The first swallows have arrived, blossom is covering the orchards and we have a lamb. Add to that midday temperatures in the 20’s and things are looking up!
Writing the blog for the first time in 2 months is actually good for morale. On a day by day basis it feels like we’re not making much progress – especially as new crises have supplanted original jobs on the to-do list, which remains as long as ever. However, looking back over the last 9 weeks, it is surprising to realise how much we have done. Certainly, we have never been not busy – the old work ethic still prevails!
In early February we took advantage of an offer of a flat-bed tipper truck for the day to get to grips with the mounds of rubble which were to be transformed into a gravel terrace by the gite. We could collect nearly 2 tons of calcaire at a time, so with Rod doing the 11/2hr round trips to the quarry, I was left on site with wheelbarrow, spade and rake, levelling it as it arrived. Smart move to drive the truck!!! By mid-afternoon we (I mainly!) had barrowed and levelled nearly 8 tons of calcaire, and we had started to collect and spread the gravel. By the time we stopped for the day I could hardly walk across the courtyard. I was completely banjaxed. But a level terrace had appeared from the sloping ground.
Dadad came out for a week during February and helped to tile the steps leading onto the terrace and we practised with a render mix on the step sides. So it is slowly coming together.
One major job left is to render the huge wall at the end of the terrace – which at the moment is unattractive breeze blocks. We have decided to hire in some help for a day next week as there is a lot of high work – which I just can’t do. The wobbly scaffolding gives me the abdabs (what, by the way, is that?) To finish off, we are building a wall along the end, so that we can contain the dogs when the house is let. Again, this is something beyond our expertise, as it is on a slope, and needs a gate in it. We will labour and mix cement and a brickie is coming to lay the blocks – so hopefully it won’t be wobbly or staggered! Two sets of shutters for the bedroom arrive in May and then the gite will be “good to go”.
Inside the gite has taken up a lot of the time over the last few weeks and I am sick, sick , SICK of painting ceilings. It has taken 4 coats of paint to cover them all, and we have colour washed the beams as well, so that the old and new beams all blend in. It has made it so light and airy. This week we have put in the skirting boards and I have tiled the splashbacks behind the units. Quite by chance, last week I found exactly the tiles I was looking for – cobalt blue and yellow – while we were in a brico in Villeneuve looking for something else. So we had to do a quick calculation in the shop for numbers, and grabbed them whilst they still had them. Just need to hang pictures now!
Although we haven’t listed the gite yet online, we already have a booking for it in May/June – friends of the family – so that is our deadline. Hence the focus on getting it finished. We are waiting on Orange to install a phoneline so that we can have wifi in the gite as well.
Talking about bookings, we have had a great response to the advertising of the house. We have already got 5 1/2 weeks booked out of the 8 weeks of July and August. Surprisingly it isn’t yet booked for when the TDF is in Lauzun and Miramont, so we are hopeful for that week too. Terrified that we might not get any bookings, it is very reassuring. QC IS going to earn it’s keep!
The last 2 months have also been dominated by the animals. I don’t know whether it is because Spring is in the air, but they have all been getting a bit full of themselves! Which means – naughty! Sick of the cats’ increasing tendency to hop up onto the units and help themselves (and it is not unknown for Monty to get his paws up to snafferoo a little snack), I devised a cunning plan. Involving electric fencing tape. I barricaded the units! It caused a lot of amusement with visitors – but it worked.
At least I didn’t electrify it. Not yet anyway!
Talking of snafferrooing snacks, Monty really disgraced himself and came close to shuffling of the mortal coil. I am sure that he talks “cat” as this was another joint venture. His partner in crime this time was the “butter wouldn’t melt” Pixie!
One glorious March evening we decided to eat outside, and treated ourselves to some very expensive steak. Rod was standing at the grill, steaks by his right hand. He moved his hand to turn the potaotes, and, quick as a flash, Pixie did a flying leap from under the table. She grabbed the steak virtually mid air – and was gone! I heard Rod’s roar, and dashed out from the kitchen to see Monty mug the cat as she fled around the corner – and snatch the steak from her. In the time it took me to cover 3m to get to him, he gave a huge swallow and all the evidence disappeared. He never even tasted it!
We have just one lamb at the moment – one of the Dartmoors caught us by surprise with an early lamb. We hadn’t started keeping them in at night, so she dropped it, unsupervised, in the field early one morning. Fortunately, all was well, and she had a healthy, sturdy boy (freezer fare!) Caught on the hop, we had to spend the rest of the day finishing off some fencing so that we could separate the pigs and sheep, as they had been running together. Sadly, a week later, the 2nd sheep had a stillborn lamb, but we have one Dartmoor left to lamb. Used to twins and triplets at The Ings, we feel a bit short changed on the lamb front this year!
