November 30, 2014

My morning’s labours

I bumped into my neighbour Jean-Claude yesterday coming up from my neighbour at the back’s house and he told me that their daughter was arriving later on and that he had just opened it up for her. Well, it turned out to be not just their daughter because when they arrived, they came in four cars.

And not only that, all of them were blasting out loud thumping music which from that moment on didn’t stop. In fact, when it got dark the lights came on behind and the reveries continued in the garden with non-stop noise and loud music – through into the early hours. And by that I mean past 4.00 am.

I found it impossible to get to sleep until they decided it was time to go to bed and after a few hours shut-eye, eventually awoke at 9.00 am. All was quiet behind so I decided it was time for an early start to cut my lawn. By 9.15 am I was outside at the back of my house with my mower going full blast walking up and down and round and round to make sure that my grass in that area had a really good cut.

Half way through, I thought that it was about time that I checked my chainsaw that I haven’t used for a couple of weeks, because you know how that kind of kit needs to be regularly started up and run. So out it came and after I’d topped it up with a bit of 40:1 it soon roared into life. But you know what these little chainsaws are like – you need to warm them up a bit so they can reach their maximum revs, so that’s what I had to do.

It took two or three minutes to get up to temperature but eventually it was roaring away nicely, which it did very well for another couple of minutes. Then it was time to get back to the grass cutting.

After I’d finished, my neighbour Benjamin came across with his little boy, Samuel. We chatted for a few minutes and I asked whether he’d heard the noise last night. He said that he had and that it had affected him too, but luckily Samuel had slept through it. He said that he almost got up to go and tell them to Shut Up! He asked with a smile if that was the reason why I’d made such an early start with my ‘gardening’? I just smiled back and shrugged my shoulders, and he said that he approved 😉

I then wheeled my mower back into my ‘atelier’, gave my chainsaw one final test for a couple more minutes and went indoors for breakfast.

We’re expecting a bit of a cold blast next week, a bit like the UK but nothing like as cold. Even so, as I was running short of cut logs for my wood burner, I decided that it would be a good idea to cut and split a few more lengths of oak. My wood store is now really proving its worth and the concept I originally had in mind is now working really well. I took a few shots while I was at work to show how I set myself up for the job.

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Some log splitters come with stands to raise them up so you don’t have to keep bending your back. Unfortunately, mine doesn’t have one and although I’ve been thinking about making one myself, it would take up more space, which is already at a premium because of all the stuff that I already have to store, as the next shot shows.

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Finally, here’s a shot taken from inside the store looking out.

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All in all, I think I can look back and compliment myself on a really useful morning’s labours 😉

November 28, 2014

Wowee!

Up to now, I’ve been using a ‘cheap Chinese satnav’ modified to run Memory Map software for my flight navigation, and very well it has performed too. I originally flew down to the Dordogne from England in MYRO using a small unit with a 5″ screen and it worked faultlessly, bringing me to each waypoint ‘on the button’ and allowing me to locate tiny airfields en route that would otherwise have been needles in a haystack.

After arriving here, I have continued using the system very successfully and it gave me the confidence to venture out over quite long distances in the surrounding area without any fear that I would ever become uncertain of my position. Not only was that very reassuring, but it also allowed me to become very familiar with the area in a comparatively short time.

Along the way, I managed to damage my original 5″ unit so I moved on to one with a 7″ screen. However, like others before me, I found that the screen brightness of the larger unit wasn’t really good enough, especially in bright sunlight, so although I still have the 7″ satnav, which I now just use almost all the time in the car, I acquired another 5″ unit off Ebay, which has done sterling service up to and including my last flight.

But technology moves on and I’ve known for some time that tablets have taken over from satnavs for flight navigation as not only do they have faster processors and more on-board storage, but they also have much brighter, higher resolution screens. For most pilots who tour a lot, SkyDemon is the software of choice and if I had plans to start touring, it’s what I’d go for too. However, my Memory Map system is quite adequate for my present needs, especially as I can scan and load maps into it as I have done with the aeronautical map for France, but up to now I’ve had no experience of anything running the Android operating system (I don’t have a smartphone) and had no idea whether I could get it to run on an Android tablet, which most of the ones that are in my price bracket are.

