dimanche 27 décembre 2009

Sunday Dec. 27th. Spinning and animal care day

This is a cat bed.....?  Frida the hunting dog adopted the bed as soon as she came to live with us.  The following month Spitty the cat and her three tiny kittens moved in.  The cat above is Marmy, one of those kittens, he has always been bold and the first of these wild kittens to venture into the house.  He has always made a fuss of Frida and often lays along the dog's back on the sofa.  Frida was in the cat bed asleep and Marmy just pushed his way into a tiny corner, there are never any complaints from Frida, she never growls, and lets the cats sit all over her.

Today has been wonderfully sunny and a heady 11 degrees, so we have been out cleaning chicken coops and making some urgent repairs.  Termites or ants have softened one of the big oak posts that hold up the roof to the llama and goat shelter, and the goats have eaten all the wood, so there is just the outline of the post now!!  Fortunately we made the shelter on 'earthship' principles, using old car tyres filled with drink cans and sand, covered with soil.  This goes up to roof level and protects the whole structure from wind.  Some of the soil has erroded away now and of course the llama and goats have trodden paths all over it now, and perch on various levels in the evening sun.  We had to clean out the remains of the old oak beam and tidy up a little to prepare for a new post.

Dennis Hopper the actor has a fantastic home in California built in 'earthship' style, check it out on the internet.



We also 'liberated our 3 latest chicks.  They are about 6 weeks old, hatched very late by BTM a silly chicken who hid in the canal for 3 weeks to brood them, we did not find them until they all trooped out behind her one day and it was a race to get to them and catch them before the cats heard them, we managed it and put them into a cage with the mother inside the chicken coop.  Today as it was warm and sunny we let them out into the coop and waited.  It was ages until one of them, a black bantam hen, ventured out and she was completely stunned by the pea fowl in the next enclosure, and the pea hen was mesmerised by her and displayed her tail feathers to her, I have only seen peacocks do this.  We stayed close to the chicks for a while as we were recovering some of our hay from the hay stack which had got wet in the extreme weather we have been having.  We put it in the sun out of the reach of the goats.

The next job was to trim the hoof of one of the goats, he limps because of arthritis and the hoof or nail on this leg always grows faster than the others as he does not put enough pressure on the leg to wear the nail down quick enough.

It is 3pm now and will only be warm for about another hour so time for a cup of tea, then before we realise it it will be time to shut all the animals away for the night.  We will need to so this early tonight as soon as it is dusk to make sure the new chicks go in safely, we will probably have to put them up on a perch this evening unless they go back in their cage.

I have been wanting to spin some yarn for a few days now and yesterday evening I prepared a batch of turquoise, magenta and pink merino with some pink banana fibres and some silk, by combing the colours together on my hand carders.  I was able to do this quite quickly as all the fibres we already bought as prepared rovings.  I divided the colours and brushed them together to make about 14 rolags ready to spin.

I had also bought some pink and orange rovings from Etsy (www.etsy.com) in the US which had arrived just before Christmas.  It had been hand dyed by the seller and I was a little disappointed in the colour and it seemed to be slightly felted, but it may have been just because it had been squashed and packed for a week or so. Anyway I decided not to recomb it and spit it into finger-width pencil rovings instead, something I have never done before.  I will spin this as thick and thin and experiment with it as I am not too keen on the fibre.

jeudi 24 décembre 2009


Dave and Josie wish all their family 
and friends a very Happy Christmas 
and New Year

If this is the first time you have visited this blog feel free to trawl through the archives and see what we have been up to for the last few months.  

There is also a link to You Tube you can use from this site.  

If you want to keep up with postings on this blog then click the 'Follow' button and you will be notified of new postings.  

There is a list of blogs and sites I use, mainly for information on peacocks, glass fusing and spinning, I add and change these regularly.  You will also find a silly gadget to feed some fish.

Today I have been working at the town hall trying to get the municipal bulletin out before Christmas Day, and there was also a big discussion about the usual problems of cows wandering about everywhere, which is one of my pet hates.  Tomorrow I have offered to go in early to help staple and distribute the bulletin, then we will have cackes at the Mairie before getting home to start the short holiday.  There is no 'Boxing Day' in France, and so the day after Christmas Day is not a holiday, although this year being a Saturday most people will not be at work.  In France, if a public holiday falls on a weekend, tough, there is no day given in lieu.

