Workaway @ Boulogne sur Gesse – 12 Nov to 24 Nov 2015

Workaway @ Boulogne sur Gesse – 12 Nov to 24 Nov 2015

 

Thursday 12th November

A foggy start to the day and I think there’s a very fine drizzle but Daz says it’s just the moisture in the mist. But since when has a bit of moistness been enough to deter us – never says Daz. So we start work clearing an area for the compost bin Daz is going to make.

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First we move a couple of old log piles and then we do some weeding. When Sandy comes out we ask her which trees we should remove by the compost bin and then we take 3 huskies out for their walk.

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Then it’s time for a cuppa, Sandy and Mike are just popping off to town. They’re not back when we finish our tea so we go ahead and fetch the chainsaw and Daz takes down 4 trees.

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Whilst he’s cutting them into logs, I return to my weeding. When he’s cut the trees either into logs or branches for rubbish, I go and give a hand. We have log piles for new fire wood and the branches that are too thin for logs are dragged across the garden and thrown on other wood waste in ditches around the property.

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Now the plot is cleared Daz can create his 3 bay compost bin from the pallets they got yesterday. I continue with the weeding. Sandy calls us for lunch and it’s veggie burgers. Very tasty. So far this vegetarian diet is going well. Sandy has been making lunch and dinner for us and very enjoyable they are too!

After lunch Daz and I return to our respective chores. I’m a bit tired of weeding so I get the heavy duty pruning shears out and start to remove the acacia shrubs Sandy pointed out. They’re a viscious plant with numerous sharp thorns and they seem to reseed at will. There are saplings growing everywhere and some are so large, I get Daz over with the chainsaw to remove them. I also prune back some of the other trees. The whole bed is starting to look very different but still plenty more to do. Once Daz has finished his compost bin we start clearing my weeds and filling a compost bay.

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It’s all starting to look very tidy and we think we’ve done enough so we call it a day. Time for a cuppa and we join Sandy and Mike and their afternoon visitors, Steve and Queenie. They moved here 6 months ago from Oxford with no real knowledge of France or this area, but they seem pleased with the move. And it seems there are a lot of properties available at reasonable prices! Once our tea is drunk, we go and take the other 2 huskies out.

We spend most of the evening in the house, chatting to Mike and Sandy and enjoying the log fire. Dinner tonight – aubergine bake.

 

Friday 13th November

Today there’s dog walking, which I find pretty tough because I take Dixi and Taiga, and Dixi pulls the whole way out but stops pulling on the return, which is uphill. Typical, I was hoping for a tow. I do some more weeding and after 3 days the bed next to the house is almost done.

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Daz takes down 3 trees and then cuts into logs and we also use the log splitter.

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It’s not as fast as the previous one we used and a bit more unwieldy but gets the job done all the same. Mike also shows Daz how to use his chainsaw chain sharpener which is electric and makes short work of sharpening the chainsaw, something that took a while back in Sweden. Lunch was a lovely soup made from leftover vegetarian chilli with bread and cheese… nice! Before we finish for the day we do another dog walk and then it’s relaxation time. Daz is glued to his new book and I’m still struggling through some rubbish called ‘Salt’. For dinner we have tuna pasta bake and then we watch a movie together, ‘Paper Town’.

Saturday 14th November

It’s the weekend and a day off, but rather than lie in we have made a plan to cycle to a Saturday marché in the nearby village of Castelnau Magnoac. It’s only 14km away, but that will take us an hour and knowing the French the market will only be on in the morning so it’s a quick breakfast of cereal, yogurt and some cherries from our hosts’ garden. We put a couple of empty panniers on the bike as we will be doing some shopping and off we go. As we are leaving Mike asks us if we’ve heard about the atrocity in Paris. There was a terrorist shooting in a concert, in bars and restaurants and over 100 people were killed. ISIS has claimed responsibility. These innocent people were simply enjoying a Friday evening in Paris. What a terrible tragedy.

Mike asks what we’re up to and which route we are taking and we mention via Gensac… he laughs and mutters good luck… we take this to mean it’s going to be hilly!

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Well he was right, as no sooner have we dropped into the valley behind the house we endure a long steep climb to Gensac… we’ve been off the bike 3 days and immediately we can feel our leg muscles complaining!!

