As my last blog, the last 7 days have principally been focussed on progressing the new man shed and getting it as close to completion as I can and, externally at least, I’m not far off.
By last Sunday I had managed to complete the cladding on 2 sides. Now, all of the exterior cladding has been fixed including the detailing around the windows and banging in annular nails to each board to match what we have done with Grange – although they do have a practical purpose as well.
This took a little longer than I had hoped (sound familiar?) but not as long as making the doors.
Because both are generally visible together, as you can see from the picture, I have attempted to make the human door (as a way to distinguish it from the machinery, barn-type doors) match the one made by Lee to access the games room. Lee made the Games Room door from the same construction timber we made the building frame. As such it is, thankfully, pretty basic and easy to replicate so I have done the same things with the small addition of a hole where we will put the cat flap to allow Mouse access to her new home.
The barn doors have also taken a little longer than perhaps they should although I use the justification that, again, these are the first that I have made. The biggest ‘problem’ has been working out how to hinge them so that they open outwards and, when closed, the cladding looks seamless and the doors are almost undetectable. The only way I can think of making this work would require a lot more effort than I can justify for a shed and would need a different sort of pivoting hinge.
I would be far easier if I wanted the doors to open inwards but, for a couple of reasons, that isn’t practical.
As such, I have done the best I can while keeping the hinges hidden behind the cladding – although, when I do eventually get around to putting doors on the Grange garage bays the hinges will be on the outside. I am pretty happy with how they have worked out and it will be even better when the wood has weathered so it is all one colour – and also to match Grange.
There are just a few things outstanding (including attaching the gutter and installing the 2 long windows) before the exterior is complete and I can focus on clearing it out and working on important things on the inside – like electrics and lighting!
I have been very fortunate this week that the weather has, mostly, allowed me to work outside. Thankfully we haven’t experienced the frost and cold weather of much of the UK, in fact it has been very spring-like with bright, mild, periods interspersed with heavy downpours and some hail. It does make for some good pictures if you’re in the right place at the right time – it’s just unfortunate this isn’t the prettiest side of Kergudon – yet. That’s another project on the list!
On the wettest day we chose to visit the Leclerc Cultural centre in Landerneau. This is an exhibition space that we have visited before but only for their summer exhibitions. These have been for some very celebrated artists (Chagall, Picasso and Henry Moore in the last 3 years) but we have never visited their smaller winter shows.
This year their winter event is of the American artist Joan Mitchell and the Canadian Jean-Paul Riopelle. The exhibition is titled ‘A couple in excess / Nothing in moderation’ and showcases their abstract art, mainly in large format, through their relationship.
Neither were known to either of us before but I found their work striking, Riopelle especially, and it is certainly worth a visit. We did ask if they could let us know who their summer exhibition would be focussed on but it remains secret. Apparently not everything has been confirmed and signed but they seemed very excited that it was going to be big. We will let you know as soon as we do.
The coming week will be continuing with the man shed, finishing the exterior completely; clearing the interior and starting to fit it out. I will be able to actually use it in the next couple of weeks and Mouse will be grateful of a new home if the weather cools down.
You may recall that when I summarised all of the projects we had completed in 2018 in the last blog of the year, I mentioned that many of my missives began by saying that we hadn’t had a very productive week. I am pleased to say that 2019 has started in the opposite vein and we have made good progress.
Last week’s blog ended by saying that I hoped to start cladding the man shed if the weather remained dry. It did (mostly) and I have!
However, before I began the cladding and as the temperatures have been unseasonably warm, I thought that it would be a good idea to render the block work to match Grange next door. Getting the rendering done now meant that I would be able to clad over the rendered blockwork rather than having to render under the wood after I attach it to the frame.
When we had all of the rendering done early in 2017 (all of the Grange and the dwarf walls behind Priory) I was very happy to leave it all to our friendly builder, Lee, while I was content with mixing the mortar and doing the smoothing off later in the day as it dried.
Lee was very quick at applying the mortar to the walls and getting a pretty smooth surface as he did it. He was particular about the consistency of the mortar I mixed and really didn’t like it if was at all gritty. I have never rendered before and always equated it to plastering, albeit outdoors, a skill I had always understood was a real skill that takes years to perfect so I was happy to leave it to others.
Now, having rendered this relatively small building, I can say with confidence that I don’t mind if I never do it again!* It was the first new job I have undertaken since living at Kergudon that I really didn’t enjoy. I completely understood why Lee was so specific about the consistency of the mortar – too wet and it just flops off the wall, too dry and it doesn’t stick easily and takes so much force to apply it to the wall. The problem being that mixing it is a skill in itself. I always started with a drier mix, on the understanding that it is easier to add more water than take it out, but there seemed to be the tiniest amount of water required between the point it goes from being far too dry to way too sloppy!
