Hooray! I am once again allowed to eat solid food. I had my test done at the hospital yesterday, and was given the all-clear. The worst part of the experience was drinking two litres of  a concoction called Moviprep. I’m surprised this stuff is authorised for use, as it is absolutely horrible. I managed most of it, but the last 250ml glass was poured onto the weeds in the driveway.

Whilst I was at the hospital being readied for the anaesthesia, LSS received a phone call from a cousin informing her that her uncle (the Aged Aunt’s husband) had succumbed to a heart attack yesterday. He was 83. The funeral is on Monday next week. Unfortunately this means that the Aged Aunt will no longer be able to live in her house. She has the onset of Alzheimer’s, so the only option is a retirement home. Her son is very much against this, saying he’ll look after her. However, not only does he suffer from bipolar disorder, he is still working, so I don’t think this is really a viable option. The Aged FIL will be informed on Sunday. Even if he were able, he would not attend the funeral. He didn’t particularly like his brother-in-law, and has also not spoken to his sister for years.

And I’m afraid I have more bad news. We will once again not have any ducklings in the pond this year. Mrs Duck’s nest is empty with the exception of two broken eggshells. I’ve no idea of the identity of the culprit; maybe a jay or magpie?

I’m not supposed to do very much today, so wood-cutting or lime-concrete-pouring is out of the equation. I still have some website-updating to do though, so I guess I’ll get on with that…


I took the tractor down to “Piggy Corner” to retrieve some more dead trees. We gave this field its name because the wild boar have created a mud wallow next to the drainage ditch. Due to the dead-tree-clearing operation, one is now able to drive around the entire perimeter of this field. (Only with a tractor, mind you. It’s very boggy in places!)

The next batch of beer (a Victorian bitter) is ready for bottling. I may do an Irish stout next. The beer brewing needs to be complete by mid-May because that’s when the fermentation buckets will be needed for this year’s batch of elderflower champagne. That is, presuming there are lots of elders in flower; last year we weren’t so lucky because a late frost finished them off.

Cat brought five new little friends home. Unfortunately it would appear that the tick season is once again upon us. The tick-removing tweezers were swiftly applied, and cat is very annoyed. “But they were my friends,” she meowed. “That was Tom, Tricia and Tina. I hadn’t yet got around to finding out the names of the other two. Now I shall have to go and find some more.” Good luck with that; I’ve sprayed under her chin with an ectoparastic spray called Effipro. Unfortunately it has to be re-applied every two weeks, which is an operation the cat does not enjoy. At all.


The day was spent getting in and out of the tractor. No, it didn’t go anywhere. I once again removed the seat. Well, that is to say, half of it. I decided to leave the original metal seat-and-frame in place, and just separate it from the modified car seat. This was obviously much easier (and lighter) to lift out. Using my angle grinder, I removed the attachment rails from underneath, and attempted to weld on a couple of brackets so that I could bolt it to the tractor seat base. Unfortunately my mig welding machine decided to give up the ghost. Although I’d wire-brushed all the rust and paint off the steel first, and had the machine on its highest setting, the welding wire refused to form a weld pool; it just sputtered. Well, I’ve had it about eighteen years so I suppose I can’t complain. I ended up drilling four holes in the tractor seat base, and using four large hose clamps to fix the car seat frame in place. It seems to hold it strongly enough. And it’s certainly very comfortable now!

LSS has decided she’d like some raised beds in the greenhouse, so I’ll use some of the dismantled pallets for that particular project. She’s in the process of designing a new sign for the front of the house. The current one is looking rather weathered, and the “D” is no longer legible. So it’s rather forlornly displaying “La  arnoire”.


Today was bunny-sexing day. It turns out we have four males and four females. They have now been put in separate cages for obvious reasons.

In the afternoon, a friend brought her 8-year-old son to do some fishing in the pond. Quite a few small carp were caught, and these were not returned to the water as there are too many. After some thought about what to do with them, they were offered to our part-time neighbour, and he said he would definitely like to add them to his pond.

