Last week, I had started re-staining the exterior of the windows in Granary while the weather was warm (hot) and dry. I hoped that I would be able to complete this job if the weather remained favourable – and it has.
In fact, we are starting to get a little concerned about this continued heat and lack of rain. I can’t remember the last time we had any beneficial rain and the forecast has no precipitation for the next 10 days. The lawn is already starting to brown and some of the shrubs will start to find it difficult. We are even concerned about being able to water the hanging baskets when all of our water butts (3400 litres in total) run dry!
The advantage is that I did manage to complete the staining of Granary windows and they look so much better for it. Hopefully they are now protected and will good for the next 5 years – or at least that is what it says on the tin!
Last week I also said that I hoped to start some of the groundwork in the old chicken run and that has been my principal task for the rest of the week.
Knowing that over the next few years we had quite a lot of earth moving to be done, a year or so ago we decided that, in partnership with a friend, we would invest in our own mini-digger. This was based on the, exorbitant, cost of renting one for any period of time here and the second-hand prices of diggers. As such, our friend, who is rather more mechanically minded that either of us, agreed to source a digger in the UK. He found one ‘competitively priced’ in Kent and, last December, drove it back to his home in one of our neighbouring villages.
On Wednesday he delivered it to us for me to start the work. Sadly, I don’t have any photographs that show clearly what the site looked like before I started but, since we have lived here, we have been using the area as a sort of dumping ground. This hasn’t been restricted to garden waste for burning but also the soil I generated when digging the foundations for Grange which I deposited alongside the boundary to Hent Gorreker.
The rear talus was also something that we wanted to reduce in height and create a more gentle slope so that we can control the bramble, weed and dreaded knot weed by simply mowing. This would also have the added advantage of allowing more (some) light to the yew trees we planted last spring and remove the weeds which compete for the small amounts of water that makes it to the ground under the trees.
I have never been a great video-gamer, and I just missed the grade for Naval pilot aptitude training which may explain why it took me some time to work out how to use the controls efficiently! There are only 2 levers, but each of them can move in 4 directions to control the arm and bucket and it was very frustrating for a while to get the digger to do what I wanted – consistently! Also, being ‘competitively priced’ it is a fairly agricultural machine and, despite my efforts to be gentle and finesse the controls, the digger is very juddery in its movements.
Also, being competitively priced has meant that it hasn’t been as reliable as I’d have hoped but we have identified that the issue is the alternator is duff and the battery doesn’t charge. This was fine other that it meant, once started, I couldn’t stop the machine and I couldn’t start as early as I’d have liked for a couple of mornings.
Before I started the work I watched a couple of Youtube videos on how to use a digger and was hugely impressed with what the professional operators could do. With our juddery agricultural machine I couldn’t be quite so accurate with the finish and so, despite its frustrations, I managed to get to a point when I finished with the hydraulics and the next stage is purely mandraulic.
We understood the rear boundary was where previous owners had simply piled up lots of old slate and covered it with earth which is why the top was proud of the talus. Having scraped the top off it seems our understanding was accurate as there are lot of pieces of slate and rock, some quite large, which makes up the bank. With years of bramble and weed growth the mass of roots made clearing the soil even tougher. I have managed to get the height down to a level we want and so the next stage is to grade it and replace some of the soil with the roots and stones removed so we can mow it easily when the grass establishes itself.
This picture shows how we hope it will all look when I have graded the length of the bank which is probably another 3 or 4 day’s worth of work which will be uncomfortable as the forecast is for the weather to remain hot and dry.
Because of the heat we have taken the opportunity of having the Lac du Drennec on our doorstep and had a couple of post-work swims to cool ourselves, and the dogs, down. Even the water isn’t too cold – although chilly for me. This morning was also the first time this summer that David was able to hold his yoga session on the beach – hopefully more to come.
Next week’s ambition is to complete the old chicken run entirely so that we can lay some grass seed and get it growing – if it ever rains again!
At the end of last week’s blog, I said that I wasn’t sure what this week would bring but that there was a lot to do. Turns out what it did bring was lots and lots of heat! Thankfully, being in the north west, we have not had quite such high heat as Paris and southern parts of France peaking at 30 degrees on Thursday. What was most uncomfortable was when it stayed at 30 degrees until 11 at night. As such, some of the jobs that I ended up doing were, as much as anything, a way to escape the heat!