I also understand why Lee didn’t like a gritty mix as any small lump in the mix led to a large hollow in the render on the wall. Unfortunately, the lime I used I had opened in November when I was mixing mortar for the blockwork and, no matter what I do, I have found it almost impossible to keep an open bag of lime completely dry so it doesn’t form small lumps. That, and a particularly gritty sort of sand, led to lots of bits in my mortar mix that added to the challenge of rendering.
Eventually however, I managed to get a mix that worked and a technique that, while may not be textbook and wouldn’t allow me entry to the Guild of Master Renderers, was at least effective. The way I did it was pretty much rather than apply the mortar to the wall from a hawk, I just dumped it on the ground next to the wall and used my float to push it up.
Being so slow on the first day, with the days being shorter, I wasn’t able to revisit as the mortar dried and sooth it off perfectly as we had for Grange. As such it looks a little more ‘rustic’ in places than Lee’s work but, as my first, and would be happily last, attempt, I am pretty happy. By the end of my second day, when the entire shed was done, I was at least confident that I could do it again in the pond that we will eventually build to give a smooth(ish) surface that I can then paint (and will then be then hidden underwater!)
Rendering done, I could then start the cladding which, after the many square metres of Grange, I am much more familiar with. I have managed to complete 2 of the 3 sides, where there is less cutting required.
The west side (the back where I have moved the wall away from the boundary talus) is now completely watertight as, the keen-eyed will be able to see on a previous picture, I have also installed the windows we bought via Facebook Marketplace.
The windows do need a bit of TLC and a new coat of paint but they were a much better bargain that what we spent most of today collecting – more of that in a future blog but let’s say that today hasn’t been the best use of time!
The coming week should see a lot more progress on the shed and, maybe, get it to a point of completion so I can start emptying the garages and actually using it …
Following your comments last week about how my blog looked on mobile devices following the update to WordPress. I have completed it in a different way which has hopefully resolved the problem so that it can all be read.
Happy New Year to you all. We hope you have recovered from whatever festivities you enjoyed to see in 2019, if recovering was required.
David and I had a really lovely New Year’s Eve as the very first one we have had alone together. We had plans to go to an early New Year’s Eve on the 30th which sadly had to be cancelled as the host was poorly. We wish them a speedy recovery.
Our New Year’s Eves are generally lively affairs, historically with a large group of friends who we would hire a big country house with, sometimes in France. This year we had a quieter night with a lovey dinner together and board games – which risked ending / starting the year at blows – thankfully it didn’t!
We were delighted to have a large group of French friends who enjoyed their Réveillon and stayed in three of our gîtes for a few nights and seemed to enjoy themselves as much as we used to with our friends, although with a lot less dressing up!
This week has seen us return to our work and projects which has been greatly assisted by some continuing dry weather (we evidently chose the right weeks to return to the UK at the end of last year).
You will recall from previous blogs that the current project is rebuilding the man shed. The last time I showed any progress was in my blog of 25th November and in last week’s blog, when I summarised some of the major projects we have completed in 2018, I said that I had made further progress and hoped that by today the roof would be on.
The progress I made between Christmas and New Year was shaping and erecting the Douglas fir posts on the corners of the building so it mirrors the style of Grange next to it. I had also made a start to the frame that would be required to hold the roof up. As I wanted to use wood that I had already bought and not pay extra for much longer lengths to be cut (this is a project on a budget) I needed to erect a central support post to hold the frame on which the roofing sheets will sit.
The roofing material we will use are the same metal sheets we have used on the wood store behind Grange. Slate would have been lovely but, because of the shallow angle of the roof less practical and much heavier. The metal sheets look good (for a shed); do match the wood store (although that is mostly hidden behind Grange); but most importantly are much lighter so I can get away with a single support post.
While the post has to be in the centre of the man shed, and so something to be worked around, it will probably be surrounded by the work bench that I will build so shouldn’t be a hazard. I have also decided to make the support post hollow so the Grange power cable can be hidden inside it and I can attach some sockets on it to be used on my bench.
Since New Year, I am delighted to say that I have managed to get it completely roofed so, we hope, it is completely watertight from above. I am not wishing it to rain anytime soon but, when it does, I will probably stand inside to make sure that it does stay dry!
New Year is the time for traditions, old and new; resolutions and new starts. We have lots of projects that we want to get underway, hopefully complete, that we can consider as new starts. One resolution that we have made together is, like many others, to have an alcohol-free period for a few weeks. However, realising that we hadn’t actually had champagne at any point over Christmas and New Year, when normally we would have found many excuses, we maintained a tradition we started in 2017 and had a Christmas, although this time New Year’s Day, Champagne high tea. This is likely to appear on our catering options in 2019, although perhaps without the mince pies, stolen and other festive treats we had!
