mardi 3 juin 2014
We did not ought to have to protect ourselves. We have been asking this question all week. My husband is angry, after recent events and I am glad he did not find the tractor that very afternoon when he went out. We asked the mayor what we could do to protect ourselves. We don't have any guns. My husband cannot get a hunting license as the test is all in French and they say he is not allowed an interpreter. There is also a written exam about hunting regulations French style, and a course you are supposed to attend for 6 weeks. If this is all true, I am checking it now as it would be this farmer's family and friends who would be doing the tests and issuing the license, so I would imagine they would make it hard for anyone they did not want to join the hunt. In the UK you do not have to hunt to be eligible to have guns. You can belong to a shooting club that shoots inside, or just a collector of antique guns. And definitely in the UK and in Germany I think, it is the police that issue all firearms licenses, and they ask for medical reports. And certainly no one who is mentally unstable is allowed to own a gun but I know nothing about the tests for that. In the UK, the police are not so worried about legally owned guns, but by all the illegal guns being sneaked into the country, some by soldiers who have served in Afghanistan, or Iraq, but mostly illegally from other sources. It is not illegal to own a replica gun and there are thousands of these 'legally' imported every year, the crime is when these replicas are taken to illegal metal workers who then return these guns to a working state. Of course here is a steady market of imports legal or not from eastern Europe, especially Serbia, Bosnia etc whee there has been recent conflict. Next will be Ukraine I suppose, but they are using all they can keep in their own country at the moment, the traffic is reversed. No one we have asked could tell us how you could protect yourself from anyone arriving with a gun? In UK we have "reasonable force" you can use reasonable force against a burglar, but not shoot him. There have been some very stupid court cases where the criminals have sued the victims when they have been injured while committing a crime. And not always injured by the victim. There have been one or two criminals who have successfully sued because they have fallen climbing into a property and managed to say the wall or something was dangerous!! Or the dog protecting the family bit the intruder and the criminal won a case against them and the dog was destroyed!! Our big dog is so imprinted on me and close to me, I think he would attack if I was being attacked. That is exactly what we wanted in a dog. You can see how he naturally protects, he stays close to the end wall of the mill and as people approach he barks and makes eye contact with them, backing up all the time so that he is between me and the visitor. Until I tell him it's OK and usually give the visitor a kiss. After people have visited a few times he just barks a few times and sits down on the doorstep. For some reason Our dog dislikes our trouble making neighbour, The cow farmer, and continues to bark at him, and we let him because it rattles The man! He sneaks around our property at about 7 am. I can tell the dog to stop, and if I walk towards the house and say "viens ici" (come here) he follows immediately and I can shut him inside. So I don't see how the mayor can say someone says our dog is not in control. It can only be The cow farmer or the vine grower. The dog barks at The vine grower's weedkiller tractor and machine. He is a big, imposing dog and when he stares and barks he is frightening. But the other day when my husband and I were both having a siesta, he let our tenant, a massive man, arrive and walk up to the house, open the door and put a bag of egg boxes inside for us, but then he knows him well. But I would guess he would not let The cow farmer do the same!! I love my dog to bits but we did get him as a guard dog and if he takes a bullet for us then unfortunately so be it, sounds callous but I would rather still have Dave of course if I had to choose. I hope all I have written never comes true but defending yourself and your property is no easy thing in Europe and particularly in this part of wild France where arguments have always been settled quickly and violently for hundreds of years.
