Category: Summer 2015

Tiling, Grouting, Fencing, Brambles, Mushrooms and Reminiscing

We have a few weeks until next guests arrive and in that time we also plan a week to explore the Spanish National Park Aiguilles Tortes so have been keeping an eye on a weather window to do that. Things to do before we get there were mainly tiling and grouting in the hallway and pantry area and to make the garden donkey proof as we have already had a few random donkey escapees!
So this all needs to be done in stages.

Fencing strategy…hitting in 30 odd acacia posts. We have got a good system going doing 6-8 a day so that poor Al is not exhausted. No way I can even swing that hammer let alone hit the post at the same time. Good technique though use the muck truck for height, Al balanced up there and things going in easily. So we got the posts in reasonably quickly.
Next step was to box the corners so we could tension the fence without ripping out all the posts.
Finally just 2 levels of wire around the enclosure using the good old muck truck again to tension it all up. We finally finished this after all the various stages on Tuesday, just as well as donkeys are due this week and some have made their way here already! Should make life a lot easier, solar panels should be safe and roses and vegs hopefully left for us to enjoy rather than the donkeys.

Tiling is quite quick but it is the leaving things to go off that stops play. Luckily we did a check of materials of tiles before cracking on and realised shortage of tiles was an issue so we came up with a funky tiling plan to use some porch tiles as an inset for the pantry area and we like it!!!!. So it was sections of tiles going down, leave to go off, build a wood bridge to get about inside and then grout the following day. Then start all over again. Nowt very exciting about tiling but we can now walk about downstairs in slippers big change from walking about in dirt!!!! Place looks bigger with all the wood now outside under cover rather than in the hallway and the is all looks lighter too.

Brambles are coming into full force so adds to our healthy fruit salad breakfast each morning plus lots of jam made for the chalet for the winter. Managed to beat the donkeys to the brambles too hoorah!

Found quite a few mushies too on our foraging and now preserved in oil instead of drying for a change. Lee suggested this as a better way to preserve mushies so we are giving it a go.

Sadly the rest of the week has been taken up with coming to terms with the very sad and sudden death of Al’s best mate Stevie who has visited us many a time here in The Pyrenees and in Chamonix. We have done lots of reminiscing, a few strolls to places he explored, bubbles on the helipad and thinking of lots of lovely ski days we have had with him. We have been meaning to do a Swedish fire (see piccy) for a while and one clear evening we decided dinner outside and light this flame and think of Stevie. We will miss him enormously but know the Swedish flame is something he would have loved. It is great, and the smoke goes up so no smelly clothes afterwards! Very easy to do. Bambino something you should try at Howe think you guys would love it.

So we fly back to the UK today Wednesday 26th August for Stevie’s funeral on Friday and will be back on Sunday. A hard few days ahead for us both.


Categories: Summer 2015, The Project

Social Week

So the last week has been lots of lovely social things going on but we did manage to get some tiling done at the beginning of the week. We had got some tiles for the hall way a few years back when traveling in Spain so it is good to start getting them on the floor and not cluttering up the porch. We cleared the area and cleaned the floor firstly and then after lunch had time to lay the first section of tiles from the red porch to the stairs. Doing it in sections means we still have access to the rest of the barn and the fridge! I was in charge of laying the glue and leveling the tiles, Al was in charge of cutting the tiles to fit the wall side. It all went down very quickly and looks good. 24 hours to let them set and then we grouted them after that. 2 more stages like that and the front hallway will be done but not on the list to do now as having friends over and not being able to walk on the floor is far from ideal!

We started the week with catching up with Lee and Suzie who are over for a month from the UK staying at their fab house about 50 mins away. Had not seen them for ages so plenty to catch up on. The sun shone and it was piping hot so we sat out on the terrace over a long BBQ lunch and heard all their news. They are moving here full time next summer so big changes there for them.

Wednesday was then a shop day as Nicole who I worked with in Meribel was due to arrive late pm with her family. So the usual run around like mad things in St G getting the laundry, shopping done and picked up 25 fence posts to start fencing our garden area at the back from the donkeys who I think will be arriving before too long to graze the land. Lots of prep and moving rooms etc as we decided to de bunk to the outbuilding so Nicole and gang could all be together in the barn. Their journey was some what longer than planned and we were beginning to get worried when no sign of them by 815pm. Al and I had started the wine and were playing cards when they peeped the horn at just after 830pm. It was a quick pasta for the kids and to bed whilst we sat outside with a yummy Al paella by candle light catching up. Late night for us!