That was until someone pointed out on one of the forums that Ebuyer in the UK had a very good offer on a 7″ Asus tablet (today’s price £59.99 with free delivery) that had the necessary built-in GPS, so I thought, ‘what the heck!’ and decided to bite the bullet and get one. And today my Asus Memo Pad 7, otherwise known as the Asus ME173X eventually arrived.

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I’ve been amazed how quickly I’ve managed to get a feel for how it and Android work, even though I had to take time out repairing the broken pane of glass in my front window. In fact, not only did I manage to get a feel for the little rascal, I also managed to download the Memory Map app and get the software up and running and install my French aeronautical map! So now I have a complete and working Android navigation system with a lovely bright 7″ screen that I just can’t wait to try out for the first time.

Here’s a shot I took of the Asus’s screen showing a route in green that I created on my PC in the usual way and transferred onto the tablet. Also shown is the position marker in red, at my house, exactly as it has always appeared in Memory Map, except it’s much brighter and also locked onto the GPS system much more quickly than the old satnavs ever did.

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You can’t directly transfer the route overlay from the PC to the tablet in the way that you could with Windows CE on the old satnavs. Instead you have to save it as a .gpx file on your PC and copy it over onto the tablet, but that’s a small price to pay, I think, for the advantages that the tablet technology will bring, not the least of which is a huge 10 hour battery life! It comes with the usual stuff, of course, like wi-fi, the Chrome browser, front and rear cameras etc etc, but I mainly got it for its ability to run my flight nav software, and so far I’m impressed. Very impressed!

November 26, 2014

Getting there

I finished off the work that I wanted to do on my kitchen door today, so I’ve almost ticked off all of the boxes on my Winter ‘To-Do’ list. The idea was to make and fit a threshold piece and weatherboard and also, in the process, shorten the height of the door so I could have a doormat. This would be a boon by helping to prevent walking in mud and water when the weather gets bad, which was always a problem previously.

I completed half of the job a few days ago so today I had to make and fit the weatherboard and a panel to go along the bottom of the door inside. The panel was necessary because the strip I attached to the bottom of the door to get the height I wanted was a bit thinner than the door itself, so the panel was needed to make up the additional thickness.

First, the weatherboard. This is how it now looks from the outside with the door closed.

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It’s a very snug fit, in fact better than the one I made for the back door, which gets more rain on it, but that’s down to luck of the draw, I suppose. Here’s a shot of the door open, taken from outside.

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And here’s another taken from the inside showing how much better things will be, with the new doormat extending across almost the whole doorway.

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This shot shows the panel that I had to make up to go across the bottom of the door inside. I got hold of a nice strip of wood from Les Briconautes that was about 60 x 6 mm, with a half-round on both edges. By cutting it down for height, I got rid of one of the round edges that I didn’t need and the other rounded edge came in handy too. The thickness of the panel is just a bit more than was needed but having its top edge rounded, it doesn’t look out of place at all, even if, for the time being, it is painted in white undercoat when the rest of the door is an awful red!

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So that’s it for now. The next job on the list is to repair a cracked pane in one of my front windows. It’s been like that since before I moved in and having repaired the pane that got smashed the other day in the kitchen door, I took the opportunity to acquire a piece of glass to repair this one too. Then what, can I take a rest? Well no, not just yet. Water has been finding its way into my atelier under the southern end of my house whenever we get a period of persistent heavy rain. I think I’ve spotted the reason why, so I need to take a look at that as soon as I can. There’s no rest… 😐

November 21, 2014

What could possibly go wrong?

Today I felt that I really had to tackle the new threshold piece and weatherboard on the kitchen door. The job had to be done before the weather turns cold and wet again and as I will be off with Wim tomorrow picking up several trailer loads of firewood, if I hadn’t done it today I would have had to do it on Sunday instead. That would probably mean that I’d then miss the chance to get a flight in before the weather turns cloudy and wet again, probably in the early part of next week.

The door was not like the one on the back of the house as it had some kind of weird draught excluder fitted to its bottom edge. When I checked this out a few days ago, I found when I removed it and another strange wooden panel along the inside of the bottom edge, that these were actually a bodge-up to disguise the fact that when the door was fitted it wasn’t actually tall enough for the door frame.

