Tuesday, 26 February 2013


We have had moles on and off in our front garden ever since we have moved here but by putting down more repellent every time we saw a mole hill we seem to have contained them.
Last week for the first time I saw a mole hill in our back field close to where we have our vegetable plot, but as it was only one I didn't bother about it. Big mistake! Yesterday I went out and counted over 20 of them. How is it possible that a mole can just pop up into the middle of what is a field and create havoc in such a short time?

Apparently a single mole can burrow up to a 150 feet in a day and have a gestation period of only one Month! What chance have I got?

I think when I get my plough and rotavator in action in about a Month's time that may deter them other than that If I could catch enough of them I could offer them to Tesco's, they seem to buy any meat!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The last bit of winter

as I'm writing this it is snowing outside which seems to make a bit of nonsense of the heading, but we have had quite a few sunny days recently and although it is cold at night and in the wind I find I'm outside more and more in the day.
 I am so glad that we bought this house, It's not everyone's "cup of tea" with all the ground that we have. I have had several people say to me that they couldn't contemplate looking after it all but it suits us down to the ground and I'm never happier than when I'm outside working.

I have been busy clearing away all the winter debris from the drive at the rear of the house which is very therapeutic as It is like getting rid of winter. I managed to get the real lawn cut this weekend as well which is a bonus. The first cut of the year is always the worst as all the grass has to be picked up, I must have put about 8 barrow-load into the  compost heap. Now that it's been cut once, providing I do it on a regular basis I can just mulch the grass and leave it.

I'm also busy chopping and splitting wood ready for next winter, I've struggled a little to get enough dry seasoned wood this year but I reckon from now on I should be fine.

 I can see that the art of it is to continually cut and stack wood in advance. It is Sunday morning and I have the wood burner on chucking out heat as I type.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Tractor (Chinese)4 Mike (British)5

Success at last! After an hour's round trip into Carhaix to buy an extra length of chain ( don't even ask the cost ) I attached it to my existing chain and started to heave it out with the chain block, after about 10 minutes of heavy pulling I realised I was pulling the tree out of the ground! Off it came yet again to attach it to a bigger ( much bigger ) tree I finally managed to get it on firm ground and was able to drive it out. I had detached the link box which was still stranded in the bog but it was fairly simple to attach a chain to that and drag it out with the tractor.

As I said the good thing to come out of all this was getting to know my neighbough, I returned his chain block and was promptly invited into the house to share a bottle of wine. Bottles of wine seem to get drunk over here just like having a tea of coffee but I can live with it :)
on a separate note I was chatting on a forum I belong to, with a friend who is going to visit in the Summer, he happened to say " watch out for the youdig when you are out walking" I had to ask him what a "Youdig" was and apparently it is local folklore for a peaty bog or marsh with evil spirits. As I am certain he has never read my blog up to now I thought it was very apt.
As I now didn't have to buy a winch, I used the money to buy myself a new sawhorse for my logs, a big improvement on the old wooded one that I had inherited from the previous owners.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Tractor 4 Mike 0

Yes, It's still stuck in the mud although it does make a nice garden ornament!

On a good note though my French neighbough from across the road who I am on nodding terms with came across to see me today carrying a chain block, He doesn't speak one word of English not even "Hello"
  It was quite old but fully usable, however the main problem was where to attach it to, the large stone that was the obvious place wasn't suitable as It kept slipping off, I next tried around a tree but the problem there was it was at an acute angle and as the back wheels are up to the axle with the frame sitting on the ground it wouldn't move at all.
At that moment my neighbough arrived to help bringing with him a length of heavy rope so between us we decided that we needed to pull it directly from the front in a straight line.
So we attached the rope to the chain and managed to find a tree root to fix it to.
Well the good news is that we managed to winch it a foot ( I only need to winch it about 6 feet to get on dry ground ) The bad news is the rope broke!

At that point I was exhausted so I gave it up for today and will go out and buy some more chain tomorrow...........Watch this space!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Tractor 3 -Mike 0

Well day 4 and the tractor is slowly disappearing into the ground, Australia bound! I have now given up on the idea of chaining a log to the wheels. I am going to do nothing more to it until Thursday which is market day here in Huelgoat. Once a Month there is a lorry and trailer full of hardware and tools  sets up and this is the week they arrive. I have taken a look through their catalogue and have found a very reasonably priced ( 30 euros ) hand winch that will pull over 2 tons.
I am going to attach it with a chain to the front of the tractor and the other end I can attach around a large rock buried into the ground.

