mercredi 29 juin 2016

Escape to Europe

After the disastrous UK vote to leave the EU, I have escaped the depression and the UK to home in France. The kiwi plants have finally got going and there are even a couple of flowers though I think it will next year before we get any fruit.

The chanvre-chaux is still drying, probably another 4 weeks at least. In the meantime I've pressed on with second fix electrics. The ballast and cement have arrived to concrete the floor of the garage now I've levelled it a bit more and there's more plasterboard to finish the enclosure for the shower and under stairs cupboard, which I transported to the barn just before the heavens opened with a big thunderstorm.

mercredi 22 juin 2016

Bye bye Jazz, hello Shogun Pinin

Hopefully a replacement for the Suzuki Jimny too - just need to get some headlamps for driving on the right and a "certificat de conformité" from Mitsubishi France for which they charge the outrageous some of 250 euros (it's effectively a copy of the information on the UK registration document).

mercredi 8 juin 2016

Chaux chanvre finished!

 4-6 weeks to completely dry, by which time it should be a light straw colour.

dimanche 5 juin 2016

After taking Susie back to the airport there was just time to shutter and pour the concrete for the porch slab, which got rid of the last of the gravel and sand stacked in front of the barn.

After finishing the last of the first coat chaux-chanvre in the entrance and bathroom I tried my hand at some second coat with a much smoother finish. Not easy to get the surface compact and smooth without pulling the bits of chanvre from the surface, but overall I'm pleased. Think I might need to make a slurry of chaux to wash over the surface to fill some of the tiny holes.

Phil and I have been pressing on the last few days...slowly we're getting the walls covered but it's slow and tiring work...too much of the same thing everyday can be hard. Mother of all rainstorms this evening that has given the barn a moat.

samedi 4 juin 2016

After finishing the first coat of chaux chanvre in the main room of the gite and with it being Susie's last day here, we decided to go for a walk on Thursday afternoon. Sandrine was back from her photography exhibition in Paris, so she and Deetcha (the dog) joined us.

We headed up to Les Courtals on the ridge opposite the house, then followed the watershed through Coumes and along the Serre de Rapheau, passing the Col de Sausech before descending to the stream which drains the valley around Aliou. A short climb up to Galas d'en bas (where a couple of houses have been beautifully restored recently) and then Galas d'en haut, before passing close to Coumarba, heading to the little grange above Bosc de la Coste. From here we descended to the Ruisseau below Quelebu and rather than climb back to there we headed on a more or less straight line through the woods to Pinsou and a well earned glass (or two) of wine and devoured John's "bombay mix" much to his chagrin.

 Spiked Rampion

 On the Serre de Raphaeu

 Acacia blossom everywhere

 Galas d'en bas

 Meadow flowers

After taking susie back to the airport it was on with some concrete mixing for the entrance porch, interrupted by a very brief thunderstorm.

mardi 31 mai 2016

Back to France to find all the works undertaken by Jean Marc Sentenac complete. A few hours were required making cable connections and levelling the rocks and bits of concrete slab in the in the garage, whilst Susie set to tidying and planning the garden.

 Susie's Wisteria

Garage floor starting to be levelled out ready for concreting

Our first job was to prepare the walls of the gite for the chaux chanvre with a splatterdash coat of sand and lime which the french call a "gobetis" Susie and I donned our disposable boiler suits and glasses (the lime is quite caustic) and in an afternoon we had covered all the walls.

Susie and I putting on the the "gobetis" or splatterdash

Whilst we waited for it to dry and for the delivery of chaux and chanvre we tidied up around the gite, built a fence and set up some hinge pins where we can hang the middle shutters of the kitchen window when not required to open up the view from inside...a small but noticeble improvement tot he view from the kitchen. 

Middle shutters removed from the kitchen

External works at the gite

The tonne of chaux and 13 bales of chenevot arrived and after unloading and then transporting to the barn we commenced the chaux chanvre with Phil from the Moulin d'Aleu who I'd roped in to help us. Our first was carefully prepared following the instructions but was way too runny. We were at a bit of a loss as to what to do as it wouldn't stick to the walls. Eventually I went to see Lionel who was working at chez Philippe and Sophie's and he suggested pressing the mix onto the wall rather than throwing it. This seemed to work a bit better, but over the course of three more mixes and by weighing the chanvre, we arrived at a good mix which we can throw or smear as the location dictates. This first coat is 2-3 cm thick and left rough, ready to receive a second coat which we will have to polish with a "taloche" to make it smooth.

Chenevot or chopped chanvre

 First coat of chaux chanvre....what a job!

dimanche 22 mai 2016

Assainissiment, joints, placoplatre, arbres, l'eau et l'éléctricité

It's been all go with the (unscheduled) arrival of Jean-Marc Sentenac to install the fosse septique and services. In two days almost everything is in place with just the cables to be pulled and the excavations to be refilled. In addition we've installed the water main, moved pile of huge chestnut tree trunks and felled and removed the large dead chestnut.

Inside the gite I've finished 95% of the plasterboarding, completed all the pointing and just a some first fix plumbing to do before Susie and I can start the chaux-chanvre on Monday week.

lundi 16 mai 2016

Blue tits nesting in the wall of the barn....the parents are both frantically feeding the new chicks. They arrive and depart so fast the shutter just can't open fast enough, it took 65 photos and 45 minutes to get a couple of reasonable ones.

dimanche 15 mai 2016

Cette entretien provisoire a fait par Orange (France Telecom) en mai 2010. 6 années plus tard il est encore la. Peut etre c'est pourquoi je perds ma connexion internet 4 ou 5 fois par jour?

samedi 14 mai 2016

Back to a France, raining today but the weather set to improve. As usual this time of year the everywhere is very green and even though I've only been away a couple of weeks the grass has grown 12 inches. The crop of dandelions keeps the bullfinches happy.

In the barn I found a black redstart's nest with 5 eggs (one removed in the photo). I'm not sure when it made it or how it got in but the eggs are cold and there's no sign of the parents.

The fields and newly laid hedges are full of life and the kiwi's are at last getting going with some new shoots from the base of the plants.

Lots of pointing to be done this trip which is already underway and hopefully the plasterboarding too.

lundi 2 mai 2016

Sprung and East Prawle

Susie's last SPRUNG dance show at KEVICC last week. Two nights of beautiful contemporary dance and many lovely tributes to Susie (who set up the dance department 16 years ago). Some of her ex-students, now professional dancers, came back to perform at the Thursday night show.

Susie's Improvisation

Saskia and Maya dance their piece "Kylian Style"

Scenes from Susie's choreography - "Window Dresser" - for the Rambert competition

Lewis and Anders - Alumnii now professional dancers perform for Susie's last "Sprung" dance show

On the bank holiday afternoon a walk with the Dare's at East Prawle visiting the remains of the wreck of "The Demetrios" which hit the rocks there in 1992.