There is something really nice about being able to walk from the door of the barn into Spain. Less than two and a half hours and 1000m of ascent carrying a sandwich and a salad for Breezy and you’re there. Generally it’s not the most interesting walk but this time of year the flowers are amazing. Also the birdlife, though never the easiest things to catch on camera.
We were lucky enough on the way back down to sit and watch a couple of goldfinches feasting on a thistle.
We also took a detour to go and look for the Eglise St Jean. This sign has been on the path for all the years we have lived here. We have never before even been curious enough to explore. This time we did. We found a pile of rocks with another sign explaining what the rocks were and a magnificent view of cascade Bege. In fact the site is a mere 10m from the path, and very interesting. From there we took the higher path round the back of our barn towards the village as a more interesting way home than the 4×4 piste.
Both the sandwich and the salad were delicious.
Early morning start to drive to Guzet for a trek up Pic de Seron. Having bailed on our walk last week we were hopeful to actually get some exercise. Deliberately not beasting ourselves on the first proper walk since the winter in Chamonix we went for familiar territory and not too much ascent.
Headed round clockwise via Etang D’Aube and on following the red markers towards the summit. We had forgotten about snow patches at this time of year and skirted round some by tackling some rock scrambling. Some however was unavoidable.
A quick snack on the blustery top as we scanned the horizon working out which peaks were where, then headed down to Cabane de Turguilla where we had lunch. On past the two lower Etangs to the ladders and back to the van.
A beautiful day with loads of wild flowers (all of which we have forgotten their names) and, we still have legs. Tip top.
That’s the first week at the barn done. We had a fun week, doing chores about the place. Nothing megga, and chopping and changing. A little weeding here, make a new base for some water butts, then a little more weeding. That sort of thing.
We knew before we went travelling that the batteries in the main barn had expired. New ones were delivered to Peter in Toulouse for us to pick up. Unfortunately one was damaged and so we are only operating with one at the moment. Another is on its way, and in the meantime we are trying not to abuse the one we have. So no pump for running water, all outdoor showers and minimise the internet and lighting. Fortunately we have a completely separate system for the Naughty Corner (the small outbuilding we first lived in) for charging bits of kit.
Also one of the water butts out the back was destroyed over the winter. We have replaced that with two connected together which will give us more capacity and secured them both to the wall so that they can’t get trashed.
Then apart from weeding and strimming, we have been planting the vegetable garden up. Made some blackcurrant jam yesterday and redcurrant jelly to come this week. Both are for the winter in the chalet in Chamonix.
We did try and go for a walk up towards Col de la Pause but got rained off by an impromptu storm within an hour of starting. Gotta get out this week for a hike and a cycle.
Shopping today – food for the next 10 days (all based on a menu plan as usual), a couple of DIY bits n bobs and some plants, mostly veg but some flowery stuff too. We always use a menu plan and there are always some new recipes on it. That way we don’t ever run out of food, we have very little waste and we get some exciting food. Also always on the search for new dishes for the chalet in the winter. The DIY stuff is for some new stairs between the terraces out the front and the plants have already been installed in the garden.
After several travel plans have gone to the shape of the pear over the last couple of years we have finally got away. Destination Nicaragua.
As per normal we planned to stay in different places and explore for a few days before moving on. Grenada, on lake Nicaragua, was a great first stop and eased us into the culture. It’s small enough to walk around and is steeped in history. Next was Ometepe, a small island with a couple of volcanos on the same lake. Much more chilled, superb people and some opportunities to explore. Climbed a volcano, cycled the island, saw capuchin monkeys, a calmen, and loads of plants which we have never seen before.
The plant life and the birds became a strong theme for our explorations. Next we headed up north to the highland and stayed at Don Chico’s farm. Don Chico is 84 and has carved out trails around the Penas Blancas. He is like a small child/mountain goat and is so keen to show folk around. We had two days walking with him and learnt so much. Then, as we were waiting for our lift to the next staging post, he got out his accordian and started playing music for us.
The Somoto Canyon was brilliant. We had a private guide (just two of us booked that day) and saw nobody else while there. Stayed at a cool little farm and saw loads of wildlife.
Last stop was the Corn Islands and Orinoco on the Caribbean coast. More varied food which was great. Amazing people from different tribes and a whole different history and culture. The most memorable day was Mothers Day when all the Mothers of Orinoco played baseball.
Travelling around was all on local buses and pangas (boats) except the Corn Islands which we flew to. All pretty easy and hastle free, though it took some getting used to how it all worked.
A fabulous country with such variety of people cultures and histories.
Met Sheri, Michiel, Lee and Suzie at the Col to head up to the Pic des 3 seigneurs. A couple of hours to the top where we had lunch before heading down to the south on a cairn marked path which took us straight down to the lake. Some people took a dip. Nice new variation for the descent. Managed to get back to the van just in time before the rain started.
It is a great hike for a short day as only 750m of up and 9km.
For over ten years we have had a composting toilet at the barn. In the bathroom there is a conventional looking toilet seat. This is connected to a base unit in the room below via a flexible black rubber tube (Poo pipe). There is a chimney vent from the back of the unit with another black rubber tube connecting to a PVC vent pipe on the outside of the building. In the ten years it has been in operation we have never had a problem with animals eating the apparatus. Either we have new critters, or the old ones are super hungry and have developed a taste for black rubber tubing.
When we got back from the North everything was fine. Then overnight both the tube connecting the shitter to the base and the vent tube were eaten through. Something had been on the base unit and eaten holes in both tubes. We do have a lot of mice at the moment and these are the prime suspects. The main barn is mouse proof but the base unit is in the workshop which has more holes than Dutch cheese. Having gaffa taped up the holes I put down some poison and a humane trap baited with a speculos biscuit. Ariege mice like speculos biscuits. We have some stale ones, and they seem to work, so maybe it is just stale ones they like. In the morning the poison was gone, as was the biscuit in the trap (but no mouse), and there were more holes in both rubber tubes. So, how did the culprit get into the trap to get the biscuit, and then get out again? Houdini. Next came the glue. I made a cardboard ledge to go over the base unit and applied mouse glue. This then had bits of biscuit added. The concept is that the mouse gets stuck on the board and then can be removed from the area. Next morning, biscuit has gone, no mice on the glue and there is another hole in the rubber vent pipe. More gaffa tape.
Breezy read that mice do not like spicy oil. As it happens we put about 50 cayenne peppers into some olive oil about 4 years ago. It is potent. So spicy oil slavered over the rubber pipes and another stale speculos biscuit in the trap. Next morning no culprit to be found and the vent pipe now has more holes in it than tube, and more gaffa than rubber. Maybe this critter is not a mouse? This critter could be a loir (door mouse). We have had loir before, though not the rubber eating variety. Last time Breezy found one in the drawer containing rawl plugs and it got tipped out onto the grass (along with the rawl plugs). I then took it for a long walk to a neighbour’s barn.
The rubber vent pipe has now been replaced with zinc down pipe and the main shitter pipe has an external plastic shield around the base. Let’s see if that gets around the critter eating the shitter. Now we just need to catch and relocate the critter.
Next day, no more holes and no critter in the trap. Either the critter has left (permanently, I hope), or the new adaptions have succeeded.
Initial holes in vent pipe
Secondary holes in main poo pipe
Critter eats holes in poo pipe
Glue trap set
Eaten and taped vent pipe
Replacement zinc tube and downpipe connection
Shield made for the main poo pipe