To France pour les vacances and to see how Jean Paul, the renegade ex-Legionnaire with the dodgy eye had been getting on with his snares.
Last time we were there he had become the self-appointed village trapper, waging a pretty hopeless war on the mouflon and sanglier, the wild sheep and wild boar that predate the vineyards and vegetable gardens which teeter on the stone terraces of Haut Languedoc.
The animals, like all pests, are of course protected although, like buzzards here, there seems to be no shortage and the population has bred itself back from near extinction.
In August as the temperature hits the mid thirties the animals keep a pretty low and sleepy profile and do all their rootling and snortling at night, frequently setting off noisy mini landslides. The mouflon in particular is a spectacular jumper that would put even a Soay sheep to shame and believe me Soay sheep can jump, as my neighbours at home have discovered in the past. (“Yer goats is oot again Alastair”).
The only way to keep the mouflon out is by installing either electric fencing, 12ft high, or deer fencing of the same sort of magnitude nailed to baulks of the native chestnut and bolted into rock. (My friend Rob, asking the local fencer what he was doing crouching in the bushes was told that he was “thinking like a mouflon” – working out the weak spots in his new fence).
Anyway, it turned out that Jean Paul’s efforts with his pieges – huge snares made out of piano wire – had not improved much since we were last there, although he had caught a second sanglier and another mouflon, both of which had to be dispatched with an ancient shot gun. I am very glad I wasn’t there.
Both animals were butchered under cover of darkness by the four partners in on the snaring escapade. But the best thing to come out of the sanglier was the dried sausages.
Under the direction of the only remaining farmer in the village, minced sanglier had been forced into the washed intestines with nothing apart from salt and pepper and several glasses of red wine; not even a herb. And they were spectacular.
The mouflon sausages were frankly “woolly”, although the haunches and chops had been cooked for hours in a cauldron over a fire and served up with green beans and tomatoes at the annual village dinner on trestle tables down the middle of the street.
As there are only about 15 people in the village the mouflon did them pretty well. Sadly Jean Paul has gone off to be a stage hand with a contemporary theatre group in Olargues so that looks like an end to snaring activities. I think a .243 and night sights might be the answer next year.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west