Saturday 15 March 2008

Picture Parade

The house is still undergoing rewiring and there are cables trailing all over the place from the remaining sockets that work to wherever power is needed, and that’s how it is staying over the weekend. I have the car back so now have some food although no cooker yet. The cooker socket is in but I still need the cable to the cooker, (it doesn’t come with the cooker in France as you are supposed to get an electrician to install it), and the socket still needs to go live.

My distribution panel has gone from this, with only one full line of fuses, and a couple hanging out of the second line to this, complete with circuit breaker and lightening protector. The water pump is also being run through the panel rather that directly off the current into the house (insert goodness knows how many exclamation marks here) so I will now be able to isolate it at the house rather than throw the main switch. For some reason it has 4 switches not 3, which I would have expected, one for each phase plus a spare. Sometime when I’m bored I’ll have an Internet search into what the 4th is for.

Yesterday was a wonderful day here, the sun was shining and it was 20°C in the shade. I made the most of it and spent a good part of the day outside planting the first of my seed. I might be a couple of weeks too early so I only planted a few of each variety but still planted 25 different types.

Finding small seed trays was quite difficult last year but I’ve got round this by saving icecream tubs. A candle and old skewer make easy work of piercing drainage holes and they are thick enough plastic to withstand the UV, unlike the small trays I did find. I also find I lose the labels I’ve pre-written so ended up planting them in a bowl of gravel. I’ve also got a few of these as small seed planters.

I found these during my stint as a supermarket shelf stacker (yet another of my talents), they are used to transport and display tubes of denture cleaner.

I also re-potted my strawberry plants and found that they are already setting fruit. Also on the patio, my myrtle bush has burst into flower along with the plum tree. I shall have to take a trip out and photograph the plum orchards in bloom, as they are a wonderful sight.

Thursday 13 March 2008

The House Progresses

I’m not good at mornings at the best of times and all this week I’ve had to get up early as the electricians have been here. The worse thing is that because I have to be up earlier than usual, I keep waking up to see if I’ve overslept! I think I will sleep next week – but I expect the weather will improve so I will be working outside instead.

But, the new electrics are progressing well; the old wiring was either 40+ years old or DIY and somewhere along the line, the earth wire was omitted to most of the outlets. I’m having all the wiring replaced. It will be surface mounted partly because the house has many different types of walls but more importantly, cost.

In order to place sockets my one piece of kitchen work surface, a tile topped concrete monstrosity had to go. No problem in the grand scheme of thing but as the replacement units won’t be built for a while, I have no work surface. I also had to remove tiles from the wall by the work surface. On one wall they came off like a dream on the other, they wouldn’t budge. Eventually the chisel did its job and I came off relatively unscathed too. One fragment of the glazed surface embedded itself in the top of my foot – yes I know sandals were not the best things to be wearing, it’s just that I tend to forget I’m wearing them, and I only hit the back of my had twice with the hammer, thank goodness for arnica gel.

You can also see in the picture, my new pride and joy. It’s the wood burning range cooker that arrived on Wednesday, it's still boxed to protect it from bits of flying tiles and concrete. It can’t be installed until a radiator is removed – don’t ask me when, this is France! By the time the electrician goes though, I should have a working electric cooker. I should also be pretty close to having hot water too, I’m waiting for the immersion to be sent and then it will be when I can get a plumber here to connect it all together. I also can’t use the wood burner cooker as a cooker until the plumbing is sorted as the back boiler needs to be full of water first otherwise it will be damaged.

So there is very definite progress, I can then get cracking on the rest of the kitchen units once I have the house back. At the moment, some rooms have power while others don’t. The cats have gone into hiding since they are used to just me being here and I’ve not seen Mr Tibbs all week although his food is being eaten overnight.

I’ve also been car-less all week. It went in for a service on Monday and the mechanic at this garage realised that the timing belt was due changing. So it will be an expensive service but it’s cheaper than having the belt fail and forking out for a new engine. While I only just need to go shopping today, I’ve missed having the car there, as I feel a bit trapped. With the price of oil continuing its rise I’ve been wondering about getting a couple of donkeys. While the TV people were on strike (yes another strike in France) the local bulletins were filled with items they had in stock. One I saw showed a couple of donkeys being used to pull felled trees from a wood, and I thought about getting trees down from my wood, and they can also be used to pull a cart to get to town – a possibility for the post peak oil times.

