It rained solidly for most of the day. The pond is nearly overflowing. I have honestly never been in a country as wet as this one. The cat came in several times to complain. She’s not bothered by rain at all, doesn’t mind jumping into puddles, and usually loves the outdoors. We’ve even removed her litter tray from the lounge because she simply doesn’t use it. She even accompanies me for walks to the postbox. But today was an exception. “I don’t mind rain,” she meowed. “But the mice are all soggy. And I don’t like soggy mice.”

I spent most of the day indoors as well. I’ve made a start on the construction of the corridor in the bedroom, and also did some major re-formatting of the book in order to release it as an electronic edition.

Speaking of corridor construction, even that isn’t a simple affair. You see, none of the walls are straight. So this means I need to use the router to trim down the door-frame, otherwise there will be a 3 cm gap at the top on one side. Still, wonky walls are, I suppose, a feature of old houses. The fact of the matter is a lot of old houses are still standing, and don’t suffer from the same issues that modern buildings have. When we visited our friend in Tours, her flat is a case in point. The building was constructed in the 1600’s, and the stairs are anything but straight!

LSS is decidedly unhappy with the garden, as her favourite plants are sick. (The tomatoes have starting to rot without going red). Perhaps next year the polytunnel will be used a bit more; it was built slightly late for this year.

Unsurprisingly, we once again lit the boiler stove.


This evening, when it got dark, I donned my new LED head-torch, and went out to close the chicken coop. I got as far as the open garden gate, when I noticed something in the middle of the path. It was a hedgehog. But this was no ordinary hedgehog. This was the grand-daddy of all hedgehogs; it was huge! Blinking in the torchlight, it refused to budge. I decided to relocate it to one side of the path so that I could at least shut the gate. It refused to curl up, so I carefully picked it up (carefully because of the prickles!) and put it on the lawn, where it immediately waddled off into the shrubbery. Hopefully it will find lots of tasty slugs to eat.

Hedgehogs (and garden wildlife in general) have been fairly rare here until about a year after we moved in. I suspect this was due to the aged FIL’s penchant for using weed-killers, insect sprays, and all sorts of other non-ecological expensive chemicals. The aged FIL dislikes all animals, birds and wildlife, which is somewhat unusual for a farmer.


I had been planning a new lid for the thermal store for several months. The old one was constructed from some melamine-faced chipboard which I had painted with rubberised paint. It’s lasted a while, but the high humidity meant that the chipboard (unsurprisingly) had started to swell. I had been unable to find a piece of acrylic or polycarbonate big enough to make a replacement lid. I could have bought a sheet online, but was reluctant to spend the €200-plus asking price.

Whilst at the aged FIL, I visited the “fuel store” to refill a 5-litre plastic can with engine oil, and in the dark recesses of the building made a discovery. The aged FIL was involved in Public Works at one stage of his working life (doing construction work for the village, for example) and had kept all the road-signs he used to use. One of these was a “Restricted Parking” circular sign which was just the right size for the thermal store lid! I lined it with some insulating membrane (left over from sound-proofing my old Land Rover), and held that in place with four bolts through a large disc cut out of a piece of acrylic sheet with my router. (Unfortunately that piece of acrylic was too small to be used as a lid on its own).

The afternoon’s post contained my medical lab test results, which were negative. (This was, of course, positive.)

In the evening our next-door neighbour came over to ask for assistance. Some English holidaymakers had arrived to stay at his Gite, and despite taking English lessons from LSS, he did not feel confident enough to talk to them. So LSS went over to translate, and as a result we have been invited around for an aperitif on Tuesday evening. Next week looks like being a busy one; we have friends coming around for an apéritif on Monday evening, Tuesday we’re out at the neighbours, Friday we have LSS’s cousin coming for lunch, Saturday a friend is coming to stay for a week, and the hunting crowd are kicking off the opening of this year’s hunting season by coming here on Sunday! So much for a quiet life in the country…


Although it was another overcast, grey day it didn’t actually rain very much for once, so I managed to finish the rendering in the shower. (Base coat only; we need some more sand before I can do the coloured finishing coat).

The aged FIL has been having issues with his wheelchair. The front wheels keep going flat (we’ve checked for punctures without success), and the location of the valves means it is very difficult to pump them up again. So LSS ordered some new wheels online, they arrived today, and have been fitted. These have solid tyres, so no more pumping will be required!

In the evening we had a thunderstorm, followed by two successive power cuts. Obviously this isn’t good for electronic equipment like computers, although I had carefully selected Asus motherboards with surge protection when I rebuilt them last year. LSS was on the phone to one of her cousins when the power went off. Of course because it’s an Internet phone it was a case of “‘Ello? ‘Ello? The line’s gone dead!”

The power came back on again after about 15 seconds, and the computers burst into life complaining that they had not been shut down correctly. I cleared the error messages, switched on the router, logged in, and the phone display came to life again. LSS re-dialled. “Yes, sorry about that, we had a power failure. As I was saying…”

Less than two minutes later the power went off again. “‘Ello? ‘Ello? Merde!” After this second power failure, the computers were just switched off, but LSS was able to finish her call. During the night the power went off yet again, as evidenced by the flashing digits on my bedside alarm clock.


Rainrainrainrainrain. The shower curtain which we had ordered online (we were unable to locate one in any of the local shops) arrived and was installed. We had to light the boiler stove for the second day running, as the solar panel needs that elusive energy source, the sun, in order to heat our thermal store.

