LSS did some work in the garden today, and Mrs Jemima Puddleduck took great exception to this, quacking madly. I happened to glance out of the kitchen window to see what the matter was, and noticed that the quacking had attracted the attention of a large grey-brown fox which approached the (fairly low) fence near the back of the pond in order to investigate the source of the noise. I went into the garden, and the fox made a beeline for the woods and disappeared.
The pantry shelf assemblies have been put together and installed, and are looking quite good – at least we can now put our kitchen stuff away!
The other job I started today was the electrical renovation; I installed an earthing rod together with its connecting wire.
Wildlife diary: Mrs Jemima Puddleduck proudly re-appeared, followed by 7 little ducklings.
Today I cut the grass alleyways between the stands of trees around the property using the grass-cutting attachment on the back of the tractor. We initially struggled to connect the three-arm system to the back of the tractor; but M&O turned up to show me where they wanted the grass cut most urgently, and with their aid the grass-cutter was soon attached.
The next step was to discover which of the myriad of levers and pedals in the tractor made the main power take-off driveshaft turn. I finally found the lever, and in the process also discovered both the diff-lock pedal (which could come in handy one day) and the hand throttle, which meant I could set the engine speed manually and then just sit there and steer. Much progress was made; I estimate nearly half of the lanes have now been mowed. Tomorrow I’ll need to get rid of two more fallen trees blocking one of the lanes with the chainsaw (more wood!) and I should then be able to get on with cutting the rest of the grass.
The reason for cutting this grass is two-fold; firstly it allows access to the forested areas so we can pick mushrooms, and secondly it provides a clear field of fire for the hunters when they come to reduce the local wild boar population – and this is becoming important because the boar are not only digging up and blocking the drainage ditches, but have also started to dig massive holes in the road linking the two houses.
Hopefully a successful shoot means we’ll be able to get some wild boar meat into the bargain. I faithfully promise we will maintain Asterix’s high standards by not boiling it with mint sauce.
We both went to the Chamber of Commerce in Blois this morning for a lecture on How To Start Your Own Business in France. To be honest, I very much doubt that any of the attendees would want to start their own business in France if they followed all the guidelines to the letter; there’s just too much red tape.
On the way back we stopped at the Brico Depot hardware shop where I bought some electrical supplies; they didn’t have everything that I needed but – a massive surprise – when we got home I managed to find a website:
a) in France with
b) free delivery that
c) had everything that I wanted in stock at
d) very reasonable prices.
The website of this paragon of French DIY? Bis Electric
Not only that, but I was able to discover the difference between an Interrupteur Différentiel type A and a type AC Interrupteur Différentiel. I won’t explain it here but will keep you in suspense; you’ll find out what it is when I add the Electrical Renovation pages to the website in the near future!
Today I started the construction of a display table for my bonsai trees. Yes, another hobby of mine. Where do I find the time?
I sank some creosote-treated telephone pole sections into the ground, and nailed a long roof timber beam on top. Very Japanese it looks too; I’ll try and add a photo when I can.
We also had a barbecue, and LSS made us a salad containing purslane leaves (a weed growing all over the garden). For the interested parties, it’s Portulaca oleracea. We used to grow this in our flowerbeds in Namibia because it is a drought-resistant plant and looks pretty, but I never knew you could eat it!
LSS also started painting the metal shutters of the replaced PVC window. Once they’re dry I’ll put them back and we’ll see what it looks like with white shutters instead of rust-red.
The Roads Department cut the grass in the lane today using a tractor with two mower attachments.
Oh yes, and first thing this morning LSS took the Hyundai to a local garage, and the headlights were changed to right-hand drive ones in an hour. (Compare this to the three hours it took Honda in Blois to change one motorcycle headlight). She also enquired about the price of a towbar, but on discovering that it was five times more expensive than buying it online, she chose the latter option.
We’ve found out why it’s such a struggle to buy anything here, with nobody having the item you want in stock. It’s because companies are actually taxed on the amount of stock they hold. So it stands to reason, to pay less taxes, they reduce the amount of stuff they have for sale. Mad. Absolutely mad. How not to promote business. And yet France is not in recession whilst Britain is? I think they’ve fudged the figures. Or the entire world loves cheese. And champagne of course. And perfume. And L’Oreal. And……
Today I applied the lime render to the newly-installed PVC window surround, including the upper frame which was a complete nightmare. Lime plaster is heavy. And stuffing it into a vertical space means it falls out faster than you can put it in. LSS came to the rescue, using her smaller fingers to pack it in solidly. She then patched the remaining holes in the pantry walls and repainted the non-patched bits.
