demonstrating to Malek how the cow used the pool cover as a trampoline

And Saturday was spent sorting our stuff and beginning to pack the trailer. Our departure is starting to be a reality.

My stuffed animals have been packed into that large box - nobody loves them like I do. They don't need feeding nor do they create a furore when someone walks past the Moulin or knocks the door.

Despite the fact that it is July 14th today the village of Fournoules does not have a Celebration Supper as in previous years because no one could be found to organise it. So for the first time in 28 years - nothing! We are disappointed as we thought it would be nice to meet the villagers one more time before we left.
Harebell Campanula Rotundifolia

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Huffing and Puffling

The vide grenier on Sunday at Boisse-Penchot wasn't very good. The weather was iffy and that obviously discouraged people.
We remembered the place from our trip up/down the river last year. We went through the locks here.

Den (our British neighbour) has a lovely 2CV van which he left parked at the Moulin for a couple of days this week. 
He says it's an old post delivery van. It would seem that an extra bumper was attached to the rear of these vans (French driving!) causing the back lights to be realigned. It's great! I want one.

Progressed with the sorting and packing this week so no very exciting activities or outings to report. When I wasn't doing that I became engrossed with a live webcam situated down a Puffin's burrow. This is the site:

and these are some of the images I captured:
The little ball of fluff is the young one
There are two more live cams (click on top left hand picture) one of Puffins outside and one of an Osprey's nest. 
Puffin Loafing Ledge
A Puffin chick is known as a 'puffling'. 

Rained a good deal this Thursday and I used the time indoors  to prepare the gite for Malek who is coming on Friday or Saturday for a few days.

Vide grenier at Bagnac on Saturday and the day was dry and sunny. We had lunch first in the Commercial Hotel (although not the full works, Peter). I bought a proper copy (not a modern paperback) of Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome, in English and good condition for €2. We also bought this pub sign:

This too is in English, but what is the meaning of 'LIVERAII' on the righthand side and what was expected of the female attendants. It has been suggested that it is Irish from the 1920's but on what evidence hasn't been explained.
We though it would make a great prop for CADS. It just needs someone with a vivid imagination and the skill to write a play that could use it. 

Wildlife this week includes:
Burying or Caxton Beetle with an interest in Le Figaro
Only two weeks left!

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Jim and Rufus at the weir
Sunday - off to Cransac for a vide-grenier. We have driven through Cransac but never stopped here. It's a strange place - part of the Decazaville, Aubin basin and an area with an Victorian, industrial past and rather run-down looking. I got the following information from a web site, translated by Google from the French: 'A story with three faces, fruit, over time, the development of its three assets: the curative waters, the coal, the thermal gases.
Cransac Waters: The waters of Cransac know their heyday in the nineteenth century. At that time, they are known for treating diseases of the liver, while the steamers (small wooden huts) treat rheumatism. In 1805, nearly 4,000 attending hydrotherapy baths. Tour guides at the time Cransac place among the first spas in France. With the start of coal mining, the approach end sources: underground drilling and lead to the diminution of their flow. Waters cease to operate in 1888.
Cransac Mines: With industrialisation, the changing face of Cranbrook. Galleries are dug, huge heaps form, "discoveries" are emerging. Thirty mineshaft quadrille the village from north to south. More than 3000 workers work in the mines. After a century of mining, Cranbrook will be the first mine close to France in 1962. 
Cransac the Spa: The spa is reborn with the use of combustion gases from a natural underground in 1963. Acres of industrial ruins today suggest the way to a welcoming spa park and green.'
Well, you get the idea, but I'm not sure where the fruit comes in. We didn't try the waters.

Back to the vide-grenier - we couldn't find it and upon asking discovered it had been yesterday - we got the date wrong!

On the return home we explored areas we hadn't seen before and found this fort and clock tower at Aubin.

Tuesday - We couldn't understand where the bees were coming from in the kitchen until Jim investigated and opened the doors of the woodburner. There was a wild bee's nest up the chimney. Bees don't like smoke so we lit a fire to send them packing. A little while later we had a kitchen full of bees and smoke. We looked up at the chimney from outside and saw bees flying around the chimney tops to the woodburner and the cooker hood. We seem to have driven them from one chimney to the other. We are lighting a fire now from time to time to discourage their return to the first site and will keep an eye on the other one which is not so much of a problem.

The black redstarts which have been nesting on the mezzanine floor of the hanger have fledged and we have had to keep Rufus indoors to enable the young ones to find their wings, so to speak. Mother black redstart sheparded them over to the bank of trees behind the barn for safety.
We have spent several hours this week  listening to bird song and trying to identify the songsters. I have no skill at all with this. There is one call, Cyprien told us it was a bird, that makes one, dull repetative note all night long. It's very like a dripping tap. We cannot find out what it is, but we don't think that it is a bird. Any ideas on a postcard please . . .

Didier mowed the fields this week and had several hot days in which to do so. We think he probably got a couple of bales from them.
Grass cut and dried
Grass being baled
We found this in the River field after the grass had been cleared:

It is a deer skeleton minus the head and legs.

Saturday evening after eating out at 'Le Sphinx', the restaurant in the market place, we attended a concert in Figeac (Francis Mitterand Centre) given by The Blue Lake International Southern Winds Orchestra. This is a youth orchestra from Michigan, USA.
Not a good picture - taken with my iPhone and flash
As usual, there being no written programmes, we were unable to grasp the names of the pieces being played. During my interval visit to the cloakroom I asked two members of the orchestra what they had been playing - they didn't know! I got this information from their website: 'The 2012 Blue Lake Southern Winds, under the direction of Bill Monroe, is comprised of the instrumentation found in a traditional symphonic wind ensemble, with woodwind, brass and percussion sections. The group's repertoire will range from traditional American symphonic literature to orchestral transcriptions and classic marches, such as Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever'. We enjoyed it, anyway.

At the restaurant earlier Jim was persuaded! to buy a kiss from a strangely dressed girl. I think she was collecting for a charity.
Why is he looking at me?

Jim has been attending to the Nature Walk this week as it had become very overgrown and wet in places where the path has been breached by streams. Rufus hated the thistles growing in the grass.
Strimmed pathway

Cutting back the brambles

Water diversion
We like to send walkers from the campsite down the road on this loop - it adds about 15 minutes to their itinerary.

Spreading Bell-Flower (Campanula patula)