We pass through a little village, Devezes, and there’s an old man on the roadside who speaks to us. So we stop and he keeps talking but we’re not entirely sure what he’s saying. We later learn from Mike that he always stands there watching the traffic.

But the sun is out, these back roads are pretty much traffic free and we enjoy the ride through small hamlets and farmsteads until we arrive on the outskirts of Castelnau. It sits on a hill!! We grind up and as we turn a final corner the market opens out in front of us, in the village square. We park up and wander about the market, lots of cheese (we buy some) and fruit, veg and wine for sale, with the odd clothes seller.

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Before going for a coffee we walk around the rest of the village including a monument on a hill above the square for the Corps Franc Pommies, which was a resistance army organised by General Andre Pommies during the 2nd WW.

We have coffee in the hotel du Pont, which is really busy with quite a few tables of Expats, sitting in the sun. We decide to spend a couple of hours here, and have a couple of beers whilst reading, enjoying the sun and taking in the village life. There’s a large table of French people as well and their young kids really like the bike. We let them sit on the bike and play with the bells. Their father mentions that he saw us on Tuesday in Boulogne Sur Gesse.

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Before we head home Daz checks Google maps to see if there is a less vertically challenging route back. There is one, a bit longer, maybe 4km extra, but the profile looks better than the short route, so we log it and set off. Soon we are in the country again, cycling down narrow farm roads, when suddenly the road changes from tarmac to dirt and grass. Now normally we wouldn’t even entertain such a road,but it doesn’t seem too bad, and rather than back track we decide to go for it. Luckily it’s only about 500 metres long and then we are back on another tarmac road. But then we come to a dead end sign, bugger. We consult Google again and it still wants us to continue, and when we check another offline map we can see it does carry on, but again as a track, not fit for motor vehicles… well we’ve come this far, be silly to go back!! So we cycle past the sign and soon we are climbing, and climbing, and then the road runs out and turns into farmtrack. This time we have to get off and push, as it’s still a very steep climb and there’s no way we can ride across this terrain.

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Sodding Google maps taking us cross country!! We finally reach the top, hot and sweaty, cursing Google, and remount. Fortunately most of the remaining route is downhill and takes us back via Nizan Gesse. This is our closest village and one that we hadn’t seen yet… but we hadn’t missed much, it has a church, a few houses and a Mayor’s office! We cycle out of the village and up a lane. I can’t work out where we are and then I realise that the ruined cottage I can see is the one at the end of our dog walk. Google has brought us to the wrong end of the lane, it’s a bridleway not a road. But we manage to cycle most of it!

 

Sunday 15th November

We have no real plans for today. Mike and Sandy are off to a “Bring and Buy” sale in Monléon-Magnoac and invite us along. It’s in aid of rebuilding a school destroyed in the Nepal earthquake. We potter around the sale, it’s very much a Brit Expat fest and we enjoy some tea and cake whilst Mike and Sandy catch up with some friends. It’s another glorious day and when we get back we enjoy lunch sitting on the verandah in the glorious sunshine and Mike gives us a demo on a ‘cigar box guitar’, which he makes.

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Later we sit by the pool reading and relaxing… it’s a hard life.

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In the evening we have volunteered to cook dinner for us all, and we do baked camembert followed by putanesca… yummy!!

 

Monday 16th November

I finish off weeding the flower bed and then Daz calls me over. He’s got the quad and the trailer, which we need to fill with a rotten tree we cut down the other day. We load the trailer and then drive it to our dumping ground but the grass is wet and the quad can’t get any traction, so we’re chewing up the lawn.

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Then Sandy shouts over and says they want it dumped at the other end of the garden. We struggle to try and drive the quad up the bank but it keeps slipping on the wet grass. We try taking some wood out of the trailer, but it’s no good and in the end we need to empty the trailer fully and get on flatter ground but it’s a huge amount of work when we’re already near one dumping area. We decide to ask Sandy if we can dump where we are before wrecking more of the lawn. Fortunately she agrees.

With that job done we take 3 huskies for a walk. Sandy and Mike are heading to Boulogne sur Gesse to shop and to participate in a vigil to the Paris atrocity. On our return we cut down a nut tree and dispose of it and then I start strimming the area behind my cleared flower bed.

