Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Ruin




You didn't really think I'd turn back, did you? Nope, I'm a 'gotta see what's around the next bend'  kind of hiker, so Lucie and I continued wandering up the road. It came to an intersection with two other dirt roads and tucked up just off one was this intriguing ruin.  We picked our way through a lot of brush to explore it...




The property was enclosed in this dry-stacked stone wall. I'm amazed at the work that goes into these walls, and you see them everywhere.
Only two walls remained standing. I could see openings that held roof beams along the wall above the window. Had it been a house? a shepard's hut?
It was very difficult to get even this poor photo of the small structure just behind the bigger ruin. It was circular, about 3 feet in diameter and that dark place is actually an opening into what I'm sure was a space that originally had a roof. Here are my guesses at what it might be: the well, a cold storage place for food, or a bread oven. Because of this and the size of the ruin, I think this was a house. A farmer lived here on top of the causse with perhaps a wife and family...far from any village or any neighbors. A hard, lonely life, I think.
Lucie and I walked a bit further up the road and then decided it truly was time to go home. I snapped this photo when we reached Les Cayrels, Jean's road. 'Look, Lucie,' I said, 'we were up there...'way up there on top!'

Grand Views

Okay, so the road didn't exactly end, just the pavement did. It continued on as dirt, up, up and up. No more houses, though, just these signs stapled onto an occasional tree. I asked Christiane about them later, and she told me they indicate hiking trails on the causse. Lucie and I continued on, stopping often to rest and catch our breath. At each stop I'd think about turning back, but of course, I never did; we just kept going up and up. I spied a petit chemin a la gauche** and decided we should explore that direction for awhile. This was our reward....
In the upper left you can just see Montbrun. In the center on the other side of the river is Saujac, and below is Cadrieu. The big building is the Chateau. The bright sun didn't make for a dramatic photo, but the view was grand!

I zoomed in on Jean's place with the big evergreen in the yard....

I zoomed out to catch the farmers' fields lining the Lot...
And we continued walking the edge of the causse. I momentarily thought about  a conversation we'd had at language class earlier in the week. The subject was VIPERS! which is what the French and British call any poisonous snake. This was definitely viper country...plenty of rocks and sun-facing hillsides and cliffs. The day was mild; mild enough to draw vipers out of their winter nests?? Nah! we saw nary a hint of one. I did worry a bit, though, about the loose rocks and those steep cliffs. A wrong step, and I could slide a long ways before I stopped. Would Lucie play 'Lassie' for me and run for help? Hmmm...it was another unsubstantiated worry. I was careful and had no problem. And as we walked even further up river, Cajarc came into view...


There's been a bridge across the Lot at Cajarc since the 12th century. The current bridge was built in the 1800's.
Lucie and I re-traced our path headed back towards the road. When we reached it, there was a decision to make....continue up? or return home? Tune in tomorrow for the answer!

***petit chemin a la gauche--little path on the left.
Both links to Cajarc are in French, but worth a look especially if you can translate the page on your computer. The old photos are really cool!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Exploring





Lucie and I went exploring this morning. Instead of our normal walk to the mairie and beyond, we decided to turn off here on Les Roques just to see what we could see. We passed along side of the great barn I posted about earlier this week.









We sneaked a peek at laundry hanging in a neighbor's  backyard....

The road went up and up giving us some nice views back to the village...

We passed houses open to the morning sun as well as some shuttered and empty like this one.
We weren't sure where we were going besides up when suddenly the road ended.....

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Another Barn




Here's another old weathered barn right up the road from yesterday's. I love the attention to detail of the doors...not just your run-of-the-milll vertical boards, but boards artistically placed in a graphically pleasing herringbone design.










It wasn't until I just now downloaded this detail of the barn's front that I noticed the boards above the door have 'scalloped' ends. Someone really wanted this barn to look special,don't you think?











