Les poissons en France

Monday, September 29, 2008

How Sad!

Here we are, retired, and we find ourselves setting the alarm so that we can be off early to get to the shops as they open!!!! Actually the reason for doing this is so that we can get back and get cracking on our jobs. However I didn't continue with the wall, but I got on the digger to drag the earth back from the lower courtyard wall. Whilst it's dry, we felt that I should check that the base of the wall would give us the level we want in this part of the courtyard.

We were worried that we would have a problem with 'bedrock' coming to the surface but we were relieved to find that we were able to get the ground down to below the level we need.

Sue gave me some help, but whilst I didn't need her, she started to drag the huge stones next to the wall between us and JJ and Nadine to create a base for raising the ground level.

Whilst there's a lot more work to be done, it's encouraging to see the bones of a scheme taking shape.
ps a wild life note. Sue has disturbed a hare in the veg patch the last 2 days. She says that he seems to be digging in the rhubarb and the irises that are down there; he hasn't found the lettuces yet. Yesterday I was breaking up a very large stone with my sledge hammer and, on lifting up a large piece of it, I found an enormous toad. I don't know how he didn't get squashed! Finally, we still see 2 owls from time to time, but no chicks this year;perhaps, because of the wet spring?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Up Up and Away

We have just spent a wonderful afternoon at Rocamadour watching about 30 hot air balloons take off. We arrived just after 2.30 as there was a parade of the pilots in fancy dress headed by an alsacien band scheduled to begin. As usual the parade was late - like an hour and a half late!!

Never mind, we had a beer and soaked up the sunshine and the ambiance. Along with everyone else we then made our way to the fields below the village (where the train begins for those of you familiar with Rocamadour) to watch the preparations for the flights.( I might say that today the train was not running so for the first time we had to walk/struggle to the top). We found a vantage point and sat and waited and waited and waited. Apparently it was too hot for the balloons to take off!! Eventually the spectacle got underway at about 5.30. However it was well worth waiting for. The first two balloons took off and as they rose over the canyon they released two eagles to gasps from the crowd. (The eagles live at Rocamadour at a bird of prey centre). We will post a few more pictures than normal as "a picture's worth a thousand words".

Note the Autumn tints. The leaves are turning much earlier this year. We believe it is the almost total absence of rain for the last 3 months and the low morning temperatures.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Stone Me!

... at least that's what I said this afternoon when I'd just finished a mix of cement. It did happen to be about 30 degrees in the hot afternoon sun!! However, I'm feeling a sense of satisfaction at how the wall is progressing. It certainly looks better than the old wall which is gradually being hidden.

Not to be outdone, Sue's been working on the Dry Riverbed. (Actually, June did give her a hand whilst David was on the digger). We have decided to press on with the outside jobs as long as this glorious weather stays with us. The inside jobs can wait for the winter days.

Friday, September 26, 2008

S**t or Bust

Some of you will know that we love fresh Figs. Unfortunately, we don't have a Fig tree so we've been asking our friends if they've got a surplus. Last night we met up with some of them and, very kindly, they'd bought us a carrier bag of purple and white figs. Lovely! However, this afternoon, Nadine asked if we liked figs. Our other neighbour, Michel, had given her figs to make jam with, but she says that she won't have time. So, we duly were given a bowl full of large, ripe figs.

We hope that they don't have the legendary effect on our digestive systems.

I've continued building my wall, although, as I've said before, it takes longer to find the right stone than it does to lay it. One of our problems is that the huge pile of stones which we have in the courtyard are all really too big; too big to move and certainly too big to lift up onto the wall!!!

I don't think I need to go to the gym!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


The wall-er was hard at it early this morning and had finished the first wall before I emerged. Initially my job was to fill in rubble behind the new wall. I certainly missed my assistant June. John then started on the next wall. We've decided that it's going to be easier to build another wall infront of the existing onel between the courtyard and the top level where we park our car. The wall that we've uncovered underneath the builder's rubble is in a very poor state and tends to collapse as soon as you touch it! He began to dig out a trench for the foundations, however he soon had to change tack and was sweeping the bed rock to expose a suitable base for the wall!

We have a lot of very large stones lying around so John wanted to create the base of the wall using these, as a way of getting rid of them. I was soon recruited to assist with this exacting task.

John's hoping to get these large stones all joined up tomorrow! Then we can start back-filling them with rubble from the barn ramp.

You may be a little perplexed to understand why we are beavering away building walls when we haven't even got a kitchen. Well, I can't stand looking out at the courtyard covered in rocks and weeds, and John hates going to his workshop when it has rained and getting covered in mud. We are taking advantage of the spell of dry weather to try and get the court yard tidy for the winter.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

All Alone

David and June left us yesterday after a very enjoyable and productive few days. So today we were back to our own resources. The weather was sunny and so I was able to press on with the wall which divides the two levels in the courtyard.