Our dry period started after our tea and, we hope, will last until the middle of February, which made attending this afternoon’s village Galette Des Rois event in the Pub St Hubert a test of will power! The French celebrate Epiphany with a Galette des Rois, a cake in which they hide a charm or token that allows the finder to be the King or Queen for a short period! Thankfully we managed to abstain from the alcohol if not the cake.
The other activity for toady was taking down all the decorations. I always find this a sad task as it makes the living room look so bare, at least for a couple of days until we get used to the change. Only 48 weeks before we can justifiably put them all back up again!
Next week, if the weather continues to remain dry, having picked up the wood required yesterday, is to start cladding the man shed and we may have a completely watertight building this time next week. Very exciting.
Before I start please be aware that WordPress has updated itself so how I post the blog has changed and it may not look like it usually does! I will see if I can master it but I suspect (hope) it / I will improve in coming weeks!
We hope that everyone has had a wonderful week and enjoyed their Christmas festivities. We have had a great Christmas, were very spoiled both with lovely gifts but also fabulous weather allowing us to enjoy a few days of doing no work but eating, relaxing and taking the dogs out for long walks in the forest.
David prepared a number of magnificent meals. On Christmas Eve he made Pheasant Balmoral, an adaption of Chicken Balmoral a guest explained to us which is chicken stuffed with haggis and wrapped in bacon. We often have some haggis in the freezer and we have recently bought pheasant and, as it sounded so good, David gave it a go. Delicious and definitely recommended.
Christmas dinner was delicious too. Turkey this year rather than our normal goose. We started at 5 and went on for a number of hours. At the end of it we didn’t have space for either Christmas pud or cake and we still didn’t need a big meal the following day despite having had another long walk.
We knew that the French generally make a bigger deal of Christmas Eve than Christmas Day itself, and that Boxing Day isn’t a public holiday here (they have plenty of others!) However, we weren’t expecting to receive a phone call from a farmer at 9 am who wanted to deliver some firewood at 9.30! Ideally, I would have had more of a leisurely start on 26th but I had already got up to put the bins out for the dustmen who came at 9.10 – very festive!
This time last year my blog summarised a number of the projects we had completed in and around Kergudon in 2017. We are generally very guilty of focussing more on the work which is left to do rather than look back at the things we have achieved, so I thought I would do another summary of 2018 work completed.
Having re-read the blogs I wrote throughout the year I was amazed (alarmed) at how many began by saying something similar to ‘not much progress made this week’, or ‘it’s been a quiet week’ and then justifying why we hadn’t done much in the preceding 7 days!
That said we did manage to achieve quite a lot in 2018 and have made significant changes to Kergudon and the activities available for our guests. I have again attached some pictures to show the then and now (hopefully, it is evident which is which.)
My summary of 2017 said that, unsurprisingly, Grange had been the major focus of the year (a ‘time thief’), and in December was still some way off completion. As such, our focus at the start of this year was to make a final push to complete the interior spaces and clad the inside of the garage bays.
We are delighted with how it turned out and the games room has been a huge success with our guests. The cinema has also got a lot of use by David and I, although sadly not as much by our guests as yet – perhaps because the summer weather was so fantastic everyone wanted to be outside all the time.
It may be a little exaggerated to say the completing the storage room has been life changing, but it has certainly made a big difference. We have finally been able store ‘stuff’ in a much more accessible way, so we have a better idea of what ‘stuff’ we actually have, and we have made a start at clearing everything out from our own home. Most importantly, on changeover days, we can get everything we need to change the gîtes from one place.
We did manage to clad inside all the garage bays and, by adding a concrete gully and 3 waterbutts, the interior of the garage almost completely dried out over the summer even if it still can’t currently be used until the man shed is complete.
Having completed the inside of Grange, we finished all of the additional things on the outside. I have built a great woodstore and given it waterproof covers. It too has made it so much easier to manage things in the gîtes during the colder months even if I am currently paranoid about putting old wood in there – there is a plan to deal with that!
Equally, the bin and recycling store has tidied up both ends of Grange and made separating the recycling easier for us.
Most importantly, using all the materials in front of Grange has allowed us to build our ‘boulodome’. We are delighted that this has been used often by our guests and we will certainly make use of it on barmy summers’ evenings.
The rear access to Kergudon is now almost smarter than the front. With Grange complete, we have been able to install our gate and rebuild the wall on the east side so it mirrors the west. When our lonicera cuttings grow next year it will really look great, especially if they grow as quickly as they have on the opposite side.
