samedi 30 octobre 2010

jeudi 2 septembre 2010

NUNO FELTING SCARF 2 - Laminate felting

1.  Lay silk or silk chiffon, or muslin material along a table covered in plastic.
2.  Pull very light pieces of wool from the wool roving and place around the edge - overhanging the edge.
3.  Place some wool in the opposite direction along the edge
4.  Start adding your design, these are pink dyed Wenslydale curls.  It is always best to place some very light pieces of roving wool across addition like this to ensure they are well anchored onto the piece.

5.  Don't breath , open a window or let in the cats it could be disastrous!!

6.  When you have completed your design cover with nylon mesh - if the scarf is long this is a two person job and needs to be done slowly to avoid moving the design.
7.  Now the messy bit.......mix up a bowl of hot soapy water - washing up liquid or Lux soap flakes for wool until the mixture is very slippery.  Start springkling this onto the design covered with the nylon mesh and as you do so, gently tap down the wet design.  Continue the length of the piece, do not miss any areas.  
8.  Smooth over with fingers and gently rub all along the edges of your design.
9.  Place another layer of bubble wrap over the piece.
10. Start to roll up from one end, quite tightly.
11.  Ties bundle with old tights in several places.
12.  Wrap in old towel
13.  Start rolling quite hard, keep elbows into sides to avoid over working your shoulders.
14.  After 20 minutes, un-roll and roll up again from the other end - repeat 20 minutes rolling.

15.  After this, unroll gently and make sure the edges are well felted, if not gently fold the edge over and rub with fingers.  Check the whole length of piece.
16.  Roll up again and repeat 5 minutes of rolling.
17.  Unroll and discard bubble wrap and towel.
18. NOW ABUSE YOUR WORK :D - gather it together and repeatedly throw it down on the table - this will start the shrinking process.  Do this for abot 10 minutes
19.  Rinse your piece in hot water squeeze gently, then again, in the sink throw the piece down into the bowl about 15 times. 
20.  Check the shrinkage is to your liking - check the edges have not felted against each other, they make need pulling apart to even design.

21.  Rinse work in cold water, squeeze out and hang up, again adjust any over felting and straighten any edges that are too felted.  Hang up to dry.

21.  The wool will have shrunk and the silk will crinkle up enhancing your original design.
22.  Feel free to add embroidery or sequins - anything you fancy.


mardi 17 août 2010

Summer in the Corbieres - a busy, varied time as usual......

Pixie finds time to relax in the sun on the swing bed, all she needs is someone to swing her........

MLC Blues band from Tournissan came to play at our first village fete in June - great eveing!!

We had an 'open day' on the Journee de Patrimoine' Heritage day in France and met many interesting people with more information for us about our medieval mill.

Seems to be a bumper year for large crickets - there are about 6 in this photo, all on a spindle tree.

Feline Termenes plant fete and marche gourmande, usually the first outing of the 'season', this year, after snow in May some people lost the plants they bought here.

We had a very interesting day here with an archaeologist, Frederick Loppe and an historian.  They confirmed the base of the walls at the back of the mill date back to 1200, which confirms the history we have already discovered.  I laid out all the 'finds' we had made over the years and they identified them for me, a piece of roman glass, pottery from the 16th, 17th and 15th centuries, and a 'cannon ball' that our son found 15 years ago which we always thought was an ancient 'boule' for petanque!!! This will form the basis of another posting on this blog and the blog dedicated to the Moulin de St Jean - link in right hand column.

mercredi 23 juin 2010

Art Holiday in France

Fancy eating well and having fun learning new skills with artist Kate Hardy  in the Pyrenees mountains?  A friend of mine is running an art week at her beautiful secluded farmhouse in the foothills of the Pyrenees - fantastic views......check it out here:

There are only two places left now.

dimanche 20 juin 2010

New llama - Carabar Lily

This is Carabar Lily, a new arrival on our little farm.  Her name Carabar is the name of a witch in France, so we have named her Lily.  She has settled in with our old male, castrated llama, Larry, in fact she is now the dominant llama in the pen, but no aggression.

Unfortunately Carabar Lily has produced two handicapped crias (llama baby), so the owners asked me to home her while they had an entire male llama visiting their other females, to ensure she did not become pregnant.  I am happy to say that she may stay permanently with us.  We already love her and she eats from my hand.  Female llamas are known to be harder than males to train, but when things have calmed down here after the summer run of tourists and visitors, I will get down to some serious training with her.

