The tree fellers get to work, well two of them anyway
Caroline tries out her new necklace
The snow created some magic views and an eery quietness in the landscape apart from a satisfying crunch under our boots
"Shhhhut the door!" It was cccccold in the annex, before we had the radiator installed
Taylor Acres, all seventeen of them. That's 7 hectares in metric.
Our first guests of the year stayed for almost a week
Who needs the internet when there are trees to chop?
The winters here are relatively short. We can often sit out until late in November, during the day. January offered up some glorious blue skies and sun that warmed us as we took lunch in front of the house. The next day it could be under thick snow, but it doesn't stay for long. Knowing that we don't have a Dutch or English winter ahead makes the Spring light at the end of the tunnel seem much closer and brighter.
One of our walnut trees needed felling, its branches mostly dead and strangled with ivy. It hung over our telephone and electricity cables so we needed expert hands to bring it down. A father and son team turned up and had it to the ground within minutes. Attaching a cable high in the tree that was fed out from a huge tractor, they sawed out a wedge and then the son turned on the winch via a remote control on his belt. Thinking that they had to walk to the tractor to start pulling I was totally caught out, having just enough time to catch the fall with the camera.
Artisans are a scarce breed and always have too much work. Especially since there are so many people renovating houses and farms in the area. We have been trying to get a carpenter to come and give us a quote for the roofs of the house and large barn. Finally, we managed to get Alain Fourquet, Puydarrieux's only roof carpenter, to check the beams and tiles and give us an idea of what we needed to do to seal the house from the rain and snow. A second carpenter, specialising in maisons anciennes, also came to see how big a job it was. He left, never to be heard of again. So, Alain got the job. He is very busy, so we won't see him until the end of the Summer.
The other project we need to get moving on, is the Antoinette barn. The smallest of the two. The stone wall needs to be braced so that the roof doesn't push it out any further. Being built on the earth, it is susceptible to ground shrinkage and waterlogging. It's been there for decades and won't fall down just yet, but we need to act before it gets to a state where it is no longer viable to keep it. Finally, we found a mason. He will (hopefully) come back with a quote to save the barn and also remove the ugly cement from off the outside of the house. You'll read more about it all in the Our House section.
Get on my land!
Christian, the farmer who has worked the land around the house for the last fifteen years, signed a new contract with us. With the help of our friendly notary in Castelnau Magnoac, we formulated a Prêt a usage or Commodat, which allows both parties to be free to end the contract on a yearly basis. We are very happy to have him plant maize on four of our seven hectares. The other three are in front of the house and we will keep as a meadow.
We could spit venom about how monopolies don't give a s*@t about their customers. Wanadoo are arch villains. We decided to upgrade our broadband speed. Called them up, were told it would be upgraded within a few days and that we would be notified once it had happened. Easy peasy. Happy bunnies.
An hour later, our internet connection was cut off. After several skirmishes under the table unplugging and replugging cables, rebooting the computers, Perry banging his head and generally getting very irritable, we called the customer services line. At 34 eurocents a minute, we listened to a crap cover version of David Bowie's 'We could be heros' for almost ten minutes before being connected to someone human. Deep joy. Our helpful assistance informed us that as we had upgraded we were now cut off for nine days until the new service would be installed. NINE DAYS!!!!!
This happened right in the middle of a large job involving sending all sorts of large documents several times a day. Perry lost the plot and Caroline had to take over. We asked to be reconnected at the old speed. That would also cost nine days. Deep despair and the prospect of driving to Trie-sur-Baise several times a day with the laptop. Resigned to our fate, we were very sweetly helped out by our neighbours, Peter and Janneke who let us use their ADSL link.
But, after five visits in one day, Perry was suffering a serious sense of humour failure, not a pretty sight. Caroline very supportive. Three days into the nine, she suggested just checking if it was already connected. "Yeah, right"... Tried it and it was. Not so much as an email to tell us. Bastards. (excuse my French) To end a long story, they gave us a month's service free. We were too exasperated to argue.
Still, we had the Club de Chasse dinner to look forward to in February...
Until next month,