So, here we are at my new (blogging) home. I hope to update this blog much more regularly than before, and now I no longer feel constrained by the name of the old blog, that should be easier to do.
I see I last posted on the old blog in November 2008 – is it really that long ago?? Well, that was slap bang in the middle of the “global economic crisis”, the effects of which we’re all still living with.
Life continues its gentle rhythm here in the sleepy Gers; nevertheless there have been some highlights and lowlights along the way. I’m fairly sure I’ll be sending this post out into pretty much total silence as I’m sure most of the (few) people who used to read my blog will have given up on me by now. Never mind, here’s a quick recap of the last 15 months anyway.
At the end of January last year we were caught in the path of Hurricane Klaus. Knowing it was on its way, and being perched on top of a hill we expected the worst, but got off extremely lightly. We lost the marquee some of the goats were living in, and a few tiles off the roof, but compared to the scene of destruction for miles around it could have been so much worse. We were without electricity for 5 days and without water for 3. We found it easy enough to cope without electricity, but not having water was not a good experience, and I’m very glad it didn’t go on for any longer. We knew that the longer the power was out the greater the chance of losing the water (the huge water towers which supply water to the region need electricity in order to function), and we were able to stockpile some bottled water, and fill every receptacle we had with tap water, but providing water for the animals was more problematic. We were almost at the point of having to take water from our small lake, but thankfully this wasn’t necessary.
In April my dearly beloved Granny died. She was 15 and one of the original nine does we bought in 2001. She was the matriarch of the flock, keeping everyone in order, and loved looking after the little ones. She knew every goat that was descended from her, and would always let any kids related to her suckle from her (before she retired and stopped having kids) – something which is practically unheard of. She was in pretty fine fettle right up to her last day, and died peacefully in my arms.
We lost Cosmo in June. His back legs got worse and worse until he really wasn’t able to get about much at all and had to be picked up and helped along. We had to make that decision every dog owner dreads. When the vet arrived both Eddie and I were sobbing our hearts out – I bet he thought we were such sentimental English softies! We buried him next to the lake on the spot where he loved to lie and survey his kingdom. We still miss him terribly. Unfortunately Ben, who is now 12, seems to be going the same way, with his back legs getting weaker….
Our village fete took place at the end of July together with the biennial Son et Lumiere. (Links to Beaumarches website & lots of photos of the S&L. Check out our mayor as James Brown, and how many times can you spot me and Eddie in the photos?) Work on that started in March 2008. Eddie and I were in charge of the technical team – Eddie on lighting design / production management and me as the stage manager. The final two weeks in the run up to the performance (one night only!) were manic and we barely saw home except when we were coming back to feed the animals. Thankfully it was alright on the night and a great time was had by all. We got to know loads of new people in the village and made some good friends.
The first meeting for the working committee to start preparations for July 2011 is on the 5th March…
We had an absolutely fantastic summer. Practically wall to wall sunshine from April until the end of October. We made hay in temperatures of 40C: not so much fun picking up 1,000 bales off the fields then unloading them into the barn, but at least we got plenty to see us through the winter and it is really good quality. We had help from friends but I’m not sure they will volunteer again this year!
In October we sold the goats. It was a sad day, and a hard decision to make, but one we had been pondering all year. Our problem has been that we don’t produce a huge amount of mohair and we couldn’t find anywhere to get it processed. There don’t seem to be any small mills here that will process modest amounts of fibre, as there are in the UK. Maintaining a flock of 50 goats is expensive if you get nothing back from them and much as we loved them, they were never meant to be pets. Our decision was also influenced by the fact that the Jacob sheep have proved to be a massive hit. The French love them and we could have sold last year’s lambs to French smallholders 3 times over. We’re also building up a local market for the meat. From an economic viewpoint, there was no argument. We don’t have a vast amount of land, or money, so concentrating on the sheep and increasing the breeding flock, albeit at the loss of the goats, was just the obvious solution. The very positive outcome was that the entire flock (bar a couple of the oldies and 5 castrated male kids born last year which we kept) was sold together. They were bought by an English family near Bordeaux who have a varied collection of fibre animals – they are looking at buying their own small scale machinery to process their own fibre, and the daughter of the family spins and knits as well. A lovely family and an ideal home for the flock. It’s such a relief to know that they have all stayed together and have gone to such a good home.
Work wise, things are going well. Working in finance I got to see the effects of the credit crunch up close and personal, as it were, although I’m pleased to say that not being a mainstream kind of investment business we’ve emerged unscathed, and have spent the last year taking on new clients. When we get to our year end at the end of next month it will have turned out to be our best year ever. Must be doing something right. I have recently been able to cut down my visits to the UK so that instead of two weeks here, one week there I’m now doing three (or four) weeks here, one week there. Much better!
Amazingly, there has been knitting too! After probably 18 months of barely picking up the needles since we moved here, I have gradually been knitting more. I managed to complete a Green Gable (Ravelry link) last summer and got plenty of wear out of it. Scarves were knit as Christmas presents, and my current obsession is socks. I’ve discovered that these are ideal for me at the moment – small, relatively quick to knit, and there are lots of interesting patterns and beautiful yarn out there. Pics to follow of some of the FOs.
That’s the lot, I think. We’re all up to date. Are we still happy here? You bet. Roots well and truly planted.
Finally, I’ll leave you with some photos of our latest arrivals born over the last couple of weeks.