Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Fings wot go wrong (II)

I went out this morning to do a bit of routine maintenance on the gite.   Since I pass the boiler shed on the way, I look in to check all is well.   It's not: there's a big drop in the water pressure in the system - a leak somewhere.  I find the leak, and spend the morning fixing it.

So in the afternoon I think, well, it's a nice day so I'll do something outside in the garden, that's a bit simpler than the gite maintenance I had planned for the morning.  I'll mow the lawn.  Halfway-through, the mower stops.  No nasty chinking sounds from the engine, so probably nothing serious.  It's not out of petrol, though, and when I turn over the engine, it nearly fires.  Likely a block in the fuel line.  I'll look at that tomorrow.  A night out on the grass won't hurt it.

Yesterday I turn on the Android phone.  It doesn't give me a keyboard when I need to type something into it.  Apparently a factory reset is the best option.  That's for this evening.

I have to drive to Evron this afternoon, and it's a nice day so I take the roof down on the car.   I drive into a shower.  *sigh*

Friday, 17 May 2019

Cutting hedge technology

There's a big hedge at our place, long and deep, going around the main parts of the garden.   It's a bitch to trim, and I've been doing nothing but that for the last three days.  It's finished now.  Next trim - Autumn.

I have a fair amont of kit to help with the job: a scaffolding set with wheels, and three hedge trimmers: a mains-electric-powered one with a long pole, one battery-powered and one 2-stroke.   The 2-stroke one is heavy, loud and smelly but powerful, the battery one is quieter and lighter but weak.  The electric long pole is heavy, quiet and powerful and necessary for cutting across the top of the hedge.

I'm thinking that it might be time to combine the benefits of lightness and power and get a small, mains-electric-powered trimmer.   It's the lightest you can get since the trimmer only houses the motor and not the fuel as well, and a mains -powered 600Watt one should be powerful enough, quiet and light.  The mains cable won't be a problem because it'll be out and in use anyway for the long throw one, and I'm getting tired of coming in smelling of 2-stroke fumes, or breathing them in, come to that.

I have thought about the possibility that a small tractor with hedge trimmer would be a good idea.  I'd really love to be able to drive it along the two sides of the hedge, trimming as I go.  The job would be done in an hour max, but it's not actually possible to do that - there are trees, shrubs and piles of firewood in the way.   That ground is also far from level, so I'd end up with an undulating top to the hedge, something that I try to avoid.

You can see part of the finished hedge in the pic below.  I used to be a bit more fastidious about getting it straight, flat and horizontal but these days I'm just up for taming the beast.   I left the trimming so late one year that the hedge flopped over a gap in it, so I'm trying to make an arched tunnel.  It's early days, but it looks like it will come to fruition in a few years.  And who doesn't like spooky tunnels?

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Fings wot go wrong

We took a short cycling break near Carquefou, not far from Nantes and near to the Loire.  The idea was to bike along the Loire towpath, but the Nantes-Brest canal is also not far away so we did a bit along that as well.

The first thing that went wrong happened on pumping up the tyres on Anita's bike.  The stem of the valve broke off.  That's the bit that sticks up out of the tyre so you can inflate it, and it just broke off bringing the valve mechanism with it, so I couldn't pump it up.  I have been maintaining bikes since I was 12, and that has never happened before.  We found a friendly local bike shop and got it fixed.

For the Loire valley part of the ride, we went to the South bank of the river, just opposite Thouré-sur-Loire.  The cycle path is very well-maintained which made for an easy ride.  The weather wasn't warm, but not too cold, and not much wind - good biking weather.

The first time we looked for the Nantes-Brest canal we stopped by the little village of Le Pas-Chevalier, since the road crossed what looked like a canal there.  A short investigation proved that it is in fact a small river that joins the big canal a little way away so we started our ride a bit farther along the road where it does actually cross the canal.  We rode as far as to where it joins the river Erdre.

On the way back in the car we heard a sound like a rifle shot as if something hard had fallen off a tree and hit the car.  Shortly after that I realised that the driver side front window wasn't closing.  I could lower it but it wouldn't go up.  Stopping it halfway down, I tugged on the glass to lift, it, let it slip from my hand and it promptly fell back into the door and wouldn't come out.  The local garage couldn't fix it at such short notice, but they did give me a length of translucent sticky-backed plastic to stick over the hole.