Llamas are often used to 'guard' herds of sheep against dogs, wolves and cougars (not many of them i the Corbieres I am glad to say!!). They need to have some training to do this efficiently but they do seem to have some natural instinct.  Carabar Lily is already very possessive about the chickens.  The coop is in the llamas pen and when I let the chooks out to free range every afternoon, Carabar Lily hums her little warning noise when they go out of her sight, and when they come back to roost at dusk she often 'herds' them into the coop by touching her nose on their tails - this is very endearing.

The 'S' Word again......I don't believe it.......

Snow? In June - I had to 'phone a friend' to coonfirm that I had just heard the weather forecaster on TF1 mention the 'S'Word and Pyrenees in the same sentence - Not again, please......all my pants are late this year.

Update on the Empress Trees - they are doing very well, lots of leaves but they are not enormous, however the Empress Tree I moved that was not doing well had gone completely mad, and when we get some sun it will be providing shade for the tortoise.

Picture shows latest excavations inside our ruined mill that dates from before the Knights Templar occupied the area (before 1200)

Fete de Pays Corbieres - A good day, our village was hosting an historical walk along the river, probably pointing out the 'lack' of wildlife........ Just before lunch the group reached our mill and we actually learnt more historical facts from one of the visitors. He is coming back to see us tomorrow - La Journee des Moulins 20 juin - when we have an open day - Porte Ouverte. Today was the first day of a weekend of Patrimoine - heritage - when most museums and national monuments are open for free, we had about 10 visitors which I think was good considering we have had driving torrential rain......

I will add some photos later, Blogger seems to have changed its layout and it is not clear how to add photos now......

lundi 22 mars 2010

Empress trees on their way!!!

Here is a video of what an Empress tree looks like, trying to think where to put them now.......

lundi 8 mars 2010

Another quiet day in the Corbieres!: Quelque 'flocking' flocons

Another quiet day in the Corbieres!: Quelque 'flocking' flocons

Quelque 'flocking' flocons

Here we go again.......more least this time they forecast we could get a metre....we are up to 60cms already...........
Larry didn't seem bothered at all.


About an hour ago, before we started having power cuts which has made uploading pictures difficult.

About 50 cms of snow on top of the bird flight which had to be knocked down to save the netting from breaking.
Glad to have the old Land Rover back on the road for this fall of snow in case of emergencies.
It passed its control technique (MOT) on Friday to our surprise!!!

I spotted this just before the snow started yesterday, it is now under a heap of snow......

My first attempt at Nuno felting

Here are the pictures of my first attempt at Nuno felting.

I used a silk chiffon scarf for the base, which I had previously knotted and dyed in Australian Landscape dye - wild raspberry.

I laid out towels and bubble wrap on the table the length of the scarf. Placed the scarf on top of the bubble wrap.

I did not put a layer of wool as a base before the scarf as I wanted a very light almost cobweb scarf.

The carefully pull out very whispy pieces from a short length of merrino wool roving and make a fine layer over the scarf. I worked from one end until I thought I was running out of dark pink, then I started at the other end, intending to use another colour in the middle and change the design I had in my head. As it happened I had enough dark pink to make a fine layer (about an inch high - sounds a lot but it is miniscule).

I then used the bright pink to make a design on the dark pink, added some pre dyed and pulled thin silk carrier rods (see previous articles on here). I also placed some light pink Wenslydale curls on both ends of the scarf.

As I was not sure if the silk and curls would felt enough and attach I placed small amounts of the light pink merino roving across them to hold them in place.

When I was happy with the design, also holding my breath as the whisps of wool are so light I was afraid they would blow away. I had a dodgy moment when a cat jumped on the table……

The place the nylon netting gently over the top of your scarf…..very s l o w l y so as not move the design.

I mixed some savon de Marseilles soap with warm water in a bowl, then gently sprinkled the mixture on the scarf on top of the nylon netting. Olive oil soap is wonderful for your hands, avoid using specific wool soap as this may in some way prevent the felting process. Gradually wet all the surface of the scarf/netting, but not too much. If you press your hand down on the work there should be no water seeping out between your fingers.

Place another layer of bubble wrap on top of the wet work. Roll up a small towel to the width of the bubble wrap which is bigger than the scarf. Roll your work round this from one end and secure with cut off pieces of tights (panty hose). Start rolling - good description of this in the video below. After at least 100 rolls, unwrap and roll up in opposite direction. Repeat 100 rolls, unwrap and flip over, roll up again from one end and yes…..another 100 rolls.

At this stage you can unroll and check your work. It will have stuck a little to the netting, peel this off very gently, and check the wool has felted through the silk scarf to the other side. If you hold the fabric up you will see a halo of whispy hairs on the reverse of the scarf.

