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

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Social Whirl

Bracket fungus - not identified
A craft fair in Maurs today with a vide grenier in the school yard. What a treat.

We went to the vide grenier first as we didn't want to miss any bargains. No taxidermy, jigsaws or old photos but we came away with a junior potter's wheel and a dress pattern from the 50's to add to my collection for costume making.

The craft fair was good and we met Caro and Den buying a picturesque umbrella. We were very tempted but we bought Jim a new knife instead. The Auvergne is famous for it's umbrellas and penknives.
We had a coffee with Den and Caro who introduced us to a couple of other Brits Barry and Penny who have a house the other side of Maurs. 
Some of the artisans stalls:
A metal worker

Have a hat and slippers to match

Some curious clay figures

Caro invited us to supper on Friday - it is going to be a sociable week.

Damp on Monday morning and we were not sure if the wrinklies' walk would be on but it cleared up later and the afternoon became very pleasant indeed.

The walk started at the village of ? and it lasted a couple of hours or so - very enjoyable. At one place in the forest it looked as though a children's camp had been there during the summer as some of the trees had been painted with designs.

Here the party enjoy the view before returning to our cars and a picture of Jim, Rufus, Den and Caro.

I took a Lemon Drizzle cake this time and someone else took a Fouace. My goodness - this is going to get competitive. And talking about competitions Caro thought I might have taught Jim to play Bridge by next Friday. Ha! I haven't dared even mention it again to him. Anyway as we shall be six and Peter and Jennifer don't play it wouldn't have been much use.

Market day on Thursday - nothing special except this amusing little incident - chicken escape.

In the evening we went up to the village to an 'Apero' at Cyprien and Marie-Therese's house. Den and Caro were there together with Didier and Brigitte. The conversation was almost exclusively French and I found I understood a good deal but, of course, contributed nothing. Marie-Therese had prepared a good deal of enjoyable food which we weren't expecting and we had very jolly time. I wish I spoke French.
We collected Peter and Jennifer from Rodez airport on Friday and then all went to Den and Caro's for a meal. A splendid evening with much food, drink and conversation - all in English this time. 

Saturday - Den came for coffee and showed me how to use Calibre on my computer which is a programme for getting books onto my Kindle other than those purchased and downloaded from Amazon and the like. Then we went for lunch at La Planche du Souq. Excellent lunch sitting outside in the sun and after a conversation with the Patron learned that they had spent some time in UK. Nice people - we shall go there again, I think.

Types of wood used by craftsperson

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Big Welcome to Jeanette!

Got moving early and went to this:

It was a lovely day and the crowds were out. We thought it was the largest fete/vide genier we had been to and the journey to Boisset although winding is very attractive. As usual I was on the lookout for stuffed animals, old photos and jigsaw puzzles.

Jim saw these first -

- but in that picture there is one missing - the one I have already haggled for and have tucked under my arm Jeanette - the genet (Genetta genetta). 
As I walked about Boisset people called out to me genet, genet, pronouncing it Jeanette (Auvergnat dialect) so that became her name. It is a wild cat common throughout France and we have seen one here in the domaine. She joins Martyn and Martine, the two beech martens, on the mantlepiece. Great.

I also found this old wedding photo. I have been trying to workout the relationships. There are no clues other than the picture. The elderly woman on the right of the groom is presumably his mother (perhaps recently widowed as she is wearing black.
The other elderly couple may be the bride's parents but why is he sitting down but not her. Perhaps she is not the mother but another relative. It's all guesswork but the costumes are interesting and I love looking at the faces from the past and their expressions.
We had a bagette and a crepe for lunch. Here is the crepe making tent. They had a very effective production line going with six ladies all cooking crepes at once. It must have been hot work. They were delicious.

I quite fancied this as the dog looked like a whippet or a greyhound but it was €55 which was way too much and anyway, her feet were chipped.

When we had returned home Jim took the recycling stuff up to the village and also a bucket of walnuts for Cyprien, who told him that if we took him further buckets he would take them to the moulin (which one?) and have them turned into walnut oil for us. 
We also received an invitation to go and have aperitif/meal with them and Dominic and Brigitte next week. I shall have to practise a few choice chatty phrases in French. Oh dear!

Sometimes the day turns out quite differently to the way planned. I had expected nothing much to happen on Monday this week. Both Jim and I had projects and chores to be getting on with but then Caro rang asking us if we had details of the group walk. (They have a wrinkly walk here every Monday for several months of the year similar to the U3A ones). The outcome was that we went taking Rufus. A delightful three-hour, comfortable walk in the forest mostly, chatting to Caro and Den as we went and a smattering of French phrases here and there. 
Here are some pics:
Some of the he group as we set out
Sharing refreshments at the end - I provided Welsh Cakes
We have agreed to go again next week and also we have invited Caro and Den to supper on Friday.

Tuesday - into Decazaville to get supplies. Jim was tempted by a new strimmer as the other one keeps breaking down and the shop were we have been getting it fixed has closed down. 
I started washing the walls down prior to painting.
Thursday - Usual market day and the weather still holds but slightly colder and very misty this morning. We sat outside on the terrace having lunch. Here is a picture of Rufus enjoying a bit of the new decking in place. 

A few minutes later the post lady arrived in her yellow van and we had another of those comic turns where Rufus leaps up at the van barking furiously while she turns the van around. Jim and I are running back and forth trying to catch him and get him under control using bribes and threats or whatever. The post lady watches this circus utterly bemused. This time we thought we had him cornered down by the side of the gite but suddenly he dashes in through the open stable door and rushes through the mill into the hanger and thence round the house and up the hill after the disappearing van. I should think the post lady retales this event throughout the village. Last week we gave her a bag of walnuts in an attempt to buy her silence.
We saw a snake today during walking the dog around the nature trail. A Western Whip, at the end of the Redwood field as it meets the path near the beach. No camera with us but in any case it slithered out of site very quickly.
Good progress this week on the quilt front, the terrace and also made a start on the painting.

Caro and Den came to supper on Friday. A good evening but main course nearly ruined by early consumption of wine by the cook who failed to notice that the oven was playing up and changing the temperature willy-nilly. Fortunately everything edible. I served some of my previously preserved picked walnuts with the cheese course. They were pronounced delicious.
The question of Jim learning bridge was mentioned again so that we would have a foursome. He did not look enthusiastic.
The weather has now turned quite a bit cooler and cloudy. No more sitting out side for lunch.

I worked on the kitchen walls Saturday morning. What I have done is looking much better. Axel arrived after lunch to fix a little electrical problem and at the same time Jim asked him to look at the dishwasher. He has taken it away to look at it more closely.

Oh, and in case you are wondering I lost 4lbs last week. Onwards and downwards!