Last week’s blog said that I hoped to be able to progress and, potentially even, empty the man shed. I am delighted to say that I have managed to do that and a little bit more, as we have even started the demolition.
This project will make a huge difference to us in a number of ways. We found that when I finished the storeroom above Grange the ability to store all of our ‘stuff’ in one place, especially everything which was required when we change the gîtes around, made life so much easier and more efficient. Having a larger, better arranged shed will do the same for all of my DIY equipment and mean that we can conduct maintenance and redecoration much more easily.
The plan is to rebuild the shed in exactly the same style as we have built Grange so making that whole part of the garden look more organised and planned. The rebuild will give us a much larger shed but also a larger parking area for Hayloft as cars are getting bigger and bigger it will allow our guests to park without protruding onto the drive.
The new shed will also give Mouse a more permanent, secure, home. While she is an outdoor cat she is incredibly affectionate and, for whatever reason, has been more so in the last few days. She likes being around us if we are working outside but really doesn’t like sleeping anywhere her mother has been. Her mother is owned by our neighbours but, as Mouse, lives outside. We don’t however think her mother is fed or has a place to sleep so she has become a bit of a nuisance and can be quite aggressive towards Mouse. Because Mouse can only sleep where any other cat can access, it does mean that all her comfy ‘beds’ have been visited by her mother so she won’t go back to them. Recently she has taken to sunbathing in an old granite sink – can’t be very comfy!
However, all that is a few weeks off. This week has been focussed on clearing out the inside and trying to be disciplined over what I keep and what I dispose of. Generally my approach is to keep anything ‘just in case’ but it does mean that we have a lot of things which need storing. As such it took until Friday to empty the shed completely. Oddly, the emptied shed appeared a lot smaller than it did when very cluttered. To think that I have about 3 garage bays of stuff to put back in when re-built is daunting!
Having emptied it, it became evident just what a poor state it was in. Of the 8 posts holding the roof up, 4 had rotted through at the base completely and were providing absolutely no support and many of the cladding planks were completely rotten. I wondered if a good gust from Storm Callum passing might help me finish the job but, to its credit, as I was removing all the old screws and nails as I went, in a couple of places the shed put up a good fight.
On the positive side, the cladding was made of the offcuts from a local saw mill so are mostly oak. They will make some great kindling although will take me days to cut up. With all the wood offcuts we have generated with the garage build, and will do with the shed, there is probably a week’s worth of work chopping but months’ worth of kindling when done.
The roof is the last thing to come off which I hope to do this week and I am looking for the best way of disposing it – sadly it is all the old roofing asbestos sheets so may prove problematic. I also need to find a way to temporarily waterproof a blocked up door to Hayloft as we don’t want damp to get in. More pressingly I should probably now go and buy some new material with which to start the rebuild. Famous last words I know but it shouldn’t take too long once I make a start!
I did manage to do a couple of other tasks in the week. As I thought, I got the grass cut or, more accurately, flattened out the many molehills and cut the small amount of lawn between them. A ‘project’ for next year trying to eradicate moles from the garden – it’s not as though there aren’t enough fields around us for them to burrow under.
I also visited our local quarry for a trailer of gravel and to order our first lorry load which arrives tomorrow morning to start gravelling around Grange. One lorry is 13 tonnes, it will be interesting to see how much we ultimately need for the whole drive but I think in the region of 50. Thankfully that probably won’t be until next year when I can empty all the garage bays – I just need a new man shed!
Finally, this weekend is also a lovely one as the kitchen is full of amazing smells as David has started his Christmas cooking. Chutneys and piccalilli today and cakes and mincemeat to come. We love the smells almost as much as the finished produce and our Christmas guests have a real treat to look forward to.
More shed work next week!
I posted last week’s blog a little early as I mentioned that we had a fun event arranged and, for a similar reason, I am posting this week’s blog a little late!
Last Sunday night David and Belinda had arranged an end-of season BBQ and party to mark the conclusion of a busy and successful summer period. Belinda, and her husband Andrew, have been running the campsite on the shore of the Lac du Drennec for a similar length of time as we have owned Kergudon but, unlike us, they close over the winter and return to the UK.