Peel off the netting, gently rub your hands over the work to start the process of shrinkage and fulling to finish your work. At this stage spread the scarf out and check the edges are as you want them, I had to trim off some odd ends, but you can fold excess under the edges and rub for a couple of minutes to felt the ends together. At this point you can pull the piece into the shape you want, or as I did I left the scarf pulled out to points at the end which I liked.

Now abuse your work………gather up together and put in a bowl of hot water, squeeze and swish about - in fact everything you are told not to do when washing wool. The plunge into cold water, then squeeze out excess water and throw the work down onto your work surface a few times, repeat these processes until you are happy that the fibres are as fulled as you want them.

At this stage some of the edges of my piece had stuck together where I did not want the to be stuck so I had to gently prise them apart. I spread out the work to dry and dried it really quickly on the heated towel rail in the bathroon as I was impatient to wear the scarf that evening. I wore it and it ‘felt’ (sorry) great, and was greatly admired.
The finished scarf was difficut to photograph but it is lovely to wear.

samedi 13 février 2010

Araucana blue eggs - my first

Lovely aurprise just now amidst all this horisontal snow and blizzards, my first blue Araucana chicken eggs.
Very hard to photograph - they are a sort of beige blue, and they are larger than I had expected as the chickens are quite small.

I think they look more blue in the photo below which is of our complete colour range of eggs!!

From the left - small bantam egg, two Araucana eggs, two dark brown Marans Froment (wheaten) eggs, they started laying at the end of the summer.

the Araucana eggs are such different shapes that I thought the ducks had nipped upstairs to lay an egg, but the breed of duck I have Khaki Campbells apparently lay white eggs, so the variation is in the Araucana.

Short posting I am afraid as we have to drive down the mountain to collect one of our cats from the Vet, more about Billy later.

Chickens in the kitchen - blackbirds in with the ducks?

This is 'Chatty' a young hen hatched in November which is late for here, she has two sisters, Lucky and Morse.  I found Chatty this morning crouched under the horse box unable to move.  It had been minus 6 here last night and had risen to a tropical minus 3 by 9am, and as it was sunny we gave the chickens the option to come out or not.  Chickens are stupid but not that stupid, most of them tumbled outside and quickly went back inside where we had fed them....all except Chatty who we found half an hour later.  She seems to like it in my jacket????

Anyway she is tucked up with Lucky now in a cat box in the kitchen and she has not stopped tweeting since.  She is much bigger than Lucky and should do well.  Lucky I think I mentioned is called Lucky as she was in a similar situation to Chatty a few days ago and was picked up by our french hunting dog, Frida, and deposited on the road up to the house.  She survived but since then seems to think she should be up at the house, inside, and every day at 5.30 pm she trotts up to the house when all the other chickens are making their way home, and pecks on the kitchen door until we let her inside.  So for the last couple of days she has been inside as the weather has been attrocious, blizzard conditions with 110Kph gusts of wind.  Only 'chutes de neige faibles' - light snow showers were forecast we have another foot deep drift against our doors and all along the path to the main road.

I have a video of this but this french blog does not seem to allow videos in the middle of blog postings, so will try to replace the spinning video in the right hand column with my video.


Terrible weather conditions here again.
As I had my face pressed against the window videoing this the tiniest bird I have ever seen with quite a long pointed beak landed on the 'owl' door bell we have just outside, it was so close to me I tried not to move but I wanted to try and photograph it, but I moved and it flew away, it might have been a wren but it seemed to be investigating the hanging plant pots we have between the shutters and the french windows to get out of the wind.

 This is a lucky blackbird, lucky Dave found him that is in the flight with the ducks and Araucana chickens, we checked him out before releasing him, he was fine.

Since this second round of extreme weather is due to last until Tuesday I am glad I put some hyacinth bulbs in pots in October, they are just right to cheer us up at the moment.

lundi 8 février 2010

Silk Noil and Carrier Rods - results of dyeing

Here are the results of my dyeing experiments yesterday.

The first thing I suggest is that you split the rods after dyeing, as the ones that I split beforehand became very stringy during the rinsing process.

The rods dyed in the Dylon dye were very dark, I made up this dye some months ago and I believe it had become concentrated, but still colours I will use.
The four Landscape dyes at the right of the picture all dyed extremely well, but I think I could have been even more economical with the dye to make lighter colours from the start.

The two rods on the left were dyed in the old concentrated Dylon dye, and the noil on the right was put into the saved dye from this process, totally different colour!!  It was difficult to get the noil to submerge and absorb any dye at first, but I persevered and kept pushing it down, reheated the pot in the microwave as before.

