Having outlined lots of reasons why Kergudon is the perfect place to come for a ‘post’ COVID-19 family holiday in last week’s blog, one thing I did not include, although should have, was weather. Today, the last day of May and still spring, the growing season, we have had less than 10mm of rain in the entire month and are enjoying temperatures up to 28 degrees.
Spring weather in Finistère is generally good, and we often have periods of hot and dry days. This year however, is exceptional although we probably could have predicted it being so dry having planted many griselina cuttings, 70 lonicera plants and scarified the lawns at the end of April so needing it to be wet to let the grass plants establish and lawn recover!
Normally, we have a total capacity to collect 3400 litres of rainwater with the water butts around which can last us a couple of weeks. This year, 2 butts behind Granary totalling 1000 litres were out of commission as I had to move them to dig the trench for Priory’s new power supply, and with the new plants our need for water was greater. As such, we ran out of our own supply a couple of weeks ago and have had to put one of the butts on the trailer to make an emergency bowser to collect water from the village lavoir. This will have to do us until the next rain arrives although we don’t know when that is – there is nothing in the forecast again for the next 10 days.
Over the last 2 weeks we have been progressing with a number of projects and have completed 2 big tasks that will assist us move forward with others. Minimal progress, from me, in Priory.
The first large task was completing the build of the new serre that we started a few weeks ago. This one is much more robust than its predecessor and, not only are the tubes used for the frame considerably wider and stronger, the cover (bache) is held in place by burying it into the ground on all 4 sides. This took far longer than I’d hoped, made worse by us having erected it near to the boundary where there were lots of large roots and rocks to dig through with very little foot-room or space to deposit the soil.
However, now it is done and up and should (fingers crossed) last many more months, years we hope, than the previous one. This will allow us to store and dry lots of firewood currently lying around in piles in parts of the garden.
The second major task was concreting the base of one of our garage bays. This, again, was something we have wanted to do for a number of months but, ironically, were prevented over the winter as it was too wet!
The bay we chose had been emptied last autumn in preparation for the concreting but, as it wasn’t done and we had stripped out Priory in the meantime, it had started to fill up again! One of the things we had left there over the winter was our mini-digger as its co-owner, Paul, has been in the UK since last September and we were the only ones likely to be able to use it. With the wet winter it had sat in the garage and, inevitably, when we needed to start it up to remove it the, admittedly very old, battery wasn’t up to it. Thankfully, with a new battery bought it flashed into life immediately and is currently sitting at the edge of the lawn under a tarpaulin.
We had decided to do the work ourselves as I calculated us buying the materials required was about 1/3 the price of buying pre-mixed concrete delivered in a cement lorry. I was anxious however that I didn’t buy much more sand and gravel than was required as any remaining would make another Kergudon cairn and add to the piles of ‘stuff’ we have around which we are honestly trying to clear! Thankfully we found a good website that calculated volumes of material required for the amount of concrete required and we used that to buy 500 kgs of cement; 1 tonne of sand and 1.5 tonnes of gravel.
With the weather being so hot it was hard work when I started the job on my own last Wednesday. However, we sped up when David was able to assist and, having shifted 3 tonnes of material, the finished result looks good. It will allow us to move some of the surplus furniture from Priory, and our own house, into a dry and safe space.
The website was pretty good at calculating what we needed too and there is almost no surplus material. We have even used up an old pile of sand that had sat outside the man shed for a couple of years that represented a manoeuvring obstacle for guests in staying Hayloft and who can’t drive out of the back gate.
The other advantage is, while the cement mixer was dirty we mixed up a few additional barrows to create a hard standing behind Granary to re-seat the water butts which I have plumbed in to capture the rain – if we ever get any!
There has been some significant milestones met for Priory too – just not by me! Last Monday the electricity provider connected the gîte to the grid and Pascal made the final connection. As a result, for the first time since Priory became habitable after renovation, probably about 16 years, Priory is self-sufficient and there aren’t 2 electrical umbilicals running from our fuse board to Priory’s.
On Tuesday the heating engineer also came and commissioned the new air source heat pump and radiators giving the gîte a much more efficient, and effective, heating system for our guests outside the main summer season.
In the ‘outside world’, France continues to lift some of its COVID restrictions and Dave’s gym is able to reopen from Tuesday. In preparation he has been on an online training course for 3 hours a day Monday to Saturday last week (tiring work in French) and is going into Brest tomorrow to help prepare the gym for the next normal.
It has been fun having Dave here all day, every day, for the last couple of weeks and we have had quite a productive time doing things together. But it’s back to the commute from tomorrow so we are having a second afternoon off, lounging in this glorious sunshine and watching huge numbers of swallows soar and play above us!
Also, with restrictions being lifted there is a new impetus to complete Priory and I will be back in there tomorrow in earnest. We have found a new plumber who has been kind enough to come out of retirement for a few days and complete the plumbing so I have set a new deadline of the end of June to have the gîte fully decorated and able to let. The cleaning will take a few weeks alone!!