December arrived with a flurry of snow – all the more Christmassy for putting up our decorations!!  It took 2 days to complete the exercise but we love them and it always feels cosy at this time of year 🙂  The snow only lasted a day and the month, so far, has been very mixed weather-wise, switching from bright sunny days to gales and storms, driving rain and fog.  Earlier this week, the temperature plummeted after a sunny day to minus 2 degrees so we had bright sunshine and  a sharp frost in the morning – I think this is my favorite type of weather for the season (as long as we have nothing to do outside!)….

The Chain Gang at La Biochere – Part 2

Back in October, when we first started work on planning the courtyard flower beds and began lifting up the mud, I think we both thought we’d have it done relatively quickly.  In fact, if memory serves me well, we’d even thought we’d be able to make a start on upgrading the downstairs shower room (which involves knocking down an internal wall) before Christmas!  How often we misjudge the scale of a job here!

November came and went and the 1st of December saw our first snowfall, slowing down our initial good start.  But, we persevered and whenever there was a break in the weather, we headed outdoors to continue lifting the mud, most of which went into filling the new beds we were creating to close down the vast expanse of the yard.

  

  

  

It was really hard work and we were both looking forward to the relatively ‘easy’ job of laying down the ground cover material… Oh, how naive we were!  Fooled by a seemingly calm morning, we laid out the first strip of material, over 4 m wide but initially folded in half, along the edge of the lawn.  It seemed like the minute it was down, the wind picked up, caught in the fold and took it up and away like a balloon!  Already tired, we soon became dispirited, the air was blue – certainly not our finest hour in working together 🙁 Still, a cup of tea can make all the difference and we managed to pull ourselves round to pin this first strip down.  Edward came up with the plan of parking the cars strategically on the material, once in place, to stop it blowing away, and securing the edges with logs.  With the rolls of ground material, we’d bought 200 hooks for pinning it down, but they were too long for us to get them into the hard ground of the courtyard.  Eventually, ‘pinning’ involved Edward cutting the metal hooks in half and re-bending so that we could actually get them through the tonnes of stones and rocks that form the base of the yard – finding suitable spots to bang in the pegs was a feat in itself (and hard on the hands)!

By the afternoon, the wind had turned into a gale with driving rain from the west.  Time to batten down the hatches… It was three days before the storm broke and we were able to continue with laying out the ground cover….  with clear skies and no wind, the remaining area seemed to be done relatively quickly…

   

When we knew we were going to have the yard covered, Edward ordered 13 tonnes of gravel, which arrived in the morning of the 18th December – nothing like working to a tight deadline, with a visit from parents due on the 22nd!

We were quite excited when we heard the lorry approaching!

It was at this point that we realised 13 tonnes wasn’t going to be enough 🙁  Edward called the quarry again and ordered another two loads, one to be delivered on the same afternoon, the other 2 days later……

And so, work began… While Edward worked on making a trench in front of the small barn, ready for concreting to make rain water drain away from the entrance, I made a start on spreading the first load of gravel….

Before the 2nd load arrived….

The good weather really made a difference and we were able to work until around 6pm before it became too dark.  By which time, after covering approximately half of the yard, we realised that actually, a third load was probably going to be too much!!

A call in the morning ensured we wouldn’t have to find somewhere for another 13 tonnes of gravel (!) and on the 20th December, we managed to finish the spreading – hoorah!

 

  

We both ache from head to toe but the sense of achievement is enormous, plus, we no longer have to worry about getting muddy shoes each time we have to cross the courtyard in winter, or feel embarrassed when visitors arrive and have to pick their way through the muddy ruts!

We think it looks very different from when we first arrived in October 2015…. Hopefully, when the borders fill out and the magnolias and camelia we have planted flower in the spring, it will feel different again…

    

Prospecting

In the estate agency business, this is what they call finding houses to sell!  At first it was a little daunting but we soon got into the swing of it, using on-line tools in the main to find houses in our sector that are for sale and then taking the plunge to ring the vendors to see if we can help them sell their properties…. In England, it would be a difficult thing to do, no-one likes cold callers, but here, the French seem very pragmatic and in the main are willing to listen and give it a try.  We seem to be working well as a team, with Edward engaging with the French vendors to make initial first contact, while I help with the administration behind the scenes.  Then, when the vendors are ready for us to do the mandate, Edward takes down their details and measures the property, I take the photos.  It’s an interesting job and we are seeing some lovely properties already.  So far, we have 5 houses on the market under Edward’s name with more in the pipeline for the New Year.  We have a business plan to help us focus for the year ahead and loads of support from our colleagues, both locally and from head office.  Hopefully, after the Christmas period, we might be able to soon find buyers for our vendors! 🙂

An Early Christmas Present

In the meantime, while mandating a lovely country property recently, we were talking with the vendor, who told us an old longcase clock in the house was up for sale too…. I couldn’t help myself when I asked Edward if we could buy it…. I fully expected a resounding ‘no!’, especially as we have yet to sell a property (!) but, instead, he agreed and said I could have it for Christmas!  I was impatient to bring it home, once the sale was agreed but had to wait for a break in the weather and in between graveling the yard.  The case is quite rustic in construction, with fairly rough carving on the front body and doors but it’s now adding a certain charm to the kitchen, after a thorough cleaning and beeswax treatment….

  

I absolutely love it with it’s gentle tick-tock and sweet chimes on the hour and half hour, I’m feeling very lucky ♥