Les poissons en France

Monday, June 30, 2008


Another scorcher today; 30+, so it's a good thing that we're working inside.

Our plumber, Thierry, finally arrived at 9am with the oil tanks. We were expecting them to be plastic, but, oh no! Plastic inside but metal on the outside.

Everything about our heating seems to be on a massive scale. It's beginning to look more and more like Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory. After helping Thierry carry in the tanks (les cuves) I carried on with tiling in the bathroom. Although the tiles are big (45x45cm) it means that you keep getting to the fiddley cutting parts quicker after you've laid about 2 or 3 tiles.

Sue went on a photographic mission this afternoon when she recorded lots of the flowers which are blooming merrily in the vegetable garden. You may wonder why there are flowers in the veg patch, but it's being used as a holding area until the beds start to come on stream. Sue realised that everything was doing so well that they were outgrowing their pots! Our Mayor was supervising some hay cutting near us and he thought that the idea of flowers in with the
vegetables was lovely. Sue didn't spoil things for him by explaining the real reason!

Meanwhile the Silver Birch Copse is a blaze of colour from all sorts of poppies, thanks to our friend Eric.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

She's Happy at Last!

Sue has such simple pleasures. Today she's as happy as a sand boy because, at last, she can see rooms beginning to look like rooms.

This morning I did another mix of mortaring. The secret is to get the right mix. If it's wet enough, you can 'throw' it into the joints (the authentic method!) I can do this a bit, and I'm hoping that I'll get better with practice.

Then, this afternoon, the first of the tiles went down. Sue was so excited(why? she can't walk on them yet.)

Whilst all of this heart-warming activity was going on, Sue continues to plod on with the painting, although she's now returned to the bedroom.

Deer Deer!!

I have been so excited in the last couple of days because I have witnessed deer in the garden on three separate occasions. The first time was about five in the evening when I inadvertantly disturbed a hind and her fawn who had been sheltering under a tree to avoid the heat. Yesterday evening I was watering in the back garden and suddenly heard thundering hooves. I was convinced I was about to be attacked by a wild boar - or even a whole herd, the noise was so great.(John always says I have a fertile imagination). I quickly thought to myself "not to worry I will be able to blast it with my hose"!! However not a boar but a hind pursued by a stag galloped from the top of our field diagonally across to the vegetable patch and then out through the bottom hedge. I heard him barking later in the evening so I assume that it is the rutting season. Tonight I went down to water and trotting along by the dry river bed was a hind and her twins. I watched them for a few minutes before they too disappeared through the hedge.
A pair of bats appear every night at about ten, however last night one decided to feed in our porch. As we have the glass screen there I had a wonderful view. We continue to see one owl , and sometimes two emerge from the piggonier every night just as it gets dark. We have no idea if they have a brood this year.
The vegetables are coming in thick and fast as last year. I have staggered my planting but the beans in particular seem to catch each other up. The first picking was a delight but you can have too much of a good thing. Any new recipe ideas for "haricot vert" would be appreciated.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Back up the Ladder

Oh well, I knew that all of those years working up ladders would stand me in good stead. I started filling the joints between the stones up in our bedroom. At this moment in time I'm only doing the walls where the stairs will be, but that's plenty!

As you can see I'm working on a plank between 2 ladders. Even then, I'm going to have to extend the tall ladder to reach the highest point.

I'm busy trying to develop a system. I've got to be careful not to mix up too much mortar, or it goes off too quickly in the heat. Then I've got to get it from the cement mixer and up 2 flights of stairs. I didn't too badly today, but it is obviously a job for first thing in the morning.

The weather was glorious again today, 30+. We are finding that our 'breakfast' patio is becoming very useful. You need an umberela at lunch-time, but in the evening, once the sun is behind the Pigeonnier, it's a lovely place to sit, eat and watch the birds.

If only I had time to sit there!!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Creeping Forward

We have received an enquiry from our Stairs man to find out how ready we are for him to fit them. We reviewed our 'bookings' for friends coming out to visit us and our holidays to Barcelona and to Ireland for a family wedding and before you know it we are in to October. Hopefully we'll speed up doing the jointing of the stones with practice, although it becomes more difficult with the heat. We'll have to see his reaction.

