Les poissons en France

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Johnny the Builder

Yesterday our neighbour JJ asked if I wanted to borrow his staging to help with the roofing of the Porcherie. I of course said yes, as we had been looking at the price of them, and I thought it would be useful to see how high it was safe to work on. The staging was at JJ's cousin's house a few hundred metres away. Within 10 minutes a car arrived, driven by JJ with his cousin sat in the boot, holding on to the staging which they had 'towed' along the road! That's what I call service.

So I was up early and out on the Pigsty today as the weather forecast shows sun to 30 degrees. I first had to do some rectification on the end timbers which I had put on previously. Yesterday afternoon we had a builder round to look at the house for quoting, and he kindly pointed out my error where I had fixed the timbers to the beam on the top of the wall. He told me how to fix them so that there was no risk of the tiles and the timbers spreading apart and sliding off!
After that I was able to press on with replacing the old timbers.

So far so good. The next stage will be the second side, but for this I'm going to use new wood which the previous owners kindly left for me! Plus of course we'll have to order the tiles.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Steady Progress

The last couple of days I've been cleaning up some of the joists I took off the pigsty roof and then treating it against insect, fungial or whatever else infection. So it was only yesterday that I started to get timber back on the roof. Sue was pleased because it started to look like a little house again and not a ruin.

There's a bit more work to be done before it will have the roof on! Especially as we are looking forward to having some summer guests with us over then next couple of weeks or so. And also hopefully the weather will become settled and it will get hot; too hot for working in the afternoons!!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Community Action

It's exciting never knowing what a new day will bring. There was a thunderstorm last night, and it was still drizzly this morning. However, I looked out of the window at about 9 o'clock and there was our neighbour, John, looking at the Porcherie. John had agreed that he and his son Tom, who is here on holiday with the family, would help me put the new beams into position. But I hadn't expected things to move so quickly.

The job took all morning as there was a lot of assessing the situation and judging the risks, and, by the end, most of our little community was out to help, even if it was only vocally.

So, unexpectedly, by this evening, the beams are in place and I can press on with re-fitting the rest of the woodwork.

After the excitement of the morning, Sue carried on with building the steps for the path behind the Box hedge. Because of her personality, she has to ensure that everything, at every stage is perfect, level and right. I know that the end result is going to look good, but there is a little anguish in the getting there!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday afternoon

Nadine had a word with me a couple of weeks ago (in the nicest possible way of course) but I got the distinct impression that it is not the done thing to be working on Sunday afternoons - in particular doing noisey jobs like cutting the grass. So we now abide by the rules but it is a nuisance, because pensioners do not do things at weekends; why would they choose to be out on the road with "all them others"?

This weekend is The Fete de St Jean in Gourdon with lots of activities, so we thought we would take our Sunday constitutional and see what was going on. Not too much as it was the middle of the afternoon, when any self respecting French person is having a rest. However a visiting Basque Brass Band were playing, although I don't know how, because they would play a phrase and then have "a drag on their fag", yes nearly every player.

The Fair was set up down the street, just like in King's Lynn, although there were lots of the same stalls; how do they all make a living? There were several stalls selling "Daddy's Beard", candy floss to you, but not just pink, all different flavours. A lot of men were running around in tutus but I dont know why.

A huge stage had been set up for a big band concert tonight - very professional looking but things don't start until about nine o'clock here and we haven't mustered the stamina yet for these soirees.
When we arrived home the EU flag had been hoisted over our pigsty, not sure by whom!
But as dutiful European Citizens we've left it flying!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Wine man

Fridays have become a bit of a day off as we go off in the mornings for our French lesson. However, Fridays are also Market day in our local little town.

As you can see it's not exactly huge, but it's a small improvement on the 3 stalls which attend in the winter. However, for us, it's chief claim to fame is Bernard, the wine man.

Bernard is a grower who bottles/bags his wine from his own grapes. He sells his wares from the boot of his car and we are most happy with his medium quality red which we buy in 5 litre wine-boxes for 7 euros 50 centimes, ( approx. £1 a litre). However, when our friend Betty was with us, Bernard gave us a tasting of a Malbec, which we all found to be very good, even though it was 9 euros 50 centimes for 5 litres!

This Friday afternoon was not totally wasted as it sometimes is when we take the opportunity to go shopping. When we got home, I quickly changed and continued with stripping the woodwork from the Pigsty so that I can make good the masonry. I think that the weight of the tiles must have been holding the woodwork down, as they basically just lifted off. Never fear, they won't do that once I've finished!!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rest and Recuperation

Another warm and lazy day, or it least it has been for our cats. They were actually waiting for food in the photo, so they were not inclined to go too far away from the front door.