Forecast had been dreadful for Thursday but actually after the thunderstorm at 9am for 40 mins it cleared and it was a sunny day allowing us to take the kids mushrooming and brambling after brekky with lots of success on both. Lunch provided by Nicole and the gang on the front terrace before Al and I had a siesta. Rain cam in mid afternoon so jigsaw became quite addictive. Roast chicken for supps and some Rummikub around the fire.

Poured all day on Friday which was far from ideal as Al and Louise Cham friends plus 3 young kids drove from near Perpignan to come for the day! A long day trip for them leaving at 7am and getting home at 11pm with only mist as views but we loved seeing them all. BBQ was indoors, Sauze’s chair hammock is a total winner for the kids they love it, Monopoly for the kids, chat and rose for the adults. We did see a small stag deer and then 2 fawns shortly afterwards out on the back terrace which was great. Euan their eldest is into fishing so waterproofs on and the fishing began after lunch…no success but the kids all seemed to enjoy it.
We got the kids fed and to bed and we just sat around the fire chatting and having a few bits of cheeses and leftovers from lunch to keep us going along with some bubbles. Such a shame it was such dreadful weather but hey ho can’t do a thing about that.
Louise and Al had a long trip back as the tunnel was closed so they had to go up over a col instead making a long day even longer!

Saturday weather was not much better so Nicole and gang headed to St G to the market. Al and I went for a forage. I had a cricked neck so took things easy in the pm with a 2 hour kip on the sofa whilst Al prepared fence posts. When they got back, kids cycled up to the waterfall and down to the cafe and we bought the van down to get them all back up the hill again after a couple of drinks. Caught up with Alison and Peter, Rene and Anouk and saw Didier’s enormous haul of Bolettes made ours looked tiny. His entire picnic bench was covered. Made our big hauls look tiny! Marinaded lamb and veggie risotto made by Nicole for supper and then Chinese Chequers by the fire.

Sunshine for Sunday which was great to see again after all the mizzle and rain over the last 3 days. Their eldest Sydney had a school reading challenge called extreme reading so up to the top of the totem pole in a harness she went in great style and sat very happily at the top reading her school book! Not wanting to be left out Bibi their 5 year old wanted to do it too and did brilliantly too, both natural climbers we think! Mum and Dad then of course had to follow. A quick walk up to the waterfall for Nicole, Al myself and the kids whilst Nick packed up the van for their onward trip to near Toulouse before heading to the Dordogne in their new camper should be fun and really hope the weather is better for them there.

Thanks masses guys for coming such a long way to see us brilliant to catch up again after so long Nicole and to meet Nick and the kids properly. Very excited about Nick’s advice on the water pump we could get. Al is on it already and we now have a water pipe in situ in the barn ready to accept in coming water and hopefully get the pump to work, will keep you posted!

Amazing 6 of us living here for 4 nights with bad weather but with being careful we have not eaten into any reserves on our solar battery storage. They were stars with turning lights off and not wasting water. Much appreciated at this end!

A relaxing rest of the day for us, some mushroom hunting, some bramble jam making, 8 fence posts in place, read my book in the last of the sun on the helipad, hot showers and wild mushrooms on toast for supper and in ned by 830pm. It has been a full on week.

Categories: Summer 2015, The Project

Foraging Fun

After our trip to Spain the fridge was bare so we headed into town after a chat with the Mayor who was on good form, a trip to the dechetterie to off load broken glass and rubbish. Food shop, hair cuts, a trip to a wholesale veg shop which was great and so much better than the rubbish supermarkets we have down here and back up the hill with 3 bags of laundry to dry! Luckily the weather gods were on our side and we got it all out and dried by the evening which was great.

Decided we would try our luck with a little foraging in the fields next to us and we have had 3 days of great fun finding huge stashes of bolettes which we have had with garlic as a starter, have dried a lot and planning a soup for tomorrow with today’s haul. First brambles are here too so picking those daily too.

Had a good sort of mushies on the helipad with G&T at hand in the sun perfecto!
DIY wise we are getting lots of little bits and pieces done whilst recovering and before we start the tiling which all being well will start tomorrow. Both side terraces now have been re varnished and looks heaps better. Only got the helipad to do now. Yellow porch is now all sanded and ready for paint, invertor re installed in outbuilding, half hall way cleared of wood ready for phase one of tiling, rhubarb jam is cooking, paths are strimmed, bracken is cleared again and the odd bit of painting done so all good.