Meanwhile, I was warming up my pointing technique on the new steps at the entrance. I thought that I'd better make them as waterproof as possible to try to stop any water coming into our entrance porche, but of course, it now won't rain till the Autumn. Although there is all of this stone pointing to do, I'm really waiting to start tiling in the bathroom, but I'm not starting this till Sue's finished painting in there! Whenever you want to start something, there is always a job that has to be done first!!!!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Summer at Last

Summer arrived on Wednesday, thank goodness, although we have exchanged mud for dust. JP and Patrick constructed another step at the top of the steps leading to our front door. The idea is to redirect water which runs down the hill when it rains away from our entrance. Their ideas and mine were vastly different and consequently a lot of "discussion" ensued. Finally Patrick came up with a super idea which was a satisfactory compromise.

On Wednesday we went to Cahors in search of the special tile adhesive and grout which John needs for the tiling through out the ground floor. Whilst we were waiting in one of the tile shops I was idly looking around and saw some tiles which would be suitable for the salon (although they are designed for external use we were assured they would be OK indoors). We do not need them for a year or so but somehow, when they are almost giving them away, it focuses the mind. John couldn't believe that I was able to make a decision so quickly. So the remainder of Wednesday was taken up collecting tiles and finding somewhere to store them. No use making plans here, you never know whats going to happen.

As the weather has improved we have the roof finished. Yes you have read that correctly!! It did take a day longer than anticipated but as the scaffolding has also come down we can actually believe it.

The builders have done a lot of clearing up but as always not entirely. Cyrille assures me that it will be finished tomorrow, needless to say I will not be convinced until it happens.

Talking of clearing up we have a lot of it to do. John started cleaning out the old mortar from the joints between the stone in the stairwell. The house, and everything in it, is totally covered in dust. So we decided to finish clearing the joints throughout the entire house so that we could make the mess and clear up once. John blew up two machines in the process and finally himself. He has about half an hours more work today to finish before we start on the mammoth clean up.

At present we have a thousand jobs that need doing all at once, painting, tiling, finishing the wardrobes etc. We are realistic enough to understand that these jobs will get done as and when we have the time and we would rather things are done properly than be rushed. Our neighbours still kindly provide shower facilities so we will get there in the end. Now that the builders have virtually finished their part of the project, our progress will be a little slower. As a result our "Blogs" will not be so regular as, left to our own devices, there will not be so much to report. However we will keep you all posted on the everyday goings-on of our little part of France.

Monday, June 16, 2008

More Light

Patrick and Mikel arrived this morning even though it was drizzling. They did a little bit of tidying up where the pipes pass through the barn and then it was inside work. They began to fit the Velux windows in the second roof and they finished the first two just before the afternoon's storm arrived!

Meanwhile we were on inside jobs as well! I finished the preparation work in the bedroom so that Sue can paint. That is, once she's experimented with paint mixes to achieve the required colour. However the test 'patches' on the walls look promising. She then started painting in the boiler room. We are still awaiting the tanks for the heating oil, so we'd like to paint the walls and ceiling whilst it's still easy to get to them.

I spent the afternoon organising and cleaning my tiling tools. I've got to buy sacks of 'flexible' tile adhesive for the underfloor heating. It comes in powder form so I'm awaiting a dry day; tomorrow hopefully.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Moving On

Today has seen a number of positive steps. Cyrille's men have taken the pipes from the Fosse and the rainwater pipes through the barn out to the back field. So it's all ready now for whenever Cyrille decides to make the 'drainage field'.

The window men turned up today to continue making good around the new windows, and also to fit the last two window panes above our entrance 'doors'. So, we are finally weather proof. They have still got more work to do to seal around the patio doors and they said that they will be back on Monday.

Finally, I have started to bring the floor tiles home. I did two journeys today, filling the car and some in the trailer, but the weight soon adds up. Two more journeys tomorrow and then I have to organise some special flexible adhesive as the tiles need to be able to move on the concrete warmed by the underfloor heating.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Saga Continues

Cyrille and Patrick turned up again today and finished connecting up all of the pipes to and from the Septic Tank. I understood that nothing could be covered up until 'the man from the Ministry' came out to inspect. However, Cyrille knows 'the man' and a quick telephone call was all that was required.

So, all of the pipes are now covered over, and Cyrille says that he will be digging a trench through the barn tomorrow. We at last seem to have recovered our courtyard.

Cyrille and Patrick have also been doing some tidying up. All that is left in front of the house is a heap of earth, which is to be spread about tomorrow, and the last of the roof tiles, which are awaiting 2 fine days so that the ridge tiles can be put in place.

Meanwhile my labourer had been emptying the trailer of a full load of sand, hence why she looks a trifle fatigued.

