I prepared the kitchen window for removal, ready for installation of the new pvc double-glazed unit. I constructed two replacement side frames out of some scrap timber (the only bits I could find which were not riddled with woodworm, and of suitable length), and LSS gave them a coat of wood primer. These side frames are necessary because not only is the replacement pvc window slightly narrower, but the existing wood frame also supports the metal shutters on the outside.

We’ve had so much rain recently that the two rainwater barrels which receive the flow from the gutters have had to be emptied three times. This has been done by the simple expedient of connecting the hosepipe to each tap in turn, and running the other end of the hosepipe down to the pond. We’re having to do this because the fittings to connect the barrels together have still not turned up.

Wildlife diary: Finally caught a sight of the barn owl which appears to be nesting in the roof of the garage. I wouldn’t mind so much if it stopped leaving its white guano all over the workbench.


The morning was spent preparing the kitchen for the installation of the new PVC double-glazed window which we bought from Leroy Merlin last week. We really must get a trailer for the car; the window we bought only just fitted into the car.

In the afternoon we went into the local town to enquire about changing the headlights on the Hyundai for French ones; this seemed to be a fairly painless process because the chap in charge of the garage we visited had been through this process before for another English family.

However when he called the closest dealership to order the parts, the person he spoke to could not understand why the headlights needed to be changed. “Are they broken?” he asked. When informed that the headlights were in working order, but needed to be converted for driving on the right, he seemed to be astonished that there were some countries that did NOT drive on the right. (This conversation was deduced from our overhearing the local half of the conversation). We also asked about fitting a towbar, and were told this was not a problem.

We’re still working our way through the contents of the late MIL’s pantry (the aged FIL doesn’t eat any of the stuff in there). Tonight we had some baked potatoes with a bolognese sauce. The sauce contained two pots of home-preserved tomato sauce dated 1997. Fifteen years old! Almost a vintage!

But it was very tasty, and tehre hav bin no efter afficts it ull.


It rained all day. We took advantage of this to give each other a haircut. Oh yes – and the cat brought us a present – a pheasant. A very pleasant pheasant present, in fact. It was a fairly old bird, and having dug out my CSI kit from the barn and donned a deerstalker hat, with the aid of a large magnifying glass I set out to track the scene of the crime. I didn’t have to track the trail of feathers very far, as it happens. We deduced that the bird was probably half-blind with old age, and had flown smack into one of the chestnut trees across the lane. The cat had simply dragged it from there into the front garden. So as it was a fairly cool day, we lit the wood stove, and the pheasant spent the afternoon bubbling away in the Le Creuset cooking pot.

That was supper taken care of – with very low food mileage indeed; in fact the distance this particular food travelled was approximately 10 metres. This includes the garden-grown potatoes we ate with it. The green beans had travelled a bit further – a kilometer – as they came from the other garden. Ah yes, unfortunately we don’t know how far the onions had travelled, because we bought those.


Split and stacked more wood. Oh my aching back!

A chap called Fawlty (no, really, only it’s spelled slightly differently) came to the other farmhouse today to cover the outbuilding roof with a tarpaulin. I’m not sure if he had an assistant called Manuel or not. Que?

I also cleared some fallen branches at the corner of the fence near the pond, then we had a barbecue using our home-made charcoal which worked very well! We may be able to sell bags of it to passing cyclists from the local campsite. (There’s a large campsite not far away, frequented by Dutch, Belgians, Germans and English).

Only three Colorado Beetles today (there were none yesterday).

I also repaired the splitting maul which I managed to break yesterday; the handle snapped off just below the head. My excuse is, it was pretty damaged in that area before I started using it! (And the axe will probably follow suit shortly, there’s not much wood in the socket of the axe head). I simply cut off the damaged piece of the handle and shaped it to fit the head of the maul. (I can recommend the “Piranha”, which is a disc of coarse sandpaper which fits on an angle grinder). I then inserted a large diameter screw into the end of the handle to expand the wood in order to grip the head of the maul securely. The maul, axe, and my own small axe were then sharpened, again using the angle grinder. Ready for the next batch of wood! Actually this will probably be the large oak tree which was felled by this week’s tornado.


Well, the postman did bring the aged FIL’s prescription today, so he was happy (the aged FIL, not the postman, who had to drive his post-van over the potholed road to deliver the 24 bottles of booster food supplements. I’m just glad that for once it was not me that had to carry the stuff).

Today’s work schedule was completely avoided. Instead of doing what was on the list of jobs, I borrowed the aged FIL’s tractor. I first had to fill it up though – not with diesel, but with transmission oil – it has a bad oil leak and goes through 2 litres of 80W90 every time you use it. (The following unfortunately can’t count for the wildlife diary; I discovered a dormouse which had fallen into an open tub of old engine oil, poor thing). I also borrowed some heavy chains, the reason for which will become apparent shortly.

At the end of the property, a tree had blown down in yesterday’s high winds, blocking the road. It’s not a very heavily used road, but I didn’t pass up the chance of some free wood, so poodled down the lane with the tractor and chainsaw. I cut up the main trunk first (it was a 15-metre tall aspen) and put the logs into the bucket on the back of the tractor. However, the crown of the tree had hung up in the branches of other trees on the opposite side of the road. This is where the heavy chains came in. I tied the chain around the trunk, and hooked the other end over the front towbar of the tractor. Selecting reverse 2nd gear, I backed off slowly, and much to my surprise the entire upper part of the tree was pulled free. It must have weighed well over a ton, but I was seriously impressed with the pulling power of the tractor.

