Last week’s blog didn’t contain any images as the refurbishment of Stable wasn’t complete. This week’s does and, while we have not yet refurnished the gîte, all of the decoration in the main space is finished and it looks excellent.
I mentioned last week that painting the ceiling had taken longer than we anticipated owing to the number of coats we had to apply on the dark brown stain – even after heavy sanding. But it has certainly made the biggest difference to the space. We have also given all of the walls a new coat of paint which has made it brighter too.
Initially, we thought that we wouldn’t need to do the walls as they were in reasonable condition however, having done so it is evident that they weren’t as bright and white as we thought. The reason we chose to do them came as a result of ‘mission creep’ in the overall task. You can just see in the pictures on our website that the Stable had a tile skirting to match the floor. This was very much of the time the building was converted and was probably put in because room have skirting and to give a vertical barrier to the floor space as the walls are not.
We always knew that we were going to replace these tiles but originally we thought we would do it with wood. When I was removing the old tile pieces, many of which basically fell off anyway, much of the filler that was put between them and the wall came away too. With a little more effort I was able to clean back to the original wall covering which left us with a choice. Do we replace the skirting as we’d intended and refill behind, or simply leave the walls as they are and paint down to the floor. We quickly decided that the latter gave the room a few centimetres more floor space (which was useful); had a more contemporary feel and was more honest to what the building actually is (an old stable), not to mention would be a bit quicker!
The walls and ceiling aren’t the only thing to get many coats of paint. We had always wanted to replace the bedside cabinets to match the wardrobe that we bought when we first refurbished. Ideally, we would have replaced the bed but, bizarrely, there is no bed in the range just a bed head. As such, I have adapted the existing bed frame to be able to take the new bed head and everything will be new, white, bright and matching.
As part of the work we have finally replaced the old wall light which used to be above the bed with something more attractive which we have wanted to do for ages. We have also wired it in such a way that the cable isn’t nailed visibly crossing 2 sides of the room by taking power from a different source and hidden it all behind some new lambris.
Finally, I have built some shelving to house the mini-fridge, microwave and kettle which all used to be stacked together on the floor again freeing up floor space which, hopefully, will make the room feel a little larger.
With the work all done it is now just a case of deep cleaning and refurnishing – it will look amazing and I can show you how amazing next week.
Again, Stable hasn’t been the only thing we have been doing and on Wednesday we headed into Quimper in the hope that our Cartes de Sejour were available for collection.
You may recall that we had our ‘interview’ at the end of March when we were given every indication that a card would be issued, it would be ready in 4 – 6 weeks to collect and that we would receive an SMS to say when. We hadn’t received an SMS (although were actually told by others this isn’t unusual) and, thankfully, we hadn’t received anything to suggest that a card wouldn’t be issued so after a couple of months we hoped it would be safe to go and collect. It was.
We are now ‘official’ as Finistère has issued us with a 5-year card to expire in 2024 – surely Brexit would have been resolved one way or another by then! We are extremely grateful to the Finistère team who have made the process so straightforward. I have mentioned before that the issue of Cartes de Sejour, while nominally controlled by the French Interior Ministry, has been delegated to individual départements which has led to a wide variety of experiences for Brits applying. This has varied from not being given an appointment; to widely varying paperwork requirements and the issue of 1-year, 5-year or 10-year cards.
Finistère has been excellent throughout and, while we had to wait over 7 months between booking our appointment and actually having it, we are very pleased that we are now in possession of our card.
A big thank you too to Mercedes, our very good friend who owns the Au Lac restaurant. We were invited to the restaurant on Wednesday night for dinner as Mercedes’ brother, Mark, and sister-in-law, Fiona, were passing through prior to starting a 2100 kilometre walk from Pointe du Raz to norther Spain! We had a great night, where my main image was taken by Mark, and, you may be able to see in the background Merc playing her clarinet. She really is a woman of many talents which, with another friend, Mary, on sax made for a fun-filled late night and a very gentle Thursday.
This afternoon we assisted our mad-keen gardening neighbours as they opened their garden as part of a Brittany wide scheme. Yesterday saw 45 people visit despite very wet weather, today saw more than 280 as the sun occasionally poked its head through the clouds. Hopefully some pictures of their amazing garden too next week although it does put ours to shame so perhaps not!
A couple of days to refurnish Stable in preparation for our next guests there on Wednesday and then I can start another project – or continue with any of the open ones!
