Fruit Leather

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Gooseberry and blackcurrant Leather ready for the fridge

Having made our own dehydrator, we have successfully made some fruit leather. Started with blackcurrant as these ripened first. Not a difficult decision.

So took some fruit and added some lemon juice. This is to help keep the colour apparently. put that in a saucepan and simmer until soft. Blitz that with a stick blender removing any big lumps. Taste and add honey if you want to. Spread this out thinly on a parchment lined baking tray and whack it in the dehydrator in the sun.

Leave it until it is no longer tacky to touch then remove it. Take it off the parchment, cut it up, roll it into, well, rolls, and put in the fridge.

Great hill food to accompany a sandwich and the internet seems to suggest it will keep for up to a month.

Incidently, we measured the temperature inside the solar dehydrator to be 55 degrees centigrade. Not sure whether that is good or not but it seems to work well.

Chemin de la Libertee and the Crete de Balame

Plaque at the crash site

Started at Col de la Core and followed the Chemin de la Libertee past the plane crash site and up to Col de Craberous. Lunch at the Col and then turned right and followed the ridge line which turns into Crete de Balame before dropping back to Col de La Core.

It was baking hot and possibly a little of a stretch, Over 1500m of up and 18km. Amazing flowers all the way. Oh, and there was still some snow.

Grand day out!

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Solar Dehydrator

Solar Dehydrator

With the fruit bushes laden and plenty of jam already in the cupboard for the winter season in Chamonix we decided to make a dehydrator. It is basically a box with a glass pane and some vents. There are a couple of shelves inside to put produce on. Pop it in the sun and the air in the box warms up. An air current takes the moisture out of the box and the things inside dry up.

Commercial versions use power and have knobs on with different settings. Ours is compact and made of scrap.

  • Wood is from the back of the van which we took apart last year
  • Hinges were salvaged from a caravan
  • The handle was on a door salvaged from Chamonix
  • Double glazed unit salvaged years ago from somewhere
  • Shelves salvaged from an old oven at the tip
  • Fly mesh for the vents, left over from making window fly meshes

First test was with some small tomatoes which needed using up. Within a day sat on the front terrace we had sun dried tomatoes. Next is blackcurrants unless the mushrooms start appearing first.

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Predjama Castle

What an amazing country to visit. Beautiful countryside, lovely wine and fantastic people. Mountains, lakes and coast. We planned to stay for a month, mixing camping with staying in small guest houses and apartments. We took the van and drove through Italy with mountain bikes, hiking stuff, camping kit and climbing kit.

A good place to start, especially when arriving from Italy, is the wine region around Kanal. Mountain Bikes are a fantastic way to explore the vineyards and the cherry orchards. The karst scenery is breathtaking with deep cut limestone gorges and caves.

On route to the coast we called by the Church of the Holy Trinity at Hrastovlje where the procession of death is painted on the wall. We had to phone the caretaker to let us in but we got a private viewing and explanation of all the medieval paintings. Outside there was a very bizarre gate to a paddock made up of wartime memorabilia welded together. We took a wander through to village and got chatting to a guy about a very old blue moped. He then turned round and asked if we wanted to see his private museum of wartime stuff. It was his paddock, garden and a room at the back of the house, crammed with anything to do with the first or second world wars.

Next stop Pirea on the coast. A touristy town with a wealth of history. All the historical plaques were in Slovenian and English. This is a theme throughout the country.

Inland again to a tiny hamlet near Cernica. On the way we took in a medieval castle in a cave. At one time it belonged to a “Robin Hood” style character who mocked the law and survived a long siege of the castle by getting supplies in through the cave network behind the castle. This only came to an end when he was hit by a cannonball while sat on the privy.

More exploring by bike and a visit to the wondrous caves at Postojna. Now I used to go caving for fun and take groups caving. This cave is incredible and so well presented as a tourist attraction. The guides are superb and all my scepticism about show caves has been blown away. Alas, no photos of the cave as I think they want you to buy theirs.

From here we headed north of the capital to Kamnick. We were lucky with the weather to get up to see the Velika Planina, highland pasture with old style herdsmans huts. Beautiful wooden structures in a series of tiny hamlets. We also jumped on a bus for a day trip into Ljubljana. The mountains here were holding too much snow and the weather was not good enough for much hiking so we then drove over to the Julian Alps, Bled and Bohinjska Bistrica.

Velika Planina


Triglavski National Park are stunning. It is very touristy and although it was out of season it cost more to park the car than drive it. Bikes are brilliant. There’s a plethora of climbing and hiking options.

Other places visited and well worth a mention.