We have also continued to develop and improve the gardens with lots of new planting. The most immediately impactful was demolishing the old flower bed in front of Kergudon and Priory and rebuilding it as a slightly larger space and planting our tropical plants. In 2019 we hope to extend this new bed further up towards Dairy where we have cleared a tatty coppice of trees in preparation for digging our first pond.
In the (very) long term we will benefit from having planted 100 new yews around the perimeter of the back lawn as we try and establish a decent boundary hedge. Sadly yew, and the hollies that we had put in before, are relatively slow growing at least until they get their roots well established in the first few years, but they will make a fabulous evergreen perimeter. Most encouragingly, despite the exceptionally dry summer we had we have only lost a small number.
The final project of 2018 was to demolish the old, rotten, man shed and start to build its replacement. I have even made more progress in the last 3 days but will share those photos next week when I hope the roof will be on.
When this is complete we can empty the garage bays and finish those and, I hope, it will make the same sort of difference to our DIY tasks as the storeroom has done to everything else. Again, it will certainly assist making the drive and general appearance of that part of Kergudon so much better.
Dave’s cooking has been especially popular this year with guests and had received a lot of excellent comments. He continues to be busy at New York Gym, and enjoys the classes and training that he gives, and has acquired a number of personal training clients in Morlaix and on Skype.
Those are all of our larger projects but, of course, we have done any number of smaller, less impactful things. The general maintenance, cleaning, preparing gîtes etc. takes up a lot of time too. Amazingly, perhaps frustratingly, despite having progressed as we have our ‘To Do’ list doesn’t seem to be any shorter at the end of the year as it was at the start. As soon as we have completed a task and ticked it off we find another to add to it and there are still a number that I would consider to be substantial amounts of work but that will make a huge difference.
Having said how many of my blogs began with ‘not much progress made this week’, who knows what else we would have achieved had we been more productive!
Most importantly, we have thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many guests again this year both new and returning. We hope that they have all enjoyed staying with us here at Kergudon and those who came back have seen our changes.
Here’s looking forward to 2019 and whatever that may bring – especially with the changes that may, or probably won’t, be caused as a result of the UK leaving the EU. Regardless, we believe that France, and especially this part of it, is a fabulous place to come and visit year-round to relax and unwind. We are easily accessible, without fear of disruption from phantom drones, for a week, long weekend or a couple of nights escape to the country. We would love to welcome here.
Finally, to all of our friends, family and guests, we hope you have enjoyed following our progress in 2018 and reading my blogs (typos and all!) More importantly we hope you have a very Happy New Year and wish you all the best for 2019.
I mentioned at the end of last week’s blog that our principle activity would be to prepare Kergudon and the gîtes for our guests who have chosen to spend their Christmas here in Brittany (means they didn’t have to risk the Gatwick chaos!) This year is the first that we have guests staying with us in both Priory and Granary. Last year we had guests in Hayloft which we decorated with a green theme but didn’t think that would look good in Granary which has a bluer (if that’s a word!) décor.
This meant that we had to buy some new, blue, decorations – an investment for years to come. This proved easier in theory than practice. Dave managed to source some here before our trip to the UK but we felt that we needed a few more and, evidently, blue is not in fashion for British decorators this year! We did however see a number of other ideas to give us inspiration for both decorations and bigger things that we now want to do in the gîtes – the downside of going back!
We started on Priory Gite which, having decorated before, we did a similar styling to previously in traditional red and gold. With the living room of Priory being old with slate and beams, it makes a lovely cosy Christmas setting.
We have also again hung a garland over the old fireplace in the kitchen but have made it a more natural theme. Borrowing some of the ideas from a fabulous pub we stopped in near Winchester, we have used cinnamon sticks, walnuts, pinecones, and pheasant feathers on the garland with some artificial poinsettia flowers. We have also added dried orange slices and clementines which we dried ourselves. We had attempted to do this previously but the result was just a sticky mess. This year we thought it best to research how to do it properly and the results have been much more successful – although it did mean the oven was on all night so perhaps we will buy them in the future, at least the whole oranges.
Granary Gite was fun to decorate and this was the first year we needed to. The layout of the gîte has a dining room on the ground floor, next to the kitchen, and a separate lounge on the first floor. Sadly there is only space for 1 full size Christmas tree but, being on the ground floor, it is at least where our guests will sit down for Christmas lunch. It does however mean having to sacrifice one of the reading seats but it is a sacrifice worth making.
As an old building Granary also has 2 fireplaces and so mantles that are perfect for garlands, and one of our ‘natural’ garlands too.
