Tuesday, December 16, 2008

WEATHER! I thought the Brits discussed the weather alot but beleive me the hottests topic of conversation in the Boulangerie is the weather. Its beginning to get silly!
After our snow fall last Thursday, Friday was Freezing but sunny.When we drove home from a restaurant in Apt at midnight it was minus 3 degrees.

On Saturday morning we went to the market in Apt where people were sitting outside enjoying the warm winter sunshine.

During the afternoon the cloud spread in , followed by a brisk wind. By early evening it began to rain, then pour becoming torrential through the night.Our shutters are not yet fixed and we were awoken by the constant banging of the lose shutters, so much so that in the early hours of the morning I was out side in the wind and rain removing them from their hinges!

The strength of the wind grew and we are told a hurricane came through the region. On Sunday the torrential rain was relentless, like I have never seen before, the on slaught of thunder and lightening added to what really was quite frightening.

Apt our nearest town and about 7 kilometres away is at the bottom of the valley. Running through it is the Calivon River which is largely fed by the Snow melt in the Alpes, which was happening due to the recent snow falls and rapidly increasing temperatures. As a result of this and the rain the River burst its banks wiping out the car park used every week by thousands of tourists who visit the famous market. At one stage the River was less than a metre from the bridge in the picture. As you can see the surfaces have been destroyed.

The knock on effect of this rain fall has been rather disruptive to our site to put it mildly! we are living in a mudbath!
The guys on site who turn up what ever the weather are doing their best to get us protected with two coats of render before the end of this week when they finish for a fortnight. However the Manitou has torn all the ground up and we are getting seroious fed up with it! This region has an averidge rain fall of 60cm, so far this year we have doubled that at 1.2 metres. Thank fully the forecast is dry and sunny after tomorrow - that's a good reason to celebrate!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

There is no work on site today as we woke to snow! The fist real fall since last winter.

Just to prove its not all eating and drinking I was caught on camera perfecting my DIY skills!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Once again we are battling with the weather. Our builder Thijs has lived here 20 years and amongst other interests record the rainfall, this year we are now up to 1000mm which is 1 metre , A record by far. We have 1 or 2 stunning clear days then torrential rain which plays havoc with our land which becomes a mud bath.The guys are desperately trying to get a protective 'first coat'of render on the house before Christmas.

We are now covered in scaffolding whilst the first floor is done. Karen and I will be fast on their tails painting the windows (Karen) and shutters(me).

The picture above shows where the bottom right of the house has had the second coat of render.The upper just the first coat. Our Study to the far right is still naked!

Question; once the render is finished and scaffolding is down how will we clean this window? Answer - with difficulty and not often!

Ginger getting her paws dirty doing her regular inspection.

And despite the cold the pool at Le Chene is almost finished and will be full of water by tonight. An electric cover will soon be fitted.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's that time of year again - Olive picking! Our third season or crop! Picking is usually the latter part of November/early December and its a case of hoping for a few bright sunny days. We have also been fortunate to have help, this years volunteers Ian & karen drove all the way from Glasgow to experience the occasion! Thank fully after a wetish November the sun is back, its very cold but also very sunny.

From our first harvest, in 2006 we collected 19 Kilos of Olives. This is Karen (below!)getting into the swing of it.

Ian, as well as picking Olives ensured my safety whilst I buried myself in the trees to pick the blighters!

Our 9 trees, in the garden of Les Cypres, are about 100 years old.An early Frost in 1956 killed the original branches on thousands of trees in the Vaucluse. But being very hardy new shoots grew creating todays 'trunks'. We had our trees cut and pruned very hard after the picking in 2006 so they did not produce so many Olives in 07.

Instead the bulk of the 48 Kilos we picked then came from trees on our new plot where we have about a dozen large trees albeit we have moved and divided half of them as they were in the way of where the house now stands. We will eventually move those again and re plant them so in the future will have a huge number of Olives to collect, indeed if we picked over 100 Kilos we could get our own pressing.

