We’ve had several days of constant rain. When it wasn’t actually raining, it was drizzling. The poor hens are looking very soggy and bedraggled.

I fixed a small leak at the thermal store (where I had installed the swing gate valve). I knew it was leaking because the little LED leak detector circuit light was flashing red on the control panel. I’m really pleased that I installed that item – it works well!

In the afternoon the rain stopped for a while, and a tractor drove past, cutting back the branches on the sides of the road past the property. We had a chat with the driver, who was only too happy to switch off the tractor and take a break. He works for the village, and because the new village council is more – should we say – business-minded – than the old one, the task of maintaining the local roads is now being done by the village itself. After all, they own a tractor, and branch-cutting attachments. In the past, this work was contracted out to private companies (at an obviously higher cost).

Because of this contracting-out, the village had tried to economize by neglecting lesser-used roads. We discovered that the work was last done here in the 1980’s. No wonder the road was a bit overgrown! It’s now looking much better; and is now wide enough for two cars to pass each other. The road surface isn’t brilliant though; it’s a sea of mud which is not really surprising as the ground is now thoroughly soaked.

I lit the boiler stove again today. Not in order to obtain hot water, because the thermal store is still at 50 degrees; but in order to get some warmth into the house. Whatever happened to that season known as summer? I think our next country of residence will be in the tropics!


It’s been raining rather a lot recently; so because of the lack of sunshine we’ve had to light the boiler stove to keep the water temperature up.

The electricians have now finished their work at the aged FIL; there is now hot water on tap in the house for the first time since it was built. There is also a new three-phase plug in the attached garage. This may sound inconsequential, but it’s very useful. You see, this is where the grain used to be crushed for feeding the cows. On a steel two-wheeled frame sits a powerful three-phase motor.

This is attached by a three-metre long canvas drive belt to a grain crusher, mounted on a wooden frame. If you’ve ever read The Adventures of Tintin: Red Rackham’s Treasure, you’ll know exactly what the machine looks like. It’s illustrated in the part where Thomson and Thompson visit a farmer friend for a holiday, and end up turning the handle of this contraption. Except this one does not actually have a handle. Why am I mentioning this? Well, as previously stated, our neighbour T&M has caught the home-brewing bug, and now makes his own beer. Whereas I tend to use the kits in a tin (because they are so much easier), he has purchased several sacks of malted barley. This needs to be crushed before the beer-making process can begin; so several times a month he pays us a visit in order to use the machine.

Before the fire, this was not an issue. However, since the failure of the electricity supply, the only way to operate the grain-crushing machine was by hand. And due to the lack of a handle, this meant manually pulling the drive belt. Which, I can assure you, is a fairly exhausting job. So now that the three-phase motor is operational again, the grain-crushing should be a lot less tiring!


Quite a lot of unrelated things have occurred recently. So let’s start with a progress report on the renovations here.

The construction work on the outside shower is nearly complete. The original corrugated-iron roof sloped from front to back, which meant that one could not stand upright at the rear wall, which is where the shower will be located. I removed the roof (not a major operation, as it consisted of two small corrugated-iron sheets), and used my bricklaying skills to increase the height of the rear and side walls so that the roof will now slope from back to front. I’ve used recycled bricks taken from the collapsed garage at the aged FIL. All that remains to be done is to reinstall the corrugated-iron panels, pour the concrete for the shower pan, and then plaster the walls. The shower can then be installed.

I surveyed the remaining plumbing requirements for the rest of the house (future bathroom, etc.) and we went to BricoDepot to purchase the copper pipes and relevant fittings. I decided to stick with copper pipes rather than PEX tubing; although it’s more expensive, it will last longer and there will be less danger of rats gnawing the pipework. Not that we have many rats or mice around of course, as the cat has been hard at work, but prevention is better than cure. We also purchased a small electric cement mixer which will come in handy for when the barn floor is laid. The aged FIL does have a cement mixer; but it’s tractor-powered. This would have been fine, except the only way to tilt the barrel to pour the cement into a wheelbarrow is by climbing inside the tractor and operating one of the hydraulic levers. In other words it would be a two-man operation.

LSS has cut the majority of the grass around the property with the tractor, including the horse paddock. The weeds and grass along the line of the electric fence need to be tidied up with the strimmer; I made a start using this but was driven off by horsefly attacks. I need to fabricate some sort of horsefly trap as these nasty biting creatures are out in force this summer. Either that or I need a suit of armour. In the interim, LSS intends to talk to the horsey people in Lamotte Beuvron to see if there is any product which works as a horsefly repellent.

