Tag Archives: polystyrene

Friday 30th October 2015 – ALL GOOD THINGS …

… come to an end. And today, the home-made 12-volt immersion heater that I use as a dump-load for the excess solar energy finally ground to a halt.

Mind you, I’m not surprised. What has surprised me is that it lasted as long as it has – about 4 years if I remember correctly. It’s a 500-watt industrial 12-volt water heater element that I can pick up by the dozen in the USA, fitted into the side of a 25-litre plastic storage box and sealed in with rubber gaskets, and a simple tap. The whole lot is stood on a thick sheet of polystyrene insulation, with some of this thick space-blanket insulation wrapped around it, and a plastic lid covered with an off-cut of a sheet of polystyrene-backed plaster-board. Down on the inside of the space-blanket insulation up against the plastic side is the sensor of a maximum-minimum thermometer.

It’s wired in (with a 70-amp fuse) to a 60-amp Solar charge controller that I have reverse-wired so that instead of being “on” and switching off when the batteries are fully-charged, it’s “off” and switches on when the batteries are fully charged – and so when the batteries are fully charged and the charge controllers on the batteries switch off, the current that would otherwise be lost is diverted down into the water heater element and so heats up the water in the immersion heater for washing up, washing, and all that kind of thing.

And so why did it all go wrong?

The answer is that it hasn’t really gone wrong. A year or so ago I noticed that the positive wire to the immersion heater was heating up dramatically, and so I rewired it. But the thread stripped in the connection on the element so I had to find a small nut and bolt. But I couldn’t really fit a spanner into it so that it wasn’t particularly tight.

Today, I went downstairs to the fridge to fetch something to drink, and I could smell the burning plastic. There was something or a record of 37 amps going down the cables and this was simply too much for the bad joint and the wire was so hot that it was melting the insulation.

I hadn’t designed it particularly well – I can do much better than this, and in any case I don’t have any rubber joints for the element which I’ll need to take out and remake the joint, and so that’s a task for next week if I remember to buy the things that I need tomorrow at the shops. However, I have plugged the fridge back in so that something is being done about the excess current.

And so what else have I done today?

Apart from work on the laptop, which you can take as read, I’ve been tracking down some wood. I went to rescue the wooden box that I used to use to keep my fruit and vegetables in, but I pinched it last year to store my potatoes. But that didn’t work as the potatoes all went off and the wooden box is ruined (but I did in passing cast an eye on last year’s compost and it’s brewing beautifully!) and so I need to make another one.

I found a 50cm pine plank and some 40mm aluminium angle and I’ll be using that on Monday to make my new fruit and veg box.

As well as that, I went to check over the Kubota mini-digger. The reason for that is that the battery in the Kubota tractor is finished and I need a new one, so if I’m ordering one it makes sense to order a second for the digger – after all, that hasn’t run since the end of November last year.

But much to my astonishment, the mini-digger fired up straight away with no difficulty. And so I checked it over and left it running for a good hour or so to warm everything up and top up the battery.

I spent some time downstairs tidying up the ground floor too. It’s now looking as if you might be able to see the floor if I keep up like this. But I need to make a great deal of room as pretty soon I’ll be starting work down there and I’ll need the space.

Last but not least, I had a shower. 33°C in the verandah and 59°C in the 12-volt immersion heater, and so I cleared a corner of the verandah, fetched a bucket of hot water with some cold mixed in, found the pouring jug, and hey presto! Now I smell like coconut. I finished it off with a shave too, so now I’m all ready for the weekend.

But I could have done with a shave and a shower last night, as I was on my travels again. It was Marianne who had the pleasure of my company, going to the airport for a flight to Portugal. At the last minute she asked why I didn’t come with her, so with three hours to go before take-off I nipped off to my apartment for some clothes and the like, and to run one or two errands.