The snow situation in northern France is as bad as in the UK and just as in the UK there will be many people on the roads today trying to get to their families, and heaven knows how Eurostar are going to get their backlog shifted in time.  Easy Jet was ready to make flights on Christmas Day and was calling in staff, but apparently the Civil Aviation Authority say that the airports will not be open.....well maybe they will be this year to get people home.  Just like there was never any tennis played on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon until one year when there was so much rain they needed the time to finish all the matches.

We had to retrieve one of our hens from under the haystack this evening.  We were one hen short when we counted yesterday and thought she had been taken by a fox or something, but she was out eating this morning when I fed the cats.  When she was not in the coop today we went to look for her and found her sitting on a clutch of about 15 eggs under the plastic tarpaulin covering the hay.  She protested when we picked her up and took her to the coop, and as it was dark in there we had to actually place her up on a perch, this always causes some clucking and shifting about in the coop as all the other chickens had already chosen their places for the night.

We are waiting now for our first blue eggs from the Araucana hens we have.  Very strange hens these, they have no tails and they have horizontal feathers on their 'cheeks that stick out giving them quite a comical look.  All this and they lay blue eggs.  They are approximately 18 weeks old now and should be at point of lay at 20 weeks but this of course may be delayed because of the cold weather.  We have not had any 'wind' eggs yet from them - these are thgeir first strange efforts at laying eggs and can be small soft shelled things.  I'll post some photos of these hens after Christmas.

Time for bed I think, I have promised to be at the town hall before 9am and I am not usually awake befor that time, and it is Christmas Eve after all.

Don't forget to put a drink out for Father Christmas and carrots for the reindeers.


mercredi 23 décembre 2009


Dave and Josie wish everyone
a very Happy Christmas
and New Year 

Thankfully, we spoke to Andrew last night and during the conversation we realised that Christmas Day is actually on Friday, we had thought it was Thursday......this is what happens to people who retire to the wilds and rarely check the date on the telly.

Our snow has disappeared for the moment but I hear you are having a white Christmas in the UK nearly everywhere.  We are having a very quiet Christmas here this year, on our own for the first time in 26 years!!  

This has not stopped us buying in enough food for a 6 week seige, and we have not forgotten the wild birds, we went out of our way yesterday to go to a hunting/fishing department to buy some mealworms for the robins.......mad or what?

Bookmark this blog if you want to periodically catch up on our news out here,  look on the right in the archives, there are plenty of articles about us and the animals,  we will post more news and pictures on Boxing Day, in the meantime eat loads but stay in the warm.

samedi 19 décembre 2009

Purple,magenta and glitz mix.......and a trailer of snow to Narbonne.....

The purple and magenta with glitz that I spun last week turned out very well, and is soft and glitzy.  This trial square means I can match it to a pattern.  I knitted it upstraight away but just didn't quite have enough to finish the hat, so I unpicked it (frogged it in the US!), I can still knit the same pattern but will make a band of fluffy mohair on the brim just so that I have enough wool.

On Thursday we went to Narbonne Christmas shopping,  which is about 50Km away, down on the coast of the Mediterranean.  We attached the trailer to our car as we intended to bring back our Christmas tree.  We parked in the main Carrefour car park at the Tridome in Narbonne but our car and trailer were causing a stir.  Everyone was staring and commenting on the snow on the roof of the car, and then people spotted the trailer which had loads of snow in it.  We though it would be much warmer in Narbonne but it was still minus 1 degree so all the snow stayed int he trailer.  We came out with our trolley load of shopping to find the trailer surrounded by kids poking the snow and some were making snowballs.  One mother nearby said her daughter aged 3 had never seen snow and was fascinated.  LOL :o)  made our day......

Since then we have had further snow showers and temperatures have not risen above 2 degrees maximum all week.....thank goodness for Ugg boots.  This evening is the carol concert in the old church - which has no heating.....Hmmm...I am wearing a large cape to hid the hot water bottle I will have underneath - taking no chances.  Made a big pot of vin chaude, spiced wine today and the smell has permeated through the whole house.....very Christmassy.

It has just started to snow again but we think it is really too cold for it to be much, but who knows, it will add to the atmosphere of the carol concert anyway.  Off to chase chickens and ducks into coops now before we go out, it is still light so it may be hard but always good for a laugh, they may all be inside because it is so cold.


