Grotte Cirque

Last week we explored a cave in the Minervois (about 1hr 20min from us, north of Carcassonne).

It is a good cave for beginners as there are no ropes needed. However, the initial drop into the first gallery is a long series of descents down very tight holes that for some can be claustrophobic.

enjoy the video

Hunt for the Easter (Pâques) Tree

Les T became the destination of the Easter rabbit for off loading an outrageous pile of chocolate eggs this Sunday. With a little help from some of us adults, the hamlet became the grounds for dozens of concealed chocolate eggs. In amongst the search for the eggs was another game, barely noticeable at first, the Quest to find the Easter Tree (where the more significant stash of chocolate could be found).
easter egg hunt
The day began with an egg painting workshop in the garden of Graham and Michelle. Thanks to Jackie who organized it, the kids made egg faces with cress seed heads that will one day sprout lovely green mops of hair. That gave the adults the opportunity, with some help from the teenagers, to lay the eggs. The kids, at the mention of a workshop, were incredulous. ‘What about the chocolate egg hunt?’ Soon however, they were all absorbed in their individual artistic worlds.
egg painting
egg cress painting
egg cress painting easter
The hunt began. Some eggs were easy to find – an advantage for the young ones, three and four year olds. We still had to restrain the older ones at times to prevent them hoovering up that could be seen. Still, there were so many eggs that everyone came away content.
egg hunt
egg hunt
easter egg hunt
Gradually the jigsaw puzzle pieces were discovered. These played a role in the Quest. Each one had a clue leading to the next puzzle piece. ‘White rabbit posts a letter’ (Postbox), ‘White rabbit drives her tractor’ (tractor!). Once all the pieces to the puzzle were uncovered the kids had to assemble the puzzle. This took time and cooperation in a group environment. I noticed it also helped to break up the frenzy of egg hunting – provide some focus again. There was a riddle on the puzzle, leading to the next stage…

I am more precious than Gold
Clearer than Diamonds
Or so I am told,

I come out of the ground,
To pleasure your horse,
With my babbling sound,

A home to the spawn,
Held in by walls,
I wish to go run free.

Reach down and you will find me.

rabbit jigsaw

This took some brain crunching. At last, some of the older kids got it. Frog spawn, the Lavoir (stone trough fed by a spring). Sure enough, down at the bottom of the trough was a hand drawn map of the area around the hamlet. Deep into the gardens, past the play house, past the raspberries, past the big oak with its tire swing, across the rickety bridge, is the Easter Tree.

Decked out with chocolate eggs wrapped in aluminium so they shine, hanging from the branches, the tree stood out from the others. And sure enough, at the foot of its trunk, was a basket filled with chocolate eggs.
Paques Tree
One of the ironies, given the obscene amount of chocolate, was that the basket handle broke just as it was being carried back over the rickety bridge. Children cried out in distress as chocolate eggs wrapped in colourful foil floated down the stream.

It was a great day!

Massacre at the Chicken House

Sad but true. Two of out of three of our beloved chickens are dead – having only had them for a few weeks.

Whilst visiting the Tour at Fa, three hunters dogs broke into the pottage chicken run. Anika’s chicken, Bluttit, stood no chance. Being a Pekin bantan she is slow on the ground and can not fly. The dogs ate all of her. Bianca Castafiori had her stomach opened. Anika buried her under a willow tree.

Rest in peace Bianca Castafiori.

Rest in peace Bianca Castafiori.

The farmer, Torine, came for his three dogs the net day. His insurance will pay out he said. He had little remorse to share. Little surprise – his favourite sport is hunting with his dogs. ‘They are clever,’ he explained, ‘always escaping’. We are worried now for what will happen when we get replacement chickens and when lambing season starts.

Torine is very friendly. Few words to spare but a firm handshake and a kind smile behind a grizzly unshaven face. Each time he has come for his dogs he has carried the scent of booze and fags. Alot of booze and fags. Torine is the chap that a few years ago held his family hostage at gunpoint. He is a hunter.

Whilst on the subject of odd local characters. I have some more information on that deserted hamlet. I hear that there were three occupants. The lady that had a tragic end in the snow. Her brother. Her husband. All from a distant past generation, they feared both the sun and people, preferring to remain holed up in their houses even when a visitor were to stand outside for 10 minutes (The property is now most certainly abandoned, I did not notice any curtain twitch). Her brother, or husband, or both, served some prison time. Always being desperately poor, they cooked up a plan to bump off a neighbor. The lady seduced the unknowing victim into entering the house, then Wham! A visitor one day spotted the deceased victims legs dangling down from an unused chimney and reported the find to the police. I guess little valleys are full of such tales.

On a brighter note, here are some pics of Anika on her way to school. Mara volunteers there now.
Anika goes to school
Graine de Vie Graine de Vie