Swimming rabbits!

Time flies when you’re having fun…….

I can’t believe that it’s nearly March – whatever happened to January and February?

January started on a downer with a financial double whammy. They don’t say renovating an old house is a money pit for nothing! Sorting out the electrics turned out to be a nightmare – well beyond the remit of our builder.  We had to get an electrician in as the whole lot needed rewiring, in 3 phase.  This meant that 1. – the cost tripled and 2. – all the existing sockets and switches had to now be chased out too.  All the original wires went under the concrete floor and couldn’t be pulled through. Every room once again had to have channels chased for wiring. Dust, dust and more dust!  With breakfast, lunch, dinner…..  The animals were constantly coated with it (– hopefully it will keep ticks at bay – one injection of saliva and they’d set like cement), as were we. I gave up worrying about dusty hair – maybe I’ll patent it as a natural cheap dry shampoo – at least no-one has greasy hair round here!  Good job we don’t have a social life – scrubbing up would be a challenge!

The second financial blow was Ruby the landrover.  She finally gave up and died.  In early January we had 3 more total power failures whilst driving around, resulting in recovery to various garages, none of whom could either find the fault or fix it.  She finally ended up at the garage in Lauzun and they couldn’t get her going again.  After the expenses of last summer any way forward was going to cost way more than she was worth.  A kind friend borrowed a car trailer and brought her home for us.

20160113_132235  RIP Ruby!

With a trip to UK at the end of January, any decision had to be made quickly so we bit the bullet and looked for a replacement.  This wasn’t helped by the January storms which brought our phone line down once again, so we were car hunting with no wifi or phone!  We still needed towing capability, but without 2 tons of horse to pull, didn’t need the same size car again, so looked to downsize a bit as well as update for (hopefully) better reliability.  We ended up with a French Freelander who we have named Freddy.  We have also registered my megane in France, so now have 2 French number plates.  With one being lhd and one rhd I have stuck the green insurance docket on the verge side of both cars so that I don’t end up on the wrong side of the road when switching around!

Freddy turned out to be a star buy – what a novelty to drive 3000km to UK and back without needing breakdown recovery!  We just went back for a week, to catch up with family, and to finally collect Pixie, our UK cat.  She was very dis-chuffed to spend 36 hours in the car – albeit in the large dog cage with litter tray, basket, food and water, and promptly bit me when we arrived back at QC. There’s gratitude! Then the fun started!  We wanted to keep Pixie in for 2 weeks whilst she slowly got re-used to the dogs, got her head around the kittens, and realised that QC was home.  However the builder and electrician were constantly in and out of every room and the front door seemed permanently open. Keeping kittens out, dogs away from Pixie and Pixie in was a constant battle.

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While we were back in UK, the bathroom moved from demolition to construction.

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20160115_160348 Before!

We had decided to cover the walls where the tiles and old plumbing had been with wood, to hide a multitude of uncovered sins.  So, before we left I did a quick painting job on the planks before they were fixed in – once the bath was installed it would be very difficult to paint in situ.  When we left, I’d put a bottle of champagne in the fridge, bought lanterns and candles and dug out some bubble bath from one of the packing cases – I was ready!!!! The builder said the pressure was on!  And, voila!  On our return -what bliss – a bath!

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After!

 

 

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We have also put a toilet in the bathroom, so now have 2 loos!

 

 

As the electrics were finished off, we suddenly moved into seeing even more progress. The hall and living room were now tiled and, I think, look lovely.

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We have also taken out the only cupboard, which was opposite the toilet, and made the space into a shower, adding a small wash basin to the separate toilet, so it is a bit like a walk though en-suite to the second bedroom.

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We are still using the old shower curtain as we were given the wrong sized shower door and it had to go back.  6 weeks later the correct one still hasn’t arrived!

The weather has been appalling so the woodburner in the living room still isn’t connected as the builder can’t get onto the roof.  We just huddle around the kitchen fire and live in there. Not only is the kitchen now finished, we have even decorated!  The only things left are to put on the skirting boards and a bit of plinth.  As Rod got a mitre saw for his birthday,that should now be easier to do. Its added to the to do list!

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January and February have been reminiscent of UK ie rainy. And boy, have we had some downpours. Even though we are on the top of our land, we have had standing water as the clay is so soaked.  When we had trenches dug for the electrical cables to go to the two barns, they immediately filled with water.  Where the terrace is going to be currently looks like the Somme.  On one dry day the concrete was broken up, so we know just have rubble and mud!  At least the weather isn’t suitable for sitting out!

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We have been amazed at how quickly the lakes have filled up.  The top lake flooded and we had water up to our boundary. It was even flowing over the causeway on the dam wall. Much to the dogs delight we now have a stream flowing through Dingly Dell and we can hear running water from the house which is nice.

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The really big benefit of all of this rain is that the ground is now soft, and we have been gradually putting in fence posts.  Even I can get the shorter ones in – we do alternate ones each.  However the bigger strainers are beyond me. We haven’t got around to putting on much of the stock proof fencing as that can be done when the ground is hard – it took days to do 100m! Our current routine is – dry days = fencing, wet days = decorating.  As I’m now trying to drop a dress size in time for David and Jess’ wedding, I’m hoping that all this physical endeavor will hone, rather than give me Arnold Schwartzenegger shoulders!