Just returned from the carol concert and supper at Rik and Christel's in the village, and we are in a blizzard again, the roads covered in about half an hour. The neighbour's cows and calves were all sat on the road to our property, they moved as we drove past which was a shame as they needed to be there under the trees to be out of the snow, one little calf was only born yesterday - hard life this being born into a blizzard and then the first human you see comes and inflicts pain clipping a tag in each ear.

The Christmas tree is up, it has survived half a day without a cat climbing it, but give it time.  Last year we had just brought the tree inside and had to go quickly to the village, when we got back there was a chicken sitting in the christmas tree,  'Dave, there's a chicken in the Chritmas tree', is not a phrase you hear very often, not in normal household's anyway.

mardi 15 décembre 2009

It certainly snowed..........and more to come



The animals were not impressed.......except Larry the llama who is always happy.  The chickens were all crushed up behind the one or two blocking the door and they eventually pushed their way back in.  The ducks jumped in their pink bath and skidden on the ice - missed that shot.........and the cows were looking for grass near the trees.

Will write more later but I have to go out to the village to our craft workshops, we are finishing boxes to sell and wrapping presents for the village tree.

lundi 14 décembre 2009

Let it snow.....Let it snow....stay in the warm and card fibre

I carded up a mixture of merino rovings in several shades of purple and magenta together with a little silk and some Glitz in each.  I do not have a drum carder but as there was no hard work involved I quite enjoyed doing this mix.  I spun a little but it was really too late to carry on.  I plan to make this a 2 ply with itself, so I will have to try and guess to make each half a bobbin.  I only have three bobbins at the moment, all the same size.  To ply a decent quantity it would be better to have a jumbo flyer and bobbin able to take double the normal bobbin quantity.  The old Haldane wheel I have which is so old,  was made before art yarns became fashionable.  It would be great for lace weight spinning, and for spinning singles, but I can see plying and core spinning becoming a problem.  Hey I am only a beginner so this is great to learn control.

Majacraft spinning wheels in New Zealand make a Wild Flyer attachment for all their wheels, it has a large ceramic lined guide for the wool which is very big, capable of letting silk worm cocoons pass through, and comes with a jumbo bobbin.  There is one on their website which has the wheel and whorls painted deep purple, I have saved a copy as my screensaver so I can drool over it.......In fact Majacraft wheels do not have a normal orifice for the yarn to pass through, they have a Delta orifice which is a 'V' of metal, so spinning chunky yarns is possible on most of their wheels, and for really wild spinners, spinning really wild things into their yarn, there is the aptly named Wild Flyer - great.

There is a group on Ravelry for Majacraft Fans worth looking at if considering a Majacraft wheel.

It has been snowing hard this evening.  We are in a sort of Bermuda Triangle here for weather forecasting.  We are situated in the middle of a triangle drawn from Narbonne to Toulouse to Perpignan on the Spanish border, I suppose with the Pyrenees mountain range it might be difficult to make accurate forecasts, but Meteo France are always wrong.  Let's see if they are right in the next few days.  Meteo France yesterday showed heavy snow, this was changed for 'quelque flocons' - a few flakes (!), now they are showing light snow turning to rain.  Sky News and CNN have just said Spain and France will get heavy snow for 48 hours.....let's see who's right.  We have taken the snow shovel inside tonight just in case.  Trouble is it becomes difficult for us to get off our property even if there is only a small amount of snow as the snow ploughs come along the road and push it all up against our exit, so a shovel in the car is essential............

dimanche 13 décembre 2009

Marmy the cat is back.....!

It has just occured to me that I do not have a recent photo of him, so must rectify that in case he goes missing again.  He just walked in this morning as if nothing had happened, he looks well fed, and no signs of any fighting, so I guess he may just have been visiting some neighbours.........Or maybe the cold weather and snow forecast made him think of his lovely warm bed by the stove.....who knows?  Cats choose who they live with after all.

The water in the barrel next to one of the chicken coops froze last night, and we had to break a thin layer of ice on the old washing sink that is a water trough for the llamas and goat, so it seems winter may have arrived at last.  Some ski resorts in France have been closed for two years due to the lack of snow, but some resorts were open earlier than usual in November because of early snow falls, the villages want to make the most of what  may now be shortened seasons.

samedi 12 décembre 2009

Meteorites and strange clouds.....and a chicken with an identity crisis.......