To explain for readers who don’t know – when you buy a door, it’s usually of a standard width but taller than you actually need. You then cut it down in height so it fits snugly in the door frame to minimise draughts and get a nice looking job. Well, this door had never been cut down, and when it was supplied, the two side rails extended several centimetres below the lower edge of the bottom rail, making a hole like a soccer goal mouth. To get round this, whoever had fitted the door had then just nailed thin panels to the front and back of the door to cover the hole, and Bob’s your uncle.

Trouble was, that was no good for me, because when you fit a threshold piece, the door has to butt up closely to it, which meant that the front panel had to come off, exposing the hole. The only way around this was to cut the bottom of the door straight across and add a strip to it to make it taller. This was annoying, but it also presented me with an opportunity.

Because the bottom of the door was only skimming above the surface of the floor tiles, it was never possible in the past to have any kind of proper door mat, which meant that in the Winter, you always walked rain and mud in onto the kitchen floor. However, as I could now make the door any height I wanted, I could now allow for a thin door mat to go on the floor beneath it. The questions were, ‘where could I get such a door mat’ and ‘what thickness did I need to allow for?’ The answers I discovered, were (i) Leroy Merlin and (ii) I didn’t know until I got it, so before I could get cracking, off I had to go to Chancelade to pick a mat up.

The time lost meant that I couldn’t start the job proper until after lunch, but although this gave less time to complete it, it didn’t matter, because what could possibly go wrong? It wasn’t long before I found out. I’d lifted the door, which is quite heavy, off its hinges using the time-honoured garden spade method and lent it up against the inside of the door frame while I lowered the legs on my Workmate. As I did so, there was a slight gust of wind that was nevertheless strong enough to blow the door over, which then came crashing in on top of me!

In hindsight, I was very lucky, because the full weight of the door initially fell against my left elbow, which now has a large bump on it. But then it continued to fall and as it twisted, my head smashed through one of the top glass panels showering me with glass fragments and sending shards of glass all over the kitchen floor. Luckily, the damage done to my head was minimal, which I find extraordinary under the circumstances, but as it fell, it caught my right knuckle and sliced a neat little triangular piece of flesh out of it.

I’m very philosophical about the whole thing because although it was all a bit messy, there was no serious damage done, and even my sliced knuckle was more of an inconvenience than anything else because the wound, although small, was in a very difficult place to stick a plaster and every time I did, it fell off again. But despite all this, and the additional time I lost clearing all the mess up, I still managed to get everything apart from the weatherboard, which isn’t critical anyway on this door, completed before it got dark.

The first shot, below, shows the strip that I attached to the bottom of the door after I’d cut it down to the height I wanted.

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The next two shots show the door and threshold piece from inside and outside.

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Unfortunately, when I drilled the floor a fillet of mortar that I’d put in along the edge of the tiles not long after I moved in, partially broke away, so I’ll have to go back later and replace it. It won’t be very time-consuming or difficult, just a bit annoying, but no matter. The next shot shows how snugly the door butts up against the threshold piece when it’s closed.

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Finally, the broken pane.

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It’s no big deal and in fact when I go up to BricoJem in Rouffignac to get a replacement, I’ll also be able to order a second piece that I’ve been meaning to buy ever since I’ve lived here, to repair a cracked pane in one of my lounge windows. So I guess one way of looking at this afternoon’s debacle is that if it hadn’t happened, I still wouldn’t have got around to fixing the latter, and now I might as well. So every cloud does have a silver lining 😉

November 20, 2014

Guttered!

We had a gorgeous day today with a lovely blue sky, a splash of high cloud here and there and a high of 19 degrees Celsius. This afternoon was perfect for flying but, alas, I couldn’t go because I still have jobs to do on my ‘Winter Work List’. I had intended to make and fit a threshold strip and weatherboard on my kitchen door as I did for my back door a few days ago, but I’m afraid that that turned out not to be possible. The reason was that I overslept!

But the day was not lost, because I decided instead to fit the guttering that I got recently for the new wood store. This was a job that had to be done in any case as with the rain we’ve had already, the doors and boards on the front have been getting unduly wet and dirty due to water running off the sloping roof and splashing back up off the ground. I had to use a bit of ingenuity to devise a method of attaching it as due to the way that I’d designed the roof, I couldn’t use the usual brackets. Also, there’s very little height above the doors, so the gutter had to be fixed in such a way as to ensure that afterwards there would be sufficient clearance beneath it to clear the doors when they were opened.