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Nut tree before and after.

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After lunch I rake the area and cut back numerous acacia plants that are snagging my strimmer. Then more strimming. Meanwhile Daz works with Mike, who is in the process of building a timber frame for a new porch and wants to try out his new chain morticer. They have all the beams out and mostly measured, and need to cut alot of mortice and tenon joints. The new machine will make it alot quicker, but is quite techical and at one point they even get out the instructions AND do 3 practice cuts before even thinking of moving to the proper joints!!

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But all the messing about means it’ s the end of the day, so they will have to wait until tomorrow for its first use in anger!! Once we’re done and have tidied up we take the other 2 huskies for their walk and find a trail through the woodland. The track is quite good unless you’re in shorts and crocs – poor Daz. I think we’ll try this track again tomorrow

Tuesday 17th November

We start the day with a dog walk and again try the track through the wood. Last night we turned up early through the wood, to the large field and from there we made it to the main ridgeway.

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Today we follow the track until there’s a T- junction. We take the right and this brings us further along the large field, which we cut across to the main bridleway. We’re hoping to find a nice circular route but this won’t work because we’re cutting across the farmers plowed and sown field.

Back at the house Daz continues on the porch whilst Sandy and I walk around, and we discuss more jobs that need doing and I also mark the trees they want cut down. Once that’s done I prune a tree, using the long handled pruning shears and the bow saw.

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The foliage is so dense it’s hard to get to the various branches and it’s tough work and I end up scratched to ribbons. Once the tree is trimmed I start weeding a large flower bed by the pool.

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For the last hour of the day I strim and rake the bank I was working on yesterday.

Daz and Mike have also been busy. They have finished all the joints and put together the end section of the porch, they then glue it and use ratchets to keep it tight and square. Once the glue is set they will drill the joints and pin it with dowel, no need for any metal screws.

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We’re just finishing for the day, when Debbie and Tim, friends of Sandy and Mike, arrive. We all have tea and cake then we take the 2 huskies for a walk.

Debbie and Tim eventually stay for supper and we all have a lively evening.

 

Wednesday 18th November

We start the day with the dog walk and again try the new track.

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This time at the T-junction it’s left and immediately right. This path soon becomes single track, so not so good for my 2 dogs who can’t walk side by side, so the 3 of us are tied into single file. Not good since I can’t see the ground infront of my feet, just dog’s arse, so I keep tripping and falling in holes. Eventually it leads to the large field, arghhh. Only one more route choice to try!

I start weeding but Mike asks me to cut the grass. He shows me how to use the sit-on mower but not only do I have to cut the grass, avoid the trees, deal with some drains and tree stumps, I’m also supposed to coral the leaves into more manageable piles. I’m a bit worried because my grass cutting technique has always been criticised as random and more like hoovering than mowing, so I don’t think I’ll manage the technicalities of this job.

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But it goes OK with a bit of expert advice from Daz. Daz has been working on the porch all morning but after lunch he gives me a hand to finish the lawn and rake up some leaves. Once that’s done I return to weeding and he returns to the porch. We’re a bit pooped today and late finishing, so skip the evening dog walk.

 

Thursday 19th November

Today I start the day with a French lesson with Sandy’s French tutor, Odile. The lesson lasts an hour and a half. I’m not sure what I think of the lesson. We spend time using dialogues from a book about shopping at a bakery and a grocer’s. It’s a firm reminder that I need to be listening to my French lessons and practising more!

After my lesson Daz has his lesson. He’s on the patio and I can hear him whilst I’m weeding. He seems to be speaking a lot of French. After his lesson Sandy has her lesson and then we all have lunch. After lunch I move from weeding to cutting down 2 thickets that Sandy has pointed out that need raising to the ground so I go at them with a vengeance and my pruning shears. And that’s about it for me. Daz has been working with Mike on the porch again. They finally put the side up against the house so they can confirm the angle of the roof pitch and although it takes them all day they get the front sections all cut, glued and pinned together.

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Mike and Sandy are going away for the weekend tomorrow and leaving us in charge of the dogs and house, so there’s no more woodworking scheduled until next week. However there is a list of jobs that need doing whilst they are away so we won’t be sitting about doing nothing! Sandy said we can take our days off when they get back, but after speaking with Debbie and Tim the other night we think we might save it for December and go skiing.

