Here are some new photos of Aisling. She’s getting bigger and stronger every day. As it’s so cold she and mum Windermere are only spending a few hours a day out with the other girls. Aisling has her nice cosy coat on all the time.
Lulin has news for you! Today, 20th November, Aisling of Les Fragnes was born.
Mum Windermere gave birth very early in the morning (and llamas aren’t meant to have their babies until midday or so when the sun is up!). We spotted Aisling trotting after Windermere as we were coming down the drive after putting Ruadhri on the school bus.
Aisling is beautiful – she’s long-haired like mum and also has her beautiful spotty markings. Her dad is Mike and Sue Longhurst’s magnificent stud llama Yoda. She is a very well-bred young lady!
Galloway Forest Park in Scotland has just been awarded the prestigious dark sky award by the International Dark Sky Association. Well, I reckon our sky deserves a medal too. Here in deepest, darkest Creuse, there is very little light pollution. Our night sky is pitch black and the stars are dazzling. You can see the milky way clearly. It’s beautiful. Night-time is made even more amazing by the hooting of owls, and occasionally the song of nightingales. There are mysterious rustles in the undergrowth and distant deer barks – a lot goes on at night at Les Fragnes.
November has turned beautiful this year. We have cold frosty nights with clear, sunny days. Long may it last! It’s the perfect weather for us to do some tidying up on the big lake. There were quite a few snags (fallen trees and branches) along one side of the promontory we call Ragondin Island. These provided good shelter for the carp, but there was the danger that hooked fish would run into the snags and get the line tangled around them. The angler would break his line and the carp could be left caught up, unable to free itself from the hook. So we’ve dropped the lake level by about a foot and set to work. Chris does the cutting with his chainsaw and I do the dragging out. It’s not the cleanest job in the world, but good exercise and very satisfying!
We made a discovery today. From time to time we’ve found large shells in the lake. We eventually identified them as swan mussel shells. Ruadhri loves making ornaments out of them – he had a good sales line going during the summer to llama trekkers! We know now that we have a large, healthy colony of them in the lake, up at the shallow end. We watched them today, zig-zagging through the mud, leaving wiggly trails behind them. Fascinating.
The turkeys are leading us a dance at the moment. They escape at least three times a day so we set off with a bucket of grain to coax them back home. I had help rounding them up this afternoon. Our neighbour Jan has a herd of Breton and Percheron heavy horses – truly gentle giants. They saw the turkeys in their field and came thundering up to have a look. Strange to say, suddenly the turkeys didn’t want to hang around! They sprinted back home at top speed.
Today is Armistice Day, 11th November. It’s a national holiday in France. We went down to the ceremony at the war memorial in Nouzerines – we go every year (and also in May to mark the end of the Second World War). It’s a short yet poignant ceremony. Today it was held in bright sunshine, the perfect day for it. Ruadhri and the other children recited a poem written by a local man, and they did it beautifully. The mayor and his adjoint did readings, and we stood in silence for a minute as the three flag bearers lowered their colours. Then we walked to the other side of the monument to commemorate the dead in the Second World War and the African Wars. And then it was over. There’s a ‘cup of amitié’ in the auberge afterwards, but we’ve never partaken. Ruadhri usually wants to get back and today the three teenagers (we have an extra one, Goran, staying with us over the break) had already set off home on their bikes, so maybe next time.
That’s the last ‘day off’ until Christmas now. The time in between brings with it ever shorter, darker, colder days. But there are some bright spots. We have Benjamin’s 18th birthday to look forward to in three weeks’ time, then Chris’s birthday, then the Christmas preparations (but not perhaps Ruadhri’s school’s Christmas do which has been known to go on for four hours!). And hopefully at some point Windermere will decide to give birth. She’s going to explode soon. Poor Caiti is beside herself with impatience – we all are. A llama’s long pregnancy means you get very worked up towards the end. A year, or very nearly, is an awfully long time to wait.
I’d hoped to have another handmade Christmas this year, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. With moving from one of our two buildings to the other, and doing up what’s now the gite, we’ve been very busy. And when we’re not busy, we’re exhausted! Other admin jobs need doing too, not to mention the daily livestock routines – the time has just vanished. But with a bit of organisation I might be able to rustle up a few bits and pieces. Is that a threat or a promise, you’re probably wondering …! (Actually, I’m not a bad craftser – here is one of my Three French Hens tea-cosies and matching egg-cosies that I mass-produced last year.)
I have just read through the November 1932 issue of La Prospérité à la Campagne and picked out the following to share with you:
La Toussaint venue – plus de charrue
All Saint’s Day has come – no more ploughing.