I also cut up two smaller wild cherry trees which had fallen over, and spent the afternoon splitting the logs with a splitting maul. LSS had gone to the aged FIL after lunch in order to do some washing, and I took the tractor back, parking it in its customary place in the barn. The chains needed to be returned to the workshop building, and the only way to carry all of them was to drape some over each arm, and over each shoulder. This resulted in the most amazing clanking noise as I walked, so I took a detour past the kitchen, rattling the chains and calling out “Oooooo, Ebeneeeeezer Scroooooooge. This is the ghooooost of Jaaaaacob Maaaaaarley.” Unfortunately my acting skills were completely wasted, as nobody was there.

Completely tired out from the day’s labours, we decided to go to a restaurant for dinner. We went to a Chinese place in Salbris where they served an all-you-can-eat buffet for €15 per head. Very nice it was too.


Did our weekly shopping this morning, including a visit to the chemist for the aged FIL. Fortunately they were out of stock of the heavy items, and LSS put her foot down, saying we were NOT coming back in the afternoon to collect these; they could jolly well deliver them.

A suitably chastened chemist agreed that they would be delivered tomorrow, by post.

Upon our return home, LSS went to the aged FIL to deliver his shopping. The sky had clouded over and there was a constant thundering noise. I had just started mixing some lime render for the pantry when a) the electricity cut off and b) there was a sudden storm. I stood by the kitchen window looking out at the lashing rain, which the strong wind was driving horizontally. A few hailstones fell as well, but this didn’t last long.

Much to my surprise, ten minutes later LSS screeched to a halt outside and dashed indoors. “Are you all right?” she asked. “Er, yes, why shouldn’t I be?” was my surprised response. “Because we’ve just had a tornado. The other farmhouse was hit, there are trees down everywhere, and there aren’t any tiles left on the roof.”

I jumped in the car with her and we scooted over to the aged FIL’s house. I found there had been a slight exaggeration; there were about twenty roof tiles missing (which of course meant that the rainwater had poured into the upper floor and was now dripping from the oak beams into every room). Buckets were scattered everywhere, catching the drips. One of the outbuildings was worse off, a 3-metre section of ridge tiles were missing, including a fairly large area of surrounding roof tiles. A large oak tree had given up the contest and was lying on its side in a field, several broken branches had flattened the fence surrounding the kitchen garden, and a tree had fallen across the access road. I drove back to La Darnoire to fetch the chainsaw and cleared the road. Branches were removed from the fence, and then I assisted in sweeping up a lot of fallen ceiling plaster.

Crisis over, I left LSS telephoning the insurance company on behalf of the aged FIL and returned home, where I fished out several large branches from the fishpond. I discovered that the scaffolding had blown over, but there was no other damage.

Wildlife diary: Whilst removing the branches from the pond, I discovered that the duck had returned, and had constructed another nest in which there were ten eggs. Hopefully she has better luck with this batch.


I forgot to mention that yesterday there were no Colorado Beetles on the potatoes at all. Today there were only three. So it looks like we’re winning the battle, but I don’t think we can organise a Victory parade just yet.

I plastered part of the pantry wall using lime render, and LSS started painting one wall of the kitchen with a white primer coat. It already looks tremendously improved; the previous dingy brown paint makes the kitchen look even smaller than it is.

The adjustable hole saw which I bought from Ebay arrived in the post, so I was able to drill two 82mm diameter holes in two of the water barrels so that the rainwater downpipes can go into the barrels in the right places.

The elderflower champagne still hasn’t started fermenting, so I’ve had to order a brewing belt (again from Ebay). This is a device which plugs into the mains, and you wrap it around the brewing container (either the plastic bucket or a demijohn) to provide the correct temperature for yeast. Obviously our previous house in Reading had central heating, so the temperature was fine for home brewing. La Darnoire, however, has no heating at all, and even though the temperature outside has now risen, it’s still below 20 degrees in the house itself.


We have charcoal! I’m feeling very pleased with myself indeed.

LSS started making another batch of elderflower cordial, and a chap came around to discuss our options for getting the water from the borehole into the house. Unfortunately it seems we’ll require another of the famous “ballons” to store the water. He’ll send us a quote for the work required.

LSS moved some of the kitchen furniture around a bit so that some more of the wall space could be de-greased, de-fungused, and otherwise cleaned prior to being painted. We’ve devised a Cunning Plan for freeing up some space in the (small) kitchen. I’ll build a brick cupboard with a lockable door outside against the kitchen wall. This will be accessed from the inside by means of a hatch, and the cupboard will not only store the gas cylinder for the gas cooker, but firewood for the wood stove.


Today I decided to try my hand at making my own charcoal. I constructed a retort using a small oil drum from which I removed the top. I cleaned it out as best I could, then packed it with scrap wood and replaced the lid. It was then inserted into an empty 210 litre drum which was already seeing service as an incinerator. I lit a fire in the large drum and kept it going for 3 hours, then let the fire die out naturally.

I’ll let it cool down overnight and have a look tomorrow.