It seems I’ve lost the habit of making daily posts. Apparently this has now become a weekly event. Mind you, I was never much good at keeping a daily diary. Perhaps it’s just a lack of discipline. Or motivation. Or both. Anyway, although I do make short daily notes, it wouldn’t be very legible to just reproduce them here verbatim. For example: “18/05. Dead bunny. Strawberries.” Doesn’t really explain very much, does it?

So instead I’ll just summarise the past week’s events.

The elder trees at Neighbour J are now fully in flower, so the fermentation of this year’s batch of elderflower champagne has commenced. LSS has also started making elderflower cordial and has produced 8 litres so far. On the husbandry front, one of the female rabbits died, so we’re now down to five. Still, looking on the bright side it means that the humane dispatcher will not have to be used quite as often. One of the youngest hens has become broody, so we’re having to keep an eye on her. If they’re broody they stop laying; and as they’re occupying a nest this can apparently affect the other hens too.

The strawberry plants in the garden have been producing abundantly, so we’ve had strawberries for dessert every evening this week. And very nice they are too. We’ve also discovered that we still have about 10kg of last year’s raspberries in the freezer, so LSS has started making raspberry cheesecakes. Other fruity news: the gooseberries are ripening nicely, and the peach tree near the kitchen has done very well, so as long as we don’t have any strange weather, we should be getting a lot of peaches this year. The tree has tripled in size since we’ve been here. We may also get some apples and pears – fingers crossed.

Although Mrs Duck was unsuccessful in raising a brood this year, she is still visiting the pond with the two male ducks. They have also taken to strolling around the garden; we’re keeping an eagle eye on the lettuces but so far they have not shown any interest in eating our produce! However, LSS has put an old saucepan near the pond, containing some pieces of bread soaked in water. They like that.

The limecrete floor is spreading slowly across the barn. We fetched another 650kg of sand and ten bags of lime this week, so all this material is obviously going somewhere! By the end of next week floor-laying operations will cease for a while; half the barn will be complete. (The other half is still full of not-yet-unpacked removal boxes.) I can then turn my attention to the installation of plumbing and electricity. By the time my sister arrives in June we should have a fully-functioning bathroom. Of course there won’t be any actual walls, but at least it will be indoors! As we’re going to be laying a limestone floor on top of the limecrete, I’d like to get the floor laid before erecting the partition walls. I’d rather install a partition wall on top of a finished floor, than install the wall and then try and lay the floor around it. It’s probably not how a builder would do things, but that’s how I want to do it. I have the timbers already as we visited BricoDepot this week. Next week we’ll be making another trip there, this time to get the bath and other sundry plumbing items.

Once the bathroom is functioning, I’ll probably stop writing this blog. Unless there is a tremendous demand that I continue, of course! What do you think? Leave a comment below.

By the way, I don’t think I’ve given any details of the limecrete mixing procedure yet. Apparently using a cement mixer is not the best procedure, but I haven’t found any problems with this method. The mix I’m using is a 1:2:3 ratio. 1 part NHL 3.5 lime, 2 parts sand, 3 parts coarse gravel, and about 6 litres of water. In order to get an even mix, I first pour about 3 litres of water into the cement mixer, and half the gravel. The mixer is then switched on, and I add all of the sand. I’ve found that with practice (and as I’ve now mixed 98 loads, I think that qualifies) one can hear whether there is enough water in the mix. There should be a swishing sloshing sound, but more swish than slosh! I then take a deep breath, and stop breathing before adding the lime (there’s a lot of airborne dust!). I then trickle more water into the cement mixer until it stops producing dust, by which time the desire to breathe is extremely strong indeed! Yes, I suppose I should use a mask. Too bad.

I then add the remaining gravel. The mixture is quite wet (which is apparently a bad thing) but it’s much easier to pour into the wheelbarrow, and I haven’t found any problems strength-wise. After all, it’s not Portland cement-based concrete. I know that if you use normal concrete which is too wet, it’s not very strong. With the limecrete though, after a week one can walk on it without leaving a mark. I believe full strength is only attained after six months or so.

On Sunday Friend L came around for lunch. In the afternoon another friend arrived with her young son, and the afternoon was spent fishing. A total of 14 carp were removed from the pond. I later put these into a bucket and took a walk to the neighbour’s pond where they were released. This had been planned previously – he doesn’t have enough fish, and we have too many!

Finally, the bill for my hospital visit arrived; a grand total of €18. We’re obviously very pleased with the French health service.

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