Sunday 30 June – Bananas Hot

At the end of last week’s blog, I said that I wasn’t sure what this week would bring but that there was a lot to do.  Turns out what it did bring was lots and lots of heat!  Thankfully, being in the north west, we have not had quite such high heat as Paris and southern parts of France peaking at 30 degrees on Thursday.  What was most uncomfortable was when it stayed at 30 degrees until 11 at night.  As such, some of the jobs that I ended up doing were, as much as anything, a way to escape the heat!

The week has actually been another of those when I have started, progressed or even completed jobs rather than being focussed on one single task.  Before it got too hot, I began clearing the flower bed to the south of the tropical bed we created in spring last year.  If you stop the second drone video I attached to last week’s blog (Kergudon 3) at the 17 second mark, you can see the area on the left hand side of the picture.

We hadn’t touched this part of the bed really since we arrived other than to plant a yucca that we brought with us from London.  In that time a number of willow trees had set themselves, as they do everywhere if left alone, and were starting to get quite big.  The space outside the bed is where, hopefully this autumn and / or early next spring, I want to build a formal pond to make the space beautiful but also to attract more wildlife.  As the timing may slide due to one other significant project we may look to do early next spring, which I will touch on later, I thought it best at least to start getting the bed looking less uncared for.

This proved tougher than clearing any of the other spaces we have done just because of the willow roots but it is starting to look a little better and we have rediscovered our Yucca!  I only managed part of a day until it started getting just too hot.

From the other end the tropical bed is really starting to establish itself and the hot poker plants (kniphofias) have got far more flowers on this year than last.  If you look at the title picture the little stump under the shank of the anchor that is the lovely red banana which we planted and looked great in September last year.

Banana Plant

We had given this up for dead and believed that it wasn’t as hardy as we were initially told and even our last relatively mild winter had killed it.  As we wanted to replace it, during the week we ordered a couple online (a replacement and a spare) only to see, 24 hours after doing so, that ours had sprung back into life!  This is brilliant and infuriating in equal measure as we are now going to have buy 2 large pots for the new plants when they arrive but will at least be able to move those undercover in the winters.  Assuming we look after the original in a better way we will have a forest of bananas, and if we don’t we have a couple of ‘spares’!

When the weather got too uncomfortable to work outside at all I found a project to do in my new man shed (yet another great reason to have it!)  A couple of our guests in Hayloft have suggested that we have a luggage stand for suitcases which was on my list to do.  As this could be done inside, I built one using some shelf sections from old canvas wardrobes we inherited with the house.  Have I mentioned I never throw anything away?!

We think it looks pretty good where it is and hopefully will be very practical.

While it stayed warm, and more importantly dry, I started another project that had been niggling me for a while – re-staining the Granary windows.  We don’t know when they were last done, but in the last year or so they were starting to need a bit of TLC and I had bought the stain a couple of years ago.

I’ve only had a couple of days on it so far and will need one more, but this photo taken at the early stages was meant to show the 3 phases of the job.

Looking at the upstairs windows, the left hadn’t been touched at that point although the photo sadly doesn’t show its poor condition very well; the centre I have sanded back ready to stain; and the right has had the first of 3 coats of new stain applied.  Three coats!  It better do what it says on the tin if I apply the 3 coats stated.  The new stain isn’t as red in colour as the old and we think it will look a little better when done – one to continue next week.  I did manage to re-stain the gate to Hayloft as well and it looks much better – the more I make the more I have to maintain!

As it cooled, a bit, and yesterday morning was completely windless, contrary to the forecast, I took the opportunity to have another bonfire in the old chicken run.  I have been creating another pile of waste that needed to be got rid of before we can do some minor earthwork and hadn’t managed to burn it.  While it had been so hot, and so dry, I didn’t want to risk a brush fire.  Thankfully, the other thing the forecast got wrong was on Friday morning the cloud base was so low that we were in mizzle for a couple of hours and the ground was a little damp.

Once the fire was complete I have, finally, cleared the dismantled chicken coup to another place and, hopefully, we will be able to start some digging in the next week or so.

I was hoping to put some pictures of the annual triathlon on the Lac du Drennec which was supposed to take place today and has been a great event previously.  Sadly, this too was cancelled this year due to problems with the organisation although, unlike the Sizun Grand Prix, they do plan to hold it again next year.

I mentioned earlier that we have a big plan which we hope to complete next spring.  This is a major refurbishment in our family gîte, Priory.

We have made the fewest significant changes in Priory since we arrived as the kitchen and bathrooms, while needing a bit of smartening up, were in a good state and had a few years of life in them.  Now, however we are hoping to make the changes to Priory that we did in Granary and Hayloft along with other significant work.  One of the other significant things is the installation of a better, independent heating system.

Priory is a beautiful building and the main living area is a large dramatic space.  The images don’t give the full scale of the room but it is a double height space and so a large volume.  Being slate, and so not insulated in a modern way, it is difficult and inefficient to heat easily.  Some heating is provided at present by 2 radiators running off the boiler in our own home which, while effective, is not ideal.

As technology has changed hugely since our predecessors installed these radiators we spent some time this week with an engineer explaining what options we have now.  We want to make decisions nice and early so we can get things going as early in the New Year as we can after our Christmas / New Year guests depart.  You will hear much more about this in the future.

Next week, finish the Granary windows; hopefully start some ground works in the old chicken run; possibly start to build a wood shed if we go and buy some materials.  Certainly, as last week, there is lots to do …