Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Getting Fitter

Today I had proof that I’m fitter than when I arrived a year ago. I doubted it judging from the general aches from my walk yesterday.

It was another early start, thanks to Cid this time who decided to be sick at 5 this morning. I think it was in response to the worming treatment yesterday. I know he’s full of worms; he just likes to hunt his own food so he has to have the wormer.

Once the animals were sorted it was a day out for me. I headed north to the other side of the Dordogne to meet with my friend SG who also has alpacas. I first met SG in a spinning shop in Northamptonshire The Alpaca Spinner. We chatted, as you do, and I mentioned I was going to France to raise alpacas and she said that she was doing the same, all be it about 3.5 hours north of me. We exchanged e-mails and have kept in contact ever since.

SG is looking for some more alpacas and so am I (I’ve thought long and hard about it and despite the deaths of Blanche and Anna, I would like some more whites). SG had got her alpacas from Andrew Spillane who was also the guy who gave me lots of information when Anna had fly strike. We decided to kill two birds with one stone and decided to meet at Andrew’s who is conveniently situated between the two of us.

It was a good day, lots of information shared and yes I did decide on another white female plus a young white male, as well as deciding which stud males I wanted for Silver and Noisette. I should have the new alpacas in around 6 weeks, the delay being to insure that the female is pregnant, as she has only just been put to the male.

And what has that to do with being fitter, well not much really apart from meeting half way meant that I got back home much earlier than I would have done had I gone to SG’s so there was time to get out into the garden. The ground had reached just about perfect to finally hammer in the stakes for the raspberries and the kiwis.

I found my hard hat, an integral part of the process, and took the post rammer round to the posts. My technique is to lift the post rammer and balance it horizontally on my head, hence the hard hat. I can then either tip it onto the posts (as long as they are not more than 5 ft high), or carry it to the next post. Last year I could barely lift the rammer and had to balance it on some steps before getting it onto my head and I only managed two posts before I couldn’t lift it again. This year, I could lift from the ground and managed all 12 posts. I won’t lie and say it was easy but it certainly was nowhere near as difficult as last year. Do I think I will change my mind about getting someone in to put in the posts round the 3-hectare field and do it myself – not on your Nellie!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yes in just 24 hours, the world looks really different.

Toiday started early for me with Hazel bringing in a fast food snack a good couple of hours before I wanted to wake up. This snack was fast enough to get away from her so then she and Cid played chase the mouse round and round the bedroom. I gave up trying to sleep and got up, had a cuppa and read the blogs posted over night. Three quarters of an hour later she finally caught it again so had breakfast and I went back to bed.

The day finally started and it was lovely and sunny and the cold wind had gone. The temperature made it to the high teens by the afternoon, which cheered me, no end. First thing on the agenda was a trip to the garage; I got there but the boss man was away and not due back for half to three quarters of an hour.

No time to do anything at the house so I went round to see how Ann was doing with the dog fencing she’s putting in and to discuss what time I would help her out with the Vide Grenier (it literally translate to empty attic, in other words a car boot) over the weekend. Ann started off by catching and sterilising the 30 or so feral cats and kittens in her tiny village. Now there are thankfully only a few that move into the village and she feeds the sterilised strays but she does also get given kittens found left by the rubbish bins or found in barns too. The money from the Vide Greniers goes a little way to reimbursing her costs.

Back to the garage and the boss man is there. He will look at the car in the afternoon and if it requires a part he will order it and I can bring the car back later in the week. So back home again and as the weather is so lovely it’s time to get the ride-on mower out and see what it’s like after its repair and service. It was oh so much better, no clunking and it felt tight. I was able to whip round the lawn extension – mowing it last week with the walk behind was worth it, and I even had time to do a bit of the front lawn and round the house.

Another cuppa and then it was back to the garage. I left the car there and started on the 9-kilometre walk back to the house. About halfway back I telephoned Eric to arrange a lift back to pick up the car in the evening and he came out and collected me on this trip as well, which was lovely of him. While the weather was lovely and I had had a lovely three quarters of an hour walk, it was nice not to have to do the rest of the walk in the heat especially as I had forgotten any sunscreen. I then showed Eric what needed to be done to put the chickens to bed, as he will be doing that for me this week if I’m not back from my trips in time.

We had only just got round to the chickens when the plumber and electrician appeared, so the final lagging of the pipes and the fitting of the overflow has been done, which means that the first major chunk of updating work has now been completed. The thermostat on the immersion has been turned up – it was just about possible to keep your hand under the hot water in the morning, by the evening the tank was only luke warm. When they had finished I mentioned the stuck screw and that too has been removed. The use of the screwdriver and bit that had been used to put it in and that they were able to lift the sink just enough to get a straight line access to the screw and the job was done.

The shelf isn’t in yet though as they only finished just in time for me to walk round to Eric’s to get my lift to the garage to pick up the car. The verdict on it is that the right rear sensor is faulty so as he thought the brakes are fine, just no ABS. So I will be driving like we used to have to drive cars; be in a suitable gear, anticipate and use progressive braking and lift off and reapply should the wheels lock. The car will go in to have the new sensor fitted on Friday.

While the workmen were here, I took advantage of the lack of wind a managed to burn some of the tree prunings that have been clogging up the front lawn. By the end of the day I was really smoky and it was so nice to be able to get into the shower to get clean – I’d thought to put the immersion on for a couple of hours to make sure the water was hot. Talk about simple luxuries.

