Saturday 30 April 2022

Buying tools

Some time ago I bought a chop saw.   That is, a circular saw designed for cutting planks of wood, that works by lowering the spinning blade on to the wood.   I have forgotten the project I bought it for, but I know it was something I was doing with material I had to hand, and therefore "on the cheap".   I needed the saw for it, and bought the cheapest chop saw I could find.

I did a second project using the old saw, where I had to cut through planks that were wider than it could cope with.   It's possible, you just turn the plank over and cut the rest of the way.   But it's impossible to do it perfectly since there's always a little difference in the placing of the cut on the two sides, so there's a little 'jog' in the sawn end as a result.

Yesterday I bought a second-hand, sliding chop saw to replace it.   On this new one, the blade, as well as being lowered, can also be made to slide across the width of the plank, and so it is more useful since it can cut wider planks.   I will sell the old one, since it's still in fine working condition.

I have found that, when doing a project, it is tempting to "make do" with the existing tool set even if it's not ideal.   I already had a chop saw, and I could get a reasonable but not perfect job by turning the wood over.   So it's difficult to justify buying a new, better one.   The conclusion I come to is that it's always worth buying the best possible tool consistent with the law of diminishing returns, and not a cheap one that just does the current job (unless perhaps, you sell it straight after).

Here's a pic of the new saw.

Thursday 28 April 2022

Repas des Aînés

It's a tradition for many French villages, including ours, to have an annual lunch for the older villagers.  We qualify.   The lunches are normally held just before Christmas, but this wasn't possible for 2021 because of the covid restrictions.  It was held last weekend, in the village bistrot associatif.

The official arrival time was 12h15, starting with fizz and nibbles, and followed by the start of the meal proper at about 13h45.  My neighbour remarked sarcastically that perhaps we should have eaten before coming.  Apparently, it is becoming trendy in France to prolong the aperatif part of such gatherings, eating only later. 

The meal is prepared and served by volunteers from the village who participate in the meal, and serve table also.   An excellent meal.   It's also a social event, and without giving names away, I observed a cooling of hostilities, a rapprochement, even, between houses Atreides and Harkonen, now that Atreides the Elder has passed on.   Got to be a good thing.

We staggered out at about 5PM.  Anita drove.

Friday 22 April 2022

Free firewood

Our mayor phoned me several months ago and asked me if I wanted some free firewood.   There were some dead oak trees on communal territory, and he was planning to have them cut down.   The wood would be divided amongst residents and did I want some?   The only requirement was that I cut it up and take it away.   I said "yes".

It was only recently that they were cut down, but now I am the proud owner of two dead oak trees that are just about accessible by the Renault Espace pulling the trailer.  One tree is at the top of a hill, the other is halfway down it.    The dirt track giving access is steep, narrow and edged by a precipice.  Anita doesn't like it, but she does let me drive the car up it with her inside.  Just.

A new chain saw blade, frequently sharpened, was needed to do the cutting of the long branches, and a big petrol-powered circular saw cuts the into wood-burner-sized lengths.    Then some physical effort involving a wedge and a sledgehammer to split it.   It's remarkably hard work, but it's really good solid firewood.  Enough for an entire winter's heating of the house, I am sure.

Saturday 16 April 2022

Plant protection

The winds last autumn destroyed the plastic covering of my greenhouse.   The frame itself wasn't in especially good condition either: the joints for the metal rods are plastic and they bent easily under strain.  I had already bought a second set after some earlier gales destroyed the original lot,  so I decided that by now, it wasn't worth investing any more money in trying to keep the greenhouse in its original state.

After some thought as to what I could do with the frame, I decided that the top arch could still be useful as a protecion for tender plants, so I invested €10 in some plastic sheeting, just wide enough to go the length of the tunnel, and long enough to go all the way around.   The result is some gentle protection for the tomato plants that I will plant out some time next week.

I have also pressed into service, these corrugated translucent fiberglass panels, to protect the sprout plants from pigeons.   I planted a bunch of lettuce on the outside; perhaps they will act as a decoy to the slugs and birds.

Thursday 14 April 2022

Kangoo rouge

We have ordered a new car.  We had a few mandatory requirements: it had to be an automatic, be able to fit Anita's trike in the back, and have the French crit'air 1 rating.   There were a few extras like a towbar, satnav and so on, but those three were the main requirements.  A hybrid rechargeable would give us the dual-fuel option, plus a pseudo-4WD mode, useful when driving on the grass here, so would have been nice to have.

The three key criteria proved amazingly difficult to meet. Over the last few weeks, we have visited Renault, Peugeot, Toyota, Ford, VW, Jeep, Dacia, Mitsubishi, Kia and Citroen garages in the area and also looked  online for used vehicles.  No hybrids in utility vehicles, and hardly anyone making automatic ones.  And none of the hybrid rechargeable cars would take the trike.  (Except the VW Multivan - too big, heavy and expensive for us)  Eventually the only option was a Renault Kangoo with a petrol engine and (only recently available) automatic transmission.   Delivery in September.

It will replace the old Renault Espace 2.2 diesel auto, a thirsty car, 16 years old and showing its age now.  We get about 28mpg out of it in our typical use, although on long trips it will deliver up to about 36.  A bit wasteful in these days of rising fuel costs.  So it really was time for it to go.

Wednesday 13 April 2022

Beans, beans, good for the heart

It's planting time again, although with this warm Springtime, I feel like I'm behind already.   I am planting Borlotto beans and climbing French beans today (and a few runners).   The Borlottos are beige with red flecks and contribute to an excellent cassoulet that Anita makes; the French beans are white and make delicious green bean pods.

I am trying a new kind of climbing frame for the beans this year.   One is the usual type, using bamboo stakes with hazlenut twigs between them for support.  The other is a new one for me - I have built the frame out of bamboo as usual, but the support is an iron rebar grid that I bought ages ago in anticipation of a project that I didn't do, and that has been annoying me ever since.

We shall see if it works OK.   I'll be putting in melon seeds and sweet corn too, later today.

Thursday 7 April 2022


We had a meeting in Laval recently, drove in, parked the car nearby.   I went to the nearest pay machine where someone was in the process of paying.   So I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  In the end I gave up and walked the slightly longer distance to the machine on the other side of the road.   I have to admit that I was harbouring negative thoughts about people who take too long to do a simple transaction like buying a parking ticket.

So I troll up to the machine, press all the buttons and try to tell it that I want to pay for an hour, and not the ten minues default, with my credit card.   Failure.   It tries to take 20 centimes for a short stay.   Try again.  Same result.   By the third time, Anita susses out that there's something awry and comes over to help.  Problem persists.   Eventually we pay with coin.   Success!   The guy at the other machine is still there when we set off for our meeting.

I notice that the machine takes your photo as you fight with it, presumably in case you feel like smashing it in frustration.

Eco-Plant wall

You can cover walls of buildings with plants these days.  They provide many advantages; they look nice, they provide sound insulation and cooling, and they help to freshen the air.   So I was especially impressed by this plastic one that I saw in Laval today.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...