Although the 'rose' dye looked pretty weak after the second process with the noil, I popped in a little piece of wool roving which has purple Angelina fibres already mixed in  ended up with a beautiful baby pink and nothing happened to the Angelina fibres in the microwave. 

All the other dye pots I have kept as the dyes still look full of pigment, so I will use them again.

I am very pleased with all of these results, even the cocoon dyed well, sorry no photo, it was flat after I strained it so when it was nearly dry I blew gently into the 'worm hole' and it inflated perfectly.
Now what to do with them all........?

dimanche 7 février 2010

Silk Carrier Rods - Dyeing with Landscape dyes

  • The photos above are:  carrier rods flattened from the pack.
  • Rods split and one being split - hard to do and hold camera.....
  • A silk cocoon complete with little worm waving from his escape hatch - didn't make it huh?
  • 5 pots of dye on Rayburn and one cup of coffee - thirsty work but don't drink the dye

I obtained some small packets of Australian Landscape (elements) dyes from UK Ebay recently - they are as their name suggests 'landscape', earthy colours with some lovely bright yellows, and bright pinks and blues.  A little goes a long way for dyeing things like carrier rods and cocoons. Silk carrier rods are the scrapings from the poles that guide the silk being extracted from the cocoons.  These poles get covered in a mixture of silk and sericin, which is the gum that the silk worm uses to hold the cocoon together.   Periodically they are cut and discarded, they are now sold and crafters love them for adding to embroidery, weaving and spinning or collage work etc.  They dye beautifully and this is my description of how I dyed a selection of silk carrier rods, mistakes and successes.

I collected jam jars all the same size so I could dispense with measuring - just fill to same level, about half, each time.  The shorter, fatter jam jars (Lidl marmelade) fit better into the microwave.

Apart from jars you will need - teaspoon - hot water - salt - white vinegar - sticks or metal spoons to stir - plastic gloves unless you are careful or like me don't care about having multicoloured hands - and a note pad to jot down quantities iin case you want to repeat colours. Paper towels for drying rods on (can be reused), or wire cake rack.

Today I have used  some old Dylon dyes that I mixed a couple of months ago - Dyes can be used more than once until all the dye is exhausted, but successive dyeings will be progressively lighter.

You will also need a spare,  empty jam jar to strain the finished articles into to save the dye.

The Dylon dyes were rose and peach also bought very cheaply on Ebay.  The Landscape Dyes from Australia were - Wild Raspberry - Marine - Plum and Sage.

Half fill the jam jars with hot water and put  table spoons of salt into each jar, and 2 tablespoons of clear vinegar to each.
Add dye to hot water, I used 1 1/2 (one and a half) teaspoons of dye per jar - cleaning the spoon between dyes.
Mix and set aside - I put the pots on top of the Rayburn to keep them warm.

Prepare carrier rods - I bought 100gms £2.50 UK) from World of Wool (UK)  Link in the side panel to the right.

World of Wool has a shop on Ebay called qualityfibres.   I buy direct from W of W.
Depending on your source you may or may not have to flatten them and split them.  The ones from World of Wool are quite screwed up and need some flattening and there are also worms and cocoons mixed in with them, but the rods are quite thick and I was able to split some of them twice.

IMPORTANT: The first batch I did I put through a 'degumming' process - DON'T do it if you want to use the dyed rods as decoration or inclusions - I did this process so well the silk separated into strands good enough to card and spin !!

The rods can successfully be plit into one or two layers - to do this do them dry, straight out of the pack, flatten out and gently pull along the length of the rod then rub an edge in the middle between your fingers as if you are trying to open a plastic bag at the supermarket!!  Push your fingers inside to separate the layers and gently push your fingers to either end - Voila!!  2 or 3 for the price of one and softer to spin.

You could also just throw them into the dye pots without pulling them apart, you will then get a tie-dye effect, with lighter and darker places depending on the folds in the rods.  This is why I prefer to buy the 'rougher' rods from World of Wool rather than ones already pulled, split, and dyed.

Save some little bits and pieces you find in the bag for dye testing and throw a few into each pot, they are great addition for firbre work as well.

Immerse the split and flattened rods into the dye pots about 6 to 8 in each but depends on size of rods, so just make sure they are all covered in dye fluid, push down with stick or spoon.

Microwave on HIGH (750) for 1 minute.

Take out - jar will be hot - push down any rods that are above dye level but do NOT stir - the rods are always fragile when hot and wet.

