lundi 28 décembre 2015

My father’s city I like so much

Close to our Black Mountain, is the nice city of Castres.

From its tormented history (Visigoths invasion, Albigensian crusade, French Wars of religion…) remains are still visible, like those colourful houses on the river Agoût side.
During the 17th century, those houses were owned by weavers, dyers and tanners working on wool, leather and paper.

Close to those houses, on the riverside: the cinema Le Lido, a nice Art Deco building.

In this cinema, in 1967, I saw my first film. My father had the good idea to go with me to see a Disney picture, The Jungle Book. Do you remember Bagheera, Baloo the bear and Louie the King monkey?

Indeed, it is in the same cinema that we went last week with our (already adult) children to see the last Star Wars. Disney again.

dimanche 27 décembre 2015

La ville de mon père où je me sens bien

Au pied de la Montagne Noire, se trouve notre sympathique ville de Castres, Sous-Préfecture du département du Tarn.
De son passé prestigieux, tumultueux (Wisigoths, Cathares, Guerres de religions…) et laborieux, elle a gardé plusieurs vestiges dont les maisons sur l’Agoût qui alignent leurs façades colorées le long de la rivière  et se reflètent dans l’eau créant une ambiance unique.

Au XVIIe siècle c’étaient les demeures des tisserands, teinturiers, tanneurs, parcheminiers qui travaillaient la laine, le cuir et le papier.
Un peu plus en amont, c’est le cinéma le Lido, beau bâtiment Art déco, qui se reflète dans l’eau.

C’est dans ce cinéma que, petite fille, j’ai vu mon premier film en 1967 : mon père m’avait amenée voir Le Livre de la Jungle de Disney. Quelle féérie sur un grand écran de voir aux côtés de Mowgli marcher la douce Bagheera, l’ours Baloo se dandiner et le Roi Singe Louie swinger.

C’est bien sûr là que nous avons fêté la sortie du dernier Star Wars avec nos (grands) enfants. Disney toujours.

Visite de Castres dans l’émission Des Racines & des Ailes, sur France 3 le 04/01/2017

vendredi 25 décembre 2015

Joyeux Noël / Happy Christmas

Joyeux Noël à toutes et tous : membres de notre famille, amis, anciens collègues, anciens et futurs vacanciers dans le gîte, bloggers et googlers connectés à ce blog J
Happy Christmas to all of you: our family members, friends, former colleagues, former and coming guests in the cottage, bloggers and googlers connected to this blog J

jeudi 24 décembre 2015

In the forest with Lilliputians

The forests here, in the Black Mountain, are not only a paradise for geologists (see post “once upon a time were rocks” in Walks), but also the paradise of bryologists. The later are not some kind of professor Nimbus but specialists of mosses which scientific name is bryophytes.

This group is highly diversified with more than 20 000 species which have been reported already. Very primitive, they lack vascular tissue containing lignin. Mosses reproduce using spores, not seeds, and have nor flowers neither root. Evidence for the appearance of the first land plants occurs in the Ordovician, around 450 million years ago in the form of fossil spores.

Several species of Bryophytes, Marchantiophyta and Anthocerotophyta as well are common here.
Many species of lichen can be found here too. It is a complex group of plants depending on a close association between a fungus and an alga in a symbiotic relationship.

mercredi 23 décembre 2015

Dans la forêt des Lilliputiens

Les forêts de la Montagne Noire ne sont pas seulement le paradis des géologues (voir post du 28/8/2015 dans l’onglet Balades), elles sont aussi le paradis des bryologues. Qui ne sont pas des personnes douées d’un talent bizarre mais les spécialistes des mousses également appelées bryophytes.
Extrêmement diversifiées avec plus de 20 000 espèces, ces plantes sont dépourvues de racines et de lignine, mais possèdent des rhizoïdes qui permettent l'ancrage au substrat et, pour certaines espèces, une vie épiphyte. Elles sont dépourvues de tissus conducteurs comparables à ceux des plantes à graines et se reproduisent grâce à des spores. 
Dans la vallée du Sant on trouve de nombreuses variétés de sphaignes, anthocérotes et hépatiques diverses.
Sont également présentes de nombreuses variétés de lichens qui sont issues de l’association durable d’algues et de champignons.
Ces plantes primitives sont les premières à avoir colonisé les continents il y a près de 500 millions d’années (fin du Cambrien et début de l’Ordovicien).

Découvrez d’autres mousses de la vallée du Sant.

jeudi 17 décembre 2015

In the nick of time

A small jump to the nearby Aude wine producing region yesterday, just to find some nice wines for the coming end of the year celebrations.

We elected that year the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) wine of Fitou we have been consuming for years but never had visited yet.
Wonderful area around the village of Tuchan, surrounded by Mont Tauch and the ruins of the Castle of Aguilar (pictured here),

In the background lays the Pyrénées mountain chain, with Mont Canigou, which marks the border between France and Spain.

A very nice day indeed!


Préparons les fêtes

Petite virée dans l’Aude, hier, pour aller chercher les vins des fêtes de fin d’année. Qui se rajouteront, bien sûr, à ceux de notre Gaillac tarnais!

