My packing is weirder than your packing!

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Hello Dear Reader,

If and when you go somewhere, you pack clean clothes, food, books, amusement, a coat, umbrella and maybe even sunblock. It’s way different for us. When you’re renovating a house on a tiny budget then the roof of my car feels as if it’s loaded like Buckaroo! On the roof of the car this time will be a room size rug we bought for £42 and an oil filled electric radiator we got cheap from freeads for £10 as we work towards every room having a rug and a radiator.

Inside the car will be paint as French paint is five times the price and it’s like painting with skimmed milk so we take at least two pots every time we go. There will also be sand paper, sugar soap, paint brushes and rollers as we move into the next stage of renovation of one of the rooms. Our aim is to get our bedroom finished in a few days, move the furniture and move in to it. I have furniture to paint whilst DB has the walls and door to finish as well as changing the British plugs to French plugs on some lamps we bought ages ago, again really cheaply, from TK Max with a gift voucher. We are still a way off hanging curtains and I don’t think we’ll get to the finished stage until next year. When you work to a budget and stick to it, you  have to be patient and work slowly.

Every time I go, I take something else I’ve found cheap, in a charity shop or totally free and donated or given away. I’m never going to buy new if I can get it ‘recycled as I can’t stand waste, hate the thought of good stuff going to landfill and want to make every pound do the work of a fiver! Yes, I’m tightfisted and proud of it! If I can do my bit to stop waste then I certainly will even if it means my packing is weirder than your packing.

In my defence, I’m not the only one. I really should take photographs of the weird things in the backs of cars, in trailers and on the roof embarking the ferry. I’ve seen trailers full of fruit trees in pots, sewerage systems, hot water tanks, wood stoves, garden fence and double glazed windows. I can also spot the renovators as we’re in our ‘holiday’ clothes of paint spattered jeans and with grout under our fingernails as we’ve worked right up to departure time and worked on the basis of ‘there’s a shower in my cabin and we’ve turned the water off in the house’. Obviously, there are people who might get someone else to do all the work, but they are in disguise are regular tourists.

I’ll keep you up to date with the renovations, the dog walks, the mini week long adventure and my little French village as it warms up in the bank holiday sunshine. We’re aiming to scout round for some second hand furniture to fill up some of the empty rooms and I’ll share some of our forays into charity shops and ‘le bon coin’ as we start making the house more homely.

Who knows, in time, it might be you renting it for one of your holidays.

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Until Saturday,

Love Froogs xxxx

Taking three fluffies to France

                   
Hello Dear Reader,

Our last trip was our first time we took all three of our fluffies to France. When ever we went away before we were very lucky to have a home dog sitter who cared for the dogs in her home. Nonetheless, it was always a wrench to leave them. I thought I’d share the costs of taking pets on holiday. 

The initial outlay of the pet passports were expensive along with rabies immunization was about £70 per dog. Ours had microchips any way. When you travel, at the port as you hand over your ticket and passports, you also handover the pet passports. The unique number inside the passport corresponds with the number that shows on the scanner from the microchip which sits somewhere under the dog’s collar. 

The ferry charged us £16 per dog for each return journey. They stay in the back of the car in traveling crates. Our dogs are not good travelers and took prescribed sedatives for £38 with the vet, including the check up by the vet. So, £86 for the three for each return trip. It’s a lot of money but our dog sitter charged £60 a day for her very good professional service. 

The best part of our home from home is that our pets are with us. They sleep at the foot of our bed, they keep us company whilst we work on the house, they walk everywhere with us. 

The bad parts are the dogs are shut in the car. The ferry service make ‘dog cars’ arrive first, then they load us last and unload us last. The theory being your dogs spend longer with their owners. We walk them around until the moment that we’re given the signal to load. 

Whilst the car is in the ship, we leave the windows open as it can get warm in there. Dogs can cope with being cool but heat can kill them. The car decks are locked so no one can get to the cars. Dog owners can go visit their dogs at prescribed times. As ours were sedated, we left them to it. 

I’m glad we made the change to take the dogs with us, we miss them when we’re away. What’s more, bichons are a French breed and I think they fitted in just fine. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

There’s a little village in France….

Hello Dear Reader,

We’re back in beautiful blighty, had a Sunday roast, plated up meals for tomorrow, picked the chicken clean and made a pie. Ironed clothes for work tomorrow. 

Huelgoat can wait for a couple of months. When we return, we’ll have a fully functioning wood stove and we can finish work on the downstairs. Our next economic target is to save up for a set of stairs with a right hand turn and some walling material including insulation. It’ll then join up the three floors to make it into one four bedroom house. It’s a big challenge but we always aim to complete the big structural stuff first and leave the pretty things for another day. 

For now, here’s some Huelgoat photographs. When you visit somewhere, you get to see the main stuff, the money shots you’d find on postcards but it’s only when you live somewhere that you get to see the workings in the backstreets. 

Let me walk you around my village. Chapel on the hill….at the end of my rue.

Eyes left, the one way system we drive round.

Parking for the locals.


Sign for the chapel.

Road of heaven.

Chapel of our lady in heaven.


