Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Sheepgate (and other stories)

Spring is now here and we are up to 25 degrees during the day. Although the nights are clear they are not too cold and so we have forgotten about heating and are beginning to look out our summer clothes (not much different to the winter clothes but just have shorter sleeves!)

Last week Ian celebrated his half century, which required me to make a few mad cakes. Here are the results.
The tractor was all they had in the gift shop that was appropriate. It is made in China!

Cup cakes with chocolate and vanilla butter icing decorated with licorice allsorts
Gremlin the naughty cattle dog is slowly calming down at times. His main difficulties (or should I say our main difficulties) are his over exitement at anything remotely different. To that end we are trying to increase his disciplined exercise and I am trying to run with him (trying because I can't keep up) whereas Ian is trying to get him used to running after the mountain bike without attacking it. We have been having some success although he still runs off unpredictably after an interesting smell or a flapping duck, taking the bike or me with him.

Yesterday Ian took him round the field and I waited on the terrace for them to return. I glanced down towards Herman's field and noticed his sheep running around in all directions. After a while I could just about make out another animal with them. Closer inspection showed a red dog, causing havoc! I concluded the worse; that Gremlin had escaped from Ian and was having a good time on his own. I put on some shoes and made to go across the field, when I saw Ian and Gremlin trotting up together.  Further investigation revealed that Herman's dog had got out of his dog house and was rounding up  the sheep in Herman's absence (only not very gently!). A rescue party was launched consisting of me, Ian and a neighbour. When we arrived we heard the dog in the distance. After calling him a few times he sheepishly appeared (punn intended) and we were able to put him away. Now to look at the damage! There were sheep all over the place; several in the stream, some in different fields, many with big bite marks in their flesh. Ian and the neighbour set about trying to drag the wet sheep from the river and tend to the wounded. It took about and hour of pulling, coaxing, lugging, calling and falling in the stream to get them all accounted for. One lamb was dead and one sheep looked close to death. Herman returned at this point and surveyed the damage. We were amazed to see this morning that all the surviving sheep were still alive and grazing in their field.

Drought is anticipated this year. We walked around the lake with Gremlin this weekend. It should be full at this time of the year but it is less than half full.

As we were walking round the lake a couple warned us that further round there was an 'incident' and we might be turned back. They thought someone may have collapsed (maybe died) as there were Gendarme all around. When we got there it was mid-day and the incident had just been cleared in time for the Gendarme to go for lunch.

Today there was a funeral in the village. I don't know who it was but there were well over 100 people there. It is the third funeral in the village that we have seen and they all have been well attended!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Marching forward

March seems to be going by rather quickly. Our aim is to get the garage sealed and secure by mid April, when we are returning to UK for a week. With that in mind Ian has been putting in windows and doors. These are the latest pictures.
Back of garage 21st March

Double doors still needing fitting

End view; door still needing fitting
The roof is now completely finished, including cementing and pointing the ridge tiles. The large shutter doors still need installing and then the whole outside can be clad. I think I am going to call the garage the EBay garage as that is where much of the materials are from. The cladding is a type of fibro cement panel, popular in the United States. Ian saw it on EBay and had two pallets shipped from the UK. The windows are not EBay but special offer in our local DIY store and cost 70 euros each. The roll down doors, all the nails, the breathable membrane for the outside and all the tools required for the build (nail gun, stappler etc) were all EBay specials, and even with delivery have saved a considerable sum of money on the costs.

The garage is looking rather good now, to the extent that we were told by the local Maire that people are concerned that we are building gites, not a garage. I decided to make a joke of it (because it is a bit of a joke!) and told them that there was no doubt that the garage was going to be nicer than the house, but that was because Ian thinks his tools need a special place to live!

This week we have had our first real experience of French administration. Ian has been trying to register the car and I have been trying to exchange my drivers license for a French one. This has required three or four trips to various offices that are only open between 8.30 and 12.00 every day and very slow progress. One trip to the local town hall in Bergerac was the closest I have come to experiencing a visit to the DHSS in the UK. We are resolving to do as much as we can by post and email from now on, even  though everyone says you only get things done if you go in person!

The problem with exchanging the drivers licence is that as soon as you send it off if you are stopped by the Gendarme you can be fined for not having a licence. We struggled to find out the correct procedure in this case. The town hall suggested we asked the Gendarme and the Gendarme suggested that we asked the town hall! In the end we we to the village council and got a letter from them certifying that they had sent it all off to the appropriate people!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Ticked off

I didn't take this photo myself. It comes from here and is a deer tick. We have a lot of ticks here and they seem to like Gremlin a lot! Of course we are trying the flea and tick treatments, which seem to make no difference at all to the nasty little b*ggers, and in the end we have to remove them as we find them. They make me feel pretty itchy, especially as Ian found one just about to take hold of his leg the other day. Here they transmit nasty things like Lyme disease in humans and some nasty dog tick disease that has already killed two dogs this way..so we don't like them at all!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Garage gets a hat

More news on the garage building. Pleasant weather has continued and we now have a roof, minus only the ridge tiles. It was a three person and a tractor job, and once all the preparation had been done the placing of the tiles took two half days in total. Here are some pictures.

Thursday, 1 March 2012


Ian and I have been struggling to fight off a rather nasty cold for the last two weeks and are only just winning. I suppose that's one of the problems with having temperatures of minus 20 one week and plus 20 a few days later. We had a quiet weekend to try and recover, but this week Ian could sit still no more and started to work on the roof of the garage. Tomorrow the tiles go on, but in the meantime here are a couple of pictures.