Posted in Blog, HOUSE & GARDEN, House Renovation, The Garden

Recycling Old Oak Beams

It’s 2007 — and we’re stripping out the floor joists from what will be our new lounge area.


Move on to 2012 — November. Decide to use some of these old oak floor joists to construct two raised plant beds for some yew hedging plants.


The worst part was dragging and man-handling them the 50 metres up to the house from their pile in the garden.

I leveled the lower beams, chocking them up with pieces of flat paving, and cutting to length with the chainsaw.

Then selected other lengths to lay on top, turning them around and flipping them over, to try and get the best contact so that they sat snug and stable.

Their heavy weight was enough to keep them in place.

The porous garden sheeting was cut to size and draped over each side of the ‘bed’ which would keep the soil in place when infilling.

When I’d filled each trough (bed) with soil, compost and a bag of horse manure, the rest of the sheeting was turned back over the top, then cut through every 50cm to take each of the ten yew saplings.

Then I finished off with a gravel mulch.


Posted in Blog, Inspirations, The Garden

Our Courtyard Hearth — Warm Evenings After the Sun Goes Down

Fire lit, ready for the evening
Fire just lit, early evening

Forget what’s on the tele, or those emails that need sending — just fill your glass with a full bodied bordeaux, or your pint mug of fresh mint tea, pull up your lounger, kick off your shoes,  and let the conversation take you wherever you wish.

Staring into the flames of a well built wood-fire is time well spent. It may seems idle at first, but I reckon it can be the spawning ground for many of your future plans — ideas form as the fire flickers — your imagination leaps and soars as each new zephyr in the night-time air fans the embers into life for one more time…………

Courtyard hearth

“Simple to Make — Simply Wonderful to Sit Around”

“This Is Truly What Evenings Were Made For!”

Old Dry Wood Burns Well

Posted in Blog, HOUSE & GARDEN, OUT & ABOUT, The Garden

Summer Thunderstorms in SW France

Last Sunday was hot and sunny, then suddenly everything changed.

The sky went dark. The clouds moved in at remarkable speed. All went deathly quiet……….

Summer thunderstorm SW France

Martin took this photo just before all hell let loose….

Thunder, Lightening and Hail Stones the Size of Golf  Balls!

I’ve heard of hailstorms where ice the size of golf balls fall from the sky, but never seen the like before last Sunday afternoon. Quite a spectacular affair seen from our balcony.

Unfortunately, it meant no electric for the next 2 hours. A bit annoying when you are trying to watch the Olympics – London 2012. Still, all lights and TV connection were restored in time to watch Usain Bolt win the 100 meters dash, so I was happy!

Posted in Blog, Color Shape Space, HOUSE & GARDEN, Inspirations, The Garden

Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth Tomatoes in SW France

home grown tomatoes
Why can’t I grow tomatoes like this!

Now you won’t find tomatoes like these in the supermarket! My neighbor Maurice, a spritely 82-year-old,  grew these in his vegetable garden across the road from our house deep in the heart of the countryside here in South West France.

One of the advantages of living in South West France with hot sunny summers, and having a very generous neighbor with ‘green fingers’ and many years experience of living off the land.

As you see, they are not perfect tomatoes – they are irregular shapes, have patches of green amongst the bright orange and reds, little imperfections here and there.

But who cares – they taste absolutely delicious!

Posted in Blog, Color Shape Space, DÉCORATION, HOUSE & GARDEN, The Garden

Gardening – Head in the Clouds – Feet In The Mud!

Ornamental Blue Thistles and Lavender

Saturday and Sunday I spent in the garden.

No – not lazing round the pool with a glass of cold white wine!


I walk every day to our workshop that we built at the end of the garden here in the depths of South West France. My eyes are blinkered, trying not to see all work that needs doing in this fast expanse of open field. But last weekend, I could leave the jungle of weeds no longer. All those pretty Poppies from May were now a mass of tangled weeds stifling the other plants that I had so lovingly grown from seed or cuttings the year before.

Ah well, nobody to blame but myself!

3 hours and 3 huge piles of dried up poppy plants later, I have found my little seedlings hanging on for dear life! I spent what seemed like hours last summer nursing tiny plants of Onamental Blue Thistles that I had grown from a packet of seeds. Of coarse, I ended up with far too many, but never mind, we have a big garden to fill, the bees just love them and once established, they need vary little water, so are great for hot dry gardens!

I found this wonderful photo on one of the French wordpress blogs I follow. Why not go over there at leshachineur  and spend a little time brushing up your French and delving into all the vintage goodies, among other things, that she finds around France – particularly in the Brocantes of Paris.

What is a Brocante?  –  a Flea Market.

What is a Chineur?  –  a Bargain Hunter!

Details in the Decor

And the Poppies? What do I do next Spring time when all those little seeds lying in the hot, warm soil at the moment, start sprouting again?

Poppies in my garden France
Details in the Decor
Californian Yellow Poppies in France
I want more Californian Yellow Poppies next year!

Well, knowing me, I’ll probably let them grow. They do display a fine body of glorious red after the bareness winter!

Details in the Decor
Posted in Blog, HOUSE & GARDEN, The Garden

Sue’s Secret Garden – a Fairy Heaven

Spent a delightful Sunday afternoon over at a friend’s place recently. Sue and her partner Alex have been living here in this part of South West France for about the same length of time as us, although we’ve only just got to know each other when Sue bought some of her paintings to us for framing prior to an exhibition. Their home is enchanting — they have an unrestored large stone farmhouse in the Aveyron with outbuildings and a separate pigeonnier in which they live. Although they’ve improved the property greatly, and created a lovely garden with lots of informal planting, they have neither the stamina nor the finance to continue with the larger building. They’re leaving that to the next owners!  Fancy a challenge?

Long ago, the roof fell in on an adjoining barn and this is now a lovely private hidden space — their secret garden — for contemplation and quiet reflection.

Posted in Blog, HOUSE & GARDEN, Pool Project, The Garden

Pool Project part 1 — hole, sketch, and a little bit of philosophy.

Patrick – Friend, Neighbour, Electrician, Electronic Engineer, Guru……..called in yesterday to disconnect the 3-Phase circuit breaker at the main supply box (le tableau) — no longer needed now that the crane was down and away. That only took 5 minutes so then I asked him about the electrics for our new pool and this is what he left me with.

Patrick pool schema

The ONE thing that I have learnt over the 20 odd years of house improvement and renovation is this.  

Every minute spent thinking, researching and planning before starting the work is worth a year’s peace of mind after the job’s finished”.

Of course, we’re not professionals, and we won’t get everything 100% perfect — but don’t let that put you off. I’m often asked how we’ve got the courage, the confidence, even the stamina to do all this — a total remake of an old stone house. I suppose for me, it’s a challenge that I never tire of — creating something worth having out of something that’s been neglected and left fallow. And when you’re motivated and truly involved in any project, you’ll get results in the end. Patience, steady application, — Oh, and keep fit and healthy. Ask advice at every opportunity and don’t take risks trying stuff that could be really dangerous — for instance, I do 95% of all the new electrical work BUT I always get Patrick around periodically to finally connect a section to the “tableau” and to verify that everything is kosher.

So, the next stage for me, whilst Ed the diggerman is completing the excavation, will be to prepare a drawing/plan of the pool and terrace areas with all the “bits” in place — pool, pump-house, rainwater tank, and lighting circuits — so that all the pipework and electrical cabling is in the correct place and can be “buried” and lost under the future landscaping.