Monday 31 January 2011

Frosty walk

It was -6 degrees outside this morning, the coldest so far this Winter. A short, frosty walk.

Sunday 30 January 2011


When renovating the gîte, we planned a nice little patio, off from the dining room, at the back of the lodge. The idea was for people to take coffees out, or perhaps tea in the sunshine of an afternoon, so we made it big enough for about 12 people, or half what the gîte can accommodate.

Mistake. What actually happens is that our guests like to eat a barbecue outside in the sunshine of a lunchtime, so, in fact the terrace was too small. So this Winter we set about enlarging it, and while we were at it, a pétanque pitch seemed like a good idea. Oh, and why not extend the concrete path around the end of the lodge so that wheelchairs can get there? Works have been going on this last week.

This is the terrace as it used to be; quite small but friendly. And the enormous digger Mr Chaudet brought to clear the way for the new terrace.

So now there is a new pétanque pitch, and although the patio isn't finished, you can see where it's going to be.

Just one question: What happened to all the earth, rocks and rubble that were scraped away to make room for all this? I'm glad you asked. It's all at the bottom of the field. I always had in mind to build a dry stone wall and backfill it with earth to make a terrace there. Well, now's my chance. A bit of effort might be needed. But I thought I might build some sort of pergola at the top, to look down on the valley of a Summer afernoon in the sunshine. Maybe it will be a popular place for tea.

Friday 28 January 2011

Tree management

I don't especially like cutting down trees, but sometimes you have to. It's about removing dead wood, giving the trees that remain air and light, and ensuring good growth for the future.

You need a good chain saw, and Jean-Claude doesn't mess about: he has three, a small one, a medium and a large one. I asked him if I could borrow his big one, and he said no, but he offered to come round and cut the trees himself, which he did the other day.

The big Walnut is now free from its entanglement with the Mirabelle trees, the remaining older Mirabelles are healthy, and the saplings have room to grow. And I have a stack of wood to dry out for heating in a couple of Winter's time.

I think a poem's not as good
As half a ton of well-stacked wood.

Saturday 22 January 2011


A shop has a stock of five wheelbarrows. Each barrow has a left handle and a right handle, the left ones being different from the right, making a stock of ten handles in all, five left and five right.

You have to assemble the barrows yourself from component parts that are collected together for you by a shop assistant. If, instead of choosing one left handle and one right handle, the assistant chooses a pair at random, what is the probability that you end up with a barrow with a correct left and right pair of handles?

Supplementary question: What is the probability that the buyer will notice that he has two left handles 1) before leaving the shop? 2) before commencing assembly? 3) during assembly? 4) only after he has finished?

Thursday 13 January 2011

Battery management

I'm not too bad at DIY. Not as gifted as my brother-in-law, perhaps, but not bad, and I do a fair bit of it. You have to, really if you're running a gîte, because it would be too expensive to pay for a pro every time there is a bit of maintenance to be done. I have noticed over the years, that whenever I need a power tool, and if I have a choice, I use a battery-powered one in preference to a mains-powered one. I find them more convenient and easier to use.

But they do have a problem, which is that the batteries need a bit of care if they are to stay in good condition. They need to be stored properly, and recharged every few months or so or else they quickly become useless. This is not too difficult when you only have one to look after, but when you have several different batteries for several different tools, each with its own charger, the job starts to become onerous.

So I started looking for a solution to this problem: a range of tools that all take the same battery, so that even if you have a lot of tools you only have one set of batteries to worry about. Also the batteries have to be lithium technology for better power/weight and easier storage. It took a while for me to find, but I reckon that Ryobi have scored with their One+ range of battery-powered tools. A whole range of battery-powered tools that can all use the same 18 volt lithium battery.

I'm hooked. The range is marketed in France as eco-friendly (two batteries instead of 30, for 30 tools), and it also has emotional appeal arising from obvious efficiency. I bought two batteries, a charger and a shark saw. You need two batteries so you can use one while the other is charging.

I used the shark saw today to kill ivy that was strangling a walnut tree: I sawed a two-inch gap in the ivy trunks, all around the tree. And the tree was at the bottom of my field, out of reach of mains cables. Cool tool. More tool purchases to follow, and I'll flog my other battery-powered stuff at the car boot (vide grenier) or maybe eBay.

What is neat about this from a marketing point of view, is that I'm not, for the foreseeable future, going to buy any other battery-powered tool that isn't made by Ryobi, or that isn't at least compatible with their batteries. Brand loyalty is built-in. I might even buy their shares too.

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