In the end, the simplest approaches are often the most elegant and this proved to be so in this case. All I did was turn the guttering around so the decorative ‘roll’ on its front was towards the back and then put some screws through that directly into the board on the underside of the roof edge that I fixed there to cover the edge of the roofing felt after I’d wrapped it over. It worked well and looked fine after I’d finished, as the following pics show.

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If I don’t oversleep again tomorrow, I should be able to get the work done on my kitchen door, as the weather is forecast to be about the same as today. That will get me very close to the end of my job list, after which I’ll be able to start to relax and also grab the odd opportunity to fly that presents itself when there are breaks in the weather like today.

I’ll also not be able to go flying on Saturday morning as Wim and I are going off to pick up some firewood. It’s freshly cut pine from land that’s being cleared for another purpose and will have to be stacked for at least two years to dry out. But that’s OK as I have the space for it and will just source dry oak in the meantime, as I did for this Winter.

So will I get a flight in on Saturday afternoon? I don’t know at the moment, but I’m not too fussed because the forecasts for both Saturday and Sunday are almost identical – highs of 20/21 degrees Celsius, no chance of rain and light winds from the south-east. And whichever day I go on, I’ll be able to enjoy it all the more knowing that I’ll have ticked off all the big jobs on my ‘Winter Work List’ 😉

November 16, 2014

Let there be light!

We’ve had a stinker of a day today – cold with lashing rain. But although I was working outside and it wasn’t very pleasant, fortunately I was under-cover out of the rain and wind in my new wood store finishing off its new electrical system.

On Friday I made a hole through the wall of my kitchen into the store. I’d found a gap in the stones of the outer wall inside the store where I wanted, if possible, to come through because I knew from when I put my gas pipe through that hitting a big stone head-on was bad news. I’d then worked out as best I could using my gas pipe as a reference point where that was on the inside of the wall and began drilling with a new 60 cm long masonry that I’d acquired for the purpose from Brico Depot.

My walls are nearly a metre thick but having a 60 cm start put me way ahead of the game compared to previously, when I’d put the gas pipe through, and as before I then had to finish off by just using a metal rod that I’d got from Les Briconautes as a cold chisel. Amazingly, it took me a fraction of the time that it did before and when I’d got the rod right through I went outside to check where it had come out. I could hardly believe my eyes, because there was the tip sticking out in the gap between the stones at exactly the point I’d been aiming for, but although I was delighted with the result, I thought that it was really more by luck than judgement.

But anyway, putting the cable through the hole was all that I managed to do on Friday and yesterday (Saturday) I installed and connected a strip light. I didn’t know whether the switch that I’d put in was in the ‘off’ or ‘on’ position so after I’d come indoors and plugged the new cable into an adjacent socket, I was very pleased to see light flooding out of the wood store doors when I went back out again. Plugging the cable into a wall socket in my kitchen is only a ‘temporary’ arrangement until I get around to finishing my kitchen off. When I do that, I have to install all new sockets which I’ll chase into the walls so it doesn’t make any sense to spend time now chasing in just one cable.

So all I had to do today was finish wiring in the power sockets. Even though I was working under cover, it wasn’t very nice because not only was it cold and blustery with the doors wide open for light, but I also had to keep nipping outside to fetch tools and other items that I needed. So it was a great relief when I’d finished and was able to reconnect the power cable and test the whole system out. It all worked perfectly, I’m glad to say, and here are a couple of shots of the finished job.

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I’ve put in three sockets, not that I’ll be able to use all of them simultaneously at their maximum rating, of course. It’s just more convenient not to have to keep plugging and unplugging if you’re using two or three tools all at the same time. I tested the sockets out by plugging in and starting up my ‘scie à bûches’, which is the highest rated item that I’ll probably be needing to run out there, and it worked fine. So it looks as though I’m pretty much in business now. However, I’m thinking that maybe I might need an additional external light to light the way from my kitchen door round to the wood store, so maybe I haven’t quite finished just yet after all 😉

November 11, 2014

One down…

One still to go. I have a small list of jobs that I need to complete so I’m totally prepared for Winter and once I’ve worked my way through it, I can relax for the year. Today I tackled the work that I needed to do on my back door, leaving the front one still to do.

