January 29, 2015

Wild weather!

We’ve had continuous rain today, not as heavy later on as it was this morning, but just unremitting. When I went out to get more wood ready for this evening, I found that the wind had partially blown off the plastic sheet that I’d placed on the dry new wood that’s still outside in the open but luckily I seem to have caught it before it got very wet. I’d also stood two old corrugated metal sheets from the roof of the old wood store up against the sides of the wood pile to protect them from the rain, and the wind had blown both of those over as well.

Tonight we have winds gusting up to around 40 mph (65 kmh) which are much higher than were forecast, so I hope that the wood cover holds up during the night as they’re not expected to diminish until well into tomorrow morning. I’ve also got water entering my lounge again through the back door, which the wind is blowing the rain against, despite having fitted a weatherboard to it a few weeks ago. It seems that the rain has managed to find a split in the door itself, so there’s nothing much that I can do about it for now until the rain stops and I can dry the door out enough to slap some sealant on it. It seems like an unending battle against the elements just at the moment 😐

The good thing, though, is it’s staying dry in the new wood store and the last little leak in the roof seems to have been sealed. That’s a relief at least.

January 27, 2015

Good afternoon’s work

Things I have learnt since living here, and from bitter experience last year. Firstly, in the winter you make sure that you have good stocks of wood at all times, because if you leave it until you’ve run out, you may find that nobody has any dry stocks to sell you. Secondly, that it’s cut and split into logs that are all ready to burn, because it’s no good having to drag your electric wood saw out to cut logs into usable lengths when it’s pouring with rain, which it always is when you’ve run out.

I phoned M. Dumas, the wood man, yesterday and expected him to deliver another 3 stères of dry oak some time this afternoon, but as I arrived back from a trip to Intermarché at around lunch time, he was already reversing his tractor with a trailer full of 1 metre logs on my front lawn. I was glad when he confirmed that the trailer was ‘basculante’ (tip-up) because I didn’t fancy having to unload it by hand and in no time at all the logs were shot out in a heap in front of my wood store, I’d paid him and he was off to do his next delivery in Plazac.

The weather forecast was dry for this afternoon but for there to be a few days of rain as from tomorrow, so apart from sorting out a waterproof cover for the wood, as I was down to only two or three days worth of usable logs, I then got going cutting and splitting some of the new delivery so I would have wood for my stove when my existing stocks run out. I managed to do about half a stère, so that should mean I’ll have plenty to keep me going until the weather dries up again, probably some time early next week.

While I was in the wood store, horror of horrors, I noticed a small drip of water under where the roof had been leaking the last time, not good news with the current weather forecast. Luckily, there wasn’t a lot of water lying on top of the roof, and with the longer evenings that we’re now getting, I thought that there’d be enough time to do a follow-up repair. I spotted some tiny areas where the roofing felt overlap joint seemed to have again lifted a tiny bit, so I had time to get my heat gun out and deal with them. I just hope now that I’ve managed to sort the problem out, but there’s a good chance that I’ll find out over the next few days one way or another.

So all in all, as the title says, a good afternoon’s work. It was a bit of luck spotting the new tiny water leak in the wood store’s roof before the rain arrives because if it’s almost continuous, as the forecast suggests it will be, I’d then have stood no chance of getting the roof dry enough to do a repair. I just hope that when it does start, the inside of the store does remain dry again 😐

January 25, 2015

Here we go again!

We had a lovely bright, sunny today today after a frosty night, so still a bit cold. But what better than a bracing walk in the fresh air. But even better still, how about another sally off-road in the Kia! I had to go into Rouffignac to pick up some cash, as I definitely need to order some more wood this week, so what better time to drive up the trail from Camping du Lac to le Bos de Plazac on my way home.

Although I haven’t walked the top part, Wim has and he thought that it would definitely be drivable in a 4 x 4. So although I originally intended to make sure for myself, I decided to cast fortune to the wind and just give it a go.

