A February visit: warts and all

A question we are often asked is, “How will you divide your time between the two homes?”. The answer is not straightforward as we both have busy working lives and family commitments. Some kind of answer will evolve over time but one principle we have adopted is to try never to leave either home abandoned and alone for more than a month or so at a time. A good way of measuring whether we are successful at doing this is to ensure that we visit every calendar month, regardless of the time of year.

I have returned today to Sussex from my February visit, made solo as R was travelling elsewhere for work meetings. Here’s a quick resume of my February visit:

I arrived in the midst of a tempête (very high winds) to find the electricity down and our farmer neighbour S zooming up and down the properties along the line trying to identify whether (and if so where) a branch might have fallen onto the line. Thankfully power was not off for long but in the meantime I thought it prudent to go in search of more torches. I bought the last one in our local Gamm Vert.

I spent some time looking ruefully at all the sticks and branches brought down by the wind, and all the leaves still hanging around from last autumn. What do other people do with so many leaves? We have gazillions, far more than can be put into a leaf-mould enclosure.

I collected an old pine wardrobe/chest of drawers, bought secondhand through a Facebook group, with the help of our trusty Man with a Van.

On Wednesday I had a visit from an arboriculturalist (arboriculturist?) and tree surgeon to review the future of the large number of mature and post-mature trees and to share information for the preparation of his devis (quotation).

A chimney sweep visited for the first time in our ownership of the property, and we now fully understand why the wood-burning stove in the sitting room wasn’t working … and will not do so again.

For the third time in succession I failed to light a bonfire. This is a major blow as my record as a fire-raiser was previously unchallenged. Can anyone recommend a fire-raising workshop?

Back in the days when I successfully had bonfires …

The leaves of the Musa Basjoo had been fried by January’s very low temperatures so I decided to tidy it up. A tidy up turned into a bit of a massacre. However I hear that the grues (cranes) are beginning their migration so I’m taking this as a sure sign that winter is now on the wane and am trusting that I’ve not acted prematurely.


The weather this week has been glorious, sunshine and rising temperatures. In sheltered spots the temperatures hit the high 20s.

Digger Dave visited to talk about how we might adapt the perimeter fencing to be more successful at keeping rabbits and badgers out. There is enough open countryside for miles around to feel quite justified in asking them to stay on the other side of our fence.

Our trusty electrician visited to upgrade a junction box which will ensure that the final flaky area of electrics no longer trip when they feel like it. Electrics in France are very different from the UK.

I tried to help our lovely French neighbour C catch one of her chickens which had found itself in an area of no-man’s land between our two properties. I’m not sure what the final outcome was …

I did a bit of pruning, all the non-climbing roses and two  large budleias. I don’t know what cultivar they are but last summer’s flowers were enormous and fragrant. I also hacked (I can’t say pruned) most of the hibiscus (not my favourite shrub) of which there are many. I don’t expect them to survive the master plan.

But I still haven’t managed to prune the small number of lavender bushes. They may be done for. If so it won’t be a disaster as lavender is a short-lived plant anyway and this is probably not a long term position for them.


We haven’t started planting yet so flowering interest is few and far between. Here’s one or two.

The first lizard of the year appeared on the south-facing front of the house. Subsequently more appeared in the warm sunshine as the week wore on. I wish they wouldn’t lurk in the window frames, ready to leap out and shout “boo!” every time I open a window …

The first lizard of the year, on a south-facing wall

It was great to see the new French windows, traditional style, which had been installed in a downstairs bedroom since my previous visit. Further discussions took place about next phases of work with the menuisier (window/door/joinery man) and maçon (stone-mason). The shutters do need to be repainted …


Oh, and I treated myself to Eggs Benedict at Gatwick Airport last Monday morning prior to departure.

Eggs Benedict with field mushrooms @ Jamie’s

I will return to some of these topics in more detail in future posts. Which ones would you be most interested in? Why not follow my blog so you can follow along with our French adventure?