Monthly Archives: July 2015

26/07/2015

The latest batch of beer has now been bottled. Now unfortunately I need to wait at least two weeks before I know if it’s any good or not!

LSS and I took advantage of the low water level in the pond to reinforce one of the eroded banks. We used old tyres which we filled with bricks and rubble left over from the creation of the doorways into the barn. Any bricks which were undamaged were put in a separate pile; these will be re-used for constructing an external cupboard next to the kitchen. This will contain the gas cylinder used for the cooker, and the upper part will hold ready-use firewood which will be accessed through a hatchway in the kitchen wall. Once this is in place we will be able to get rid of the current wood cupboard in the kitchen, which will free up quite a bit of floor space!

Once the first level of tyres were in place, we backfilled the gaps using the soil/clay which we had dug out of the barn when laying the new limecrete floor. Then the next layer of tyres/rubble/soil went in. All in all we installed four layers of tyres, and the bank of the pond is already looking better. There is one final section still to do, but the pond is deeper there so we’ll need to wait for the water level to drop a bit more. One thing we’re pleased about is that the greywater reedbed empties its cleaned, filtered water into the pond; if we had not installed it this way the pond would probably have dried up completely by now.

I have also poured the reinforced concrete lintels for three of the four windows in the barn. I’m keeping the concrete damp for a week by spraying it with water daily. This helps to ensure that the concrete sets more slowly, and is therefore stronger. Next week I’ll remove the concrete from the wooden boxes and we’ll see whether the casting was any good. When pouring concrete, it’s important that it’s vibrated in order to get rid of any air bubbles and to ensure it’s properly compacted. I used my reciprocating saw (without a blade, obviously!) to give the concrete those good vibrations. I simply ran the foot of the saw along all sides of the wooden box until air bubbles stopped appearing at the top of the concrete.

A while ago I had seen that the aged FIL’s neighbour had an old refrigerator in one of his sheds. On the way to check the contents of the aged FIL’s postbox we stopped there for a brief chat, and asked him about it. He replied that it was no longer working, and was waiting until such time as he could take it to the dump. I asked if we could have it, and he was quite happy to say we could. So I now have an old refrigerator which I’m going to convert into a cold smoker; both to smoke some rabbit pelts (as an experiment; apparently wood-smoked skins are more waterproof) and possibly some cuts of meat. I already have lots of oak woodchips, courtesy of the chainsaw!

We also recovered an old bathroom sink and pedestal from the aged FIL’s shed. LSS cleaned it up, and it looks quite presentable; we’ll be able to use it in our own bathroom. It just needs a new tap and drain. And once it’s installed I’ll be able to stop using a rechargeable shaver!

We haven’t yet had a chance to look for the travertine floor tiles; but we’re going on Tuesday next week. As the place is near Tours we’ll stop there and have lunch with a friend of ours.

And finally, our next-door neighbours are on holiday next week, and kindly offered us the use of their swimming pool whilst they were away. Of course no sooner was this offer made, than the weather turned grey and overcast. Typical.

19/07/2015

Well, I’m back. So apologies to those of you who were suffering withdrawal symptoms caused by the lack of updates!

My sister spent three weeks with us, and as a result we had the opportunity to do a lot of things we would not normally have done; like visiting castles in the area. We’ve been to Chambord, Chenonceau, and visited the Game Fair in Lamotte. The latter was a bit of a disappointment really, as the majority of the exhibitors seemed to be advertising safaris to Africa (which, as you can imagine, is really “old hat” for us). We also visited the French Open Equestrian event where we watched various things like show-jumping and dressage.

We went to Sancerre for the obligatory wine-tasting, as well as taking a stroll around the town itself. The planetarium/radio telescope array in Nancay was quite interesting although not really geared for foreign tourists; all the displays being in French. For once I found myself in the role of translator, so my French is obviously not as poor as I thought. Actually, thinking about it, all the places we visited – with the exception of Chenonceau – did not cater for non-French-speaking tourists. Chambord offered an iPad-type thing (for a fee, of course) which enabled you to select a foreign language; but all the notices on the displays were in French only.

Another day trip saw us going all the way to Burgundy to visit a mediaeval castle which is currently being constructed. Er, that sounds a bit odd. If it’s currently being constructed, how can it be mediaeval? Well, it’s actually a castle which is being built using construction methods from the 13th Century. This is the largest experimental archaeological construction in the world. The castle is called Guedelon, (http://www.guedelon.fr/en/) and the BBC actually did a television series about it. If you happen to be in the area I can recommend going there; we’ll be going back again!

One little job I managed to do whilst my sister was here, was re-install the electric fence around the horse paddock field (as well as cutting the grass of course). This turned out to be a bit of a waste of time, because once again, our paddock field is devoid of horses this year. We had informed the administration at the Equestrian centre in Lamotte regarding the availability of our paddock, and we actually had one enquiry regarding the stabling of a pony. But nobody actually turned up. And yes, we did try advertising its availability online on Leboncoin.fr, a French site for classified advertisements. Unfortunately our advertisement was removed because we’re not a registered business specializing in paddock-hiring. Another example of the weirdness of the French system. So if you know of anyone visiting France with their horse, point them in our direction!

Speaking of horses, the horseflies have been out in force this year. My sister contributed some of her expertise in handbag-making in order to repair one of the two horsefly traps which had come apart. The plastic skirt (pictured here : horseflytrap) has now been re-made using an eyelet tool (the thing that is used to put the holes and eyelets in shoes for the laces). And it is a much more effective and long-lasting join than the duct tape I had previously used. The diameter of the skirt has been enlarged as well, as Horsefly Trap Version 2 now uses a child’s plastic hula-hoop.

With the very hot weather we’ve been having recently it’s been a major effort to get anything done, especially in the afternoons when all we want to do is snooze. However the advantage of all this sunshine is that the solar panel is maintaining the temperature of the thermal store at around 60 degrees : free hot water. We’ve also been to the DIY place BricoDepot in order to purchase the windows for the bathroom. Now I need to make a couple of formers in order to cast reinforced concrete lintels; once these are installed I can then create the openings for the new windows. I also treated myself (courtesy of a present from my sister) to a planer/thicknesser, which will be put to good use smoothing the wood extracted from old pallets.

Apparently there are currently water restrictions in place due to the lack of rain. It’s fortunate we have a borehole, so we can still water the garden. Next week I intend taking advantage of the low water level in the pond, to repair the one remaining eroded area next to the fence.

Also, my stock of beer has been depleted somewhat, so I currently have another batch brewing. It should be ready in time for our next visitor, friend V. She lives in Paris and has stayed with us before as a bit of a break from the city. We’re planning on taking her to see Guedelon castle – it gives us an excuse to go back; and this time we’ll try the mediaeval restaurant food. When we visited various attractions with my sister we took our own sandwiches. The price of food and drink in these touristy places is horrific. For example, €3 for a can of Coke which costs a mere 48c in a supermarket.

In other news, the tiles have now been installed on the roof of the rebuilt garage at the aged FIL. And Mrs. Bunny had her smallest litter to date; 4 kits. They are now eating their little heads off, so we’ll soon be separating them from their mother. Then she can go back to Neighbour J to visit Mr. Bunny again. As for her previous brood, only two females are left. All the others are in the freezer.

On the To-Do list for next week is a visit to a town near Tours. Called Saint-Avertin, it is apparently THE place to get travertine tiles (for the barn floor). We’ll see what we can find…