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We are now round 3 sides of our land!

 

 

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The orchard is developing nicely too, with further additions for both my and Rod’s birthdays. Now 17 trees! My first planting – the daffodil bulbs, shallowly dug into rock hard ground, have also delighted me by coming up.

 

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A welcome splash of spring colour.

 

 

Although the house isn’t quite finished, nothing more can be done until either the weather improves or the shower door arrives, so work has now started in the barn.  The first job before the builder could start in there was to remove all the floor boards of the hay loft.  This was a filthy, hard job. They were all riddled with woodworm, so had to be knocked out from below as they wouldn’t bear weight.  I did try, but I couldn’t do the standing on the ladder (vertigo) or cope with the spidery, fetid rubbish falling on my head.

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So Rod did the lot – about 70m2.  It was exhausting. Probably the worst job we’ve had to do so far.  I had the easy task of dragging all the boards outside and burning them.  For a pyromaniac like me, this was actually quite fun!

We had a lovely interlude with a surprise visit from my brother who got a last minute flight from Southampton to Bergerac.  Door to door it was quicker than visiting us in North Yorkshire!  The weather also bucked up for a few days and he saw QC for the first time at it’s very best.

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20160220_120345 However, work stops for no-one, and his engineer mind was put to work sorting out draining the rainwater from the guttering away from the terrace to be. A boys trip to Point P was the shopping trip of the day!

 

Progress in the barn has been rapid, and visible on a daily basis.

The byres have been bricked up, some beams replaced and ceiling boards put on

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The walls chased, sandblasted and repointed

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original walls

 

 

 

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joints cleaned out

 

 

 

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sandblasted and repointed

 

 

Walls built and plasterboarded

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The original doors and windows opened up

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And the floor screed done

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We have been caught a bit by surprise at the speed of progress.  We find ourselves having to make decisions like where we want sockets and lights to go for the first fix, and where to put the shower and toilet.  As we hadn’t given this level of detail any thought, it feels like it is evolving on the hoof!  Every evening recently has been spent measuring and marking the floor and placing bits of wood down.  Then going on the internet on various planning tools and designing plans to confirm locations.  I’m in my element! Much to Rods HUGE delight we also spent another day in Bordeaux at Leroy Merlin and Ikea. We needed to get a budget bathroom suite and some basic kitchen units so things can be plumbed in.  At least he got to have a lunch of Swedish meatballs again – the highlight of any trip to Ikea!

Monty moments

The kittens now venture outside, although they very nearly didn’t survive their first outing.  Having honed their climbing skills on the plaster by the front door, the first thing they did was to climb the corn drier.  Going up was easy.  Coming down was a different matter.  They were stuck!

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About 10m up!

 

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Eventually we coaxed Licorice down inch by inch, section by section, until we could grab him from the step ladder.  Olive attempted a descent, but fell, and went into freefall.  Luckily, as I was directly under her, I caught her and she just ended up winded.  Rosie only got down because Rod went up as far as he could and held the wooden ladder above his head to form a ramp.  The trembling kitten then inched down.  By this time it was dark and done by torch light! Somewhat naively, we assumed the scare would put them off.  Nope! We have had several more rescues, but now they are quite blasé about it and treat it like a climbing frame, as adept at coming down as going up.

They were very intrigued by Pixie – much keener to meet her than she was to meet them. They refuse to be rebuffed, sneakily following her around the house like little spies.  We have had some quite funny stand-offs, but they are all settling down together.

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We also discovered that, instead of having 3 little girl cats, we had 2 boys, so have had a renaming.  Licorice, being fairly neutral, sticks, but Rosemary has become Tiger.  We toyed with Devil Cat for a while as he seems almost possessed at times – very very vocal and quite cunning.  He objects to being put into the hall at meal times, so quickly learnt to jump up and grab the door handle to open the door! Now he even lets the dogs out! A quick visit to the vet followed for both boys, who are now less than they were! All we needed was for Olive to have an unwanted pregnancy! (She is booked in when she is 6 months old.)

Monty had a very confusing encounter with the local wildlife.  We were walking round the lake and he and Dippy suddenly saw a rabbit grazing down by the water.  They both immediately took off in pursuit.  Much to their amazement, it ran into the water and dived under.  Swimming rabbits????? French rabbits swim????

Suddenly it popped its head up about 10m out, looked them in the eye, then dived again.  Monty, normally a reluctant swimmer, leapt in and swam in circles around the point of disappearance, putting his head under to look for it.  When we finally got him out, he kept looking!

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Coypu’s will always be known now as swimming rabbits!

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Published by

Judith Jenkins

I have just given up teaching to move to France and run a smallholding. I taught Biology and Environmental Studies at a private school in North Yorkshire. We lived just outside Thirsk, which, at last count, was house number 10. My husband, Rod, was initially in the military, so we have moved around quite a bit, spending 5 years in Germany. Ironically, we never lived in France! We have 3 sons, the youngest left home this summer and has gone out to Australia to join our middle son there. The eldest is a teacher in Buckinghamshire. We have had a number of animals – sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and pets – horses, cats and dogs. (Not all were for the freezer! )

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