The car was scheduled for a service a couple of days after we got back, so we took it to the garage straight away, where it is currently resting pending repair.  On the way to the garage we discovered that the driver side rear window isn't working either.  *sigh*

However, the cycling was good and we decided to take a further look at the Nantes-Brest canal when time permits.  Happy biking.

Here's some garden pics.  The plants seem to be working properly, but you can never tell....

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Guarantee A to Z (Except D)

I buy a fair amount of stuff on Amazon, and have done for a while.  If there's something I need and can afford, and I don't need to touch and see it before I buy, I often buy it there.   I don't tend to give it much thought - I've always had good experiences with Amazon and in the rare case of there being a problem, I have found their after-sales service to be excellent.

I recently gave a short concert, and recorded a video of it on my camera.  The only problem was, the memory chip was full after 30 minutes, so I lost a good 40% of the performance.  There was plenty of battery life left, so I thought I'd invest in chip upgrade.   I found some 1 terrabyte chips on Amazon and ordered one.

1 terrabyte - one million millon bytes, on a chip no bigger than a finger nail.  When I were a lad, a disk of just 300 million byte capacity was about 12 inches diameter and 8 inches high, heavy to lift up, and they fit inside a drive unit the size of a small fridge.  The guy who invented the tech that underpinned them worked for IBM, and he had to take his ideas to Japan, I think it was, before he found anyone prepared to try to make a product out of them.  It became, as we know, very successful and he was made an IBM Fellow for some years before he retired.  I cross paths with his daughter from time to time; she plays the flute and I have a CD by her.  But I digress.

So the chip arrives and doesn't work, and I'm going through the refund process.  The chip was sold through Amazon Marketplace, and to my surprise, I discover in the "small print" that the Amazon A-Z guarantee doesn't apply to "digital items", and specifically, not to wot I bought.  I'm not sure if that means digital items sold through Amazon Marketplace, or any digital item whatever the source.  I'm still going through the refund process so I don't know yet if I've been ripped off or not.

So, whatever, caveat emptor, as always.  *sigh*

UPDATE 1 May 2019   Refund received.  Cool.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Wood chips

We have a division of labour in the garden: I mow the lawns and do the heavy lifting and digging, Anita weeds the flower beds.   These days, Anita's shoulders don't support using a hoe, so the weeding takes a long time and it's a bit of a Forth road bridge job.  So we've decided to try smothering the weedlings with wood chips.

You can get the chips for €35 the metre cubed (it costs a bit more if you want it delivered), and a metre cubed covers ten square metres at 10cm thinkness.   Here's the chips on the bed beside the driveway, where the Daffs have almost finished flowering.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

It's that time of year again

Yes, Springtime, when the tasks of the garden start to take precedence over other less urgent things.   I have planted up a bunch of tender veggies; three types of tomato, some chilli peppers and aubergines.  Here being inspected by the cat.

I planted out the spuds this morning, on the basis that we're about 2 weeks away from the last frosts so they should be OK.  And the shallots and onions that I planted out a couple of weeks ago are starting to show through.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Bathroom project - Drainage

So I put in the new sink, tightened up all the joints on the trap, and eventually got the little leaks stopped.  PTFE tape is a wonderful thing.  Uh-oh, the sink backfills with water when it should be draining.

The old sink worked fine, so logic tells me that the thing that has changed, the new trap, must be causing the problem.  Extensive testing of the new trap - no problems there, despite the evidence.  I tired blowing down the drain pipe - blocked.   Sucking seemed to unblock it (a nausiating experince, to be tried only in dire emergencies).  But still blocked.  There seems to be a trap in the pipework in the wall.  Who ever puts a trap where you can't get at it?

I think that what happened is that the drainage pipe had been unused for several weeks and had dried out.  The crud that normally sticks to the sides dried and flaked off, sending flakes of dried crud to block the trap.  The problem was eventually fixed by sending down some viscious granulated drain cleaner that fizzes violently when wet.   Sudden glooping noise from somewhere in the wall, and the sink starts to work.

We now have a fully functioning bathroom - shower, bog and sink all work.  I have to fit the loft hatch (the tower has a conical roof that houses the TV aerial)  and a little tray for holding the shampoo and other gunk in the shower.  Then it's done.  This is the last post on the bathroom project.  *phew*

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