I made very good progress and it shouldn't take too long tomorrow to finish the wall (as far as we're going to take it for the moment). The finishing actually takes longer as you have to go searching for the right stones to keep the top of the wall level.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Guest blogger's review

Digger Dave and his artisan wife, June, arrived with good intentions but both hampered by similar injuries to right legs. It was decided that duties would be lighter than previous visits so our hosts set out the work schedule of building a dividing wall across the back terrace to create two levels of terracing. This was to be followed by the domolition of the mound leading to the barn doors to provide a clear view of the flower meadow from the rear patio doors. Under the watchful eyes of both fore(wo)men the wall took shape on day 1. Fortunately the wall was sufficiently completed to enable Digger Dave to take refuge on the digger for the following days. All hands on deck enabled the scheduled work to be completed and provide enough recuperation time before heading back to the UK for more punishment on our own projects. We achieved visits to Carcasonne, Sarlat, Domme and throughly enjoyed the opportunity to savour the sights, sounds, delicacies and wines of the region. We ended our recuperation period with a day visiting two local Chateau's opened to the public for the weekend only. Both Chateau's were restoration jobs and we all agreed that they were real labours of love as well as serious drains on the finances. The results are amazing as you can see below.

Having been well fed and watered throughout our stay we now prepare to make the journey back to Blighty with a boot full of Cahor wines, more goats cheese than Sainsbury's and bag of walnuts to crack at Christmas. Next year we hope to return with less ailments and the chance to get on the digger again.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Many Hands...

We've built up a head of steam now and things are moving on apace. We've decided that it really doesn't matter if we're working inside or outside, and it will be good to get the area outside of the back door in a state where we can cross to the barn without getting covered in mud!

Our aim is to get the level at the back door running on through to the back field, which entails removing a fair bit of the ramp beside the barn. And I think we should do that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Walls! What Walls?

We spent a good day yesterday, working in the top level of the courtyard. So it was really encouraging to recover the wall between the courtyard and the level which runs into the tree alley.

We've decided that we'll be able to contain the earth and rocks from the ramp within the 'top' level of the courtyard and so we're going to extend the retaining wall out towards the barn.

Sue's getting excited that things are happening and that she can see changes rapidly taking place.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Problem Solved

As you can see the problem with the digger has been resolved. After firstly borrowing a battery charger from JJ and then borrowing another from our friend Jon, we assured ourselves that the battery was actually fully charged! So, David had a delve in the engine and found an electrical connection hanging loose. Obviously the vibration had shaken it free, hence no starter.

However, the delay in operations wasn't a worry, as we were able to press on with building the retaining wall separating the two levels in the courtyard. Now that we've started to fill in behind the wall, we can see that it's going to take a lot of soil, stones and rubble to bring the whole thing up to the level of the back door. So, we're now confident that we can extend the retaining wall out to the barn and we'll be able to lose the ramp beside the barn to create a view out to the back field.

Having said that, it isn't going to be a five minute job to reduce the ramp and spread it level .

Saturday, September 13, 2008

He's Back!

Operations have started again in earnest with the arrival of our own digger driver. David and June are out with us for a few days to help us in the house and the courtyard.

David and I have started to create two levels in the courtyard and then we'll be able to move about the earth and stones. We've also laid the foundation for the retaining wall.

David has started to nibble into the ramp beside the barn. The intention is to remove the ramp so that you get a clear view of the garden from the back door.

But, disaster! We had a cup of tea and then the digger wouldn't start. We're hoping that it's just that the battery needs charging, but we're slightly delayed trying to organise a battery charger. Fortunately we're planning to do some wall building tomorrow, by which time I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll have sorted out the problem!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hay Harvest

I finally got round to picking up the cut grass from the Wildflower meadow. The Head gardener has decreed that the grass can be put onto the 'rock' bed to start to create soil.

As you can see, I was taking advantage of the good weather and lifting the grass whilst it is dry. The forecast is for unsettled weather with rain, just as Sue's cousin David and his wife June are set to arrive to help work on the house! Hope that they're not bringing that English weather with them.

Just before we were going to bed last night, Cleo popped home with a mickey. And of course she then let it go in the kitchen. Mouse immediately disappeared into the walls! I put down a trap but with no success this morning.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sunday Stroll

We were invited by our friends south of Cahors to go with them on their village's monthly organised walk.

Fortunately it was only (?) about 8km but, as well as a small contingent of English, we had the opportunity to chat to the French ramblers, all of whom were only too pleased to talk and answer our inquiries. What we hadn't realised was that the walk was organised to call in to an 'ecologically' friendly house made of straw and mud.

The house had been built by a Dutch couple; she's an architect and he's an artist. The house has been built using straw in wooden frames, coated with mud. Their electricity comes from solar panels, they use a 'dry' toilet and their used water (from washing machine etc) is purified in a reed bed system.
You can see the clumps of Bullrushes that they've planted.

The house was actually an interesting mix of 'Good Life', artist's house, hippy dwelling and high technology. We think that they have built it to show that it can be done, but we were not given the details of what it all cost. However we picked up an idea from the way that they'd tiled in their kitchen. We're always on the look-out for new ideas!
The visit to the house finished with a little glass of wine and a selection of home-made tarts and gateaux; all very civilised.