Once I’d done all of that, I had to return to the airport so there I was, driving through North London (flitting in and out of another nocturnal ramble from ages ago) on my way to Brussels Airport. The road was certainly very familiar to me, but I wasn’t convinced that it was the road that I should have been taking. But I arrived at the airport and reached the security gate with just 15 minutes to take-off and I still had a long way to go, not to mention passing through the “security”. And here I was, panicking in case I missed the flight, which was looking more and more likely as time passed by.

Thursday 6th February 2014 – “OHH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING”

And it was, too. Just like a mid-March morning, with a lovely fresh wind, the kind of wind that makes you glad to be out and about in it – a feeling that I can’t describe but I’m sure that you know what I mean.

So today, what did I do? The answer is “not as much as I hoped”. I had to fit some battens and counter-battens on the ceiling at the head of the stairs so that the tongue-and-grooving will have a proper support. That meant that there were of course gaps between the battens and as I have said before, no money spent on insulation is ever wasted and seeing as how I had a few leftover slabs of 20mm polystyrene insulation, I cut them up and filled in all the gaps.

But then I had a surprise. Just as I was cutting the last piece, Liz turned up. She had been to Pionsat and it’s a couple of years since she was last inside the house and so she came to inspect the works, having heard all about the progress here this last couple of months. Anyway, we ended up having a chat and a coffee for an hour or so.

After lunch, I started to fit the tongue-and-grooving on the ceiling. That’s not as easy as it sounds as it’s in three dimensions and each length needs to be cut in two pieces – one of 850mm and the other of about 1185mm.

I say “about”, because it needs to be trimmed at one end to follow the profile of the plasterboarding, and once that’s done, then the other end needs to be cut exactly to size to fit over the top of the corresponding piece of 850mm. Not only that, one of the pieces needs to be holed to take the light fitting and this is where Brain of Britain realised that he hasn’t left enough free cable to put the light exactly where he wants it, and so we’ll have to compromise on that.

Ahhh well

The final lengths need to be cut down the lengths as well to fit the width of the ceiling and it was while I was setting this up that Cécile rang.
“If it’s not convenient right now, just tell me”
“Don’t worry – it’s never not convenient for my friends to call”
And so after chatting to Cécile for 10 minutes, I cut the wood incorrectly.

So I took another length of 850mm and cut that incorrectly too.

I’ve owned my Ryobi plus One jigsaw since August 2008 and it’s taken me until now to realise that the blade isn’t in the centre of the tool – it’s offset to the left by a couple of mm (the strangest design fault I have ever encountered). That means that when you cut down a length so far with the aid of a guide, and then put the jigsaw at the far end to come back to where you left off, you will be a couple of mm out.

This will explain a few of my more bizarre woodworking efforts, and why the door into this room looks such a mess. And it’s taken until now for me to find out why.

But I’ve had some bad nights just recently – trouble sleeping and the like and I reckoned that it was catxhing up with me, so I knocked off and came up here where I crashed out for a couple of hours.

And tonight it’s warm and windy – just like March. I’m all confused.

Wednesday 29th January 2014 – I’VE STARTED …

… to put the second piece of plasterboard onto the wall today, but it’s probably going to have to come off again, which is a pain. I was doing it in the dark and, unfortunately, it doesn’t look as if it’s on correctly.

Ahhh well.

But given that, you might be wondering what on earth I’ve been doing all day. The answer to that is that the day wasn’t all that I had hoped it to be.

This new mobile ‘phone isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Here 8 was, complaining about the 3-day battery life on the ancient Nokia. On the brand-new Samsung, it’s … errrr … 38 hours. I thought that it didn’t sound right when I first let it run down and so I timed it after that, and here we are.

The alarm function isn’t up to much either. The cock-crow is too strident and so I’ve been turning it off instead of letting it snooze me slowly awake. That might explain why my morning didn’t occur until … errr … 09:20 – almost two hours late.

But then I filled in the sheet of plasterboard I fitted yesterday – all of the screwholes and the edges and the like. After that, I had to cut the two shelves that I’ll be fitting. There’s a lot of work to cut them too and that took a while. Luckily with the reasonable weather that we had, I didn’t feel inhibited about using the mains circular saw to do some of that.

