mercredi 22 juillet 2015

Up,up and away!

   Yesterday Kim jetted off from Bordeaux airport to spend ten days in the UK at Plymouth, visiting Alyson, Kerri and Mimi. Dont worry, she has promised to return on the second of August, but in the meantime, the Ark will be sailing single-handed....

   Bye for now, got to trim the sails.

lundi 20 juillet 2015

A Load of Hot Air

    As I mentioned in my last blog, we celebrated the Quatorze Juillet on the thirteenth at Loubille, so did not really fancy another celebration at Chef Boutonne, our local big town, the more so as there is a firework display which naturally starts very late, when it is sufficiently dark. Jacqui Brown suggested there was a hot air ballon launch at the Chateau de Saveilles, a charming but privately owned chateau, not far from us, to which the public were invited. It was due to start at seven, so we went to see what was afoot.
   The chateau gates were open and a few people were filtering in. We took the opportunity to have a look at the outside of the building, which is charming, with a well preserved moat and several towers. it is all a chateau should be, in good condition and in occupation.
   The balloon support vehicle was parked on the grass field near the chateau and after a while, preparations were being made for the launch. The small crowd were encouraged to wander close to see the team at work. It was interesting to see behind the scenes the management of a balloon launch. First, a couple of small, toy balloons were released, to determine the wind direction and speed. Then, the envelope was stretched out downwind from the basket, whose heater-burners were tested with a horrid roar, which made everyone jump. Then the basket was turned on its side and attached to the laid-out nylon balloon. A large fan was then used to inflate the envelope, the neck being held open by the crew. Finally, the suspension ropes were held out of the way and the propane burner roared out to heat the trapped air. The balloon filled more and more and started to roll from side to side in an alarming way, then gradually rose to a vertical position. the passengers, including, I think, a news photographer, hurriedly scrambled into the basket. More blasts from the burner and hey presto the basket left the ground and floated free. It rose high over the chateau and floated off. The crew loaded their gear into the trailer and set off in chase.
 Altogether a most interesting and pleasant evening. Bye for now, coffee calls

mardi 14 juillet 2015

A prickly problem.

  I went down to the sheep field a little late this morning, a bit fuzzy-headed after the celebrations of the fourteenth of July, which Loubille celebrates on the thirteenth, so the villagers get the chance to have TWO meals by attending the events at Chef Boutonne or Couture... They must have more stamina than I . As I opened the gate, I thought my eyes were deceiving me, the surface of their drinking trough was swirling round and round, and what I at first took for a loo brush was gyrating in the middle. I looked closer, and was shocked to see it was a large hedgehog trapped in the container, and swimming literally for its life.
  I dropped the sheeps' breakfast grain pan and rushed to rescue the poor animal. Goodness knows how long it had swum to keep its head above water, possibly a long time. I put my hand under its tummy and scooped it out. Its belly was icy cold, and its spines were softened by the water. It did not curl up as they usually do when handled, so I figured it was badly shocked. I hurried back to the house and dried it as best I could on a towel, not easy to dry a hedgehog! I felt it should be warmed as soon as possibly, so filled a hot water bottle to go under the towel and on a suggestion from Kim, I directed an Anglepoise lamp to shine on him, to provide further warmth.
  He gradually warmed up and became more responsive. It was strange at first to be able to see and touch his little face and stroke the hair underneath him. A couple of hours later, he began to walk about and took some food so we were able to release him in the barn by the cats' food bowls, where we suspect by odd droppings we are feeding at least one of these creatures. A successful outcome we hope. I have, of course, provided a means so that any future 'swimmers' will be able to find their way out...

   Bye for now, dog walk time!

dimanche 12 juillet 2015

The biggest cirque in the Pyrenees?

We  had a fantastic time at our Colonie de vacances this year with near perfect weather, and some outings to new walking destinations, together with revisiting some old favourites. However, the crowning moment came after the camp had finished. We had always wished to visit the famous Cirque de Gavernie, and we decided that this was the year. We decided to visit it on the way to our next destination, to stay a few days at Orthez with our friends Arlette and Laurent. I was surprised to find that the Cirque was only some 30 kilometres away, and although 30 k is longer on a winding mountain road than on a motorway, we felt it was not too far out of our way.
   You can see from my photos, that the scenery is spectacular, to say the least. You arrive in the little mountain town of Gavarnie and over everything looms the monstrous backdrop of the great circle of mountains, with waterfalls falling hundreds of feet down the face. The Spanish frontier is along the top, but I bet they are not troubled by smugglers! We parked the car in one of the several car parks, walked through the town and on though a narrow road/footpath to approach the Cirque more closely. it wouldn't do to go too near though, the scene is so monumental that it wouldn't fit in the camera frame! We had a very pleasant stroll towards the Cirque, Jilly had a welcome swim in the stream alongside. After a mile or so, we crossed the stream by a little stone bridge, returning to the town by a path on the other side. We saw what must be the most scenically sited police station in the world, I suppose they deal with mountain rescue than chasing criminals!
  I took loads of photos to remind us of a truly memorable afternoon.

   Bye for now, tea time

jeudi 9 juillet 2015

Bug Out

    I have mentioned before the amazing variety of bugs we see in our area, varying from pretty moths and butterflies to grotesque and alarming insects. However, the king of them all is the Stag-beetle, an armoured monster of a scarab, the size of a walnut. Seen on the ground it is impressive enough, like a sculpture in polished horn but impossibly the creature can take to the air! It flies rather clumsily, pointing up at forty-five degrees,, like a Concorde coming in to land. Still, it does fly quite fast and is an impressive sight, buzzing along like a small helicopter.
  A couple of days ago, I was walking the dogs in the late evening along the track close to our house. The day had been baking, and the air was still warm, even though the light was fading. I counted a half-dozen of these beetles zooming about against the evening sky. I was walking back towards the house with my hands rather full, having the two extending dog leads in my right hand, while under my left arm was tucked Mounette, our tabby cat, who often likes to accompany me on our dog walks. She tends to 'peel off' just before we reach home and I was intending to post her in the door so she would not have to be called in for bed-time.
     Suddenly one of the beetles whirred towards me and flew straight at my face. I am not scared of them, but to be hit in the eye by a walnut-sized beetle would not be pleasant. All I could do was to squint my eyes and duck slightly. Luckily, my valiant cat was on top of the situation. She hit out accurately with her right fore-paw and swatted the insect out of the air. It tumbled, recovered itself at a foot from the ground and flew harmlessly off. I was really pleased to have such an effective protector!

   Bye for now, time to feed the cats (and dogs, of course )

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.