Guest blog by Fruitcake @barjan
February brought the promise of Spring, days were getting longer and we were able to work longer outside. Besides our usual chores of loo emptying, lifting water from the well, soaking washing, rinsing and putting it through the mangle, ongoing rubbish clearing and burning, the fencing progressed well. A smart chicken house was put in situ complete with newly made nest boxes.
Spring flowers of pansies and polyanthas were planted in the gradually growing flower beds. Laurels and conifers were planted in strategic places too.
Wood cutting was ongoing, working our way through the grubbed out apple trees (thank goodness for the chainsaw!) Jean-Paul told us of another grubbed out apple orchard, explained where it was and said, once we’d cut the wood, he would collect and deliver it – no charge, we felt so lucky with all the help we received.
I started wading my way through the different aspects of French bureaucracy with my limited French and my trusty dictionary to hand. The people at Security Social and Centre des Impots were all extremely helpful and patient with me!
We paid a visit to the mayor to discuss with him the possibility of buying the little communal way
(no longer used) as it was the ideal place for the fall from the fosse septique to the filter bed, he said he would come and look which prompted us to have a bit of a tidy up!! He duly came with two colleagues, all very nice and helpful – we could put it there, no problem, not sure if we could buy but would let us know. We discussed with him our plans for putting a roof on the ruin and other ideas, he didn’t see any problems with anything – we were pleased with the outcome of his visit!
The wait for the wood burner continued, and so the need to keep the door slightly open to avoid the smoking fire continued also, fortunately we didn’t return to the freezing temperatures but wet and windy days would have been more bearable if we could have closed the door!
Optimistically I wrote to several people we knew who had expressed an interest in holidaying in the gite when it was done, knowing full well that said gite was still a roofless ruin, I was just letting them know we were in situ!
When we checked the other grubbed out apple orchard there were six enormous heaps! Jean-Paul said he needed to burn it in March – no way were we going to cut that lot by then so decided we would get as much of the biggest stuff out as possible.
Cutting the wood we had on our ground was bad enough, especially after heavy rain when we would get the van stuck in the mud halfway up the hill and have to take turns pushing or driving to try and get it up the hill and on more than one occasion, giving up and leaving it stuck there!
The morning of the13th of February found us once again surveying for damage after hurricane proportion winds during the night and not much sleep as it disturbed not just us but all four dogs! Fortunately the damage was minimal, the sheet protecting the stable roof had broken from it’s moorings but was tenaciously hanging on and, praise be the Lord, the gable end of the ruin still stubbornly stood up with it’s broken piece of ridge sticking out rather resembling a bird’s beak!
The worse damage was the plastic sheet covering the stack of hardboard was off and board wet.
We finally got to meet the British builder, a very nice young chap of Norfolk origins, he and Mr. F. hit it off immediately and we knew that Stewart was going to be a very helpful new friend.
As February progressed so did the fencing and planting, gradually knocking into shape the ploughed fields and forming a, hopefully, fox proof pen around the newly built and placed chicken house.
We finally found space for the last of the items of furniture stored outside under the tarpaulin sheet!
Stewart called in one day and over coffee and biscuits discussed many things with us, answering a lot of our queries, in particular about the fosse septique. It transpired that he had a big renovation project of his own and by the end of the discussions an arrangement had been made between he and Mr..F. For an exchange of labour system – me to keep a strict note of all hours worked for each of them, it sounded very promising! As he had bachelor status I suggested that a free meal now and again wouldn’t go amiss, he readily agreed!
Mr. F’s efforts were mainly fencing, gate making and log cutting – clearing rubbish from one place and another was ongoing for both of us.
My efforts were mainly in the “garden” or rather the forming of such a thing! Digging out from one place and laying in another, turf to form a lawn, or what would pass as a green space anyway and hesitatingly, but determinedly, coping with the admin side of our new life. I was quite pleased with myself to have coped with a phone call to the company that had to carry out an étude of our soil for the fosse septiqe, although the young girl and I had many laughs during the process! And of subsequently deciphering and completing the form that she sent! Little challenges conquered each day were most pleasing!
Trying to keep things in the stable dry was a continuous battle as gales and rain were often too strong for the sheet covering the roof. It was a very tempestuous month!
The wait for the wood burner continued, after regular phone calls to find out it’s progress, by the 24th February it had still not been collected from the factory!
We were greatly excited when the Great Tit inspected the nest box Mr. F. had made and erected!
By the end of the month the weather had become more springlike, the étude had been carried out (I must have completed the form correctly!) The fencing was finished and Mr. F. had started the “actual” renovation work – all very exciting!
We looked forward to what March and glorious spring days would bring.