I was asking questions at a village council meeting, on behalf of other residents, as is my job as a councillor! And another councillor took it personally. He rents out an old farm building for 'storage', but the tenants storing equipment there have turned up with about 7 RVs and converted army lorries and are clearly living there. Other residents have seen human poop floating down the little stream that runs past these unusual residents towards the river that runs through our village. So I asked the obvious questions at a council meeting, where do they empty their toilets, get their water from etc. and do they contribute to rubbish removal like all residents. The owner of the land, a farmer is also a councillor and was very defensive as usual, 'not my problem', 'i just rent it to them', 'I am not responsible' etc. but the council agreed to check if there is any pollution. The owner stayed for a beer after the meeting and left smiling. The minutes of the meeting covered the discussion well, and the promise of the council to check that there is no environmental pollution satisfied me and other residents. The only thing slightly wrong was it said I asked the questions, and not that I had asked the questions on behalf of other residents. The minutes of the meeting were posted publicly on the wall outside the town hall. Next day, just before I got back from the craft workshop, the farmer drove his tractor over our bridge and dumped a load of human shit beside our well, beside the river, I think it was destined to be dumped outside our front door, but Our big guard dog was barking aggressively, and thankfully the farmer chose to reverse and not drive at him! I rang the mayor when I got back, and my husband went to look for the tractor as he had not seen the driver well. The next morning, my friend , an 86 year old english woman, who lives next door to the farmer, had an early visit, before she was up. A then jovial farmer admitted it was him and threatened me through my friend by saying, "if she (me) wants shit, I have plenty more for her and worse!" Whatever "worse" is?? He obviously thinks he is untouchable! The Mayor did not ring back until Wednesday evening, but more or less said it was my fault for asking the questions!! I was not happy. And couldn't finish the conversation with him in any language!! My husband managed to agree to the mayor coming round the next day, Thursday. He did so, and was a little calmer than when he said it was my fault! He had talked to others in the meantime. He said the farmer had realised he was wrong to do that! OK so what was he going to do about it? Apologise? No, he didn't think the farmer would apologise......so what then, nothing? The mayor said he realised the farmer was hot headed, a bit of a psychopath (!)......I was shocked, so we have psychopaths running around in tempers with loads of shit and shotguns? Eventually, he agreed to call a meeting Monday to discipline the farmer, how, I don't know? Anyway, the latest is he rang just before the meeting today to cancel it. Now I think I will take the legal option and go to make a complaint at the Gendarmes. Although my friend has pleaded with me not to as she thinks he is capable of getting out his gun, "and we don't want to be going to anyone's funeral!", is what she said!! How can this guy still have his gun license? Because they are issued by the hunting association and not the police. My friend, who is 86, poor woman had another early morning visit this morning from the farmer's mother! Ranting and raving at her just because she is my friend. However she also added something which made my friend and I think along different lines. The woman started accusing me, and her because of the eco association we belong to, saying that we had to disband the association etc. Now we think there is a deeper problem here.....the president of this Association is A man who caused a lot of problems for us last summer. He is trying to get rid of me from the association, but really the association has not functioned for nearly two years. Anyway This man, who is also 86, appeared at a meeting arranging a fete for all associations in September and suddenly proclaimed that our association was campaigning against all the farmers and making sure they all stick to the regulations about weedkillers etc.....so the plot thickens here as we (my friend and I) now think that this has got around the village and has wound up the farmers again. This could be the old goat's way of getting at me too. So how's that for a complicated soap opera tale of village life? Do I make a complaint to the Gendarmes so they are aware that a man, the mayor considers is a psychopath, is running around dumping shit and threatening "worse". He has already over the years, tried to push our Land Rover with my husband inside, off a narrow mountain road, threatened another friend of mine when she was post mistress, after she made a formal complaint following the farmer's dog biting her on two occasions. The outcome of that complaint was the farmer drove up to my friend's car as she and her husband had just driven out of their driveway. Stopped his tractor in front of her car, touching the bumper, slammed his gun down on the roof of the car, dragged her husband out and headbutted him breaking his nose. These people were so frightened they made no further complaint, and I think withdrew their original complaint, so the farmer got away with it completely. How has this guy still got his gun license?? Oh yes, I forgot, the hunters issue the licenses.....and the head man is a relative of his ! Say no more.....! It's weeks like this that make me really want to leave here, but then I look at my garden and animals and realise why I am here. Before the mayor left on Thursday, he more or less said in the same breath.....so you are not going to complain to the police are you.......and.......you need to be careful of your dog you know I have had a complaint from a farmer who couldn't cross the land behind you because your dog was barking at him? A veiled threat if ever there was one?don't complain or we'll complain (or worse) about your dog. One of these days racists in France will get their comeuppance! All expats in France can probably expect more attacks like this since the National Front got so many votes in the European elections.