The cats have been in the wars as well. Liquorice came in with 2 big puncture marks on his leg – a bite had gone through the fleshy bit of his upper leg. Feral cat? Snake? Out came the purple spray and the blue antibiotic spray. Worked a treat! A week later we came home to a rather sad Olive, who couldn’t put a paw to the ground. This was a bit beyond purple spray, and, worried that she had broken her leg, we took her to the vet. He discovered a puncture wound going right through her paw, which had become infected. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, and 5 days in a cage in the kitchen. Both suffering bites at the same time indicate that they were cat-inflicted, from playing rough. Poor Olive comes off worst as Liquorice, although her size, is 3 times her weight! No wonder she bit him! Tired of the corn drier and barn roof, they have also developed a new game……..
The pigs are good fun, and good company! Growing well, Terrine is now up to weight, and we have to make a decision about him. Pate might get a few more months as he is smaller, but it would be best to get them “done” together. The chap who butchered the sheep for us can come and dispatch them at home, which seems less stressful for them, if not for me! So, I’m trying to work up to making a decision and getting it organised! When we tickle his tummy and he rolls onto his side Terrine does make it difficult!
Dogs and cats colour coded in their baskets!
Socially, we are in the season of the Repas du chasse – the hunt lunches! Although there does always seem to be something going on. We went to a Burns night in January – Rod does just love an opportunity to dress up!
Then, while Dadad was here in February, we went to an organised repas in Miramont, with the world famous accordion player …….., to give Dadad a bit of authentic French social life. Actually, it was a hoot! The 5 course meal was good, wine plentiful, and the accordion player got them all up and dancing as the apero’s were being served. When we left at 0100hrs, it was still going strong! They certainly like to party!
We have already been to the Lauzun and Serignac Peboudou chasse repas’ – both excellent value – as long as you like to fill your boots with venison and boar! Right up Rod’s street – hardly a vegetable in sight! A great opportunity to get together with friends and have a convivial long lazy Sunday afternoon. This weekend it’s the St Colomb one, so another Sunday wiped out! Over Easter it is the Paella Geante in Lauzun – I’m not missing that one, it was fabulous last year.
Update 20th April
Since starting this blog at the beginning of April, Orange have surpassed themselves and we have had no phone or internet for over 3 weeks, so, apart from anything else, I couldn’t upload the blog or photos. Having requested a 2nd line for the gite, they ticked the wrong box (they, not us!) and we were instantly cut off. Amazing how it takes seconds to disconnect a line, then 2 weeks for an engineer to come to reconnect! Joy, we were finally reconnected, but had a new phone number. The joy was short lived however, as they then cut us off again within 24 hrs! Talk about the right hand not knowing what the left was doing. Everytime we managed to get through to talk to some-one, it was a different person, with a different solution, and there were so many versions of requests, cancelled requests, new requests…… All of this had to be done by mobile, because of the intermittent signal round the house. We ended up putting a chair permanently in the orchard as that was the only place we seemed to get a reasonable signal. Thank goodness the weather was fair! Overall we spent over 8hrs on the phone, and have had 7 technician visits. We are still waiting for the job to be completed, but at least have comms in both the house and gite! What a palaver!
So, a quick catch up. We have now rendered the gite wall, built and rendered the small wall and put up pictures. Today’s job is to tidy up, make beds and, except for the shutters, the gite is done. Hurrah! Visitors tomorrow!
We also have had a second lamb. This one was a bit more challenging as it had no survival instinct and no innate ability to suckle. It failed to bond with it’s mum initially, so we ended up milking mum and doing 2 hrs feeds using a 2.5ml syringe until it finally cottoned on. Having thought that we were going to lose it, it is fast becoming a sturdy little chap – just as well, as our lamb count for this year is low!!
Dadad has arrived out for his birthday, and Mark and Maria come tomorrow. We are going on a trip on a gabarre (shallow draught wine barge) on the Lot et Garonne canal on Sunday – which is actually the day of dad’s birthday. Taking our own picnic and wine. The forecast is sunny and 24, so it’s looking good! Pictures of the canal trip and gite to follow.
Spooky early morning April mist by the lake
Spring moon rising!
Lauzun basking in the spring sun-shine