Yesterday I treated the beams for insect, fungal and whatever- else infestation. So today I tried one on top of my prepared wall and got it ready for fixing. I then removed the rest of the tiles so that I'm ready to remove the rest of the woodwork. The main 'ridge' beam will take at least 4 of us to lift it, so I want to try to be ready for lifting it up during next week whilst our english neighbours and their son are all around! According to JJ, the best way will be to roll the beam up the two end walls. So, I've got to check that the stones on the top of these walls are securely fixed; just a bit more mortaring and making good!

Sue spent another day pottering in the garden. She is developing a lovely display of Day Lilies which will be planted out into beds whenever we get round to creating the beds. We never seem to be running out of things to do here.

PS - I have been instructed to inform you all that she wasn't 'pottering' in the garden, she was slaving away!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Just another ordinary day

Yesterday was just another ordinary day. I'm normally awake around 6.30 and then can't do anything until I've had 3 cups of tea. So, after that, I went down to the veg patch and worked for an hour or so on the beds for the cordoned fruit trees which we will be putting around the Potager. I then put a coat of stain on the new shutters so that they will be ready for hanging on Wednesday. This just left a couple of hours before lunch for me to mow the grass.
In the meantime, Sue decided to clear out the caravan in case we suddenly need to sleep in it.

After lunch, JJ told me that our other neighbour Michel was going to be able to collect my beams for the pigsty. So I started to remove the second half of the Porcherie roof.

Sue carried on with her caravan clean-up.
Then, about 4.30, JJ shouted to me to say that we should go to meet Michel and his brother-in-law at the woodyard. The wood duly paid for and loaded on to Michel's lorry, it was brought home and unloaded next to the Porcherie.
We now had a change to our normal routine as we water the plants after dinner, but today we were going for some food and a game of cards with JJ and Nadine. So we watered, which takes anything up to an hour, and then Sue went for a shower. Whilst I was waiting for my turn, I renewed the cat litter to avoid problems later in the evening. So we finally fell out of the door just after 7 and we then had a lovely BBQ meal, starting with nibbles with the aperos, kebabs and salad, a course of Rocamadour goats cheese, finishing with fresh peach dessert. Then the game of cards.

The end of another ordinary day when we crawled in to bed at Midnight! I think I'm looking forward to being retired from being retired.

Monday, June 18, 2007


At last we have arrived at a colour for the shutters and external wooden doors! Needless to say, it isn't a standard colour. They are going to have to have two coats of a mixture of 6 parts 'Medium Oak' to one part 'Rustic Oak', followed by a final coat of just 'Rustic Oak'. This gives a result that has been decreed by 'the powers that be' to be acceptable. So, no sooner said than done, and I hung the door in the barn. A little bit of shaving off of the side, a little bit of touching up of paint, a door handle, and the result looks OK, even if I say so myself. I knew that 'O'level in Woodwork would come in handy some day!

Meanwhile, Sue spent another day toiling in the Veg patch in temperatures up to 36 degrees, but her efforets have made the whole thing look respectable again.
Spinach tart for tea, with fresh picked salad make it all worthwhile.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Gone to Seed

The past month has been really unsettled with lots of rain but warm; our max temperatures have been in the 30's for nearly 2 weeks now. This has forced the salad crops and a number of them have gone to seed; spinach, coriander and rocket.

The Chard is also suffering at the moment because it was damaged by the hailstones from last week's storm. The hailstones seem to have punched holes in the leaves!

We've not been out on the vegetable garden much this past week whilst our friend Betty was with us, so today Sue was out there even in the light rain tidying up. Because of things running to seed she wanted me to prepare another couple of beds for some more follow-on crops. This thus forced me to pluck up courage and get the rotorvater out. You may remember that it blew up a couple of months back and we had to take it back to be repaired. We've had it back with us for a couple of weeks but I've been a bit scared to take it out onto the veg patch in case the stones which are just under the surface proved too much for it. I'm pleased to say that everything seemed to go OK. The only problem was with the operator. I was steaming along and I thought that, whilst I was at it, I may as well get all of the remaining beds turned over. But, as I was quickly reminded, I was only supposed to have done two, since Sue wanted to spray any regrowth of perennial weeds.

I personnally think that she just didn't want to have the job of stone-picking all of the beds yet!

However, not downhearted, I took the rotorvater over to where the 'Birch Copse' has been marked out.

We will be planting 3 Silver Birch trees here and the idea is to have them underplanted with wild flowers and bulbs. Hence why I'm breaking up the ground to prepare it for the wildflower seeds. I'm sure that the neighbours haven't got a clue what we're doing!

I realised later that I didn't hit one stone in the Birch Copse. I think that previous farmers must have dumped all of their stones in the corner where we've made the Potager.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Despite a forecast of rain followed by thunderstorms, the head gardener decided that enough was enough and it was time to get the toys out.