Turn right by the chapel and head out of town.

La Poste. They love my dogs! When we walk them in the mornings, the posties are arriving for work and they’ve all snuggled the dogs.


Don’t park here unless you’re a postie! Post office just down our street.

Ferry on the way home was lovely, a snooze in a cheap day cabin.

Followed by a snooze in the sunshine up on deck.

Back to money saving normality, small budgets and big savings. It might seem like a big sacrifice to plan for retirement now but it’s worth all the work to us.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

A little bit more France

  

Hello Dear Reader,

A bit more France in the sunshine.

The chaos and the Moulin.

  

The weekly Jeudi market.

  

Primroses in my garden.
  

Someone said, listen to your body. I did, it wanted chocolate so I had a bar of it. Plenty to chose from.

  
The school menu for the school restaurant. No choice, that’s what there is.
 
Dolly on her daily lake walk. 

We’ll be back in seven weeks for half term.

Until then, tightfisted thriftiness will continue.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx 

Time to go home

   

Hello Dear Reader,

Has it really been two weeks? This holiday has flown by. I lost the entire of yesterday to a migraine and today on long distance rescue of my son who’s really ill. Mum and dad went to his rescue, got him to a local doctor and are helping him out. Consequently, we’re taking an earlier ferry and are going home tomorrow.

The highlight of today has been the chimney sweep, who also installs wood burners. The chimney is in good condition, didn’t really need sweeping but it’s done and we have the safety certificate for insurance purposes. We explained that we wanted to stick to a budget and wanted a stove from the Brico, even here they try to fit British stoves as the quality is superior and a stove will last a lifetime. A cheap French one will have to do. It’s a huge expense and is in every house we’ve ever had but once it’s in, it’s cheap to run and the heat  is amazing. 

We’ve also been to the vet….that was cheap too, both dogs fully checked and meds for travelling, €31. At home, our vet charges £36 just to open the door and that’s per dog. 

So, pet passports are done, the shutters are rehung and gleaming white and we’ve bought some oil filled radiators that’ll go on timers when the electricity is on cheap rate.

We couldn’t quite finish the kitchen as we brought a few parts that were wrong and we’ll bring the right ones next time. We’ll also replace the sink in due course so the entire kitchen matches and the sink is the right height for me. Bending over a low sink is no good for my back.  

 
  

All that’s left is to give the house a thorough clean. It’ll be strange as we leave everything here. Next time we come at the end of May, everything, but clean bedding will be here waiting for us. We’ll still be in the flat upstairs for a while as we save some more money each pay day. It’ll be a slow progress but in the end it’ll be home. We were asked, won’t it be hard to go home, I don’t think so and I’m going to enjoy the contrast. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

 

A day off 

  

Hello Dear Reader,

I just gave in to tiredness and aches yesterday and took the day off. Well, sort of!

We went to the dechetterie and recycled everything we could. The staff stand and point, or wag a finger if you get it wrong or shout ‘allez’ and point that you need to move on as there’s someone else waiting. We’ve learned what we have to do and did it. 

We then took ourselves on a walk of discovery to the deep man made waterways of Huelgoat. So pretty as they meander through the town.
  

We also admire houses as we go around. Huelgoat has faded and it a little tourist village but it had grandeur in its day.
  

I love this door, so ornate.
 

I love the way that this wisteria has eaten the fence. 
  

After a slow lunch at home, we went to Brico depot and I feel like a local now. Even managed a conversation in French. I stood around, like a brico widow, whilst DB furtled about and had knowing exchanges with equally bored French women about waiting for our husbands. 

We found it to be so cheap in there that we’ll brave more work ourselves than we first intended, like buying a cheaper stove, new bigger water tank and so on. It’ll all have to be saved for and those things will come in time. 

I’m also going to contact Orange and get a phone line/internet/tv package. They let you switch it on and off so to speak so you only pay when you’re there. I often have no phone or Internet signal and I’m going to change that.

Today? More painting, kitchen fitting, taking the dogs to the vet for travel roc endures, tidying and off to visit a friend. 

See you tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

Before and after

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Hello Dear Reader,

The remote controlled house renovations are carrying on without me. The trees are down and the garden has been tidied. Above is me walking through the over grown garden on our very first visit. It hadn’t been touched in years. Even then we could see the potential for a lovely home.

Eight trailer loads went to the dechetterie. The shrubs seem a little random now and we’ll dig them up and move them to the borders of the garden in the autumn. We’ll get that ugly hedge removed from the end of the garden; it’s contentious and complained about by the neighbours. It’s a very manicured street and I don’t want to be the scruffy garden on the block.


And here it is! You can clearly see the flat on the top floor where we’ll live whilst we’re renovating the house below. It’s already looking a lot better and you get a clear view of the forest behind the house. It will burst into green soon. 

