Wilting

It is not as hot as earlier in the month – afternoon temperatures (in the shade) are in the mid 30s rather than 40 plus. But for some reason I am not coping as well. I’ve not been feeling great for the past 24 hours.

Of course my damned compression stockings have a lot to answer for. Initially I was good and kept them on all day. Now I manage to keep them on for the morning, but then concede defeat and take them off, which means I have to lie horizontal – or sit in the pool. This is no great hardship!

Initially the pool was hard work – not helped by my inadvertently throwing away the robot filters when cleaning out my basement and having to go to Montpellier to get new ones. The robot is now working fine and the pool looks beautiful, although somewhat slippery (no doubt caused by the unrelenting scorching temperatures).

I am however finding it difficult getting the robot out of the water each day, as the pulley system used in previous years is not working. I’m really not supposed to be lifting any weights after last year’s scares, and I’m slightly worried that my current problems may have been exacerbated by breaking the rules. I can’t wait for the family to come in ten days and take over pool maintenance.

The poor old garden is not looking great either:brown and scorched with very few flowers surviving. And the insect population has suddenly soared. When we used to camp I was always the main target for mosquitoes and other nasties, but years of living here have I think made my blood less interesting to them – until now.

Septic tanks

All this internet stuff came after a busy morning overseeing the emptying of three septic tanks: my main one, the smaller one beside our original house (now the gite) and the huge one belonging to my English neighbours, the Pressleys.

The first challenge was to get the huge lorry close enough to the two main tanks. The driver did some of the most skilful manoeuvring I have ever witness to reverse – straight on at a 90° angle – into the Pressleys’ drive, achieved in a road which was narrower than the length of the lorry.

Emptying my septic tank involved pulling the long unwieldy suction pipe behind the Pressley’s’ pool, over a wall and through a bamboo thicket. All of this in temperatures now hovering round 30°.

Where would the French be without Moroccans willing to take on unpleasant jobs like this? They were so polite, smiling and uncomplaining at what had turned out to be a difficult job. Before emptying the small tank next to my gite they had to return to the sewage works to empty the contents of the first two – another unforeseen twist. And the final gesture of camaraderie was when the guy in charge recorded the sizes of my two tanks but marked it as one job, to reduce my bill.

It is now well over a decade since we were told that our bit of the valley would be put onto the mains system within a couple of years. I now suspect it will not happen in my lifetime, so it is fortunate to have an accommodating ‘vidange’ service. And of course my water rates include a lower sewage element than those who are on mains drains. The downside is that one has to live with periodic unpleasant septic tank problems (and odours).

I’m amazed that the gite septic system, which breaks all the rules, has been so trouble free for the past few years – ever since I had a swanky new sanibroyeur (macerator system) installed for the shower and toilet, pumping stuff up the slightly uphill slope to the septic tank! The kitchen sink continues to take a different route: to a deep hole beside the road, dug by Chris 15 years ago. When we bought the building, the water used to simply flow onto the road!

Polish builders score again

At last my bedroom terrace is resurfaced. It has been a story which has involved unfortunately a few fallouts.

The terrace was originally built round my jacuzzi. Then it suffered significant subsidence (a source of tension between me and the otherwise excellent original builder) and the jacuzzi packed up (again some tension, this time with the French branch of Canadian Spa who refused to service it).

So last year the jacuzzi was removed, the hole filled up, and the former opening now has some excellent steps leading down to the terrace below (ie easier to fetch bottles from the cellar!

Making good the terrace surface has been problematic. I agreed with the guy doing the work that the existing tiles should be covered over by a new layer of slate (schiste) ones, matching the rest of the terrace. The weather last year did not help, with snow or rain interrupting work frequently. But finally I lost my patience and called an end to this particular project.

This month, I took on a different builder, a Pole called Kris. True to the reputation of Poles in the building trade, he did the whole job in two weeks. I am pleased and relieved (although a little more out of pocket than originally expected. It looks good and merges seamlessly with the rest of the terrace.

Now we just need a good rainfall (!) to wash the site down.

Chenilles processionaires – again

Suddenly, in the space of one week, the number of nests in the pine tree in front of the house has risen from two to over ten.

I thought we had been spared the annual invasion, given the cold and wet weather we have had this March. But it is as many as we had in the photo I took in March 2016.

I need to shell out to get rid of them as quickly as possible, as they are so dangerous for the four grandchildren, arriving next week, and Poppy.

I have just rung the pest man, Serge (rapidly becoming a friend because of all my bestial invasions) and he is going to see how much and when.

The thaw

Well, the last two days have been a variant on the ‘épisode cévenole’ – the name given for the dramatic downpours we get here.  About 30 cm of snow fell on Wednesday; other areas near here had 50 cm.

Yesterday Poppy and I remained marooned in the house.  I had to cancel my trip to the neurologist who is trying to work out the causes of and treat my sciatica.  Unfortunately I may not be able to see her till the end of April now.

Poppy is still not keen on the snow which engulfs her.  And I do not dare go out.  Apart from not having boots for snow, with four prothèses I simply do not want to risk falling.

I have been unimpressed by the commune’s complete inertia.  It has neither organised any chasse-neiges (snow ploughs), nor checked on the growing number of elderly residents (I know at least two who are over 80 and who are isolated), nor written any information or advice on its web site.

Yesterday evening I discovered too late that in fact a neighbour up the road, Morgan (builder and volunteer pompier) had spent the day clearing our road, Pied Méjean, and shovelling snow from the driveways of his neighbours.  He said that if only he had known I needed help he would have come here.  Instead I have arranged for Philippe, who does things like cut my grass, to come today.