In fact, the middle section of the upper part was quite challenging and, I’d have thought, quite steep to ascend on foot. Nevertheless, I made it safely with a little bit of slipping and sliding and you can see how it went in the video I made by clicking on the following image.

Off Roadin' II

It was only a relatively short drive of just eight or nine minutes but it was good fun for all that. Now I’m already thinking about the next one 😉

January 22, 2015

Back to Hautefort

By golly, it’s taken a while to get the house warm tonight! The reason is that I didn’t manage to get the wood-burner lit until after 6.00 pm because even though it was a cold day, it turned out to be too good not to go flying today.

It was touch-and-go several times in recent days as to whether I’d get a flight in 56NE or not, but even though Wim did manage to get a short one in, I didn’t manage to. So when today turned out to be surprisingly bright and wind-free, Wim and I exchanged phone calls and agreed to meet up at Galinat at 2.00 pm. As what wind there was was from the north-west, I’d planned a flight of 40 – 50 minutes into the northern sector, taking in Terrasson, Hautefort, Thenon and back to Galinat via my house and Thonac.

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Wim flew in in his Weedhopper from his strip near Fleurac and he decided that conditions were a bit too cold for him for a long flight. So when I told him what my plans were, he said that he’d just head back home again and get warmed up. As it happened, I’d got myself pretty well kitted out for the temperature with several layers on top under my flying jacket, thick woolly socks and some fleecy jogging bottoms under my jeans, so I was really looking forward to getting going. I’d also planned to overfly the ULM field near Terrasson which, although I knew it was there, I’d not actually located before. So shortly after Wim had left, after getting 56NE’s engine warmed up I took off with that and a flight up to Hautefort in mind.

Everything went perfectly. The conditions were too hazy for any kind of photography and although there were little bits of lift around here and there, the best thing was to sit back and enjoy the view. So that’s what I did. I found the strip at Terrasson easily enough and did a dummy approach before breaking off, climbing away and heading off for Hautefort. Someone had a bonfire going not very far from the chateau and the smoke was carrying down-wind for at least a kilometre, so I was surprised to see just how small the fire was when I flew past it.

The chateau had a very ‘wintry’ look to it and it looked as though quite a lot of work was going on getting it ready for the coming season. I turned left as I passed it to head for Thenon on a track that took me straight into the sun, so I was glad when I got there to be able to turn left again to head for my house, Thonac and a landing back at Galinat.

The planned route was 78 kms long and as you weave from side-to-side a bit to look at this and that, you inevitably end up flying just a little bit further. So a total time of 50 minutes including take off and landing giving an average speed of about 95 kmh (or just over 60 mph), was not too bad. And as I’d hoped, I wasn’t too cold at the end of it either 😉

January 13, 2015

Made the right call

At least, I think so. It was warm and dry, so I left it until after lunch before I started, as planned, on my wood store roof repair. The problem was exactly as I’d surmised. I could see immediately that the sealant that I’d used for the first part of the first roofing felt joint that I did, which is right above where the water had been penetrating, had indeed been too thin, had already succumbed to the weather and had lifted in places.

Repairing it wasn’t too difficult and didn’t take too long either. I warmed the joint up with my electric heat gun and carefully lifted it up with a thin bladed paint scraper. I then applied a bit more heat inside the overlap to make sure that it was dry and used an old paintbrush to force in some more sealant, which is now thick and tar-like, so that when I pressed the upper roofing felt edge downwards onto the lower sheet, it oozed back out again. Then I added even more sealant to the surface outside the joint so that the edge of the top sheet was totally covered and enclosed by the stuff, which I think will this time ensure a weather-proof seal.