Mercedes was kind enough to allow us to use her restaurant, Au Lac, for the event and we had invited a number of other business owners involved in the tourist industry with other friends. It was a fantastic evening and, if I say it myself, one of the better BBQs I have cooked, helped by some fabulous foods brought along by the attendees. A massive thank you to everyone who made it, and to Mercedes for providing the location and her usual generosity.
Having said ‘good bye’ to David’s aunt and uncle on the Thursday before, last Sunday we welcomed my own aunt and uncle for their very first visit to Kergudon and the BBQ was a great way to welcome them.
With my uncle and aunt here it may not have been the most productive week as we enjoyed some very leisurely breakfasts together and some super dinners both courtesy of David and our local eateries.
The weather all week has been exceptionally kind, with the exception of a wet and windy Saturday, and I did manage to cut the grass for the first time in a while, and if the forecast is to be believed I will be able to do so again next week.
With the dry weather I have been able to split another load of our stacked wood and added it to the temporary store – although we have not yet lit our own wood burner this year I suspect it will be soon.
The other major task I have started was (fanfare please) starting to clear out the existing man shed. This picture shows the state that it has become – on one end! I have only managed to do about a day and a half’s worth of work and, unsurprisingly, that hasn’t made a huge dent in the clearance! I should however be able to progress fairly rapidly this week.
Yesterday’s weather was pretty awful so I had to concentrate on some online work and update a number of the websites that we advertise through – seems a bit scary already looking at August 2019!
Today was another fabulous autumnal day, although again not very constructive. We joined one of David’s good friends who attends many of his classes in the gym, to celebrate his birthday with a dog walk – ours and his – around the Lac du Drennec and lunch at Au Lac (our 3rd visit this week!)
As previous years, they started using the water in the lake towards the end of the summer and, as it has been such a dry summer, the level has dropped incredibly. These images show the lake either side of the, normally, floating bridge. During our walk we saw our friend, Philippe Dolivet, fishing with some of his clients who actually caught a huge fish while we were watching – perhaps the level was so low there isn’t much room for the fish to hide!
Sadly, we said goodbye to my aunt and uncle on Thursday and we are now relative-free, although very pleasingly, both Granary and Hayloft welcomed new guests yesterday. Being on our own should mean that I have a more productive week next week and may just get the man shed emptied.
At the end of last week’s blog I said, again, that I hoped this week I would have started cutting and clearing some of the wood that we have cut and is lying around the ‘estate’. Now is a good time as we continue to enjoy some fantastic weather in the daytime, clear dry and occasionally warm. However, in the evening and overnight it is increasingly obvious that autumn is nearly with us as the temperature falls away quickly.
I am pleased to say that I have started, but I haven’t got anywhere near as far as I’d have hoped!
The first thing I thought it would be sensible to do was make a small amend to the wood store that I constructed earlier in the year. When I put the roof on, I had hoped that butting the metal sheeting as close to the back wall and under the cladding plank above it, would be sufficient to prevent the rain getting in. However, it hadn’t proved as effective as I had hoped. After a heavy rain shower, especially from the south west where it is facing, the rain that hits and falls down the rear of the building continues into the wood bays getting the back wall and firewood damp.
To address this I have now added a strip of damp proof membrane to cover the gap. This was more challenging than I had anticipated as I wanted to slide it between the cladding planks to make sure it held in place, and the cladding planks didn’t want me to! Thankfully, I eventually won the battle, and it is place although, as it hasn’t rained since I don’t know if it will work! No reason why not, but equally, I am not sure how UV tolerant the membrane is so it may be only a short-term fix.
When this was done I started splitting some of the wood we generated when we felled the large trees on our boundary to allow us to build Grange. The branches had been cut into large logs by the tree surgeon but, as we hadn’t anywhere to store them properly in the dry they have been lying outside since they were felled in December 2015. The pictures on the link show just how much that area has changed in the last 3 years.
