Monday, 30 March 2009

New life

No, I am not pregnant! But the seeds that I sowed a couple of weeks ago have really started to spring into life, thanks to the greenhouse-like conditions of the bathroom windowsill. The kuri squash is just peaking through .....the beetroot seedlings are getting stronger by the day...and the tomatoes are also developing well...
Hopefully, by the time spring makes a return again (after 3 weeks of warmth and clear blue skies, winter made a reappearance at the weekend and more snow is forecast for tomorrow night) , they will be strong enough to plant out. How exciting!

On the health front, after being in a great deal of pain when I awoke this morning, a visit to the doctor was called for. The official diagnosis is a trapped nerve in a lumbar vertebrae for which strong anti-inflammatories have been prescribed to reduce the nerve sheath inflammation, along with proper rest for the next week. Hopefully recovery will be quick. If not, I have an appointment with a radiologist to investigate further, but I am sure that won't be necessary.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Pottering and pooches

Well, I have been off the codeine today and have been generally pottering about, planting leeks (Andy dug the trench), sowing carrots and even finishing the bedroom beam. The back pain has improved quite significantly, but I must make sure I don't get all excited and overdo it again, otherwise I will be back at square one again. Hopefully after the weekend I will be able to stretch the legs again on a short run. We'll see.

Other news.... Christine's 9 month old dog Chippie is becoming intolerable. If she is left alone in the house she destroys things (there was a shredded cushion on the kitchen floor when Christine arrived back from work yesterday) and when she is left alone outside she also destroys things. This morning, Christine left for work early and decided in her wisdom to leave both Chippie and Maylee (Claudine's 14 yr old pooch) outside but with her kitchen door open. The result was that we were awoken by Chippie barking at something in the woods at 07.20 and, when we went outside this morning, dicovered that she had first dug a hole and then ripped to shreds the netting that we had put up to protect some veggies in front of the house from her unwanted attentions. She had also ripped the netting around the potager in order to dig a random hole. She is out of control, behaves like a 'chien sauvage' and cannot be left alone but Christine has got not the faintest clue what to do about the situation. I had to tell her today that enough is enough, we were fed up of the dog and wouldn't tolerate it any more. She said that she would take the dog to work with her in that case. But she left for work at 4.30 this afternoon and both dogs are obviously still in the house as they have barked incessantly for the past 5 hours - I imagine Chippie has been chained up somewhere apart from Maylee. Some people should not be allowed to keep dogs. Period.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Enforced inactivity

You may have noticed a lack of posts over the past week or so. This is because I am currently an 'invalid', unable to do anything remotely active like digging over the potager, moving wood, running or cycling. I don't do inactivity well, but I am suffering from sacroiliac joint inflammation (lower back pain) which has not given me any choice in the matter. I believe I can trace the initial damage to an over-zealousness when lopping hazel last week which I then aggravated by raking concrete at Justin's and by digging over the potager too. Thanks to the codeine/paracetamol, the pain and discomfort are now bearable and hopefully by the weekend there will be a major inprovement, but only IF I can keep up this inactivity .......

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Pottering in the potager

We had a shopping trip to Foix and Pamiers this morning. In addition to a lovely parasol for the table on the terrace, two more teak chairs and various DIY bits and pieces, we also came back with a small electric rotavator which we found at a bargain price and which has done a fantastic job of turning over the earth that I had previously dug through in the potager but which I had not yet prepared for planting. After loosening the soil, we rotavated in some bags of compost by which time the soil was ready. I sowed some early Nantes carrots and also some peas next to the raspberries. Tomorrow, I will probably sow the parsnips and possibly also some spinach.

Andy then started work with the rotavator on the lower half of the potager which has not yet been touched and which consists of grass and weeds, though fortunately nothing too onerous. It is going to take a bit of work but it should hopefully be ready for planting up next week. We also need to sort out the central path and the edges of the potager, but I am already excited about the prospect of harvesting a wider range of veggies this summer. The weather continues to be wonderfully sunny and warm but looks set to get cooler over the weekend but still with clear blue skies.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Helping out

This morning, Andy did some more belt sander work on the bedroom beam and I should hopefully be able to apply the first coat of stain tomorrow. Our only concern is the prominence of the white paint-filled woodworm holes which may require further attention.... we will see!

I received a call this afternoon from Emily and Justin who live just up the road and round the hill from us. They have recently started the construction of an extension to their little mountain house which will double it's size. However, they have serious time constraints as Emily is 20 weeks pregnant with twin girls! She rang to say that Justin had started laying the concrete but hadn't realised just what a big job it would be with just a hand concrete mixer and he would be in need of some assistance if he were to stand any chance of completing the job in one hit before nightfall - were we available?! So we headed straight down there and spent the next 4 hours shovelling, mixing, pouring and raking, with the final barrowload poured just as the light went. Job well done!

Sunday, 15 March 2009


When the snows were here, we saw what looked vaguely like a fine female blackbird feeding from the fat block that we had put out for the birds. It was a very 'nervy' bird that took off at the least sign of movement on our part. However, Andy also spotted a flash of red on its flanks as it flew off which discounted it being a blackbird. The birds were spotted again on my potager fence late this afternoon and I have also heard a very distinctive bird song this afternoon. Some research this evening tells us that the bird is a nightingale. Let's hope they stay around for a while and are not on a migratory route to more northern lands.

Bedroom beam restoration

Ever since we moved into Pissou, a major bugbear has been the fact that the previous owners decided, in their wisdom, to paint one of the magnificent beams in the bedroom with a white satin coat. Unforgiveable! We have been keen to restore it to its original state, but our options for doing so were limited. Paint stripper had no effect. Sanding it down would take forever and a day and would create unholy quantities of dust. But then Andy had the bright idea of using his hand planer to take off the top 0.8mm of the beam....less messy and most definitely quicker. It worked!We still have a fair amount of work to do to remove paint from the divets and cracks and woodworm holes but already in my mind's eye I can see the finished beam and it is going to look fantastic.

Other work today has included sowing my baby carrots in a tub, sowing night scented stock outside the kitchen window and shifting more wood following our hazel exploits yesterday. I shall leave you with a photo of the tulips that have bloomed since the warmer weather started last week. Beautiful, aren't they!

Saturday, 14 March 2009


It became apparent that I would need sturdier branches if my fence around the potager is to resist the unwelcome attentions of both Josette's goats and Christine's puppy 'Chippie'. The most obvious solution was to coppice one of the neglected and overgrown hazel bushes that are prevalent around Pissou and to use branches from that to reinforce my rather rickety fencing efforts. So this morning, with Andy chainsawing and me sorting and lopping, we made quick work of the bush and soon had enough sections of the right diameter to adequately shore up the fence.... I think! There is also plenty of wood left over that we can store for use on the woodburner next winter, which is a bonus. Other work today has involved digging wood ash into the potager soil in an attempt to lighten it, digging over both the ground where the summer gourds and squashes are going to be planted and the area just up from the house where I am probably now going to plant the carrots. The fine weather (into the 20s again today) is set to continue into next week - Spring really has arrived!


When we first moved into Pissou nearly 2 years ago, we just had ourselves for company with the occasional visit from Claudine when she came down from Paris to work on her house next door. The peace and tranquillity and general lack of other people in the immediate vicinity was one of the major factors that first attracted me to Pissou and is something that is still of great importance to us. But that peace and tranquillity is gradually being eroded. In November, Claudine's friend Christine moved into her house and promptly bought a hyperactive puppy that she does not seem to be bothered about training or cleaning up after. Now, Christine as a person is lovely, she really is, but that puppy is a pain but only, I am sure, due to the lack of any guidance and a firm 'master' in it's life. Then, in January, Claudine's brother and his wife moved into Benazet's house at the back, along with two large rottweilers. They were to lodge there until such time as they found a house to buy in the area. That shouldn't be for too long, we thought. We were wrong. They are still here and have still not found a house to buy. Then yesterday, their son and his girlfriend also turned up, for a fortnight's stay, with another dog! The constant presence of all these people and their associated pooches is becoming an increasing strain. Will we ever know real peace and tranquillity at Pissou again? It is, unfortunately, looking increasingly unlikely.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

A Productive Day

The weather today has been positively spring-like, into the 20s and clear blue skies - wonderful! Andy made great progress with the door today and all that now remains is some touching up around the frame and it will be finished. I finally tracked down the fabric that I had been looking for to cover the windows and am really pleased with the difference that they make to the doors - very French, don't you think!Meanwhile, I cracked on with the potager, preparing the soil for the autumn-fruiting raspberry canes that I brought back from mum's. I managed to plant up 14 canes and then went on to prepare the soil for some carrots that I am hoping to sow tomorrow. The soil is still very wet and heavy, but with the addition of some compost I am hoping I have lightened it sufficiently for the carrot seeds to germinate. The fencing is coming on well but it is not yet dog-proof, so more work still to do.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


You may remember my post back in February where I wrote about opening up the doorway in the bedroom that our predecessors had blocked up and installing some patio doors that would eventually lead onto a terrasse area that we are hoping to create this summer. Today, the process of restoring the opening to its original status as an access point to the house commenced. Thanks to Andy's efforts, it has gone from this....
to this....There is still some wiring and filling in around the doorframe to sort out, but already the transformation is fantastic. The doors look like they were made for the opening. What a difference they will make to the house!

While Andy was working on that project, I was busy creating some hazel fencing around my potager in order to keep dogs, deer, goats, wild boar etc off my precious veggies. It isn't finished yet, but I soon hope to be able to plant the raspberry canes that mum gave me during my stay with her last week, happy in the knowledge that they will last more than a day or two once they have started sprouting! I also need to dig over more of the land in order to enlarge the planting area, as I have quite a variety of seeds and plants that I am hoping to grow this year. Let's hope that winter doesn't last too much longer.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Back in Blighty and on the level

I arrived back in the UK on Monday and had a lovely time staying with friends in the Peak District (thanks Ayshea/Ed, Trudi/Julian!). I was also kept busy sorting out our Sheffield house which has just been vacated by the tenant. I did however have time for a very wet and muddy run up onto Curbar and Froggatt edges from Grindleford with John and Dillon the Dawg on Tuesday which was good fun.

Thursday, I picked Jamie up from the station in Sheffield and we drive down to mum's in Dorset where the weather has been lovely today. I took the opportunity of being in an area of fantastically level terrain to get out for a good run along a disused railway line/forest tracks/footpaths. It wasn't exactly scintillating scenery but it did give me the rare opportunity to open up the throttle a bit
I covered 12.75 kms in 1 hr 14 mins which, for me, is pretty good. Everything was working really well, but, as usual, I do need to have a stretching session if I am not to experience some unwelcome after-effects.

Back to Pissou on Monday where apparently a good foot of snow has fallen over the past 24 hrs. I wonder whether it will all have melted by the time I get home!