Autant d’heures de soleil le jour de Toussaint-
Autant de semaines à souffler dans ses mains.
For every hour of sunshine you get on All Saint’s Day, you’ll get a week of blowing on your hands to keep them warm during winter.
Après St-Clèment – ne sème plus froment.
After St Clement’s day (23 Nov) don’t sow any more barley.
A la Ste-Catherine, l’hiver s’aberline [s’acheminer]
A la St-André il est aberliné [arrive].
Winter is on its way on St Catherine’s Day (25 Nov). By 30 Nov it has arrived.
Gelée e Saint-Sosthène – d’un mois attarde la graine.
Frost on St Sosthene’s day (28 Nov)- seeds will be a month late germinating.
S’il neige à St-Zacherie – que le paysan rie.
If it snows on St Zachary’s day, the peasant will laugh!
(- I can’t find out when St Zacherie’s day is I’m afraid.)
Here are a few books advertised in the November 1932 edition of La Prosperité à la Campagne:
Le commerce et l’industrie de la plume pour parure 352pp 22 francs
The Feather Bedding Industry
Poules qui pondent, poules qui paient 260 pp 15,50 francs
Chickens which lay, chickens which pay
Lapins, Lapereaux et cie 280 pp 15,50 francs
Rabbits, baby rabbits and co
You could buy a hunting gun for 690 francs (1 euro 4 cents), a sports bike for 195 francs (29 cents), and a breeding pair of 8 month old ragondins (coypus) for 400 francs (60 cents).
The conversions francs to euro above are in today’s actual money values. To give their equivalent purchasing power, a more helpful conversion, then using the fiendishly clever table at http://insee.fr/en/indicateurs/indic_cons/pouvoir_achat.pdf, we come out with prices of 243 euro for the ragondins, 118 euro for the bike and 420 euro for the gun. The books come out at 13.36 euro for the 22 francs book and 9.50 or so euro for the cheaper books.
Halloween is huge in the Dagg household. Coming from Ireland, like Halloween itself (Irish people fleeing to America during the Famine brought with them the tradition of having a knees-up on 31 October, the day summer was said to end – and the Americans loved the idea!), we celebrate it in style. Trick or treating is on the tricky side as we have no viable neighbours we can reach on foot, so the kids knock on their own front door, but everything else is normal – carved pumpkin, costumes, games, spooky food. The food was especially good this year – we had flayed face, cat poo en croute, wormy guts, llama poo, septic trolls’ eyes, dog brains and muddy swamp pie. We have two of our own traditions as well – a Halloween tree, and fireworks.
We hoped Windy (Windermere Lady Coulemelle, our only woolly llama) might have her baby at Halloween so we could call him or her Pumpkin. The children have a long list of possible names ready. Caiti has even come up with a llama naming program using Scratch (a computer programming language). But Windy continues to make us wait. Sadly the good weather seems to finally have come to an end, so her poor baby will be arriving in the cold. But we have a cosy coat and hay filled maternity suite ready and waiting, and we’ve also relocated the girls’ daytime shelter from the hangar to one of the stables where they get much better protection from the weather.
We are also still waiting for our Internet connection, which is why there’s been no blogging from me for ten days. Apparently moving from the house to the gite counted as a proper house move, so although the France Telecom technician only had to put a new socket in our new house – he didn’t have to move the line itself or any junctions or connections – FT treat is as a whole new contract. We didn’t realise, but this also means cutting off our Internet. We still don’t fully understand why and certainly no mention was made of this when I was booking the technician. Our ISP provided has put in a request for us to be reconnected and its chugging its way through the system at a very slow snail’s pace. Bruce our builder has kindly been letting us use his Internet connection. His neighbours are used to seeing us huddled in the car outside his house, computer screens glowing away. The kids have been disappointed to have no email or internet during the holidays. We’ve all really missed it. I quite agree with the chap from TalkTalk who’s saying that having access to the Internet is a human right!
Today is Toussaint, All Saints’ Day. The French will be visiting their loved ones’ graves and festooning them with chrysanthemums. The day is treated like a bank holiday, although my understanding is that it isn’t officially one. And I can’t quickly check on the Net! Just a few days of school holiday left – the kids go back on the 4th, a Wednesday, because by doing an extra day of school now means they can have a day off next May, the 14th I think, to give them a nice long weekend around the Ascension bank holiday on May 15th. Now that’s forward planning, but we’ll be moaning about it at 6am on Wednesday morning as we stagger out of bed in the cold and the dark in time to set off for the lycée bus …