I returned to the dentist for my second appointment. The bill came to a grand total of €62, which to my mind is incredibly cheap when I compare it to the cost of dentistry in the UK. Apparently in France the government has set a fixed tariff for things like fillings. Supposedly one should have a dental checkup every six months. I’ll try and compromise, and make an entry in my calendar for the next visit; perhaps in two years’ time.

I installed the remaining two brackets on the roof. This time I rigged a safety harness using a thick polypropylene Land Rover towrope with a shackle. I clipped the shackle to the roof ladder; and the eye at the other end of the towrope was threaded through a shorter length of rope, still in my possession from my army days; it’s called a “Tokkel Tou” (utility rope). This was fastened around my waist. Well, it was better than nothing, and I felt a lot safer! Now I just need to paint the metal frame I made last week, and then that can be fixed to the roof. The solar panel simply rests inside this frame and will be fixed to it with screws.


Further work took place for the solar panel installation. I set up the scaffolding and roof ladder, and managed to install two brackets using lengths of builders’ band. This is a very versatile invention; and sees a multitude of uses. If you’ve never heard of builders’ band, it’s not a musical group. It’s a length of galvanized perforated steel tape, usually around 1mm thick: Builders’ Band

I had decided builders’ band would make better brackets than trying to fabricate something by using rusty bits of metal. And although I no longer have a tremendous fear of heights (this was cured by doing some skydiving during my university years!), I didn’t feel very comfortable on the steeply-pitched roof; and work was somewhat limited as one hand was occupied with clinging to the ladder! I need to devise some sort of safety harness.


I found some bits of scrap metal which I think can be fabricated into brackets for the solar collector. The bad news is that the tractor front tyre is once again flat. And it’s the new inner tube! I don’t understand it at all.

The details of the Secret Project can now be revealed; it’s a book. Now available online from your favourite bookshop; and it will be in brick-and-mortar bookshops within the next week or so. See the website for more information!


Eight eggs this morning! Well, actually seven, because one was broken; I don’t think the newest hens had been getting enough calcium. Last night they were both pecking at the pile of crushed oyster shells as though their lives depended on it.

The copper tubing on the solar collector received another coat of paint. It’s important to paint everything matt black as this absorbs the most solar energy; gloss black would reflect some. I had originally intended drilling holes through the roof tiles to mount the panel; but after a bit of careful thought I have instead opted to make some brackets. These will be fixed to the rafters, and by following the contour of the tile, no drilling will be necessary. Of course this means I need to pay a visit to the aged FIL’s workshop to see if there is any suitable scrap metal. I think the panel itself will need a bit of reinforcing on the underside, as the plywood box seems a bit flimsy. Once it’s in place it should be fine, but I don’t want it to fall apart as it’s being hoisted onto the roof!


Despite the rainy weather, I have now completed the soldering of the tubes for the solar collector. I connected it temporarily to the Horse Field water supply pressure vessel with a hosepipe, in order to test for leaks. I don’t want to install it on the roof and then find it’s dripping! The Horse Field tank holds some 300 litres of water at 4 bars pressure, so this is four times the pressure required by the solar collector when in operation. (When installed, the solar collector will contain propylene glycol at a mere 1 bar, as it will be an open vented system). I was pleased to find there were no leaks, so it would appear my joint soldering was up to scratch.

The pipework was then fixed to the backing plate by using lengths of copper wire salvaged from the old electric wiring I ripped out when I upgraded the household electricity. I then fixed the temperature sensor in place using thermal glue. Once that was done, I painted the pipes matt black. After giving it another coat of paint tomorrow I can then start putting it all together.

In the late afternoon we bought yet another two hens; that makes a total of eight. Well, we have the room. Of course putting the new occupants to bed was interesting; they’d never seen a perch before!

Unfortunately this means the hens’ profit and loss account is in the red again, but I calculate we only need another 35 eggs to reach the new break-even point.


