Les poissons en France

Monday, March 30, 2009

From one Wall to Another

I had intended to mow the grass today but, whilst waiting for the frost to go, I carried on cementing the top of the long wall. I gradually began to realise that I could get the wall finished if I kept at it all day.

So I left the grass and finished the wall. It's always nice to complete a job (except the wall will need jointing with mortar).

Although it was late in the afternoon, I didn't have much sand left and I want to use the space where I had the sand to restack roof tiles. So, I pressed on mixing cement and began rebuilding the wall between us and our neighbours.

I'll be mowing the grass tomorrow and then I'll try to organise some sand before we 'nip' off to England on Thursday. We're having a long weekend in Manchester for the wedding of the son of our oldest friends. (More on this later)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Missed that Hour!

No work yesterday as we had to go shopping to Cahors and Montauban, so we wanted to get cracking today. However the clocks went forward last night so we were immediately at a disadvantage!
I spent the day finishing clearing away from the foot of the wall, and then I've been trying to find out if I can use some of the wall as it is. And I think that I'm going to end up knocking it all down! The wall is about 75cm ( 2'6'') thick; it is faced either side, with a middle of rubble ..... nothing other than age holding it together. So I'm now thinking that I'll clear a first part of the wall and then start rebuilding it, using (where I can) the stones from the next part of the wall.

It isn't going to be a quick job, but, when we look at what it was back in September, we realise that we're progressing already!

We have encountered another problem. Our own village Builder's Merchant has closed! It was very convenient to just nip up the road to get some bits or a bag of cement. But the biggest problem is that I used to take the trailer and fill it with sand from their yard. So now I've got to find another source of sand or get it delivered.

Whilst we were in Cahors yesterday we walked through the market. It was really buzzing and the fruit and veg stalls were also selling plants and seedlings. We ended up buying 2 dozen stawberry plants, a dozen Red Cabbage and a dozen Broccoli....as if Sue hasn't already got enough to plant up!

The Strawberry plants went in today!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

8 Days a Week

At lunchtime we found out that today was a bonus day. We were absolutely convinced that it was Thursday. We began to realise that we were confused when the weather forecast told us it was Wednesday. Then the phone indicated that it was the 25th; finally even the Times (online) showed the day as Wednesday, 25th. However we still didn't really believe it and we had to 'phone a friend' to confirm the real date. We had been so sure that it was Thursday that we had planned everything down to the last detail, as we thought that we had to go to French class and then take the dog to be clipped.

So, with our 'bonus' afternoon, I started clearing the earth and rocks away from the bottom wall of the courtyard. Once I've exposed the wall, I can mark the level we want in the courtyard and then set to rebuilding it.

Sue, meanwhile, is getting excited with her seeds which are all germinating profusely. She was scouting round for anything that she could use as seed trays or as trays to hold small pots. She therefore spent the afternoon on her 'production line' in the courtyard preparing pots to prick out the seedlings.

After all of that excitement, we'll try Thursday again tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Keeping Fit

We have just been reflecting on our day and John is exhausted and I am delighted that after my energetic day I was able to climb the hill (with the dog) behind us much more easily than normal.
John has spent the day moving rocks, a frequent pastime round here. Initially he was clearing up the winter garbage from behind the ruin, followed by a spell on the digger moving beams and an enormous rock two thirds of a metre cubed (just to give you some idea of it's size). After lunch we had a little tree planting interlude. We rescued a ginko tree from the courtyard before the builders started work and it has been in an old dustbin ever since awaiting a suitable home. Well we decided that the" island bed/pile of rocks" in the back garden was the place for it. Whilst I gathered manure and soil, John "dug" a hole three feet deep literally by hand.

Having accomplished the planting, back to moving rocks. This time we were searching for large flat stones to use as stepping stones up my iris walk. By 5 o'clock the 20 or so were in place so John started to move more rocks from one side of the ruin to the other. Yes this is not the first time he has done this, but this time after moving them he set up his Bonsai display and I think it looks fabulous. It is a shame that he left the majority of his collection in the UK, but that's life.

In between helping John, I have continued to plant up the serpentine bed. In addition I have had innumerable excursions into the back field to chase off the deer.( I love them yes, but all this planting puts a whole new perspective on their eating habits). We have particularly gormless deer 'chez nous'. I thought they were supposed to be afraid of people. We shout and wave at them and they eventually look up and you can see the coggs winding up in their brains to say "I think some one is shouting at me, never mind, I must finish this bit of luscious grass first before I bound a few metres away".

All this activity certainly keeps us fit!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Full Steam Ahead

More fair weather and so I attacked the 'long' bed in the back garden.... and it is long!

