Sunday, 29 April 2007

Toilets, sheep it's all happening here

At last we have a flushing toilet and only two more plumbing bits to buy to get a fully functioning bathroom, well shower room actually we don't have room for a bath and anyway I'm not overconfident that the floor would hold a bath full of water. It's just a niggling doubt you understand something to do with the way it all slopes towards the centre. Anyway tomorrow it WILL be finished.

Well, when I say finished it hasn't actually got any walls around it yet so it's more kind of en suite you've heard of dining kitchens well we have an showering bedroom luckily the shower is strategically placed to allow a certain amount of modesty to be retained whilst using the loo.

It will be put right this week we are on a deadline now. Bob is coming round to put the upstairs sockets in next weekend so we really do need the walls by then. One good thing about France (and there are many but I wouldn't like to go on) is that they sell doors complete with frames so with the size of our house that's half the wall done already.

They've moved sheep into the field near our house. I never realised what noisy buggers they are. It's sounded like non stop Prime Minister's question time ever since they got here. The dogs are a bit put out as it's walks on leads now till we get past them. I don't know what breed of sheep (if any) but the lambs have a real piggy faced look to them. Not that they aren't sweet in their own way of course but it sheds a new light on the porc & mutton sausages we've been buying.

Did I happen to mention that we had chickens by the way? Yes? Well today we had a thunderstorm and rain. I thought they would all seek shelter either in or under the chicken house but no, one had to stand outside (let's call her Anita) she even looked like she was enjoying it. There's surprisingly little to a wet chicken.

We enjoyed the rain or rather the lack of watering duties. Its forecast sun and showers for the next week so that should see the veggies perking up a bit no doubt the weeds too so I'll be out there with me weeding fork till the cows come home. That's another good thing about France by the way, at least this bit, they have really pretty cows.

Well I've really wittered on tonight it's the giddy excitement of having that toilet.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

We Are Rubbish at Shopping and Finding Stuff

Every time we have been out looking for something this week to progress the work on the house we have bought something we needed but not what we went for.

Looking for taps we came back with carrot seeds and a tin of paint.

Looking for a base to stand the bathroom sink on we came back with a water butt and a pump for the well.

Today neither of us felt like doing any work so we convinced ourselves we need to go shopping again.

Looking for tiles we came back with herbs.

This house is never going to be finished

We are also going through a phase of finding the things we were looking for yesterday. So while I was looking for a jubilee clip this afternoon I found the countersink bit for the drill that we turned the house and barn upside down for yesterday.

The chickens found a jubilee clip in their run (I kid you not still in it's wrapper too) but unfortunately it was the wrong size and all rusted up, but not a bad effort for chickens who are new to DIY. This is more help than the dogs or cat have ever been.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Self Sufficient Sandwiches

Now that we have eggs (courtesy of our lovely girls) and salad leaves as displayed here we can have egg mayonaise and leaf sandwiches for lunch and congratulate ourselves that we have created a meal entirely from our own produce (except for the bread, butter and mayonaise of course). Oh what a wonderful feeling.

The leaves don't even have many bites out of them as luckily there is a toad living under a nearby plant pot.

Now I look at my garden with pride and joy being that it's only been six weeks in the making but travelling around and looking at other peoples' gardens a slight sense of unease is creeping in. You see my garden is rather like me, a bit scruffy and unkempt at the edges, as you can see by the odd tuft of grass and such on the path. The veg plots I see on my travels are pristine with not a speck of non veg greenary to be seen and rows that are straight I mean really really straight and plants that have been spaced to the millimeter using, well I don't know they must of used a micrometer and lasers or something from CERN or NASA. So I feel the same way as I feel when confronted by women who can wear white for more than ten minutes without looking grubby a little bit chastened but not sufficiently to change my ways.

You can see the peas and beans have a way to go and my supports won't be winning any design awards either but we found the ladders in the barn past supporting people but I don't expect the peas will mind.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Half a Job is Better Than None

Today we applied ourselves and we now have cold and cold running water to the new kitchen sink not only that but worktops too. How's that for civilised? It was almost a pleasure to make food.