These louvred side panels indicate that this barn was also used in the past for drying tobacco leaves.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Barns




I can see this old barn out the window as I sit here at my computer. I love how the different woods of the building and the doors have weathered. The village farmers are starting to drive up and down the road on their tractors which makes me think this barn may see some action soon. It's been sitting very quietly all winter.








I can tell by the metal panels on each side of this barn that in the past it was used as a tobacco-drying barn. The panels would be raised to let the air circulate and dry the hanging leaves.







This is a modern tobacco 'barn' right across the road from my weathered neighbor. Doesn't have quite the same aesthetic appeal, does it?

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Finished Products

Foie Gras
Christiane shared two cookbooks with me full of mouth-watering recipes. One that really got me salivating was fettucine with chunks of foie gras and morel mushrooms sauteed in butter.
Pate
Yes, that's a thick layer of artery-hardening fat at the top, but it's so yummy! Surely just a little won't hurt?

I promise you'll get a photo of the big jars of duck confit...just as soon as I get over my head cold and get back to Christiane's to snap one.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Meanwhile Out in the Garage....


While the ducks were being prepared in the kitchen, Jean-Paul was busy in the garage getting things ready for processing. The slide show takes you through that step-by-step. I think it's very interesting that everything is processed strictly in a water bath and is not done under pressure. After searching through Christiane's French/English dictionary, I was able to tell her that in the United States all meat and most all vegetables are done in a pressure cooker (autocuiseur) to ensure that all the bacteria is killed. The French who eat multiple products made with unpasteurized milk and eat food processed without pressurization seem to be totally healthy and alive...not killed instantly by botulism or other dread food poisonings! Do we over-process? I'm convinced that we do, but for litiginous rather than health reasons. I've been eating 'French' all winter without a problem!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dead Ducks (a.k.a. foie gras, pate & confit)

**Warning: this post is NOT for you if you are:
   a) squeamish
   b) a vegetarian
   c) opposed to the process that produces these
       fine ducks...and their 'parts'

Christiane mentioned at language class on Monday that she was 'doing ducks' this week. Was I interested in watching? While I hadn't a clue what 'doing ducks' was all about, I'm always up for an adventure, so at 9:30am the next morning, I was knocking on her door. I found her, Jean-Paul, and their daughter-in-law, Nathalie, up to their elbows in dead ducks...eight in all purchased from our neighbors, the Gentou's. (that's why their barnyard has been strangely quiet and empty lately!) At 6,10 euros per kilo, they seem a bit pricey until you consider that almost every part of the duck will be used in the preparation of the foie gras, the pate and the confit. The ducks are delivered plucked with some of their insides removed. "Team D" takes care of the rest. Christiane and Jean-Paul will keep products from two ducks, two ducks will go to Nathalie, and Nathalie's father will have the remaining four. I've put together a slide show to share the experience. Here for your enjoyment is Part 1 of Dead Ducks!

Be sure to come back tomorrow to find out what Jean-Paul was doing in the garage while ducks were being dismembered in the kitchen. And what did happen to all those pieces of duck? Did the carcasses go to waste? You have to come back to discover the answers!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An Adventure in Cooking



I had the most interesting morning, a real adventure in cooking! Because the adventure continues tomorrow and because I'll have a gazillion photos to shift through and organize, I decided to give you just a tease of what the next few blog posts are going to be about in hopes it will pique your curiosity and you'll return to read the rest of the story. I took this photo as I walked home at noon. It's the Gentou's nearly empty barnyard. Any idea what you'll learn about tomorrow??

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Views

I have a different perspective of the village from le Chalet. This shot from Jean's driveway is looking back up to the village. When I look out the windows at Laury's house, I look down on the river flowing by; here I look out over fields and a small vineyard. This side of the village is more open, a bit more agricultural. In future posts, I'll be sharing a couple of cool old barns along the road, some other views from Jean's place and whatever else I find on our explorations.
Good thing I snapped these photos a few days ago...this morning it's very foggy, and I can see nothing beyond the trees that line Jean's yard

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I'm Connected!

