samedi 4 juillet 2015

All cry and no wool

At about this time of year, it`s time to shear our sheep, to transform them from balls of fluff, like Toto in the top pic, into slim, greyhound-like animals.... It`s a major task for us and we undertake it at a rate of one sheep per day. we have a set of proper electric clippers, given to us by a family who had retired from sheepkeeping although for the first year or so we used Kim`s dressmaking scissors.
   First, you have to catch your sheep. Luckily, ours are fairly tame and wear dog-collars, unusual in sheep circles. you offer them some grain in their usual pan and make a sudden grab. They soon become wary, though...As you can see from the shot of Kim dealing with Rosie, you then attach a lead to the collar and set to. My contribution is to hold the sheep still, not so easy as it sounds. Rosie and Toto have horns which act as convenient handles, Segoline, the matriarch, is hornless but of a more docile nature. Professional shearers upend the sheep onto its bum, we have never succeeded in this. Nevertheless, the sheep is gradually relieved of its fleece with the shearers, which are like a heavy electric clipper for humans, final tidying up and cutting round `ticklish bits` being carried out by the scissors. Finally, the animals are transformed into the slimline creatures in my later pics.  

  Indeed,Rosie`s transformation seemed to arouse feelings in Toto, the ram, which you would have thought safely suppressed by his castration a few years ago. He began to chase her `nude` form round and round the field, though what he would have done if he caught her remains problematical... On the other hand, when he was stripped in his turn, the two ewes looked at him with surprise and scorn, transformed from a lusty Rastafarian to a replica Labrador in a single morning!

  The shorn-off wool we just throw out, its full of grease, and not easy to transform into garments. If anyone fancies trying, let us know by next year, you would be welcome to it! we did try putting it on the veg plot, we were told it would rot down--it didn`t, just clogged the Rotivator blades...

  Bye for now, lunch-time...

Crisis on the i-Pad

    We are now settling into normal life in Deux Sevres after our hols at Aucun and Orthez, but a crisis reared its head soon after we unpacked. The charger for the i-Pad had been forgotten at Arlette's house in Orthez! Luckily, the machine was fully charged and could be used for three or four days, but I was pleased to go to Ruffec and buy a new one at LeClerc. I have grown very used to it's convenience and find the old Apple desk-top computer very slow now. The only problem is that my photos are held on the main-frame machine and if I write the Ark on the pad, I tend to use old shots available as previously used on the Ark.... Lazy I know but there it is.....I shall have to make the effort and load some more up to date ones.
   A further minor tragedy occurred this morning-- my loaf from the bread-maker failed completely. I suspect the paddle jammed and have started a new one which seems to be progressing normally. I'll keep you posted...

  Bye for now, breakfast calls.

samedi 27 juin 2015

French as she is spoke

   As I said in my last blog, we have been in a French-speaking environment this last week,which has led me to consider the question of speaking this tongue. I realise you have never finished learning, more vocabulary is acquired, possibly a better or at least a different accent is picked up... I have found myself this week sounding the final mute syllables on words ending in e or ent, as the locals do but not the more Parisian French. I hope I don't pick up the local way of pronouncing words like 'pain or domain'  as paing or demaing, which to my ears sounds harsh.
   The locals also have their patois, incomprehensible to outsiders when spoken at breakneck speed. Nevertheless, when I have seen it written, I feel it often resembles mis-spelt French, although I am sure the locals would take issue with me. It seems like Devon or Tyneside dialect, a few 'new' words but really recognizable as a variant of the parent language. Not at all a separate tongue like Welsh or Breton.

 Oh, that's it, the I-Pad has warned me of low battery, I must wind up these musings...Bye for now!

jeudi 25 juin 2015

The Ark is in the mountains

   Once again the Ark has moved to the Hauts Pyrrenees for our summer stay at the Colonie Vers Les  Cimes. I would refer you to my posts of last summer for further details, suffice it to say we has profited by genial company, a little Bible study and loads of walks in beautiful mountain scenery. You will have to wait til I return to my computer and load the pics I have taken this year before I can show you scenes we have visited, but we have really seen some lovely country. We have
 also spent the whole week speaking French, so much so that I almost started writing this review in that language. Perhaps I should publish some numbers in French to enlarge my audience a bit, s'il y a des français qui lit celui-ci, prière de me signaler! Thinking further, I suppose that this is perhaps unlikely.....
   In fact this blog is being written neither at the Colonie nor at La Mort Limouzin, but at Orhez, chez our good friends Arlette and Laurent, who have an old farmhouse and an enormous elevage of meat chickens, some 15000 birds who sleep in great arks but can roam about during the day. We are here