Having been outside all this time, and some of it directly on the ground, it has, unsurprisingly, started to rot. On the upside this has made splitting it easier than I had anticipated but, has also meant that it doesn’t have the same heat potential as firewood as it used to. The other dilemma it as given me is … where to store it.
I am probably being super cautious, or just paranoid, but I am very reluctant to store wood which has started to rot in my wooden woodstore behind our wooden garage. While all the cladding and structural timbers are treated I really don’t want to risk introducing rot or gnawing insects if I can help it. As such, and very reluctantly, we have had to extend the life of the ‘temporary’ woodstore where I have stored what I have split so far. We will look for a more permanent temporary solution in the spring!
If anyone has any advice or reassurance on the above I would be very interested to hear.
The other jobs we have done this week have tended to be smaller but no less important. Having cleared one of the garage bays earlier, principally so Dave’s uncle and aunt could use it for their open top car when they visited us last week, it has also allowed us to protect some of our garden items over the winter. For the first time ever our large BBQ and chiminea have been put into ‘storage’ so will be protected for the winter and, next year when the remainder of the bays will be empty (promise!) all of the garden furniture will also be afforded better protection.
As you can also see, I have built some new shelving units. These are not a permanent feature, there at least, but this week one of the brico stores have an amazing offer on them. Again, now that the garage bay is free I can start (finally) to empty the old ramshackle manshed, put all of the items on these shelves, and when done start its demolition and rebuild. This will be a huge step forward and will be my major autumn / winter (/ spring?) project. The shelves will then be used in the finished shed – perfect!
Having put our BBQ into storage for the winter it gave us the ideal opportunity to clear our own back terrace completely. While we have been using the terrace for the last couple of years, not the first as it was an absolute state, it was still a dumping ground for a number of items that we hadn’t got around to dealing with.
Unfortunately, we haven’t taken a ‘before’ picture of the terrace but the walls were covered in ivy; there was a large self-set ash tree growing next to the building; there was a pile of large slates which the previous owner had cut from the wall; and numerous pieces of old, increasingly rotten, garden furniture that we had inherited.
The old garden furniture is now in the wood store waiting to be burned; the slate is on the slate pile for the next wall which will inevitably be built; and with our own furniture under its tarpaulin the cleared space looks HUGE. It is certainly in the best state it has ever been in – at least since we moved in and probably before!
Finally, I have planted the last of my lonicera cuttings in the new bed we have created on the back entrance. Initially, I wanted to buy some more well established plants which would have given us a greater impact immediately. However, I was persuaded to use the remaining cuttings we took in 2016. They are not in a great state as have used all the stronger ones elsewhere and these have been a little neglected in the drought this year but lonicera is a tough old plant and, most importantly, they are free! They have 2 chances, and if they die we can replace them in the spring.
I am posting this early as we have a fun engagement tonight which I will tell you about next week – with all the work that I will be up to in, what looks to be another dry week.
As hoped in last week’s blog, I have now finished building the wall to the east side of the back entrance. We are really pleased with how it’s turned out and, so far, it hasn’t settled anywhere near as much as the west side did. One of the lessons I learned from building the wall opposite is that I needed to compact the soil much more to minimise the amount that it would settle, and having done so, after a couple of days rain, it hasn’t collapsed in as much as previously.
The only task I have left to finish this completely is to install the light to mirror the opposite side. We were planning on giving this a couple of weeks to see what sort of settling would happen so that it would go on a more stable platform. After that it is just a case of gravelling the drive and allowing the grass to grow on the exterior side.
The second, and only other task, I completed was one that I had hoped to do for a couple of years. Since we had moved here there was a large water butt behind Granary collecting the runoff from one area of the roof. We had repositioned another butt, of the same size (500L) next to the first but had neither connected the 2 together nor moved them slightly away from the wall to prevent it soaking the back of Granary.
Granary, and our own house, doesn’t (yet) have a gutter on the rear roof, so when it rains, as it has been known to here in Brittany, it cascades down the back of the building. When the water butt was positioned next to the wall the cascade of water splashed back onto the wall soaking into the slate and lime mortar. I had always wanted to both attach a gutter but, more quickly and easily, simply move the water butt away from the wall. It has taken this long to get around to doing so and to connect the second butt to the first so they fill at the same time.