A really short blog this week, and with no pictures, as I want to leave the big reveal of the refurbished Stable until next week. Partly because it will be a larger change but mostly because it isn’t finished yet!
It has been much slower progress than I had hoped (sound familiar?!) especially painting the ceiling. From the pictures on last week’s blog you can see that the ceiling was a darkly stained wood. While this was not terrible, it did make the ceiling seem very low and so room very dark and enclosed. We have painted this white which has made a huge difference but it has taken many more layers of paint than I’d anticipated. It is at least now done and I have started to apply the colour to the new lambris that I put up the previous week and were in the pictures last week.
Having said before that we should be able to make rapid progress – I am hoping it will prove to be the case in the next 7 days and it will be re-furnished for this time next week. It does mean that some guests we have arriving tomorrow get an ‘upgrade’ to Hayloft.
Stable hasn’t progressed as much as I’d have liked as it isn’t the only thing that we have been working on. The other things have generally been smaller and more routine, although we have started clearing the flower bed behind Hayloft and savagely hacked back some rhododendrons which had become far too large. They will recover quickly and we will try and keep them more under control, but it also allows us access to some self-set trees that we want to remove at some point to create a hedge and generally make the area tidier.
I have also been watching some of the commemorative events for the 75th anniversary of D-Day and continue to be moved and inspired by some of the stories of courage, heroism, and achievement of the veterans. The Normandy beaches are a few hours from us so sadly not a day trip, although would certainly be a good stop-off if travelling to us from some of the Normandy ports. I have not visited in a number of years but am encouraged to do so again sometime to honour this historic event and remind myself, if any reminder were required, how we have all benefitted from that generation’s sacrifices.
Finally, an update on Garratt’s offspring – as much as we can give one. Last week I mentioned that the mother’s owner had become radio silent, he sort of still is although we did manage to have one broken conversation with him. From that we understand that the births did not go happily and that at least some of the puppies did not survive. I don’t know how often this happens although Brandon was one of only 4 who survived from his litter of 8.
We don’t know how many, if any, of the puppies were born successfully, or indeed if the mother is OK, and despite asking a number of times if he could give us some more information we haven’t received anything.
If I were a cynic, there is the possibility that, as our arrangement with him was based entirely on trust, he may now just not want to be entirely honest with us. Of course we hope not and will give him the benefit of the doubt but we are disappointed that he is so reluctant to communicate with us and we don’t know the full picture.
Something more positive next week – certainly with regards the new and improved Stable as the, very un-summer like forecast, means I am very unlikely to be spending much time outside.
Firstly, my apologies for not posting a blog last week – and not saying that I wouldn’t. Also, don’t get excited with the main picture – we haven’t got a new puppy! Why, later.
I had intended to post something but it would have been fairly short, without many images and run along the lines of ‘although we always seem to have been doing something, it doesn’t feel like we have achieved much this week’.
While we had started a, relatively, major project the week before last, there was fairly little to say and, as one of my most loyal blog readers, Dave’s aunt, had arrived with us the day before, there probably weren’t many people to have read it anyway!
That said, we did have a major milestone for Kergudon (sort of) with our first engagement that took place here. A lovely couple who were staying with us in Priory got engaged and we wish them the best of luck for the future.
The ‘theme’ for this week is sort of similar mostly due to the arrival of my blog reader, which has led to a very sociable week, some late nights and so some fairly gentle days!
The project that we have started (and had hoped to complete fairly quickly) was a renovation of our smallest gîte / B&B, Stable.
We understand that when Kergudon was run as a farm, Stable was the building used to house the bull. We don’t know exactly when it dates from but our guess is probably sometime in the 19th century.
David and I spent 5 nights in Stable when we were house hunting and, as a result, we knew that there was a lot of work to do for us to get it to a state where we were happy for people to stay in. But, as this wasn’t the case just with Stable, in our first 8 months living here in 2015 we spent a lot of time refurbishing all the properties.
As Stable is our smallest space, which we didn’t think would be occupied as much as the larger gîtes, with time so much against us, we did only sufficient to get it to a stage where we felt it at least reflected the quality of Kergudon. One of the more major tasks we did then was to ask a builder to add a new window as previously the only light came in from the patio-style doors at the front. Our webpage and these pictures shows how we made it, but even then knew that there were a number of other things that we wanted to do. Only now has that task come to the top of the list!