 

Friday 20th November

Today Mike and Sandy are leaving us in charge whilst they go up to Rochelle to visit friends. This is their first break from the dogs in over 18months. Wow what a commitment these huskies are!! They leave about 10ish and Daz and I cut down trees, clear up the debris and I continue to trim back the thicket. By lunch time we’ve almost finished cutting and clearing 2 large ivy covered trees.

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We use the quad and trailer to clear up which is quicker than the wheelbarrow but still hard work. After lunch Daz takes down 5 bay boughs and a birch but he’s pretty tired so he calls it a day. Later we take 3 huskies out for a walk. Then we move our essential gear from the gite to the main house. Sandy doesn’t think we’ll hear the dogs from the gite so she wants us to move into the house. However we sleep like the dead so we probably won’t hear them from the house either! Daz puts the huskies up the paddock whilst he cleans their kennel. Then they go into their cages in the van where they get the dinner I’ve prepared for them. They’ll stay in their cages for a couple of hours before being returned to their kennel. Dog chores done, we settle down to watch The Apprentice, SAS, who dares wins and then a movie. We miss the end of the movie because we both fall asleep.

 

Saturday 21st November

We’ve set the alarm for 7am so we can let Hermione out for a wee. It’s not nice today, torrential rain outside. We let Hermione out and then at 8ish I put the huskies up the paddock and clean their kennel and give them fresh water. Then they come down from the paddock and I put them in their cages in the van. After our breakfast we put them back in their kennel and then we go to Lammazan to visit the market but discover there isn’t one on a Saturday… Doh!!! We have a look around town which has a lot more shops, bars etc than Boulogne sur Gesse but it’s a bit miserable in the rain.

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We go in search of a supermarche and buy some provisions for the weekend. Then we head back home in more rain. Back at the house we light the fire and have a ‘duvet day’ (well afternoon), watching movies. In the evening we deal with the huskies’ feeding regime and then have our own dinner.

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Sandy rings to check we are managing OK.

 

Sunday 22nd November

Another early start to let Hermione out for a wee. Then later we deal with the huskies’ morning regime and then take 2 of them for a walk. After our walk, we remember to deal with the chickens and after feeding them it takes us about 30 minutes to work out why there’s no charge in the electric fence; it’s earthing out on a tree stump.

We need to pollard 5 Mulberry trees:

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Trees before pollarding.

 

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During pollarding

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After pollarding.

Daz continues with his tree husbandry programme – cutting down more trees that Sandy doesn’t want. We get a lot done but once again we’re absolutely shattered – did we work this hard in Sweden? Were we were always knackered then; our elbows ache, as does my lower back, my forearms and my knuckles!

Monday 23rd November

Another early start but hopefully our last. I’m out doing husky chores and then go to check the chickens to see if there are any fresh eggs for breakfast but there aren’t. Instead there’s something earthing our electric fence. I go round to check what it is expecting more leaves but it’s a hedgehog, stuck underneath the bottom of the fence and jolting with every pulse through the fence.

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I turn the fence off and fetch Darren. He has to unstick the hedgehog from the mesh and then puts him somewhere warm. We’re not sure how he is between being electrocuted and frozen in the frost. After breakfast we pollard our last tree. I’ve removed most of the foliage but it’s painful work, wielding the long handled shears overhead and cutting the branches. For me it’s like a stress position. Daz has a different technique; he just gets onto the tree. Once the tree is finished we take 3 dogs for their walk. Finally we’ve found a circular route. But this track gets the dogs really excited, it must be all the new smells. And excited dogs = being pulled extra hard in the harness which is really tough when we come to some steep, slippery downhills. If this is just a standard walk, I’m dreading the day they actually spot something they really want to chase. I’m not sure I’ll be able to control them. After the dog walking and a cuppa, we start clearing up the leaves and branches from pollarding and tree cutting.

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I’m hoping for an early finish but this disappears as we try and get a bonfire going under all our tree rubbish. But it doesn’t seem to want to burn. Finally we have a really pathetic bonfire and we’ve cleared all our rubbish and swept up the leaves on the terrace, on the steps and around the pool. It all looks really tidy if only the bonfire would BURN!!! Daz goes in to prepare Zanzibar fish soup and I do the doggie chores. Sandy and Mike are making the most of this break and won’t be home until later.