Generally this would have been a very rapid job but, water being a precious commodity this summer, I didn’t want to just tip away what we had managed to store so it took almost a day to use the water in the butts to revive the yew plants we have added to the boundary before I could start changing the pipes.
Now, with the 3 butts we have plumbed in to collect water off the roof of Grange, we have very nearly 3500 litres of storage – would have been great for the garden this summer!
We welcomed David’s aunt and uncle back to Kergudon at the end of the week and made the most of the social side of Breton life. On Saturday we visited the annual Commana Horse Fair, and today was the Saint Cadou Cochon Grillé (Pig Roast). Unfortunately, and almost predictably, having taken ages to water the yews on Wednesday, the last couple of days have been the wettest we have had for weeks which pretty much wrote off the horse fair.
Friday, before the storm passed through, we travelled to Primel Trégastel, on the north coast, to have lunch at a restaurant recommended to Dave by a couple of people at his gym. The restaurant, La Cameline, was excellent and very traditional. For a Friday lunchtime the 4 of us made us 36% of the clientele which, although it didn’t lead to rapid service, the food was very good and, with the view over the bay we would recommend it.
The horse fair on Saturday would have been excellent other than the driving rain. Commana is one of the highest villages in Brittany and very exposed so when it is the slightest bit wet and windy Commana gets it. Sadly, this meant that the market stalls were closing up just after lunch and it wasn’t so pleasant to eat from the food stands. On the up-side it meant that having looked at the horses, cows and fancifully coloured ducks (which we don’t remember from before) we had to go to Au Lac for lunch!
One year we will be in a position to buy some chickens and ducks for our own menagerie but not for a while.
Thankfully today’s Pig Roast wasn’t as badly affected as everyone could eat in the Salle des Fêtes and it was another great afternoon of Breton music and entertainment.
As I write this the weather has vastly improved and it is now a lovely evening. The forecast is good for the remainder of the week so I will be able to do a number of tasks outside. Having ordered 2 new chains for the chainsaw I hope to, eventually, start cutting the wood we have lying around but I remember saying that for the last couple of weeks …
This week’s blog will be fairly short as it has been focussed entirely on one task, building the wall on the east side of the north gate. The photos will look more impressive if compared to last week’s images.
It has proven to be a slow task for a number of reasons but, other than a day off for poor weather and another changing gîtes around, I have managed to make a little progress every day. Our neighbour was kind enough to allow is to collect a trailer-load of soil on Monday which allowed me to start. I had hoped that a single trailer of soil would be sufficient but evidently wildly underestimated the volume needed because, this morning I finished a second trailer full and we still need a little more to finish the job.
Another reason that it is taking a little longer is that, amazingly, it is getting harder to find the right pieces of slate needed to build a strong and stable wall. Up to now, I have principally been using pieces which were previously an ‘L’ shaped dry wall built to form a wood shed that I demolished to build Grange. We understand that before these stones were used to build a wood store they were part of an old stable which was behind Granary. The advantage of these is that had been cut to provide at least 1 smooth face and were generally a fairly regular shape so stacked easily.
Unfortunately, with all the walls that I have been building, I have now nearly exhausted my supply of these convenient shapes. As a result I am having to use more irregular shapes and need to be more imaginative in how to stack them.
However, while it is being quite slow we are very pleased with how it is turning out and should, hopefully, only need another day’s effort to complete.
We are delighted that again, all of our gîtes are occupied. This weekend we have been hosting a group of guests, including the bride and groom, of a large wedding that took place in the village yesterday. Will make for a busy day tomorrow when they depart and we welcome new guests in 2 of our gîtes but as we are enjoying some lovely late summer sun, hopefully our new guests will also have a great time.
Next week for me is finishing the wall, finally, and hopefully cutting some wood and starting to clear the large piles we have been accumulating in time for when the cold comes!