Having completely emptied the room it was the best time to do what has been the most unpleasant task I have had to do since living here – the insulation in the loft space. While I have insulated the loft above Hayloft that was relatively easy as there was nothing there initially. Stable however, already had some very old insulation which needed to be removed first and that was nasty!
The loft itself looked like the barn where the spider had settled in the film Arachnophobia and the insulation was old, nasty and had lots of evidence of historic unpaying guests! To do this I made sure I was fully kitted up in face mask, gloves and full ‘CSI’ suit and I’m really glad I did.
Once removed and taken very quickly to the déchetterie, laying some new insulation was a relatively easy task and should make a big difference to heating Stable in the spring and autumn. It also allowed me to clean and reconnect all the tubes to the extractor fan.
The next task was to remove a small area of old lambris (tongue and groove wood) from one of the internal walls. The walls to create the shower room are covered in a stippled sort of plaster but we wanted to replace this with a more traditional covering – more lambris! Erecting this has been pretty quick, and we have been able to incorporate some better lighting than before, and now just needs painting.
Today I started sanding the ceiling which was previously stained dark brown. While this wasn’t awful, it did make the room seem a little dark – although much improved with our new window – and we want to paint it a lighter colour. I think this will be another unpleasant job, thankfully no CSI suit needed however, and will mean that the painting should be far better.
With Dave’s uncle and aunt here I haven’t been as diligent as I should so progress has been slow but, sadly, they leave us tomorrow morning and I should be able to make fairly rapid progress.
We have however had confirmation that Garratt is to be a Dad and the coupling we spoke about a few weeks ago has been successful. We understand the puppies are imminent but, in the last week or so, the owner of the bitch has gone radio silent so assume that they aren’t here yet … We’ll let you know but, in the meantime, thought it was a good chance to share a picture of Garratt’s litter and a couple of him as a pup 4 years ago – just as cute now!
Last week’s blog said that I anticipated a productive week and I think I am happy with what I achieved. I am certainly happy with the outcome of the jobs.
With the weather having been pretty good for most of the week, dry at least if not as warm as we’d like, we have managed to do a number of outdoor tasks and Dave has continued the dreaded weeding required. However, my major jobs were both inside but were both useful to do and have allowed me to use up some of the wood which takes up space in my new atelier.
At the end of last week I was adapting the large and extremely heavy kitchen island that we had bought to use as a bar in the games room. I am pleased to say that this is now complete and looks great.
Despite our initial regret at having bought the island, now that it is done I think it has helped an awful lot. Even having bought a number of other materials to complete it we now have a bespoke bar, which incorporates the (lockable!) beer fridge we wanted, at less cost than had we bought something commercially, and, I hope, it will prove more robust. We are really happy with how it has turned out. We want to add some baronalia (if that’s a word) such as drip trays and any suggestions would be appreciated.
The second task I am pleased I have managed to tick off, is (another) one that I have meant to do for some time. When we converted Diary (the building with Dave’s gym) the plumbing for the sink and washing machine in the boot room had to pass through the bike shed. Both the pipes were left exposed underneath the bike hooks and I was convinced that, at some point, they would suffer with a bike being dropped on them or someone standing on them to access the bikes.
As this hadn’t happed up to this point meant that I was convinced that we were living on borrowed time. Now with the man shed complete which will also house the lawnmower, I have the opportunity to sort the bike shed out properly, remove the risk to the pipes, fill the holes in the floor with some concrete and make access to the bikes a little easier.
The principal task was to box in the pipes underneath the bikes and generally tidy up. Again, I am very pleased with the finished work.
We are really happy that we have our 3 main gîtes occupied and it feels like the United Nations. We have an Australian couple staying in Granary, a British couple in Priory and, in Hayloft, an American couple who are half way through their month-long stay with us. As Americans, Minnesotans to be precise, they are proficient with a BBQ and kindly invited us for dinner on Friday which was both very kind and very good. It also helped David who was catering for our Australian couple that night with a meal which was very well received.
Finally, some disappointing news. You may recall in a previous blog that I listed a number of the events happening in and around Sizun in the coming months including the biennial Grand Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. This was a great fun event when the centre of Sizun is closed off and becomes a race track for some fabulous vintage cars.
Sadly, this year’s event has been cancelled. We understand that one of the many bodies which have to give their permission for the event, is one which controls all motor racing in France from Formula 1 down and they have determined that all events run through towns have to abide by the normal speed limits! I’d like to see that work for Monaco but, regrettably, it has meant the cancelation of this year’s Sizun Grand Prix. We hope not future events but we’ll keep you posted.