We found the traditional French bar mirror above the lounge fireplace, obviously, on Freecycle in Clapham South. It was a little too large to fit in the boot of our car when we collected it so was hanging out the back when we made the slow drive through the backstreets of south west London before adorning our hallway in Balham. We think it looks fantastic now in Granary especially so when decorated.
Having done the gîtes there was also our own home to complete, although we started last week with the tree.
David was focussed on food and preparing some delicious treats for us and our guests. This included decorating three Christmas cakes, one for each gîte and one for us, which all look amazing, and finishing off the annual Christmas chutney which we include in the welcome baskets for our guests. Having a December birthday means I also get a ‘Christmas’ cake for my birthday – but we generally don’t start this until about March when the actual Christmas cake is finished and lasts until mid-summer!
We welcomed our guests to Priory and Granary on Friday and Saturday respectively and we hope they enjoy looking at the decorations as much as we enjoyed decorating.
I am posting this early as I don’t expect this afternoon, or indeed this coming week, to be the most productive as we settle down in front of the fire for Christmas week. We hope our guests, and of course all of you, have a very Merry Christmas and enjoy the festive season.
We’re back! I mentioned in my last blog on 25th November that there would be a gap of a couple of weeks. I would love to say that since that blog I had been working away madly and the man shed is now complete, the gravel pile all spread and the garage bays emptied. I would love to say it but sadly, it isn’t true!
The reason I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks is that, as last year, we took the opportunity of this quiet pre-Christmas time to nip back to the UK and have a whistlestop tour of friends and family and do some of those things in England that we can’t do here. We want to say a massive thank you to everyone who hosted us on our visit including someone whose ‘line manager’ had to pop to Buenos Aires for some G20 thing – it was great to catch up and we only regret that we couldn’t see everyone we wanted or spend as long with people as we would have liked.
It was a really good journey that started off exceptionally well. We knew that we would be sailing to the UK on Brittany Ferries’ ‘Mont St. Michel’. What we didn’t know until very near our sailing was that one of David’s gym members, who works for Brittany Ferries, would also be onboard. She was extremely kind to us and looked after us very well, including allowing us to visit the bridge. Many thanks to her.
For those who know us, you will know that I have spent many hours on ships’ bridges, although rarely commercial vessels, and Dave never has. Having been allowed to visit the bridge during daylight mid-channel, I was more excited when we were invited back for the night entrance into Portsmouth Harbour. Having sailed in at night frequently, this was the first time following dredging for the new carrier channel so, while the lights of Southsea were pretty much as I remembered, it looked so much easier navigationally – although the Round Tower / Fort Blockhouse gap was no wider.
Two of the people we stayed with work in the dockyard team with the Queen’s Harbour Master, one being one of the Admiralty Pilots, so it was good to have something to chat to them about!
The timing of our visit is also determined around the Varsity rugby that we used to attend with David’s Dad each year. While Landivisiau Rugby club put on a decent match, which we attended in our first year, nothing beats Twickenham for an occasion. Sadly the attendance at Twickenham this year was almost what Landi rugby can attract and, even more sadly, the win went to the dark blues, but it was a fun day and Landivisiau doesn’t yet have anywhere like the Admiral Nelson pub at Whitton.
Our visit went without major incident until our last few hours in the UK. Pulling away from our final stop to head to the ferry we had a very flat tyre. Fortunately our final visit was with a friend who is an engineer, and the sort of engineer who has every possible tool in his garage which proved useful! The wheel was very reluctant to come off the car and the space saving spare, which was under 2 dogs and LOTS of luggage, had not been checked in months so was very low on air itself. Thankfully, with our friend’s help, we managed to change the wheel, inflate the spare and then had to limp home on the space saving tyre.
On the positive side, we made the ferry and was placed on it so that we were the 3rd car off. Also, positively, as the Plymouth / Roscoff ferries aren’t frequent at this time of year, we had chosen to sail to St. Malo which is only 2½ hours from us with good tyres and so only 3 when speed limited. Having got home and inspected the flat it was evident that it was beyond repair and it had worn excessively on the inside. This was very infuriating as, suspecting that the tracking was out a few months ago and that the tyres weren’t wearing evenly, David had visited a garage to get them to check only to be reassured that all was as it should be. Evidently not.
We knew that we would have to replace the tyres early next year anyway but this forced us to do so a little early and, having had them changed, the garage checked the alignment and it was way out. I blame the road conditions in West Oxfordshire which were by far the worst we experienced anywhere but it may also be the many miles we have done sometimes heavily loaded!