We still kept popping out to see the girls though who you will be pleased to know found going to bed an hour later perfectly acceptable and settled down as good as gold. We got two eggs today laid in the nest box that was cunningly designed to be opened from the back so we were all happy.

I love having chickens so I'm afraid you have to have another picture of my darlings.
Tomorrow I will have to lavish some TLC on the veggies the weeds seem to be springing fully formed from the ground everywhere and my plot is looking decidedly scruffy compared to next door.
We just get too easily distracted every time we go out we see WILDLIFE it's great. Deer and a hare yesterday morning on the way to the shops and gorgeous butterflies that have to be looked up in the butterfly book and bugs that have to be looked up in the bug book and birds well you get the picture.
And so to bed with the stuff on the to do list getting a bit done here and a bit done there by the half a job Anglais

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Today we have mostly been going bup bup bup

That's how we talk to our chickens who have been moved to their new residence.

They took a bit of persuading to come out it was Dolly who came first. We think she's the one who's laying as her wattles are redder than the other girls at the moment. Anyway she's the boldest and will come to you if you bup bup bup and will let you stroke her. The others have yet to come out of their shells (ha ha ) and reveal their personalities.

We've just put them to bed and of course they didn't want to go back in it was still a bit light and all the other birds were still playing out. But the anxious new parents wanted them safely tucked up before dark.
Having a house on legs so they could get shade underneath seemed like a good idea and they have enjoyed making a dust bath under there today but it's also a good place to hide when you don't want to go to bed and no amount of bup bup bupping and tapping your food dish can make you come out.
Maybe tomorrow after they've spent the night in there they'll take themselves to bed.
Tonight we will sleep with the window open so we can hear if there is any ruckus in the night and we have the spotlight ready set up in case any undesirables try to creep in. Well you can't be too careful we'll be buying a 4X4 next so we can transport them safely to their piano lessons

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Chickens and eggs

We got to the market at St Junien this morning at the right time on the right day and now we have four warrens. They are in tempory accomodation in the barn at the moment while their house and garden is finnished but sometime this weekend it will be que Changing Rooms music and we'll transfer them to Chateau La Chook. Within a couple of hours of getting them home we have our first egg! We don't know whose it is as there were three of them looking at it in astonishment when we noticed it in the middle of the floor. Unless someone else produces the goods it will be shared for tea.

They will be named Dolly, Jean, Bren and Twink after characters from The Dinnerladies we think we have Dolly picked out already as one of them is bossier and nosier than the rest.

We did consider marrans and there were also some really pretty grey chickens but Tech Support felt the warrens looked like chickens ought to look so that's what we got. They were really quiet in the car coming back except for a squawk or two on sharp bends. Anyway they're pottering about scratching and muttering quite happily now.

The dogs approve and have spent ages already sitting next to the barn door looking at them even the cat stirred himself to take a peek.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Hellooo Again We Smells Like Lords and Ladies

We have been cut off from the outside world but today France Telecom man came out and fixed a fault at the exchange and in the box at the side of the house so we are fully functioning in the telecommunications department once more. The lovely Elizabeth (from Agence BMI who we bought the house from) persuaded them at last that yes there really was a problem.

So I bet you think we've got plumbing by now with no distractions? well after much effing and blinding we have the shower cubicle fully assembled and the toilet and a base unit for the kitchen sink so any time now we'll be there.

But we have had distractions too cos tomorrow is chicken market day so Tech Support was pulled off the plumbing to get on with Chateau La Chook an historical and quaintly rustic construction with parts dating back to 1937. Oh yes we found a bed base in the barn with a frame just the right sort of size to make a chicken house base. It was stuffed with straw and a 1937 newspaper unfortunately they hadn't stashed the family treasure there too but you can't have everything.

Monsieur next door says the chickens will eat up our veggies but no we say we will have a barrier which luckily is the word for fence if you say it in your best Pink Panther impression. In fact this applies to many words (especially the ones ending tion our neighbour Ian says) anyway it's always worth a try if you're stuck for a word and you're not proud. It's much better to say something I find even if it's nonsense or English than to say nothing.