We’ll be there in a week or so and the inside work will be down to DB with me assisting him. The fluffies are going to love running around the garden. Who knows, I might even get good enough weather to sit outside with a cup of tea and a book.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

Dog training on a sunny day in Plymouth

                      

Hello Dear Reader,

We’d forgotten the dog crates we already had. It’s a funny thing to forget about. Two of our rescue dogs came with crates that we dismantled and stored away. The bigger crate housed the Bichons and the Maltese went into the smaller crate. They came out and had a good clean and popped them in the back of the car and headed to Plymouth. We purposefully used the Torpoint car ferry so we’d be delayed and would need to queue. As I anticipated, each time we stopped the dogs got anxious and moaned and each time we ignored them as we won’t be there when they are on the car deck on the ferry. We’re also going to start leaving them in their crates at night so a five or six hour ferry crossing won’t seem that bad.

We had a lovely sunny walk around Plymouth Hoe purposefully lingering near crowds, other dogs, noise so the hectic ferry with hundreds of cars just isn’t that bad. We hope to go out for coffee in France and take the dogs everywhere we go. We stopped at Captain Jaspers for a coffee (cheapest place I know at £1 a mug) which is a well known biker hangout and the dogs just laid down on the floor totally unbothered by chrome, smoke and noise. 

Don’t be deceived by the sunshine in the photo as it was bitterly cold and that coffee, bikers and all, was greatly appreciated.

Well done doggies, you did us proud.

Added later – Blogger problems – it seemed on those with google accounts could comment, I’ve disabled that and any can comment although I moderate comments. I hope it’s working now. Feel free to comment and you should be able to do so whether you have a google account or not. Thanks 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

Trying to spend as little as possible!

       
Hello Dear Reader,
If you’ve ever stayed in a rental property you’ll know that the lack of kitchen utensils is a real annoyance. The more time I have the more I enjoy pottering about in the kitchen and cooking so I need just such items for our French kitchen. By the way, anyone reading who lives in France who can tell me if there’s a French version of everything costs a pound, or in their case a euro. Household items seem to be quite expensive there so I shall pack up at least the basics that we need to start off a ‘home’.
I only have a tiny kitchen here so I don’t have a spare anything and I’m building up a supply of ‘necessaries’ as and when I have the spare cash. We’ve started to pack to ‘move’ already and most of that will come from paring down everyday items from here. I’m mindful of spending no more than we need but I’m also aware that I have a flat and a house to furnish and fit out to a good enough standard that family and friends can stay in and who knows, you might even come and stay one day or drop in when you’re passing. 
We start ‘journey training’ our dogs tomorrow with their first trip in their crates in the back of the car. Normally, they just sit on the back seat but we’re going to have them in crates every time we take them on the ferry. We’ll just have an hour long jouney tomorrow but build up to them spending longer in their travel crates over the next few weeks. If you’ve travelled any distance with a dog or dogs in your car, I’d appreciate any tips or hints please. 
We’ve at long last had some dry weather which has meant we’ve got out for longer walks, split some logs and chopped down some kindling to start the fire. Laundry has gone outside and the windows were left open for a few hours to blow away the winter funk. 
Until tomorrow,
Love Froogs xxxxx

Laying down a fine vintage

                       
Hello Dear Reader,
It’s been a day of preparation. I’ve cooked for the week ahead of three pots of veggie stew for my lunch, bacon and cheese quiche, flapjacks for lunch boxes, beef casserole and a pork casserole. All very simple or dull as is your opinion but it’s cooked and in the fridge or freezer and ready to be eaten. 
The laundry is done and as it hasn’t stopped raining since October, it’s all dried in front of the wood stove. Which brings me to thinking of investing in wood. I was reading Sue’s blog over at Our new life in the country where she and her husband have plans to manage their own woodland to be sustainable for the future. More and more people are choosing to heat and cook with wood. If any of you have concerns about smoke and dust emissions most stoves are ‘smokeless’ with a double burn system where the wood burns and the wood gases burn as well. It means that the glass door doesn’t soot up and there’s barely any soot in the chimney when it’s swept.
We’ve bought wood in France……a lot of wood. It’s much cheaper there so we’ve bought five cubic metres of split beech and oak. It’ll be in our garden when we get there. We found our supplier through leboncoin which is a for sale website similar to freeads. Plenty of people make their entire living from wood and most homes there heat with wood as there’s no gas other than bottled gas. Below is one of the wood supplier’s sheds. Often, farmers do this as part of their job as they manage their own woodland. 
         

I’m talking wood again as we’ve had a big heart to heart about France. We had hoped to get loads done this year but we’ve had a reality check of our capabilities and personal strengths. DB is great at the essentials and I’m great at making a house a home. However, we are determined to work within a tight budget which means we have to be patient. The house is bought and paid for, it’s watertight and secure and we’ve got safe electrics. What we don’t have or want is a money pit. We’d had plans to build pathes (which actually means moving ten tonnes of sand and gravel by wheel barrow just to build the patio) build walls indoors and paint the house externally. All those things can wait.
Once we’d decided that, we felt a whole lot better, especially financially. It’ll give us time to save up again and do the work next year. 
And breathe……….
So, a good vintage? Like our wood that we’ve bought for the long term, the house is going to be a long term project. We could break into savings but I just don’t want us to be in an awkward financial position. 
And when we get there, we’ll be warm and toasty.
Until tomorrow,
Love Froogs xxxxxx