Septic tanks and slurry pits

Warning!  If you are of a delicate disposition, this might be TMI!

One thing about the path to our new life, it is varied and at times very basic!  Since we are down at the house for much of the day, the lavatory system needed addressing.  So began an investigation of the drainage, lifting every manhole we discovered, and peering contemplatively down (no idea what we were looking for or seeing!).  We found the fosse, safely under a concrete cover – and it was full, so we have no idea how big it is.  We thought about the long bamboo pole, literally plumbing new depths, but decided that we’d get it emptied at a later date instead.  In UK our septic tank emptier came with “The poo lorry” emblazed across the cab.   Do the French have ka-ka camions? (sounds like a Boy George song intro….). Next to the fosse, hidden in the long grass we discovered another tank, again full, and only partially protected by rotting boards – thank goodness the dogs hadn’t fallen in. Then at least 4 more small “pits” with a variety of pipes.  As there is no water to the property, we loaded up the caravan water container, brought it down and set about flushing the loo, and seeing what moved, and where!  The good news was, what was festering in the loo promptly disappeared, so we were able to clean it, and the fosse rippled, but didn’t overflow.  So, as long as I keep a 5l bottle of water by the loo, we can now use it!  Luxury! How to pass an entertaining morning – eeh, we do have some fun!

One of the things that Rod is most excited about is the fact that we have a huge slurry tank as 4C used to be a dairy farm.

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Conservative estimates is that it holds about 150000l of liquid.  Again, under a concrete hatch door, it is also full.  As it hasn’t been a dairy for at least 10 years, it seems to be mostly water, certainly too liquid to be slurry still!  This we plumbed at 8’ deep – nightmares about someone accidentally falling in and drowning under the concrete, so that will be our first fencing job!  Anyway, the plan is to use it for rainwater storage, to irrigate the orchard and veg during the summer.  So, even if there is still some residual slurry lurking at the bottom, so much the better.  Free fertiliser!  Alternative uses could be to take the top off, drop in a liner, et voila, our new pool!  Or paint a huge white H on it for those who prefer to take a helicopter from the airport to their accommodation!


Another grotty job was clearing out the bunkers in the small barn.  As they had the remnants of ratproof wire over them, we guessed they had been feed bins.  However, we soon discovered piles of white powder, lime and/or chalk, some ominous looking green powder and decayed boxes with hazard warning signs and what looked like organochlorides and organophosphates (in French). Also plastic medicine bottles with remnants of pink liquid (definitely not Calpol!) So we paused work until we had purchased face masks, then, fetchingly attired, dug it all out, carefully put it in dustbins, and, 4 bins a load, did 6 trips to the tip.


The man at the dechetterie, who we are now on familiar terms with, greets us with a cheery grin and wave, and comes across to see what we have brought each time and have a 10 minute chat with Rod about the rugby.  This time, he declared our load to be “sheeeet”, but let us tip it, then discussed the ins and outs of last night’s match.  He might have to be on our Christmas card list!

As a contrast and break, we have also been busy visiting various suppliers and pricing up necessary items.  The shopping has now started in earnest as many items have a 4-6 week delay on delivery.  So, I justified the purchase of the red range for the kitchen and the tiles for the floors in the hope that both could be put in/down before all our stuff went in.  We also went to Agen to the huge Leroy Merlin store as the one in Bordeaux had been closed for renovation on our IKEA jaunt.




We really do need a trailer!




We hadn’t ventured as far south as Agen before, but discovered that it is much nearer than Bordeaux, and a lovely drive down.  It was a clear bright autumnal morning and there were fabulous panoramic views over the Lot valley, with mist hanging over the river.

The kitchen pricing has been an interesting experience.  I know exactly what I want – and, it appears, it isn’t available in France  (or, if it is, certainly not within our budget!)  There seem to be either brand new shiny units, (in colours like grey or purple) or very traditional dark wood ones (very dated). We spent 3 hours with one kitchen planner and ended up with a quote for  E8000 for something I didn’t even like and would need to paint myself.  We also went over to IKEA in Bordeaux – there’s 6 hours of my life I’ll never get back!!!!  You can imagine Rod’s, Monty’s and Dippy’s faces at the end of that particular trip!  Knowing we had some space in our last container, I decided to see if I could order one in UK and get it delivered to the container to come over in the removals lorry.  (The granite work surface we can source here as we have found a lovely Portugese chap, a one man band, operating in a shed on the outskirts of Bergerac who imports it from his home in Portugal and cuts it to spec. ) So, in my online trawl, I discovered  Their reviews seem very favourable and I love the look of their painted wooden kitchens, so I set about measuring and planning, in my outdoor office.




