jeudi 31 juillet 2014

France for the summer

Yesterday I was mostly finishing off pieces of work and involved in site meetings but in the afternoon Susie and I headed off into the woods near the house. A good haul of Giroles, Oyster mushrooms and Hedgehog of the Woods (Girolles, Pieds de Moutons et Pleurote en Forme d'Huitres). Showed Susie the mother of all badger sets and she saw her first pyrenean squirrel.


Is that a squirrel?

Strimmed and erected the badminton court today. Tonight is John's birthday party, so Susie is cooking and I'm finishing the last of the work. A camping trip to the mountains soon.

dimanche 27 juillet 2014

jeudi 17 juillet 2014

Port de Barlonguere

8.00 start from Pla de Lau and straight into the stiff climb up the Vallon Peyralade (same route as my climb of Pic de Barlonguere last autumn). 50 minutes saw me out of the trees and into the sun which was already hot. The footbridge opposite the Cabane de Peyralade has been washed away and the snow bridges were all too thin to attempt. A large group which had been staying the cabane opted to stay on the left bank and climb to the Cabane Trincade, crossing higher I up. I knew this was a lot further so after some searching I found somewhere to cross - though it was mid thigh deep!

A helicopter passed me several times dropping supplies for the bergers at the Cabane de Barlonguere.

I got to the col after about 3 hours and it was really hot. I had planed to climb Pic de Trois Comtes to the right of the col, but the view from the col of the Etang Long was too tempting so I opted to descend. Passed some Irish on the steep névés below the col without sticks or ice axes - dragging their kids up! A slip would have been difficult to stop and could have had serious consequences - none of them looked very happy.

Looking down from the col, Mont Valier on the left

The Etang Long was about 80% under snow despite the heat, but quite beautiful.

Great view of the last part of the voie normale up Mont Valier

After lunch at the outfall of the lake, I descended to the Etang Rond, I was sorely tempted to swim but after putting my feet in for a few minutes the cold was decidedly painful.

The long descent of the voie normale of Mont Valier took me back to Pla de Lau - about 6 hours 30 minutes in total, plus lunch.

Flowers today were varied and amazing, including these geraniums and the orchid below

mercredi 16 juillet 2014


Good and hot last. Today was all about clearing up - spare thatch to the barn, waste thatch burned, waste wood cut and stacked for the the fire, lawn cut and raked, rubbish to the tip, scaffolding back to Ian's, grass cut, house cleaned, thatcher back to Toulouse airport.

En route I took Daniel to Joubac to admire the view and take photo's for his wife.

mardi 15 juillet 2014

All done! Dormer day 7 (and a bit)

A long hot day for Daniel today (and slightly less for me).

In the morning I excavated the new path, finished the shuttering and mixed half a tonne of concrete in barrow loads. Then in the afternoon, headed off the site meeting in La Trappe.

Meanwhile, Daniel worked all day on the dormer and finished at 7.00pm. It was a long hot day in the sun for him, but the work of the last 11 days is finally over and it looks great!

The new thatch will slowly change colour over the next 12-18 months to match the existing.

lundi 14 juillet 2014

Thatching starts

Bit of a palava this morning, first of all the thatcher's flight was delayed by 1hr 45mins. Daniel (the thatcher) said they got on board and there was a really strong smell of fuel then they were all evacuated to another plane. Then just as he disembarked at Toulouse, after several public address messages about an abandoned piece of luggage in Hall D, we were all evacuated before we heard the explosion as the offending article was destroyed! Was gone three before we eventually got to Quélébu. 

Daniel made a start with some more dethatching and the first line of reed, whilst I made a start on the last piece of path to the front door (more later).

dimanche 13 juillet 2014

Dormer day 6

Interesting angles in a dormer window!!

samedi 12 juillet 2014

After the big tidy up!

Still some details to do around the window seat, but mostly finished (including some electrics).

vendredi 11 juillet 2014

Slow work re-cladding the inside of the bedroom - I have a crick in my neck from working upside down!
Managed to get out for an hour or so this afternoon to look for mushrooms - found three...have I lost my mushroom mojo? Or are they just a bit thin on the ground at the moment?