Looking back at last week, it has been one when we have been occupied with the routine matters of maintenance and running the business. I can’t recall a time, other than perhaps today, when we haven’t been doing something, but there are no major projects completed.
Coming to the end of the summer season, with children already back at school, we are delighted that we continue to be busy and have welcomed a number of couples to Kergudon with all bar one of our gîtes occupied this week.
David’s cooking has remained exceptionally popular all summer and again last week with 2 suppers prepared in the week and another tonight – he will be applying for his Michelin star soon!
Of the 3 tasks I listed in last week’s blog for this week, I spent more time on the weeding and gardening than any other. This included continuing to cut hedges. I know, I said last week that I had completed this biannual task, but perhaps I should have put the caveat that I meant all of the visible hedges.
Before people question what an invisible hedge is, I meant those that are more hidden away. Those behind Grange are a challenge to cut due to accessibility and thorns, both of the holly and hawthorn hedge but also the brambles from next door! The first I will try and improve when I knock down the old man-shed, the latter I will need to access our neighbour’s field to hack away at the very overgrown weeds.
Sadly, those brambles didn’t have any blackberries on but we took the dogs for a walk today to harvest some. Sadly, in our usual spot the brambles had suffered hugely from the drought and the fruit was dry and shrivelled. However, when we walked home, we found the plumpest and ripest fruit on brambles behind Stable.
In our first year a similar thing happened when we found the best blackberries on the brambles behind Granary. Unfortunately those brambles that were in an unkempt part of the garden which are no longer there as we removed them as we try to improve the grounds. While the brambles behind Stable also have great fruit – they are also brambles which will eventually be removed as we improve that corner of Kergudon.
I didn’t make as much progress on the gate wall that I’d like. It took the best part of 2 days to create enough space before I started to build the wall. This involved removing a very old and very rotten tree stump on the lane side. This came out of the old talus very easily but has left a very large gap. This will help my finish the new wall attractively but will mean we need a lot of soil as well. Our neighbour has kindly offered to give us another trailer-load of top soil as she did when we created the jungle bed.
The other major task was to cut down the sycamore which was growing out of the top of the talus. Sycamores grow like weeds and, as most, this wasn’t a ‘planned’ tree but a self-set which had grown multiple trunks which you will see in last week’s, and previous, photos – and sadly will continue to shoot forever! Harder to tackle was the huge root ball which had grown around the slate and rock and would not have given me enough space for the new wall to be built.
Having cleared the space there was a little delay in starting to lay the rock. I had identified 2 huge quartz blocks to be the bottom corners of the wall but I couldn’t move them on my own. With Dave’s back on the mend, but not quite at full strength I didn’t want to risk a delay to recovery so waited until his training partner came yesterday afternoon to assist us move them. Now in place they will provide a firm base for the remainder of the wall that I will, definitely, begin next week when we have collected the soil.
Firstly, apologies for not posting a blog last night. We have been hosting Dave’s parents for the last week and took the opportunity to visit our favourite market at Daoulas in the morning followed by a couple of pre-lunch beers at Au Lac overlooking the fabulous Lac du Drennec to take maximum advantage of a fabulously sunny day. It seems that a couple of strong beers in the sun, coupled with the end of an exhausting summer season, meant that I had to have a little siesta in the afternoon! I must be getting old.
We then went to one of our favourite restaurants in the evening in the neighbouring village of Saint Rivoal, the Auberge du Menez. We continue to be impressed by the Auberge and its owner / chef, Yann. He is really making it a huge success with adventurous food (3 of us had the scallop tartare as seen on his Facebook page) and an accompanying music programme. Having this and Au Lac both within 5 kms of us is a real bonus.
To the work … Last week’s blog said that I would definitely do a couple of things and possibly one other. I actually have managed to complete or start both of the things which I said I would, but no progress on the log cutting.
We are really pleased with how our hedges are now starting to take proper shape and, as I mentioned a few weeks back, we have taken the chance to be a bit more brutal in cutting them. The job expanded a little as I chose to clear an area of the hedge on the main lawn to expose the yew plants we have added over the last 3 years.