Anyway, the shelves are cut and now varnished, and they can be screwed in place tomorrow.

The insulation and counter-battening comes up about 8mm short of the upright beams that I fitted in 2009. I was trying to find some 10mm insulation to make up the gap but no luck there, so I’ve been today adding another layer of this space-blanket insulation. That will go hard-up to the plasterboard on the outside wall of the stairwell. As I have said before … "and you’ll say again" – ed … no money spent on insulation is ever wasted.

The final job was to insulate the false ceiling at the top of the stairs. I don’t know why I didn’t do this years ago and I wonder how much heat from out of my little attic room has been wasted out of there.

And then, I started to cut and shape the second piece of plasterboard.

So you see that I’ve not been idle at all today, even though there might not be a lot to show for it yet.

Wednesday 19th January 2011 – Just by way of a change …

… I was awake before the alarm clock this morning. Surprising too, because it was after 03:00 when I went to bed – rather busy on the computer was I last night.

And this non-seasonal weather is still here – light cloudy skies and plenty of solar energy, and thus electrically-heated water too, but the temperature has dropped. At 21:00 it was -2°C and falling, so winter is still with us.

I’ve had another good day working on the bedroom roof and that is making progress. Slowly, it has to be said, but at least it’s one of those tasks where you can actually see how you are getting on. I’ve probably done about a third of it and it seems to be making something of a difference up here with all of the extra insulation and then the tongue-and-grooving on the bedroom ceiling, which is of course the floor in here.

But I think that I have made something of an error in that I started with the tongue-and-grooving by the window, which means that I am having to do all kinds of contortions around the framework of the fitted wardrobe. It would have been easier to start at the wall by the fitted wardrobe and then continued out to the window. However, where you start is much neater than where you finish and by finishing over the top of the wardrobe, no-one is going to see how it all ended up.

The days are lengthening too. It was 17:48 when I finished work in the bedroom due to fading light, and I went outside to do some more but the drop in temperature drove me in at 18:10 when it was still light . enough to carry on for a short while. Give it another month and I’ll be outside working at 19:00. I’ll need to be too, as I have this greenhouse to build and some new plots and raised beds to deal with. Wherever does the time go to?

And in other news, CREFAD – this Government-sponsored business networking thing that gives lectures and advice to small businesspeople in the Auvergne – rang me up. There’s a meeting on 1st March at St Gervais on the subject of auto-entrpreneurs – this new system of taxation for small informal businesses – and they need a speaker for it. would I be free by any chance that evening? Magali (the girl who runs it) clearly remembers me from 9 months ago when I did a talk on eco-construction.

As it happens I am free that evening and even if I wasn’t, I would be. There’s no payment or anything involved of course which is a shame, but it gives me a chance to meet some more potential clients and talk about my business. An opportunity not to be missed. And they must clearly be impressed with my command of the French language otherwise they wouldn’t keep on asking me to speak at these public meetings, and that is something that pleases me greatly.

Tuesday 18th January 2011 – We were recording again today

This time it was for the programmes for Radio Tartasse – the next lot of four-weekly programmes to take them up to the end of February. Luckily I don’t have too far to travel because it’s an early start in the morning, like … errrr … 10:00.

This time we were allowed to do the programmes how we wanted to do them, and it went much better. Liz and I have a very good rapport and much of our stuff is done as ad-libs and you can’t do that if you are having to concentrate on pages of script. And they have also agreed to let us have copies of the recorded programmes so that I can stick them on our blog when I have the time and I’m not so tired. But that will come – you can be assured of that.

And so back here, and carrying on with my ceiling. and that’s what I did for most of the rest of the day such as it was. And I’m making good progress too. It won’t be all that long before it’s done. BUt it went dark at about 17:00 – at least too dark to work on the ceiling, and so I had an hour or so outside doing a little more clearing up. And slowly but surely it’s looking a little (but only a little) more respectable out here. But the weather has turned. It clouded right over and it’s gone cold. I even have had the heating on a little earlier this evening. But not that that worries me. Now that the weeds and brambles are dying down I’m uncovering a few of the old chevrons that we ripped off the barn roof and threw down to the floor. It’s all more firewood for the stove.