We had a confusing time tonight. We had just got back from the local tabac which also sells bread, magazines, plants, groceries in fact its like Arkwright's Open All Hours but with beer and a restaurant too. Anyway Joel pulled up and asked if we had the plan (of our land) and indicated that we needed to go off in the car with him which we did. He drove us to a big house at the top of the village where he discussed the plan and our bits of land in great detail with a lady there who clearly knew who owned everything in the area (her mainly). Then he took us to our smallest (400 square metres) and last bit of unseen land which is a small patch of oak trees and a spring. Again it was a case of tromping through fields and under and over barbed wire with Tech Support in the front in his boots in case of serpents as Joel realised he only had his slippers on halfway across the field. Why it was necessary to suddenly do this we still don't know as there was much talk about the various plots and the spring seemed quite important. At one point it seemed like a swap was being talked about. Ah well I suppose it will all become clear in the fullness of time but I'd really rather hang on to oak trees and a spring.

The plant in the picture we think we've identified as Lords and Ladies it's on the path in the woods and it really stinks, apparently to attract flies to pollinate it. Nuff said

Sunday, 15 April 2007

But We Didn't

Still there are 52 Saturdays in a year and who knows one of them might be the one.

In the meantime there are a great many "b**tards and f**kers coming from the bathroom to be as the shower cabinet goes together. Not the french I had in mind really. We were going to put the shower cabinet on a platform to improve the drainage but TOH changed his mind having spent all day yesterday building it.

To make sure it would still drain OK we set up tempory connections to the outlet and poured a kettle full of water in. What did we prove? That water goes everywhere mainly, especially through floorboards and onto the cat while he's lying in his favourite chair.

So I'm off to hide in the garden where life is simple and plant out my sweetcorn and peas cos the roots are all growing out of the bottoms of the pots. I'll also give the tomatoes and peppers a good talking to for not germinating and the oregano. The kidney beans can sown too I feel. If everything pulls it's weight we could be self sufficient in chilli and spag bol who needs more?

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Saturday we May Come Clean

Yes we're still doing the plumbing. Who would of thought it could take this long? After all there are only two sinks a shower and a toilet, it's hardly the Hilton. The trouble is we just can't seem to get down to it there is so much else going on for instance walks in the woods to check out the flora and fauna and to be amazed that we're here and that it's so beautiful.

Not to mention checking out the progress of the veg at least twice a day. It needs twice a day as the beans popped up all at once this afternoon. The photo is of the peas and sweetcorn though and the resident photographer was too impatient for me to lift up the plastic on the cloche so you could see them in all their glory.
Today though we did do plumbing and now the pipes have progressed to the bathroom to be. It did need yet another trip to Mr Bricolage and Castorama but we are quite confident that we now have all the bits probably.
All that's left is to attach the pipes to aforementioned sinks shower and toilet and we will have plumbing. That's after we've built units for the sinks and a plinth for the shower. The work of a moment surely.
Who knows Saturday night could be bath night!

(Not a f*king hope the resident plumber says)

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

The Woods that Legend Spake Of

We have solved one of the great mysteries of our lives. We have found The Woods That Legend Spake Of!

When we bought the house the previous owners chucked in about one and a half acres of sapins (pine trees). Up to press these have been a coloured in F shaped block on the plan cadastral. We have made forays down the lane that leads there but it peters out into a mess of barbed wire and bramles. The little plots that look so clear on the plan are nothing like on the ground. We have always referred to the missing plot as "The Wood That Legend Spake Of"

So Monday tea time Lawrence was once again chewing over the plan but it was hot I was knackered from moving bricks AND I had a poorly thumb. Then he outmanouvered me. He spotted Joel our next door neighbours' son and rushed out to greet him saying something like "Hello Joel How are you? Isn't it hot? Land ours (jabbing at the plan) me no find you know? You help?"

Joel agreed and led us off down the lane plan in hand pointing at landmarks and the plan. I can tell you he set a right old pace while we trotted along behind him gasping out the odd oui, non and daccord hopefully in the right places.