  • The Bee Museum at Radovljica is amazing. Very interesting insight into beekeeping and the history of it.
  • Franja Partisan Hospital – Built in an inaccessible gorge this is an incredible insight into the organisation of the Partisans in this part of the world.
  • Kopa is a village famed for the production and working of iron. We went on a Sunday in the rain but it’s lovely to just walk around and see all the old ironwork.
  • On the way to Kopa we took a scenic route and stumbled across a memorial which appears to have been a battle site between Partisans and Germans in the second World War at Dražgoše.
Categories: Summer 2023, Travels Tags: Tags:

Spring flowers weeding and strimming

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Koch's Gentian

Having arrived again from Chamonix we had a week to get installed in the barn and set the garden up for the summer. It’s a great time of year full of little surprises. Finding plants amongst the weeds and giving them space to breath again after the winter. And let’s face it, when we say “garden”, we are actually trying to tame a bit of a field. We introduce plants that one would not normally find in a field and try to remove plants that should be there but are not to our liking. Then there are the critters. The slimy black ones that eat seedlings and salad crops and the big brown furry ones that eat the fresh tips off the fruit bushes and beats.

We have learnt over the years that going at it, full throttle, is not good for our bodies. These days we do a little of something and then do something else. Then go back to the first thing. One could do all the strimming in a day, or one can do a tank of fuel each morning first thing before it gets too hot, and take a week to clear the place. There are, of course dependencies. Clearing some weeds to allow some compost to be dug out of the heap before the fresh grass cuttings get put on the compost heap for example.

By the end of the week we had all the weeding done and plant supports in place for the flowers, all the strimming done and even managed a couple of walks. One over Pic de la Fonta, above Couflens, and the other, from the barn doing a loop via Bois de Lanette. The wild flowers were amazing.

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Billy meet Poppy

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The actual meeting was quite sad. Billy had failed a crucial exam due to one his wheel bearings being too clunky. We tried as hard as we could to find a technician to coax him through the test but not even his makers could rectify the problem. We found Poppy via internet dating and though not a perfect match we are going to give her a go. She is slightly deficient in the size department, much younger and requires a personal dresser (or pimping up a bit). She has the same number of seats and is going to be much more economical and less high maintenance.

We both shed a tear when we had to leave Billy behind as part of the deal. He was much loved and shall be sorely missed. We will have to change some of our habits to get along with Poppy which will be challenging. There will have to be less skip diving, or at least, more selective scavenging, as carrying capacity is less. We will have to initiate a cleaning regime to maintain Poppy’s good looks and hopefully avoid some of the corrosion which affected Billy so badly.

In time I am sure we shall learn to love Poppy just as much as Billy but for different reasons. Welcome to the Ski Breezy family.

Categories: Summer 2022

Last visitors of the summer

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Simon and Lucy started their road trip to Spain by visiting us on the French side of the Pyrenees. Originally clients at the chalet in Chamonix, they have turned into great friends.

Just three nights at the barn, two full days of getting out and about. First day we set off from the barn up to the Spanish border at Port de Salau. Simon turned round at one point and said that we had not seen any birds of prey. Five minutes later, vultures poured in from every angle and descended on to a recently dead cow. Amazing views of vultures in flight (a kettle), feeding (a wake) and sitting about waiting their turn (a committee). Near to col we found what has turned out to be an Oxen shoe. Lucy posted photos on a forum on the web and got several people confirm its identity.

Day two was a more sedate walk, picnic and swim by the river and a game of boule on the way home at Seix.

Categories: Summer 2022

Jack and the Broccoli Stalk

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As with guests at the chalet in Chamonix, we always ask what people eat and don’t eat. One of the things that Jack (Breezy’s nephew) preferred not to eat was broccoli. Jack had not had roasted broccoli before, and now loves it. This was fortuitous as we had rather a lot in the garden, ready to eat.

This was the first of many new experiences over the next ten days of his stay at the barn. Others included:

  • Climbing a 2,489m peak
  • Making (and eating) fresh pasta
  • Dry stone walling and step making
  • Foraging and cooking fresh wild mushrooms
  • Felling trees, chopping, splitting and stacking logs
  • Cooking dessert in a Dutch Oven
  • Playing qwirkle
  • Outdoor showers
  • Eating garlic at least twice a day
  • Survival without the internet
  • Planting trees
  • Getting big bertha rocks out of the ground
  • Brushcutting
  • Fire juggling
  • River dips and wild swimming
  • Shelf building
  • Living with two old fuddy duddies!

It’s now quite without you Jack. Thank you and good luck at Conaglen.


Categories: Summer 2022

Soubirou ridge walk

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The ridge behind us

One of our favourite walks locally and the ridge we see from the kitchen window at the barn. From Col de Crusous to Col de la Serre is an amazing ridge with fantastic views on each side spanning miles of the French Pyrenees. It is not technical though being sure footed is essential.

