Going live!

1 Feb already – whatever happened to December and January????

Septic tanks and slurry tanks!

Up to Christmas, we were focused on tanks – getting the slurry tank emptied and getting the new sewage system up and running.  The farmer who cut our hay came to empty the slurry tank and spread it on our prairie and surrounding fields.  It took 8 tanker loads – he estimated we had 52,000 litre capacity. Now it’s empty, if we can start collecting rainwater…….. With some help from the gutter guru, we have diverted the rainwater from about 1/3 of the grange roof onto the top of the tank, so we’ll see how much we can get – we haven’t had enough rain yet (none to speak of for months) to test it out! It will be a real bonus for watering during the summer. Especially since – due to the soakaway failing fiasco – we now have a couple of submersible pumps.

Major groundworks behind the house dispensed with the old, concrete, defunct sewage system. A huge hole was excavated, and 100m+ of trench dug across the “garden” and down to the ditch.  Thank goodness it was dry – it looked like the Somme as it was. The septic tank then arrived by lorry and was up and running in 24 hours!


The filling in took a bit longer, but we were majorly impressed with the installation.  It is a gravity fed system with a separate filtration unit, using cocoa matting! The water leaving is (supposedly) clean enough to drink, but you won’t catch me trying that one!! We also replaced the original toilet with it’s dodgy flush, so all is now good on the sewage front! What a relief to relieve oneself without angst!  Well done Marcus!

Two Christmases

Christmas was poignant, but good.  In a different location and with a change from the traditional meal, we made our new reality.  It was just the 4 of us – Dadad, Eds, R and I and we had a nice, quiet day – making the most of being together.  It was lovely to have Christmas with Eds – I can’t believe it’s been 6 years!  Our 2nd Christmas without Sam too – and that’s not a record to beat Sam!

Then Mark, Maria, David and Jess arrived, for Christmas 2, and the weather also bucked up.  We even managed to eat out on the terrace for a couple of lunchtimes – cue paella!

It was also warm enough for a post lunch snooze in the sun (for some!)

Boys being boys, there were the inevitable competitive sports too.  The current favourite is bashing golf balls into the lake! Men!

Mark bought us a lovely French sign for Quatre Chemins for Christmas. There was a lot of fun and discussion before it was put up – it did look very French and rural hanging lopsidedly with binder twine, but I prefer this look!

For New Year’s Eve we still had Eds, Dave and Jess with us, so, again, a lovely family evening – 2017 is going to be an exciting year for all of us.

Eds stayed with us until 12th Jan, so,until Jules came on the 8th, we had a window of opportunity to put him to work.

Playing with big boys toys

As he has a head for heights, it was also a chance to tidy up the corn drier.  They took off all the old wire netting and then bashed out all the old planks by the roof-line.


We had just become used to seeing it, but what a difference it made when done – it really opened up the front of the barn.  Eds said the views from the top were fabulous, but I’ll just have to take his word for that!

Jules arrived just as the weather turned really cold.  The first night was -8 and we woke up to no water or central heating in either the house or gite.  Pipes in the washroom and barn had frozen! Fortunately we had no bursts, but the temperamental boiler refused to switch back on, and it was 4 days before the plumber could get to us – we weren’t the only ones caught out! The living room and kitchen were lovely and warm with the log burners going 24/7, but the bedrooms were a bit parky (arctic according to Jules!).  We heated up kettles of water on the wood burners – all part of rural life! Good job Father Christmas brought everyone hot water bottles!  Apparently it’s been the coldest winter for 5 years.

On the positive side, we had some lovely sunrises and clear blue skies with frosty mornings.  The lakes froze over, and it really did look like a winter wonderland.  I much prefer days like that to grey dank drizzle.



On Jan 12th we took them down to Marmande as Eds and Jules set off on their big adventure – to S America via S Africa and Abu Dhabi.  It had been lovely having so much time with them since August, and we will miss them. Travel safely!

Setting off around the world with a one-way ticket!

We also have made a start on the covered terrace by the gite.  Having people in the gite over Christmas made us realise that it can be an all year space.  The electric radiators work well, and even in December, it was warm and cosy.  Even Maria, with her Mediterranean blood, declared it warm enough – either that or she was being very brave! Mind you, having thought that staying in the “summerhouse” meant being in a greenhouse type shed, it did exceed her expectations. LUXURY!

So, with an eye to being able to let the gite as well, finishing that is our next focus. We will save the internal decorating until we have bad weather, and crack on outside.  One of the stone fairies kindly gave us an afternoon with his digger to level the rubble and spread the mound of calcaire to allow access. With the help of a brickie, (to ensure they were level rather than wobbly!) and us being labourers, the steps to the French windows were constructed. R and I offloaded and shifted 100 brieze blocks and I mixed 20 loads of cement in my little chanel-substitute cement mixer. February’s purchase will be 13 tonnes of small calcaire – which gives us a month to barrow and thwack it, then in March we can get 13 tonnes of gravel (my monthly “treat”used to be from Boden, not the quarry!!!)

As many of our Christmas and birthday presents were plants, we have been keen to get them in.  We have created a shrubbery along the side of the terrace, hopefully creating an insect friendly screen of blue and white flowers.  As the pots of herbs on the courtyard struggled with the heat and desiccation last year, we have also created a raised herb bed next to it – now I just need some more herbs!

Not much to see at the moment until they start to grow!

We have also added to the orchard with an almond tree, and have planted an ornamental flowering cherry by the gate at the entrance to give some spring colour. A clematis is primed to climb the gite terrace.  All very satisfying.

The biggest thrill however, has been planting 2 palm tree presents by the pool.  We have palm trees – how tropical is that!  Sometimes our life here doesn’t seem real!


Going live!

The thing that has taken most of my time during January however, has been getting a website up and running and then listing QC on holiday rental sites.  It has been frustratingly slow – mainly because of our lethargic and occasionally intermittent internet.  It especially struggled with all of the photos. One good thing to come out of it is that I have learnt (I hope) how to right sideways-on photos. That has always been an annoying issue with the blog, but Google finally found me the answer.  All I needed was the right plugin!!!

The rental sites were also quite disingenuous, not being very clear about their charging policies. It was only by posting, and then finding that they were quoting way more than we had charged, that their commissions became clear.  What was pitched to be competitive suddenly looked expensive – so back to the drawing board.  Still, it’s all a learning curve.  It’s not as though I have anything better to be doing!!!!

And finally, a big thanks to Eds, who set up the Quatre Chemins Facebook page.  Quatre Chemins is out there!

So, here are the links if you are interested.  The website is a work in progress, so any suggestions for additions gratefully received.

1. Welcome to Quatre Chemins






Monty moments!

Monty very nearly didn’t survive Christmas.  With the help of his little ginger friend, they mounted a cunning raid! While I was distracted, cooking in the kitchen, the 2 little thieves snook into bedroom 2.  Ginger jumped up, swung on the handle and opened the door. Monty followed him in, up onto the bed, into the bag of wrapped stocking fillers, and smelt out the ones containing chocolate!  I heard a suspicious scuffling and went to investigate.  Ginger was between my legs, out and away like a streak of lightening. But Monty just stood there, chocolate foil and wrapping paper still stuck between his teeth, trying to look innocent!

Who?? Me??
Pigs snuggling up for warmth in -8
On frosty mornings, they like the south facing part of the paddock
Animal friends – is it a flock, a herd or a flerd?
Looking very woolly in their warm sheepskin coats
Chickens getting cheeky coming to the door for food now that they are allowed out again
Dippy just looking cute
Ginger helping build the gite steps
Perfect winter mornings


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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