Sorting out the doors is at the top of the list because in the usual French way for old buildings, neither of my doors had a threshold piece across its bottom and both just opened straight to the outdoors. This meant that for the back door especially, when rain drove against it, the rain just ran straight down and into the room under the bottom of the door.

Water can also enter under the kitchen door, but only when the rain is so torrential that a small river is created outside it, the level of which can at times rise above the bottom of the door if there are so many leaves etc outside that the channel that allows the water to run away is blocked. However, the gap under the kitchen door is big enough to allow quite large insects unrestricted access to the warmth and comfort of my kitchen, and at this time of the year I’m fed up with having to keep catching and chucking out large, black cockroaches. All part of the fun of rural French life, I suppose, but avoidable with a threshold piece across the bottom of the door frame.

So today I did the necessary work on the back door. To be honest, the French don’t seem to be very much into painting and like much of the wood and paintwork on many old French buildings, the doors on my house are in a bit of a poor state. The back door in particular is a bit tatty and rotten along its bottom and instead of replacing a piece of the decorative beading on its outside that had gone a bit rotten, someone in the past has just tried to nail it back on again and slap filler on it.

But as I intend at sometime in the future to replace the back door and windows with sliding ‘patio’ type doors, I’m not that worried as that and the work I did today should be only temporary fixes. Here’s a shot from inside showing the back door and door frame with the new weatherboard and threshold piece in place.

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Next, some shots from outside showing the new weatherboard. You can also see what I mean about the rotten beading, and if I get time, I might get another piece from Les Briconautes and replace it later on to make the door look at least a little bit tidier.

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Finally, here’s a shot with the door closed. I just hope that the work I’ve done has the desired effect and that I’ll be able to sleep easy when the rain begins to lash down later on, knowing that it’ll all be staying outside and not flowing into my lounge along the channels between the tiles

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I hope that I’ll be able to do a similar job on the back door tomorrow, but it’ll be a little bit more tricky because of the levels involved and also because someone at some time has fitted a draught excluder which is now totally ineffective and will be a pain to get off without damaging the door itself. Anyway, I’ll just have to see how I get on.

November 9, 2014

Chopping good fun!

I almost left it too late to unload my new log saw and try it out because rain was forecast for today and I kept looking out of my window thinking it was going to start any minute. In the event it didn’t, so I got the machine off my trailer, moved it round in front of my wood store and connected up.

Then, because yesterday the previous owner had started it up without problem, I did the same without taking much time to examine it very closely or check it out. That turned out to be a mistake, because as the blade began to spin, there was a loud clunking sound and a piece of broken plastic shot out from underneath it, so I stopped it immediately. The first thing I found was that the blade was hanging off its spindle and closer examination also showed several loose bolts holding on the blade guard.

It wasn’t a difficult to job to remove the blade guard and this revealed that the blade securing nut was indeed less than finger tight, allowing the blade to move laterally. This was why it had come into contact with a fancy bit of plastic inside the guard that only served to narrow the slot between the guard and the blade, so it didn’t affect functionality and no real harm had been done. I then reassembled everything with some new small bolts and nuts to replace a couple that I thought were a bit puny and the following two shots show the machine afterwards, all ready to go.

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It has a 2200W motor directly driving the blade and there are two buttons, green for start and red for stop, under a little yellow cover. Once you’ve pressed the green button and started the blade up, the yellow cover flips back and has a large red ‘panic’ stop button on its top.

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The blade is a ‘standard’ 40cm steel one with large chunky teeth and spins, I think, at 2800 RPM, although the stick-on label showing that info now seems to have disappeared and I only know that after reading about other similar units. The log to be cut is laid on the front table or platform, which is then raised using the two handles on it, until the log comes into contact with the spinning blade and is cut.

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The previous owner advertised the unit as being able to cut 30 cm diameter logs, but I knew that that wasn’t the case before I went to see it. Saws with this diameter blade typically cut logs up to 20 cm in diameter and this seems to be the case with mine. I started off with one much larger than that and still managed to cut it, though, by constantly turning it and turning it about, so I know that that’s a possibility.