I didn't encounter too many rocks or tree roots and so, by 12 o'clock, I'd turned over the whole of the bed. A break for lunch and then I ran over the bed again to try and get as deep as possible.

I was finished just in time to assist Sue making the first plantings in the 'serpentine' bed in the front garden. I had to stand by with the pick-axe to ensure that the holes for the plants were deep enough (I'm used to breaking rocks!)

As you can see from the smile, Sue is still happy; second day on the trot!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

All Sandboys Here!

Yes, we're all as happy as the proverbial! Another glorious sunny day and another day of achievement.
However, the day started interestingly because, whilst I was out in the garden about 10 am, I heard some strange noises and realised that there was a hot air balloon floating over our barn. I called Sue and then we saw that it was losing height. The next thing we knew it was landing in the middle of the village!!!

We don't know if it was a planned landing so I will have to quiz our neighbours who I saw racing off to investigate.
After this excitement it was back to the more pressing matter of rotavating Sue's beds. And this is where we embarked on 'the joy of mechanical equipment'. I hadn't used the rotavator since the autumn, so I was slightly worried if it would start, but the engine fired up no problems. I positioned myself and the rotavator at the start of the first of Sue's beds and off we went. I got about half way along it when the blades stopped turning!!! At the risk of getting too technical, I discovered that a pin holding a pulley to the drive shaft had dropped out/disappeared. Fortunately, a bodge later (found a nut and bolt to substitute for the pin), we were off again. 10 metres further up the bed, the right hand set of blades fell off!!!!!!!!
Was somebody trying to tell me something, I wondered. At first I thought that we had again lost a pin or a nut and bolt, shaken loose from the vibration. More searching of the invaluable jam-jars and biscuit tins that are an essential part of any good workshop. Meanwhile Sue was searching in the earth and compost of the bed. And she found it. However the bolt had sheared off. I guess that the blades must have hit one of the inummerable rocks and the bolt had broken in two.

Having replaced the bolt, I recommenced, whilst thinking 'What's going to be the third thing?'
But Lady Luck was now prepared to smile down on us. I was able to finish both beds either side of the 'serpentine path'.

I was in the process of taking the rotavator round to the back of the house when Sue reminded me that I had to do the 'white' bed! We were actually both worried that I might be fighting tree roots but we were in luck again, and the ground turned over without any problems.

At this point it was lunch time and as there seem to be local rules (written or unwritten) about making noise on Sundays (or just Sunday afternoons) I decided to defer rotavating the long bed under the trees in the back garden until tomorrow (Monday) morning.

Needless to say, the head gardener is chuffed to bits. She was out there raking the beds this afternoon, getting ready for starting the planting campagn.

This afternoon therefore, I was able to continue with my steps/wall. It was my turn to be chuffed to bits. I'm now putting stones into the middle of the top of the wall at the back of the house. I had previously left this as we wanted to run an electric cable to a light at the end of the wall to illuminate the tree at the end. A bit poncey I know but, why not? I can't get over how, just putting a few flat stones to finish off the top of the wall completely changes the look of it!!

At this point we did a tour of the garden, feeling pleased with ourselves, and then retired for a well earned drink.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Stairway to the Top

I'm pleased to report that the stairs are finished. Having said that, I will be 'jointing' the stones fairly soon, when I'm allowed off the land. The gardener has a few jobs lined up for me!!!

Talking about her, she's keeping busy planting her Irises. She's gone as far as she can; she's now waiting for me to finish removing the grass from the rest of the bed. I'll try again tomorrow and hope that my back is up to it!

At the end of the day, we did a tour of the garden. Our daffodils and cowslips under the trees at the front have been joined by some violets.

The vegetable garden is now all prepared for sowing and planting; as usual the gardener is agonising over the possibilities of frost and when it will be OK to start sowing seeds .

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another Day's Hard Labour

I do love those 'could you just...' jobs that seem to keep coming my way! Madam needed a labourer to'just' skim the turves off of the new Iris bed.

I lifted about half this morning, but then decided that, as it was getting hot, and to give the old back a rest, I'll finish it off tomorrow. However, madam was able to press on with lifting the Irises (Irii?) out of the vegetable garden and then plant them in position.

I have to admit that Sue put in a good day's work. She had to bring manure up from the compost heaps, dig it in, and then go and dig up the Irises. Finally she could plant them. As we had temperatures in the 20's, she had to have a rest mid-afternoon!