The weather has been fairly sunny recently apart from a few overcast or rainy days, during which we’ve lit the boiler stove. Since the installation of the solar thermal panel, we’ve only needed to light the stove three times. In fact due to the strong sunshine yesterday the temperature at the top of the thermal store reached 59.8 degrees. I have now installed a small swing-gate valve in the solar circuit and this would seem to have solved the convective heat loss problem; the pump is also not switching on as frequently. I have taken advantage of the fact that we don’t need to light the boiler stove daily, and swept the stove pipe. It was badly in need of cleaning! However, we should really have a chimney liner installed. This should improve the draught and decrease the buildup of soot and creosote. LSS will telephone the local chimney sweep to get a quote for this, as it’s not something I’m comfortable doing. We don’t have a ladder long enough to reach the top of the chimney anyway!

Wildlife diary: We now have a juvenile black-crowned night heron visiting our pond on a fairly regular basis. Other wildlife news: it appeared that a fox had started visiting the garden during the night; the bucket of water-soaked bread for the chickens which is left outside overnight has been discovered on its side a few times, with some of the bread eaten. It was highly unlikely that the cat had done this, and a hedgehog would not be able to tip over the bucket; so a fox is the most likely culprit. LSS actually saw one near the aged FIL’s house the other day. And as we have rabbits, these would also be highly attractive to an animal of vulpine nature. Unfortunately the live trap we have is too small to catch a fox.

A couple of days later, identification was certain; it was definitely a fox. We now have only seven chickens remaining; I found the remains of number eight in Sloe Alley. That’s the end of their free ranging I think; it’s a good thing they have a fairly large hen coop. They’re not too happy about being shut in; but we’d rather not lose them all.

The team of electricians – including LSS’s cousin – arrived earlier this week to make a start on the upgrade of the aged FIL’s house. (LSS is still not talking to him, as he has once again reverted to being unpleasant). Today the team leader took LSS to one side to inform her that the aged FIL is constantly interrupting them by calling for the head of the team to attend him at his bedside, where he asks for progress updates, and then does not like what he hears. For example, as soon as the electrician explained that they had completed the installation of the small hot water cylinder in the scullery, the aged FIL became very cross.

“I don’t want any hot water cylinders. Take it away. And I don’t want the distribution board mounted in the kitchen either. I also don’t want all these plug sockets all over the place.” Of course at this stage, what he thinks he wants is irrelevant; he’d already read and signed the quote, and the hot water cylinder is not strictly for him anyway. It’s to save time for the carers who give him his daily wash. Once the hot water cylinder is up and running, they will no longer have to wait for the kettle on the gas ring. And the distribution board is not being mounted in the kitchen (although this would be the most practical place for it). According to the aged FIL’s previous wishes, it’s being put in the small outbuilding next to the house, which used to be his “office”.

The reason he doesn’t want it installed in the kitchen is because of the fire risk. He firmly maintains that these modern distribution boards burst into flames on a regular basis. Unlike the old style distribution boards, which never catch fire. Oh, wait – the recently burnt-down garage doesn’t count, of course. The fact that if, in the unlikely event that the new distribution board does burst into flames, the fire will not be immediately noticeable because it’s in a different building, escapes him. Of course, this also means that if one of the circuit breakers trips, one needs to go outside and into the other building in order to turn it on again. Oh well, we don’t live there so it’s no skin off our noses.

He’s also not happy with the routing of the electrical conduits. He did not want them inside the house running through walls. So the only other option was for the electricians to run them from the distribution board into the upper floor. From there they descend through the ceiling to each plug point or light switch. Of course the aged FIL doesn’t like this plan either. “I don’t want conduits running around all over the floor upstairs, it will be untidy.” Too late; and it’s not like he’s going to be climbing the external ladder to visit the upper floor anyway.

The most recent thing that has annoyed him is the new light-bulb in the kitchen. The old one used to be mounted on some sort of pulley system, so that one could pull it down from the ceiling to illuminate whatever it was you were doing. This was absolutely essential, as it was a 40-watt bulb; and if it was in its upper retracted position you could barely see anything in the gloom. Of course this has all been removed and a relatively bright 60-watt bulb has taken its place. Which the aged FIL is unhappy about. “It’s not bright enough.”

Right, one 500-watt light bulb coming up.

Well, the work should all be completed by Tuesday next week. The aged FIL may well decide he is not going to sign the cheque, in which case LSS will simply draw out cash from his account to pay the bill.

We’ve also received one quote for the rebuilding of the burnt-down garage. We’re still waiting for quotes from two other companies; it’s been over a month since these have been promised and LSS has chased them both by email and telephonically without result.

Becoming slightly worried, she spoke to the insurance company about the delay. Apparently, there’s no need to rush; they allow a period of two years to elapse before the file is closed. The builders obviously know that. But we’ll simply ask two other companies for quotes. It does delay things a bit though.


Carglass turned up today to replace the rear window on the Renault 5. And, as luck would have it, we received another free gift for using their services! It was a voucher for a free car wash at a Total garage. Unfortunately there are no Total garages in the immediate area, but as LSS travels through quite a few towns to give English lessons, I have no doubt she’ll be able to find one somewhere.