We also received the quote for our two doors; the kitchen door and the front door. Are you sitting down? It was nearly €2500. I think this is another little job I’ll be doing myself.
Hmm, I haven’t made any blog posts for the last few days. This is because I’ve been busy getting the website up and running (as you may now have noticed). Now you can click the menu buttons on the left to browse the site.
On Saturday LSS painted the pantry with a white all-purpose undercoat. Everything was painted except the floor. (Even the roof-beams got a coat – after having been cleaned of 30 years’ worth of grime first). LSS was so thorough, that when she stood still, she blended perfectly with the background.
While she was doing this, I removed the kitchen window entirely, enlarged the opening slightly at the top and bottom with a hammer and chisel, and fitted the new pvc window. Actually, I used more than a hammer and chisel. The bottom of the window opening had been cast in concrete; of the same sort they used to build the nuclear fallout shelters during the cold war. Hard? You have no idea. I finally resorted to my ultimate weapon – my trusty DeWalt angle grinder. But this was no ordinary angle grinder. In my armoury was a diamond-studded mortar raking wheel (which I bought many years ago to chase a channel into a wall). This did the job in record time. However, when I switched off and turned around, the house was a)quiet and b)invisible. LSS was standing outside in the garden with eyes as big as saucers. I could only just see her through the dust. And of course one of the first things we did when we moved in was to remove the interior door separating the kitchen from the lounge. Oh dear. Dust covered everything. Oops.
Still, at last the opening was big enough for the window. However, as I had made the wooden uprights for the frame on both sides out of scrap timber, the sides were not of uniform thickness, which meant they had to be removed again and run through the DeWalt radial arm saw to even them up. But the window was finally in place, and makes a big difference to the level of light entering the kitchen.
Yesterday we re-measured the pantry with the view to covering all of the wall space with shelving. My idea was to mount steel uprights on each wall, and then have shelving brackets supporting 18mm MDF shelves. However, when we costed this out, the total came to over €500! As LSS pointed out, this was not in keeping with our motto of doing things as cheaply as possible. But short of re-using a pile of old bricks, and scrounging lots of old pallets which could be cut up for shelving, we were a bit stuck.
However, LSS spotted some plastic garage shelf units in the Castorama catalogue, priced at €40. Each shelf is capable of supporting 80kg in weight – and the sizes were just what we needed. But as we had planned to visit BricoDepot in Saint-Germain-du-Puy today anyway, we thought we’d see if they had anything similar. And they did! So we bought three shelf units, and I stocked up with sundry items like wood screws and fischer plugs, and the total came to €159. Now that was more like it! (Hey, if there was any scrap wood lying around we would have used it, but it’s all infested with woodworm. And aside from that, the pantry is quite damp, so plastic shelving is just the ticket for this sort of environment).
Yesterday I also took advantage of the brazier bin being full of rubbish from the loft, and made another barrel of charcoal. Also, Friend L popped in to see us. She was suitably impressed with our efforts to date, being no slouch when it comes to DIY. She even makes her own kayaks.
LSS’s home-made elderflower cordial was tested and approved, as was our home-brewed cider from last year.
Wildlife diary: Mrs Jemima Puddle-Duck is still in residence on her nest.
After having done our weekly shop in the morning, not only was there no prescription to collect for the aged FIL (so our shopping was completed in record time) but we were delighted to discover that today’s post contained the missing rainwater barrel connectors!
So the rest of the day was spent installing these. LSS started clearing the upper floor which contained all sorts of rubbish. This meant there was another pile of wood (woodworm-infested old rafters for example) to cut up with the chainsaw. She also discovered an old barn-owl nest, and a large pile of chestnuts which had been there for decades, still in their outer spiky shells. It’s highly unlikely any of these were edible, as most appeared to have wormholes in them. They all went into the brazier bin ready for heating the next batch of charcoal.
The sun came out in the afternoon so we managed to get a dose of much-needed vitamin D. We celebrated this by eating the six strawberries which were now fully ripe. We’ve also started enjoying the radishes; we had some of these at lunchtime and they are much more peppery than the sort you can buy in the supermarkets! I’m looking forward to the day when my watermelons are ready to eat!
The husband of an ex-school friend of LSS is a carpenter (Menusier), so we had asked him to pop around to give us a quote for a couple of replacement doors. The problem is that the doors are not standard sizes, so we can’t just buy off-the-shelf replacements and stick them in. We also asked him to quote for a sliding door for the pantry. Using a sliding door will free up most of one wall for shelf space.
So this morning I removed the original door and frame and lime-plastered the gaps where the frame was installed. The pantry already looks much bigger, because the dark brown inward-opening door really blocked the light, as well as rendering most of one wall unusable.