While I’m afraid that these pictures aren’t great we are delighted that many of them are growing strongly and will, eventually, make for a more secure and attractive boundary than we have ever had. The same applies to the privet in Granary garden where I have repositioned some older plants and added lots of cuttings at the base to thicken out and extend the hedge.
The other thing that will make our garden much more secure is the new gate that we have added at the north entrance leading onto Stréat al Louarn which I didn’t show pictures of last week. Here are a couple.
We think it has cleaned up pretty well having been stood against the Dairy wall for a couple of years and definitely makes a difference to the access. We have hung 2 gates, a wider vehicle gate and a narrow pedestrian access, both hinged on the inside so we can open them 180 degrees and not block the lane. It did mean that there was a fairly wide gap beneath both which wasn’t ideal as one principal reason we wanted them was to prevent our neighbour’s dog coming into the garden. However, in order to allow it to swing through 180 degrees I need to scrape a lot of gravel and stone from inside which I am using to level the ground.
While I haven’t yet placed any stone for the new wall. I have started the work. I have buried the additional cable we positioned for a light on the east side of the gate, which will match that opposite. I have also used a large piece of slate which was lying just outside the drive to create a step under the pedestrian access. When it is all finished there should be a gentle gradient down to the lane and you won’t need a 4×4 to drive in and out!
No progress on the wood cutting and splitting but I may try and do some of that this week as, while we are enjoying June-like weather again currently, Saturday was the start of meteorological autumn and the nights will start to get a little chilly. We will need to think about protecting some of our more delicate plants in the jungle bed especially our lovely banana that we planted which seems to have thrived since being liberated from its pot.
Thank you to those who provided their views in response to our request for changeover day selection. No definitive answer made as yet but all views are appreciated.
This week, more progress on the gate wall; potentially some log cutting and probably some more weeding which is always required!
This week’s blog won’t have much detail and won’t include any pictures of the work we have done, as there hasn’t been too much!
I will show some images, courtesy of Eurosport, of the Tour de France passing through our local town of Sizun, and there are many more of the 3 days in Brittany at this link. It really does show that Brittany is a very varied and beautiful place to come and visit.
The reason we haven’t achieved so much is partly down to a very mixed week weather-wise with lots of dreich days preventing much happening outside where my focus needs to be. As I look out of the window now there is a very heavy drizzle so, on the upside, our garden should, finally, be benefiting!
The other reason is that one of us, David, has been out of action with a particularly painful week of, what he thinks was, sciatica so he has been lain up and I have been nursing (a bit!) It would be bad enough any week, but especially so last week which was David’s birthday week – and another reason for a couple of quiet days, one celebrating his birthday as best we could and the other feeling a bit delicate after a lovely birthday meal and late night at Au Lac. All entirely self-inflicted.
As such, despite a bit of lawn mowing and gîte cleaning and maintenance, I haven’t done a huge amount to progress our projects. I have however, now hung the gates that we were preparing for last week, although I won’t share pictures now but will do so next week; and I have managed to progress, although not finish, the hedge cutting. The French have a saying about doing things little bits at a time …
David and I have been starting to discuss 2019 already – and we are delighted to have taken our first booking for June next year – and thought that we would ask for people’s view on one aspect.
During our high season (July and August) we, in common with most gîte businesses, ask for a minimum booking of 7 days. Our weekly periods, again mirroring the vast majority of gîtes, run from Saturday to Saturday. The idea behind this is to minimise the risk of unoccupied days in the gîtes and so one set of guests arrive as others leave. The reason Saturday was chosen by us is that everyone else uses it and that is the model used at Kergudon by our predecessors.
The consequence of course is that Saturdays have the chance of being really busy in comparison to other days; that the ferry company is wise to this and hikes their prices for crossings on Friday and Saturday; the traffic levels, while nowhere near M25 levels, are obviously busier on Saturdays; and we, and our guests, don’t have the opportunity to visit the festivals and activities which are generally held at the weekends, or perhaps benefit from the food markets which tend to be held later in the week, so missing out on aspects of Breton life.