Au cœur du massif des Corbières, l’Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC=AOP européenne) Fitou dont nous consommons (avec modération !) les produits depuis longtemps sans jamais y être allé.
Superbe bassin de Tuchan bordé par le Mont Tauch et les ruines du château cathare d’Aguilar
et, depuis les ruines, au loin, la chaine des Pyrénées dont se détache le Mont Canigou.
Vraiment une belle journée bien remplie.


lundi 14 décembre 2015

Dressed for the winter

Even if the sun is still there, the autumn is coming to an end and the deciduous trees have lost their leaves, all of them except marcescent trees.

Marcescence, the term used to describe leaf retention, i.e. when dead leaves stay on the tree after autumn until the following spring at the latest, is most common with many of the oak species (pictured here), American beech, witch hazel, hornbeam (musclewood) and hophornbeam (ironwood). It is often young trees or branches close to the soil when those on the top have lost their leaves already.

Several reasons could explain this modification in the abscission process, where the cell layer allowing the decay of the leaves is not formed: genetic variation related to the hydric regime of the plant, biomass cycle or even protection against predators because those leaves are less appetent.

More trees of the Sant valley

vendredi 11 décembre 2015

Toujours couverts

Malgré le beau temps, l’automne est maintenant bien avancé et les arbres à feuilles caduques ont tous perdus leur feuillage, tous sauf les arbres marcescents.

La marcescence, (du latin marcere, être fané, flétri) c’est-à-dire la conservation des feuilles mortes sur l’arbre, souvent jusqu’au printemps suivant, est présente chez certaines essences d’arbres notamment dans l'ordre des Fagales tels les chênes (photo ci-dessous), les hêtres, les charmes et les châtaigniers, largement répandus ici. C’est plutôt une marque de jeunesse de l’arbre ou de position des branches car les branches basses sont parfois marcescentes alors que le sommet a perdu ses feuilles.

Diverses thèses sont avancées pour expliquer cette particularité dans le mécanisme d’abscission, où la couche de liège permettant la chute de la feuille ne se fait pas. Particularité génétique, comportement en lien avec la régulation hydrique, avec le cycle de la biomasse voire même avec la lutte contre les grands mammifères prédateurs car ces feuilles sont moins appétantes.

Découvrez d’autres arbres de la vallée du Sant.

jeudi 10 décembre 2015

Flying fish

Some days ago, while I was having a walk with my dogs, I found a surprise on the path: a trout.

How could this be possible when the creek is more than 15 meters below the trail at that place?
The trout was fresh but dead already and part of the head was missing. It was a brown trout (Salmo trutta).


I do not think this trout was lost by a poacher because the trail passes along our home and the dogs would have alerted us. I bet on some fishing animal which may have lost its prey when the two dogs came running and barking.
This morning I found the solution: a grey heron (Ardea cinerea) which nest is located downstream, on the creek side, between the farm and the village. He just took off when we arrived.

In any case, our cats enjoyed so much the little piece of trout they got for dinner.


mardi 8 décembre 2015

Poisson volant

Petite surprise en promenant les chiens il y a quelques jours: une truite sur le sentier.
Que fait-elle là alors que le sentier à flanc de montagne est à cet endroit à 15 m au-dessus du ruisseau ?
Il n’y a pas longtemps qu’elle est sortie de l’eau mais elle est morte. Il lui manque une partie de la tête. C’est une truite fario (salmo trutta).
Est-elle tombée du sac d’un braconnier ? Non, le sentier passe devant notre terrasse et nos cerbères auraient donné l’alerte. Elle a plutôt été abandonnée là par un prédateur (mammifère ou oiseau pêcheur) qui s’est enfui quand les deux feux follets sont arrivés en courant.
Et ce matin, j’ai trouvé le coupable : un héron cendré (Ardea cinerea) qui niche en aval avant le hameau. Il s’est envolé à notre arrivée.
En tout cas, les chats de la ferme se sont bien régalés avec leur petit morceau de truite fraîche.


lundi 7 décembre 2015

Thanks to Philippe le Bel, King of France

Close to the cottage, is situated the village of Dourgne, of which the bell tower can be seen on next picture, behind the bell tower of Sainte Scolastique abbey.

This nice little village, so quiet today, had a rather tormented history: it was destroyed by the army of Simon de Montfort in 1212, during the Cathar crusade and rebuilding it was forbidden.

Quite one century later, in 1301, the villagers took the occasion of the venue of the king of France, Philippe IV Le Bel, in the nearby Abbey of Sorèze. They went to ask him the authorization to rebuild the village, which he accepted.
The story says that to please the king, a group of the most beautiful girls and boys of Dourgne came with branches of rosemary, symbol of youth. Since more than 700 years, this event is celebrated by the Rosemary feast every February.
Nice moment for people around and for visitors to see a medieval fair.