dimanche 18 mai 2014
Today has been the first day this year that I have enjoyed planting in the garden. It is sunny, but not too warm with some man made clouds due to early chemtrailing this morning. The plants I bought at the local plant fair two weeks ago have been in my mini greenhouse acclimatizing, and are now ready to plant. I started with my cucumber teepee, having changed its location in line with my normal crop rotation to benefit the soil. We have been gardening here for 13 years and as we are surrounded by cow farmers who reseed their pastures with hardy, fast growing rye grass and fling fertilizer about, it has been hard to fight this virulent grass which seems to take over the beds every year. We swing between a no dig, mulching method and digging with our antique mechanical digger! A total contrast, I know, the purists will be shocked, but the no dig method and raised beds could not cope with the crazy grass which has adventitious roots that run along underground sending up strong shoots everywhere!! So, while I still cover beds in cardboard, carpets and a heavy mulch in the growing season and winter, it is still usually necessary to dig at least some of the beds each year with the digger. A compromise because of local conditions. We did not really have a winter this year at all, very mild, only one occasion when the temperature dipped below freezing, minus 4 degrees C. Previous years we have had to battle with weeks of temperatures below minus 15 C!! So we have to be prepared for anything. Everything has been early this year, Spring, the migrating birds, bulbs and flowers over a month early. The sparrows are already on their second brood in the nest boxes and the Blue Tits are not far behind. I bought organic cucumber plants as usual at the plant fair and they were about 8 inches tall when I planted them around the base of the teepee this morning. I usually dig a hole, water in the hole, add some home made compost and plant the plants at a slight angle in towards the poles and string. I have more cucumber plants to go out but I left space around the teepee for a few sweet peas just to liven up the bottom of the garden. I then put in six of the 20 tomato plants I also bought at the organic supplier. I like colour on the plate for salads, so I have a mix of small yellow pear tomatoes, Green Tiger striped, cherry tomatoes, Delice du Jardin (a normal tomato!), a pineapple flavoured one, Crimea a nearly purple, large tomato and Andean Horn, a long pointed shape. I also have so e Brandy Wine tomatoes a friend sent me from the US. Quite a collection! The last thing I managed to do this morning before taking a break to write this was to put in a second row of Oregon sugar snap peas. The row I planted four weeks ago next to the new row are just starting to twirl onto the bushy sticks. The broad beans, planted 5 weeks ago are about 9 inches tall and looking strong. They needed to have the weeds scuffled out from between the rows. Spring has been quite damp with lots of rain, so all the grasses and weeds have been growing like mad around here. The bean frames and nets have all been repaired ready for the seeds to be planted. I did not rotate the position of these frames this year so we decided to change the soil, and dug out about a foot and replaced with a mix of soil and compost. We a,so reconnected all the hoses to automatically fill up the water barrels around the garden when we pump water from the well. The trees and flowers up at the house are all watered from the rain water collection barrels. So a good morning in the garden, and by the way the swarm of bees is still with us!