Because of the reasons outlined above, we were wondering if it would be better to move our changeover day to another day in the week, although which, we are not sure.
The advantages of this would be that people probably wouldn’t pay as much for their ferry crossings and they could then attend any activities in the region that were taking place during the weekends and find and use the food markets more effectively.
The one disadvantage we could think of is that if guests are having a week with us and then another week elsewhere, it would lead to a mismatch in dates if the other location runs the traditional Saturday to Saturday (though why they would want to move elsewhere is a mystery!)
So we thought we’d seek advice and ask you as followers and, hopefully, past and/or previous guests of Kergudon.
Do you think having a different changeover day would work? When I worked in a ‘normal’ job, I tried not to take leave Monday to Friday preferring to leave and return to the office midweek, but I don’t know if others can do that.
If we move changeover days, what do you think would be best? Something early in the week such as Monday, or later such as Friday? There is no reason all the gîtes have to have the same changeover day, in many ways it would make things easier for us if they differed.
We’d be very keen to hear your views.
Next week definitely finishing the hedge and definitely starting wall to the east side of the back entrance and possibly starting to cut and split some wood to put in our new wood store in preparation for the winter. Everything depends on the weather which I half want to stop raining and half don’t, at least not for a few days until the plants get a good soaking!
Sadly for last week’s guests, based on the weather we ‘enjoyed’ you could conclude that summer had ended. In reality, while it was far from the searing heatwave we had before, it was also not wet enough to make much difference to the drought-affected garden. It did however prevent me cutting any more of the hedges but it has nonetheless been a productive week.
Some of the tasks we have managed to complete are having the double advantage of finishing something that we wanted while also using materials that are taking up precious space inside and out.
One such task was installing blinds to the roof windows in Grange. As you may know, half the top floor is our storeroom where we stock all of our spare ‘things’. Having seen the damage that the sun’s UV is capable of causing to things which aren’t moved for a while, we wanted to find a way to protect our bits not stored in a cupboard. Blinds seemed the sensible option so we bought some a couple of months ago which had remained in their boxes on the storeroom floor!
A morning’s work and we now have 3 blinds to filter UV in the storeroom and 3, very effective, blackout blinds in the games room. While the projector we have can be used in daylight, cinemas should be dark and these do the trick.
My major task was improving the back entrance, onto Stréat al Louarn. Since we have moved here we have wanted to make the back more secure and we bought a five-bar gate at least 2 years ago, which proved a little premature as it has leant against the front wall of Dairy ever since.
In those 2 years we have rebuilt a stone wall on the west side and cleared the debris. We have started to do the same on the east side and will eventually mirror the opposite wall. As part of the garage build we buried a cable so that we can have lights at the entrance and have now reached the point that we could install the gates.
On the advice of our neighbours, who had installed a similar gate a couple of years ago as well, the hole required to bury the post should only be slightly larger than the post to be erected. This meant two holes 80 centimetres deep but only 20 centimetres wide. This proved no problem on the west side where, having dug through the stony top layer, the rest was just compacted clay which proved easy to remove.
However, on the east side, in the exact position where I needed to install the opposite post, there was a large quartz rock. With no ability to reposition the posts, and not wanting a huge gap between the gates when they are eventually hung, meant that I just had to keep digging and remove it. It did eventually come free but left a much larger hole than I wanted and needed much more concrete to keep the post in position.
What became evident was how much the ground falls away from west to east which, if left, would leave a large gap beneath the gate. However, we plan to hang the gates in such a way as to allow us to open them through 180 degrees which is likely to mean that we have to scrape a lot of gravel away from one area that we can use to build up the low side.
We hope to have the gates hung next week so you will see the finished article. For now, with the gates having lain unused for a couple of years they had become a little green in places and need some TLC. Yesterday I sanded them down and gave them bleach wash. This morning, I gave them a first coat of stain using the same stain we had bought to do the exterior of Grange. This was partly to make the gates the same colour as the Grange (when that is eventually stained) and, partly, to remind ourselves exactly what the colour is as the stickers have been eaten off by the slugs!