Over to Sue:-

I had also been into battle with the tile man. You will recall that he had sold the tiles which he was storing for us and for which we had paid a hefty deposit. John rang yesterday to give him time to contact the manufacturer to establish when and if the said tiles would be delivered. When we arrived at the shop he produced a fax stating that the tiles would not be delivered to Italy until about the 25th of June and goodness knows when they would be delivered to France. Remember no tiles equals no shower. The out come was that we had to choose some more; luckily John and I managed to agree on an alternative from what he had in his shop. Tile man established that between their two shops they have sufficient in stock for our needs. He said that he would put a total freeze on these tiles until we had what we needed. I suggested "ironically" that that was a "bon idea". Bearing in mind that he has already admitted his "faux pas" and cannot say anything in his defence, my next question was "what about the price". Well the figure he came up with was what I intended to pay so it wasn't until I got home that I reflected and thought that I had heaps of leverage to haggle. Missed opportunity but a lesson learnt!!

Hence why I was emptying the trailer so that John can start collecting the tiles tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

La Fosse

Yesterday our neighbour JJ had been concerned as he had seen that our Septic Tank (Fosse Septique) is full and overflowing into the garden. He was worried that this overflow would contaminate his well. So, a quick phone call to Cyrille and he came to connect the fosse to the old existing pipe running out to the field. This temporary set-up seemed enough to keep everybody happy, but, to our surprise, he arrived this morning with Patrick to install the Grease trap, or Bac a Grasse.

This involved a mini digger/pneumatic drill to break up the rock, followed by more pipe laying.

It remains to be seen when more work will be done on the 'drains'.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Bumper Crop

Sue had decided to grow some potatoes this year and we have seen some impressive growth. However we've been waiting for them to flower. We've seen the odd flower but were expecting more than one or two. But we were to be surprised. Yesterday Sue was mowing the grass in the Potager and she had mown some of the overhanging foliage of the potatoes. Sue was concerned that the leaves were covered in black spots and she was worried that they had some sort of blight. So, in disgust, she pulled up one of the plants, and .... bingo.

Sue ended up pulling 3 plants, but it looks like we'll be eating a lot of tates this year!

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Bottom of the Barrel

We popped down to our friday market this morning to be greeted with a catastrophe. Our wine man Bernard has run out of wine!!!!!!! We asked him if it was the fault of those english who have been taking lorry-loads back to the UK, but he was afraid to upset his customers. However, all is not lost, as he introduced us to a friend who will be taking over his spot. We'll keep an eye on his prices and his quality.

Meanwhile our friend Betty is coming out for 3 weeks so we've been rearranging the bed facilities. We've put the single beds up into the salon behind the 'walls' of floor insulation.

This has then allowed us to set up the double bed in the downstairs bedroom so that our summer guests have a small amount of comfort.

Wildlife Update
The window men came last Thursday to fit the patio doors in the passageway. We were concerned that they would fit the glass over the doors before the redstarts fledged. Thankfully they began to come out of the nest on Tuesday but unfortunately straight into Diana's mouth. John rescued one, we went out and came home to find another in the toilet which then ended up in the porcherie. Exhausted - we were glad to see them go. Similarly I saw the magpies (featured earlier) fledge when I was finally clearing up John and Lesley's house.
I have seen evidence of visits from the boar several times during the last week. He has dug up my melons (look as though they've expired), courgettes and some tomatoes. Mixed feelings when we saw him at the bottom of the alley. I have not seen one before so it was very exciting but I've seen him now !!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

DIY en France

We came to France with the idea that, because we had worked on building sites for 20 years, we were far more 'au fait' with building/decorating techniques. The only problem is that the French do most things completely different from the English. As you know, we have been trying to solve the problem of covering the joints in the plasterboard. Well, we think we have cracked it at last using a hybrid of french and english techniques. We are covering the plasterboard with this sort of fibreglass textile but are applying it with wallpaper paste. The glue the french use is astronomically expensive. Hope it stays stuck to the wall or it will be a false economy!

We felt that we had moved on to a new phase today when we were at last at the painting stage. However this "material" on the wall absorbs gallons of paint; 5 litres of paint to put one coat on the wardrobes. Everything is a steep learning curve that takes a very long time to accomplish.

We want to get the wardrobes ready so that John can fit the doors and make up shelving etc. At least we'll be able to put our clothes away then!

Finally you may like to see our Black Redstart mentioned yesterday. John sat for about half an hour with camera poised to obtain this shot.