However, the limiting factor, as can be seen in the next pic, is actually the height of the aperture in the front of the guard into which the log being cut has to fit in order to come into contact with the blade. As I have no children or animals to worry about, I’m considering removing the blade guard, which would make it much easier to cut large diameter logs, although it goes without saying that I’d then have to take great care in doing so. I now know why lots of used ‘scies à bûches’ being sold over here do have totally exposed blades.

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I tried chopping logs of various diameters and was very impressed with how easily the machine dealt with them. I found that small diameter branch-type logs needed some blocks behind them on the table to raise them towards the blade but I also noticed that there are some spare bolt holes that if used, will probably move the table closer to the blade. It’s something I’ll need to check out later. Here’s a shot showing the saw after I’d finished, with my other bits and pieces of equipment in my new store and it was good to see it all nicely inside under cover and with still a tiny bit of space left over.

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As well as chopping several logs, I also had to give my log splitter a bit of an airing to reduce the largest ones down to manageable sizes. The last shot shows the heap of logs that I ended up with, fairly effortlessly and after only a relatively short period of time.

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So at the end of the day, I’m very pleased with my purchase, and at only 150€, I hardly think that it broke the bank, either 😉

November 8, 2014

My French adventure continues

Most mornings I wake up and don’t know what the day will bring. Every day is usually fun in its own way but some days turn out to be stars, often when you least expect them to. Today was one of those.

Wim dropped in this morning with Babouse on his regular Saturday morning walk, for a cup of coffee. That’s always good fun, and we often sit there chin-wagging about this and that for a couple of hours or so. But today we didn’t have quite that long because I had to hitch my trailer onto the back of the Kia and head north-west into the Charente.

Remember how I’d been looking for a good ‘scie à bûches’ (log saw), had missed a few and had resigned myself to patiently wait for days (or even weeks) until another suitable one came up? Well, after cutting a day or so’s supply of logs by hand yesterday afternoon, I didn’t have long to wait after all, because when I came in and checked Le Bon Coin a bit later on, an ad for one had just been posted about 10 minutes earlier. The advertiser was in Touzac in the Charente, which is about 80 or so miles from my house by road, or just over two hours drive. A quick phone call clinched the deal and the advertiser’s address then popped over in an email.

We agreed that I’d aim to get there for 3.30 pm but in fact I was 10 minutes or so early. I found the right place despite its extremely rural location using my trusty satnav and after I’d turned off the ‘main’ road onto a rough lane that led slightly up-hill with grape vines on both sides, I came to what was, or had once been, the sprawling old domain-owners house. Stopping next to it, I gave my new friend a call on his mobile and in moments there were his wife and him waving at me from one of the entrances.

To cut a long story short, the property was in the heart of Cognac country and the owner of the land on which the house and all of the vines extending over the rolling land and down the slight incline were situated, occupied the ‘other’ part of the house when they were there, but most of the time lived in Paris. My new friends, who were the most charming people you could possibly imagine, were ex-CD having lived in various countries around the world, and now lived in the part of the house that we were outside of, in the Charente.

We could have stood there and chatted all day, in French and/or English, and even Spanish, Italian or German if we’d had a mind, but we didn’t have that much time with me having to get back to Plazac, so we turned our attention to the ‘scie à bûches’. We were momentarily distracted by an immaculate old Jaguar standing next to it with CD plates on a CH registration that my host asked if I’d like to buy, with less than 100,000 km on the clock, but I told him that unfortunately I had to decline his offer. Then we set to, to power the saw up, which it did perfectly, and as my host moved his hand a bit too close to the blade when he showed how to set the log length indicator, his wife told him quite sharply, to watch it and get his hand away. It was then that I spotted that the index finger on his left hand was missing, and when I asked if he’d chopped it off using the machine, his wife looked at him sternly and told me that yes, he had done 😕

So then I handed over the cash and we moved the saw over to the back of my trailer and loaded it up. A few minutes later, we each bade our ‘au-revoirs’ and I turned the Kia round and headed off back down the hill with all of us waving like demented idiots as I departed. I was left with the feeling of satisfaction that I’d acquired the ‘scie à bûches’ that I’d been looking for, but more than that. It was a great pleasure and indeed, a privilege, to have met two such lovely people in the process and it’s a memory of my time in France that I will treasure for some time to come.

