Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Aveyron, Creuze, Dordogne....

Time flies when you are having fun.  And it does.  Can’t believe that I’ve been back from Portugal for nearly three weeks, I guess with a weekend in Toulouse and numerous projects going on at Nicholas’ plus friends visiting for a weekend and other helpers arriving the time gets swallowed up in no time.

I have been charged, as is now usual, with sorting out the garden produce before the frosts arrive and then ensuring that as much as possible is preserved for the winter.  All the winter squash are now drying inside, there are numerous jars of tomato paste, ratatouille, green tomato chutney and jam safely stored away in the cellar.  Onions that got a light frosting now transformed into a mean start to any chilli dish, just add to beans, mince or vegetables for a hearty meal on any winters night.

Nic has been collecting large bottles, amongst many other things, you should see his loft space, for several years but is always wary of using them as they tend to be rather fragile, especially as they no longer have their wicker protection.  Thanks to a couple of rainy days and my needle skills, they now have neat hessian bands around their middles, a quick and easy way to protect them.  Several have already been  decanted into and the rest wait for the next bulk purchase of wine or hazelnut oil, pressed from the nuts that we collected earlier in the autumn.

We had a great weekend with a couple of Nic’s mates from down south.  We planned to follow a mini ‘transhumanse’ (the process of moving livestock from high to low pasture in mountain areas) on Saturday morning, followed by a lunch with a local sheep farmer, in fact it took most of the day, with a good walk in glorious sunshine followed by a delicious slap up meal in a barn completely put together with local produce, plenty of lamb and local wine.  The meal was followed by a demonstration by the local folkloric association and a quiet evening in.  On Sunday we spent an afternoon in a thermal spa resort, soaking in jacuzzi’s, steaming in saunas, relaxing in hammams and hot pools.  All the more enjoyable after being in his rather chilly house during the first frosty spell of winter.  Much improved from recent years, but still in need of final insulation and a couple of doors to keep the last of the draughts at bay.  Returning from the spa was exceptional, the sky and sunset was one of the most spectacular that I have ever seen.  The blazing golden orb of the sun descending from view with a multicolour display of cloud formations, con trails and stunningly lit scenery,  It’ll have to remain a memory as no one had a camera.  The everchanging blend of purples, reds, oranges, greys, greens, blues mutated as the sun and clouds moved across the sky and we traveled through the autumn landscape.  The spectacle lasted long after sunset and finally came to an end once the stars has started to light up the night sky.  What beauty.

We have spent a fair amount of time working in another property in the village, one that he bought at the same time as the tower and is now being done up for sale.  The proceeds will go to fund the continuing restoration of the tower, professional help with roofing and the purchase of ten metre long beams do not come cheap and the small income he has is easily used up each month.  We’ve been replastering with lime mortar, installing electric lighting and power sockets in one of the main rooms, it’ll look smart once it’s finished.

All good things come to an end and I have headed north to catch up with Matty.  We are heading to a location that we visited earlier this summer and helped with the round house.  This time we are going back to learn the skills of willow weaving.  Not baskets but hurdles, fences and garden structures, things of a grand scale.  It was something that our host Matt promised us back in the summer and now is an ideal time to coppice, prepare and weave.  As ever he is slightly delayed, so I am giving Matty a helping hand with some work he is trying to get finished before we drive west.

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