Monday 17th January 2011 – It was Monday today …

… believe it or not, and this afternoon we went to the recording studio to record our radio programmes for the month of February. And no offer of transport from our sponsors either. It seems that whatever budget that was available was only for 12 months and that has now expired.

Anyway, with a view to not taking this lying down, I have taken some positive action. I’ve created a blog for the radio programmes that we do and the intention is that I will stream the radio programmes on there for the benefit of those who can’t receive them or who forgot to listen to them. And in addition to that I will be offering advertising space, at a very democratic €30 per annum for those who run a business or have a service to offer, or €3 per 15 words per month for small ads and the like, people buying and selling articles and so on. And with the money that we raise, we can pay our own travelling expenses to the studio.

So I need help in spreading the word about the radio blog, and I also need customers to buy the advertising space. If you can do your bit to spread the word it would be a great help.

This morning I was up early (just for a change) and with the new insulation that I bought on Saturday I was able to have a profitable couple of hours doing the bedroom ceiling. And it’s advancing pretty well in there. I’m quite happy with that. This evening though we were in St Eloy for the Anglo-French group and we were so carried away with the discussions that instead of finishing at 21:00 as is our wont, it was almost 22:00 when someone noticed the time.

Tomorrow we are recording again – at Radio Tartasse. I need to encourage them to let me have the radio programmes from their end so that we can put them up on the blog too.

I hope it all works!

Thursday 13th January 2011 – Oh look at that!

liz messenger vegan christmas cake les guis virlet puy de dome franceYes, doesn’t this look gorgeous?

It’s a home-made vegan Christmas cake specially made for me by Liz, whose culinary talents know no bounds and whose husband, Terry, is the luckiest man on earth. Liz made this for me for Christmas and now that I’ve finished everything else that was hanging around here, I can make a start on it.

So before I did anything else, I had to photograph it for posterity, and then I cut myself a slice.

And believe me – it really is as nice as it looks and I am ever so grateful to Liz for making it for me. It’s really nice to have good friends. This cake should keep me going until my birthday if I am lucky (said he, dropping a huge hint).

But back to the story.

With the weather being as it is right now, I’ve not been burning so much wood. But I’ve still been spending half an hour each morning in the woodshed, dragging out suitable wood and stacking it outside under the sheeting ready to burn. It’s keeping quite dry out there and the wind is helping to condition it for burning. And I’ve also been able to start to move things around a little so that there’s more space in there to move around. If I remember, I’ll post a pic of the place because I do remember taking one when I piled everything in there and there wasn’t room to swing a cat.

bedroom ceiling insulation tongue and grooving les guis virlet puy de dome franceAnd up in the bedroom I’ve made a start on the ceiling.

You can see what I’m trying to do – put strips of tongue-and-grooving over the polystyrene insulation in the ceiling (which is actually the floor of my attic of course).

It’s slow work as each piece has to be cut separately as the beams are twisted and so the gap is never the same size. And then I have to wedge some more polystyrene in between the mounting rails and then nail the T&G over the top.

I’ve cut a hole in one of the pieces for the light fitting. There will be four lights, two by the window and two by the fitted wardrobe. Recessed MR16 12-volt fittings to take the LIDL LED bulbs that I can get.

What makes a difference of course is having music while I work. And I’m currently on the “W” and that can only mean “The Who” – followed tomorrow by “Wishbone Ash”. First album up was probably The Who’s second-best-ever album – Who’s Next. Every single one of the tracks on it is on my current playlist and rightly so – it’a an album full of classic Who music. And after a few other albums we came to what is probably the best rock album that has ever been recorded and which has never been off the top of my personal list since 1973, and that is of course Quadrophenia . That particular album is on a completely different plane than anything else that has ever been recorded and if you have never ever heard it then you really don’t know what you are missing. And at £3:99 for a copy of 1 hour 40 minutes worth of thumoing rock muisic, you can’t say that you can’t afford it.