At the spot where the path disappeared he led us over barbed wire (just the right height to be embarrassing) and down a field pointing out where the chemin "track" should be. Then we were there! THE WOODS THAT LEGEND SPAKE OF. The bits around it belonged to Joel, his mother and his father and Voisine was obviously really important and the numbers on the plan but Voisine knew and Voisine was the key to it all although it was very complicated.

We did a complete circuit while Joel pointed out the bits of rotten fence post, rusty wire and broken down walls that marked our boundaries. Like all legends the woods did not quite live up to their reputation. They were mainly horizontal due to some great trombe or trompette or something, obviously something windy as the few trees that were standing had had their tops ripped off at about twenty feet high. Or maybe it was the dragons. (que X files music).

So we will be self sufficient in firewood next winter and blackberry jam.

And Voisine? that means neighbour another mystery that was resolved when we found the dictionary, which we really should carry with us at all times. It was very complicated but Joel could take us straight to our land as he could tell from the plot numbers that we were neighbours.

Monday, 9 April 2007

The Garden Wins Again

Another wonderful day in the garden yesterday although I was responsible enough to actually do some washing before playing out. The washing line was full of jeans and tops so Lawrence's undies had to go on the wire across the fireplace to be dried and gently smoked. No vermin in them there undies now!

I can't believe that my stuff is growing and I'm closely inspecting every pot every day for the smallest sign of progress. Now the basil is starting to come up and the garlic. I added oregano, coriander, popcorn, runner beans and french beans to my collection of seeds under the cloche. Unfortunately we lost the watering can down the well and the others in the barn are all too full of holes even if I felt like evicting the spiders so we will have to devise a cunning replacement today.

We have been to the supermarket this morning to get some odds and ends and I suppose I could of bought one there but it just wouldn't of been the same. Lawrence took this pic of Bellac on the way back it's our nearest town and I love this view of it up the hill.

We've found that we can buy a kilo of real coffee for the price of 100g of instant so top money saving tip there. Oh and it is drinkable coffee.

We saw the deer again this morning on the walk with the dogs you can just about see it in the distance in this photo or maybe not.
Anyway the bricks round the front of the house won't move themselves even though we've given them the last six months to do it. So I have an appointment with the wheelbarrow

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Who needs plumbing when you have sunshine

Yesterday we skived off the plumbing and played in the garden all day instead. I finished digging my extra bed and sowed seeds in pots for tomatoes, sweet peppers, chilli peppers and cucumbers. For a litle bit of fancy I've also sown some bananas that Debbie next door but one gave me. These should produce some exotic looking greenery if they take.

This meant for once we didn't have to go dashing of to a DIY shop.

This morning the sun is shining the birds are singing their heads off and my peas and sweetcorn have started to sprout so it's a tricky choice plumbing, gardening or a little bit of both.
I can't believe this was the weather two weeks ago

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Plumbing and Gardening are Us

Look we have some pipes! Here is the water heater in the cellar still on the wall.

One of the jobs that Martin did in addition to bringing some sunshine was help remove the rubble from the cellar that resulted from replacing the concrete floor above. He also helped with the floor on his last visit so in fair ness he did put the rubble there in the first place.
The concrete floor was held up mainly by good luck as it was resting on wooden beams where the woodworm had been holding a ten year party. Had we known we'd never of dared go in the cellar.
Other stuff Martin helped with was digging over the garden and tidying the barn but we didn't take any pics of him.
Here's me starting with the garden while Tasha checks out the route of the path and the progress so far. And here's how it looks today. Soon it will be bursting with yummy fruit and veg goodness.

The pipes by the way have only got as far as the kitchen and are not actually connected to anything yet as it was just too nice outside to let the sunshine go to waste and I had to start extending the veg plot.
Madame next door came to tell me that her husband said it would be much easier if I took the grass off the top out of the way first. Of course this was really an half hour conversation where she tried various versions of what she was trying to tell me and I did the actions with the spade to check what she meant and flicked through the English French dictionary. We got there in the end though and it was much easier to do it that way. It's lucky that she is so patient with her thick English neighbours although we must have the job of village idiots by now.
It's a glorious day again so me and the girly dogs are off to check out the woods.

Friday, 6 April 2007

Some Days

Today we mostly seem to be getting nowhere.