I then settled down to watch another episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo for a good giggle and nearly forgot to lock up the chickens. On my way back through the kitchen I saw a slight movement to the right and was just in time to see a cat shape slink past the curtain and into the room that leads to the loft stairs. I called to Mr Tibbs and then walked round and peeked the other side of the curtain. For the first time he had stopped when I called, even though this was also the first time I’d seen him inside the house. The door to the loft has been open for months but if he’s been down, and I’m sure he will have been, he’s only done it when I’m not around or asleep. I told him I’d get some food and went to get it, I turned round and he had followed me back into the kitchen. I put the food down and started to stroke him, eventually sitting on the floor with my legs curled under me. He ate a few pieces of food and then came and curled up against me so I could stroke him. I decided to try something, I lifted him and straightened out my legs and put him on my lap. He didn’t panic at all but just curled up and purred. He is a cat that just wants to be loved.

His coat is now silky although he is still quite skinny and practically all the scabs round his neck, head and in front of his ears have now gone. He, along with the other cats is due the next dose of Stronghold so I hope that he will soon be free of the lasts scabs before long.

Monday, 14 April 2008

DIY Update

Thank you to all for your kind comments on the last post. I’m not really complaining at the workmen. The unit had to be bodged to get the sink to fit, it’s just that if I’d done it, I may have done it differently and I would probably looked at the instructions and hopefully noticed that the shelf had to go in. I didn’t think they were going to have to fit in the corner unit so hadn’t finished it, it was just to give them the size or so I thought and it had been quite a while so couldn’t remember what still had to be done – just one of those things.

And the update, - the screw is still there. I had another go at it this morning and was only succeeding to round the head. I spent a little while on the net looking at removing stuck screws and found that the articles usually related to removing them from metal. I do have one of those screw extractor sets but the information I read said that they are quiet brittle and if they snap then I will have even more problem. Since there isn’t a straight-line access to the screw, I’ll give them a miss.

I decided to finish what I could of the other units; I’m still missing one end unit and a leg from another unit. I suppose I’ll have to go back to Villeneuve to chase those again although whether it will make any difference is open to debate but it will confirm if the order went through this time or not as last time. Cid decided to help, in fact he took over from Snowy who was for a while holding down the other side.

I’ve mulled over what to do about the screw and have decided not to attack the screw itself. I would be in danger of drilling and shattering the sink if I try so I’m going to drill through the unit next to the screw and release the grip that way. It’s in an area that won’t be seen and I can re-screw the units together either side of the current place.

That won’t be until tomorrow though, as today my nose has been streaming. The local TV the other week had run a piece about the large amount of tree pollen at the moment. Not something that worried me, as I don’t get hay fever but…. This is a picture of the top of my water but just after a downpour had washed the roof clean.

And to finish off a picture of the sunset the other day. It wasn’t quite this red really, the camera has rather enhanced that but it was red enough for me to notice the pink light that was pouring into the house and get me to go outside and look at it.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

A Tough Two Days

For tonight’s post, I thought I was going to regale you with pictures of the units around the sink all finished and looking great. Why I should think things would progress smoothly I have no idea, nothing else has but I always live in hope.

So these are the units as left by the plumber and electrician after they had plumbed in the sink and the dishwasher to the right.

All I needed to do was build the small unit that is going to the left of the sink and then put the fronts onto the sink and corner unit. Nothing at all onerous, a couple of hours at the most. But here I am 2 days later and…

Well the small unit is built, that took only and hour or so. Fitting it, well that was another matter entirely. When it was placed beside the sink unit it protruded by over a centimetre. I would have ignored a millimetre or two but a centimetre is a bit much. I first tried to move the sink unit out a bit. To fit the sink, the workmen had to basically vandalise the unit and had therefore removed most of the supporting struts that held the side pieces together. To compensate for this, they had screwed the unit to the wall. Not only was it screwed to the wall, but it had been done before the sink had been put in place. There was only about 2 inches between the screwhead and the sink. I eventually found amongst my father’s old tools a canted screwdriver but being imperial and not metric it did prove the theory but didn’t fit the screwhead.

A quick trip round to Ann and she found a modern equivalent in her tools so back home and start on the screw again. This screw is in a two inch space round the back of the sink, so it was being done by feel. I did try lying on my back under the sink but gave that up after dropping the tools on my face a few times! After about an hour of only being ably to turn the screw a quarter turn at a time, I realised that it had only come out about three quarters of an centimetre and that now the plastic rawlplug was turning as well so nothing was happening. The unit would only move about half a centimetre forward, I was tired and frustrated so went to bed.

This morning I finally looked at it again and realised that to stand any chance of moving the unit any further, forgetting about the screw for a moment, would have required dismantling the waste pipe too and putting in a longer piece. There are no DIY shops open on a Sunday in France so plan B. Ann and Regis came round and we all had a good look at it and decided that moving the sink unit wasn’t feasible so we decided to trim a centimetre off the back of the little unit. With a little bit of jiggling it is all in line and looking good with its drawer in place and the door fitted.

I then looked round for the front pieces for the sink and corner units. That’s when I found the shelf for the corner unit; the shelf that doesn’t fit through the front of the unit but has to be put in from the back.

The rest of the day has been spent trying to remove the two screws that have been used to secure the sink unit to the corner unit. Yes you’ve guessed they were screwed together before the sink was plumbed in and there is only two inches of clearance between the screw head and the sink itself. I finally managed to get one out but have given up for the night on the other. After about an hour of trying I got close to tears and I know I won’t make good decisions. I’ve even tried getting a hacksaw blade between the two units but the screw is doing a really good job of keeping them together.

Tomorrow is another day so maybe I will get lucky and get the last screw to shift.

I really need to, this is my lounge/dining room at the moment, full of all the kitchen stuff and I have a friend arriving in a couple of weeks who will be staying in this room. Still the weather forecast for the next ten days is rain for the majority of the time so I will be indoors and I certainly won’t be bored.