And so to this years harvest, just from the trees at Les Cypres we took two large tubs to the local mill where they are pressed for exquisite Olive Oil which is sold for about 14€ a litre. And we collected 66 Kilos giving us back 13.2 litres of cold first pressed Oil.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

One of the nicest things about this time of year is the sunsets. By day it is sunny, by night clear, cold and starry. I took this tonight. Today is Primeur day, the day that the first of this years wine vintages are released. It coincides with Beaujolais day, which used to be celebrated in the Uk , or may be still is. Anyone who used to work with me will have memories of one or two 'Beaujolais' days in Epsom in the 1980's!!

Any way, I digress, today we were ordering tiles in two of the local builders merchants who were offering wine tasting accompanied by Cheese and pate, it seemed rude to decline. After this I took my Chainsaw and leaf blower/sucker for a service, beleive me, a chainsaw is a must have gadget living here! Expecting to leave it for a few days the guy did it there and then although I left 369 Euros lighter sporting a new stihl leaf blower and sucker after my cheapo one was condemned to the poubelle!

After this we adjourned to the local wine cave, responsible for producing excellent wine from local grapes at extrodinarely cheap prices (1.80 a litre!)where the local producers were celebrating this years vintage with copius amounts of cheese, bread and meats washed down by the Primeur. Well what can you do but join in!!!The afternoon is a bit of a blur.........................

Before I go, we went to the cinema Tuesday, in Apt, it is really nice there, 3 screens and they have a residant cat! anyway saw Changeling, directed by Clint Eastwood, wow what a great film - do not miss it - its the first time I have sat still for 2 hours 20 minutes!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Forgot to add this, the gites, taking shape and might be rendered by the end of the week - hooray! at last.

And this was the view from our bedroom yesterday morning, worth waking up for!

And Le Chene as it is today awaiting her, yes she is female, render/enduit.
Well at last the weather has returned to Autumn normality, cold hazy mornings with bright sunshine, warm enough to sit out side for lunch and great for a fire at night!
And so I can get the camera out again! I am a fairweather photographer!
Martin returned home Saturday after a week helping around the house and closing the pool down for winter at Les Cypres. Thank fully the two new ones will both have electric covers and insulated pool houses which will make life easier!
We went out for supper Friday night and came home to find a herd, yes at least 20 Sanglier in the garden (Wild Boar), I think I might get into hunting! Problem is they love eating new plants and we are about to spend quite a lot of money on the garden!
Yesterday, Sunday Karen and I walked to Villars. This is one of the most beautiful months here ( I can't actually think of a bad one!!). The colours are superb and they noise of chain saws is prevalant as farmers trim their cherry and plane trees before Winter.

This is a wonderful example of a plane tree cut back so hard.

Villars is a little under 5 kms from our house. Its a nice walk in the Autumn sunshine and the entrance to the village is lovely.

We have done this walk literally dozens of times and each time I struggle to resist the urge to take two photos! So here they are, each time as the seasons change just a little different.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Meanwhile - Le Chene, the pool is filling up and being delayed by the weather but we hope it will advance this week.

The plasterer is working well and should be finished by the end of next week. After this the floors are laid.

At last we have some better weather enabling work to start on the rendering. This encompasses an initial coat in grey, a second thicker coat and finally the coloured top coat. There is a tableau around the doors and windows in a paler colour. This whole process by hand could take a while!

Already the gites are showing signs of change!

We are now pretty much settled into the house although the number of boxes we have unpacked seems never ending, some of these have not been opened since we moved here 3years ago.

Martin is staying with us for the week and in between work duties we will take a little time out to relax! Sunday we went to Fontaine de Vaucluse, the fountain of the Vaucluse, a natural water source that we last visited 18 months ago when we could walk deep into the cliff where the source originates from, it was virtually dry.Now it is a dep , intense and power full source of water feeding into the Sorgue river, popular for canoeing and kayaking.

Yesterday was rememberance Sunday in the UK, it is a bank holiday here Tuesday on the 11 so many people have taken a long weekend and it was incredibly busy with every restaurant packed.

We couldn't even get a beer!

Martin and Karen looking relaxed before they realised we could not get served in the bar!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I took this picture today, 6th November, it rained again for much of the day. We have had 950mm of rain this year compared with 520 last year. Its our 5th day in the house and the builders are trying to render with the rain making it a very unpleasant job!
It is 3 years to the day since I took the second picture. We had just viewed the land that started the dream that is now evolving. The house is fabulous despite one or two teething issues, we can both envisage the pool completed in front of the gites, Le Chene is taking shape too.

