Things going swimmingly

Another two months gone by and I haven’t found time to update the blog! Actually, progress through March and April seemed to be quite slow, and at times frustrating, so it is good to look back and see how much progress has been made.

All the major works in the house are now finished and it is ready for decoration.  We have completed the bathroom, and with a pending visit from Carol, got on with the “en suite” shower, loo and bedroom 2.  I found all the new bedding and curtains and even some pictures and am really pleased with the result.  It is certainly nice to feel that one room is civilised!

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The wood burner in the living room is up and running and certainly throws out some heat.  We had a slight issue in that it was fixed in too close to the wall and was melting the polystyrene panels and cracking the plaster, but we have got around that by putting up two heat resistant metal and ceramic panels behind it.  A local house clearance resulted in a third settee, so we can seat 6 comfortably.  We have put up some pictures to draw the eye away from the chasing and holes where the radiator used to be! As it is functional, decorating can be a job for the autumn.

The “summerhouse” in the barn has come together really well and is now just about complete.

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A big blow was that the builder went off to start a new job (!!!) at the beginning of April.  He finished the inside over a couple of weekends, but is now full-time elsewhere and hasn’t been on site at all for over 2 weeks.  With the septic tank and drainage still outstanding – and the barn uninhabitable until then – we are somewhat worried! Needless to say, contingency plans are in hand.

The biggest excitement for us was the starting of the pool man.  Up until the starting of the work, having a pool still seemed like a fantasy.  We never, ever thought that one day we would have one – it’s the stuff of dreams, reserved for footballers, pop stars and the very wealthy. But not the likes of us. But here we are! It is fascinating to see it taking shape. Each day Rod reviews progress and stands there rubbing his hands together in glee.

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We have finished the fencing!  Not only is our perimeter secure, but we have separated the paddock from the garden area.

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As soon as we can get registered as a smallholding, we can start with animals, so that is one of the next jobs on the list (it’s a very long list).  At the moment the drive is closed off by a somewhat unattractive arrangement of sheep hurdles as we have been honing our gate skills with the paddock gates.

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We are now ready to hang the drive gates.  We had to give up on the wrought iron gates that we had bought cheaply (you get what you pay for) as there was no practical way to hang them without building custom made gateposts.  So we sourced some lovely wooden farm gates and 2 huge oak gateposts and are building up our courage to start on these.  We both seem to find excuses and other more urgent jobs to do and I think we are just plain old scared!

The potager is coming on well.  Making use of the old, woodworm ridden beams that came out of the barn, we have constructed 4 raised beds and a strawberry patch.  Rod was absolutely delighted to return from one of his many tip trips with more than he took! They compost all the green waste, and he just happened to arrive as they put out a mountain of compost for people to help themselves to.  He loaded up the trailer. And then went back for seconds! I have slowly been planting things out and we now have rows of onions, beans, peas, and various salad things.

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In spite of late planting, all of the raspberries seem to be coming, as do all of the trees in the orchard.  It is part of our daily check to look for buds and leaves to make sure they hadn’t died over the winter and, one by one, they have put out new growth. So, hopefully we will have some home-grown produce this year.

March and April continued to be wet, and cold.  The locals describe the weather as bizarre, but to us, used to UK weather, the bright days in between have been a real bonus.  The wet, along with some warm days has seen the arrival of spring.  The blossom in the surrounding orchards has been lovely, although it kick started Rod’s hay fever – he’s not used to plum pollen.  In waiting for a sunny day to get a photo, I missed the opportunity as the best of the blossom was over in a week due to some severe storms. And, boy, have we had some storms.  Thunder that shook the house and lightening that turned night into day.  Quite, quite awesome.  We are beginning to get used to the resulting loss of electricity, phone, internet and tv!

A visit by Carol over Easter gave us a lovely break from our self-imposed routine of hard manual labour.  We realized that in our drive to complete jobs, we had forgotten to stop and, as they say “smell the roses”.

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We had a couple of lovely sunny days and managed to eat outside at local restaurants, soaking up both sun and atmosphere. We also had some fabulous food.

 

 

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Talking of food, we have made the effort to get out and socialise – being in danger of becoming anti-social recluses!  Three of our local communes held their Repas du Chasse’s during April, so we had three Sunday lunches out.  What a hoot!