Categories: Summer 2015, The Project

Spanish Explore 2nd-4th August

We bought a small hiking tent 2 years ago with the aim of heading off into the hills exploring and being self sufficient as such. We had been busy looking at maps to do a 3 day loop from the barn into Spain and back again and had come up with a plan. Forecast looked great for the first 2 days and overcast for the 3rd day so we thought lets just go.

Heavily ladened with tent, stove, sleeping kit, Westlers ration packs etc etc we headed off from the old mine area just above Salau and up to Coldu Crusous and up again to Cap Rhuos. We have done this walk before but with a heavy pack it was much harder going especially in the scorchio heat. Great views at the top into Spain and the lakes where we were heading.

Terrain at first for the descent was fine but then the path vanished, route finding became more tricky and the ground became super steep so it took us quite a while to get down to the main path below by which time we were well and truly ready for lunch. The Spanish Lake Estany del Port was busy with families doing a gentle walk up from the car park and swimming in the lake.

We found a great campsite spot just below the lakes right next to a water source area which made life easy. We got there about 4pm so quite a long day after starting at 830am but fun.

Had a lovely night wild camping, eating Westler Ration Packs and supping te. Nobody about and lovely views and a good nights sleep. A nice swimming hole 2 seconds from the tent so I could have a dip in the river and Al even got his feet wet!!!

Woke up to the alarm as we knew we had a big day ahead…..but had no idea just how BIG a day it was going to be. Porridge and tea and packed up and away by 8am and off we set. My feet had recovered so we were full steam ahead! What a stunning walk up to Mt Rouch refugio at 2300m, following a very picturesque river all the way up with stunning waterfalls. Had a snack break at the first lake just below the refuge before climbing up and up to all the different lakes, magical. Lunch at the top lake before climbing up to a Col. We  dipped down to a small lake where we had lunch and tried to work out where we were adn realised we still had another monster climb to go. hey ho best foot forward and actually the climb up was fine it was the descent which was a total killer. 1200m boulder hopping, scree slopes and steep terrain. I was fading rapidly and by the time we got to a river I plunged into it in the hope it would re charge me for the final descent. Some small route finding issue added an extra 30 mins to they day. We were very happy to get to the tiny road and see a sign saying refugio 1.7km when on the map it looked like 4km which was doubtful I would have made it! Anyway off we trundled and got to the Refugio Del Fornet at 745pm and can honestly say was very happy to be there. 15 mins later the heavens opened, thunder and lightning how lucky we did not get caught in that!

What a superb refugio warm welcome, took one look at me and gave us our own room which was a real bonus and then a suprb meal, mushroom soup, goat, sausage and patatas bravas casserole and apple strudle. A large glass of wine and asleep by 930pm!

Forecast did not look great for the final day but the gods were on our side. 6am hail and then thunder and rain by 930am when we left sunshine and glorious. Wonderful brekky of cheeses, hams, salamis, croissants and rolls plus lots of coffee for Al and we were off again. We were told about 2.5 horus up to Port de Salau from the refugio so when we made it in 1.5 hours we were chuffed. A warm climb up but stunning and very different from the French side. Got to the col in sunshine and 5 mins later the clouds came in. Not a problem as we know the route back to the barn quite well but after 30 mins we came out of the cloud and steadily climbed back to the barn.

Lots of fun except the last 3 hours of day 2!
Rest of the pm was sorting out kit, a dip in the river, hot shower for Al under the tree after he very kindly said he would cycle to the mine to get Billy. It is quite a long climb up after 3 hard days!

Had Keith and Lyn’s Christmas pressie for an early supper which can best be described as a pork shank. Already pre cooked so we raosted it for 30 mins in white wine and wild mushrooms and it was truly scrummy with herby rosemary roasties and veggies from the garden. An early night.


Categories: Summer 2015, The Project Tags: Tags:

Creative Pursuits

Since Breezys family left we have been on a bit of a detox. less wine and less food and some simple bits of DIY of a creative nature.

We have been experimenting with chalk paint effects on the big dresserf and some bedside tables. Made a lampshade from a reject turned wooden bowl of Ian’s. Also all manner of small odd jobs to provide variety.


Categories: Summer 2015, The Project

Breese family weekend

Friday evening and Breezy’s Father, Brother and his two eldest kids arrived for the weekend. Iain has been out to visit several times and stayed at the barn with us on the last couple of trips. Charlie has also been out with Becks but it is the first time for Emily and George.