When I originally did the other joint higher up on the roof, the sealant had already thickened up, so although it didn’t really need it, I did the same with that as well. I’m pretty sure that what I’ve now done will give me a fully watertight roof again and solve my water ingress problem. And by the look of the sky over to the west as I type this, it could well get its first test this evening, so I hope that I’m right 😉

January 12, 2015

Another exploratory walk

We had another lovely day today (but it won’t last, he said, pessimistically…) and having had a good flight yesterday, I thought that I’d explore some more of the trails near my house on foot again. Wim often parks down the bottom of the hill near Plazac, at the Camping du Lac, and walks up to my house using the trails that I’d like to explore in my 4 x 4, as I did a few days ago. He suggested that before I try it, I should walk the route on foot, because he didn’t think that it was really suitable for my car.

So that’s what I decided to do this afternoon, taking some photographs as I went. Sure enough, Wim was right but not because the trail was impassable as evidenced by the tyre marks and wheel tracks that were on it. The reason was that compared to the trails I drove last time, much of the route I walked today was more overgrown with lots of branches and vegetation encroaching onto the trail itself.

Obviously the hunters who use it don’t worry to much about that because for the most part, they use beaten up old trucks and jeeps. However, the Kia is my ‘daily ride’ and if I drove it on the trails that I walked today, it would soon end up covered with scratches. The bright spot, though, was that half-way down the hill on the rough track that eventually joins the dirt road leading to the Camping du Lac, I came across a larger track that leads all the way up to Le Bos de Plazac, just up the lane from where I live. That I’m pretty sure will be OK over its whole length and the way I’ll check that out will be to do the drive down from Le Bos without walking it first.

It was a perfect day for walking and perfect also for taking pictures. Here are a few that I came back with.

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I took the next shot on the track that was too overgrown for driving the Kia on, although at this spot it doesn’t look as though it is.

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The next shot was taken looking back the way I’d come on the dirt road leading up from the Camping du Lac, which was behind me as I was standing, but some way away.

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A bit further along, I passed a house that had this ancient ruined building on its land.

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Eventually I came to the Camping du Lac which is on the road from Plazac to Thonac. I then had to make the long climb back up the hill walking on the road to get back home again and I took a few more shots as I went to give an idea of what it’s like in the area around where I live.

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I spotted this lady with her brood around her, looking rather concerned as I took a picture of her and her little family. Unfortunately, as this is France, I suspect that most, if not all of them, will end up in the pot eventually.

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This shot was taken from the lane that my house is on, looking west towards Rouffignac.

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This final shot was taken from more or less the same position as the last one, but from the other side of the road looking south-east. The owner of the field from which I first flew 56NE after re-assembling it lives in a house in that group of buildings.

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The worst part of the whole walk was the long climb back up on the road from the Camping du Lac, which quite frankly, I found quite exhausting. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and made a mental note to do more walking this year.

Tomorrow is forecast to be dry again with a high expected of around 13 degrees Celsius. That’ll be three dry days on the trot and as that’s probably the best that I can expect for this time of the year, I think that I’ll have a go at fixing my new wood-store’s roof. If I can do that and stop the rain dripping in at least I’ll then be able to cross one of my problems off my To-Do list 😉

January 11, 2015

First of 2015

It was such a relief today to have a break from the incessant foggy/damp/sopping wet/raining weather that we’ve had for the past fortnight or so. I bought a 13 litre plastic container yesterday to place on the floor of my wood store beneath where rainwater is coming in until we get some dry weather, so I can repair the damaged roof joint. To give some idea, when I went out this morning, it was filled to overflowing.

Shortly after lunch time, I grabbed 56NE’s new battery and my small step-ladders and went off to Galinat. My idea was to fit the battery and test the engine with what I now know are actually old plugs and all being well, prepare for a flight tomorrow after fitting the new plugs that I now have.

Today’s forecast was for no rain after the early morning, broken cloud and bright spells with winds gusting at up to 20 kmh but tomorrow’s looked to be for slightly brighter weather and more moderate winds. However, after I’d finished what I had to do and the engine started easily and ran smoothly with the old plugs, as the wind was less strong than the forecast, I decided to give it a go anyway.

I still had the route in my satnav for my last flight on 22 December that I aborted half-way through and I’d already decided that that was what I was going to do the next time that I flew. Here’s a pic showing the route in green and the track of today’s flight in red.