Thanks to Laury's ethernet cable and her techno-knowledge, I'm all hooked up and connected to the internet! Yay! Lucie and I are settled in at Jean's. Laury and Dali helped us bring the last of our stuff up the hill. The electricity and water are turned on, and I'm about to go out and fiddle with the gas, so I can use the stove if I want to cook. I've found places to hang my clothes. Lucie is asleep on the couch here in Jean's entry/dining room/kitchen space. I think I'm ready to experience life on this side of the village.
Don't the clementines look pretty in Jean's bowl! Better enjoy them now; I think their season is just about over.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Time to Transition

When the seeds for the idea of spending this winter in France sprouted over a year ago, it was originally to house sit here at le Chalet for Jean while she spent the winter in her native England. As the idea evolved, we were able to dove-tail the house sitting with Laury's work assignments, so that I could take care of the Chatette, Dali and Sam as well. Laury returns from the Netherlands this evening and will be home for 6 weeks before her next assignment in Germany. It's time for me to transition! Lucie and I have been moving our 'stuff' up to Jean's over the past few days. Le Chalet is on the other side of the village. It's about a 15 minute walk with the dogs; could be less if they didn't want to stop and sniff every blade of grass between here and there! This is the more 'modern' side of the village. Most of the houses look to be 17th-19th century construction with a few, like Jean's, much more recent. Jean's little house is cabin-style and much smaller than Laury's, but with plenty of room for Lucie and me. There are pros/cons to each place, of course; I like having the opportunity to observe the village from a different perspective. The biggest challenge in all this transitioning is internet access; I'll have it at Jean's, if I can figure out how to get it hooked up to my netbook! If all else fails, I can always come here to Laury's and use her wireless connection. I say all this to let you know there may be a few days that I won't be able to blog. Hang in there with me! I'll get it all sorted out eventually. When I do, I'll share life from the other side of Cadrieu with you.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Reflections

I've had a couple of busy days as I'm 'transitioning' this weekend. More about that in tomorrow's blog post. Today, though, after a bus trip to Figeac for groceries, a stop at the ATM, and the post office, I'm having a moment to catch my breath and to catch up on emails. I received one from a friend of mine who has recently discovered art photography and has started his own blog to share his amazing photos. His post today was on 'reflections' and how sometimes it's good just to sit a moment and reflect on how good life is. So, I'm sitting in this moment and reflecting back on 2010, a year of a few lows and a whole lot of incredible highs. Overall, a year full of blessings and abundance and good friends. A year that brought me back to France in a way that's been a dream come true. And what better reflection to illustrate this year than this one I took last September when Laury and I hiked with Jean-Luc along the Lot at St. Cirq Lapopie and marveled at how the white cliffs of the causse reflecting in the green water of the river made our world look like an Impressionist painting. Thanks, Mark, for the reminder to take this moment and think about how good my life really is!.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Municipal Services

I know that trash containers don't make for a very exciting photo, but they tell an important story about my little village of Cadrieu. They are part of the municipal services of the village. Not more than a 5 minute walk apart, they dot the rues and ruelles of the village. Each area is scrupulously clean; I can tell you from living in rural Iowa that dumpster sites there are rarely clean. Laury and I watched them being serviced one morning as we walked the dogs. Not only are they emptied, but each container is also washed with hot, sudsy water before being replaced. The French are big recycle-ers. Green is for recycle...paper, plastic, and metal. Beige is for garbage. And there is no excuse...the village supplies separate trash bags for each type...free of charge!