Meanwhile, some of us just had to plod on. This afternoon, I continued with the steps. We're slowly getting there.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

From Dawn to Dusk

Well, it seems like we have been working outside for that long but don't have much to show for it. It is the time of year when you just don't feel you can keep up with things in the garden, however hard you try. I finished planting the potatoes and several other vegetable seeds today. I have ended up with lots of old flower seeds which I brought from England and a number of envelopes of ones I have collected here, so, to get rid of them, I mixed them all up and threw them into the copse - they've got two chances!!

Having said we have not achieved much today, we have completed two very significant tasks. I have prepared the ground in the front garden and sown grass seed, (how wonderful it will be to see it green again after all the building activity), and John has moved the old log pile to the end of the alley (joining the new log pile).

John has got up to step three on his flight of steps. I must admit that he would probably be further on but I just had to comment that they were not level ( you probably saw the steam drifting over!). He should ignore his spirit level and just stand back and look. I think he has got the hang of it now so we should have some speedy progress (I hope he doesn't read this as I fear we may have no progress).

Yoda adores being outside with us and insists he is outside whenever we are. He is quite happy to follow the tractor most of the time but his real treat is to have a ride on the driver's lap. Yes, it is just like having a toddler.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Summer Jobs

The sun is starting to have some heat in it and people are starting to eat outside. I've therefore brought out the patio table and chairs from the barn and we had our lunch 'al fresco' after a slight delay to rescue a lizard from Cleo.

Spurred on by our neighbours, I've cut the grass today. It hadn't seemed too long, but once I started I realised that it should have been done before. So now it'll be a regular job till about next October!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stepping Out

Yesterday I finished clearing up all of the wood from our recent prunings. Sue wanted them stacked at the far end of our tree alley so that they can't be seen from the house. So, I spent most of the day loading logs into the trailer and then ferrying them to the farthest point from the house.

Now I've started to build the steps from where we park the car down to the first level of our courtyard.

It's good to be back working on the house and it's surroundings.

Monday, March 09, 2009

It's Taters Here.

We bought our seed potatoes only about 2 weeks ago, but they already have 'eyes' all over them. Sue had them in the boiler room on polystyrene 'trays' (packaging from the new ovens) which have worked extremely well. So, in they went today, ....or at least most of them.

She's got enough left for 2 more beds; that will make 7 in all.

The potatoes are 'earlies', so hopefully we'll have potatoes in May.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Never Do Anything By Halves

That's certainly been our moto for the last few days.

Yesterday John put another 5 spot lights up in the kitchen. Crystal Palace comes to mind but in fact that is not the case. I have been mentioning (some would say complaining) that it is rather dark at the oven end of the kitchen so we decided to mirror the lighting over the hob. I must admit that I was worried that the kitchen would look as though it was flood lit, but no, it's fine.

As you know we cut down some overhanging branches from the trees in the alley. Well now we have logs everywhere. John started before nine this morning cutting up and clearing the branches which he hadn't cleared a couple of days ago. He staggered in at 5 o'clock, healthily tired he says, others would say "kna-----d". Not only did he cut up this year's prunings but we had piles left from last year. A couple more days and we should have log piles all over the place. We plan to have a wood burning stove in the salon eventually!!

Not to be out done I have been planting loads of seeds in trays to give them a head start. To be honest I planted some in the Autumn and some in January with very little success, so I will have wasted a lot of time and money if this lot are no more productive. As we have underfloor heating and lots of patio doors I figured that it would be great for seed propagation. However French seed packets do not quote ideal germination temperatures and conditions, so its pot luck. Meantime, if we had a fire it would be impossible to get out of most exits as they are seed growing factories. It has eventually dawned on me that I am preparing these enormous flower beds and that I need to create a "show" on a very tight budget. I am therefore begging, borrowing and stealing (yes I did that yesterday - I am hoping that at my age they will view it as eccentricity) any plants I can, to fill in.

Monday, March 02, 2009


Although the weather forecast is for rain all of this week, it was only overcast this morning. So we took advantage of the dry to get out the chainsaw and take off the lower limbs of the trees along the new bed Sue is creating next to the alley at the back.

As usual, what starts off as a few branches to be taken off, ends up as a huge quantity of brush and wood to be burnt.

Whilst we were at it, we also pruned the Field Maple which casts shade into the courtyard. So, by the time all of this was done, I was on my knees!!!!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Plain Sailing

Well, we finally got there! A job which I thought would take a couple of days seems to have taken at least a week.

I've actually got to finish raking the ground over, but, just as I was finishing, the mower decided to be temperamental and the parking brake stuck on. By the time I'd sorted that, the digger then took it's turn. As I was putting it away, one of it's treads came off. So, by the times I'd corrected these mechanical problems, it was 'apero' time. And, lo and behold, it's raining this morning. However, at least I can move on now (or when we get over this wet spell which is forcast for all of the coming week!).