Another winter season in Chamonix is over and the next adventures begin. With a heavily laden van and a stow away from Chamonix in the back seat we drove down to Salau. The passenger was hopping a lift down to Justin and Emily’s pig farm for a “work away” and had been renting a friends flat in Argentiere for the winter.
We stopped with Rene and Anouk at the Auberge in the village for the first night. Fantastic food and warmth in a clean bed was much more preferable to getting to the barn in the dark with no power or heat and the unknown inhabitants from the winter months.
When we got to the barn the next day all seemed in exceptionally good order. No critter activity. No storm damage. We ferried kit up the hill with several trips of the Mucktruck in the warmth of the morning and connected all the electrics up. Then the weeding began.
The tasks, apart from making the place comfortable again, were to plant up the garden and unload the van. We also managed to chop some trees which were felled by the snow and burn them; build a chest of drawers which we bought over the winter, and the usual bout of strumming the grass.
Three great surprises were in store. First was that the torrential rain we had on the second day fell as snow to about 1600m. Second was a visit from Wilbur, well it was a huge Wild Boar about 40m away from the kitchen window. The last and most bizarre was a hoard of morel mushrooms. The van was packed ready to leave and we had ten minutes to try and find some shrooms. We found one in the same spot as we found one the previous year. It was a large one but alas on it’s own. As a last minute decision we popped over to another ash tree outside the barn to find the slope absolutely covered with morels.
Off to Toulouse to catch a flight to the UK to visit family and friends before an adventure in Madagascar.
Breezy’s Aunt and Uncle from came all the way from Australia and stayed with us at the barn for 3 nights. Frank & Judith braved the outdoor shower and the food for the duration. Adventures included; rabbit, chicken and chorizzo paella, a walk up towards Port D’Aula, visiting the church in Salau and the waterfalls near the barn.
Drinks on the helipad
It was great to see them both on such good form and share a little of our hideaway.
We are now into the last couple of weeks before we head off to Italy on a road trip. We have got loads done this summer even with our reduced time here. There is, however, an increasing list of things to do before we go and we still need some quality time “on the hill”.
We took a stroll up to the Cirque D’Anglade yesterday with the Bairds on their last day and found over a kilo of Horn of Plenty mushrooms on the way down which are drying nicely on the rack in the barn.
Got a door on the new outbuilding with a nice handle on box wood.
Gonna have to do some more copicing and plumb in the shower drain before too long.
Stevies rock and the outbuilding
The Bairds and Breezy at Cirque D’Anglade
Rainbow over Salau
Andy Baird has been a skiing client of ours in the chalet in Chamonix for over ten years now and this year he came to visit us in the Pyrenees with his family. They are staying at the Auberge in the village with Rene and Anouk for a week before heading to the coast.
They arrived in cloud and the next day the sun shone so we trundled up to the Port D’Aula. We all made it up to the Spanish border and the kids had a swim in the second lake on the way down.
Since then they all came up to the barn for a BBQ one evening and we are planning to go walking again in the next couple of days. Its FAB to meet the kids and spend some time in the mountains with them.
Looking back you occasionally remember life changing moments. Like when you got a colour TV (for those of a certain vintage). Some life changing moments here at the barn have been things like the fridge, being able to keep food fresh for more than a couple of days and chill wine without having to dunk the bottle in the river. Then we finally got running water out of the tap rather than having to use the outside tap.
Well now, our days of showering under a tree outside are numbered. We are still gonna be using a solar shower bag for a while but when the wind is cold and it is raining cats and dogs we are gonna have the luxury of showering indoors.
For the second year we have been invited to the Hunt and Fishing Lunch in the marquee in the village. As an a-political and free meal it gets a good turnout. About 150 people from all over the valley sit down on benches at trestle tables and eat, drink an’ chat.
Sadly we did not win the ham in the raffle but we thoroughly enjoyed the company and the fodder.
Afterwards we met up with Andy Baird and his family at the Auberge for a drink.
So far this summer, apart from Nicole and her family we have had a handfull of folk over to eat and some have stopped overnight. Last week we had Clive and his family over for the evening. We chose an Italian theme with salamis and salads followed by home made pasta and a trio of deserts. Clive’s son had brought over a Chinese lantern come hot air balloon which we set off and watched drift into the clear night sky. We had an outdoor fire in Ken’s fire basket and I got my fire clubs out and taught Matteus some simple tricks.
We also looked after Alison and Peter’s dog, daisy for a few days. It is amazing how quickly you get used to having a dog around and how you miss them when they are gone again. One day we shall get a dog again.
Daisy on lookout
We now have 3 buildings. The later Breezy has dubbed “The Man Cave”.
We have a roof of about 7 varieties of sedum and the bast thing is that we no longer have any scrap wood in the main barn. It’s all in the cave. Actually I think it is slightly bigger than the first outbuilding where Breezy and I lived for 4 years. Oh, the good old days.
Anyway it’s done (except for a door).
As we go on walks we will pick up any different varieties of sedum and add them and hopefully this time next year it will be smothered and be flowering nicely.
Stepping stones for planting and maintenance
Now 3 buildings
Sedum roof planted up
Daisy on lookout
Sedum roof planted up
Framed and finished
The start point was Port de Lers at 1517m equipped with a packed lunch, map, compass, camera and binoculars. We ascended from the carpark north as per normal to gain the ridge to the Pic des Trois Seigneurs.
The weather was fabulous with not a cloud in the sky. We passed a couple of people near the summit but other than that saw nobody on the way up. There were a few people on the summit who were heading down via the lakes but we were heading north again down the ridge towards an ancient hamlet of Goulets. A fascinating collection of granges and circular buildings with domed roofs similar to Bories. The roof structures were amazing completely made from slabs of rock in ever shrinking circles and covered in sedums.
From there we traversed back to the carpark via Col de Rose. Not great marking and quite a lot of shin scratching bushes but well worth it.
Panorama from the top of Pic des Trois Seigneursof
Shin scratching bushes
Inside the roof of a borie
The days are busy whatever the weather. We have lists. Lists of indoor things to do; outdoor things; internet things; food ideas for the winter; new recipes to try out; walks to do; emails to send. The tables are covered in lists and we really ought to start a list of lists so that we don’t duplicate.
Here’s a little round up in images.
Beautiful Barn door
Green room wall painted
Green Roof progress
New shelves in the kitchen
The ridge to Pic de la Fonta
Deer eating rasps
Worn out gloves
Green room pre-painting
Red day lily
Steps to suspended terrace (aka “the helipad”)