One advantage of being away for the period we were, we missed all of the problems associated with the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ movement. I was going to mention them in one of my earlier blogs as the first weekend of protest was when we drove to Morbihan to collect our new beds. However, I forgot to do so as, despite being delayed by about 5 minutes by a march in Carhaix, we hadn’t experienced any problems.
As the ferries weren’t running from Roscoff, we had to sail to the UK from Ouistreham near Caen and our sailing was early afternoon. David’s gym members had sent him horror stories about chaos on the roads in Normandy (the Normans always seem to protest with greater enthusiasm!) to the point of suggesting we set off a day early! We didn’t but we did leave home at 6 am giving us just over 6 hours to do a 4 hour journey. While we saw evidence of the protests, including a number of fire damaged road signs and a small huddle of protestors on one roundabout, we didn’t experience any delays. As such we arrived very early which allowed us to give the dogs a good long walk along the river Orne near Pegasus Bridge.
While we were in the UK we watched the increasing violence used by protestors under the guise of the Gilets Jaunes movement principally in Paris. Speaking to our friends and neighbours they are equally appalled and acknowledge that, while they generally support the aims of the initial protests, it has been hijacked by the extremists and anarchists out just to cause trouble.
Having been told that the protesters were blocking oil refineries, we made sure that we had a full tank of fuel before getting on the ferry but, again, reality and rumour didn’t match and we haven’t experienced any issues with getting petrol here. The one advantage of the movement is that they do seem to have vented a lot of their frustration on the many speed cameras along the highways!
It is evident that it had been very wet and windy here since we left and it has rained pretty much every day since getting home. Thankfully we haven’t seen any damage caused while we were away but the weather has prevented me carrying on with the shed. As such, as well as getting the car sorted and doing the post-holiday admin (laundry!) we have focussed on getting the gîtes ready for our guests at Christmas.
As at least one of our guests read my blog, I won’t show any pictures of the decorations in the gîtes until next week so as not to spoil the surprise. However, we have also decorated Kergudon itself so here is a glimpse of our own home with the first batch of mince pies David has baked today as well as icing 4 cakes – which I will show again next week.
Last night we did visit the Christmas market at Locronan, a preserved village approximately 35 minutes from us. Our French teacher from the course we used to attend had arranged a visit with her current students and had extended an invitation to us. While Locronan’s Christmas market is small, with only about 15 huts in the village, the Gendarme presence was obvious following the attack in Strasbourg. However, we think small is better as the real reason to visit Locronan is to see the lights which are strung along the rooflines of the village which would be spoiled if there were hundreds of Vin Chaud stalls everywhere!
The coming week will be spent ensuring our gîtes are fully ‘Christmasified’ to welcome our guests. Lots of festive pictures in next week’s blog.
The last week has been focussed on a single task – progressing the man shed build. As such this blog will be very short.
I am pleased to say that I have made some good progress, which I am very pleased with, and with the frame now being complete, the footprint of the shed, as well as the door and access, is visible and it is a really good space.
I mentioned in last week’s blog that we couldn’t get the corner douglas posts from the same sawmill as we did for Grange as the owner had had an accident. Thankfully, we found another mill which was able to cut the posts and I was able to collect them on Wednesday.
I was only able to complete the 3rd and final side of the shed once the post had been put in place as it needed to be lifted onto the spike that will help hold it in place. This couldn’t be done until I had moved the power cable which provides the power to Grange. Having wired it via the fusebox in Hayloft, we drilled a hole which came out inside the old shed but would be outside the new one.
A little channelling through the lime mortar of Hayloft allowed me to thread the cable between the slates and hide again behind some new mortar so it emerges ‘inside’ the shed.
The next task is to prepare and install the other 3 posts before I can cut the rafters to allow me to put the roof on. Unfortunately that will now have to wait for a while – although not as long as the rendering which, I suspect, will be better to wait until the spring when it starts to warm up. The longer I delay the rendering the longer Garratt can have his mound of sand which he seems to prefer as it gives him a higher spot to look out from!
I’m afraid there won’t be a blog for the next couple of weeks but I will be back on 16th December with an update.
Until then …
Last week’s blog said that we were due to have some good weather which would allow me to progress the man-shed. Thankfully that has proven to be accurate and I have managed to put in a few days continuing the man-shed build.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to work on the shed every day, although would have liked to, and while the weather would have allowed, once again there were other things to do.
The week started with the last bit of dirty work, for now, when I need to mix more mortar to put in a damp-proof layer at the top of the 3 courses of brick. I am not sure why but damp proof membrane does not seem to be as readily available in French DIY stores as in the UK and, where it was stocked, it was considerably more expensive. Irritatingly, having bought some at Castorama I then found some at much better value online – lesson re-re-relearned!