I photographed these clouds a couple of days ago.  The photo does not do the scene justice as the clouds were edged with lovely morning red.  I think this formation is called a pile of plates???  Can someone correct me?

At the moment the earth is in the path of a meteor show called the Geminides, because they emanate from the area of the Gemini constelation.  Don't ask me where this is as I am not sure.  If you look for Orion's belt , the three quite bright stars close together in a line, then look up and to the left, the Gemini constellation is a defined square of stars????  I cannot work it out either, but just look in the direction of Orion's belt.  Last night in the freezing cold I was wrapped in a blanket, hat, coat and gloves and stood out for only 10 minutes and saw three shooting stars, two of a golden colour and a white one very low on the horizon (for us anyway in the mountains!).  They were at least worth getting cold for.  The shower reaches it's most intense period on the 14th in the early hours of the morning.  So get your quilts out and your hot water bottles and have a look......I'll be tucked up in bed. :o)

It is exactly 4 degrees C outside at the moment, 23:15, which usually means snow for us, and it is forecast. I have just looked out and it is cloudy so no shooting star spotting tonight - thank goodness........

One of our cats is missing at the moment, I expect he is looking in the village for a girlfriend, he has been missing for 4 days now and we have been walking around the village calling for him, hoping he is not shut inside someone's garage.  Maybe he will come back now the weather has turned so cold.  It is also worrying that we heard a fox screaming at about 2am this morning, he was around for quite a while, no evidence this morning and thankfully no damage to the chicken runs.

The peacocks were making their warning honk noise today but I saw nothing when I went to check, Tony peacock was sat on his perch looking up the long field.  My husband was in the canal out of sight, throwing out the oak logs he had cut down in August, so maybe the peacock could only see the logs flying out of the trees.

The pen where the peacocks are housed at the moment is next to the flight where the ducks and Araucana chickens live.  All these birds seem to congregate in the back corner of their respective pens.  The ducks have an elegant pink bath in this corner for a pond, and the peafowl have an old bench to sit on.  Today all four hens were in the corner, the duck were in their bath and the peafowl on the bench.

The Araucana chickens arrived in the post from a breeder in Northern France who I met through a web forum.  They were about 4 weeks old, three of them, we already had one Araucana that we had hatched from eggs also sent in the post.  We put the all together in a small pen inside the duck flight and they were great.  After 2 days we let them out into the main pen and they were very comical running around chasing the ducks etc.  One of the chicks was infatuated by the ducks and followed them about all day, then every evening when we went to shut the coops at dusk this one Araucana chick would not go into the coop with the three others.  She sat on the edge of the pink bath while the ducks flapped about, then the duck obediently hopped out and went to bed, but the chicken had to be picked up every evening and put inside the coop.

One evening, the peafowl were 'honking' loudly, we were on our way down to put everything away, but it took us a long time to realise the Araucana chick was actually in the bath, she was standing on the stones we had put in to help the ducks get out, and she was squeaking.  So I had to pick her up, stuff her inside my jacket and bring her up to the house.  I dried her off, put her in a cat box and sat her by the fire.  She eventually stopped shaking, I thought she would die as she was so cold, but she perked up and the next morning we put her back with the others.  She did the same thing for the next 3 nights......I think she liked being in the house, or she was just stupid.  All the hens are so similar, I put a green ring on her so that we could see which one was the mad one!  She does go in at night now, but sometimes she is still out when we get there and she seems to enjoy being picked up and cuddled for a minute.  We need an appropriate name for her now?????  Must begin with the letter 'A for Araucana, all the Marans have names starting with 'M', ordinary chickens which we may eat are named accordingly, Tandoori, Cous Cous, Coq au vin etc.....

Araucanas lay blue eggs and in France the breed standard has no tail, in the US and UK  I believe tail feathers are allowed, but I am not sure.

I have been spinning all evening, yesterday I blended and carded by hand two lots of lovely mixes of wool, (Masham), banana fibre, bamboo fibre, and glitz, one a peach colour that I dyed myself and the other made up from a selection of Merino wool in shades of purple and pink that I found in the bag of Botany lap waste scraps.  I had 15 rollags of each colour combination and I thought it was so much, they filled a pillow case.  I was very disappointed in how much wool I ended up with after plying (2 ply).  I tried to spin as lightly and finely as possible, to learn more control, the purple made up 100yds and the peach 70 yards.  So I could probably make a purple hat and the peach neck warmer, I will have to look up some patterns on Ravelry, they have a great pattern section, some are free to download, and thankfully in the US the wool quantities are given in yards, not number of balls.