 

Tuesday 24th November

Yesterday we waited until Sandy and Mike got back, gave them a quick debrief and then like the tired bunnies we were, snuggled up under the duvet and promptly fell asleep. We told them that we would probably have a lie in, but when we woke again at 7am that pretty much put paid to our late start. We managed to snooze for a while but by 9am we were up, breakfasted, teeth brushed and out working. First task of the day, sort out the bonfire! It was still smoldering from yesterday, but with lots of unburnt wood and green branches on top, plus all the piles of wood we didn’t even attempt to get on the fire. Daz decided to pull off all the unburnt stuff, reset, this time cutting everything into much smaller pieces and making sure the base fire was going well before chucking more on… Long story short we spent the next two hours feeding the blazing fire, even the green ivy was sizzling and burning down in no time. A much better job.

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During this process both Mike and Sandy came down separately to extol the work we had done in their absence. They didn’t expect us to get so much done and look aftef the dogs. And we were really chuffed that they could see everything we’d done and appreciated all our hard work! I then went back to my weeding and Daz went back to chop a few more trees down that had been marked for felling. By lunchtime we were famished and unfortunately Sandy’s first words as we tipped up for lunch were, “this is the worst soup I’ve ever made!”… Fortunately she was wrong, and along with the homemade bread, and French cheeses we had a lovely lunch. We are both really appreciative that they both cook great meals for us at lunch and dinner, especially considering some of the other workaway hosts’ ideas of feeding us. This is the best by far and makes us tres jolie (French for very happy!).

Before rushing out after lunch we offer to bathe Hermione, who is a ‘proper stinky dog’ after rolling in something dead, rotting and with a vile stench.

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In the afternoon we tidy the garden around the bonfire and other areas before calling it quits and then take Puskin and Dixi for a walk. Daz is cooking tonight as we said we would do deluxe macaroni cheese. So we’ve been here nearly 2 weeks and it’s been a productive and enjoyable time. There’s been a change in the weather since Saturday and it’s been much colder and now we can see loads of snow up on the Pyrenees. We are looking forward to getting up there in the near future and hiring some skis.

 

After lunch I rake the area and cut back numerous acacia plants that are snagging my strimmer. Then more strimming. Meanwhile Daz works with Mike, who is in the process of building a timber frame for a new porch and wants to try out his new chain morticer. They have all the beams out and mostly measured, and need to cut alot of mortice and tenon joints. The new machine will make it alot quicker, but is quite techical and at one point they even get out the instructions AND do 3 practice cuts before even thinking of moving to the proper joints!! But all the messing about means it’ s the end of the day, so they will have to wait until tomorrow for its first use in anger!! Once we’re done and have tidied up we take the other 2 huskies for their walk and find a trail through the woodland. The track is quite good unless you’re in shorts and crocs – poor Daz. I think we’ll try this track again tomorrow

 

Tuesday 17th November

We start the day with a dog walk and again try the track through the wood. Last night we turned up early through the wood, to the large field and from there we made it to the main ridgeway. Today we follow the track until there’s a T- junction. We take the right and this brings us further along the large field, which we cut across to the main bridleway. We’re hoping to find a nice circular route but this won’t work because we’re cutting across the farmers plowed and sown field.

Back at the house Daz continues on the porch whilst Sandy and I walk around, and we discuss more jobs that need doing and I also mark the trees they want cut down. Once that’s done I prune a tree, using the long handled pruning shears and the bow saw. The foliage is so dense it’s hard to get to the various branches and it’s tough work and I end up scratched to ribbons. Once the tree is trimmed I start weeding a large flower bed by the pool. For the last hour of the day I strim and rake the bank I was working on yesterday.

Daz and Mike have also been busy. They have finished all the joints and put together the end section of the porch, they then glue it and use ratchets to keep it tight and square. Once the glue is set they will drill the joints and pin it with dowel, no need for any metal screws.

We’re just finishing for the day, when Debbie and Tim, friends of Sandy and Mike, arrive. We all have tea and cake then we take the 2 huskies for a walk.