Note JJ’s desk next to the lab.  Except that I have exchanged the laboratory for the Labrador.



I’m quite apprehensive, because it could all go horribly wrong if any of my calculations are incorrect (I’m not known for my mathematical abilities).  Then it would be a disaster rather than an economic way of getting the kitchen I wanted.  So, fingers crossed, I handed over the money.

Last Sunday we had an interesting encounter with one of our neighbours.  We were just having a picnic at 4C, when, strolling across the field and up to the house came 2 chaps, one of which we recognised as someone Rod refers to as “Whiskers”.  We have seen him on the lane, and tootling past in his car, and we all gaily wave, and so assume he lives nearby.  He is a diminutive character with a noteworthy white bushy moustache, extending some centimeters below his chin.  Both chaps were dressed in camouflage, and had unbroken shotguns slung across their shoulders in a very casual manner.  They were with the Chasse, which seems to give them the right to roam, and, being nosey, had come to see what we were doing.  It was a very amicable chat, ranging from hunting to rugby, but those shotguns, ready to fire, did make me nervous.

Also on the Sunday, we went to Issigeac market (in the name of market research of course).  As one of the few things happening on a Sunday, even out of season, on an uncharacteristically grey day, the market was buzzing.  Issigeac is another of the mediaeval bastides and is really really pretty.  It provided a lovely backdrop to the colourful market, which filled the narrow winding streets.  Having purchased paella, being freshly cooked, for supper that night, we sat on the pavement with a coffee and chocolate and people watched. How French we felt! A lovely interlude in the midst of all the graft.  Certainly one to recommend for visitors.


We have been really taken aback by the weather for the beginning of October, which has been stunning.  Apart from 2 grey days, we have had cloudless blue skies, with temperatures climbing steadily to the mid 20’s.  Earlier this week it was so hot at the front of 4C at midday that I had to find shade to eat and I actually burnt working outside.  Although it drops cold now at nights, these warm days have been a bonus as all our winter clothes are still in storage!

One of the things I have been pleasantly suprised about is the lack of nasty insects around.  We were concerned that we might be besieged by midges and mosquitoes, being so close to the lake, but, happily, are not.  The only issue we have had was a hornets nest in the chimney, but an expert was called in, and they are no more.




All we had to do was sweep up the dead ones as they fell down into the kitchen.




Rod has been doing the spidery jobs in the barns, so, so far, I had managed to avoid any.  However, yesterday, wrapped in my fleecy dressing gown, we were having a lazy breakfast in the gite, planning the day ahead.  Out of the corner of my eye I suddenly caught sight of tarantula’s big brother creeping up over my left shoulder towards my hair.  Everything went flying – chairs, cutlery, crockery, dogs.  Credit where credit is due – for someone of my age, to move so fast and jump so high and far – and strip so rapidly…. The sudden shrieks panicked the dogs, and Rod claims to have not known I knew such language.  He was obviously trying not to laugh as he dispatched the monstrosity, and afterwards gallantly hoovered every inch of the bedroom and stripped the bedding – it must have got into my dressing gown during the night.  How I’ll sleep with images of the rest of it’s family marching over the bedding in the dark of the night…….

During the week I had to call out the breakdown to tow Gerard (Megane) to the Lauzun garage as I had a flat – a big nail obviously causing the problem.  Not having a spare in this particular model, a tow to the repairers is the only option.  (We do get value for money from our breakdown insurance). As Rod had gone to fetch his new toy, I left the dogs in the gite as I went in the tow truck.  Monty and Dippy, in defiance, staged a break-in into the spare bedroom where the dog food bin is kept.  Somehow they got the lid off and helped themselves.  Monty  had a stomach that felt like a concrete filled barrel and looked very uncomfortable.  We had no sympathy with his little groans as he put on his very sad face!


Realising the extent of the rubbish to shift, and the nasty nature of so much of it, we decided to save Ruby’s interior and buy a trailer.  Rod went to collect it today, and very pleased with his new toy is he!


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Remorque-able how much we can get in it!



October 13th

unnamed Woke to -2oC and a hard frost. Brrrrr.  All winter woollies in storage.  Will have to ask how to put on the heating in the gite!

To finish the week we set to in the last room of the small barn.  Two full trailer loads to the tip later, we had gone from

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We were really pleased to discover that it also had a concrete floor which makes it much more useful.  We have also now cleared out what Ed’s calls the “Games Veranda” – definitely room for a table tennis table!


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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! )

2 thoughts on “Septic tanks and slurry pits”

  1. Loving the update guys, what an adventure, wish I could be there to share it with you. Can’t wait to see the progress next August

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