lundi 25 juillet 2016

Photos from last weeks flying visit

It was super hot last week (40 in the shade one day and off the thermometer in the sun). This photo above was at 8.00 in the evening. Still the warmth is at last drying out the chaux chanvre though I'm still a bit concerned that the St Astier chaux appears to be drying to a grey rather than white....we shall see.

The shower tray is installed and shower enclosure built... is the chimney, through the wall, floor and up to ceiling level.

A squirrel in Dartington Gardens

dimanche 17 juillet 2016

Who's at the door?

A brief return to France to meet with Rupert on his annual visit to the Ariege. Very hot (39 in the sun) with clear skies here. A new window for the front door (a reclaimed porthole) and hopefully time to finish the plasterboard and stud work in the shower and under the stairs before I leave on Wednesday.

lundi 4 juillet 2016

Port de Barlonguere

A day in the mountains for first time in 8 months. Surprisingly, I just noticed this is the same walk I did just over 2 years ago (17th July 2014) see here. Much less snow this year and I'm 30 mins slower, but that's not surprising given my inactivity in the mountains over the last few years!

It was blisteringly hot this morning and my dreams of storming up from the valley were quickly downgraded to a steady plod. Just like two years ago my plan had been to climb Pic les Trois Comtes and again I was too knackered. It's a steep haul to the Port de Barlonguere from Pla de Lau and in full sun most of the way. Crossing the river required taking socks and shoes off but this time it was only knee deep.

As I approached the Cabane de Barlonguere there were about 25 isards and I was able to get some great photos and videos. there were even a couple of young.

On leaving the cabane I met two young Frenchmen who had had an accident on the névés above the Etang Long. They were ill-equipped and inexperienced and without sticks or an ice-axe had found it very difficult climbing up to the Port de Barlonguere (perhaps 30 degrees). One of them had slipped and managed to drop his rucksack, which had slipped down the snow and was apparently irretreviable(?) He looked pretty shook up and was evidently too frightened to re-descend to get his bag (though when I met them back at Pla de Lau at the end of the day he said it had fallen under the snow and got wedged?). They said the névé had taken them completely by surprise and was extremely dangerous - they feared a fall would see them in the Etang Long! They asked me if they could call out the mountain rescue to get the bag!!

The reality was just the normal snow slope that persists here in June and July, though I seem to remember being surprised last time by people who were ill equipped for snow, trying to climb it and inviting an accident!

I searched everywhere but was unable to find the rucksack ( I had thought to collect it and carry it down to the Maison de Valier for collection).

 Looking down the névés from the Port de Barlonguere towards the Etang Long

The water in the Etang Long and the lower Etang Rond was deep, cold and beautifully blue. Between 2 and 3 the a few clouds rolled in and cooled the temperatures but not for long.

 Etang Long

 Etang Rond

By the time I reached the Cascade de Nerech it was sweltering again. I was surprised that other than the two frenchman the only other people I saw all day were climbing up to Estagnous Refuge very late in the day (or making very slow progress!).

By the time I got to St Girons it was crazy hot and humid but shortly after a big thunderdtorm rolled in and lasted most the evening.

dimanche 3 juillet 2016

Sun again

I was decided ill yesterday, but today the sun has shone and things feel better! I've reassembled the shed on it's new base and built some steps to access it from the wood shed. With the tractor I topped about half the field in front of the house and also finished off the main connections to the distribution board. 

vendredi 1 juillet 2016

Sun and storms

..but only one soggy girolle.

 Another slab!

jeudi 30 juin 2016

A misty humid day after yesterday's thunderstorm. Spent the morning building formwork and collecting more stones to level the garage floor, then after collecting the concrete mixer from John's with the tractor, I spent the afternoon mixing and pouring.

Second fix electrics underway, chaux chanvre still drying.

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.

4 tonnes of ballast and a tonne of cement

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!