Return to microwave on high for 30 seconds

Remove from microwave and stand in a warm place for 4 hours - this time can be lengthened or shortened by testing - pull out one of the rods or a little test scrap - rinse until water runs clear - if dark enough for your purposes - great - if not return to jar - reheat if necessary.  Remember colours will always be slightly  lighter when dry.

Gently lift out rods individually if possible and strain - catch the dye in the clean jam jar to use again.

Wash the jam jar to use for catching the dye from the next pot.

Rinse gently in cold water until water runs clear - spread out rods and dry on paper towels or a wire (stainless) cake rack.

I will post photos of the finished rods good or bad on here, I am waiting for them to dye at the moment while I write this article.

For more information on silk, and silk production got to the endearingly named website:

For Landscape dyes in the UK:  Try Ebay or Wingham Wool Work - link in my list to the right of this article.

mardi 2 février 2010

Moulin de St Jean - its history

Our Site Inspector - Maitre d'Oeuvre - Father Christmas - Pere Noel 
un lien vers notre blog dedie aux recherches de l'histoire de notre moulin:

Thank goodness I was introduced to a local historian, I had been looking in totally the wrong place to research the history of our mill.  Because the mill, known locally as the Moulin Degrave, after a previous owner, was a property owned by the Knights Templar, all records are part of the Fonds de Malte, which come under the Haute Garonne and as such are kept at the Archives in Toulouse.  I had been making enquiries at our Archives in Carcassonne, and had found nothing.  The name Degrave is also a relatively recent name, now that we know the history dates back to at least 1260!!!

What I found incredible was that some of this information came from an ancient, rat-chewed, coverless old book written in 1555, found in the attic of an old local notaire, it was given to a local historian and I was recently pointed in his direction.  This book was plonked on the table when I met this historian, I was shocked but fascinated, it was in terrible condition, written partly in latin and partly in Occitain - old local french.  The historian taught himself to read this old french in order to read the book as research for a book he is writing.  Not only did he have to do this,  but he also had to brush up his school boy latin to a very high level and decipher the abbreviations used throughout the book.  His main interest started with old place names in the area, which he said gave some of the biggest clues to the history of our mill and the surrounding land.

The historian had been trying to contact us for some time and I had received various messages from him via several other people in our village.  I finally managed to arrange a meeting after he had told me to take the signpost down on the main road as the name of my mill was wrong.  I needed my wits about me at this meeting, all his 'notes' for me were in miniscule hand writing on a piece of paper about 4ins by 2ins.  When he started talking to me about the history I started taking notes - but in what language???  He was rapidly giving me references in, french, Occitain, and latin, my brain was working overtime, and when I tried to look over the table at his notes I could not read them they were so small.  I wrote a very rapid time line for the mill which is a list of previous owners made up from ancient notaire's records.  All the notaires are named and quotations from documents seen in Toulouse by the historian are clearly recorded.  As this ancient book was in the local man's possession I was able to ask for an immediate photocopy of the document of 1555, which I will scan when possible and add to this blog, for now, here is a timeline for our mill.


The following list of relevant dates for the mill were the result of detailed research over many years by a historian in the next village.
Additional information traced by the owners in the records of births, deaths and marriages for the village since

Olivier de Termes sold a great deal of property to the Templars, including the Moulin de St Jean, but the mill was not yet named in documents.
 This document is written on a hand sewn roll of parchment, in the archives des Fonds de Malte at the Archives de Haute Garonne in Toulouse - a copy of which was given to the historian in Felines.

“ Quandam pecia terre in termineo sti martini de vilario ubi voccatur ad lamaloledam affrontat de meridie in recho molindini” this is a reference to the Moulin de St Jean

  The mill and the land were part of the 'reserves' of the seigneurs - Knight’s Templar - the 'Condamine' - the land between our mill and the other mill linked to us is where the farmers, employed by the Knights and the people who rented the land, grew their fruits and vegetables.

Terrier de Laroque - old records name the Molin Na'mira (literally the Mill of Mrs. Mira)
Which is now known as the Moulin de Cabrol, the next mill along from ours, and is also owned privately.

        At this time there was a depression in the region after the plague which killed half
        the population, this probably contributed to the fact that the mill is not named before

in the archives of Maitre Matthieu Graffan - Notaire in Villerouge - original book now in the possession of local historian, given to him by Maitre Oustric of
        Fabrezan - I saw this original document, partly eaten by rats ! And have a copy of
        the relevant page for 3rd June.
        “Le molin bladier du seigneur commandeur de Holms ( now Homps) nome le Molin
        de St Jehan.  M. de Badans - Lord of Laroque.
" - “Grain mill owned by the Lord                 commander of Homps - called the Mill of St. Jehan (Jean)”

        The two mills were owned by the same lord and were often rented out to the same person.