mardi 13 mai 2014
We started keeping bees when we lived in the UK about 30 years ago. It was something I had always wanted to do and at the time we had a big garden sheltered by the dreaded Leylandii trees and a disused railway embankment. I read all I could about beekeeping, bought a couple of books and ordered a colony ready hived from a bee far in Gloucestershire, before I had even finished the first book. So we kept bees happily and kept neighbours sweet with honey gifts for five years or so until we decided to move to France to retire. Of course some of the bees had to come with us..... We contacted DEFRA in the UK responsible for giving me a permit to take a hive of bees out of the country. They were inspected by a beekeeping expert, health checked a d given a 'passport'. At no time was entry into France considered and the only advice the 'expert' gave me was not to say anything about them unless asked at the ferry!! This we did and as usual we passed straight through customs in Le Havre!! It is a ten hour drive minimum in a fast car with few stops to reach our destination in the southern most tip of France, however we were traveling in an old Land Rover with a heavy trailer, and intending to make an overnight stop somewhere in a motorway Aire. This is a long time for bees to be shut in to a hive. We had put an open travel screen on to op the brood box, and had taken off the two supers of honey we were taking with us, they were wrapped up in the trailer. The colony was a large one and we made frequent stops to check on the bees, giving them the maximum air possible. We had a sugar syrup spray made up and each time we stopped we sprayed them lightly with this, to keep them busy and calm. When we made the overnight stop at an Aire, a parking area on the motorway, we opened the back of the trailer while we prepared the inevitable pot of english tea and some sandwiches!! When we had stopped for lunch earlier in the day we opened the trailer again, it did not take long fir the bees to attract some 'friends', after only about ten minutes we had a small gathering of about twenty or so local bees, attracted by the pheromones being sent out by our bees who were probably quite stressed. Anyway, the journey down took us about 20 hours. When we arrived we off loaded the hive first onto its stand we gad prepared on our previous visit. We sprayed them and left them to settle for a couple of hours, then took off the entrance block and put on a roof. We stood back to watch as they could well have been angry, but no, a few at a time the bees came out, making quick flights to orient themselves and back to the hive. Our beekeeping record in France was not so good, the hive thrived and for two years we kept two or three hives. Then collapse, the bees disappeared almost over night. I did everything I could to research this and in our area things are difficult because at that time the vignerons sprayed a lot of nasty stuff on and around their vines, and a new radio and telephone mast has also been installed on a hilltop in view of my hives. So the collapse could have been due to a number of things. So we cleaned out our hives and stacked them all up next to the dog kennel. Occasionally we had scout bees investigating and once we caught a swarm but they did not stay. Several times in the next few years we were asked to collect swarms from trees and between window shutters, but while the collections were successful the bees never stayed, so the hives sat there redundant except for ants and moths, for 10 years. Last Friday we were sitting outside eating a very late lunch with friends when one of them commented on the large amount of 'flies' overhead.........they were not flies, they were swarming bees! Our friends wanted to dive for cover. Ut we persuaded them to sit and watch as swarming bees are too full of honey with too much on their mind to sting. So we watched as other bees joined them and the noise increased, and then they started to quieten down and the cloud of beesabove our heads began to disperse. We encouraged everyone to try to keep an eye on them to see where they went. That was easy because they didn't go far, straight to the pile of hive boxes and in through a gap between two old honey collecting 'supers' . All was quiet. Our guests were pleased because the imagined threat was gone, we were pleased because we had a small colony of bees hived with no cost or work. The only one not pleased was Frida, our old rescued hunting dog, who was sat in her kennel right next to the new residents, giving us 'the look'!! Four days later the bees are still with us, so it looks like we are beekeepers again!
