Happy New Year to everyone. We hope that you all marked the arrival of 2020 as you would wish and the New Year has begun well.
We have had a gentle week and saw the New Year in with our guests in Priory who invited us for a few drinks which, inevitably, led to us staying for midnight! Thanks to them.
Things have calmed down here, guest-wise, with the last leaving yesterday morning and we are back to just the 2 of us. That has meant that the work has started in earnest but more of that later.
I mentioned last week that the last blog of the year has traditionally been a summary of all we have achieved I the previous 12 months but that I hadn’t been back through my blogs to remind myself (we find it so easy to get confused about what we have done when!) I hope you don’t mind but I thought I’d do so today.
Before I re-read the blogs I thought it would be obvious we have had a work-year of 2 halves. I knew that the autumn had been a lot less productive than we’d have liked, and previous years, as the weather had been so wet. What I had forgotten was that the first half of the year was the complete opposite with exceptionally dry weather and we were concerned for the garden as our water butts ran dry.
The year started with completing my new man shed which, on New Year’s Day 2019 was really only a wooden frame open to the skies. Finishing the building was a relatively quick task and allowed me to try new skills, including rendering the walls, but fitting it out and filling it with my things took a bit longer …
The finished result has proven a real benefit throughout the year providing me with a larger and much more organised space to work. It has also provided Mouse with a drier and warmer space to live and have a permanent home.
One of the projects I was able to complete in the shed was building a new bar for the games room. You may recall we bought an old kitchen island off the internet and had to drive all the way to St. Malo to collect it. Having done so we initially thought it had been a complete waste of money although, having been able to adapt and use certain parts of it, it was the right thing to do. It has also seen a lot of use since its completion and, we think, makes the games room even more fun to spend time in.
In the late spring we had the opportunity to do something that we had wanted to complete for a couple of years – refurbish our chambre d’hôte, Stable.
Stable was the last of our accommodation we completed in 2015. While we had greatly improved things, we still had thoughts of making it better yet which we managed to realise this year.
A, well many, coats of white paint to the ceiling; a painted bed frame and new headboard; new shelving to house the fridge, microwave and various deco items; and a new lambris wall with better lighting has made a huge difference and we are even happier with the space. Most pleasingly we have had many more guests stay in Stable including 9 nights over Christmas and New Year.
Outside, we have achieved some major tasks the largest of which was to clear the old chicken run and grade the bank at the rear. This was made far easier with our part-acquisition of a mini-digger which was good fun to operate and will get a lot more use in the coming years.
One task which has made the greatest difference is felling the large sycamores on our south west talus. While we didn’t do the felling itself, safer to leave it to a professional, it has created a lot of wood to clear and split to season as firewood. With our new serre where the old chicken run used to be at least we now have somewhere dry to stack it.
Smaller, but no less useful, tasks included making a gate to secure the back lawn from the Granary parking space; re-staining the exterior of the Granary windows to protect them for the next 5 years; boxing in the vulnerable pipework in the bike room; and scarifying the orchard as an experiment before we do all of the lawns.
One of the more significant things we have ‘achieved’ which took a reasonable amount of administrative time even if we have nothing obvious to show for it, was getting our Carte de Sejour, or residency permit, which puts us formally into the French system prior to the UK’s departure from the EU.
While we are pleased with what we have achieved in 2019, despite having a slower autumn, the list of what we want to do in 2020 is no less daunting (or shorter!) and again is a mix of interior and exterior with some major projects on the list.
This week has principally been taking down the Christmas decorations in all of our gîtes – always a little depressing as the house looks so bare for a few days. As, for the first time all 4 gîtes had to be decorated, it has taken a little longer to take the decorations down.
We did our traditional New Year’s Day walk and, again, chose somewhere new for us to walk. On a recommendation from a guest some months ago, we headed to the delightfully named hamlet of Kerancuru in the Forêt Domaniale du Cranou. It was a lovely walk, again a but muddy underfoot, but it is always interesting walking somewhere new and this forest had a different feel to our own as there are more deciduous trees. Kerancuru too was a very pretty little hamlet – Dave has his eye on a new house!
Our other tradition that we maintained was a New Year’s Day ‘high tea’. I’m not sure how we started this but it is a great excuse to drink champagne and finish, or indeed start, some of the things that we hadn’t eaten over the festive period.
Once the decorations are all down – tomorrow – we start emptying Priory of everything in preparation for the major refurbishment we have planned. That is the first project of 2020 which we plan to complete for Easter – especially as both of our family gîtes are unavailable until the work is done as Granary will become a storage space and lay apart store.
Priory is only the first of the many projects on the ‘to do’ list for this year. Others, in no particular order, are clearing all the wood created by felling the sycamores; clearing the laurels at the front of Granary’s garden; clearing the wood in the old veg patch and grading the talus in the same way as we have behind the old chicken run; building a pond and waterfall; staining the exterior of Grange; and, oh yes, finish emptying the garage bays and clearing the pile of gravel delivered some time ago …
Hopefully, this time next year my summary will be able to look back on all (well some) of these having been completed.
Finally, today is a special day for Dave and me, as it marks our 5th anniversary of arriving at Kergudon as its new owners. Things have changed considerably since then – but there is still so much left to do.