PHOTOS AUGUST 2009
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August starts with my first load of new potatoes, all raised with my own not-quite-so-fair hands. I was never much into gardening before I came to live here but in my quest for self-sufficiency then gardening has to take quite a high priority.
These are the new potatoes that I bought in the UK - at Durham in fact - on my way to Liz's funeral. I know that she wuld have been tickled to death at the thought that I stopped off at a Pound Shop and a Charity Shop or two on my way to see her off on her great journey into the unknown.
August is also significant that I now at long last have a permanent bank of solar panels fixed to the roof of the house after all this time. There are 6x130-watt Kyocera panels, so all-in-all there's something like 800 watts of power up there on the roof. They are wired into two banks each of three panels, so that if there is a fault on one bank the other will keep on going.
This, together with a 90-watt marine wind turbine, will give me all the power that I am going to have on my house and so I will have to make the best of it. It's quite encouraging that I've finally installed them.
I've also painted the facade of the house - probably the very first thing that I have done here for aesthetic rather than practical purposes. And I have to say that it looks quite impressive.
It needs finishing off around the edges of course where I couldn't quite reach but that's something that I can do at my leisure.
It's a;so nice to see some guttering up there. I have no running water so I rely on rainfall. It's not like there's a shortage of that around here, so no sense in wasting it.
You might think that for such an isolated rural area as this there wouldn't be very much going on here. But you would be mistaken. Anyone who makes an effort to integrate into the local community will be well-rewarded.
Here we all are at the beginning of August and Gilles is having a barbecue. Lots of people turned up, there was plenty of food, and we all had an exciting time one way or another. There is a variety of ways in which one can enjoy oneself whether it's simply chatting or throwing sticks for dogs to chase.
Of course wherever there is a group of people you will probably encounter Strawberry Moose. He has never been known to miss out on an opportunity to make new friends, or to miss out on a photo opportunity either. What with one thing and another he's becoming quite popular around here.
Here he is with a couple of German kids, with whom he had been playing the exciting game of "jumping off the wall".
Just a quick photograph of Caliburn here, and you will notice a major difference. Now that I'm settled (more-or-less) here in France I need to slowly bring myself into the French system of residence and so on.
First task of course is to make sure that Caliburn conforms to the regulations. The old Belgian plates have been taken off and sent back, and he now proudly sports his new French registration. If you look in the bottom corner of his windscreen you will see the little sticker that confirms that he is now properly insured here in France too. The fact that French rural motor insurance is about a third of the price of Belgian urban motor insurance played no part whatever in influencing the decision.
So having done the roof of the house back in July I needed to attend to the edges of the chevrons to stop them rotting away in the weather. This involved taking the slates off the lean-to where I had been living and erecting a scaffolding up to the edge of the roof and then nailing on some half-tiles to cover the woodwork.
I am very impressed with this scaffolding by the way. It's one of the best things that we have bought.
And of course once you have taken off the slates there really isn't much point in putting the old ones back on. We had hundreds of the recycled plastic ones left over from the main roof and so that meant that we could stick them on here.
There's a waterproof plywood cover fitted onto the chevrons, this is then covered with a breathable membrane and then the slates are nailed on top with large-headed galvanised nails. The slates are fitted so as to overlap the heads so that they aren't exposed to the weather.
For setting a gauge I used a length of wire stretched across the roof and set the edges of the slates to that.
Back at my favourite photography spot - the birdwatching point near St Gervais. I'm on my way to Terry and Liz's house.
The weather had been really beautiful for quite a few days without a cloud in the sky and so I was quite impressed to see this absolutely gorgeous anvil cumulonimbus cloud over the Puy de Dome away in the distance. I can honestly say that I have never seen such a marvellous example of one.
The presence of these clouds usually signifies that a fairly local and quite heavy storm is occurring in the vicinity of the cloud. That must mean that someone somewhere in the general direction of Clermont Ferrand and its western suburbs was taking quite a pasting.
Now that I have solar panels I need to connect them up to something in order to make use of the charge.
I've built myself a battery box out of concrete and breeze blocks. The batteries that I will fit in here will be underneath the suspended floor that I'll be fitting. I'm also starting to fit the control panel on the back wall. This will be for all of the charge controllers, fuses and the like. So far I've fitted the charge controllers for the two banks of solar panels.
And now that all of that is finished I can turn my attention to what I'm supposed to be doing. This is what the attic looks like now that the roof is on. And my task for the next few weeks is to transform it into a proper and comfortable living space.
Of course it won't take too much to do that, and I've seen some right shambles of living spaces in some of the homes around here. But I have big plans for it all and I won't simply be patching it up. I want to make it into somewhere quite comfortable.