Found the most enormous badger set in the woods. About 20 entrances, a vast area trampled free of vegetation and the area was noticeable hollow under foot.

jeudi 10 juillet 2014

Dormer day 5

Having moved the bedroom around I awoke this morning for the first time with a view of the mountains from the bed - bliss! A hot blustery day so set to at 7.00am.

I soon had the remaining rafters up...

...but it took the rest of the day (until 7.30pm) to get the felt, framing and battens fixed. Thatcher arrives Monday to add 30cm of thatch.

Weather looks much better now - 20 degrees this week and 30 degrees next so hopefully I can get a day on the hill. The inside of course all needs doing at some point!

mercredi 9 juillet 2014


Rainy today, so a forced rest day - no bad thing as I'm knackered! Sorted out what I'm going to do with the bedroom internal finishes, went to St Girons for provisions and materials and progressed the window seat/storage units in Jasper and Ruby's bedrooms.

Weather better tomorrow.

mardi 8 juillet 2014

Dormer day 4

Back to good weather today, so after sorting out a planning permission at the Mairie, Ii resumed work on the dormer. First job was to finish making the opening in the roof.

Next job was to insert new rafters to frame the opening (the old rafters aren't in the right place or even square to the roof). The rafters have to be threaded between the existing battens, the purlins and some internal finishes which I can't remove. It's a tight squeeze!

First problem was that I realised the space formed by the existing rafters isn't regular. The old rafters are tree trunks - they taper along their length, they are also bent (sagging). I don't have my circular saw here so had to use the chainsaw to rip the new rafters into shape.

Second problem was getting them in. The projected line of the rafters doesn't clear the top of the wall, so when I threaded the rafters into their new location they got stuck with about a foot to go on top of the wall! nothing for it but brute force.

Third problem was that because the roof sags, although the upper part of the new rafter was perfectly aligned with the old one, at the bottom the new rafter continued the pitch line of the upper roof and ended up way to low relative to the wall plate. As in the photo below.

Again brute force seemed to be the only option. the roof is certainly stiffer now!

 Before the end of the day I got the first dormer rafter up too.

If the weather behaves tomorrow I should get the remaining roof structure up and watertight - just in time as the eyelets on the tarpaulin are ripping out.

lundi 7 juillet 2014


The heavens opened last night (and most of today). The tarpaulin kept the rain out but the drumming of the heavy rain made for little sleep - even when I retreated to bedrooms in the new part of the house.

Today was all about fetching materials. Two trips to St Girons, the second in John and Sandrine's Peugeot Partner to get the 5m rafters - too long for my tiny Suzuki Jimny.

Poor photo but you can see the cut bars which hold down the thatch wired back to the battens, new rafter to insert under the cut battens when I get closer to the ridge.

As rain has halted thatch progress I've made a start on the desk/window seat/storage units in Jasper and ruby's bedrooms

Back in the UK, Susie found us a new house! Tomorrow is her driving test - good luck love xx

dimanche 6 juillet 2014

Dormer day 3

After rebuilding and generally tidying up the stone reveals to the window (inside and out) I went to Ian's. He's lent me the scaffolding for the thatcher. Lunch here together and good long chat, sandrine joined us later and after putting the world and our lives to right, I'm heading over to see Justin, Emily, Thea and Mila - it's the twins birthday.

Back in Totnes, susie is trying to find us a new house to rent as our landlady is selling. Good luck love.

samedi 5 juillet 2014

Dormer day 2

An early start and good weather.

Getting the first thatch out took some pulling.

All the removed thatch is carefully sorted and tied into bundles.

As the thatch is removed the steel bars holding it all down are exposed, these have to be cut with bolt croppers. The ends left are razor sharp as I soon found out - two really deep cuts across the back of my fingers and right through the nail of my "unlucky" little finger - yet again.

First view out to Mont Valier - it's been about 8 years since I saw this from the bedroom.

Dormer frame in place...still a lot to do.

From inside and a good deep window seat.

The view from the dormer : )