However, at least having it done allowed me to make a start to the frame. I am using exactly the same techniques that our builder used and taught me when we were building Grange (but much slower!) so, being only single story, it should be absolutely solid.
Unlike the old shed that I am replacing I want this one to have natural light – at least through windows rather than the massive gaps in the cladding than before! We found a couple of windows on Facebook marketplace (a resource I am very new too but now quite like) and we saved the glass panels from the old shower in Stable when we were refurbishing in our first year. I said I didn’t throw anything away that maybe useful, well now they have found a purpose!
I started on the front wall as it would be the easiest to do and have managed to complete it. This has allowed me to calculate the angle I need for the roof so I can start the back wall and cut the uprights at the correct angle. So far its looking like it is working out!
As it will be in the same style as Grange, we are going to have large douglas fir corner posts. Initially I thought it would be easier to get these from the same sawmill as those for Grange however, having tried to contact the mill, the operator has had an industrial accident and the mill is closed for the rest of the year. Knowing how large their saw blades are I hate to think what sort of accident he has had but, as he is confident he will be open next year whatever it is will evidently have grown back!
It did mean that I needed to find another mill and, having done a bit of research I was amazed at how many there are around us. It has meant that I have been able to choose one at a reasonable cost and who can have them ready fairly quickly as I will likely get to a point when they will be the things that hold me up.
I had to stop work on the shed on Thursday as a local farmer arrived with a trailer load of firewood we had ordered that then needed to be split, cut and stacked away while it stayed dry. All good stuff for keeping us toasty warm in the winter and, more importantly, our gîte guests!
Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get back to the shed since then as we decided on Friday to go shopping for some other bits required, mostly the roofing sheets, based on the principle that, if I have everything here, there is no excuse not to make good progress when the weather allows.
Saturday was another ‘shopping’ trip for a couple of beds we also found online. We weren’t actively seeking new beds but on our, very long, list of things that we want, was to replace the last 2 single beds which were here when we arrived and were in Granary. The beds we had were functional but weren’t very attractive and didn’t fit in with our refurbished décor so, when we saw an advert for 2 traditional Breton beds and mattresses at a great price we though the long journey to collect them was worth it.
I have spent most of today putting them up. It wasn’t supposed to take that long but, having initially decided that they would look best in Priory’s eaves twin bedroom, when I had built them it looked a tiny but too cramped – these being wider than the beds we were replacing – so we chose to move them to the first floor twin where we think they look great – traditional yet not old-fashioned and not too ‘Grandma’s house’. We hope you agree.
This has allowed us to shuffle the remaining beds so now the Granary twin has the beds previously in Priory, which look far better, and the legacy beds are in storage – told you I don’t throw anything away!
Next week again looks good weather-wise albeit very cold at points, but I should be able to continue with the shed and hopefully get the whole of the frame erected – assuming we get our douglas posts!
Today has been a beautiful day outside. It is very different from the very mixed weather of the last 7 days and absolutely perfect for Armistice Day and this significant centenary.
Watching the pictures from the Cenotaph in London it appeared to be the same bright, crisp, optimistic autumn day as here. David and I went to memorial in Saint Cadou but, sadly, we were the only people there and had our own period of reflection and remembrance. A new, official looking, wreath had been laid suggesting there had been a ceremony there recently so possibly the commemorations were taking place in Sizun rather than our own village but foolishly we hadn’t done our research.
The memorial does show however the impact of the 2 wars even on our small village. There were considerably more casualties during The Great War than WW2 and a number lived in Kergudon itself (marked), although we understand this refers to the hamlet rather than our buildings. As everywhere else the frequency of the same family name on the memorial shows just how devastating the war was to entire families. There are also a number of family names which are very familiar and still in the village – our neighbours are Pouliquens.
During the Second World War we know that Germans were billeted in the house called The Old Presbytery, opposite Saint Cadou’s church, and the old weathercock is in the Sizun museum with the bullet holes where it was used as unofficial target practice.
Work for me has been dictated by the very changeable weather and I have not been able to progress the new man shed. When it was dry I continued to clear the copse of trees that I had started the week before which has made a huge difference to that small area of garden. It always looks more impactful if you compare to the pictures before on previous blogs. With the decheterrie (tip) having more limited opening hours in the winter months, most of which seem to coincide with when David takes the car to work, I change between jobs if I can’t empty the trailer.
As such, this week I started clearing another unkempt area of the garden which was becoming more and more overgrown – the old chicken run. We have never cleared the old run or removed the broken down fence so, over the last 4 years it too has become overgrown with bramble, knot weed and sycamore saplings. We do use it occasionally to deposit garden rubbish prior to having a bonfire.