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The flight went smoothly with no hitches this time, which was good news. But it wasn’t good news when I’d removed 56NE’s covers earlier on. It seems that a rodent or other small mammal has taken residence in 56NE in the period since I parked it up last time. I’d already noticed some damage on the left hand seat a few weeks ago and had put it down to general wear and tear. However, today there was exactly the same kind of damage in the same place on the passenger’s seat only this time whatever was responsible for it had also added lots of small pieces of twigs to its comfy new home that it had made by chewing a hole through the seat cover and the rubber cushion. So 56NE now has two damaged seats and I’m dreading to think what I’ll find next time if my presence today hasn’t deterred the little varmint.

I’m also still not quite sure about 56NE’s rev counter. I think that it’s under-reading slightly but I won’t really be able to find out for sure until the weather improves and we’re back into warm, dry conditions, as if there is a problem, it could be related to the cold and damp. I can’t complain about how 56NE was performing today, however. From the MemoryMap speed profile of the flight, it appears that the true average speed at flying altitude was in the region of 103 kmh, which equates to around 65 mph. This is a cruising speed that I’ve never experienced in a UK X-Air even though it is the officially stated cruise figure. Today’s flight took 45 minutes wheels up to wheels down and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t feeling rather cold at the end of it.

Anyway, I’m not going to worry about the rev counter for now as I’ve got other things on my mind. Ever since I laid the concrete base for my new wood store, I’ve been experiencing problems with my kitchen and bathroom waste pipes, not my WC fortunately that runs separately to my septic tank. I damaged the pipe when I was pick-axing the ground because I didn’t know that it was there and did a repair that I hoped was the end of it. It seems that that isn’t so, because while I was in the garden earlier I checked the grease trap that the kitchen and bathroom wastes run into. It was at a very low level and it would seem that not a great deal of water is running into it. This must mean that the waste pipe was damaged somewhere else under the wood store floor and that water is escaping to heaven knows where.

Obviously, I can’t leave it like that and I’ll have to run a new waste for the kitchen and bathroom. It’s a worse-case scenario so as soon as the weather improves, I’ll have no choice but to do the work in conjunction with finishing off my kitchen and re-fitting my bathroom. I had already planned to do that but it’s irksome to once more have to do the work while under external pressure, which takes all the pleasure out of it as well as the satisfaction of doing a good job 🙁

January 5, 2015

Really annoying weather

All I want to do is go to Galinat, fit 56NE’s new battery and plugs and make sure its engine starts and runs sweetly. Oh, and if possible, get a flight in. But ever since I’ve had the battery and plugs, the weather has contrived to find a way to prevent me from doing so. We seem to have had rain followed by no rain and fog, followed by more rain. But the weather forecast for today promised bright sunshine after a dull start, so I had hopes that I’d be able to get done what I wanted to do.

But no! A quick look outside first thing revealed another blanket of fog so thick that I could hardly see the field over the road from my house, so it looked once again that my plans would be thwarted. But just a minute, the weather hadn’t finished playing its tricks just yet. On my way back from Intermarché it was obvious from the bright sunshine that occasionally penetrated it, that the fog was burning off. Indeed, after I’d arrived home, although the odd small bank kept sweeping through, for most of the time the sun was shining brightly overhead in a clear blue sky, even if you could hardly describe it as warm.

But between my house and Galinat, there’s the valley that carries the River Vézère. The river’s not very wide or deep, but if you think that it wouldn’t therefore affect the local micro-climate very much then think again. Remember the pic I showed from my last flight with both the Vézère and Dordogne valleys near Le Bugue filled from top to bottom with cloud? Well, that’s exactly what happened again today and was what I could see clearly from my front garden.

This shot was taken looking to the north-east, towards Fanlac.

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This one shows a neighbour’s house opposite mine, to the east and a bit further down the hillside.

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And this one was taken looking towards Galinat.