Although it was difficult to make an accurate count because of all the wriggling, it would appear that there are seven or eight little bunnies. They’re all dark grey, and emitting high-pitched squeaks. Mood is consuming vast quantities of food. We haven’t actually bought any rabbit food; she has some wheat (courtesy of the hens), and particularly likes clumps of grass. She is also eating kitchen vegetable scraps – although she is not very fond of leeks. As the late MIL kept rabbits, LSS is fairly expert on which plants to feed rabbits, and there’s a lot of rabbit food growing wild around the place!

In the late morning, we had an unexpected visit from Friend L; she had left her village on May 1st with her bicycle to take a scenic camping tour along the Loire river. She stayed for lunch and then headed home.

As planned, I laid some sheets of polythene around the borehole, and covered these with a layer of gravel; hopefully this will keep at least some of the weeds in check. I also took advantage of the sunshine to cut some more wood for the woodshed. Several weeks ago I had recovered several large branches which had been brought down by some high winds, and these had been stacked near the saw-horse waiting for a day when it wasn’t actually raining. I intend finishing this lot tomorrow, and then recovering some more from the aged FIL’s farm.


This morning Mood started pulling out clumps of her fur and packing it neatly in the straw in one corner of the hutch, so it looks like we’ll soon have little bunnies.

We went with T&M to visit the farm fair in Souvigny-en-Sologne to see if there were any suitable hens, but the only decent specimens we saw were more expensive than those at our local poultry farm, so it looks like we’ll be getting two new hens from the same place we bought the others. Which is fine, because we haven’t had any problems with them so far. Except for the one we call “Fatty” who has a tendency to lay her eggs at night from her perch. Fortunately we have some fairly thick straw underneath so they are normally unbroken. I suspect Fatty could well be the first of our hens to meet Mr. Le Creuset (a brand of cast-iron cookware).

After visiting the fair, T&M invited us to join them for a barbecue. We spent an enjoyable afternoon as their neighbours came over as well. When we returned home, we discovered that Mood had given birth; we didn’t want to investigate too closely but it would seem there are at least 2 kittens.

The Secret Project I mentioned last month has now entered its final phase, and traces of its presence can now be found online. All will be revealed within the next two weeks!


We are now obtaining 6 eggs per day, as the two young hens have also begun production. But yet another person has joined the waiting list, so we’ll need to get another two hens next week!

LSS managed to sell one of the old agricultural tractor attachments for which we have no use, and the purchaser came to collect it today. Unfortunately whilst we were connecting the plough-type thing to his tractor, I noticed that the front tyre of the aged FIL’s tractor is, once again, flat.

As I had already managed to break the bead on one of the spare tyres, in the afternoon I inserted the new inner tube which LSS had picked up last week, and yet again changed the tyre on the tractor. We’ll see if it goes flat again this weekend. I think the aged FIL must be getting out of bed in the middle of the night, visiting the tractor shed in his wheelchair, and letting the air out. You couldn’t call it sleepwalking though. Perhaps sleepwheelchairing?


Today was yet another bank holiday. May is known for these in France! LSS managed to talk her Aged Aunt and Uncle into coming around for lunch. They’re both 82, and the Aged Aunt is starting to suffer from Alzheimer’s. I think they enjoyed the visit, although I don’t think they quite understood our explanation of the Thermal Store for hot water, and the Greywater Reedbed for waste-water treatment.

As it’s the first of the month, it’s time for the cat to have her monthly anti-flea and anti-tick treatment, namely Frontline. This is horribly expensive here, so we buy it online from Australia. Well, I just examined the packet. Guess where it’s made? France. Something’s very wrong when you can buy something which has been shipped to the opposite side of the globe and back more cheaply than buying it where it’s made…

LSS opened another recently-discovered pot of preserves from the late MIL. This time it was cherries; dated 1997. They were still edible though.

Wildlife diary: The male and female ducks are still visiting the pond every day, but despite walking around the entire pond we have not been able to find a new nest, so perhaps they’ve decided against raising ducklings here this year.