So having shopped during the day it made sense to do paella on the first night. Though it had been drizzling on and off all afternoon it cleared up enough to have two burners going and the table laid for dinner on the new front terrace. One paella pan with chicken and prawns and the second with pork and sausages. Accompanied with some fine wines we had a lovely evening.

Saturday was overcast and the family were more keen to get stuck into some DIY than explore the area on foot. So the framework for a raised deck went up suspended on wires from the remains of a tree on the back terrace. With five people, a chainsaw, a couple of hammers and tape measures it all went up quite quickly. The evening was not as nice so dinner of roast chickens, herby roast potatoes and stir fried veggies from the garden. Needless to say, accompanied by more wines.

Sun woke us up on Sunday and everyone was keen to get the deck finished so after breakfast the tools came out and the decking planks were applied. A baking hot day with BBQ sausages for lunch on the front terrace, a dip in the waterfall for those more hardy than I and a bottle of champagne on the new deck which has been named the helipad. Down the valley for a cheeky beer or wine and catch Rene and Anouk at the Auberge before BBQ duck breasts, salads and yet more wine.


Monday and the family had flights from Carcasonne to catch mid afternoon which only left time for a couple of heavy lifting chores for George and Charlie before they headed down the valley.

A huge thank you to the whole gang for a great few days and all the help with DIY. See you all again for the Scorpio party in October!

Categories: Summer 2015, The Project

4 days with Lanester!

A boiling hot day on Monday when we went to St G and to collect Laney. We had got a few chores done when we found out that Laney was on the wrong train and so we decided to go to Boussens and get her or it would have been 2.5 hours of her having to hang around. Great to see Laney again and we were hoping the weather would stay good for some walks and explores with her.

FAB news on the way back we stopped at a little electrical garage which sorted out our cable issues for the solar panels. That night we had our first visitor to stay in the green room and all seems quite comfy. Beautiful evening so paella and fizz on the front terrace.
Next day was a leisurely brekky on the terrace, a good catch up for the girls whilst Al sorted out the new cabling for the new batteries…..we have lift off, power means lights HOORAH! Ian had suggested a gentle walk we wanted to try out just above his old village of Boussans so as it was so hot we opted to do this and then try out a swimming hole on the way back just out of Seix. The walk was very easy but gave beautiful views of the Pyrenees which was a nice change. Cracking dip in a new swimming spot on the way back before trundling back to the barn. More bubbles and salmon for supper with  salads perfecto.

The  mist rolled in the next day so Al opted to stay at the barn whilst Laney and I headed off to Port D’Aula. An easy walk and route finding so a good bad weather option. We made it to the second lake when the mizzle began to get worse so we opted to return from there. No views but some good exercise and of course plenty of chit chat. A drop off at the Auberge for a drink before back to seeing Al. He had had a fun day in the garden pottering and doing lots of little bits and pieces as well as working on websites for a client for most of the am.

Night inside with roast chicken and salads and rummikub hoping for better weather tomorrow.

Laney’s final day and the loud level was down but we set off with the aim to do the Cirque de Cagateille loop. Most of the way up was just in the cloud, sun trying to get out but never quite getting there until we got to the lake and it cleared with the clouds swirling in and out. Due to the not great vis we opted to return the same way rather than the loop on. On the descent we managed just to stay in the sun all the way down with the clouds gradually burning off, giving amazing views. Laney and I had a dip just below the parking in the river which is good for the old muscles. It was quite late so so decided to have drinks back at the barn with marinaded chicken and lovely salads. A nice finale for Laney. We were not late to bed as we had an early start the next day to get to St G to drop Laney, do the shopping and get the place turned around for the arrival of my family. Lovely to see Laney out here again and hoping Hoggster will join her next year too????


Categories: Summer 2015, The Project

Sweet Chilli Chicken

A great marinated chicken for the BBQ. This is enough for about 4 people.

Prepare the marinate with –

  • A fresh chilli chopped
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 4 tbsp runny honey
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp lime juice

We prepared the marinate to day before and marinated the chicken for a couple of hours before cooking. You can either use boneless chicken thighs or with the bone but then scissoring the meat up to the bone.

