Saturday, 28 February 2009

Fire and Brimstone

Gorgeous day today (following on from two more consecutive gorgeous days) – 16 degrees, sunny, calm and springlike. Time to get outside and start the spring tidy up we thought. So Ben continued to cut the grass (started yesterday) but the ride-on lawn mower decided to stop miles away from the barn and refused to start again. Ben swore. So we stopped for lunch.

Our lovely Jesse the Esse the woodburning cooker is doing a grand job with cooking and heating water for domestic use but we wanted to put in a slightly higher thermostat. A 10 minute job we’d been assured. The warning should have been in that sentence however….. Ben started the change over whilst I made lunch and lo and behold complications arose that ended with him setting off a big leak in another joint in the system and us not having the tools to fix it. So we had a flooded floor. Ben swore again – louder. Fortunately Francis (our knight is shining boilersuit) was working with us today but had gone off for the traditional 2 hour French lunch break (he’s not normally away for that long). However, on his return, it was all fixed and mopped up and life went on with Ben grumping that it was ‘one of those days’. Little did we know….

The garden tidy up continued and we made a big pile of fallen branches and debris ready for a bonfire, in one of our fields that was sporting large lumps of dead grass that never got cut last autumn. About 4pm I mentioned to Ben that if we were going to have a bonfire then we’d better do it then so we could keep an eye on it before it got dark (about 7.15pm). So off went the bonfire and up got the breeze – now only a slight breeze you understand but enough. Within 15 mins we were whacking the grass clumps with brooms trying to keep the fire under control. It was a losing battle so I ran to the house (as best you can when you’re 37 weeks pregnant) and called Francis and Pascal to help (you may well remember that my French words for emergency fire situations have been tried out before, so no problems there!). It had spread to the orchard and was heading rapidly towards the tree-lined hedge. Unfortunately the outdoor water supply had burst during the cold spell at New Year and was awaiting a fine spring day to be fixed – so no water outside other than all the water butts. Pascal attacked them, Francis whacked the fire with a spade, and Ben whacked it with a broom. I ran to collect all my millions of hosepipes from all over the garden and time ticked away oh so fast. Finally Francis managed to fashion a hosepipe connection to our house water supply and the dousing began in earnest – as well as the second flood in the house today (thanks goodness it’s all tiled). The boys stood by mesmerised but being very responsible. An hour later the fire was finally out having blackened about 2000m2 of our orchard. Ha-ha, next week we were going to hire a commercial lawn mower to get the orchard grass under control – no need now!!!!! Ben was clean out of energy for further swearing.

So here I sit wondering if these sort of things bring on a birth?

The picture above was taken the day after and no, that's not fog, it's the smoke still rising!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

All Hands on Deck

Yikes – just found out it’s a major works day tomorrow. Our charpentier, Stephan, arrived this evening to say that they will be here first thing tomorrow to start replacing the worn bit of roof (it’s only 1/3 of the roof and only the southern side) so let’s hope for fine weather. That’s 3 guys minimum.

And Francis has said that he can get a helper for this weekend, and he’ll be here tomorrow as well so the count is up to five.

Plus Martin, the cooker/heating installer, is also arriving tomorrow for 2 days to finally get this system’s teething problems sorted – and he might bring Lance. So that’s six minimum arriving tomorrow.

Bless them, they’re all trying to get the house ready before Bubs arrives – maybe they just don’t want to be ‘on the job’ when I go into labour knowing that we’re planning a homebirth.

Glad they’re not all expecting tea/coffee on tap or we’d be a bit shorter by the weekend with all the running about!

We had about 2 hrs of snow this morning but it was melting as soon as it hit the ground really. Monday’s is now almost gone. The UK didn’t fare so well did it? Our farmer friend, Claude, popped in today for a chat and he said that this was a colder winter than normal!!! Oh good, it seems quite doux (mild) to us. I’m itching to get a wee few veggies planted up in the potager and it looks as though that might be quite soon.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Work Ethics

The changes to the house continue at speed with the constant help of Francis, our man-who-does. Anyone who says that the French don’t turn up, are unreliable, and lazy definitely haven’t had the good fortune to meet the guys we’ve worked with because they’ve all been the exact opposite – in fact, no endless need for them to have coffee/tea on tap like in the UK, they just turn up at 8am, work solidly until 12 noon, come back about 1.30 and invariably work until 6 or 7pm again with no breaks!!!! What a work ethic. We have now finished one of the guest bedrooms in the grenier and hope to have the upstairs bathroom finished in a couple of weeks. Then we can start ripping out the downstairs bathroom (at last). Our kitchen still needs to have some of the units permanently fixed but it functions as a kitchen and so I’m happy. The stove and heating system are still proving temperamental but should hopefully be finally sorted by the end of this week.

This house stays SOOO warm unlike Butterwell and we’ve survived thus far with just the fire in the main living area! We put in loads of natural hemp roof insulation and it’s been really worthwhile. We had some snow again this morning (about 2cm) but it’s not set to last. Good because hopefully some more Velux windows are being put in tomorrow.

Pregnancy in France

Well we have reached 33 weeks of this pregnancy peacefully and without complication nor worry. What a lovely change!! I have to admit that just in the last couple of weeks I have ‘blossomed out’ and now feel like a whale with very little space left for comfortable eating. I am however still finishing off our floor tiling and wall painting. Good for Bubs to keep on the move I think. We only have to hold on for another 3 weeks and we’re assured of the homebirth we’d like to have (as opposed to a highly interventionist birth in hospital, so we’ve heard – caesarean rate in France runs as high as 43% in some hospitals!!!). We have found a lovely independent midwife (one of only 30 for the whole of France!) who is prepared to cover us from 36 weeks at our own house and she is very laissez faire. She has written loads for medical journals etc and has actually just released a book that she’s doing a big launch for in Paris (yikes on the 18/19th March so I hope Bubs doesn’t decide to exit on those days). She’s also very French so we’re now learning lots of baby/birth words to add to our vocabulary of plumbing, masonry, electrical, carpentry – steep learning curve but effective. It was wonderful to find her a) because she’s so lovely and b) because we can now stay at home rather than move up to Paris for a few weeks. I’m quite excited actually.