The glass recycle bin is next to the bustop along the highway. It's not quite as neat, clean and tidy as the village dumpster sites, maybe because it's on the bigger road? You're not asked to separate out colors of glass...just dump it all in there, making it really easy to recycle. Other municipal services include mowing and trimming along the public areas of the village streets. One day I heard what sounded like a chainsaw buzzing all morning from the direction of Christiane's house. I asked her about it later. It wasn't a chainsaw, but rather a leaf blower. She told me that once all the leaves fall the village hires a man to come and clean them up on and along all the roads. He did a great job; there wasn't a leaf to be seen! This is local government at its best, I think. You actually get to see your tax dollars at work.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Spring in January?

I'm trying to remember how long it's been since I've spent the winter months someplace that the ground didn't freeze and everything didn't turn brown and die in the cold. I left southern California in 1975 and since that time, I've lived in the Colorado mountains, in Montana, and in Iowa...all places that 'enjoy' a long, hard, frozen winter. So when I saw these dainty flowers popping up all over Laury's yard this weekend, I gasped in amazement 'Yes, I remember now...there are places in the world where spring starts in January!' There are several patches of these little guys in her lawn that literally sprang up overnight.
Just so you don't think the flowers are a fluke, the lilac bush on the terrace is also starting to swell with leaf buds. I'm not naive enough to think the cold weather is over; there are several more weeks left of winter with the potential for cold temperatures and snow. But, these early signs of spring give me hope that warmer weather, longer days and blooming flowers are on the horizon. Flowers and leaf buds in January...an unexpected pleasure!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rainy Sunrise

Orange sherbet skies followed by soft, blanketing foggy skies...
Today rainy skies...
Dripping from the downspouts...

 Puddling on leaves..
Lest you think that sunrise skies are ever the same two days in a row here along the Lot!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Next Day...New Sunrise

Skies were perfectly clear and stars were twinkling when the dogs and I stepped outside in the dark early morning. Sunrise brought dense fog along the river valley.
Quite a different view 'thru the birch trees' today!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sunrise

While I'm always up 'way before sunrise, I'm not often treated to orange-sherbet tinted clouds like I was this morning...
I call this one "Thru the Birch Trees." It looks like the sky is on fire, doesn't it?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Epiphany

Today is Epiphany, so when I saw these King's Cakes by the checkout at the Ecomarche this morning, I decided to treat myself to one. I think I'm supposed to wear the gold paper crown, but I was pretty sure that the dogs would laugh at me (I know Sam would!) so I decided to ring the cake with it instead. As King's Cakes go, this one was very simple....a brioche-type cake, a shiny glaze of butter and sprinkles of sugar chunks with an occasional glaced cherry. Hey, guess what....I found la feve in my piece...well, my second piece.  He looks like a little drummer boy to me. Finding him makes me King for the day! Maybe I need to re-think that paper crown? 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Signs in a Small Village

I'm intrigued by the signs I see in this small village...
Welcome to Cadrieu!
This way to Grealou, a small town on the causse. I can't find igue in my Larousse, so I asked Christiane what it means. She says it means 'a small hole in the ground.' Wikipedia says it's a regional term specific to the Lot and Quercy and is a small well caused by the collapse of ground into a cavern. Worth a visit!
Mobile advertising....
The school's been closed for almost 20 years, but the sign remains. It's always good to be on the lookout for children....
For Sale...a plot of land by the church. Most property in France is sold through a notaire
Some village houses have names. Laury lives at the Chatette; Jean's house is called Le Chalet. This house is named 'chante merle' or 'blackbird sings.' That's lovely! Does your house have a name?

The bulletin board outside the mairie. Lots of notices put up and torn down over the years....

Street signs....
Railroad tracks ahead....
An old department directional sign...Cajarc, Montbrun, Figeac. Obviously from a time when people drove much slower and could have time to actually read this sign!
To the church....
'Honor to our assistant.' Each person that serves in muncipal government has a similar sign that they display on their home. This sign is high up on the corner of Christiane's house...she is the village assistant mayor. Does your town 'honor' your city officials this way?

Signs in a small village...some familiar, some not so much, all intriguing!