Paths, water castles and springs

I wanted to show you guys the path leading up to the house – notice I said path and not road. It’s technically a chemin rural (rural path), which means that it belongs to the town, but is principally used by farmers to access their fields. The town has no real obligation to maintain it, but the guy who farms the field across from the house keeps it relatively accessible.

The house is about 200 meters up, past the water tower (which I’ll get to in a minute) and past the entrance to a couple of fields.

because gifs are fun
because gifs are fun

As you can see, it’s a bit of a hike, and since my Clio can’t make it up the path, we’re on foot for now. We might invest in a four-wheeler, but we don’t really need to haul much up or down for the moment. Next up will be the roof, and the roofer can make it up just fine (hopefully).

Back to the water tower, which in French is actually called a water castle – chateau d’eau. The one on our path is straight out of Lost, I get a bit creeped out when I walk by it alone.

the chateau d'eau
the chateau d’eau

The good news about it being so close is that it won’t be too expensive to get our water hooked up. The water pressure is enough to make it up the hill, so we won’t need a pump. They’ll put our meter next to the tower, and we’ll have to then bury pipes for the remaining 150 m. up the hill.

All that is assuming that we want to connect to the water network, because there is apparently a water source near the house. When the house was used as a barn, the animals drank from a pool that was fed by the famous spring. But first we have to find the spring (my mother-in-law is going to loan us her dowsing rods – because she has dowsing rods…), and once we find it, we have to see if it’s on our land or not.

Yesterday, we were looking for the spring and trying to figure out exactly where our property line was, and I looked back towards the house at this view :

why it's all worth it!
why it’s all worth it

Vendanges, or how to make grape juice

Grape vines cover the terrace of the house where we are staying, much to the liking of Petit Chat.

when she was still petit - circa 2009
when she was still petit – circa 2009

It’s nice in the summer for a bit of shade, but we’ve never been around for the grape harvest, or vendanges. Not that I really knew what to do with the grapes anyways. The first thought, of course, was to make wine! But after some googling, I realized I would need to invest in quite a lot of equipment, so we might save that for next year. We decided instead to make some homemade grape juice.

It was the first weekend in October when T deemed the grapes ready for harvest. And even then, they could have used a bit more sun.

les vignes
les vignes

First, cut off a bunch of bunches and put them in a pot of water to clean them up. Then picked off the individual grapes (it’s OK if there are some stems).

pretty little grapes
pretty little grapes

After that, working in batches, you need a bit of elbow grease to mash up the grapes.

mashing and must
mashing and must

The resulting mess is called moût, or “must” in English (learned a new word, thanks Wikipedia). Throw the must into a big pot and bring it to a simmer. Let it cook for about 10 minutes, mashing a bit more halfway through. To filter the grape juice, you can use cheesecloth or a fine mesh colander, but we just used a dish towel that we tied over a large pot. After about an hour, squeeze out the remaining juice and voilà!

Once it cools you can keep it in the fridge for a few days – it will start fermenting around day three. We decided to freeze most of the grape juice, though it apparently loses a bit of flavor compared to fresh juice.

What to do with grape juice? You can drink it for breakfast, or drink it for cocktail hour! We mixed it with a bit of rum and some sparkling water. I need some help coming up with a name for the drink!

grape juice + rum + fizzy water = Grape Fizz?
grape juice, rum, fizzy water = Grape Fizz?

Hiking in the southern Aveyron

We don’t work on the house on Sundays. This was decided right about when the first Sunday rolled around after we’d be living here. We needed to have a day where we didn’t feel guilty about not putting on our work gloves and hauling shovels up to the house.

Instead, Sundays usually include a randonnée, as is the case for most French people. After Sunday lunch with the family, the trails fill up with with hikers out for the traditional balade de dimanche. This is what we were expecting when we headed out on a hike a few weeks ago, but we had the trail all to ourselves.

hiking near Saint-Affrique
hiking near Saint-Affrique

Just wanted to share a few photos of beautiful southern Aveyron 🙂

randonnée2

IMG_20150920_143907

If anyone is in the area, here’s the info for the hike.