In the morning I had also retrieved an old bicycle from the aged FIL’s workshop, ready for my sister’s visit in June. Whilst making sure everything still worked – oiling the chain, pumping up the tyres, adjusting the brakes and that sort of thing – I found a small metal identity tag attached to the frame. This was getting in the way of the saddle adjustment bolt, so I removed it. Upon closer examination, it turned out that the bicycle originally belonged to the above-mentioned neighbour’s grandmother. When he came around with a dustbin in a wheelbarrow (to collect the carp), we gave him the tag as a keepsake, and he was delighted.

I also planted three new trees to replace the two which I felled. On a previous visit to Neighbour J, LSS had mentioned that we had recently been unsuccessful in obtaining any suitably-sized ash trees (frêne in French) in the garden centre. Well, yesterday LSS took some strawberry plants to Neighbour J, and she had a surprise for us. Three ash tree seedlings in a plastic bag. Except they weren’t ash tree seedlings at all. I think they might be alder (aulne in French). Never mind, she meant well. I planted them anyway.


Today was another sunny day. The past two days have been completely grey, which meant that the boiler stove had to be lit once again in the evenings. Using some pallets I constructed another (temporary) wood shed. You see, five out of the six bays of the current wood storage complex have now been filled. We are currently using the last of the two-year-old wood in the sixth bay, so this bay is now nearly empty. The plan is to move what remains of this seasoned firewood into the temporary wood shed – this will free up bay six, enabling it to be refilled with all the wood I am currently collecting!

I went for a short walk with LSS in the afternoon to show her where all the wood was coming from, and we discovered another wild pear tree. One more to be tidied up!

The ruins of the garage at the aged FIL have now been completely flattened, and we have three huge piles of debris: rubble, bricks and earth; scrap metal (including a huge engineering lathe weighing well over a ton); and half-burnt oak roof beams. This latter pile will join the La Darnoire firewood stack. It looks like I will need another woodshed after all!

The flattened garageCompare this photo with one taken from nearly the same position about a year ago:



The current batch of rabbit pelts were removed from the pickling solution and hung out to dry. I’ve already started defrosting the next batch. Tanning these things is a lot of work, but at least we end up with a useful product instead of just putting them in the compost (which is what a lot of farmers around here do).

As we are now unlikely to see sub-zero temperatures until the end of the year, I re-connected the pipes to the external shower. These had been disconnected for the winter so that they wouldn’t burst. There were a couple of small leaks at the various unions, but gentle tightening with a couple of large spanners soon solved that issue. Of course now that we are able to have an outside shower again, the weather will probably turn chilly!

A huge tracked excavator has arrived at the aged FIL in order to start dismantling the burnt-out garage tomorrow:

The garage remover
The garage remover

With the arrival of spring, it’s a real cacophony first thing in the morning here. The fabled “peace and quiet” of the countryside is anything but. The amount of bird song really has to be heard to be believed. And at night it’s not that quiet either; we have some nightingales around. They’re lovely to listen to, though. Oh – and speaking of birds; we’ve seen yet another new species here; the greenfinch.


Yesterday, I used the newly-upholstered tractor for the first time in order to fetch some more firewood (mainly small trees which had blown down). The seat is indeed more comfortable, but the angle isn’t right; one is leaning forwards all the time. Obviously some more fettling needs to be done, which means the entire thing has to come out again. This I am NOT looking forward to. I think it may well be easier to remove the cab from the tractor, and working on the seat in situ.

Today we got another two hens, bringing the total to 16. This was totally unplanned. You see, one of LSS’s adult pupils had three hens, but wanted a goose. As their space is limited, her husband told her if she got a goose, two of the hens had to go. So they ended up here. The other 14 don’t seem to mind. I don’t think hens can count. “One, more-than-one” is probably their limit. The two newbies soon settled in.

I have discovered another large aspen which the wind has uprooted, so it seems as though I may need yet another woodshed.

The garage building was beginning to look like it belonged somewhere in the jungles of Borneo. Some ivy had taken root at the rear wall and had been left unchecked for years. It had reached the stage where the roof of the building was starting to disappear under a verdant green canopy, and shoots were even entering the building under the tiles, trailing down towards the floor. There were also three grapevines which a previous owner had planted; and these had completely taken over as well. Unfortunately the grapes are rather astringent, so are not that good for eating. We did make some wine a year or two ago but that wasn’t very nice either. Well, LSS spent most of the afternoon up a ladder, pruning. The walls (and obviously the roof) of the building are once again visible. The only down-side of this is the huge pile of ivy-and-grapevine clippings which need to go through the wood chipper. Mind you, we’ve found that piling wood-chips underneath the hen roosts make cleaning out the chicken shed that much easier. Nothing is wasted if we can help it!