The incident of the screaming man has been brushed under the carpet,with the mayor and farmers saying we had mistaken a cow crying!! I was annoyed at this as I can tell the difference between a cow and a human! However, My next nearest neighbour down the valley went to help another friend out with her bees and she described the man, with his red beard, as having been wandering around her hives, and asked to buy a pot of honey with a cheque. He said someone had stolen his rucksack and things and he had been sleeping rough!! Definitely our man and quite a looney, a little 'slow' maybe. So he is still around as that was on Thursday after the screaming. Maybe that was when his things were being stolen? So still a bit of a mystery. It looks like it is forgotten and now being joked about.......serves them right if they find a body in two year's time like the other one! We did our duty and reported the screaming. And the main story would be: "The Mystery Why Any Crimes Reported By Foreigners Are Not Investigated" !!! LOL It is still weird, because people keep seeing him around here, My neighbour, then a beekeeper friend from the next village about 6km after My neighbour's house, which is even more remote than ours! People have likened him to an elf, a wizened old man, Cat Weasle (a character in a 1970s children's programme), a hippy, a tramp etc. if he had his rucksack stolen, maybe that was all the screaming? But why deny screaming? And why has he not asked the police for help? Of all the people that saw him, none have said he asked for help. At My friend's mill where she keeps bees and sells honey, p he was seen among the hives, a dangerous thing to do, then when questioned he asked to buy a pot of honey for 12 euros, he said he had no cash, then pulled a cheque out of his back pocket to pay, he made the cheque out for more and she gave him a few euros change so he could get a coffee. Of course this could have been a dud cheque, but he is still hanging around. If he had committed a crime you would expect him to high tail it out of the area. Actually not easy to do if he didn't have a map, and after the event near us, we now know which direction he went in which was deeper into the forested Corbieres. Not the actions really of a criminal on the run. He was also spotted hanging around in another village later and he had been able to buy a coffee, presumably with the cash back that the beekeeper gave him. Time will tell if the cheque is dud! But it will have an address on it. Such a small community of people for 10 k in each direction from here, and a convenient, almost medieval gathering at the plant fair, now everyone knows of his existence if not his exact whereabouts! So really, everyone is on the alert. However this does not really instill confidence in the French Gendarmes, who are army and not police, but in control in these remote areas. We need also to remember that we are on one of the routes used by the Resistance in World War two and before, through the Pyrenees. The forest in this area is still thick providing perfect cover. Unfortunately these routes are now used by illegal immigrants on their way up through France and Spain, after perilous crossings of the Mediterranean Sea. A body was found two years ago just 300 metres outside our village. It was just a skeleton and the bones had been scattered across a wide area by wild boar, but his rucksack was beside his skull, untouched for two years. He was discovered by a cow farmer who spotted the rucksack before the grisly remains. In the rucksack was 20,000 euros, and maps of the area. No sinister story here though, he had been trekking to Bugarach Mountain and Rennes le Chateau, and had died of natural causes. Both these places deserve a blog article from me. Bugarach Mountain is a place of pilgrimage by UFO enthusiasts, and was recently a place supposedly thought capable of turning into an alien spaceship to take people away from the earth when it was forecast to end by the Mayan calendar on 21 December. More questions were left unanswered some months ago when a local cow breeder had Five of his very pregnant cows shot dead in the field. I knew nothing about this until I noticed the corpses, swollen and fly blown, piled up on an open trailer right beside a layby on the main road as I came home from a restaurant quite late at night. I saw legs and hooves sticking up in the aur and was instantly reminded of all the horror of the slaughter during the Foot and Mouth outbreak in the UK, about 15 years ago. The stench was so bad I could smell it three hundred metres away at my house.......i contacted the town hall to find out that they were waiting for the gendarmes to come and check the bodies before they could be sent for disposal and processing. It had already been a week since the shooting. This story finds its place into this article because it was another crime against, or reported by foreigners. The gendarmes had to be pushed hard by a petition to the Prefect signed by all the local mayors, to investigate the shooting. People around here, not only farmers were worried. First cows, then people. Was this some looney or a local person on a hidden agenda? Even then it was not really investigated, and the dutch farmer and his girlfriend were at one stage barricaded into a friend's house with guns, expecting reprisals. To this day, this crime has never really been investigated, but there has been speculation and everyone seems to know who the perpetrator is!! But the crime has just been allowed to be forgotten by the fog of time.
