04/03/2016

So, the live trap arrived for the creature living upstairs. This was deployed straight away, using a piece of bread with a smear of peanut butter as the bait. The following morning, the trap was sprung!
But empty.
And the bait had been eaten.
I reset it with some fresh bait.

The following morning, the same thing – an empty trap, and no bait. This mouse must be called Houdini! Being extremely annoyed, I purchased a different type of trap, a Big Cheese trap. When it arrived, I placed it upstairs, as well as three ordinary mousetraps – all baited with peanut butter.
Success! It was not a dormouse after all, but a whole family of mice. To date I have caught ten of them – on one occasion three in the Big Cheese trap. But there are still scratching noises in the ceiling, so I’ll keep going.

As I said in my previous post, we were indeed given a cockerel. We named him George. GeorgeHe is extremely happy here. In my last post I was slightly optimistic about the time he would start crowing. It’s actually 03h30; but thankfully the double glazing muffles the sound, so he’s safe from the stewpot for a while.

The toilet walls have now been finished, and the ceiling is in place. Decorating has not yet occurred, of course, but it’s definitely an improvement! Unfortunately the rather small size of the room means it’s almost impossible to take a photograph of the end result. With regard to the infrared light I installed – the jury is still out. I think it gives the illusion of warmth rather than putting out any actual heat. But it’s better than nothing.
I also treated myself to a small urinal, which drains into the external Separett Ejektortank. However, it soon became apparent that there was a problem with odour; as urea decomposes, ammonia is released. This gas rises to the highest point in the system, which in this case happened to be the urinal. I resolved this by making a small duckbill valve from a length of bicycle inner tube, and attaching this valve to the end of the pipe in the Ejektortank. Problem solved.

I am currently working with some pallet wood. I have dismantled quite a few pallets, and the planks have been planed and cut to width. They are now being glued together to form wider boards, from which I will construct a bathroom cupboard. I will also be using the planks to create panelling around the bath. It’s not a straightforward job!

One Thursday last month, Neighbour J telephoned. She had seen in the newspaper that Monsieur le Bouilleur de Cru would be in the area. (This was not his name, but his occupation. He is the person who, once a year, travels around with a mobile distillery). LSS telephoned him late on that Friday afternoon, and was horrified to discover that he was only in the area for two days, ending that very evening! So things proceeded in a bit of a rush. You see, we had three 120-litre plastic barrels of fermented apples, and had been waiting for this day to arrive. It just arrived a bit too quickly for comfort. Loading these barrels onto the trailer was a pain in the … back. It was getting dark. And it was raining. And cold. And we also had to run around finding suitable containers for the alcohol we were hoping would be the result. Anyway, we shot off to the nearby village where he was temporarily based. We found him installed next to the garden refuse dump. Useful, I suppose, as all the leftovers from the distillation process could simply be added to the composting pile of vegetation. We arrived just before 18h00, and encountered a large tent, erected next to a caravan. The entire tent was filled with clouds of delicious-smelling steam, and contained a much larger version of one of these:Mobile distillery It was also extremely noisy, with the powerful gas-powered boiler going full blast. Mind you, it was nice and warm in there!

Monsieur le Bouilleur de Cru unceremoniously removed the lids from our three barrels, and plunged his arm deep into the fermented apple mash, grabbing a handful. Closing his eyes, he sniffed the pulp. He pronounced each of the barrels acceptable, but apparently the third barrel was the most acceptable of the lot.
We were informed that we didn’t have to wait but could return later. “However,” he warned, “I shut down at 20h00. So be back before then or else.”

We rushed back home to put the hens to bed, and add more wood to the boiler stove. We didn’t have much time to do anything else, let alone have supper; and were back at the distiller with minutes to spare. As we were his last customers, he was starting to relax a bit, and we discussed distilling. I did notice he was starting to lean rather heavily against the caravan doorframe; obviously as a result of breathing in the fragrant steam all day.

“Apple brandy is all very well,” he said. “But pear brandy is much better. Only Williams pears, mind you. The others aren’t much good. Here, have a taste of this.” He disappeared into the caravan and rummaged in a cupboard, emerging with an unlabelled bottle and a small glass. We duly had a taste. Very nice it was too, smelling strongly of pears. We made appreciative noises. Pleased with his receptive audience, he had another glassful himself. “Ah, that’s the right stuff. I don’t drink, you see. But I do add some to my coffee every morning. Although it’s not the best eau de vie, you know.”
“Really?” We asked.
“Oh no. The best one is – wait a minute.”
Carefully negotiating his way through the caravan door, he disappeared once more into the cupboard, emerging with another bottle of clear liquid, identical to the first. He reverently pulled out the cork, poured some into the glass, and took a deep sniff before remembering we were there. He offered it to us to taste. He was right, this one was better; it had a real taste of plums.
“Ah, plum brandy!” We exclaimed.
“Wrong!” He said in triumph. “It’s made from sloes! But the secret is not in the fruit. It’s the crushed stones which give it this marvellous taste!” Just to make sure, he had another glassful, before regretfully replacing the cork.
The end result was that we came away with 20 litres of apple brandy.
It was an interesting experience, but I don’t think we’ll repeat it due to the work involved. Besides, 20 litres of apple brandy will last us a very, very long time! After all that, we ended up having dinner at 22h00.

The good news is that we now have the double-glazed French door for the barn. Due to the size of this thing (2.4 metres wide by 2.15 metres high) we had to hire a large van at the local supermarket. We then went to BricoDepot in Orleans to get the door. And of course, more lime. Fifteen 35kg bags of lime to be exact. Which should be sufficient to finish the barn floor once the weather warms up a bit.

The bad news is the ignition switch on the ST1100 appears to have died. I had to move the bike to one side of the garage so that the French door could be stored there. Unfortunately the bike wouldn’t start, so I had to manually push its nearly 300kg weight around by manpower alone. One more thing to fix…. and the Renault 5 needs its carburettor to be cleaned. Always something!

We have also now met our new neighbour. One of the adjoining farms had been sold last year. Mr. K. dropped in to tell us that one of “our” trees had been blown down into his field during a recent storm, so if we wanted the wood we had his permission to access his property. He drives a green Land Rover Defender, so we discussed Land Rovers for a while. I was delighted to discover that he also speaks fairly good English. It turned out that he is a notaire (solicitor) and lives in Paris; the farm next door is his weekend getaway. So cutting the fallen tree into firewood-sized chunks took me a few days’ work. It’s an aspen. And as luck would have it, we have found another three aspens which have been blown down. It’s not the best firewood, as it burns rather quickly; but hey – it’s free. And I haven’t had to cut down any healthy trees.

I’ve also started replacing the tarpaulins in front of the wood sheds with more heavy-duty ones. The previous tarpaulins lasted two years but because of the wind they have become rather tattered.

Otherwise, we’re waiting for the weather to improve. It’s been raining rather a lot recently. The advantage is that the pond is once again nearly full.

One thought on “04/03/2016”

  1. Hi Rob,
    found your sight last week and have just finished your thoroughly enjoable blog. I got a little worried when you said you may stop the blog but I, and I am sure many others, am so glad you have carried on. I am about to go on amazon and buy a copy of ‘Bathtub’ to take on my upcoming holiday. Keep writing and keep righting the property

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