vendredi 1 mai 2015

A new Noah's flood?



   It wasn't a very propitious start to May yesterday, with the day dawning with heavy rain, which soaked us on the early dog walk. When I went down to the field to give the sheep their morning corn ration, I found their feed bowls almost full of water-- I use these as a make-shift rain gauge, and I estimate that there had been over three inches of rain overnight. This was confirmed when we went to Chef Boutonne in the afternoon, and saw some flooded fields along the route. It was so damp and miserable that I was tempted to light the wood-burner, but couldn't face this admission of defeat, so I compromised by getting the gaz stove in and lighting that. I saw that our neighbour Phillipe had given in and relit his smokey central heating furnace, which bizarrely is on the other side of the road from his house.
  It rained all day, unusual for France, and today is not really much better, though the rain is now just a mist in the air. I do hope this isn't a forerunner of a wet summer...we could do with a resumption of our normally hot, sunny summer weather we used to be able to count on. Still, we are unlikely to suffer water shortages, I suppose....
  Bye for now, the coffee machine has finished, I'm going to enjoy a cup.

Well,the hole truth

  I have blogged before on the Ark about the legacy left in the stones of this old house by its former inhabitants over its very long life, probably more than three hundred years. We have noticed blocked up doors and windows, attachment points for halters and bridles, old mangers and pigsties...but this afternoon I happened on something even more dramatic.
  I was strimming the grass in front of the buildings, when suddenly the ground gave way beneath my feet. I staggered back, dropping the strimmer and supporting myself against the stone wall of the building alongside. On inspection, I found that a stone slab hidden in the grass had split into three pieces, revealing the mouth of an old well, obviously blocked up many years ago, for our elderly neighbour had never mentioned its existence
 The well was round, of stone, faced with cement, and quite narrow, only about two foot six wide. My initial fright was needless, as it was blocked a couple of feet down. the previous owners must have found it handy to water the animals in the buildings just behind. I was tempted to dig it out, a source of free water for the garden would have been worth having, but the thought of digging at the bottom of such a narrow hole to a considerable depth gives me cold shivers, not to mention the obvious danger of collapse of the old stone work. We will fill it in to ground level and replace the stone cover. Perhaps it might be wise to buy a concrete slab to cap the hole. Living in Devon, I have heard of several sudden surprises from old mine shafts suddenly reappearing. Rather than going to the trouble of filling a deep shaft, the miners just inserted beams across the hole some ten feet down and made a timber platform to block the hole, which was then filled level with the ground. The timber would rot after a hundred years and the pit would suddenly reappear, surprising people who had built on or near it!
   An interesting and surprising discovery in our little domain, though, as I am sure you will agree.
  Bye for now, lunch calls.

dimanche 19 avril 2015

The turning of the Seasons



  Well, that's the end of lighting the stove in the morning when I get up. I've cleared out the ash drawer, removed the ready-use log supply and swept the hearth. I hope we don't have a real cold snap now, but I'm not going to start again barring a real return to the Ice Age...in real emergency, we've got the gaz heater, of course. Now is the time for planting (for Kim, that is, though I have rotovated the potager) and cutting grass. Time to look forward to swimming and a trip to the Pyrenees. Winter is finished, long live Summer.
  Bye for now, nearly tea time

samedi 18 avril 2015

Debugging. Nothing to do with computers!


   When you're running an Ark, with three dogs and up to a dozen cats, you will find that you have also acquired other, uninvited livestock, what an aristocratic seller of Pekingese dogs we met used to call 'lodgers'. I refer of course to fleas mainly, though ticks and mites are not unknown. It is therefore of intense interest to come across a product,which not only keeps its promises, but comfortably exceeds them!
  When confronted with this problem, we have usually used Frontline,either in its spray or spot-on form. However, the chemical seems to have lost its potency lately and a kitten continued to have fleas after as many as three applications in a week, clearly not a good thing. Our vet advised a product called Sorresto for the dogs, and we fitted all three with these special collars. They look like grey, plastic collars, and had a faint chemically smell which soon wore off. They were a bit expensive, but last at least six months, so worked out reasonable compared with the more frequent spot-ons.
  After a few days we were pleased to find the dogs were free of fleas, but most surprisingly, so were all the cats as well!! The house seems to be a no-go area for fleas and we haven't seen one for months. It's not often that a product proves so unexpectedly efficacious and I would thoroughly recommend it if you are pet owners plagued with flea infestations!

