No, I haven’t forgotten about you. And yes, I’m still here. The item: “Urgent – Write Blog Post” on my daily To-Do list has just been shifted regularly to the following day, until finally I became tired of seeing it. Also, as it’s just started snowing, it’s a good time to be inside in front of the computer. Well, I say snowing. There are certainly flakes of snow coming down. But it’s mixed with rain, so the overall result is just a general slooshyness. Not nice at all.

So, what’s been happening since I last posted? Well, the interior floor of the barn was completed just before the temperature reached the freezing point. Although when I say completed, I mean the limecrete base has been poured; tiles have not yet been laid.

Barn Floor base
Final part of barn floor base completed

And a raised step has been created at the doorway, because as you can see in the above photo, the interior of the barn is at a lower level than the exterior. Without some sort of step it is very likely that rainwater would trickle in! The future sliding patio door will be installed on this step:

Barn step
The raised step in the barn

Chirpy has now discovered what her wings are for, and regularly flew up on to the garden gate and then down to the exterior. However, the advantage of this was that she then found out where the other hens were kept, and decided to join them. She now roosts with them in the hen coop, which makes things a lot easier for us!

Also on the husbandry front, we are now sans rabbits. The remaining three caught myxomatosis and died. It’s a disease spread by mosquitoes, so we’ve been waiting for a period of freezing weather to kill off these pesky insects before we get another Mrs Bunny from Neighbour J. Fortunately Neighbour J’s rabbits have not been affected so far.

The solar panels have now been adjusted to their winter-time angle of 66 degrees. They’re still working fine although I think we could do with another couple of batteries to increase the power reserve. These are expensive though.

We hired a chap from the village to come and de-forest one of our ditches. It’s what he does for a living. This particular ditch had been neglected from well before we arrived, so it was rather clogged with brambles and small trees. The Aged FIL does have a flail-mower attachment for the tractor, but the hydraulics are out of action, so it can’t be used. Well, the chap did a very good job, so we’d definitely hire him again if we need more ditch-clearing to be done.

Then Friend E finally got around to clearing out her late father’s workshop, and as a result had lots of scraps of wood which she offered to us. They filled the trailer. I managed to find a couple of decent pieces to keep, but most of it ended up as firewood.

We had a problem with the thermal store a couple of weeks ago. The pipes were making horrible bubbling noises so I extinguished the fire in the boiler stove and investigated. It turned out that the pipework had become clogged with rusty debris, so I had to drain and flush the entire 500-litre system. And in order to have a hot bath, we had to once again heat water on the kitchen stove for two days until the thermal store was back up to temperature. I then ordered some boiler corrosion prevention liquid from the USA because I couldn’t find any in France or the UK. When it arrived I added it to the thermal store, and according to the information on the label, we should now be fine for at least the next five years. I can thus confirm that the Fernox F1 central heating protection which I added three years ago doesn’t work. Mind you, in their defence, it didn’t say it could be used in boiler stoves.

Speaking of boiler stoves, last month I swept the chimneys. However, I discovered that there was quite a bit of creosote buildup in the boiler stove pipe just before it joined the insulated chimney liner section. I was unable to remove it with the chimney-sweeping brush, so had no option but to get rid of it another way. And if you’re wondering how to do this, it’s actually quite easy. Remove the stovepipe. Add a piece of crumpled-up newspaper. Light newspaper.

Removing creosote from stovepipe

Creosote burns rather easily. It’s not very easy to see in the photo, but the flames shooting out of the pipe were impressive! You’re basically creating a controlled chimney fire. I’m pleased to report the stovepipe is now completely clean and free of creosote. Unfortunately the intense heat caused the stainless steel to discolour, but this is preferable to having a chimney fire.

LSS’s computer started misbehaving. I finally diagnosed the problem – it wasn’t her computer which had a problem, but the Draytek router. So I’ve had to order a replacement. I’m not complaining though, I’ve been using that one since approximately 1998.

I’ve also dug a small drainage ditch at Soggy Bottom using a ditching attachment on the tractor. Now when we get a lot of rain, Soggy Bottom shouldn’t be quite so soggy!

What else? Oh yes, we went to a small village near Lyon last weekend to visit another of LSS’s friends whom she hadn’t seen for ten years. So that was a nice restful weekend although it was cloudy and foggy much of the time. Which was a pity, because apparently when it’s a clear day you can see Mont Blanc from their house – Geneva is only an hours’ drive away.

The electrical wiring in my workshop has been improved by the addition of plug sockets on two of the walls, so now I no longer have extension leads trailing all over the floor. And speaking of electrical stuff, the poor old ST1100 has finally been examined. You see, several months ago I tried to start it, and it wouldn’t. I have diagnosed a broken ignition switch. Unfortunately they’re very expensive – if you are fortunate enough to find one – so instead I’ve bought a new “universal” ignition switch off Ebay for £7. It just means I’ll be using the new switch in addition to the old one (it won’t fit in the same place so I’ll install it elsewhere and extend the wiring).

More fallen trees have been cut at Soggy Bottom and processed into firewood, so we’re now able to go most of the way around the field perimeter with the tractor.

Oh yes – and we received a cheque from the Inland Revenue for €14. Why? As compensation for the crop losses we’ve suffered due to the flooding in June. Well, I suppose that will contribute towards some of the lost potatoes. I suspect it’s because this property was originally registered as a farm. The Aged FIL received a cheque for €80, so that will pay for a week’s worth of his electricity.

This year’s batch of pumpkin ale has now been bottled, but we’ll have to wait until the end of the month before we can try it. Next up will be a batch of chestnut beer. We didn’t really have many chestnuts this year, but there were enough to make some beer so we’ll have to see how that turns out.

The Europasat satellite account is still in the same position it was in September. In other words, we still haven’t been charged a penny since connection. We now owe them for four months service. I actually sent an email to their customer service department, including a link to this blog; so that they could read for themselves how unimpressed we’ve been. But even that has had no effect. LSS will be telephoning them soon to have a therapeutic shout.

Well, that’s us up to date again. Now I need to go out into the slooshyness in order to refill the wood cupboard…