One day this week we went back to Brest to buy lots of material for work we want to do in our Chambre d’Hôte, Stable, which will be the focus of our efforts next week – and probably beyond! More of that next Sunday.
Last week’s blog said that my efforts would depend on two things – the weather, and the decision we make regarding my duff chainsaw.
In the end we did as we thought we might, in that we have opted to buy the same, cheaper, brand of chainsaw rather than fork out a much larger sum for something from a better make. It is not an ideal situation as it does add to the ‘throw-away’ society concept, but when the price is less than 1/3 what we would have to spend to get something of a major brand, at this stage it just makes sense. We will endeavour to get the old saw repaired anyway so we have a spare and not just ditch it.
With a new saw I finally managed to section up the trunks of the ash trees we had felled (which is apparently called ‘bucking’ according to the handbook which came with my new chainsaw) and clear them away. Next step for the old chicken shed is to have another bonfire (yay!) and then find a man with a mini-digger.
After Monday the weather changed to much colder and wetter and prevented me from doing much more outside. As such, the remainder of the week has been another one of small and bitty tasks.
Despite the chill I did manage to summer-ise our own house and gave our poêle (woodburner) a new coat of paint, what looks like it is likely to become a biennial task. It certainly looks better for it and will make the lounge more attractive for the summer!
Much of the rest of the week was spent in my man shed which is almost totally complete and looks great. I have even started using as an atelier and building things! The first I have begun is a bar for our games room.
We have always had in mind to have a bar for guests to use when they are playing pool, babyfoot or watch a movie but it had never got to the top of the to-do list. In an effort to get a bar more quickly in February we found one on Leboncoin (French Gumtree) that we thought was ideal. It was effectively a large kitchen island and was located just outside St. Malo which is 2½ hours from us so we wanted to be sure it was right before making the journey.
Having emailed the seller and did a quick visualisation in the games room we thought it would be OK, or could at least be adjusted so we went. When we saw it, it was much bigger than we had thought, and very heavy, but we convinced ourselves that it would be OK. It was so heavy and unwieldy that there was no way we could have got it into the games room without breaking it up and generally damaging much of it.
Ever since bringing it back we have regretted buying it and thought for a while that we would cut our losses, ditch it and start again. However, I thought that we would try and recover some of our investment and on Friday, I started planning how we could use the island and adapt it to our needs. Having visited a couple of brico (DIY) stores to get some bits I saw that, had we wanted to start afresh but use the same materials, the solid wood worktop that the island had would have set us back more than 3 times what we paid so I was a little happier with our purchase.
That said, this is my first major carpentry project where I have had to adapt something which already exists in some form and I have found it far harder than building from scratch so it has taken a bit longer than I’d anticipated.
This is how it looked this afternoon – it’s coming on – which I think is probably about half way through the job. Should be finished in the next week though and ready to use.
Mouse continues to appreciate the man shed as her secure home but, as such, she has on a couple of occasions brought dinner in which she has caught outside and I have found the bits of some poor creature which she doesn’t care for the taste of! Thankfully I don’t think she has brought anything live into the shed and released to run around.
She has however, cottoned on that we have a new stable door into the kitchen and, when it is warm and we keep the top half open, that she can jump in very easily and make herself at home! We haven’t yet found her upstairs …
Finally, thanks to those who relied to my request in last week’s blog and assisted us locate some new outdoor lights to match our existing ones. We have managed to find some – albeit on a US website – but we have a very good friend there who has managed to get a good deal on them. We just now need to find the most cost-effective way of getting them to us!
Next week the forecast looks fantastic so I think it should be a productive week – and we should have some nice cold beer in the bar to relax with at the end of it!
Having said goodbye to Dave’s parents on Wednesday another week has flown past. This week has been at least a little more productive than last as I haven’t been hampered with a cold, and I have done lots of smaller, but worthwhile, tasks including continuing to clear the garage bays – slow progress!
In last week’s blog I mentioned that we had started felling some of the trees that we wanted to clear on the boundary but that I hadn’t managed to log them as yet. I did manage to make a start on this at the start of the week only to be hampered then by a chainsaw that didn’t want to play.
