Monday 27 February 2006

Party Animals

Finally I've booked a crossing. It's not the one I meant to book but from Poole to Cherbourg. Heaven knows what I was thinking of, but there were no available sailings from the Portsmouth/Cherbourg ferries and all the Caen ones were at a time that didn't appeal. So it's a three hour drive down to Poole on Wednesday and two trips in the dark, one to get to Ouville and another to get home again on the 7th.

I've made arrangements for the water to be turned on on the 2nd March - well, we shall see, and for a roofer/builder to come by and give me a quote on the roofing repairs on the same day. I've a couple of other names to try too but I'm a bit shy of phoning. Better call them in the evening, they'll be out at work all day. No idea what's happening with the telephone or electricity, there's been no response to my letters sent a week ago.

The cat is booked for his rabies jab for tomorrow morning. It might as well be done and at the moment I'm thinking I'll have him with me in France for the summer. We should both like that.

So, to the party! I've been telling people for weeks that we're going to have a house warming camp at the farm on the weekend that would have been Glastonbury, that's the 24/25th June. People are invited to pitch their tents for a week or so, whatever fits with their travel plans and I'm hoping that we'll be able to get one or other of the young people to provide a band, with Roy putting up the back line and lighting. Anyone else with an act is welcome to book a slot (Martyn has promised a Chemical Brothers interlude!) and there will be food, drink and merriment all weekend long. If I haven't invited you yet, contact me in the usual way and I'll make sure you get the full details.

Sunday 19 February 2006


A slightly longer interval than expected - blame the curse of Paul's cold co-inciding with a hefty dose of PMS leading to a very depressed few days indeed. In fact things aren't all that much better now but Perpetual Motivation.

Roy brought us the final remnants of the dog wood cuttings from Ireland which I shall try to get planted out in the garden here as soon as possible. Bit silly really, we have all the plants we need and they are not expensive to buy if we needed more but I can't bear to throw away a cutting that was promised a chance! There are a couple of bits of the willow resident at la Rupallerie too. That should get into the drains nicely.

I have decided that for a first trip on my own going to Le Havre is madness. There is a toll bridge shortly after you leave the ferry and I won't have a passenger to hand over the cash, which in itself sounds pathetic but it's details like that that appear insurmountable and stop anything happening at all. So it's Caen next time. I know the way, more or less, and there are a lot more sailings to choose from so I won't have to have a cabin or sit up all night. Shame it's going to cost three times as much. Hope the car will hold up. It needs a new battery but we're a bit broke. Maybe I'll get one anyway.

So tomorrow's tasks. Get the letters written and posted, hassle Mr. Walker about the water board (and ask him if he knows any good men up a ladder) and book the ferry. I feel better already.

Wednesday 15 February 2006


The weather is definitely warming up and the birds are singing longer and louder each morning. I was nearly decapitated by mating (or were they fighting) blackbirds in the garden a couple of days ago.

At la Rupallerie there was frog spawn in the stream on the 12/02/2006, a little bit frozen on the top but I'm sure the eggs beneath will be fine. While we were eating our lunch of bread and wine around the fire a wren flew in from I'm not sure where and spent some time exploring before I could persuade it to leave the building.

Today I've been bringing myself to the point of entering into correspondence with the French utility suppliers. Our translator, John Wright from Vaubaudon, has sent me some template letters which I will probably use but I've also been working out some phrases for myself and translating them with the google language tool and also the free translator provided by However it's not just a matter of simply telling the various power, water and telecom companies to get their act together - they expect me to be there in person to take over the accounts. Consequently I've got to make plans for my next visit before I write the letters. At the moment I'm thinking of the working week 27th Feb to 4th March but I'll have to confirm with Paul that it doesn't clash with any of his business trips. LDlines have quoted a crossing to Le Havre of £64 for me and a car but the driving is further and as I'll be on my own I'm not sure if I'll be comfortable with that for a first trip alone.

Once I've set some dates I must organise some workmen to give me quotes on roof fixing. Again, language is going to be an issue. I'd rather use local companies but if I can't communicate it may end up being easier to use one of the many Brit owned outfits. I shall try for at least one entirely French business and see what happens.

