15th April 2018

I have been away for a while, trying to keep away from anything with a screen as I try to improve my eyesight with the Bates Method. It is going very well and at the moment, after six weeks of eye exercises, relaxation and time spent outdoors, I have been able to reduce my prescription from +3.50 to +2.00 for reading. More about this in a future post.

But now I am back with some things to report. Firstly, I have been searching all over the valley for a good sit~spot so that I can start my awareness practice and I think that today I finally came across one that I really like, after looking at nearly ten different spots in all. It is up on the opposite hill and overlooks the valley and the house. I stumbled upon it as I was walking the dog and it was as if I had come into this enchanted glade. It was so full of birds, jays, blackbirds, all kinds of passerines and I know that there are owls there too, as I have heard their calls coming from that direction in the evening before. Of course, I scared them all away as I came into the glade, with a huge bird plough, but because the ground is very undulating in that area and I was hidden from view until the very last minute, I was able to see lots of them before they disappeared, which was quite unusual for me when I walk with the dog who is usually far in ahead stirring up all kinds of turbulence. There are the foundations of a lovely ruined stone hut right in the middle of the glade, which will make a very nice base to sit on and I think that I will even be able to set up a hammock on it for some overnight camping soon.

Secondly, I have finally made up my mind to enrol on the Kamana Online Nature Awareness Course because I have been totally inspired by Jon Young and his wilderness school. I’m very excited about it. The first level lasts for approx. one month and it involves awareness exercises and the start of the flora and fauna inventory for the area I live in. I would like to eventually work my way up to level 4, which takes approximately four years to complete. I have also made the decision that I am going to apply for the Anake Outdoor Training, which is a follow-on and compliment to the Kamana program and takes place over nine months in Washington State in the U.S., I will not be able to attend that for another three years however, as I am still homeschooling my eldest daughter here in France with the youngest now in school but three years should give me enough time to save up some of the money I need for the fees and travel expenses. In the meantime, I will work on the Kamana levels and set my mind towards America.

Wolves Again

Here in the French Alps, wolves have been reported in the area for the last few years but I have never seen or heard anything of them until recently. Yesterday, my neighbour showed me where a red deer had been killed in our woods and I cannot find any other explanation apart from that it was wolves. One of the things that holds me back from saying outright it was a wolf kill though, is that it took place 5 minutes’ walk from my front door just off a path through the woods where there is a moderate amount of (human) activity during the summer and winter months. However, there is also a 50 foot barn not so far off, which houses around 60 sheep (and their lambs) all winter, which tbqh smells pretty pungent right now. We are at the end of a small valley with very steep (and wild) mountains on three sides and the open end has a gorge that pretty much cuts us off from the main town.

Unfortunately, not much of the actual deer was remaining when I got to it, but my neighbour told me that there was a piece of skin a foot square and many pieces of intestines at the site the day before yesterday as his dog had tried to eat some of it. It did look like a frenzy had taken place though; patches of blood all over the place, bits of excrement and there was a large impression in the snow that was lined with red deer fur. There were footprints of fox and dog and some larger dog paw shapes all around but nothing I could say was conclusively a wolf print (we get some big dogs wandering around here). There was one trail off up into the forest that had signs of blood on it (I am going to go and check it out today). It looked like many animals had visited the site to check it out and in fact ten days ago I came across the fresh hind leg of a deer (from the hip down) on the path 100m away from the kill site, which looked like it had been carried there by a fox (from the prints all around it) and literally was dropped just before I found it (because the ski pisteur had passed through only half an hour before and groomed the snow completely clean and the leg was on top of that snow).

Anyway, I did some research on the internet and apparently wolves kill their prey by either biting its rear end or ripping some skin off its side and pulling out its intestines so that the deer can still run, but bleeds to death along the trail and finally falls down so that the wolf can eat it. This would I say, correspond with what happened here. I can’t think of anything else that would have killed such a large deer in such a way apart from a lynx, which we also have here so the jury is still out. In addition, I’ve not heard any howls so if there are any wolves around there must be only one or two of them. And I remember another neighbour down the valley did tell me that she heard a lone wolf had attacked a dog near to her home.

In some ways, I don’t want to have conclusive evidence that it was a wolf/wolves, not that I would ever hope to get it, because the question is now, do I continue to go out before dawn and sit in my spot (which is very near to the kill site) thinking that every movement in the bushes is a wolf waiting to pounce on me? Totally irrational I know but I think as a society these fears are so deeply ingrained in us that its hard to shake them off and esp. in the UK (unlike America and Canada) we have got used to the idea of tramping around the forest knowing that we will not be attacked by anything of animal origin. Maybe we have become too blasé about it. Perhaps it should become a little dangerous out there again. I know that I now have got a heck of a lot of respect for those woods and of course I know that a wolf is not going to randomly jump out and attack me. It is just very, very interesting how all of a sudden my relationship with that place has changed, I hope in a good way.

I always loved Little Red Riding Hood as I thought the REAL meaning behind the story was to actually to let yourself be tempted off the path by a wolf. How exciting is that? Maybe they have a lot to teach us when we do decide to stray a little, live our lives with a little bit of danger and face our fears. And how amazing would it be to come face to face with a wolf in a kind of Tom Brown jr. situation where you could just observe it getting on with its life? What a story that would make.

The headline in the local newspaper today, seen in the supermarket just now.

“Wolves are returning and the farmers are worried”

le loup rapproche

14th March 2018

I was out very early this morning before dawn. I decided that I needed to get to my sit~spot before it got light and I just about made it when the birds started singing. Nothing happened really for the whole of the 40 minutes that I sat there expect me feeling really cold. I wasn’t bored though and it was quite magical watching everything turn from the shapeless dark to the familiar daytime forms of trees and cliffs. After half an hour I heard a scraping right above me and coming down the trunk of the tree I was leaning against was the most beautiful red squirrel, who had obviously been sitting up there since dawn thinking of a way to get down passed me. He ran up the tree again and over to the next tree and down and off, completely black with lovely big ear tufts. My first animal sighting at my sit~spot.

Spring has definitely arrived as later in the day I saw the black redstart sitting on the washing line, eyeing up the meal worms I had put under the bird table. He heralds the start of spring for me, and I was truly uplifted to see him. He will stay all summer, and call and call, hopefully his mate will reach here soon too.

Just as it was getting dark, I saw something new on the bird table – a serin was underneath it, and that is the first one I have seen for a long time.