Cracking Progress

A social start and end to the week. Alison popped up for coffee on Monday morning and then Monday lunchtime we were invited for an apero with Didier and Vero in the village. They bought a run down house on the outskirts of Salau and renovated it beautifully. Thin and long they have made a fantastic use of the space. At the end of the week we had Ian and Nine over to ours for lunch. That worked out well within getting Billy (the VW) into the garage for a new thing to be fitted to the front end. Breezy drove to the garage in Seix and they picked her up and came up to the barn and dropped her off again in the late afternoon. Lunch was great fun with marinated chicken and sausage off the BBQ with a lentil, green and a potato salad; all taken on the front terrace under parasols to be cool enough. Then pineapple marinated in rum, honey, lime and mint with apple yoghurt cake followed by coffee; taken indoors due to the torrential thunder storm.

On the DIY front we have been applying lime mortar to seal partition walls to the stone walls and generally trying to make the place more animal proof. So far the red bedroom and the far porch have been completely pointed up with mortar. The green room is now completely plasterboarded out, joints filled, sanded and pointed. All the electrics for the green room lighting are in place awaiting fixtures and switches.

Generally there has been a lot of cleaning of both the barn and the outbuilding. The outbuilding in preparation for guests and the barn as a result of living above a building site.

Food wise, we have made another batch of red currant jelly. The BBQ has seen some action with pork, sausage, chicken and duck on different days and we have been experimenting with different salads and stir frys with produce from the garden. The garden is great and the food has so much flavour. I have taken to slicing radishes really thin in salads as they are too hot to be chucked in in chunks.


We are definitely note late birds. Still using the old battery, to work the fridge which is all it is capable of doing, we are on candle power. We may have a hand of cards or a read in the evening after dinner but usually we are in bed early. Things will change again in the next week as Ian has pointed us towards a shop in St Girons where we can buy the cables we need for the new batteries and we will have guests from Monday for a week. So electric lights are gonna be on, alcohol consumption is gonna go up and bedtime is gonna get later.

Categories: Summer 2015, The Project

Jam making

Tuesday, after the usual breakfast of fruit and nuts (and a litre of coffee for me) we set about picking the blackcurrants and gooseberries from the garden. Then it was the blackcurrants to be made into jam. Odd little jobs indoors while the jam got to setting point and a late salad lunch. Re-varnishing the front terrace decking and then a big water of the garden as it has been so hot. Supper of Malay chicken with a pineapple and cucumber salad, delicious.

Weds – and an overcast day which is actually a great relief. We have been using so much water recently for the garden and with no rain to replenish the water tanks we are well over half way down. The forecast is for sun sun sun so we took the cooler opportunity to ferry some more water up from the river into the rain water tanks. We could have risked it and carried on but the thought of having to fetch water in the heat persuaded us to get on with it. In the afternoon it was the turn of the gooseberries to be made into jam. Again while waiting for the jam to get to setting point we made up a couple of picture frames which my Father had prepared in the UK. Later on we used up the last bits of plasterboard in the walls down stairs and started a list of additional materials required so that we don’t end up with surplus once the walls are finished.

Thursday and it is play time out the back. A couple of years ago we cut down the huge pine on the back terrace leaving just an 8m stump. The plan is to build a platform around the tree as another outdoor area. We still have some joists left from the front terrace and some decking so a long morning was spent designing the construction and adding to the shopping list for additional materials required. When it came to using a chain saw we discovered that the mice have been nibbling the oil plug which no longer seals the hole. Fortunately the second saw is still intact but an additional item went on the shopping list for the next day. Tomorrow is shopping day so the rest of the day was spent creating a comprehensive shopping list by shop and in the case of food a menu for the next ten days and associated shopping required from different departments within the shop (fruit, veg, dairy, dried etc).

Friday – An early start again complete with trailer and a single sheet of A4 as the list. Garage, chainsaw shop, builders merchant, bank, laundry, hardware shop, sand merchant, back to the laundry, DIY shop and then lastly the supermarket. We ditched the wood mill to collect fence posts as the was a slight concern about overloading Billy (our new VW). Lunch of fresh prawns and garlic mayonnaise with rustic bread on the front terrace before unloading the building materials. Last to be unloaded was the wood and plasterboard off the roof. Fortunately as we were about to unload the wood a tall Dutchman walking past offered us a hand which we took. As Breezy and I unloaded a sheet of plasterboard it came up the hill and was immediately screwed to an area of wall. By the end of the afternoon all had been unloaded and the internal walls completed ready for skimming. Showers and off to Clive and Giselle’s for dinner. Fabulous food and flowing champagne from where they were grape picking when they first met.

Categories: Summer 2015, The Project