Of course, there’s only one way to lsisten to Who’s Next and Quadrophenia, and that is why I have bought a house down the end of a dirt track miles from anywhere. And even old solidly-built stone houses can really rock with the volume turned full up.

That cheered me up as well, and I have four or five classic Wishbone Ash albums to listen to soon.

Friday 7th January 2011 – Ooooh – look at that!

plasterboard insulation bedroom les guis virlet puy de dome franceNow, doesn’t this look impressive?

Yes, the wall with its plasterboarding firmly in place.

You can see where I’ve had to fit the plasterboard horizontally – I didn’t trust myself to cut a piece (with 40mm of insulation glued to it) just 3cms wide – discretion was the better part of valour here – and it doesn’t look too bad at all. Just imagine what it will look like with a new window there.

To be honest, I’m quite impressed with how it has all turned out.

But there are a few things that have made a big difference, even if we don’t include some proper studding.

  1. cutting the plasterboard. Simon taught me how to do simple sheets but I’ve been struggling with these sheets with insulation backing. But not any more – my tenon saw went through it all like a knife through butter and did an excellent job
  2. forget hammering nails and other messing around. I bought a bag of 4.2x80mm screws specially designed for plasterboard and while they were expensive they did a perfect job and I wish I had used them in the attic.
  3. when I was in the USA at a Home Depot, I found a pack of 4 screw bits specially designed for plasterboard screws. These bits have a kind-of capped head that stops the screw at the required depth and puts a little countersink in the board so that you can fill over the head. A pack of 4 cost me $4:98 and it is easily the best investment I have ever made from this point of view.

Yes, having the correct tools and equipment has made a world of a difference to all of this.

12 volt domestic electrical circuit cable trunking plasterboard insulation bedroom les guis virlet puy de dome franceNeither the plasterboarding on this wall nor the one on the left is finished though, and there’s a good reason for this right now.

The plasterboard is only 2m50 tall and the wall is 2m80 high. It’s in the 30cmsat the top where I have run the trunking for all of the electric cable, and now I need to cut sheets of insulation to fill over and around it. Once that is finished off, I’ll fit some plain plasterboarding over the top, with the section for the front wall being castellated to fit around the beams.

Of course being Friday it’s POETS Day – i.e. Pi… errr … Push Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday and so I finished at 17:30, had a good wash and shave, and prettied myself up all ready for the shops tomorrow. And I have a list of things that I need for the room (starting with the windows of course).

But I’m as impressed with my plasterboard wall as I am with my galvanised steel dustbin.

Ohhhh – and I almost forgot. I told you that everywhere warmed up this last couple of days. Well, I’m having another night – in early January too – with no heating. In my little room the temperature is 13.6°C. Hardly the Cote D’Azur I know, but it’s still warm enough to sit here. In fact I’m not sure whether it’s to do with the temperature outside or whether it’s anything to do with the fact that the insulation on the wall in the bedroom is starting to do its stuff.

Thursday 30th December 2010 – SPRING IS SPRUNG.

Yes, quite unexpectedly we had a Spring day today. A weak, hazy sunshine for most of the day with a cloudy late afternoon-evening. And it was quite warm too – 10°C outside for some of the day.

I chopped up some more wood for burning and I’ve had to start on a second pile as the first pile is in danger of overbalancing. Wood is not something that I’m short of, although I do wish that it was of better quality.

I’ve carried on in the bedroom as well and most of the wall is now studded and insulated. It won’t take long to finish that off but it’s unlikely to be tomorrow as I have to go out to move this famous bed.

Mind you, it’s nice having music to work to. It seems to make the time pass quicker and it makes me more enthusiastic. In fact I’m quite pleased at how this bedroom is coming on and I’m thinking that maybe it won’t be all that much longer until it’s ready for occupation. Maybe a month or two. And then I can start on the bathroom.