  Bye for now, going to enjoy the feeling of a flea-free house and pets that don't scratch!

samedi 28 mars 2015

Calories, it's not that simple




   A couple of days ago, Kim was watching a programme on calories on the TV. I was only half watching, as it's a subject which doesn't really concern me, my weight remaining stable without the need for dieting. The programme stated that 100 calories consumed in excess of requirements would build up day by day leading to a continual weight gain.
  I feel, from my own experience that this is an oversimplification. There must be a separate process which prevents this in many persons, analogous to the system where the kidneys excrete surplus salt. When I was living in Portsmouth as a young man, I stayed in digs run by an ex-Navy petty officer, who prided himself on his cooking. My skinny frame was a reproach to his feeding, he compared me to a Maltese goat, ' All ----- and toe-nails'..... He decided to feed me up. A full English breakfast was on offer, sausages, bacon, fried bread, the lot, as well as cereal. At work I ate a good canteen lunch and in the evening a copious dinner of soup, main course and a good desert, on which suet pudding was a frequent choice. Did I gain weight? I did not, though I did have to visit the toilet much more frequently....
   I feel this pretty conclusively proves that thin people will remain thin whatever their diet, while people who are naturally plump can remain thin only by eating carefully. Life isn't fair, is it?

    Bye for now, going to eat breakfast.......

mercredi 25 mars 2015

End of an Era, sad death of Gremlin



  I'm afraid I have sad news for readers of the Ark-- on Monday we had to have Gremlin put to sleep. He has had a heart condition for many years and had to have medicine to keep him running. Still, he was a happy and apparently healthy cat, enjoying his food and would come running across the cour when called. When he was diagnosed we really didn't expect that he would survive for so long, but he defied all pessimists and seemed to go on and on. However, an ominous lump developed on his side, a cancerous growth, that threatened his life but due to his heart condition it was impossible to operate, he would not have survived the op. But he was not really inconvenienced by the lump, and continued much as before. But the swelling got worse and while I was in the UK for a few days to fetch Kim back, it started to bleed. Agnes, who was looking after the animals, took him to the vet, who said the bleeding was not serious and he could await our return. but it was obvious that the tumour had become infected and its growth was accelerating, and we were not surprised when Francois, our vet, agreed that the time had come to decide. So we came sadly back home with an inert package in the cat box rather than our silky-haired cat. He's now buried under the quince tree in the orchard, joining several of his friends. Kim is going to plant some daffodils and cowslips round the plot.
   Its always sad to say goodbye to a much-loved pet but we are comforted by the thought that he has had a good life and we were able to let him finish it with dignity and without suffering. Goodbye, Gremlin, run free!

mercredi 10 septembre 2014

The Ark changes some of its equipment.

It's been an expensive time for the Ark! A week ago, our washing machine went on the blink, refusing to move on its programme. It would wash but only if you stood over it to say that's enough, time to continue... I tried the magic switch-cleaner without success and it was clear that either the repairer had to be called in, or we should replace the machine. As the old machine was nine years old and starting to rust around the base, we felt a repair would be counter-productive. A repairer would charge fifty Euros or so to visit, a new programmer probably 150Eur. We went to see some new machines at Weldom, as Kim felt it would be best to get it from a local supplier, who would deliver. However, their attitude was so unhelpful, almost truculent, (they wouldn't deliver either)and their choice was so poor, that we went on to Leclerc at Ruffec, and found a very nice top-loader with horizontal drum for 300Eur, a configuration that Kim had wanted for ages. Agreed, they didn't deliver, either, but with the Berlingo it wasn't much trouble to take it away. It's all installed now and working well. I did have to adapt the work surface to be hinged, but that was a minor job for a genius bricoleur like me....
   While we were in Leclerc, I took the opportunity to change my pre-paid mobile phone. The Orange scam was beginning to annoy me, you have to buy more credit than I need and if you don't use it in a limited time they cancel it unless you buy some more, and so on. The Leclerc credit lasts indefinitely and you just pay a service charge of 1.50eur a month. I bought a new mobile, very basic in the clamshell style I like, for 30Eur, a 10Eur start-up card, 5 of which was call credit and an extra 25Eur of credit so I'm in business and should save a lot in future.

 Bye for now, going to play with my new phone!