More about the saw tomorrow, which is still sitting outside under a cover on my trailer, when I come to give it its first trial run 😉

November 6, 2014

Winter preparations

I’m just getting things sorted out and ready for Winter now, really. One of my main concerns was properly finishing off my new wood store, by which I mean weather-proofing all of the new wood in readiness for the coming Winter weather. Well, I finally did that today, after buying the material I needed yesterday at Brico Depot. This came in the form of a creosote-like liquid which was brown in colour, unlike most (all?) of the creosote I’ve used in the UK, which has been black.

It was quite cold and misty this morning, but dry, when I started work and I set to with a wide brush with the aim of giving all of the exposed parts of the wood store a good soaking with the stuff. I also wanted to treat the new treads that I’d made for the stairs to my grenier and I was happy when I eventually finished the whole job after just a couple of hours or so. And I was quite pleased with the results, as shown below.

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I can now rest easy knowing that when it eventually begins to rain hard, which I’m sure it will do quite soon, all the work I’ve done on the store will come to no harm. I also like the look of the store with its new darker colour, which I think makes it look more in harmony with the rest of the house.

After a quick lunch-break, I got out my trusty chain saw to see how well it would cut a few lengths of the oak I’ve got in store for burning. The answer was ‘could do better’, which did not really come as a surprise. It was ‘as cheap as chips’ when I bought it at Brico Depot and has more than paid back what it cost, really, in the work that I’ve used it for, taking down and cutting up old trees and stuff like that. I’ve recently been mulling over the idea of getting hold of a second-hand electric ‘scie à bûches’ (log saw) and have been scanning the ads on Le Bon Coin for the past few days.

I contacted the sellers from a couple of recent old ads and theirs had already gone, so these saws are obviously selling quite quickly now that Winter is approaching. I then spotted one that would have perfectly met my needs for only 100€, but it was over three hours drive away (over 150 miles) in the Landes, and in the time that I took thinking about whether it would be worth going all that way (it would have cost about another 75€ in fuel, but still leaving it quite competitive against others on offer, many of which I didn’t like), that went as well.

So now it’s just a question of waiting for the right one. It makes sense having one now that I have the wood store to keep it in because with it and my ‘fendeuse’ (log splitter), I’ll never have to pay top-price for the wood I get in and will always be able to take long (1 metre) large diameter logs, that are cheaper. The last ‘big’ job to do with the wood store will be knocking a hole through the wall from my kitchen for an electricity cable. That’ll have to wait for a few more days because tomorrow I want to make some weather-boards for the bottoms of my two doors to prevent rain (and insects) coming in, as happens with my rear door especially whenever rain beats against it from the west. That’s the main job tomorrow, as I already have the wood, the primer and the paint all ready and waiting 😉

November 5, 2014

What a difference a year makes

I’ve been running my wood burner most evenings for the last week or so and been very happy so far with the way it’s been heating my house. Now that the flue is completely clear after becoming progressively blocked due to the use of bad wood last year, it’s been a piece of cake to light, and as I’ve kept it blazing away during the evenings, it’s also been chucking out plenty of heat and warming the place up very nicely.

I’ve mostly been lighting it at around 6.30 pm, when it’s been dark, so I haven’t been able to go outside and take a look at the chimney while it’s been burning, but today, because the temperature is dropping a bit more quickly than it has been recently, I decided to get it going at around 5.00 pm, on my return from a visit to Brico Depot. This gave me the chance to nip outside and take a look and I was pleasantly surprised to see that despite burning old waste wood that had been used to construct my old wood store, although I could see heat shimmering out of the chimney, there was no smoke.

This is a really good sign, because it shows that the stove is working very efficiently and cleanly and by secondary combustion of the smoke, emitting very few particulates. This is a good thing, because particulates not only pollute the air but are also not good for people’s health. When you drive around here, you see lots of chimneys emitting clouds of smoke and I thought that this was usual. However, it’s only as I have looked into things a bit more that I’ve found how modern stoves, like mine, are designed to limit, and even eliminate such emissions.

I’m really pleased to see that after all my problems last Winter, mine now seems to be performing the way it’s supposed to. And added bonuses are that it’s leaving very litle ash to dispose of in the morning plus the glass plate in the door is staying really clean, as it should do. That alone is a great relief because by the time things had become ‘terminal’ with the flue last Spring, the door was getting so coated with soot and tar that at times I was almost dispairing of ever being able to get it clean again 😀