But of course there’s the gardening to do. I need to build the new greenhouse, shift the old Ford Transit around, make some more vegetable beds and so on.

Even though things are progressing quite nicely at the moment, the work is just backing up and backing up. No danger of it ever being finished.

Thursday 16th December 2010 – I WONDER IF YOU CAN GUESS …

snow on verandah les guis virlet puy de dome france… whereabouts in the verandah the cooker is situated?

Yes, the weather has warmed up slightly today – it even managed to struggle up above freezing inside the verandah and so the heat that the cooker gave off while heating up my lunchtime coffee managed to thaw away some of the snow on the roof.

But of course, as you know, it isn’t snow at all but just several inches of severe frost.

And this evening we’ve had a dramatic change in the direction – and the speed – of the wind. We are now having a howling westerly gale blowing in that’s keeping the temperature up a little (not like the 11°C that we had the other day) but blowing all the smoke back down my chimney and suffocating the fire (and me as it blows all of the smoke back into my room).

Nevertheless I wonder if this might bring me some sunshine. It’s been ages since I’ve had any.

polystyrene insulation bedroom wall les guis virlet puy de dome franceThings are progressing in the bedroom as well. all of the long wall has been insulated and I could have done even more had I not … errrr … slept through the alarm and had I woken up before … errrr … 10:26.

It’s not quite how it ought to be though because with my wall being 2.65 metres high and the plasterboard being 2.50 metres high, I need to let in another horizontal batten in the appropriate place to support the join between the boards. But that’s tomorrow’s task as I ran out of time today.

I’m not going to have too much time tomorrow either. I had a telephone call from some society asking me if I would like to become an energy producer and sell my excess output to the Electricity Board. By pure coincidence they “just happen” to have a salesman in Virlet tomorrow and he will be delighted to talk to me about how I can become rich, at no obligation, and he will even give me a free estimate for the supply and fitting of some solar panels.

Of course this is a far too good an opportunity to miss and I’m eager to see exactly what he proposes with regard to selling me a solar panel system. He’ll be here at 14:00 so he says, and I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Wednesday 15th December 2010 – AWWWWW – BAMBI

bambi deer field les guis virlet puy de dome franceI can’t remember now what it was that I came up to my room for this afternoon but a quick look out of the window revealed Bambi in all her glory, foraging for food in the field next door

You have to feel sorry for the wildlife just now in this kind of weather. Absolutely perishing, well under zero, and not a chance of getting anything out of the garden unless you use dynamite.

I’m struggling for water now. Today I had to undo the top of one of the water butts (luckily I expected this kind of weather and so I fastened the tops on with wing nuts) and smash my way in through God knows how much ice on the top of the water. I filled 4 kettles like this but of course at tea time they had all frozen up in the verandah because it’s well below zero in there too and has been for all of the day.

It’s almost impossible to go outside in this. Luckily I threw all of the wood into the lean-to in the summer so at least I’m out of the wind in there while I cut up the supplies for the evening.

And it’s emptying out quite well in there and when the weather eases I can definitely build the stairs that I promised so that I can climb up to the next level in comparative ease.

space blanket insulation polystyrene battens les guis virlet puy de dome franceMeanwhile back at the ranch, I didn’t manage to finish the wall. Nothing like, in fact.

In between the phone calls I had to deal with the wiring for the second set of plugs and that took quite a while – most of the day in fact Threading it through the conduit is … errr … exciting and of course whenever I do anything involving electrical wiring there’s always a pause after each connection while I go round to see if anything has been set on fire. Not my strong point as you know.

>But at least the wiring on that side of the room now is all done and I can press on tomorrow assuming that I don’t have any more interruptions.

But this cold weather is starting to drag now. I’ve never known it as cold as this in December. Who said “Global Warming”?