We have wired in our new light on the west side, which we will mirror on the east, and we love it, although are less keen on the bulb we have used – a new one is on order.
We are starting to make the back look a lot smarter than it used to, and it will continue to improve when we re-gravel and clear the drive by the pétanque pitch.
My final significant task was to re-tame, and re-train, the wisteria we have planted on the front wall of Priory. Up until this point I hadn’t been sure about how to look after and prune the wisteria properly so it had never flowered well, although has only been in the ground for a couple of years, and all I had been doing was to tie in the wispy growth.
Under the guidance of our keen-gardener neighbour, I pulled the plant away from the wall and was shown which bits to cut and which to train to form the framework. While it has meant a thinner plant for the rest of this year it should mean a better plant in the future and more flowers.
Today has again been fairly light duties after our last Super Saturday of the season yesterday when all of our large gites changeover – everyone deserves a wekend. A busy day’s work cleaning and preparing, made so much easier by considerate guests who vacate sharply – one family were even out before daybreak to catch a ferry in Cherbourg.
Next week, finishing a number of things outstanding including the gates and hedges, and potentially starting the new wall next to the new gate post.
I don’t know where this week has gone. Life is very different for us in France but it still seems to pass very quickly – more so now, during high season, when we are full and Stable, our chambre d’hôte, is changing over regularly.
As last week, the principal activity has been continuing to cut the hedges – and I’m still not done! I have managed to hack back a couple of hedges that we hadn’t managed to cut at all last year while I was focussed on the garage. I am getting quite concerned that, when all of the hedges we have planted have grown to the point that they require cutting it will be weeks of work! Hopefully however, by then our major projects will be completed and it will only be maintenance required ….
It is encouraging that, where we have cut the hedges regularly, they are starting to thicken out and make a decent boundary. The laurel we cut back to the ground in 2016 has also started to look really good – although there are a few gaps which will take a little longer to fill.
It is taking a little longer to finish all the hedges than it should as I try not to make too much noise in the mornings when we have guests staying and relaxing on holiday so I generally don’t start the hedge cutters until gone 10. Conscious that most people reading this will probably be in the office, or at least commuting, many hours before this please don’t think 10 a.m. is the start of our day!
While Dave is chef for our 3 course meals, I am responsible for breakfasts (as long as there are poached eggs or hollandaise sauce to be made when Dave takes over again!) With Stable proving very popular there are lots of breakfasts to be made and delivered; vast amounts of laundry to be hung out to dry; and dogs to be exercised there is generally lots of things to be done before 10. I did say that our lives are very different here!
Last week I mentioned that we would likely be making a short, Brexit related, visit to Quimper, because, even though the UK referendum was over 2 years ago, there is still uncertainty about the status of UK citizens in France. Unlike other EU members, France never required other EU citizens to register when they first move here so there is no official record of when we arrived. We have no concerns that we will be deported but we would like some certainty about how we will be envisaged by the French state.
The only recommendation about how to do this is to apply for a Carte de Sejour (effectively a Residence Permit.) This requires an interview and, in true French bureaucratic style, creating a dossier or paperwork to prove how long we have been here and that we won’t be a drain on the French state (yet!) Last week’s meeting was just to arrange the interview which, because of the number of Brits doing the same thing now, is now booked – for late March 2019. Still, gives us plenty of time to generate the rainforest of paper that we will need.
Today has been a very relaxed day. We have had a, much needed, deluge of rain – the last one oddly was a Sunday too – so we have sheltered in the house – and our Priory guests have booked the cinema for this evening, the first guests to do so. At least this time the deluge has started to fill up our new water butts and our guests are getting use of our new accoutrements.
A couple of week’s ago we had some guests stay with us in Hayloft one of whom was a photographer and they sent us some lovely pictures of the boys. Hope you like them.
Finally, Brittany Ferries have some amazing offers for short autumn breaks in France travelling from Plymouth to Roscoff which is only 40 minutes from us. Come and see us. Or, if you can’t make it here for autumn but are already looking ahead to your summer holiday 2019, they have released their sailing times now. We’d love to see you.