The weather here for the last couple of days and the next few to come if the forecast is to be believed is superb with sunshine all day. We are both making the most of it and getting out into the garden, Avril has been busy cutting part of the lawn for the first time and I have been out with the chain saw and axe stacking up logs for next winter.

Of course we have also made time for a bit of relaxation in the sun on our decking area!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

A day of up and downs

Still no success with getting my tractor out of the mud, in fact it is further down than it was before. The problem is now that the bottom of the tractor is sat on the ground so at least one of the wheels has no grip whatsoever!
After spending an exhausting few hours in the morning digging and trying to get ramps under the wheels to help it I gave it up and am leaving it now until Monday. I have one plan that involves chaining a wooden post across the two front wheels which should stop the wheels from spinning and force them to ride up over the post. If that doesn't work I'm going to have to find a tool hire shop and try and hire a "Turfer winch" which I can attach to some trees nearby and hand winch it out.

So all in all not a great start to the day!

The day picked up substantially in the evening however when we went with some friends to a St Valentines Night dinner and dance. This was held at the Hotel du Lac which is situated in a lovely position overlooking

 the lake. It was very well attended, although we we one of the few English people there, The dining room was set out lovely with red hearts etc on all the tables.
The food was superb with 4 courses and as much wine as you wanted included in the set price. The French people seem to eat in a different way to the English and I have to say I like it. The meal is spread over a lot longer time so there was time to dance in between courses . By the time we got home it was nearly 2am.

Friday, 15 February 2013

You win some-you lose some!

I've had a problem over the last few days in that my tractor which I bought 15 months ago suddenly decided it wouldn't start!
I'm certainly no mechanic, but I knew that the problem was in the electrics as not even that dashboard lights came on and when I turned the key  could here a clicking noise somewhere in the engine area.

My first thought were that the battery was low, so I put a charger on it for a few hours but to no avail. I then thought that perhaps the connections needed cleaning so I took them off and re-connected still without any luck.
I then tried to track down the clicking sound and eventually found it coming from what turned out to be a relay switch. I did ponder about taking it to a local tractor spares firm to see if I could get a replacement but in the end decided to email the firm in the UK that I bought it from and order the correct part from there. However I had an email back from them this morning saying that it was almost certainly a bad connection somewhere in the system and gave me a list of things to check.
Half an hour later....Success!

That was the good news!

Another half an hour later I decided to take it across my neighbough's field to my lower field across the stream to bring back a pile of logs that I had cut.

Unfortunately It got stuck in the mud and at the moment it's still there!

As I said you win some and lose some.....watch this space.

Thursday, 14 February 2013


Living on the outskirts of a medium sized village here in Brittany we are surrounded by woods and forests and it seems every other person has their own enormous woodpile.

You would think that with all the wood around that it would be cheap to buy? Not so, logs are sold by the corde ( approximately 3 cubic metres ) which can range from anything around 130 to 200 euros depending on the type and how old it is. Ideally wood for burning should be a minimum of 2 years old to allow it to dry out and season. In fact after this amount of time it is probably half of it's original weight and will give out 2-3 times the heat.
Some of my neighboughs have piles of logs that would appear to outlast anyone's lifetime and yet they are still felling and chopping.

I have to admit to slowly falling into the same category, there is something very satisfying in building up a log-pile for future winters and on a rare afternoon as of today when the sun came out, It gives a real feel good factor.

I'm coming to realise that the art in this is to do it on a regular basis, the logs I am cutting and chopping at the moment which are about 18 months old at the moment will be stacked away ready for next winter.

There really is nothing like a good wood-burner roaring away on a winter's evening!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

I'm feeling quite good about myself this week. I have a small meadow and woodland area at the bottom of our property that is accessed by a bridge I have built over the stream that divides it from the rest of our ground.
There are several trees that have fallen across the stream that need to be cleared and will also provide logs for our woodburner. I have been down there with a chainsaw sawing up logs however it is a lot of very hard work to carry them back to the house.