To be honest the saw didn’t really work when we felled the trees and I was kindly lent another by a neighbour so we didn’t leave a tree in a perilous half-cut state. Having looked online for all of the obvious problems that may affect it and tried a number of things to get it going, I asked another neighbour if they could take a look. Their conclusion was that the carburettor needed adjusting but, unlike a number of other brands where you can make an adjustment with a screwdriver, my saw needs a special key which isn’t included when you buy it.
Having visited 3 repair shops it is evident that this time of year is when everyone takes garden equipment in to get repaired! The first store, and most convenient as it is near David’s work, took some time to show and explain what the problem was likely to be with the carburettor and said it should be a relatively quick and simple job. However, they then said it would be at least 2 weeks before they could even look at it!
The second, more of an ‘old-school’ repair shop, made an adjustment in their workshop there and then. It took 5 minutes, they made no charge and looked to be working fine when in their shop but, having bought it home after 5 minutes the same problem occurred! The third shop looked at it and said that it wasn’t a make they dealt with and that they were likely to struggle getting parts.
The saw is admittedly a cheap brand that we brought from a DIY-shop of the same company as B&Q and ScrewFix so one that you could get in the UK. However, it has last a couple of years so was a reasonable buy but now we need to consider what’s best. As we have lots of wood to cut over the years we need to decide if we spend more on a better make of saw. Current thinking is that we try another of the same brand, as it is cheaper to keep replacing then if / when they break, and we have the added advantage of having spares assuming different parts break!
I have managed to cut as much of the trees as I can with my trusty bow saw (pretty effective with a decent blade) but now need something powered. On the upside we will need another bonfire soon!
The rest of the week has also been spent outside as the weather has been pretty decent. One thing that I have been able to do for the first time is to cut the buxus plants we put in the champignon beds behind Priory. We created the beds at the end of 2015 (our first year here) and early 2016 to give some definition to the private area for Priory. To further do that we thought we would plant some formal low hedging and make it look formal!
Unfortunately I don’t seem to have got a picture when they were first planted but I do have one when they were laid out in their pots. Here you can see that they have some growing to do before they become a proper hedge (not to mention the changes to the old fence panels) but this year they were in a position to start trimming.
We hope by cutting the sides it will encourage them to grow taller and, where the still need to join sideways, they can put their energy in this. Hopefully you can get an impression of what it will look like in years to come when they have gained a little height.
The old photo also shows that there used to be a couple of choisya plants in the beds (the small very yellow ones) but these are not in the current state photos. For some reason these plants were never very happy here so we have dug them up, have put them in pots and when they are stronger will find a new home for them. We also need to think of some other plants to put in their place – any suggestions will be gratefully received.
The choisyas weren’t the only plants I moved this week. You may recall that we got a lot of our plants in a sort of lottery at a Morlaix school fete held each June. As such, we don’t always know what we get – or how large the plants may become. One such was a heather that we planted next to the Hayloft terrace and it evidently likes its spot as it grew and grew and started to smother the azaleas that were already there.
We have moved this to another area behind Hayloft which has forced me to start to clear this area of the bed which, other than chopping down some overgrown hawthorn a couple of years ago, we have never touched. Hopefully, having had a trim, it will recover and enjoy it here, more so when we cut back lots of the other plants next to it after the rhododendron has flowered.
One of the other smaller but worthwhile tasks has been to attach a couple of the nameplates to our new buildings. Having had the garage (Grange) and my man shed built we thought it would be good to give them the same name plates as the gîtes. Despite living in a slate area here, these plaques come from a slate mine in the Lake District. We ordered the Grange plaque when we were walking in 2018 and the man shed plate this spring. While we have given the gîtes English names these new buildings have French plates which we think is more appropriate (Grange being the choice of blog readers last year).
We have put the man shed plate below where we want to attach an exterior light. When we were renovating the gîtes for the first time in 2015 we bought 5 lights – 1 for each gîte and one for our own home. We didn’t attach the light to Stable immediately so we were able to use it on Grange but now we need 2 more and, of course, 4 years later we can’t find the same style! If anyone has seen a light as the picture below for sale anywhere please do let us know – it would be good if they could all be the same.
Next week will depend on the weather – we are due a few wet days – and if I get a new chainsaw – but there is always something to do ….
I mentioned at the end of last week’s blog that David’s parents were to arrive with us on Easter Monday. This they did bringing lots of gifts and things that we wanted (items we had ordered from the UK, such as new forks, which they kindly take delivery of, store and deliver during their visits) as well as something we didn’t – a cold virus!