It is one of the oldest feasts in North Languedoc.

dimanche 6 décembre 2015

End of the road for the badger

This morning, coming back home, I saw a badger, dead on the side of the road at the end of the village. Its beautiful fur was shining under the sun.
It may have been killed by a car last night. Indeed, badgers are active during the night while sleeping in their hole all day long.
Badgers (Meles meles) are short-legged omnivores in the family Mustelidae

A badger is also one of the characters of the saga Redwall written by Brian Jacques, that one of my sons enjoyed so much when he was ten years old.

Fin de la route pour le blaireau

Vers midi, en rentrant du bureau de vote, au bas de la descente du village, un blaireau mort au bord de la route. Une petite brise faisait onduler sa jolie fourrure qui brillait sous le soleil d’hiver.

Il a probablement été heurté par une voiture cette nuit. En effet, les blaireaux sont des animaux nocturnes qui passent la journée dans leur vaste terrier.
Le Blaireau européen (en réalité plutôt eurasien) porte le nom scientifique Meles meles. C'est la plus grosse espèce de Mustélidés d'Europe.

Le blaireau était aussi un des personnages de la saga Rougemuraille de l’auteur anglais Brian Jacques,  qu’un de mes fils a dévorée quand il avait 10 ans.

samedi 5 décembre 2015


Nice weather today and always a large blue sky. Let’s go up to a small cascade from a small creek which jumps into the Sant.

There Hector enjoys playing:
1-    He removes stones from the creek

2- and then puts some back into it.

He seems surprised when I tell him that this is an endless game!

Autumn mists

Autumn mists around the steeple of the En Calcat Abbey.

This Benedictine Abbey is well known for its Gregorian choir:


Wonderful autumn

Small walk that morning, end of October, sun was shining and a nice wind was blowing.
The dogs ran everywhere and came back to me for a small rest.

Trek in the creek

Today I resume my walks to prepare other trails in the valley of the Sant, a mountain creek which is running through our forest.

Up to now, autumn has been nice and we had very few rains, so the creek is small and quiet.

Stones after stones

Since June, I have been cleaning old trails in my forest. Hard work.

But my two dogs enjoy helping me!
Laïka is snatching brushwood roots:

And Hector likes setting aside rocks. A real challenge in the creek!

Another amazing Border collie:

Once upon a time were rocks

The area around our cottage is the place to be for those interested in geology because all sorts of rocks can be found:
The peak in front of the cottage is made of sedimentary rocks, named a karst (see post "nice walk up to the top").
In the valley, around the farm, a large scope of metamorphic rocks can be found including a layer from Precambrian 900 million years (upper brioverian), pictured here. Those rocks can be seen thanks to several geological trails.

And South (around Lampy lake) and North (Sidobre area) are made of igneous rocks.
This diversity of substratum is one of the main reasons of the great biodiversity of the region.

Nice walk up to the top or even higher

From the cottage, after two hours of a nice walk between high pine trees you can reach the plateau called « Saint Férréol desert ».
It is a karst with small vegetation from where you can see far away across the Black mountain.
Included into the Natura 2000 area, you can discover numerous small animals, among other beautiful butterfly and the small “Capelette”.

Those practicing paragliding use this summit to run into the air.


Eight centuries ago

Destroyed in 1212 by Simon de Montfort during the Albigensian Crusade (Cathar Crusade) relics of the castle are still visible on top of one of the Black Mountain peaks  (southern part of the French Massif Central). Between rocks and pine trees the foundations of the keep and houses and fortifications are there to be discovered.

The castle, situated between two other castra, Bernicaut (on the mountain close to Sorèze) and Hautpoul (on the mountain close to Mazamet), provided a strategic overview of the plain from Revel to Castres.


On top can still be seen the foundations of the keep, directly built on the rocks.
On the Northern side, in defense of the weak point (a plateau), a ditch and long defensive walls together with a big house with arrowslit.
As in the case of Château Gaillard (Normandy), the castrum may have been conquered with siege engines settled on the plateau.
In the middle of the vestiges, two caves are still visible above the keep, one of them may have been used as latrine.


Much remains to be seen and discovered about the history of Contrast.

jeudi 3 décembre 2015

Amazing symbiosis

Helleborus foetidus, known variously as stinking hellebore, dungwort, setterwort and bear's foot, are evergreen perennial plant. The scientific name derives from the Greek name "elein" to injure and "bora" food. All parts of the plant are poisonous, containing glycosides. Symptoms of intoxication include violent vomiting and delirium. An overdose of medication containing hellebore has been suggested as a possible cause of the death of Alexander the Great

Despite its common name, it is not noticeably malodorous, although the foliage is pungent when crushed.
The flowers have five "petals" (actually sepals) surrounding a ring of small, cup-like nectaries (petals modified to hold nectar). Yeasts colonise the nectaries and their presence has been found to raise the temperature of the flower, which may aid in attracting pollinators to the flower by increasing the evaporation of volatile organic compounds. It was the first species in which this effect was discovered.
Part of the grain, the elaiosomes  attracts ants, which take the seed to their nest and feed the elaiosome to their larvae. This type of seed dispersal is termed myrmecochory from the Greek "ant" (myrmex) and "dispersal" (kore). This type of symbiotic relationship appears to be mutualistic.

Many species of Helleborus are used in gardens and medicinal plants.