The mini-pelle was brought out and we started by skimming off the grass from the path behind the Box hedge. Fortunately our neighbour JJ wanted the turves and the topsoil to do some levelling of his garden so we were able to get rid of the 'spoil' quite easily!

Having got rid of the grass, I then cleared off about 100cm of earth and then rode up and down the path to give Sue a level surface .We also prepared for the steps which will lead up from the road to the path.

Whatever the weather forecast was, by the afternoon it was scorching again, into the 30's. The Thunderstorm didn't come until 8 o'clock in the evening.

So it's now over to Sue to edge the path in stones before we can fill it with sand and then gravel and stepping stones. Of course, she want's to keep up the momentum and have me tearing round the garden on the digger......but what about my jobs?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It's a Barbie thing.

The good weather that our friend Betty bought with her is continuing, temperatures in the 30's. Sue and Betty went shopping yesterday and bought some skewers (no coat hangers available to straighten and use), so we had kebabs last night!

I've finished the wall of the Porcherie and so I'm now waiting on our neighbour Michel to organise some transport to fetch the beams. Once we get them then I can continue with the rest of the walls and put the roof back.

In the meantime, the committee is still having troubles deciding on the right colour to paint/stain the window shutters (volets). We can't seem to get it dark enough without it looking black. So we're back to doing colour samples on off cuts of wood! We're anxious to get it right so that they'll end up all looking the same.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Aftermath

I went out this morning to investigate the damage from last night's storm to be greeted by our neighbours cleaning down their terrasse and washing away the debris. I couldn't find anything untoward except for a small amount of damage to some of our tomatoes in the vegetable garden.

But the evidence of the volume of water which fell could be seen from the heap of compost which was washed from our long bed being prepared for the cordon apples.

All in one Weekend

We had Betty come to stay with us ( we picked her up from Limoges airport on Thursday) and she appears to have bought a change in the weather with her!

The first job was to show her around the 'estate'.....glass in hand of course.

After that we had to take her to see the wildflowers which are still in profusion here.

You can imagine a car full of old farts, stopping in the most awkward places, poring over french and english wildflower books, trying to identify a whole range of beautiful flowers.

Our weekend of sightseeing was interupted on Saturday when Sue, gardening and planting some more beetroot plants which she had bought at our market on Friday, rushed up to the house with a tic stuck in her leg. This led to a communal discussion with our french and english neighbours as to the best method of dealing with it. JJ was of the opinion that applying Ricard, an aniseed alcoholic drink, would anaesthesize it, although we weren't sure if the Ricard had to be taken internally or externally.
The arrival of our first summer guest prompted us to think about a Barbeque, especially as the weather was in the mid-30's. So, being economical, I hurriedly built a facility on top of the wall in the courtyard.

We bought a grill at our supermarket and then I constructed the BBQ out of old roof tiles and stones. And like our french neighbours, we dispensed with charcoal and used any old bits of wood (of which there is a limitless supply here).

This wasn't the end of our weekend as, whilst we were relaxing after our barbie, JJ warned us that there was an orange storm alert and we were going to get it. They were most insistent that we put the car under cover since many cars were damaged about 3 years ago from hailstones the size of tennis balls! The rain started about 8 o'clock and then we did get the wind and the hailstones, although they were about 1cm in size (jelly bean size). But this wasn't the main problem! The rain was so heavy that of course it entered through the holes in the roof.

But it wasn't just running down the walls...................

We had to move the settee (and Betty) out of the deluge but we now have a very clean floor. I think this has focused our minds on getting going so that we can get a new roof on! Trouble is the next storms are forecast for next Friday.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Kindness of Neighbours

Sue had to go shopping yesterday afternoon as we have invited some new aquaintances for lunch today. Just after she had returned home, Nadine came with a big plastic bag of 'Giroles' which are a variety of mushroom. JJ had spent the afternoon picking the giroles in his neighbour's wood as there is a bountiful crop at the moment.

Sue said to Nadine that she would use them in the meal for our friends but, oh no, they're too good, you must use them straight away, they reduce down a lot,.....

So, Sue duly changed her ideas for dinner, which had to be quick as we were playing cards with Nadine and JJ, and made us Giroles spaghetti, carefully following the very specific cooking instructions issued by Nadine. Put them into a pan with nothing else because they produce a lot of water. Drain this off and then cook with garlic and parsley. (So now you know what to do if you are given any giroles!!)

The meal looked fantastic, although we both thought that actually, the giroles didn't have much of a flavour. In fact I thought that the fresh herbs out of our garden had a stronger flavour. But nonetheless, it was a typical example of the generosity we are finding here in France.