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The meals all follow a similar format.  Start at 12pm and bring your own cutlery and crockery.  Tables, chairs, wine and food are provided.  (I take my own wine as the wine on the tables is pretty rough!) Tickets are around E18 a head.  For this you get an aperitif – usually some white wine and fruit concoction.  Around here they seem to have a penchant for wine and grapefruit – which I haven’t developed a taste for! Then soup, followed by pate and salad. A casserole of venison is next, with toast.  On the table are raw cloves of garlic to rub on the toast. Next is a meat fest of grilled venison, followed by grilled boar. One version came with cassoulet beans, one with garlic with some potato. Cheese, then a pastry of some kind.  Coffee. Then “eau de vie” as a digestif to finish us off.  (especially me, as, not one for the post meal brandy or whiskey, I was asking for Rod’s one too and downing that as well!)

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Eating that quantity of food takes time. We haven’t yet left one of these before 5.30pm and once at 7.30pm.  It certainly writes the day off – in the nicest possible way!

Lauzun also held a “Paella” Sunday – lured by the prospect of a giant paella how could we not go? It was fab.  For E12 we got an apero, starter, paella (and seconds, it was that good), cheese, pastry and coffee. All set out under the covered marketplace with trestle tables and chairs.

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Paella for 120!

 

 

Monty moments

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Butter wouldn’t melt….

 

 

As Spring started to be in the air, it became apparent that we had various nocturnal visitors across the prairie (hay field).  This started before we had finished securing our perimeter and certainly put pressure on us to get a rift on with the fencing.   Usually, when we turf the dogs outs last thing at night, they trot around the small barn to have a wee, then come back in to settle for the night.  However, things became much more interesting for them as there were things that moved out there. So after a couple of nights of them taking off in pursuit of who knows what and disappearing into the night – once as far as the end of the lane, we fenced like crazy.  It’s no fun going out in dressing gowns and wellies, head torch on, searching for dogs in the pitch dark.  Amazing how deaf they can go! And Monty is well camouflaged!

One evening whilst I was back in UK for Dadad’s birthday, Rod was kindly invited round for supper by our neighbours. As their dog Casper meets ours regularly on his daily walk past, Monty and Dippy were invited along too.  Whilst settled in the living room chatting, Rod failed to notice Monty sneak out of the room to go exploring.  The next thing, Monty trotted in, looking very pleased with himself, carrying a loaf of bread.  It had been on the work surface waiting to be served with the starter! Having a dog themselves, our neighbours were very understanding, but Rod was mortified.  I am certain that Monty will never get another invite.  In fact, I’m not sure that we will either!

The kittens have now all been neutered and are settling into a routine.  Since the nights have been mild, we have let them stay out all night – it was easier than trying to get them to come in! Life is just one big exciting adventure for them. Considering their feral background they are proving to be very friendly.

Ginger is the most vocal of the three.  He is very “in your face” and will hold conversations with you, staring into your eyes and miaowwing plaintively.

Where ever we are working, he is always there, getting into everything.

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He has also extended his door opening skills to the heavy front door, which we now have to lock whilst working to prevent an occurrence of this…….

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Liquorice is the Monty of the cat world!  Although the same size as his his siblings, he is twice the weight of them.  Podge! He is so laid back.  He is the one who, when we call supper and every-one else comes hurtling at the speed of light, is in a world of his own chasing butterflies and daydreaming.  We have had to start putting him in the house when we walk the dogs because he follows Monty and comes too.

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Dippy treats him like one of her labrador puppies and spends hours playing gently with him, mouthing and tousing around.

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Olive is a girlie girl.  She is the most timid, but is very loving with us and the dogs.  She is incredibly acrobatic and takes flies from the air, leaping several feet to catch them. She caught her first lizard and proudly brought it to show us.  However, when we tried to take it, as it was still alive, she shot into the house and under the settee, where she let it go!

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Pixie has settled in well and now tolerates the kittens.  She comes for food twice a day, sleeps on our bed for a couple of hours during the day (a privilege granted her during the settling in period, which now seems to be routine) and spends the rest of the time off mousing down by the lake.

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For the third time, our phone and internet went down.  We checked, but there were no broken lines on the road as before, and our neighbours were unaffected.  We called out the engineer and had a grumble about the state of the old wires and our repeated losses of connection.  He tested the lines, but all seemed good as far as the house.  On further investigation, he found the problem in the kitchen, under the unit. He held out the offending wire. The cable had been chewed through, with lots of little kitten teeth marks all along the wire!  Not only was it embarrassing, but we will have to pay for the callout and repair! Grrrrr!

Spring has finally sprung.

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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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