A bit fed up today as my relatively new camera (6 months old) is dead as a Dodo today, nothing.  I checked out the 'Troubleshooting' section in the handbook.  It was laughable.....'If the camera will not switch on.....switch it on and off'.   If the camera will not switch off......switch if off'......Doh  I will have to find the bill and take it back on Monday.

Time for bed said Zebedee.........

mardi 8 décembre 2009

Here is my stash at last.......and strange noises in the woods.....

Actually this is not all of it as I hae three enormous paper sacks of quite dirty fleece which are years old and from the old Wool marketing board. I hae been washing the cheiot fleece and some of the better parts of the jacob's fleece to learn to spin with and they are really quite good to use but such a lot of work.

The ginger, pink, shocking pink and bright blue at the front of the table are Wenslydale locks I bought on Ebay, they are sooooo soft and I hope to do some tail spinning with these, but I hae to make a decent core fibre first.

Extreme left are the green blue fleece and banana fibres I bought from Blonde Chicken Boutique on Etsy.

The small pile of pinky colours at the front between the Wenslydale locks I bought from someone in France I met on the Ravelry Anglophones in France group. Some silk and some hand dyed rovings, I want to get better at spinning before I attempt these as they are 'special'.

Behind the pinks to the back of the table is a mass of different colour rovings, black, blues, greys, reds and a load of glitz. This was an amazing bundle I bought from World of Wool, it was listed under special offers, as 'Botany lap waste', it was just a jumble of colours when it arried but after I sat down and separated the different fibres and wound them into soft balls I realised what a bargain the pack was. I do not like all of the colours but I hae been blending them with the Cheiot I hae prepared to make the cheviot softer and more interesting.

At the right hand end of the table behind the blue locks are several rollags I have made from Cheviot wool which has been hand dyed in walnut husks (ginger colour) and red wine (light purple colour).....well wine stains clothes if it is spilt, so why not use it to dye with?????

So I think I have enough to keep me busy at the moment...LOL

I should be writing Christmas cards.......last minute again. I have to take a photo for the card yet, in fact I have just taken one of the two dogs asleep together on the sofa wrapped up by my husband in a red blanket, it may just do for the Christmas photo....we'll see. I cant put it on here yet if I am going to use it, can I???

I will post my experiments with dyeing as soon as I have a moment.

The wierd warm weather we are having is upsetting the equilibrium of everything here....I have crocuses and snow drops up already, and the Mimosa is very advanced for December, the future flowers are starting to turn from green to a dull yellow. Birds are getting amorous and certain wild flowers have not stopped flowing as they usually do. I picked fresh dandelions yesterday for our tortoise (Hermans) who is still awake, and the grass is still growing. All mt chickens are laying daily as if it were spring. The stopped briefly when we had a cold snap a few weeks ago.

If I tell you we are also at an altitude of 500 mtrs in the foothills of the Pyrenees you may find all this even more astounding. We have turned the Rayburn off again and have used very little wood so far this 'winter'.

Early this morning we heard a very strange animal sound and all our cats were hiding, this could either have been an amorous female cat from the village or the wild, or a female fox calling, either way this is early for both animals. We are still confused by this noise and will keep a watch on all our animals, we have had sightings of an Iberian Lynx on our property. We always
have wild boar around at dusk and dawn, which is hardly surprising really as the river which runs across our land is the only river that runs all year, and the only one accessible by these animals in the surrounding area.

I love all this nature around us and have always wanted a pair of night vision binoculars.......Dear Father Christmas.....I have been very good this year.......

mercredi 2 décembre 2009

Un lien parfait en France

Voici un lien parfait pour mes amis francophone (et des autres, parce qu'il y a bcp de photographies).


C'est un blog que je vien de trouver ecrit par une passionee de filage et tricotage.....a ne pas manquer.........

Today I won another auction on Ebay for some llama fibre, I must stop buying fiber now and start spinning some........I have a 'Stash' as they say in the States, so I put it all outside in the weak winter sun and took a photo - It will be uploaded here later.