Tuesday 14th December 2010 – GOD IT WAS HARD THIS MORNING …

… to get out of bed. Not surprising really, as in my little room up here the temperature had fallen to 7.8°C and it was taters.

lowest temperature 2010 les guis virlet puy de dome franceBut that was nothing.

My hunch about the temperature last night was correct – and correct in spades as the temperature had dropped right through the floor to an incredible -10.5°C outside through the night.

That’s not just the lowest temperature this winter so far, it’s also the lowest temperature of the year. And it’s also the second-lowest temperature that I have ever recorded.

The heat exchanger recorded a temperature of -14.8°C, and that is pretty good going too.

Tonight the temperature outside was even lower at teatime than it was yesterday so I don’t know if that is significant, but I’ll tell you tomorrow.

Mind you, up here this evening after I knocked off work it was a mere 4.8°C in my room. But a huge blaze in the little fire sorted that out (although not as much as I would have liked). And as a side effect the little coffee maker thing that I bought – it managed to conjure up a cup of coffee, so intense was the heat in the fire.

space blanket insulation polystyrene les guis virlet puy de dome franceWork carried on apace in the bedroom – there was no way that I was going to work outside in the ridiculous daytime temperature of -5.4°C.

I fitted all of the battens to the long wall in the bedroom, fitted the space-blanket insulation and then put on the counter-battens. The first part of the wiring has been done as you know, and I’ve started to fit the polystyrene tiles over the top. If I put my back into it tomorrow I could have that wall finished.

What helped with the work was the set of overalls that I was wearing. They were on sale in LIDL last winter – a pair of XL-size quilted winter overalls rather like a huge ski-suit. They were expensive but today they were worth every penny and I would recommend a pair of them to anyone who intends to work around here in this weather. I could feel the heat as soon as I put them on and I was comfortable for all of the day. What I call an impressive piece of kit.

And I’m not going to hang around tonight either. it’s still cold and so I’m going to retreat underneath the covers and have an early night. I reckon that tomorrow is going to be even colder.

Monday 6th December 2010 – WHAT A DRAMATIC …

… change in the weather!

The temperature in my room this morning when I woke up was a balmy 11.2°C this morning – a long time since it’s been this high. And outside it was positively pouring with rain – no surprise there.

But in the verandah we had a pleasant 8°C, and there was an even-better 9°C outside. These figures aren’t bad for a December, especially after the winter we have just had. And the change is dramatic – just a day and a half for the temperature to shoot up.

So after the usual firewood-chopping session (which is diminishing the pile of wood in the lean-to and it won’t be long before I can get to where the stairs will be going) and a long chat with Liz and Terry on the phone I came back up here and restarted on the bedroom

counter battens bedroom wall space blanket insulation les guis virlet puy de dome franceI’ve put another length of insulation on the wall and then I fastened the two conduits to the battens – one conduit taking the 230 volt power and the other one taking the 12 volt power.

Once the cable was in the conduits I made a start on putting the polystyrene insulation on the walls but I ran out of light. With this appalling weather it was dark at 16:26 this afternoon.

So despite the rain (we had 17mm today) it was quite warm outside so I moved one of the two huge piles of recycled bricks out of the way of the pathway down to the garden. They are all stacked up neatly against the barn wall now.

But I have noticed that with the dramatically severe weather followed by the equally-dramatically severe thaw, all of the brush has dramatically died down and I’m starting to find things that I mislaid around the garden. It won’t be long before it will be time to start on the landscaping, version 2011.

In this version I’ll be building the greenhouse, moving the two halves of the old Ford Transit, moving a pile of unwanted trees and digging a couple more beds.

It seems that work never stops around here.

Except on a Sunday of course.

Wednesday 26th May 2010 – It occurs to me …

… that we haven’t had a pic of the vegetable plots for ages. And so I remedied this this afternoon.

abandoned ford cortina mark 5 garlic leeks onions raised bed gardening les guis virlet puy de dome franceAnd don’t they look absolutely grand?