mercredi 30 avril 2014
Living in isolation in the middle of the countryside is not everyone's cup of tea. We love it and have become accustomed to the noises, the way of the country life and the natural cycles of the year and weather. I can spend hours outside just listening to the birds and other wild animals, and our own animals. I suppose I am more in tune to these noises than most people because of this. The noises change with the seasons, and of course there are more human noises in the summer when so e people like to 'wild camp' in our area, or the keen hunters at the start of the season camp out to get an early start at dawn. One of the noisiest nights was when the Tour de France chose to come right past us on the nearest main mountain road. We were not expecting the amount of people that chose to bring their camper vans and tents here. Every corner of the road, on the grassy edges and in laybys were little gatherings of Tour followers, all excited, meeting up with old friends, and noisily eating and drinking the night away, to wait for the two or three second flash of their lycra encased heros cycling by the next day. So, it was strange, when at about 9:45 pm last night my husband went out to put the chickens away and shut the llamas in their home pen, he quickly came back to say he had heard shouting outside, like someone crying for help. I went outside to listen and sure enough there were several more, chilling screams. We could not understand any words, just screams, and when we shouted out in French asking if someone needed help, the screams stopped. We were sufficiently worried to think about phoning the Gendarmes, but as there is no night cover around here for 50 km, had anyone been hurt that could have serious consequences. A hunter was injured five years ago when a wild boar attacked him and one of its tusks gashed his femoral artery. He called for help on his mobile phone but the emergency services by road and helicopter were too late, he bled to death. So, my husband grabbed a high powered search light, jumped in the Land Rover and headed off in the direction of the screams, on a green lane next to the river. Meanwhile I telephone a friend whose husband I knew had been chainsawing and clearing a trail not far from us earlier in the day, the check if he was home, he was so we were relieved. I saw the Land Rover lights disappearing in the distance and I listened for more screams, but heard nothing. I frightened myself when there were rustlings on the opposite bank of the stream in front of me....I had left all the dogs inside so that I could listen....so I had no protection. My mind started working overtime, what if someone had been attacked? Our lights are the only ones for miles, could the attacker head in my direction. I rushed inside and took up position on the first floor at an open window. I heard nothing more. I rang a friend for advice, who in turn rang the mayor of our village who has the power of the
samedi 26 avril 2014
Bar Wars part 2
Bar Wars - part 1
Starting off my garden for 2014
mercredi 20 février 2013
We have a gite to rent in the centre of the tiny village of Laroque de Fa. The building is more than 300 years old and was the old bakery, the bread oven and system for heating the house are still in place. We do have a more modern heating system now..... Ground Floor: Kitchen with electric stove, washing machine fridge freezer fully equipped for four people. There is a small sitting area with armchairs and a dining table. There is a wood burning stove for which an initial supply of wood is included in the price. From here there is an original staircase to the first floor. First Floor: On this floor there are two bedrooms, one with a double bed, the other is at present made up as a single with an orthopedic bed. A second single would fit in this room. On this floor is a separate WC and bathroom with bath and shower over. Second Floor: The second floor is reached by another original staircase in the local style, through a door which effectively shuts off the two floors. This floor can be included in the accommodation although the ceiling is yet to be painted, it comprises one large room where there is a double bed and two singles set up as a corner sofa, there is also a large dining table and chairs. The windows open on to a little square in front of the house which was the original threshing area for the grain. Hot water, and electricity are included in the price of the gite. Linen is charged at 10 euros per person per week. Cars should be left in the area next to the church or on the main square. The road up to the gite becomes very narrow and although there is a way through via the top of the hill, it is only suitable for pedestrians or very small cars. There is a piece of land belonging to our gite which is a little overgrown and wild but visitors are welcome to use this for picnics during their stay, it is about 200 metres away, we will be happy to show yo where this is and in season you can pick the figs and enjoy them. Laroque de Fa is on the D613 road from Narbonne through to Couiza, putting you within easy reach of places like Roman Narbonne, the old city of Carcassonne, sed in Kevin Costner's film Robin Hood Prince of thieves, Rennes le Chateau with its mysterious history, and Rennes les Bains for free hot spring bathing in the woods, also recently used By Kate Mosse as the setting for her novel Sepulchre. There is a file of useful information on the shelf in the sitting room downstairs, and if you need any more specific information please do not hesitate to contact your hosts on : 04 68 70 09 38 You should also come and visit us while you are here, we have a small farm just outside the village where we are renovating the old watermill, the Moulin de St Jean Circa 1260, and we have an organic vegetable garden, llamas, goats and other animals to see. Photos of the gite to follow.