        Rental agreement for the Moulin de St Jean in Laroque de Fa
        Notaire Me. Francois Graffan

   In the archives of the Fond de Malte - “Chemin que font les habitants de Davejan
        pour aller au Molin de St Jehan” - “A track used by the residents from Davejean to
        the Moulin de St. Jean”.

1608        In the archives of the Fond de Malte
         - “un ylhe a la passiere )pronounced Pashier) du molin St Jehan” refers
        To an ‘island’ of land in the mill race of St. Jean’s mill - possible reference to the dam
1608        26 may: again in the archives of the Fonds de Malte.
        “chemin des Molins de Namira et du Commandeur”  the road to the mills of Namira
        And the Commandeur (Moulin de St. Jean)

There is a much larger list of references that I have in fact just deleted as they name families still living in the village and we have not yet asked permissions, needless to say the list of information is amazing.

       The mill has then been known over the years by four different names:

        Molin de St Jehan
        Moulin de St Jean
        Moulin Roquenoire
        Moulin Degrave

2010        January - The present owners, have reverted to the original Templar name of Moulin de St Jean
                Moulin de St Jean, and with the knowledge of these names and notaires we can probably obtain
                further references and maybe documents from other local Archives.We are totally endebted to this
                local historian, now a friend.  I have not named him here yet as I have not asked his permission.  A
                copy of this history in french is on our other French blog dedicated to the research and
                renovation of the mill. 

Here is a link to the blog:

lundi 25 janvier 2010

I have some daffodils up in a the end of the cold weather in sight?

This has to be the most boring photo I have put on this blog so far!  It did make me feel good, however to see this little daffodil shoot, after all that snow.  I have not blogged lately due maily to sore hands from the cold and snow, I could not spin either with all the little cuts and chilblains on my hands, but they are nearly better now.  This has been the longest cold snap in France for a long time, not only that,  it has been so grey and now wet, normally the winters here are very mild and when it is cold the days are sunny and warm and only the nights are cold, this year is has been really hard, but there are some signs of spring now.

I did manage to knit something and finished a hat in the purple spinning from merino wool and silk, photopgraphed in an earlier posting.  I did not use a pattern and the hat was a little too short, so I picked up stitches all around the bottom and knitted a few moe rows in the opposite direction !!  LOL :o)  it does not show at all, but the hat was too big for me so it has been passed on to my husband.  I have a photo but it is to scarry to post.....I will make some adjustments in Photoshop and post later.

We have had a hectic weekend of eating and drinking.......all the New Year celebrations and 'aperos' had been cancelled due to the bad weather and this weekend they all seem to be on together, from Friday through Sunday, so Sunday evening was spent asleep on the sofa, after lurching from one drinks party and lunch to another.

I found another good spinning website and blog : and have put a link and a feed on here.  Spin in Public is an event in September 2010 worldwide, mainly publicised on US webs but I hope to be able to get something going around here for that date. 

Our mill is also on the Route des Moulins, on the FFAM website (Federation Francaise des Amis des Moulins)  even though it is still very much a ruin, and will be open to the public for the weekend of 19/20 June, the French national Journee des Moulins (National mill open day).  As our mill is now known by its original name, the Moulin de St Jean, and the fete of st Jean is the 24th June, and our first village fete of the 'season' is around this date, we will be having a celebration here probably a barbeque and a 'bring-your-own picnic and tent'  type of event, so watch here for details - it might even turn into a 70's style arty, spinning 'Happening'.

jeudi 14 janvier 2010

Sitting in the sun today - such a difference!!

The snow was shrinking fast yesterday and it poured with rain.  The ground is sodden and the mud is horrible again - oh the joys of living in the country.

Very sunny and 'tropical' temperatures of 13 degrees C, so we have just come in from eating our soup out in the sun.

The chickens made it up to the front door again for the first time in a week.  We were able to go out and have dinner with friends last night, after I made sure all the snow had been cleared from the stone stairways.  The village is built on the rock in the name and all the houses are perched on this rock, so it is not easy getting up and down for me, but the are little alley ways and steps hidden all over the 'rock'.