What is extrordinary is the change in this years weather. Winter 2005/6 was very cold and dry, our first here. Late spring 2008 was one of the wettest on record, mainly May/early june, a hot summer followed,broken by the current wet Autumn. Instead of red trees they are yellow, less prolific in colour and it is so wet.Who knows what winter will bring. Normally we pick olives late november/early December in biting cold temperatures. This recent spell of weather, bought on the back of a Tramuntana wind, has taken most of the leaves off the trees and is playing havoc with the vines, fruit trees and Olive Harvest let alone our souls!! The difference in the land scape in the 3 years is extraordinary. The second picture of Karen was taken 6/11/2005 and the third 20/11/2005.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Well it has been quite a week (again!), 3 weeks ago we gave Thijs, our builder, a deadline that we wanted to move in the house by the end of October. And in fairness he and the other trades have done all they could to get us set up for this.

This meant he would finish all the internal work leaving them the job of rendering the exterior in the coming months,this is a long job as they apply 3 coats all by hand and is also governed by the weather, can't do it when its raining, freezing and through the summer when its too hot so the opportunities can be limited!

We had plannd to gradually move in over the last week but every where we went there was either a tiler, plumber or builder all of whom came in wearing mud covered boots - great!

Thursday seemed a good day to start moving our belongings from the gite in, by late in the day we noticed our hot water was , well no longer hot, so we called the plumber who arrived at 7-30pm, the problem was qickly identified - as we have had no sun for 4 days - yes its true - the back up for the solar panels should have clicked in but it was dis-connected!

Friday it rained all day again, in the evening there was a high pitched screach coming from the 'Abri' where all the techno stuff is - again had to call the plumber - this time an air lock had caused a pump to seize!

Saturday we decided it was time to push ahead moving in, I wired up the TV & satelite system - nothing no signal! called the Electrician who deflected the blame to the satelite installers but is Toussaints holiday and every where is shut so it will have to wait till Monday.

And so November 1st we finally get to sleep in the house. Some 3 years since we first saw the land. Unfortunately we noticed the heating is getting cooler! the pompe achaleur (heat pump) is not working. A Mistral has also blown up through the evening so or shutters are banging as they are not yet fixed properly so the firt night is far from restful - I am outside with a torch at 2am trying to secure the shutters so we can sleep!

Today Sunday we have cleaned and unpacked - the wind has not subsided and now a huge storm has started with torrential rain and lghtening - oh joy!

On a lighter note this was in the paper the other day

'French train passenger was trapped after reaching into the toilet for his cell phone.
27 October 2008
BORDEAUX - A French man became trapped while trying to retrieve his mobile phone from the toilet on a high-speed train, forcing firefighters to cut through the pipe to free him, passengers said.
"He came out on a stretcher, with his hand still jammed in the toilet bowl, which they had to saw clean off", said Benoit Gigou, who witnessed Sunday's rescue on board the 16h47 train from La Rochelle to Bordeaux, in western France.
The service was delayed for two hours after the 26-year-old passenger, hunting for his lost telephone, was drawn into the toilet by the powerful suction system which drains the toilets, the rail network's regional office said.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Unfortunately when it rains in Provence it really rains, Wednesday was no exception , and with the builders all working inside the house together with the plumbers there was no room for us so we took off for lunch and an afternoon wine tasting with the New Zealanders who have been staying in Les cypres for the last 6 weeks. We returned to find Thijs had installed our Wood burner, he was particularly pleased to have beaten the plumber in giving us some heat!

The problem after the rain is the mud, which goes every where, beleive me it is no fun living on site in the rain!

We have just learnt that the company doing our pool have gone under or should I say sunk!! Thank fully Greg here has taken over and seems to be doing a good job.

Ali is closing in the chimney which will be plastered Monday ready for us to paint - I thought we had finished the Lounge!

Our Terracuit floors have been laid in the Hall and study.Toilet should be finished Monday.

Thank goodness the sun is back out today, 22 degrees although going to be 8 by wednesday and as yet we still do not have any proper heating in the house. We are planning to move in Wenesday /Thursday of next week.