Our last big fire was earlier in the year in May after which I optimistically, and probably naïvely, thought that I could strim through the rest of the area and then keep it under control with mowing. However, on closer look, I needed to manually clear the large amounts of waste that we had dumped there which had never made it onto a fire; remove the fairly sizable trees which have started to grow and make an effort to remove the old chicken wire.
This has proven so far to be a very slow job although I suspect I am doing it probably more thoroughly than is absolutely necessary as I am removing as much root of the weed as I can. Of course all that is doing is making another large pile of garden waste that I will have to burn when we have another dry spell – which, if the forecast is right might be in the next 10 days after Tuesday.
Foolishly I didn’t take a before photo, other than this one which was after we had the last bonfire in May, but you get the idea. The current state was taken today.
I mentioned in last week’s blog that David had again led the warm-up to the annual Taulé to Morlaix 10K and I promised pictures. Please see the attached video:
All other activities have been inside when it has been particularly wet and windy, as it was especially on Friday although, oddly, despite the large and deep depression which passed to the west of Ireland it was not a named storm. I’ve never really thought naming a depression was really necessary but if the Met Office is going to do it they need to be consistent about it!
Some of those indoor activities, for David at least, have been more Christmas cooking so the house has smelt amazing. He has now cooked 7 Christmas cakes in total to my Mum’s old recipe (which is so good it is framed and hanging in our kitchen!) as well as made lots of chutney and piccalilli for us to enjoy and gift to guests staying with us over Christmas.
Next week, again if the, very positive, forecast is right, I will be able to progress the man shed and get the frame built – exciting stuff.
Last week has pretty much been focussed on one task – the blockwork for the new man shed. Having put it off (not intentionally) for a few days I started laying the blocks on Wednesday just as the forecast was changing but I have managed to finish.
At the start of the week I did the very final prep to the man shed concrete base which was mostly clearing away the soil and detritus I had generated reducing the height of the slate wall the week before. Once again this led to creating another job for me or, more accurately, increased the priority of a job that was already on the list.
I had left the excess soil on the concrete base for a couple of days as we weren’t sure initially where we could use it and we already have a number of piles of soil / slate / stuff opposite the garage and were reluctant to create another or enlarge an existing one. Eventually we decided to deposit it in a corner of the orchard where we will, eventually, create another raised flower bed to continue to use up the slate blocks not required for the back gate wall.
Before I deposited it there, I wanted to clear some of the brambles that had taken root which made me think I should also tackle the other trees and weeds which had self-set. The area is between the jungle-bed we created in the spring and the bike shed. It bounded part of the carpark before we arrived, is where we will eventually create a raised pond but where we haven’t done anything since we got here (too many other priorities). As such a small copse of trees have grown up (oak, beech, really vicious hawthorn and the ubiquitous sycamore among others) and was certainly not the most attractive part of the estate!
As with so many other parts of the garden, we have plans for that entire area although we’re not sure when it will make it to the top of the to-do list. In the short term at least a clear out and tidy up will benefit the front and improve the entrance further. All of the trees will eventually go which will make a large impact but we will replace with other, more interesting, planting.
Once the concrete pad was cleared I made a start to the blockwork. I have laid bricks before but never breeze blocks (our builder, Lee, did all of the walling for Grange and the replacement fences behind Priory) but thought it couldn’t be too different. I was probably considerably slower than a professional and only managed one course per day, but I am pleased with the result. It is certainly sturdy enough for a man shed and is a much more practical area than previously as we have extended the parking space for Hayloft and left a walkway between the shed and boundary hedge.
My biggest challenge was getting the final course level when the foundation was anything but. We extended the concrete pad in stages as we had various bits of concrete left over after other jobs and hadn’t put anything in place to ensure it was level with the old space. With up to 10 centimetres difference in the levels and only 3 course of blocks to level it out, meant I had to use some thicker mortar courses in places with a bit of padding where required.
I have laid all the courses we need (3) and, following the way Lee showed me when building Grange, have inserted threaded bar to secure the wooden planking to the top of the wall when I start to build the frame which I will do after I’ve added the damp-proof course.
On Friday evening we had a lovely night at Au Lac and enjoyed the first of Mercedes’ Asian tasting nights. In a previous life, Merc spent a long time in the Far East and, now in the low season, has had the great idea of having a different country’s cuisine at the weekends. Last Friday was India, so lovely curry, with Thai this week and Indonesia and Malaysia to follow.
Today, for the third year, David represented New York Gym and led the warm-up for a local 10K run north of Morlaix. It was very well received and hopefully I will be able to share pictures and video next week.
The focus for me next week is very much dependent on the weather – which looks very mixed. I hope to be able to progress the shed but, if not, I will continue to clear the copse.