Saturday 24 September 2011

Le Mont Fourcat

We have enjoyed another week of wonderful sunny weather, but the rain of the previous weekend freshened up the air so it has been perfect for cycling and walking. On Tuesday we did a local bike ride which took us along a ridge with wonderful views of the 3 summits of the Montagne de Tabe, which we can see from La Maire

On Wednesday, we decided to climb to the top of Mont Fourcat, the Western-most of these peaks. After an hours drive to the parking area, we started walking up through the forest on an easy path. After a little while we came out into the open and completed the gradual climb to the summit which took 2h 15mins in all. The views from the summit were really excellent - it felt as though we were on top of the world with a 360 degree panorama, taking in the Mont d'Olmes ski area, Foix and Pamiers to the North, as well as far-reaching views of the Pyrenees stretching West and South towards Andorra.After a picnic at the top, we made our way back down, arriving eventually at the car with very wobbly knees!!Some photos of our bike ride and walk can be seen here

Other news this week - we have had guests in the suite and have enjoyed eating with them in the evenings. Last night was warm enough again to eat in the garden. My dancing 'rock' dance class has re-started-more of a challenge this year as I am in the 'advanced' class, but everyone is very patient and willing to explain things several times over so I can understand!! Our quince tree has produced 3 fruit - enough for 4 jars of jam!!

Sunday 11 September 2011

Making charcoal

A different and interesting week!
To complete his course in metallurgy, Jean Paul has to make a quantity of charcoal using traditional methods. This involves collecting the wood and then building a fire which gently smoulders over 1 - 2 days to convert the wood to charcoal. A large quantity of soil, grass and ferns is required to cover the wood and allow just enough air to enter. It needs to be constantly watched while it smoulders to prevent the wood from actually catching fire and burning to ash. Jean Paul lit the fire in his Mum's garden on the Wednesday morning and camped out all night to keep watch over it. Dave and I went to watch the grand opening and it was rewarding to see that it had worked - a huge pile of perfect charcoal! The next job is to build a kiln (in our barn) in order to extract iron from rock. This is quite a complicated but traditional and effective process, so we will look forward to seeing it put into practice over the next week or two.
There are more photos of the charcoal fire here

Also this week, the swallows have been very active. There are hundreds of them in and around the garden, seemingly attracted by the swimming pool - we love watching them swoop over the water for a drink. However, they also appear to be gathering en masse in advance of the winter exodus. On several mornings this week, we have seen them lining up shoulder to shoulder (wing to wing!!?) on the electricty cables - quite a sight!
We have also had some really beautiful morning mists with the slightly cooler mornings - always well worth a photo or two!

We have also enjoyed having more guests here this week, both from Berkshire and Wales, and spent a couple of entertaining evenings with them all over dinner. We have had a good week of warm and sunny weather and it is still warm enough to eat outside most evenings.

Monday 5 September 2011

5th September

Odile from the farm told me last week that they would be killing the ducks on the Wednesday, and if we wanted one, we should let her know. Sure enough, we went up to the farm on the Wednesday afternoon and purchased both a duck and a chicken for the freezer. We had noticed on the Wednesday morning that the ducks were all over our garden, on the walls, on the roof tops....and assumed that they knew what was coming and this was their last taste of freedom. However, it turned out that these ducks did indeed know what was coming and had the initiative to escape - so they have a few more weeks of life left yet! This pleased us a bit! Although we were happy to buy a fresh duck for the freezer, we had seen them as babies about 4 months ago, so seeing a few of them grab a little longer to live was quite satisfying!
However, as can be seen in the photos above, the next brood are already out enjoying the freedom and fresh air! So although their lives are short, they are happy! C'est la vie!!

Sunday 4 September 2011

So as promised - the pool landscaping so far! Just the bottom left-hand corner still to do. Dave has put in some steps and paving slabs as well as filling the area immediately surrounding the pool with pebbles, bordered by kerbstones to keep them in place. This is the best option at the moment while the back-filled earth settles, which can take a few years. It is good to prevent the grass growing too close to the pool edge as well, because cutting it has proved very difficult without filling the pool with greenery!
The whole area looks much more finished now - and very 'beach-like'! We have had some warm sunny days this week as well so have been able to enjoy it as well.

We are still busy with visitors during the coming week, and despite a rather overcast day today, the weather is still looking quite promising, so they will hopefully be able to see the area at its best - and the pool will remain in use until it just gets too cold!

We managed another bike ride one morning last week, and I have been finding some time to paint - see one of the results above. It is proving quite a challenge capturing the unique light of the landscape here. It changes constantly. I love the way the mountains get progressively paler as they recede into the distance, and the summits are nearly always topped with a few bits of cloud. The sunflowers are being harvested now, and the corn will also be taken down in a week or two depending on the weather. However the figs are ripening - so it will soon be time for more jam making!