Today was the fourth day in a row in which we have not had to light the boiler stove. The lovely cloudless conditions mean that the solar thermal panel is heating the water in the thermal store to around 60 degrees with no other input necessary.


I removed the old tractor seat. Its frame has been repaired in the past, and is made of solid steel. As you can imagine, it was horribly heavy; and I had to lift it half-way up the cab in order to get it over the steering wheel. Once it was removed, I took advantage of the emptiness of the cab to give it a good sweeping out. I don’t think it had ever been cleaned since the aged FIL bought it. The amount of dried mud, twigs, and dead bugs had to be seen to be believed. One can now see the original floor mats!

The remains of the old seat cushion were then removed. The cushion was simply glued to the steel seat base many, many years ago – so as a result it came off fairly easily. I then removed the mounting rails from the old Renault car seat by using a hacksaw on the steel pins. A couple of U-bolts were then used to attach the bottom of the frame to the steel of the tractor seat.

Of course, the tractor seat was now much heavier than it was when I took it out, so the only way I was able to get it back into the tractor was by opening the rear window of the cab and standing on the three-point hitch to lever it in through the window. Because it’s now a lot higher than the original, I had to slide the entire seat as far back as it would go. The seat itself is much more comfortable, but the angle has changed; it’s now lower at the front edge. Still, I’ll give it a try over some bumps (translation: a normal farm road) and see how it feels.


Nobody turned up to feed the aged FIL yesterday morning. Because it’s Easter, the office staff of the ADMR (the carer’s company, Aide à Domicile en Milieu Rural “Help at Home in Rural Areas”) have taken a long weekend, so the office is unmanned. Mind you, the office is unmanned every weekend. Which brings us to another important point. If a carer has a problem, their aged clients simply go hungry/thirsty unless a member of the carer’s family is feeling conscientious. It’s somewhat difficult to explain without giving a real-life example from a year or so ago. Names and places have been changed to protect innocent people involved…

Miss X is a carer, working for the company HHRA (Motto: “A Culture of Personal Service”). Grandmother Y is the client, and is bed-ridden. Miss X is scheduled to visit Grandmother Y three times on this particular Saturday; to give her breakfast, lunch, and supper. Fortunately (for reasons which will become apparent) Mrs. Z is scheduled to look after Grandmother Y on the Sunday.

Now, Miss X, en route to Grandmother Y on this particular dark, cold, winter’s morning, swerves to avoid a wild boar, skids across the icy road, and crashes into the ditch. Another early-morning motorist discovers the accident, calls the fire brigade, and the injured Miss X is taken to hospital. The hospital obviously notifies her next of kin.

By now it is 2 p.m. Miss X’s father, having ascertained that the injuries to Miss X are not too serious, knows full well it is pointless telephoning the offices of the HHRA to tell them about the accident. Unfortunately he doesn’t know which particular clients Miss X was supposed to look after on this weekend. Fortunately, Mrs. Z is one of his friends, and he knows she also works for the HHRA, so he telephones her instead. And, also fortunately, Mrs. Z happens to know Miss X’s schedule for the weekend.
So at least poor Grandmother Y gets a drink of water and some supper.

Out-of-hours emergency contact number, anyone? No. Because that would mean one would actually have to do extra hours of work. Which – by law – the company HHRA is not obliged to pay for.

Anyway, back to the aged FIL. It transpires that the person who normally produces the schedules has left, and has not been replaced. And because of the 35-hour work week, this would have meant that the remaining staff would have had to put in extra hours to produce this schedule in addition to their normal jobs. Which, of course, didn’t happen. So the printing and distribution of April’s schedule has not yet been done. And as a result, not only do the clients/clients’ families not know who is scheduled to turn up when, even the staff members themselves don’t know. We obtained this information from one of the regular carers this morning; she regularly takes a shortcut through here en route to another client and stopped to give us the news about the aged FIL’s missed breakfast. She asked him why he didn’t push his emergency button. Apparently he didn’t want to see LSS.

You couldn’t make it up.