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: