Monday, 29 April 2013

More hours in the day please

We seem to be hectically busy at the moment, with demands on our time and energy coming from all different directions. Work on the house, work on the potager area and 'business' work are taking up most of our time, although we have made time for a couple of good rides on the roadies since the beginning of the month when weather has allowed.

Talking of weather, April has been a bonkers month with wild fluctuations in temperature. We had a gloriously sunny spell earlier in the month when it peaked at 28 degrees but just 24 hours later the temperature plummeted to just 3 degrees and we had snow down to 700m! Last week was the same - I was getting sunburn on my back whilst working outside midweek but then come Friday the temperature was back down to 4 degrees and snow at 800m. 

With Spring knocking on the door, thoughts have very much been turning to the potager and growing more veggies with the aim of being self-sufficient in vegetables by the end of the year. I decided we needed an additional area to be created for growing soft fruit if I am to make more of my own jams and jellies this year. After a word with our lovely neighbour farmer Alain, he came down with his tractor and turned over an additional 250m2 of land at the end of the potager for us....
... part of which I covered in cardboard with a layer of rotted horse manure on top and then a layer of black polythene to suffocate the weeds/grass...
... and then we erected a 18m2 polytunnel alongside the potager where the tomatoes, capsicums, chillis and various sowings are now biding their time until the proper warmth eventually arrives and they can be planted out.
On Friday, just as the weather was turning, we managed to re-fence the whole of the above land (all 400m2 of it) as one plot, which makes much more sense. Andy is going to build me a potting shed in due course which will sit next to the polytunnel. It's going to be a 'proper' kitchen garden by the time we're done!

As far as work on the house is concerned, we have been working on the second bedroom. This weekend, with the arrival of poor weather, work transferred indoors and we have now completed the decoration of the room, which has also been completely rewired and the ceiling insulated and plasterboarded. Here are a couple of 'before' photos;

... and the 'after' shots...

I am really pleased with how it has turned out.... lovely and bright and fresh, but with the warmth of the restored chestnut beam and original wooden floorboards. We just need to rehang the curtains, find some pictures for the walls and add a small rug to the floor at the foot of the bed. So now we just have the stairs and landing to do and that will be the upstairs (at that end of the house at least) finished! 

On the exercise front, the roadies saw more action in April with a couple of lovely 70K rides in hot sun. When the weather plays ball in April, it really is a beautiful time of year for road biking. The fresh green foliage, the frothy white and pink of fruit blossom, blue skies and the snowy peaks.... just stunning

Sunday, 14 April 2013


Oh dear, I appear to have been neglecting my blogging duties. I don't suppose anybody will have noticed, though? Anyway, here's a quick update on what life has been all about over the last month. It has been busy busy busy!

The highlight? A wonderful relaxing trip back to the UK to see my gorgeous new grandson, 3 week old Rufus James. He is absolutely adorable and both my son Jamie and his lovely lady Emma are doing a fantastic job with him.
While I was visiting them, we were able to meet up with my sister and her family for a lovely walk around Delamere Forest Park - SO good to see my sis again.
We returned to Jamie and Emma's village to find that the thatch of their local pub had caught fire! Fortunately the pub which dates back to the 15th century was not completely destroyed as it does great beer and traditional pub grub.
My visit up north was over far too soon. But while I was in the UK I was able to catch up with my good mate Trudi in Paignton and managed to get in a 10K run around Abbotsbury in West Dorset on the way back. It was far harder than it should have been (how unfit am I?!) but it was very pretty

The weather was fortunately dry for the whole of my visit but it was bitterly cold. I returned to wet, cold, horrible weather back at home which didn't exactly do the spirit good. But fortunately a lovely big high pressure area that has drifted up from Africa has now brought hot sun and clear blue skies. At last I can get some serious work outside. We have created a little herb garden at the front of the house in a space that was previously just overgrown and full of rubble....
... and I have got to work on the potager, preparing it for sowings and plantings. In the medium to long term I am hoping to adopt a 'no dig' approach, but this requires the addition of lots of organic matter to our heavy clay soil which is going to take time as it is a big plot. But where I have managed to enrich the soil already, I have now planted Charlotte potatoes, sown parsnips, carrots, florence fennel, spinach, mangetout, dwarf peas, French beans, beetroot, rocket and salad leaves. The capsicum, chilli peppers, aubergine and tomatoes won't go in until June and I also have some brassicas, leeks, red onions and celeriac in modules that will be planted out later in the year. I have also got strawberry plants, raspberry canes, gooseberry, redcurrant and blackcurrant bushes. I really can't wait until everything is cropping. Exciting times!

With the fine weather, we have today had our first ride for a few months on the road bikes. I felt surprisingly good, all things considered, although my energy appeared to disappear after we stopped for a slice of pizza from a boulangerie when just 12kms from home .... weird! But it was a lovely figure of 8 circuit up to Saint Lizier and back, 70kms/670m+/3 hours. Hopefully we will get out on the bikes much more often if this lovely weather hangs around a bit longer. It's looking good so far :-)