After the snow, the floods.......we have another weather warning about rain, the forecasters were warning about us having a month's rain in 24 hours......It takes about 12 hours of stair rod rain for our bridge to be compromised.  As the bridge is already damaged and sitting at an angle we do not go out, not for fear of the bridge giving way, but for fear of not being able to get back on to our property.  It has sometimes been over 5 foot high of water above the bridge.  If there is lots of driftwood brought down from upstream the bridge looks like an enormouse beaver dam, then the rushing water digs out big holes under the dam to continue on its way.  So after a storm it is always interesting to go out and see the new paths and shapes created by the water.  So again, we are on a warning and will stay in the dry, the house is on a high spot but we have a small stream opposite the house which only runs in extreme conditions and if this overflows the water level can creep up near the front door......we shall see.......

What can get damaged by these flood waters are all the fences, the fence to the llama paddock was demolished once and we woke to find two llamas and two goats looking in at the kitchen door, but there is plenty of high ground for them to climb up to, and they never go far, they always want to see what we are doing.

Hopefully now all this is calming down I can get back to doing some spinning, I have been unable to do so because of little cuts on my thumbs which catch on the threads, and my hands have been cold.

I also hope that the flood waters, if any, reduce before tomorrow evening as I have a council meeting to attend.  This meeting is probably going to be contentious as it needs to address the ongoing problem of famers, lack of fences, lack of electrification, and cows everywhere, so we need all the non-agriculteurs on the council to attend.

dimanche 10 janvier 2010

The Mayor walked over to see if we were OK !!!

We had visitors at 6pm last night, the mayor and one of the deputies walked half a mile from the main road to make sure we were OK.  I was impressed, they had trudged through snow up past their knees.  The track to the main road is still blocked by a five foot snow drift, a farmer on a tractor tried to get through it earlier yesterday and tipped his tractor over the edge.  Another farmer succeeded to get in and out in a v ery large tractor, but it is impossible to get the snowplough down the road, so we are still great problem for us as we have plenty of stocks of food and animal feed and while the electricity is on we still have news  on the TV.  At least our village is on a main avex road in the department and the snowploughs go up and down continuously, other small villages are worse off than us, and nothing is getting through.  This weather is all over France and down to sea level, the UK is also very bad in places. 

We now have the phone back on which is a relief.  We also have beautiful sunshine and clear skies, we had a cup of coffee outside, it was like being in a ski resort cafe, lovely.  However the temperature is due to drop and then there is more snow forecast for Tuesday, so if I disappear from here and Facebook you will know why.

A bientot!!

Quelques flocons - A Few Flakes !!!!

Saturday 9 January

Quelques flocons is the phrase the French use for just a little snow 'A Few Flakes' - a dramatic understatement today, read on……

I was abrupty cut off on Facebook yesterday as I started a ‘conversation’ with an old friend, I apologise for that, we lost all types of phone connection.

We still have no telephone, nor mobile network which is a little disturbing as we would find it extremely hard to walk out of here to get help if one of us had an accident.  So we are conscientiously being careful, I suffer from chronic arthritis and walk with difficulty anyway, add to that the fact that I am prone to falling over and dislocating shoulders, and you will understand why we are being careful.  Dave is doing all the animal care at the moment.

Our neighbour is on her own at the moment and her husband is in hospital some 60Km away on icy road, thi been bad enough for the last couple of days but this has been compounded by the lack of phones of any sort, so she cannot even ring the hospital and the hospital cannot contact her.  Yesterday this department, the Aude, was on an orange alert for snow and ice, this morning they lifted this alert, why?  I have not a clue, conditions out there are dangerous.

Minus 4 degrees last night and at mid day it has only risen one degree.  We have gale force winds with gusts up to 120Kph, so we have snow going up, down and horizontal at high speeds.  I have tried to photograph the tornados of snow that are whisking around us.

 We are in a valley so all the snow is blowing from the tops of the hills around us down onto us.  It is four foot deep outside the door to the chicken shed and hip deep along the track to the llama and goat shelter, the goats had difficulty running out to get their granules just now.  The llama is, as usual, not bothered, when I spoke before about him sitting out in the snow and frost and leaving a dry bare patch underneath him, I forgot to say that when he got up and we heard the ripping noise, we looked at his imprint and he had left an oval of fleece behind.
The chickens we fed inside and fortunately thrit water pots had not frozen inside, so they seem to be happy.

The ducks are loving it, trying to ‘swim’ around in the very deep snow, slip sliding down the snow drifts quacking all the time, they then make little indentations in the snow and sit there quite happily.  We have not broken the ice in their bath as we felt it dangerous if they happened to not be able to get out on the ice and slippery bath sides.  We also have a stupid  Araucana chicken who thinks she is a duck and I would hate to think she might go into the icy water, so we have put a basin of water in the pen as they are dabbling ducks and take their food with water.