The bed on the left that is half-covered with a plastic sheet has some chicory seeds underneath it. I planted some of them this afternoon and under the plastic sheet (that keeps the weeds down) it’s damp, warm and humid, ideal conditions for germination.

Next to it are the leeks that I planted on Sunday and the weather has started to bring them along but in the next bed are 5 rows of garlic and about 15 rows of onions and don’t they look impressive? The garlic was actually last year’s and I dug it up to replant once I’d finished the beds whereas the onions were sets that I bought.

But clearly the plot and the weather are suiting them because I’ve never seen such luscious crops growing anywhere near where I might be in charge of a garden.

plums growing on tree oerhanging raised bed gardening les guis virlet puy de dome franceIn the photograph above, you’ll notice the tree branch hanging over the onions. That wasn’t there a few weeks ago – it was up in the air but the weight of the foliage has brought it down.

At the moment it has some small green berries the size of large peas, just like the one in this photo here but they’ll probably develop into something impressive sooner or later.

At least I hope so – and I hope that I’ll be able to make some decent jam out of whatever the tree produces.

ant nest raised bed gardening les guis virlet puy de dome franceThat’s not all the excitement either.

I went to have a look underneath one or two of the other plastic sheets covering the raised beds, and in the potato beds I noticed that the plants were sprouting and doing really well.

There was also a huge ants’ nest there too. The ants had somehow managed to bank up the soil a little against the underside of the plastic sheet and honeycombed it with burrows

So my question yesterday was to the effect of wondering what the weather might do. Basically we had 11mm of rain interspersed with a few sunny spells. I moved 200 litres of water as the water butts up at the top were overflowing and the ones down here were empty and it was a shame to waste the water.

Once that was completed I caught up with a load of succession sowing. The beans and the peas aren’t happening at all – neither are the peppers and chili but the cabbage and so on seem to be doing well. I hope everything will catch up.

polystyrene insulation bedroom wardrobe les guis virlet puy de dome franceYou might think that that would be enough for one day, but I’ve even managed to find time to work inside the house.

Here in the bedroom on the first floor I found the time to finish lining the wall with polystyrene where I’ll be putting the built-in wardrobe. I’m falling behind with this so I need to get a wiggle on and do my best to finish it.

I must find some focus from somewhere and press on, or I’ll be finished before the bedroom is.

Wednesday 12th May 2010 – You can see …

space blanket insulation polystyrene bedroom les guis virlet puy de dome france… what I’ve been up to today in the bedroom, even if the photo is rather blurred. I’ve fitted the two uprights (although you can only see one) for the front of the wardrobe and I’ve started to line the walls within the wardrobe with polystyrene insulation.

In fact a good day on this will probably see the wall finished, boarding included.

It won’t be tomorrow though. It’s yet another bank holiday (Ascension in fact) and there’s a footy tournament at Pionsat. And now that I have the appropriate qualifications, I’ve been asked to referee it. But it won’t be for long if the weather is anything like today. We’ve had another totally miserable grey wet depressing day again. Never mind November, it’s actually like a winter January day here. Even the cold is a wintry kind of cold.

In the garden though I noticed that a new potato plant is starting to appear so something is moving. And my onions and garlic are loving this weather – they have fine glorious bushy green leaves the sort that I’ve never seen on anything I’ve grown before.

And in other news, my SIREN number came today. I’m now a registered French tradesman and I can go out and look for work – which reminds me of an international conference that took place back in the early 1980s between Jimmy Carter, President Gorbachev and Queen Elizabeth II
Jimmy Carter ….”we transplanted a cows heart to a man and within three months he was looking for work”
President Gorbachev ….”That’s nothing. We transplanted a cow’s leg to a man and within three months he was looking for work”
Queen Elizabeth II …”That’s nothing. We transplanted a complete cow to 10 Downing Street and within three months there were three million men looking for work”.

But talking of looking for work, I’ve been roped in to a furniture removal on Saturday. At 09:00 would you believe? Still, I’ll get up early if there is the folding stuff involved.