We liaised with a couple of friends from the village to do a car drop at the Gite in Rouse, above Couflens, the night before and picked them up early in the morning for a start from the mine above Salau. From there it is about 2 hours of walking up to Col de Crusous. Starting early means that you are in the shade for all bar the last bit of the ascent. After a short break we turned north to follow the ridge. We had a great day with almost perfect weather. Flowers, vultures, mushrooms and lots of laughter with friends.


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Neouvielle National Park 4 day Explore

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Early start from Camp 3

We’d been keeping an eye on the weather and looking for a 4 day window to get away with the tent into the mountains to a new area. Weather forecast kept changing but we had a plan to leave on Friday no matter what!

So when we woke to cloud and mizzle at 6am on Friday morning we were not impressed! However, the weather gods were with us and as we turned up at the parking area the sun was shining and continued to do so for pretty much the whole trip.

For those of you who do not know this area, we drove over the famous Col de Tourmalet en route to the parking a few km below.

WOW, what a stunning area this is and so pleased we got to see it at it’s best. Full of granite peaks, quite a few 3000m peaks too, pine forests and loads of stunning lakes and valleys each with their own different charm and beauty.

Day 1

Walking in from Tournaboup parking area up to the Coubous lakes area, quite a few day trippers about not as busy as we thought it may be. We took a small path up over a steep col de Mounicot before descending into the Glere area where there is a refuge. We were higher up than here and found a wonderful camp spot to ourselves on Lac de Mourele. Perfect for a dip. We also lucked out and saw a Chamois and quite a few marmots too.

Day 2

This was a big day as we were planning to take in Pic de Neouvielle at 3091m. We had spied the Col de Chausenque as a way up to join the main “toursit route” on the other side and hoped it would go. It was a steep boulder hopping 2 hours up with a 15 minute section of very loose and very steep terrain, not very nice! But the rest of it was OK. From there it was another boulder hopping route up to the summit. Quite busy mainly with Spaniards so we did not get the summit to ourselves but shared it with about a dozen others. Incredible views in every direction especially of Gavarnie. We were pondering a couple of different options from the summit but decided that with heavy packs maybe our scrambling plans were a tad over ambitious so we descended to Lac D’Aubert for the night. This is an official bivi site as officially there is no camping in the NP other than the 2 official bivi sites. As it was a Saturday we did not have the place to ourselves! But it was great to see so many people of all ages up there for the night, kids being introduced to camping in the mountains, climbers wanting an early start the next day, GR10 people. It was a quiet and chilled place even if it was busy. Did manage a lovely dip in the lakes which was great after a hard and long descent down.

Day 3

Another glorious morning and we were up and away by 8am after brekky and de camping and had the next 2 hours pretty much to ourselves as we passed over the Col D’Aumar and down into the Estibere valley with lots of pretty lakes before arriving at the large Lac de L’Oule, good snack stop here before joining the GR10 and yomping up to Refuge Bastan and beyond to the col. This was stunning with the lakes, fishermen were about and even some random ducks on one of the lakes! We had a quick lunch near the refuge before continuing up to a col with the hope to climb Pic de Bastan. It was just beginning to cloud over at the col and we looked at the way up the Pic and it did not look tempting at all, loose rock never great so we decided we would pop over another col and head to Lac de Bastan to camp. Good call!!!

Found a superb camp spot again to ourselves with sun till 745pm. As we got to the camp spot the clouds cleared and we had a glorious evening. Even Al joined me for a dip! Lots of marmot action and birds and of prey which we are struggling to identify! Think we are both looking forward to non dehydrated food again!

Day 4

Woke to an amazing morning, one of those mornings that you pinch yourselves and say how lucky are we! Blue skies all around us, cloud in the valleys below, wonderful light on the lakes and a peak to climb! A gorgeous walk up to Col de Nere and then a scramble route up to Pic D’Aygues Cluses, a small peak but a really gorgeous one. Sat at the top in the sun on our own taking in the wonderful surroundings. It could not have been nicer. Scrambled across the ridge and down the other side to the next col. We were on the shady and windy side of the ridge and it was freezing! Hats, gloves and layers went on for 30 mins till we got to the col to defrost!

The ridge ahead looked tempting but will have to wait until another day due to time. We ambled down the beautiful Aygues Cluse valley following the beautiful river on easy terrain. A new refuge is being built by the lake and looks like it will be open next summer with current progress.

Our final stop was by the river for a quick lunch before heading back to Billy.

Would highly recommend this area to anyone who enjoys hiking we loved it. And if anyone can help us identify any of the birds that would be ace.

A fantastic few days away with hubby and the tent, nothing could have been nicer. Re charged and pleasantly pooped!

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