Sadly for last week’s guests, based on the weather we ‘enjoyed’ you could conclude that summer had ended. In reality, while it was far from the searing heatwave we had before, it was also not wet enough to make much difference to the drought-affected garden. It did however prevent me cutting any more of the hedges but it has nonetheless been a productive week.
Some of the tasks we have managed to complete are having the double advantage of finishing something that we wanted while also using materials that are taking up precious space inside and out.
One such task was installing blinds to the roof windows in Grange. As you may know, half the top floor is our storeroom where we stock all of our spare ‘things’. Having seen the damage that the sun’s UV is capable of causing to things which aren’t moved for a while, we wanted to find a way to protect our bits not stored in a cupboard. Blinds seemed the sensible option so we bought some a couple of months ago which had remained in their boxes on the storeroom floor!
A morning’s work and we now have 3 blinds to filter UV in the storeroom and 3, very effective, blackout blinds in the games room. While the projector we have can be used in daylight, cinemas should be dark and these do the trick.
My major task was improving the back entrance, onto Stréat al Louarn. Since we have moved here we have wanted to make the back more secure and we bought a five-bar gate at least 2 years ago, which proved a little premature as it has leant against the front wall of Dairy ever since.
In those 2 years we have rebuilt a stone wall on the west side and cleared the debris. We have started to do the same on the east side and will eventually mirror the opposite wall. As part of the garage build we buried a cable so that we can have lights at the entrance and have now reached the point that we could install the gates.
On the advice of our neighbours, who had installed a similar gate a couple of years ago as well, the hole required to bury the post should only be slightly larger than the post to be erected. This meant two holes 80 centimetres deep but only 20 centimetres wide. This proved no problem on the west side where, having dug through the stony top layer, the rest was just compacted clay which proved easy to remove.
However, on the east side, in the exact position where I needed to install the opposite post, there was a large quartz rock. With no ability to reposition the posts, and not wanting a huge gap between the gates when they are eventually hung, meant that I just had to keep digging and remove it. It did eventually come free but left a much larger hole than I wanted and needed much more concrete to keep the post in position.
What became evident was how much the ground falls away from west to east which, if left, would leave a large gap beneath the gate. However, we plan to hang the gates in such a way as to allow us to open them through 180 degrees which is likely to mean that we have to scrape a lot of gravel away from one area that we can use to build up the low side.
We hope to have the gates hung next week so you will see the finished article. For now, with the gates having lain unused for a couple of years they had become a little green in places and need some TLC. Yesterday I sanded them down and gave them bleach wash. This morning, I gave them a first coat of stain using the same stain we had bought to do the exterior of Grange. This was partly to make the gates the same colour as the Grange (when that is eventually stained) and, partly, to remind ourselves exactly what the colour is as the stickers have been eaten off by the slugs!
We have wired in our new light on the west side, which we will mirror on the east, and we love it, although are less keen on the bulb we have used – a new one is on order.
We are starting to make the back look a lot smarter than it used to, and it will continue to improve when we re-gravel and clear the drive by the pétanque pitch.
My final significant task was to re-tame, and re-train, the wisteria we have planted on the front wall of Priory. Up until this point I hadn’t been sure about how to look after and prune the wisteria properly so it had never flowered well, although has only been in the ground for a couple of years, and all I had been doing was to tie in the wispy growth.
Under the guidance of our keen-gardener neighbour, I pulled the plant away from the wall and was shown which bits to cut and which to train to form the framework. While it has meant a thinner plant for the rest of this year it should mean a better plant in the future and more flowers.
Today has again been fairly light duties after our last Super Saturday of the season yesterday when all of our large gites changeover – everyone deserves a wekend. A busy day’s work cleaning and preparing, made so much easier by considerate guests who vacate sharply – one family were even out before daybreak to catch a ferry in Cherbourg.
Next week, finishing a number of things outstanding including the gates and hedges, and potentially starting the new wall next to the new gate post.