I haven’t mentioned the vegetable garden recently. With the unseasonally wet weather we’ve been having, we’ve had a lot of failures. Some of the tomatoes are going red (especially those in the polytunnel), and the beetroot and courgettes are producing happily. Potatoes have done all right. But aubergines, salsify, leeks and melons just refused to grow, watermelons and sweetcorn have produced nothing but leaves, and radishes and lettuces were very poor indeed.

I think we’ll try growing rice.


The results of my blood test arrived in the afternoon post. I am pleased to report I have been classified as “alive”.

LSS has been cutting the grass in the alleyways around the property with the brushcutter attachment on the tractor. She decided to tackle a particularly overgrown area, not realising there were tree stumps underneath the ferns and brambles. The result was that the tractor was stranded with the engine block resting on a tree stump and both front wheels in the air, so she had to walk back to La Darnoire to fetch me. I tried using the diff-lock pedal without success; both rear wheels were unable to get sufficient grip.

I returned to the scene later in the afternoon with my Hi-Lift jack, and jacked up the front of the tractor so the engine was no longer resting on the stump. Then using low range reverse (still with diff-lock), the tractor was freed easily. (It’s the same principle as is used for lifting the front of a Land Rover out of wheel ruts). I’m so glad I kept my Hi-Lift jack!


The plastic temporary fencing arrived today, a 50 metre roll. As I had some plastic poles left over from the electric fencing in Horse Field, these came in very handy. Of course I had to clear a path through a jungle of nettles first. LSS assisted in attaching the fence to the poles, and I cut some lengths of wire to form some large staples to peg down the bottom of the fence. We then opened the door to the chicken coop. The older hens came out straight away, and seem to be delighted with their new area. The four new hens seem to be delighted to have the entire chicken coop to themselves. At least with this smaller area it should be easier to keep an eye on them.

As we’re starting to run out of home-brewed beer, I decided to make another 20-litre batch. The kit I’m trying this time is called “Definitive Bitter”, so we’ll see if it’s any good. I have tried all-grain brewing but it’s too much work, so I’ll stick to the tins of malt extract. I calculated the cost – and including all materials it works out to €1.50 per litre. Not bad, when you consider that a pint of beer in the UK now costs in the region of £3. Next up will be some barley wine.


The hens have already established a pecking order; LSS reports that when she gives them food in the mornings, the six older ones cluster around the pot and stuff their faces with determination, not allowing the younger ones to get a look-in! I suggested scattering the food around a bit; the six can’t guard everywhere at once. Because of the major decrease in egg-production recently (only 4 eggs per day from 10 hens) I’m in the process of making some proper nest-boxes to hopefully encourage them. Currently they have four hay-filled wooden fruit-trays on a table made from pallets. This seems to have been sufficient up until now, but perhaps a bit of separation between the nests would help. Also, once the plastic temporary fencing arrives, we can allow them out of their pen again.

Today was once again Haircut Day! This has certainly saved us a considerable amount of money over the years.

I haven’t mentioned the rabbits for a while. Not that there’s much news on that front; they are growing rapidly, but that’s not surprising considering how much they eat. So far they have not cost us a penny, as the “income” from the chickens has covered what little expenditure has been necessary. They are certainly getting a varied diet. Fresh grass and purslane from the garden, potato peels and other kitchen vegetable scraps, wheat, and of course bits of dry bread.


The base coat of render has been completed in the shower. We’re waiting for a small pot of natural earth pigment which LSS bought online – and we also need some more sand; the last trailer load we bought has now been used. Once we have those two items the shower will be completed.

As the aged FIL’s Citroën failed its road-worthiness test this week (one headlight not working, rear brakes non-functional, handbrake not working, windscreen washer pump non-operational) we decided to resurrect the Renault 5 from the barn where it had been stored. Ideally we need two roadworthy vehicles. Although the ST1100 is a roadworthy motorcycle, it is not the ideal vehicle to use if LSS is out and about with the Hyundai giving English lessons and I need to get a couple of lengths of timber, for example. And regarding the headlight, yes, I did check bulbs and fuses; it’s some sort of electrical wiring issue and I really don’t fancy taking the wiring loom apart. Regarding the rear brakes, I am unable to remove the hubs as I lack the appropriate tool, and this is also something on which I am reluctant to spend too much time. Having the appropriate remedial work carried out at a garage would cost as much as the vehicle is worth.

The Citroën is fine for running around on the farm as it uses less fuel than the Renault (LSS is unable to keep the engine going unless the choke is pulled out; and fiddling around with carburettors is not my strong point).

So, in order to have a vehicle which can legally be used on a public road, it appeared that it would be cheaper to put the Renault 5 through the “Contrôle technique”.

An initial examination revealed that the number plate lights were not working. Once again it was not a bulb or fuse issue, so I spliced a new piece of wire between the left rear light circuit and the number plate circuit. Having solved that problem, I then discovered that the windscreen wiper blades were perished, so LSS will need to buy new ones next week. Then last, but not least, the horn doesn’t work. It’s either the switch or the wiring; the horn itself is fine. We’re a bit reluctant to spend a lot of money on this vehicle as it’s probably only worth €200. I could simply install a push-button switch on the dashboard (I have all the necessary bits), but LSS wants to ask the testing centre whether that would be permissible.

What I’d like to do would be to get rid of both these vehicles (and possibly the motorcycle as well) and exchange them all for something like a second-hand 4×4 Isuzu pickup. I can but dream!