This morning – after a night of violent wind and electricity cuts – the wind has abated and the sun is shining.  The thaw is under way, but meanwhile, everything is looking lovely.

 

Snowed in

There is an eerie silence as the snow blankets out all sounds and views,

The Meteo France forecast has been amazingly accurate: yesterday’s sunshine is history and we can expect snow until midday tomorrow.

Richard and Phil started work this morning (the temperature was minus 7!) and broke through the layer of concrete under the paving stones enough to confirm their theory, that the subsidence had been caused by a broken drainage pipe. And then as the snow arrived, they beat a hasty retreat just before the road closed. Richard says all shops in le Vigan are closed and his car is stuck in the middle of the road 200 yards from his house.

My next concern is tomorrow’s appointment with the neurologist in Montpellier. I imagine the snow ploughs will come once the snow stops, but I’m not sure how I will get the car from its shelter to the road!

Early evening

Tomorrow’s trip to Montpellier is not looking promising (and the next appoint possible is at Easter when the family may be here).  I’ve just rung a local councillor (as always he does not bother to come to the phone – his wife lays down the law…). There seems to be no plan for snow ploughs.  And she was talking about the bigger road below my land, not the precarious steep descent just outside my drive.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t resist some more photos of snowy views from my house, just before it got too dark.

 

 

Repairing the bedroom terrace

Yet another work of necessity rather than pleasure: making good the terrace outside my bedroom.

The removal of the non-functioning jacuzzi left a gaping hole.  But perhaps more serious, over the past nine years this terrace has subsided, not only causing nasty pools when it rains but causing a potential damp problem under the bedroom doors.

The first stage is to take up the limestone paving and investigate possible causes of the subsidence.  The paving stones are now all up, thanks to sterling work by a local called Phil (despite being French) drilling away all day for two days in freezing temperatures.

Tomorrow – if it does not snow – the next stage will be to decide what to do with the sagging cement.

Hopefully all will be repaired and paving stones relayed, this time with proper drainage, before Easter.  The gate, which used to lead to the jacuzzi inspection panel, will now be the start of steps leading down to the space below the house where I store my wine and which I would like to see expanded to provide additional bedroom space (another story, another day…).

The battle against the sangliers

The sangliers have continued to wreak even more damage since I last wrote about them.  But luckily Jacky has returned from his travels and last week constructed a magnificent but discreet  electric fence.

In a couple of days he had enclosed the top half of my land (containing the bassin and the olive trees). His friend, Jacquot, arrive to instal the electrics, looked at the damage and exclaimed: “C’est une catastrophe!”.

Jacky told me that he now insists that anyone wanting him to do landscape work instals a fence like this, such is the extent of the damage the sangliers are now doing. Not very romantic or rustique, he said, but essential.

He has made two gateways, one on the path down to the gite and the other above the steps to the children’s cabin (although I will probably switch off the electricity and open these gates in the daytime when the children are here).

He levelled out the churned-up earth everywhere and sowed some grass seed in the worst areas.  He will be back in a month or so to prune the olive trees (and replace those which have not made it) and replace all the plants destroyed by the sangliers.

 

Capricornes – again

I have unfortunately become a bit of an expert at recognising the arrival of capricornes: I had to deal with capricornes in my bedroom in 2015 and then last year in the wooden posts and beams of my terrace. So this month I had no difficulty in recognising the light crunching noise above my head at night.

So once again I rang Rastop, the firm that has dealt with my previous capricorne invasions as well as with the nests of chenilles processionaires in the tree in front of my house. Within days I had a visit from Serge (we are now on first name terms…).

After consulting Daniel, who did the actual treatment, they came to the conclusion that the culprit must be the chestnut beam above my head, which is mainly concealed in the wall between the bedroom and study.  Only the part which was visible was treated last time.

So, on Tuesday Daniel returned to drill holes through the plaster in the study to treat the wood on that side, and also gave a good surface blast to the beam on both sides. To avoid side effects from the treatment, I shut off the bedroom and study for three days and Poppy and I slept in the spare room. Luckily all this is covered by a ten year guarantee, the original treatment having been paid for by the builder, not me.

Last night we returned to my bedroom and I can report no nightly crunching noises.  Fingers crossed.

Olive trees and sangliers

Every winter I have a modest crop of olives, mainly on the three more mature trees.  This winter, they yielded much less, but surprisingly some of the 20 plus trees planted three years ago have started to produce a tiny crop.

In the past I have invited Jacky to pick my olives and add them to his.  This year, Odile and a friend picked them.  The olives all go to the press in Aulas, restored a few years ago by Jacky and some friends.

Last week Jacky called by with a present of a bottle of the new olive oil.  I was very touched, particularly as he did not get my olives this time.  I will open the bottle shortly and compare its taste with the commercial ones.

 

 

 

Jacky and I then reviewed the extensive upheaval caused by the nightly rampages of the sangliers (wild boars).

Plants round pool gone

Ground round olive trees churned over

 

 

 

 

Every terrace is affected, every olive tree has earth dug up round it, and many of the plants surrounding the pool will need replacing,

Jacky and Marthe leave today for their annual Asian walking holiday, this time in Thailand.  When he returns there is no choice but to instal an electric fence (posts with two or three cables) surrounding the terraces with the olive trees and the pool – with ‘gates’ to allow us access between the two houses, the pool and the children’s cabin below it.

Jacky says I am not the first to react with dismay at this idea – not just because of the cost, but visually and mentally fencing in is not what we would like to have.  But with the growing numbers of sangliers invading these valleys, there is no alternative.