David has been fortunate not to have been affected by the virus but it hit me so I haven’t had a terribly productive week other than one task.
We have however, despite the more spring-like weather than we have recently enjoyed, had a good week getting out and about to some new, and some familiar, places.
Easter Monday was dry and the hottest day of the week and the day the annual Marché sur l’Eau. Normally held in the car park next to barrage of the Lac du Drennec, this year they found some other water and for the first time it was held at the Maison de la Rivière in Sizun.
The Maison was a good location as it afforded a little more space for the stalls and dining tables to spread out and the decent weather ensured it was well attended. This region and area are proud of their local food, crafts and produce, many of which could be bought on the stalls, but a main focus of the market is lunch of local food enjoyed together.
Tuesday, before I got struck with cold, we started the tree felling I spoke about last week. We are fortunate to have lots of trees around the garden boundary although the majority are self-set ash and sycamore so were not planned and some are not in great shape or health.
The first we felled are the ash trees just behind where I cleared the chicken run last week and the reason we chose these was we could fell them before building a serre in the space in the next few months. Sadly, they are still lying where they fell as the weather, and my cold, has meant that I haven’t been able to cut then up. A task for next week.
While David’s parents have been with us we have visited a couple of places we haven’t been to in our 4 years here.
On Wednesday we travelled out to Cap Sizun and the Pointe du Raz. While this is just over an hour and a half from us, it is a very dramatic spot to visit especially so in a stiff wind. With all the interesting towns around such as Audierne, Douarnenez, Locronon and Quimper, it makes for a great day out.
A place we have visited often before is Morlaix but, amazingly, we had never been to their acclaimed Saturday market held in the old market square. Sadly I didn’t take any pictures but the market was excellent and, focussed mainly on fresh produce, there was lots of fabulous fruit, vegetables, fish, cheeses and meats. Delicious.
From the market we continued north to the pretty seaside town of Carantec on the west side of the bay of Morlaix and for lunch at a restaurant we have been recommended a number of times – Chez Gaby. Finally we made it and it is definitely worth a trip. Chez Gaby is one of 3 restaurants with an excellent location facing one of the white sand Carantec beaches and has a great menu and atmosphere.
Last night was back at one of our favourite restaurants, Au Lac, on the lake, and tonight at the Auberge du Menez in Saint Rivoal. It’s tough having guests!
With me being laid low Dave has done the majority of dog walking and one of his favourite routes at this time of year is through the forest where the bluebells are at their most lovely where he got these pictures.
Next week, back to full strength and with a promising forecast it back to work!
Happy Easter. We hope that you are enjoying the long Easter weekend especially with such fabulous weather. Today we have rewarded ourselves with a day off and enjoyed a cheeky drink on the terrace of Au Lac overlooking the Lac du Drennec in 20+ degree heat but we have had a productive week.
A couple of weeks ago I said that I intended to break the largest job I had on, clearing the old chicken run, into more manageable chunks of a couple of hours. Having done that, this week I did all those couple of hour chunks consecutively so that now, the run is completely clear.
There were a number of reasons for the change of plan. Primarily as the weather last week was absolutely fantastic and I wanted to make the most of being outdoors. Also, we thought that the sooner the run was cleared, the sooner we could level it off, build the serre we want to get and then start clearing the random piles of wood we have lying around as well as in the garage bays.
I also thought that the 3-tined fork I was using would eventually break in some way and I would have to change jobs anyway. Amazingly, the 3-tiner has proven more robust than any other fork I have had (with the obvious exception of the snapped tine!) and saw the job to completion. However, a friend who reads the blog took pity on me and has kindly gifted me a couple of UK spec forks for which I am very grateful. Honest, my comments weren’t there as a plea!
Clearing the old run generated a lot of burnable waste which gave me the perfect opportunity for a bonfire – I enjoy bonfires! So as not to upset too many of our neighbours, I wanted to find the best day with the least amount of wind which, according to the forecast was either Good Friday or today – another reason to press on and get the run cleared.
Dismantling the old coup took a little longer than I had anticipated. The previous owners of Kergudon had built it in April 2008. I know this as they were so pleased with it they had named and dated it. In the ensuing 11 years it had become increasingly rotten so, while we had offered it to a neighbour they kindly declined and I had to take it apart. One of few things that I have yet to locate in the move of items from garage to new man shed is the charger for my cordless drill so I had to unscrew everything manually. While this has given us a lot of wood to use in the chiminea for this coming barmy summer(!) it has also given me a blister!