Debbie and Tim eventually stay for supper and we all have a lively evening.

 

Wednesday 18th November

We start the day with the dog walk and again try the new track. This time at the T-junction it’s left and immediately right. This path soon becomes single track, so not so good for my 2 dogs who can’t walk side by side, so the 3 of us are tied into single file. Not good since I can’t see the ground infront of my feet, just dog’s arse, so I keep tripping and falling in holes. Eventually it leads to the large field, arghhh. Only one more route choice to try!

I start weeding but Mike asks me to cut the grass. He shows me how to use the sit-on mower but not only do I have to cut the grass, avoid the trees, deal with some drains and tree stumps, I’m also supposed to coral the leaves into more manageable piles. I’m a bit worried because my grass cutting technique has always been criticised as random and more like hoovering than mowing, so I don’t think I’ll manage the technicalities of this job. But it goes OK with a bit of expert advice from Daz. Daz has been working on the porch all morning but after lunch he gives me a hand to finish the lawn and rake up some leaves. Once that’s done I return to weeding and he returns to the porch. We’re a bit pooped today and late finishing, so skip the evening dog walk.

 

Thursday 19th November

Today I start the day with a French lesson with Sandy’s French tutor, Odile. The lesson lasts an hour and a half. I’m not sure what I think of the lesson. We spend time using dialogues from a book about shopping at a bakery and a grocer’s. It’s a firm reminder that I need to be listening to my French lessons and practising more!

After my lesson Daz has his lesson. He’s on the patio and I can hear him whilst I’m weeding. He seems to be speaking a lot of French. After his lesson Sandy has her lesson and then we all have lunch. After lunch I move from weeding to cutting down 2 thickets that Sandy has pointed out that need raising to the ground so I go at them with a vengeance and my pruning shears. And that’s about it for me. Daz has been working with Mike on the porch again. They finally put the side up against the house so they can confirm the angle of the roof pitch and although it takes them all day they get the front sections all cut, glued and pinned together. Mike and Sandy are going away for the weekend tomorrow and leaving us in charge of the dogs and house, so there’s no more woodworking scheduled until next week. However there is a list of jobs that need doing whilst they are away so we won’t be sitting about doing nothing! Sandy said we can take our days off when they get back, but after speaking with Debbie and Tim the other night we think we might save it for December and go skiing.

 

Friday 20th November

Today Mike and Sandy are leaving us in charge whilst they go up to Rochelle to visit friends. This is their first break from the dogs in over 18months. Wow what a commitment these huskies are!! They leave about 10ish and Daz and I cut down trees, clear up the debris and I continue to trim back the thicket. By lunch time we’ve almost finished cutting and clearing 2 large ivy covered trees. We use the quad and trailer to clear up which is quicker than the wheelbarrow but still hard work. After lunch Daz takes down 5 bay boughs and a birch but he’s pretty tired so he calls it a day. Later we take 3 huskies out for a walk. Then we move our essential gear from the gite to the main house. Sandy doesn’t think we’ll hear the dogs from the gite so she wants us to move into the house. However we sleep like the dead so we probably won’t hear them from the house either! Daz puts the huskies up the paddock whilst he cleans their kennel. Then they go into their cages in the van where they get the dinner I’ve prepared for them. They’ll stay in their cages for a couple of hours before being returned to their kennel. Dog chores done, we settle down to watch The Apprentice, SAS, who dares wins and then a movie. We miss the end of the movie because we both fall asleep.

 

Saturday 21st November

We’ve set the alarm for 7am so we can let Hermione out for a wee. It’s not nice today, torrential rain outside. We let Hermione out and then at 8ish I put the huskies up the paddock and clean their kennel and give them fresh water. Then they come down from the paddock and I put them in their cages in the van. After our breakfast we put them back in their kennel and then we go to Lammazan to visit the market but discover there isn’t one on a Saturday… Doh!!! We have a look around town which has a lot more shops, bars etc than Boulogne sur Gesse but it’s a bit miserable in the rain. We go in search of a supermarche and buy some provisions for the weekend. Then we head back home in more rain. Back at the house we light the fire and have a ‘duvet day’ (well afternoon), watching movies. In the evening we deal with the huskies’ feeding regime and then have our own dinner. Sandy rings to check we are managing OK.