Add to all this an invasion of desperately hungry cows yesterday afternoon.  I felt so sorry for them, they headed straight for part of our stock of hay and tucked in, we left them a while before chasing them down towards the river.  The farmer was taken into hospital with a kidney stone on Thursday, he came out of hospital yesterday afternoon, but he could ask one of the other farmers to take a bale or two of hay to them by tractor,no excuse really and the snow is so deep for the calves, even under the trees
so there is nothing for them to eat at all.  We have had a 16 year battle with this farmer.

At least for the moment we still have electricity, there are about 50 thousand homes in France with no power, and they have been like this for over a week now.  I was amazed this morning that the first item on the news was only indirectly connected to the weather.  The sales started on January 6th and the news item was about the lack of customers in the shops!!!!! 

It is nearly 13:00 and the temperature has not risen more than 1 degree so far, and is due to get even colder tonight for the foreseeable future.

jeudi 7 janvier 2010

I found this amazing video on another blog

Putting chickens to bed

We don't look elegant, but then chasing chickens in a blizzardis not conducive to looking good.

The chickens that had passed the day on the doorstep refused to walk in the snow back to the coop so we had to chase them and pick them up to take them home.  One white hen ( would be white???) was missing and we eventually found her trying to hide under some brambles in a 'snow cave' in the mill race, so Dave had to fish for her with the net.  We still have Fanny in the house with us as she chose the last month to moult and has hardly any feathers, so she is in a cat box by the fire.  The three baby chicks are in another cat of them tweets all the time (clever thing) she is called Tweety Pie, another constantly does four quick tweets followed by some tapping on the floor, so she is called Morse.....there's a connection in there somewhere ..........

Next job was to knock some of the snow from the netting on the peacock pen and the duck and Araucana flight.  Dave had the big pen to do and I had the camera, which was lucky for me as I attempted to knock the snow from the netting with my umbrella only to break the umbrella and be covered in snow.  It was nearly dark when we finished.

It is still snowing heavily, we have no picture on French or english satellite tv systems, and power cuts are forecast for tonight.  The weather forecast is for snow, snow and more snow, all night and all day tomorrow, then a big freeze, maximum minus 5 in the day, and if that is based on Perpignan that means it will be minus 8 for us up here at altittude.

Just a reminder for me as well as anyone else........this is the South of France, and it has snowed right down to the mediterranean coast all day today.

Must send this quickly and get some candles out for imminent power cuts, they always seem to come when most of France sits down to eat and watch the news at 8pm.

Even the chickens want to come inside..........

It has been snowing heavily all day here, so another corner of France grinds to a halt.  We had an orange warning this morning for heavy snow, and the weather girl on FR2 said the snow would start between 11 and midi - and for once she was right.  It started slowly at first with tiny little icy round balls of snow, then the temperature went up a degree to 1 degree !! and it started to snow in massive big flakes.  It had been minus 9 degrees Celsius last night so the ground was hard and has formed a good base.

It took us ages to sort out the animals this morning as all the drinking bowls were frozen solid.  No point in breaking the ice on the duck's pink bath as it would just have refrozen quickly so we filled pans with luke warm water for them, Jemima duck tried to get in the bowl but she didn't fit.  The Araucana chickens who are house with the ducks came out, made a lot of fuss and then went back in, I fed them in their house.  The ducks were sitting quite happily out in the heavy snow.

Larry llama is sitting out in the snow, chewing the cud and the snow is mounting up on is back, we usually have to brush it off him if it gets too thick, so will be going down to check him again soon.  Another snowy day he sat out for ages and it started to freeze, we went down to put the chickens away and he was sparkling in the torchlight, then he tried with a little difficulty to get up and we heard a ripping noise, it appeared he had melted some of the snow around him and it had frozen his long fleece into the snow....!!  He came over for a kiss and left an oval shaped clear patch of grass, he returned to it after we left.

Most of the chickens followed us up to the house as usual but headed straight for the doorstep and they have sat there all day looking in, scattering occasionally if we let dogs or cats in and out.  Frida our hunting dog, a Bruno de Jura, refuses to go out at all, this morning we pushed her out and she turned round immediately and barked at the door.  Shiro of sourse being a snow dog, loved it and turned into a puppy again and tried to jump about biting snow flakes.

The snow is quite light now as the temperatures are dropping again, we are on an orange alert until tomorrow evening, so we could have quite a bit of snow by then, we have 5 inches now, but there are 110Kmp gales forecast for tomorrow as well.

So I am off to check Larry's snow level and brush him off, I hope the chickens follow me, but as the snow is quite deep I have visions of us having to pick them all up and take them to the coop.  I will let you know how we get on.....