I’m writing this up in word as our Orange Livebox seems to be incapable of finding the internet tonight.

We have assembled all the required bits for plumbing this entailed a visit to Bricomarche, Mr Bricolage and Castorama so it was about two this afternoon when we got back. On the plus side I now feel I could hold a fair decent conversation with a plumber about his bits. Not terribly useful in everyday life though unless you know a lot of plumbers.

This reminds me of an interesting conversation we had with Madame next door last week. We were just going out when she appeared with the dog lead we thought maybe Amos had gone missing. Amos by the way is a long chocolate brown short legged dog, sort of a Labrador head on a Bassett Hound body who lies in their back garden and sighs a lot. But no there was much more to it something to do with windows and roofs and Madame being too small. We asked if we could help and she led us round to the back of her house where Amos was pottering about in the garden. He had though, been up on the barn roof having jumped from the upstairs window and Madame was asking for help in getting him down. As it happened it took us that long to catch on that he’d somehow got himself down. Managing to communicate when you only have bits of a language is basically about guessing the gaps in your knowledge but who expects to be talking about a dog on a roof?

So we sprang into action this afternoon. First job put up the chauffe-eau (water heater). Starting with the drilling of the holes to bolt it to the wall. Two holes were achieved with only minor swearing even though the walls are granite. The other half then decided we should put the thing up on two bolts to get the measure for the bottom two.

This is a steel cylinder with a diameter such that you can’t get your arms round it to pick it up and so smooth that you couldn’t get a grip to lift it if you did have long arms and heavy enough that you don’t want to drop it on your foot, if you ever managed to pick it up that is. We did eventually get it on the wall after two cups of coffee a cup of tea and three fag breaks by means of dragging it up onto a storage box with the cushions from the dog settee making up the height difference but we broke a plastic bit off on the way. Thank goodness for super glue.

We decided the other holes had to be drilled with the tank where it was. Easier said than done as hole number three lined up with the mortar rather than the stone. The other half cleverly devised a bracket for the bracket which only resulted in an even larger hole in the crumbly soft mortar. We are now waiting for the cemented in bolt to set before we start on hole number four personally I can’t wait and it’s a shame I’ll be busy planting spuds or something.

On a positive note the weather has been warm and sunny (well we were spending the day in the cellar oops sorry I was being positive wasn’t I) and we saw another deer on the tea time puppy constitutional. Luckily the girls always have their noses to the ground and never see such interesting quarry.

Update the Livebox has decided it's no longer a sausage so this is yesterday's post today.

Today has been much better so far but I'll tell you about that later

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

We have telecommunications!


Yes we have telephone (when it feels like it) and an internet connection. I just have to spend a couple of hours with the dictionary to find out how it all works. You can speak to someone in english to sign up but all the destructions are in french.

So let me fill you in with all the coming and goings at Chez Nous.

We spent two days cleaning up dust and rubble and finding somewhere to put everything and outside the sun was shining and the weather was glorious. Then we turned our attention to the garden and making a start out there and the clouds gathered and it got colder and colder and then it snowed and then it got even colder.

Techsupport was sleeping in his woolly hat and the cat was not amused even the dogs had sleeping bags. We now know the value of roof insulation and that is definately somewhere on the to do list before next winter.

Then the day came to pick up Martin from the airport so of course the weather was glorious again and so far since it's not been bad although Madame next door tells me it will rain for the next month.

Progress in the house - cellar cleared of the rubble from the concrete living room floor, cooker and fridge obtained and working. Shower, toilet, kitchen and bathroom sinks and hot water heater obtained and tantalising us with the prospect of civilised living when we work out french plumbing.

Progress in the garden - early potatoes, carrotts, onions, garlic, lettuce, rockett, radishes, spring onions and raspberries planted. Leeks, sweetcorn, chives, basil, perilla, peas and beans sown in pots under cloches. There is a mole but so far he has been polite enough to come up between rows of things.

Out and about - there are lots of lambs and calves in the fields, we've seen red deer just 50 yards down the lane and all sorts of birds of prey. The lizards are starting to come out to sun bathe on the walls it's definately spring.

So lots more news and pictures to follow but now I've got to go get the fire going again