Category: The Project

Port de Salau

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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.

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Have they got legs

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Etang D'Aube

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.

Categories: Summer 2022, The Project

All in the mix

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Jam making

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.

Categories: Summer 2022, The Project

Pic 3 Seigneurs

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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.

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Frechendech and Tuc de Bouc

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An early start to meet Lee and Suzie and share travel to Frechendech. Not too hot a day made for perfect hiking weather. We set off up the river valley, slowly ascending to the dam below the Refuge D’Araing. A quick scooby snack and a coffe at the refuge and on up to Tuc de Bouc. Great views. Frome there we dropped down to join the GR10 and descended via the Chapelle D’Isard and back to the van.

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Air crash

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We collected Michiel from his place in pea soup cloud and parked at Col de la Core still in the clag. Headed off on the Chemin de Libertee through the woods towards Cabane de Luzars. Once out of the woods we appeared above the surging sea of cloud. It seemed like waves crashing against the mountain and flowing over the ridges. Completely amazing and lost in photos, we could have watched it for hours.

From Cabane de Subera we headed up past the Halifax crash site and on to Col de Craberous at 2382m where we sheltered from the wind and took lunch.

We traversed the ridge to Tuc de la Messe and descended to a low Col to enter the Eychelle Valley. A dip in Etang Eychelle on the way back to Col de la Core.

A lucky call with the weather for an 18km loop above the clouds.

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First visit in a while

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Laney and Hoggy are our first visitors (except for locals) since COVID. Laney has made the trip a few times in the summer but never before with her husband. After a cycle around some vinyards in the St Emilion region and a visit to St Sebastian they arrived (with wine) at the barn.

An action packed few days included a hike to Cabanne D’Aula and some horseplay, mushroom foraging and boule, Pic de Seron loop plus some playing with fire and star gazing.


Categories: Summer 2021, The Project

Pic de Trois Compte to Barlongere

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We have been holding off from heading away for a couple of nights waiting for a weather window. One finally arrived so we licked up the rucksacs and drove to Col de Pause. The plan was to head into Spain via Port D’Aula and traverse to Etang Long near Mont Valier to camp. From there, after an early start, we could gain the frontier ridge by the Pic de Trois Compte. Nip up there. Then follow the ridge to Barlongere. Head down to Trauc de Lesc and then descend the Spanish side to stay in the refuge Montgarri.

All went smoothly on day one and we got a prime camping spot by Etang Long where the water flows out to head down to Etang Rond. We did get to see one Isard and a couple of Marmots en route. Day two went well all the way to Barlongere. We met nobody and had amazing views into France and Spain. The tricky bit came getting down to Trauc de Lesc from Barlongere. When the ridge became knife edged and I was crying for the lack of a rope and harness, we bailed onto scree covered slabs of friable rock to descend steeply onto Spain above cliff bands. On reflection this was the limit of acceptable challenge and was far removed from any comfort zone we previously enjoyed. We were rewarded by a herd of 40 Isard near th Col of Trauc de Lesc. Strangely there was no path to follow down the valley to the refuge so we just made our way down.

The refuge was seeing off the last of the lunchtime guests when we arrived. What a great place. Friendly, good food, funky rooms and a brilliant breakfast with garlic and tomatoes. We spoke to the guardian before we left who was alarmed to hear that we went down to Trauc de Lesc. He said that it was famous for the military during the Civil War shooting all the escapees who left Spain via Port D’Orla.

Day three started with a hike along the 4×4 track to Borda Pedrosa where we headed back up to Port D’Aula and down into cloud filled France. The cloud reached to within 300m of the Col and stretched as far as the eye could see. We found the van in the cloud and headed back to the barn. Job done.

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The shitter eating critter

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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.

Categories: Summer 2021, The Project

Chamonix Visit

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We had appointments to attend at the Prefecture in Annecy. They wouldn’t do us both on the same day so we had 4 nights in Chamonix between appointments. As getting there provided an opportunity to see different parts of the country we had 3 nights in Buis les Baronnies on the way and 2 nights in the Tarn on the way back.

Buis has always been a favourite of mine as I used to climb there every Easter about 35 years ago. Breezy had never been but was keen. It is still beautiful even though it has been developed massively. As well as building, the climbing has been developed as well as walking trails, via feratta and VVT (Mountain Biking). We camped, climbed, biked and explored the restaurants in town.

Chamonix was staying with friends, Sauze and Patrick. Walking over the Derechoire on the Fiz and climbing at La Joux. Also managed to catch up with other great friends while we were there as well.

The Tarn was new to us both and we decided to drive through the gorge du Tarn, stopping to explore a couple of the towns with a view to returning out of “tourist season”. The whole area is beautiful with loads of scope for climbing and biking. We will be back.

Categories: Summer 2021, The Project