However there is access across our farmer neighbough's field where the stream is piped for about 15ft that I can drive my tractor over.
I went round to see him this week and managed to ask in French if it would be ok for me to drive my tractor across the field so I was more than pleased when he not only understood what I said but said yes I also had the bonus of being asked into his house for a glass of 50 yr old home made "hooch" that his father had made, extremely potent I might add!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Winter update (2)

After a lovely stay in New Zealand we resumed or trip. We had intended to spend the best part of three days in Sydney, Australia however we had overrun our stay in New Zealand and in the end just spent one night there.
We did make the most of it though as we were up and walking down to the waterfront by 7am on a lovely sunny morning. We walked down to an area known as The Rocks and along the quay. It is every bit as spectacular as you think of it with the Sydney Harbour bridge on one side and the Opera house on the other.

Sydney certainly appears to be a busy prosperous City with a lot of energy about it.
Time to move on, so back on the plane and onto Bangkok, we landed at the massive, new airport outside of Bangkok and picked up a taxi to take us to our Hotel in the Chinese district of Bangkok. It never ceases to amaze me how cheap taxies are in Bangkok. Considering it is a major City where you would expect taxi prices to be high, providing that you insist on the driver putting on the meter rather than trying to negotiate a fixed price you can get around pretty much anywhere for the equivalent of £2-£3.
For anyone who hasn't been, Bangkok is a mixture of very modern buildings and infrastructure mixed with an older more traditional way of life and as such is very interesting.

We spent five days in Bangkok and will almost certainly be back again sometime in the future, probably staying in a different part of the City next time.

Back on the plane once more for yet another 13hr trip to Heathrow where we picked up our car from Purple Parking ( very reasonable at about £60 for the best part of a Month ) and we headed off to Devon.
We met up with our friends, Nigel and Linda, for a very nice roast Sunday carvery lunch and catch up at the Exeter Arms and then went to my brother, Roger and sister in law Margaret's house to spend the evening and stay overnight. It was really good catching up with them both again and good to hear that they would be visiting us in the Summer for a couple of weeks.
The next morning after a visit to Crediton to deal with some banking business etc we drove down to Exmouth to visit Avril's sister and her husband, Denise and Ken.
Later in the afternoon we drove down to Ivybridge to visit our other son, John and daughter-in-law Claire and the grandkids, we were able to catch up for a few hours and have a nice dinner before heading off to the port for the overnight ferry home.
At just over a Month away this had been the longest we had be away but everything was fine and as it should be when we gt back.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Winter update

I shall probably have to split this into at least two instalments as It's long overdue and a lot has been going on.
A couple of weeks into November, we caught the ST Malo to Portsmouth ferry as the first leg of our holiday. We had a very smooth crossing on the "Bretagne" and drove off to head for Wiltshire for our first stop which encompasses all of our family. We arrived in Dauntsey around 10.30 in the morning to visit Peter and Rachael.
Actually as soon as we arrived we were off again, Peter had a meeting to attend for the Midget car racing that he does with two of his brothers, Steve and John. So after a quick cup of coffee I jumped in his car and attended the meeting with him while Avril went off with Rachael to see to her horse.
We all got back to his house in the afternoon and had a very nice visit staying overnight and leaving in the morning when they both had to go to work.

We then headed off to visit and stay with David and Amanda and our grandchildren in Herts, we had arranged for us all to go out for dinner in Hitchin in the evening where we met up with Steve and Jenny. We had a lovely evening in Zizzi's an Italian restaurant.

The next morning we headed off again and visited B&Q and Tesco's to stock up on some things we find either difficult or expensive to buy in France. We then set off for Heathrow to catch our flight to our first stop in Singapore. We flew out on the new(ish) Airbus 380 which is huge and can seat up to 800 people!
The flight there was very comfortable and we both managed to get some sleep on our 12 hour flight. We stop in the Ibis hotel on Bencoolin  road, a very nice hotel right in the middle of things with easy access to busses and underground. I can recommend this hotel to anyone staying in Singapore.
Eating out is inexpensive with a good variety of restaurants in the area, it is also close to the huge Burgis market.

After a really enjoyable 5 nights there we got back on the plane for another 13 hour trip to New Zealand via Australia.
As always wen we got there is was like we had never been away Anna and the kids were there to meet us at the airport and we were soon at her house which has the most gorgeous view from her lounge windows overlooking Hataitai and the sea beyond.
Although they live on the other side of the world from us by staying there for the best part of a couple of weeks means that we really have time to catch up on each others lives but not so long to interrupt their way of life.
The position of their house means that there is a wide variety of beaches and coastline to visit all within about a 20 minute drive, some of the area is quite dramatic as you can see from the photo below.