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Because Galinat is situated on a north-facing slope, if the Vézère valley is full of mist, as it was today, the mist tends to cling to the airfield because, being north-facing, the ground doesn’t get that much direct sunshine at this time of year and is therefore quite cold. So even if I went over there to fit the battery and plugs, I know from experience that not only would the conditions be cold and uncomfortable in which to work, but everything would also be dripping wet and running with water.

So yet another No-No for doing my 56NE jobs today. I finished off the shots that I took today with a panorama of the valley, as shown below.

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Tomorrow looks like being cold and dull, so probably unsuitable again, and Wednesday looks like rain. Thursday’s forecast looks like a goer, but to be honest, I’m not holding my breath 😕

January 4, 2015

Aw, shucks!

It’s very mild today, but we’ve had more rain this morning on top of what fell during the night. I went out to get my first few buckets of logs to top of my indoor stock for this evening and when I took the empty buckets back to refill, I was utterly dismayed to find water dripping through the wood store roof.

I know what’s happened. It’s managing to find its way in as a result of what’s called capillary action through a section of the overlap joint that I did of the lower two strips of roofing felt. These were the first ones that I put up and when I started the job, the black liquid sealant that I’d bought from Brico Depot was very thin and runny. I’m now thinking that maybe I should have given it more of a stir rather than the shake-up that I did at the time, to mix up any solid material that might have sunk to the bottom and stayed there.

Anyway, I just used it ‘as was’ at the time to make the joint and didn’t think any more about it – until this morning. I did notice, though, that as the job proceeded, the liquid became thicker and thicker, mainly because it was pretty hot at the time and the solvent in it was evaporating away.

But it now looks as though part of that first joint wasn’t up to the job after all. It’s fixable, but all of the water will need to be dried out of it before I do it. Ideally, the best thing would be if I could leave it until the Spring so the roof dries out naturally but if it keeps raining, I’ll have no option but to wait for a dry day and use a blowlamp to dry the joint out before carefully slitting open the affected section of the joint and forcing more sealant into it.

It’s really annoying having to revisit a job that I thought I’d taken quite a lot of trouble and care over at the time. But not enough, evidently 🙁

January 2, 2015

Cold weather blues

The last couple of days have been pretty cold, especially during the evenings and nights, although probably not as cold as it might get over the coming few weeks. So although I’ve now had 56NE’s new battery and spark plugs for a few days, because the mist has hung around over on Galinat’s north-facing hillside, much as I’d like to have done, I’ve not been tempted to go over there in the cold, clammy conditions to fit them.

Another source of concern for me is the rate at which I’m getting through my wood. When I look back to the picture that I shot on 14 December when I finished cutting and splitting the second batch of wood that I bought in, I’ve already used up all of what’s shown stacked in front of the vertical supports of my grenier landing. That’s in less than three weeks, and at this rate I can hardly see the stocks that I have left lasting me through the whole Winter.

I’ve been bringing in a good stock of logs every morning that I’ve stacked next to my wood burner to use that evening and I’ve been amazed just how much I’ve used every day. I wouldn’t mind so much if my house has been really warm as a result, but it hasn’t really. I suppose that’s the price that you pay for buying an old, poorly insulated converted barn stuck in the middle of the French countryside 🙂

The solution will be to put more insulation in, together with double glazing and, probably, shutters. But that won’t be possible until I can do the work to convert my grenier to make a couple more rooms in what is now my roof-space and that won’t happen for a couple of years or so because of all of the other more pressing things that I need to do beforehand. So that means that I’ll be stuck for at least another couple of Winters, but at least I should in the meantime be able to get around to doing some of the other essentials that will help, like fitting some insulating curtains for a start.

Until then, I’ll just have to keep doing what I’m doing now – my wood burner is already lit and on its way to chucking a good bit of heat out into my living room and also, as for the past few days, I’ve got a convector heater on a low setting to warm my kitchen up a bit. This takes me back to when I was a kid in the 1950’s – we were hardy stock then, so it isn’t as though I haven’t had a bit of practice, even if it was a few years ago 😉