Finally the thaw has started but things are still chaotic. We had the heaviest snow fall of the year last night. This was forecast at vigilance orange level, but bizarrely even though the départements to the north, east, south and west of us (Indre, Allier, Corrèze and Haute Vienne) all made the decision to cancel school transport for today, the 14th, good old Creuse didn’t. I guess someone forgot to wake the Préfet up to ask his opinion! There was no way the roads were safe for transport of any kind this morning, and it seems that some transport companies providing ramassage scolaire (school buses) wisely made the decision not to run. Anyway, we’d already decided to keep Ruadhrí at home.

Public domain clipart from pixabay

We trekked down to the big lake to carry on the tree trimming and did a good couple of hours of chainsawing and lugging. The snow turned to slush around us as we worked and the rain came down. Even though we’re only just above zero, the snow and ice is melting extremely quickly. Luckily we’re about done, because I don’t fancy dragging trees around on softening ice above 5 metres of very cold water for much longer!

Le grand froid has been hard work. Chris and I are exhausted from all the extra farm work and the bank maintenance jobs. On top of that my handy husband has been unfreezing the pipes beneath the bath every single morning (using Suze of Suze, Cycling’s  foolproof method) and keeping the gîte fire going. And the fun hasn’t finished yet. We came back from tree chopping to find that the upstairs pipes had finally unfrozen after a fortnight’s non-co-operation, and one upstairs had popped a joint. Water was merrily dripping through the bathroom ceiling from Caiti’s room above. Chris has sorted that problem, but there are several burst pipes next door to repair, and those are the ones that are visible. We hope that nothing’s gone wrong out of sight. We’ll find out soon!

The cold has taken its toll on the livestock. We’ve lost our two oldest chickens, Molly and Black Chicken and four of the younger guinea-pigs, despite doing our best to keep them all warm. The camelids and sheep have been staying in their respective shelters most of the time and the remaining poultry hasn’t wandered far either. They’ll all be very pleased to see green grass again.

Wildlife has suffered too. We haven’t seen much evidence of ragondins (coypus) lately, apart from one frozen corpse which appeared yesterday morning. We’d heard rumours that these South American imports were killed off by extreme cold because they got frostbite in their tails and this led to their death. And it’s true. The chap we found, well, let’s just say his tail wasn’t pretty. Much as we detest these damaging rodents, I wouldn’t want them to go that way. Poor old thing.

And yes, I should be doing cheese since it’s Tuesday. So here’s a quick look at Boursin. Think French cheese, and Boursin is near the top of the list. I discovered it many years ago during a cycling holiday with three student friends. Every day for lunch we’d buy a baguette, a tub of Boursin, a 1kg bucket of chocolate pudding and a bottle of the cheapest wine we could find. The wine we soon gave up on when we realised that cycling after wine when you’re a bit giggly isn’t a great idea!

Boursin is a relatively modern cheese. It all began in 1957 when François Boursin set up a soft cheese factory in Normandy. Four years later a newspaper wrongly reported that Boursin was now making a soft cheese flavoured with garlic – another company was actually doing it. But that gave Monsieur Boursin the idea and he began experimenting. Boursin Garlic and Herbs was launched in 1963. Five years later it was the first cheese to appear in a TV advert. The same recipe is still used, but a variety of other versions have been introduced, such as pepper and walnut Boursin. And my top Boursin tip – add a dollop to mashed potatoes. It gives it a lovely flavour.