The week has actually been another of those when I have started, progressed or even completed jobs rather than being focussed on one single task. Before it got too hot, I began clearing the flower bed to the south of the tropical bed we created in spring last year. If you stop the second drone video I attached to last week’s blog (Kergudon 3) at the 17 second mark, you can see the area on the left hand side of the picture.
We hadn’t touched this part of the bed really since we arrived other than to plant a yucca that we brought with us from London. In that time a number of willow trees had set themselves, as they do everywhere if left alone, and were starting to get quite big. The space outside the bed is where, hopefully this autumn and / or early next spring, I want to build a formal pond to make the space beautiful but also to attract more wildlife. As the timing may slide due to one other significant project we may look to do early next spring, which I will touch on later, I thought it best at least to start getting the bed looking less uncared for.
This proved tougher than clearing any of the other spaces we have done just because of the willow roots but it is starting to look a little better and we have rediscovered our Yucca! I only managed part of a day until it started getting just too hot.
From the other end the tropical bed is really starting to establish itself and the hot poker plants (kniphofias) have got far more flowers on this year than last. If you look at the title picture the little stump under the shank of the anchor that is the lovely red banana which we planted and looked great in September last year.
We had given this up for dead and believed that it wasn’t as hardy as we were initially told and even our last relatively mild winter had killed it. As we wanted to replace it, during the week we ordered a couple online (a replacement and a spare) only to see, 24 hours after doing so, that ours had sprung back into life! This is brilliant and infuriating in equal measure as we are now going to have buy 2 large pots for the new plants when they arrive but will at least be able to move those undercover in the winters. Assuming we look after the original in a better way we will have a forest of bananas, and if we don’t we have a couple of ‘spares’!
When the weather got too uncomfortable to work outside at all I found a project to do in my new man shed (yet another great reason to have it!) A couple of our guests in Hayloft have suggested that we have a luggage stand for suitcases which was on my list to do. As this could be done inside, I built one using some shelf sections from old canvas wardrobes we inherited with the house. Have I mentioned I never throw anything away?!
We think it looks pretty good where it is and hopefully will be very practical.
While it stayed warm, and more importantly dry, I started another project that had been niggling me for a while – re-staining the Granary windows. We don’t know when they were last done, but in the last year or so they were starting to need a bit of TLC and I had bought the stain a couple of years ago.
I’ve only had a couple of days on it so far and will need one more, but this photo taken at the early stages was meant to show the 3 phases of the job.
Looking at the upstairs windows, the left hadn’t been touched at that point although the photo sadly doesn’t show its poor condition very well; the centre I have sanded back ready to stain; and the right has had the first of 3 coats of new stain applied. Three coats! It better do what it says on the tin if I apply the 3 coats stated. The new stain isn’t as red in colour as the old and we think it will look a little better when done – one to continue next week. I did manage to re-stain the gate to Hayloft as well and it looks much better – the more I make the more I have to maintain!
As it cooled, a bit, and yesterday morning was completely windless, contrary to the forecast, I took the opportunity to have another bonfire in the old chicken run. I have been creating another pile of waste that needed to be got rid of before we can do some minor earthwork and hadn’t managed to burn it. While it had been so hot, and so dry, I didn’t want to risk a brush fire. Thankfully, the other thing the forecast got wrong was on Friday morning the cloud base was so low that we were in mizzle for a couple of hours and the ground was a little damp.
Once the fire was complete I have, finally, cleared the dismantled chicken coup to another place and, hopefully, we will be able to start some digging in the next week or so.
I was hoping to put some pictures of the annual triathlon on the Lac du Drennec which was supposed to take place today and has been a great event previously. Sadly, this too was cancelled this year due to problems with the organisation although, unlike the Sizun Grand Prix, they do plan to hold it again next year.
I mentioned earlier that we have a big plan which we hope to complete next spring. This is a major refurbishment in our family gîte, Priory.
We have made the fewest significant changes in Priory since we arrived as the kitchen and bathrooms, while needing a bit of smartening up, were in a good state and had a few years of life in them. Now, however we are hoping to make the changes to Priory that we did in Granary and Hayloft along with other significant work. One of the other significant things is the installation of a better, independent heating system.
Priory is a beautiful building and the main living area is a large dramatic space. The images don’t give the full scale of the room but it is a double height space and so a large volume. Being slate, and so not insulated in a modern way, it is difficult and inefficient to heat easily. Some heating is provided at present by 2 radiators running off the boiler in our own home which, while effective, is not ideal.
