March 2007

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Het weer in de Gers


The rat invasion had begun...

artichokes before
The artichokes a few months before the invasion

artichokes eaten
The field mice came, saw and feasted.
This is what was left of the artichokes.

The Spring weather has been very instable, but produced some impressive, dark skies while the sun shined. Very fertile weather.

perry planting the vines
Perry waiting for the grapes to drop into his mouth

plumbing and electrics
We can't change our minds any more. The foundations to our bathrooms have been laid.

The ritter ratter of little feet
You could hear them running between the attic floor and our bedroom ceiling. It sounded like they were playing football with a walnut. Rats. Their droppings were along the back wall of the chai and above the annex. One rather large specimen fell foul of the traps, but the rest stayed well away from the Nutella and peanut butter we left for them. After one particularly active night, we drew the line. Even Caroline, an avid advocate for 'live and let live', had had enough. She bought rat poison and we proceeded to lay small trays of the grains along their runs.

The nocturnal activity continued for a week or so, but the trays had to be topped up each morning as the rats took their daily dose. Then Perry began to notice a musty, deathly smell in the salon, near his desk. A bit like over-ripe babies' nappies (don't ask how I came to that comparison). Obviously some had died behind the wall and were now decomposing. Slowly. Very nice. The smell hung around for over a week, but gradually faded, as did the pitter patter above our heads. The trays stopped being disturbed and we finally felt that we were alone in the house again. But they'll be back...

...the mice will play
While we were wiping out the enemy within our walls, the underground resistance were tunnelling away in our vegetable patch. The hearts of the artichokes were being eaten out, from below. All that was left were the leaves. The brocolli were also being stripped as we stood there. A large, folded leaf being dragged down into a mousehole is quite a sight, considering we were standing no more than half a meter away.

We laid out traps and caught one. Then we gave up. The things were going off with the slightest wind and our little chums were very smart. Finally they stopped chomping and the few remaining artichokes are now producing the heads that hopefully will be lovingly peeled on our plates in a few weeks time.

Piddled? Moi?
We had our new friends Alison and Wil over for dinner. Alison runs the Centre de Bien-être and gallery, Spot On. Her new hubby, Wil, is a project manager, renovating houses. They turned up, a little late, Wil a little worse for wear. He'd been to the café, watching the rugby. (Perry jealous?). Dinner was fun and they stayed over. The girls retiring and the chaps staying up for a nightcap. A while later, Caroline came down and informed them that it was 05:15! Oops. Perry was still in dreamland when Alison woke Wil up at 09:00 and dragged him off, all blurry-eyed, for a bracing walk around the lake. Poor bloke.

New kids on the block
Cathy and Hindri, a young Dutch couple (who we met at Eric and Elisa's chambres d'hôtes) bought a house in Lustar. The village is about 6 kms from Puydarrieux. They invited us over to see their new aquisition. The house and barns looked good and they have a lot of great ideas. The place is ready to move in and they just have to put in a new kitchen. The messy stuff like the septic tank and roof are already done. Lucky buggers! Hindri is also bike mad, so Caroline's dad will have a new partner to join him on his rides when he's over next.

New trees and vines
Consulting Caroline's book 'Gardening with the moon', we realised that we needed to buy the fruit trees and vines we had decided to plant. Friday was the best planting day. So off to Tarbes and the Nurseries. They know us now a little and we had fun choosing cherry, pear, peach and willow trees. Perry also fulfilled a dream and bought six vines. Not for wine but for table grapes. The whole process of making wine is too complicated and we can do much better by buying from Le Chai in Trie for 1,32 euros a litre!

The trailer paid its way again, carrying the trees, vines and a lot of sacks of earth home. We then had to dig the holes. No mean feat when the clay is dry and hard. Several curses and blisters later, we had the trees in the ground. Nicely spread across the meadow at the bottom of the garden and behind the small barn. They should start to bear worthwhile fruit in three years time. According to the book, Saturday was a 'no gardening' day. So Perry had to continue with digging up an eight meter length of grass, running the rotivator over it and planting his vines. He then staked them out and added wire guides. That evening we slept like innocent children. (Oh dear, that summons up the image of us drooling, mouth open, laying diagonally across the bed, with our pyjamas all twisted).

Plumber's bum
March saw the second stage of the renovation taking off. Klaus, the plumber and Denis, the electrician both came and installed the necessary services before the cement floor went in. The bathrooms had really begun.

Until next month,

A bientôt.

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© 2007 Perry Taylor and La Baguette Magique, France.