One update; we got the cat rescue website ftp problem sorted, all that remains is to sort the website which has every sort of amateur problem contained within it. However, the web designer and coder is determined to have a go herself, and given my problems with unfamiliar language who am I to knock her efforts?

Monday 13 February 2006


Originally uploaded by catofstripes.
Snowdrops in Normandy.

Got back from an interesting trip yesterday but Paul is ill and I'm knackered so not much in this entry.

We looked into roof spaces which were in better repair than expected but still need a lot of work.

The new herb bed will be about 7m x 7m. Something to do tomorrow.

Sleepy now, night night.

Thursday 9 February 2006

Trip to Normandy

Off again today with Roy and Xtal for a couple of days at Village Esnouf. I will take Xtal to see the new house. I hope she will like it.

Village EsnougThe house in Ouville.

JPR Environmental have come up with the goods, my two cuttings of Salix Nigricans arrived this morning in time to be taken to plant with the others. Still not sure how to provide deer protection. May have to cut some brash from the hedges to lay across the plot and confuse the buggers. Anyway, JPR are good sorts and if you're thinking of planting a few willows for coppicing or buying a complete willow sculpture for your garden get your order in with them before the end of the month.

The weather is beautiful today but very cold and is set to stay the same until after we get back. I hope to get some interesting pictures of parts of the farm previously unrecorded and to identify parts of buildings that can be made secure for storage quickly. Having all that space has made our overcrowded garage seem unbearable.

It's just possible I will meet some people from the Angloinfo forums. Some ladies who run a cat rescue (only the Brits etc etc) are having trouble uploading files to their new website and I've offered to give them a hand. It will be interesting to see how others are integrating into their communities - I imagine cat rescue would be viewed by the French as nearly as mad as veganism!

Wednesday 8 February 2006

Selling the Irish House

We have to sell the house in Ireland to raise money for the renovations in France.

From the road

It's such a shame in a way, the house in Cavan is everything we wanted, isolated, old with land and views but it's too far away for easy visits and too cold for permanent habitation. Even the locals have trouble growing anything very interesting, although the gardens at Florence Court (a National Trust property) just over the border to the north are impressive. I think it takes a lot of money to achieve that sort of success.

Anyway, if you'd like a house in Ireland mail me (or leave a comment with your email address). The price is 110,000 euro (about £75,000) for a direct sale so no fees to worry about and house prices in Ireland are rising fast so this represents a good investment in a booming property market.

Back to the main project, I managed to plant some seeds today - the rose seeds mentioned below and a number of herb seeds for perennials that should be ready in time for planting out in the new herb garden. I've included hyssop and catmint along with the parsley and marjoram. We'll have to see what comes up.

And, despite my plans to travel later in the month, I've been offered a chance for a quick trip over the channel this weekend with Roy and Xtal so naturally I'm going to take it and use the opportunity to take measurements for the herb garden and my mezzanine floor in the studio. Hope I don't fall through.

Perpetual Motivation


Motivation is something my life has never had an abundance of - this blog is supposed to help that by being an insistent task, something I must update everyday with new information. To create the new information I am required to make some progress with my ambitions, in this case with the French property, and having made that endeavour I will have something to add to the blog, perpetual motivation in action.

Unfortunately I'm finding writing fluently like one of those bad dreams where your legs have turned to treacle in the face of oncoming traffic and no matter how hard you try to get out of the road collision with a fast moving lorry is inevitable. It's stilted I know, but with practise things can only get better, can't they?

Anyway, to work. Today's picture shows a rose in Ouville that has reverted to its rootstock, probably Rosa Canina. It has beautiful hips and is a very strong grower. When we were there last I brought home a handful of seeds from it. If they all germinate we will have some wonderfully thorny and attractive plants to strengthen the hedges with that will feed the birds and provide colour all through the winter.

JPR Environmental have replied about the missing willows and will be sending them on which is great. I will have to pot them here and plant them out in the autumn but since they were always for ornamental use and not for the coppice that's o.k. They can join the twisted willow and the weeping willow that I rooted from a cutting taken from a tree on the playing field.

I'm planning another trip over for the end of this month, by myself as Paul will be working which will be scary. At that time hope I will have organised a couple of roofers to give me some quotes on mending the roofs. I may even have managed to get the electricity turned on.