As technology has changed hugely since our predecessors installed these radiators we spent some time this week with an engineer explaining what options we have now. We want to make decisions nice and early so we can get things going as early in the New Year as we can after our Christmas / New Year guests depart. You will hear much more about this in the future.
Next week, finish the Granary windows; hopefully start some ground works in the old chicken run; possibly start to build a wood shed if we go and buy some materials. Certainly, as last week, there is lots to do …
In last week’s blog I shared some pictures of the Stable having completed the refurbishment but you would have seen that we hadn’t refurnished it. We had the first 3 days of last week to do that before our guests arrived on Wednesday evening (there’s nothing like working to a deadline!) We gave the space a deep clean, did a little additional painting in shower room, hung the new artwork and then finally replaced all the furniture and it looks amazing.
If you follow our facebook page you would have seen the pictures already but, at the risk of dragging it out for a third week, I have added them here.
The guests we had arrive were cyclists who were on a tour of Brittany and had come that day from Concarneau, 85 kms away. They loved their new accommodation – as too the fact that we were able to provide secure covered storage for their bikes and washing facilities for their clothes! Kergudon is certainly the perfect place for a break on a cycling tour.
The cyclists stayed with us for a rest day but didn’t want to travel too far in the evenings so took advantage of David’s 3 course suppers on both nights. With David’s generous portions they didn’t need to get their bikes out for lunch either!
The past week has also been one of downtime too. We made a commitment that we would try and so something ‘cultural’ once a month. This was a commitment we made to ourselves when we lived in London, although there was of course a wider choice there! This week we managed to achieve a couple of cultural activities with some annual events that take place.
Every June is the nationwide ‘Fete de la Musique’ where almost every bar, commune, town and city host some sort of musical activity. This year we travelled to a nearby small town called Irvillac because it had a large colourful sign – the power of advertising! We drive through Irvillac fairly frequently and it always comes across a sleepy little town which is likely to be populated by retired gentlefolk who have probably lived in the area all of their lives.
However, the attendees of the festival were mostly young families with lots of little children running around enjoying the music – more nappy valley than Tena town. The stage was the back of a lorry and they had 2 groups playing while we were there. The first was really good, lots of covers of well-known toe-tapping-tunes with an excellent singer; the second, headline act, played music that probably appealed to fewer people and had a slightly shoutier singer.
These evening events are excellent in bringing families out, and there are always lots of young children enjoying them as much of the adults. The same was the case of Saint Cadou’s Tantad last night.
The tantad is the annual bonfire held to mark the festival of Saint-Jean (St. John the Baptiste) which, in Saint Cadou at least, is accompanied by a Fest Noz (night festival) and traditional Breton dancing. We were hosting some very good friends who had come to visit us for the first time and having taken them for a fantastic dinner at Au Lac, we were able to show them some Breton culture as we arrived just as the fire was being lit. While we couldn’t encourage our friends to join in the Breton dancing we hope they enjoyed the event enough to come back!
We also had a sad first yesterday when we attended the funeral of one of our neighbours, Mimi, who passed away on Tuesday. Not very old at 73 years, Mimi, had been unwell for some time but had lived in the village all of her life with the exception of a 2 years in her teens when she moved all the way to Sizun.
Mimi never married but lived with her sister in the centre of the village where they ran a small farm as well as a couple of other gîtes in the village. I had spoken to Mimi a couple of times about the history of Kergudon and previous owners as she had known all of them going back many years but, sadly, never did so to write it all down.
Mimi’s funeral was held in the church in the centre of Saint Cadou which is used occasionally for music concerts but not religious services any more – with the exception of occasions such as this. It is a very pretty little church and was packed full yesterday. Our thoughts are with Yvette, her sister.
In last week’s blog I also mentioned that Mercedes’ brother and sister-in-law were about to embark on the Camino de Santiago walking from the Pointe du Raz to Galicia in Spain. They are blogging each day on their route, and creating a far more professional blog than this one as they are including video of each day. They are creating some of this video using a drone which, the day after our meal, they brought to Kergudon.
In the next couple of days Dave will edit the video and make a more professional clip but I thought you may be interested in some of the unedited footage. It is amazing the impact having an overhead view makes, and shows how the fertilizer I used on the back lawn has made a difference in the stripes where I spread it. Father Christmas bought me a drone last year as well so we should be able to take a new video each year and watch how things change.
Not sure what next week brings but am sure there is lots to do!
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!