This delay meant I didn’t light the fire on Friday, which was windier than forecast anyway, and as we thought it best not to do it on Easter Sunday, we put a match to it yesterday which was pretty breeze free. Having been so dry the fire burned fiercely and the enormous pile was rapidly reduced. Sitting here now, writing my blog in the garden, I can see it continues to smoulder so there should be very little left in the next couple of days.
The weather has been so amazing we have spent most of the week outside and had our own BBQ last night and lit the chiminea for the first time this year so we could sit outside until very late and watch the amazing starlit sky. I may have mentioned before that the chiminea is one of my all-time favourite things – I am easily pleased – but with that and the fire, it did mean that perhaps yesterday we contributed more than normal to climate change!
A couple of weeks ago, when I was tidying up the orchard bed, I mentioned how pleased we are with how the garden is changing. With the chicken run being in the back garden means that we have spent more time looking at that and it too is looking excellent. We have a crab apple tree in one of the champignon beds we have created behind Priory, which has the most spectacular spring blossom which was at its peak this week. Sadly it tends to only last a few days.
We stumbled across this photo we took when we brought Garratt home for the first time in 2015. While these 2 are not taken from exactly the same place it does remind us how much has changed!
With the chicken run cleared we have plans to fell a few more trees, some potentially next week but not all this year, and replace them with some more interesting and attractive varieties.
David has been busy this week and prepared his first 3-course supper of the season for guests. David has refreshed his summer menu to make use of some fabulous local ingredients but the goats’ cheese tart and beef in Coreff stew are perennial favourites. The guests thoroughly enjoyed it.
As we continue to invest in and improve Kergudon, this week we have also taken delivery of 4 new single mattresses and 25 new pillows. When we arrived we replaced all the double mattresses and some of the pillows which were well beyond their useful life. Now, we have been able to replace the remaining single mattresses which are starting to get tired and the rest of the pillows so we hope all of our guests have a comfortable night’s sleep.
David’s parents arrive with us tomorrow morning for a holiday so, weather and activities will determine my activities for the next week – although the list doesn’t seem to get any shorter!
Last week’s blog spoke about a weather-affected ‘bitty’ week of jobs with a lot of weeding having been done. This week has been very similar.
It ended saying that some of the gardening, principally continuing to clear the old chicken run, was dependent on finding a new fork that I liked. I have – inevitably on a certain website and, sadly, in the UK so I won’t have it for a few weeks. There are many little things where France and the UK differ and even garden implements are one of those areas. I am used to UK tools that have a grip or handle on the end of the shaft. In France, tools just have a long shaft which I don’t find as easy to use or drive into the ground – perhaps that’s why I have broken so many!
As such, I have had to resurrect an old fork with 3 remaining tines of the original 4 – it isn’t just handles I break – and have put in a number of hours continuing to clear the chicken run brambles. The photo doesn’t show much progress, and it is slow work, but I am pleased with what I have managed to achieve and think (hope) that the task will get a little quicker soon.
I did manage to wire in the gate light on the east side of the rear access – a task that has been outstanding for a number of months – and we are really pleased with how the back gate now looks. We have planted a number of loniceras on top of the wall I completed last year and, if they grow as quickly as the plants on the west side, we should have a great hedge in a couple of years.
I have tried to find a picture of how the rear gate looked before we started the work. Other than one of the west side on my blog of 27 November 2016, which coincidentally was when I broke the tine off the fork I have been using, I can’t find anything to show it in all its horror. Nonetheless, we are really pleased that the back gate is now finished as we had planned, all looks very formal – we just need to make the front entrance as neat!
The rest of the week has again been more bitty jobs which has included re-staining a number of the fence and gates I made a couple of years ago to make sure they still look good and last as long as they can; lots of lawn mowing and, almost a day’s worth of splitting wood into kindling. With all of our building we have amassed a large amount of wood pieces and offcuts which, with that hoarding instinct I have mentioned before, we have hung onto but done nothing with. Now that we are clearing out the garage bays I am going through this large pile and we will have enough kindling for the stoves to last most of next year (hopefully!)
Finally, I thought we would include a few dates that you may be interested in for activities in the village and commune if you’d like to come and see us and take in some Breton culture.
