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I was only on the farm for a week at Easter 2001 due to other commitments, and spent most of that time digging myself out of snowdrifts and changing brake cylinders on the Transit.

However I did make a start on digging up the old concrete floor that was cracked and damaged, letting damp get in. I'm going to install a suspended timber floor over insulation over a modern concrete base, but I'm digging down in the base which is above ground level due to the slope in the land outside, in order to put a half-cellar to store the batteries and other useful objects.

Mind you, it's amazing what you find when you start to dig. From within the concrete I found what looks like the remains of a chicken. Pagan rituals are alive and well in the Auvergne, it seems!

Summer 2001 was badly-interrupted by an obliged return to Brussels and then the Americans taking exception to the same terrorist events happening to them that they'd been causing in the rest of the world for 50 years.

Thus work progressed in fits and starts. All the wooden doors we'd made in 1999 were deemed sufficiently cured to paint in used engine oil - actually, rather a false hope, as I noticed once I'd finished.

The concrete base at the side of the house was extended out further too, because I have a cunning plan for that.

the main wall and gate

A lucky find of an old tongue-and-grooved floor at the local tip enabled me to make a large fence to finally close off the field from the public highway, and from public gazing too of course.

Another visit to another local dechetterie resulted in another lucky find of 10 old sheets of corrugated iron. That enabled me to finally plan to make a temporary repair the roof on the lean-to at the downhill side of the property while I think about my next move.

November 2001 with the Americans now hurling down weapons of mass-destruction on innocent civilians, Red-Cross hospitals and United Nations relief stores meant only one week at the farm, and some of that time was spent digging myself out of the snow we had.

Electric lights were installed outside the barn at the front and back, and four more apple trees were planted to replace some that had died.

There's now also an electrical socket in the downstairs of the barn where the Vanden Plas Princess is garaged.

A day was however spent with my neighbour Claude at a nearby factory removing truckloads of old pallets which we shared, and so it was good job I'd fenced off the field otherwise I'd have had nowhere to store them.

But what am I going to do with all of this wood? I see lots more building projects ahead.

See more photos from 2001 in the photo gallery.

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