til Monday, leaving our house to our very capable house-sitter, Bruce. It always gives us pleasure to spend a few days in their company and eases the wrench in leaving our summer-camp.
   I noticed when I signed on to Blogger, that I have not written an Ark since the first of the month of June, whereas it's now the twenty-fifth, not what you could call regular! It's strange, sometimes you have the urge to blog, and sometimes there doesn't seem to be much to say... Still, I must make the resolution to be more regular, even if it is to keep in touch, as one of my readers sent a mail to enquire if everything was ok.
   We have had a vintage camp this year for the weather, fine every day, and even now the sun is blazing down and it will be a very hot afternoon. I hope all of you are equally lucky.
   Right, must finish now, dogs to walk. Everyone else has retired for a siesta!

      Til the next time, hopefully soon!

vendredi 1 mai 2015

A new Noah's flood?

   It wasn't a very propitious start to May yesterday, with the day dawning with heavy rain, which soaked us on the early dog walk. When I went down to the field to give the sheep their morning corn ration, I found their feed bowls almost full of water-- I use these as a make-shift rain gauge, and I estimate that there had been over three inches of rain overnight. This was confirmed when we went to Chef Boutonne in the afternoon, and saw some flooded fields along the route. It was so damp and miserable that I was tempted to light the wood-burner, but couldn't face this admission of defeat, so I compromised by getting the gaz stove in and lighting that. I saw that our neighbour Phillipe had given in and relit his smokey central heating furnace, which bizarrely is on the other side of the road from his house.
  It rained all day, unusual for France, and today is not really much better, though the rain is now just a mist in the air. I do hope this isn't a forerunner of a wet summer...we could do with a resumption of our normally hot, sunny summer weather we used to be able to count on. Still, we are unlikely to suffer water shortages, I suppose....
  Bye for now, the coffee machine has finished, I'm going to enjoy a cup.

Well,the hole truth

  I have blogged before on the Ark about the legacy left in the stones of this old house by its former inhabitants over its very long life, probably more than three hundred years. We have noticed blocked up doors and windows, attachment points for halters and bridles, old mangers and pigsties...but this afternoon I happened on something even more dramatic.
  I was strimming the grass in front of the buildings, when suddenly the ground gave way beneath my feet. I staggered back, dropping the strimmer and supporting myself against the stone wall of the building alongside. On inspection, I found that a stone slab hidden in the grass had split into three pieces, revealing the mouth of an old well, obviously blocked up many years ago, for our elderly neighbour had never mentioned its existence
 The well was round, of stone, faced with cement, and quite narrow, only about two foot six wide. My initial fright was needless, as it was blocked a couple of feet down. the previous owners must have found it handy to water the animals in the buildings just behind. I was tempted to dig it out, a source of free water for the garden would have been worth having, but the thought of digging at the bottom of such a narrow hole to a considerable depth gives me cold shivers, not to mention the obvious danger of collapse of the old stone work. We will fill it in to ground level and replace the stone cover. Perhaps it might be wise to buy a concrete slab to cap the hole. Living in Devon, I have heard of several sudden surprises from old mine shafts suddenly reappearing. Rather than going to the trouble of filling a deep shaft, the miners just inserted beams across the hole some ten feet down and made a timber platform to block the hole, which was then filled level with the ground. The timber would rot after a hundred years and the pit would suddenly reappear, surprising people who had built on or near it!
   An interesting and surprising discovery in our little domain, though, as I am sure you will agree.
  Bye for now, lunch calls.

dimanche 19 avril 2015

The turning of the Seasons

  Well, that's the end of lighting the stove in the morning when I get up. I've cleared out the ash drawer, removed the ready-use log supply and swept the hearth. I hope we don't have a real cold snap now, but I'm not going to start again barring a real return to the Ice real emergency, we've got the gaz heater, of course. Now is the time for planting (for Kim, that is, though I have rotovated the potager) and cutting grass. Time to look forward to swimming and a trip to the Pyrenees. Winter is finished, long live Summer.
  Bye for now, nearly tea time