Monday 6 February 2006

Sunday 6th February 2006

La Rupallerie

A new pic of the house taken after Paul had removed the Leylandii Hedge from around the raised garden.

The raised garden has been designated the spot for my new herb garden. I'm not sure it will always be a herb garden - my deepest fears are that it is in fact a mass pets grave, the topping of a huge cesspit or something worse - and it may face substantial remodelling in the future but for the time being it is a sunny spot with a concrete boundary edging and some nice steps leading onto it which will take the herbs and make a quick and effective feature to replace the rather bleak grass and old dog kennel that is there now.

There are about 50 herbs on the list, some shrubby like rosemary and sage, perennials like lovage and sweet cicely and the leafy greens, parsley, coriander, rocket and so on which I usually think of as part of the vegetable garden but should be included this year as the summer vegetables will mostly be growing on the allotments this year and not in France.

On today's to-do list therefore is an item to start making the plants I shall need and to design a suitable plan bearing in mind the growth habits and vigour of the herbs. It hasn't progressed very far yet.

Saturday 4 February 2006

Wildlife Update

It was extremely cold during our recent trip to Normandy and we saw many birds of prey lurking by roadsides and near buildings presumably hoping for carrion or rubbish to pick over. We saw the buzzard near the house in Ouville several times, moodily skimming over the hedgerow in contrast to his summer soaring high above the river valley and then when I was at La Rupallerie I saw our barn owl.

Originally uploaded by amkhosla.

The picture is borrowed because I wasn't quick enough to catch her this time. There were signs of her feeding in the loft of the main house which had not been there before so I hope we haven't scared her away by being there this time.

We also saw various small birds (owl food?) and heard the woodpecker in the forest.

There were a lot of deer droppings too. We're going to need a roc to keep those under control.

Friday 3 February 2006

Catch me if you can

I had this brought to my attention today - Why I Hate Weblogs so I'll try not to take it personally.

Anyway, the trip to France has now been completed and we're back in this country older, colder and wiser, or at least with the germ of a plan for future progress.

The willows were planted, not without a lot of grunting and complaining from me as I tried to hack narrow slits in the tussocky meadow grass to enable the cuttings to be inserted without breakage. It took hours, much longer than expected and looks much less impressive than I hoped but perhaps the new trees won't mind too much if they have a good spring and avoid the depredations of the deer. I'll have to take netting and old installation CDs with me next time to create a scare barrier to protect them.

One issue that I didn't know I had was that my order from JPR Willows was incomplete. They have left out the Salix Nigricans. Must write and complain but am not hopeful of receiving the £1 worth of missing goods.

Paul made a start on removing the Leylandii conifers that have been liberally planted to provide a hedge in front of the house. We can't quite see why it would ever have been considered a good idea to have these monsters installed because they blocked the view from the house and yet did nothing useful like wind breaking but many of them are dead now and the bonfire was quite impressive.

I spent some time looking at the state of the building I intend to become my studio. It's part of the separate dwelling which we have been referring to as the 'gite' and has the worst damaged roof but inside it appears to have a had a lot of work done on it with new roof joists, a raised roof line and repairs to pointing and windows. The date scratched in some of the newer cement work is 1979. It has probably been used as a cattle shed and hay loft for 30 years but the walls are reasonably straight and sound and I think I can repair the cob with lime plasters and finishes to make a smooth water repelling finish that will last another 30 years. The upper floor will make a good mezzanine level and if the roof is fixed will be quite dry and secure enough for quantities of storage area which pleases the hoarder in my soul. This building is one I intend to work on myself as much as possible.

For the first major project we have been thinking of converting the 'tractor' shed to a two bedroom house with living room and kitchen. This building has the date 1816 above the door, is almostly completely built of stone and has been well maintained over time although it has still been doing duty as animal accommodation rather than human habitation. By starting on this renovation first we hope to avoid any compromises that might be caused by living in the same area that is being worked on. We can camp out in the main house and completely gut the tractor shed during refurbishments, bringing it up to a high standard suitable for letting in the fullness of time and providing a comfortable home to move into while the main house is being worked upon.

tractor shed