And in the tradition of all news programmes today, this is the ‘and finally’ item.

Most of the peach and nectarine trees in people’s gardens here have bags of eggshells hanging in them. I’m told it’s to counteract leaf curl so I’ve hung a bag into the nectarine tree I have that I know has a lot of leaf curl. Has anyone else heard of this and do you know how/why it should work?

Monday 10 March 2008

It Rains Here Too

But not as much as it has been in the UK. Thankfully only the tail end of the storm is passing Lot et Garonne.

First, a few ‘catch up’ pictures. Saturday I tried to clear up as much of the wood as I could off the front lawn. This is the second trip to the new woodpile, the first load was piled well above the level of this one. There is still one tree’s worth of pruning to clear that I somehow managed to miss. Quite a feat since it is the 6ft top of the plum tree.

Next is Mr Tibbs. He just adores having his head scratched. He’s been away again for a couple of days, but I think he comes in late at night as I hear him pass over the roof of my bedroom. I hope he isn’t too put off by the electrical work going on in the loft and decides to move out. The dose of Stronghold I gave him has made a marked improvement in the state of his skin. He had a myriad of small scabs round his neck and back; from I assume flea bites, and scabs in front of his ears which I though were due to ear mites. These scabs have nearly all healed and his profile is also much better so I think we’ve dealt with a lot of worms too. His fur is now soft and silky too and he’s beginning not to wolf his food, but still no joy in him coming down to the house.

The alpacas have now had 4 out of their 5 doses of the coccidian treatment. After two days of trying to squirt the liquid down their throats from a syringe and covering myself in the process, I decided to try a different method. I mixed the powder with a little water to make a paste and then mixed in some of the granules they love. Day one of that was yesterday and it was only so so. The alpacas don’t really like change so they wouldn’t eat from the bowls with the measured out medication. Eventually, Ashan took some from my hand and I eventually got him to take his dose. Silver, his mum, then got jealous so she then ate hers. Chestnut decided to eat a bit from my hand but he really prefers to eat off the ground. Noisette however is nervous of everything and won’t eat from my hand and won’t eat unless the others are eating too. But we got there in the end. Today was a little easier; it was only Noisette to deal with. In the end, I got all the others out of the pen and put her food on the ground and threw the others some non-medicated food on the ground the other side of the pen and she ate hers. Success, they’ve had two nearly full doses at least.

This evening as I went round and shut the barn I saw the end of a rainbow over the next town.

Potato Question

What do you do with a sack full of potatoes that are starting to wither and growing long sprouts? I’m doing my best to eat them but there is only so much tartiflette I can eat.

The compost bin is out since I know it’s not very hot and I don’t want to grow potatoes there and I’d prefer not to put them in the bin. So any suggestions welcome please.

Sunday 9 March 2008

Another Weekend, Another Village Meal

This time it was at the neighbouring village of Monviel. Monviel supports a village in Mali, France still has strong ties with its former empire, and each year they hold a fund raising meal. I know they do more than just the meal and every year a group goes out to Mali from the village but it was just to noisy to hear about it. It was Ann's 5th anniversary since moving into her house so we were celebrating that as well.

The meal itself was really good, although some of my companions weren’t so happy. They wouldn’t eat seafood and didn’t like rice. Poor things, they didn’t realise that the main part of the meal was a paella. Suffice to say it was extra mussels and squid for me. Grins from ear to ear!

So the meal; the starter was garlic soup, very enjoyable but would I have wanted more than a bowl? Jury is out on that, it’s not that it was very garlicky more it was a bit too creamy. It’s difficult to put my finger on it, I’ll just have to try it again next year. The paella, and none of your ‘Birds Eye’ frozen here, then followed this. Walking in I spotted the meter plus diameter paella dish. The saffron spiced rice was full of chicken, whole mussels, large prawns, squid and crab claw, well that’s what I found on my plate. It was delicious. To follow that was the inevitable dressed lettuce with some cheese and do you know, I’m really getting into this as a palette cleanser, it’s really refreshing. Then the sweet, cornetto (as ever) and a sort of apple flan all finished off with coffee.

I finally got home at a little past midnight so no early start here today. Rain has just started so it will be a tidy up day. Just as well since the electrician is due at 8:30 tomorrow morning.