 

Sunday 22nd November

Another early start to let Hermione out for a wee. Then later we deal with the huskies’ morning regime and then take 2 of them for a walk. After our walk, we remember to deal with the chickens and after feeding them it takes us about 30 minutes to work out why there’s no charge in the electric fence; it’s earthing out on a tree stump. Once that’s done I pollard some trees and Daz continues with his tree husbandry programme – cutting down more trees that Sandy doesn’t want. We get a lot done but once again we’re absolutely shattered – did we work this hard in Sweden? Were we were always knackered then; our elbows ache, as does my lower back, my forearms and my knuckles!

 

Monday 23rd November

Another early start but hopefully our last. I’m out doing husky chores and then go to check the chickens to see if there are any fresh eggs for breakfast but there aren’t. Instead there’s something earthing our electric fence. I go round to check what it is expecting more leaves but it’s a hedgehog, stuck underneath the bottom of the fence and jolting with every pulse through the fence. I turn the fence off and fetch Darren. He has to unstick the hedgehog from the mesh and then puts him somewhere warm. We’re not sure how he is between being electrocuted and frozen in the frost. After breakfast we pollard our last tree. I’ve removed most of the foliage but it’s painful work, wielding the long handled shears overhead and cutting the branches. For me it’s like a stress position. Daz has a different technique; he just gets onto the tree. Once the tree is finished we take 3 dogs for their walk. Finally we’ve found a circular route. But this track gets the dogs really excited, it must be all the new smells. And excited dogs = being pulled extra hard in the harness which is really tough when we come to some steep, slippery downhills. If this is just a standard walk, I’m dreading the day they actually spot something they really want to chase. I’m not sure I’ll be able to control them. After the dog walking and a cuppa, we start clearing up the leaves and branches from pollarding and tree cutting. I’m hoping for an early finish but this disappears as we try and get a bonfire going under all our tree rubbish. But it doesn’t seem to want to burn. Finally we have a really pathetic bonfire and we’ve cleared all our rubbish and swept up the leaves on the terrace, on the steps and around the pool. It all looks really tidy if only the bonfire would BURN!!! Daz goes in to prepare Zanzibar fish soup and I do the doggie chores. Sandy and Mike are making the most of this break and won’t be home until later.

 

Tuesday 24th November

Yesterday we waited until Sandy and Mike got back, gave them a quick debrief and then like the tired bunnies we were, snuggled up under the duvet and promptly fell asleep. We told them that we would probably have a lie in, but when we woke again at 7am that pretty much put paid to our late start. We managed to snooze for a while but by 9am we were up, breakfasted, teeth brushed and out working. First task of the day, sort out the bonfire! It was still smoldering from yesterday, but with lots of unburnt wood and green branches on top, plus all the piles of wood we didn’t even attempt to get on the fire. Daz decided to pull off all the unburnt stuff, reset, this time cutting everything into much smaller pieces and making sure the base fire was going well before chucking more on… Long story short we spent the next two hours feeding the blazing fire, even the green ivy was sizzling and burning down in no time. A much better job. During this process both Mike and Sandy came down separately to extol the work we had done in their absence. They didn’t expect us to get so much done and look aftef the dogs. And we were really chuffed that they could see everything we’d done and appreciated all our hard work! I then went back to my weeding and Daz went back to chop a few more trees down that had been marked for felling. By lunchtime we were famished and unfortunately Sandy’s first words as we tipped up for lunch were, “this is the worst soup I’ve ever made!”… Fortunately she was wrong, and along with the homemade bread, and French cheeses we had a lovely lunch. We are both really appreciative that they both cook great meals for us at lunch and dinner, especially considering some of the other workaway hosts’ ideas of feeding us. This is the best by far and makes us tres jolie (French for very happy!) In the afternoon we tidy the garden around the bonfire and other areas before calling it quits and then take Puskin and Dixi for a walk. Daz is cooking tonight as we said we would do deluxe macaroni cheese. So we’ve been here nearly 2 weeks and it’s been a productive and enjoyable time. There’s been a change in the weather since Saturday and it’s been much colder and now we can see loads of snow up on the Pyrenees. We are looking forward to getting up there in the near future and hiring some skis.

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