The weekend of 1st and 2nd June is the biennial Grand Prix Arc de Triomphe in Sizun. This is a fantastic event where the centre of Sizun becomes a race track for some classic sports car and you can get up close with the action.
The 8th – 10th June is the Assomniak Associations 3rd Fête du Bourg in the centre of Saint Cadou. For the 3rd year this active association are organising a number of music and cultural events in and around the centre of the village which is always popular.
The weekend of 21 / 22 June is France’s annual Fête de la Musique where every town, village and hamlet arrange some sort of musical entertainment which Saint Cadou combine with their annual tantad / bonfire for the Fête de St. Jean.
Sunday 30th June is the annual TriBrezh on the Lac du Drennec which is always a spectacle and good opportunity to have a beer on the terrace of Au Lac and watch others exerting themselves.
Saturday 21st September (tbc) is the annual foire a l’ancienne (horse fair) in Commana and Sunday 29 September is Saint Cadou’s annual pardon and pig roast – a great event.
With the many and frequent Fest Noz and Fest Deiz events in our, and the surrounding area, there is always something going on to be enjoyed. We’d love to welcome you here.
At the end of last week’s blog I said that I would update something major in Garratt’s life and not his weird, and you’d have thought very uncomfortable, choice of seating position in an old stone sink outside my new man shed!
Two and a half years ago while at the annual Horse Fair in Commana with the dogs, we were stopped by a man who said he had a chestnut and white springer spaniel and remarked that they were unusual in this area. He mentioned that his springer was female and that, perhaps at some point in the future, he may want to have a litter of puppies and he wondered whether we would be interested in using either Garratt or Brandon as a sire.
We hadn’t heard anymore from him until a couple of weeks ago when he telephoned and asked again if we would be interested in breeding from one of the boys. Assuming that he was speaking theoretically and planning for some date in the future we told him that we would discuss it and give him a call back. However, before we were able to call him he turned up at Kergudon with his dog which was on heat and it became obvious that his request was rather more immediate!
After a quick discussion between David and I we agreed that we would be happy to use one of the boys and we thought that Garratt would be the better choice – which was handy as it transpired that Brandon didn’t have any idea what to do, thankfully Garratt did – eventually! Three further visits in the following week to maximise the chances of conception and now we wait to see if Garratt will become a Dad!
Sadly we haven’t got any pics of Garratt and his new partner but, if successful we will get some. Then we will need to be strong and, while it will be tough, stand firm not to have an new puppy addition to the family – 2 spaniels is enough for us.
Brandon had his own milestone in the week too, as it was his third birthday last Monday.
Work wise, it has been a bit of a ‘bitty’ week principally due to the very changeable weather which, on at least 2 occasions brought snow flurries and many more hailstorms. This has meant much of the garden work I began was progressed when diving in and out to avoid the showers. Despite saying last week that I was going to break up one of the larger jobs of clearing the old chicken run I haven’t done any more. This is partly weather related but also because, while doing other work I managed to break yet another garden fork!
Equally, I haven’t finished the light fitting on the rear gate but I did manage to take the planks I painted the previous week and have built and installed a gate to the garden access behind Granary. This photo isn’t ideal as the sun this morning was brighter than I’d expected. With the gate added the area is almost finished and so much better than it looked in November 2015 when we started clearing the bramble and knot weed – just need our hedging to grown a bit more.
Most of the other tasks were smaller jobs that had needed to be done for a while. Some of these were replacing a couple of hanging basket brackets that had come off in the high winds; hanging the lovely drawings of the gîtes our friend has done in the relevant cottage; suspending a punch bag David had bought for his gym and doing some repainting in Priory before we had guests arrive yesterday.
When it wasn’t raining, hailing or snowing I did manage to get a lot of weeding done. We are really pleased how the garden is developing and growing. The orchard bed looks fabulous, mainly in the sunshine, although this picture, taken mid-weed, doesn’t do some of the colours justice. Sadly the cherry trees we planted last year haven’t blossomed this spring although we understand this isn’t unusual as the trees become established. It does however bode well for future years as the trees mature and the pieris shrubs get larger.
The jungle bed is also coming back to life and looks great with last year’s growth cut off. This had helped protect some of the jungle plants over the, albeit mild, winter and it looks like both our bananas have survived. With luck, we should have a fabulous display again in the summer.
Next week’s efforts will continue to depend on weather, whether I manage to find a new fork I like!