M. Erbisti the sweep returned today, singing away to the dogs as he pulled up in his Berlingo, “Bonjour chiens! Bonjour chiens! Bonjour chiens! Bonjour chiens!”
He worked his butt off cleaning the second, much dirtier chimney. He found many nuggets of carbonite, the stuff that Han Solo was frozen in.
[Amazing photo, Jean.]
Yesterday’s chimney clean produced a small bucket of black trash, this one produced four tubs of the stuff.
Now we have clean chimneys and are ready to get some stainless steel chimney pieces (11 meters worth!) and install Mr Green and his buddy, yet to be purchased.
The front door went in today. Richard and Simon chipped away at the concrete plaster that the previous remodel had covered everything with to show the original stone doorway and iron door hinges.
What was truly nuts about the previous door was that it had moved inside about a foot, which exposed a foot of the travertine floor to the outside weather. There was no threshold to the door so rain would just land on the tiles and flow down the gentle slope under the door and into the house.
The new door is as cheap as you can go and still be legally an external door, from the amazing Brico Depot, France’s answer to Home Depot but with less parking.
Jean is getting tired as she gets close to the due date. It’s a race between Project Warm and Quattro. Luckily, France keeps mothers in hospital for a few days after childbirth so we have a little extra time.
I’m still thinking cowsheds, but the question really is, “What system do I run?”
If I run Blondes like the rest of the area it implies a lot of things I hadn’t planned for – a long time before the first calf (three years), extra nutrition needs beyond grass, 1000 kg cows churning up paddocks. It means we have to run a cowshed.
Do we fatten Blondes for direct sale or for butchers? This implies a much higher grade of feed than a cow/calf operation. The theory is that you can’t fatten Blondes on grass. I’d be tempted to try a hybrid model where you fatten them on green corn or some other rich crop rather than harvested grains.
The big money source from a herd of Blonde mothers is the male calves. They sell them at six months for 950 Euros a pop (850 in the current crisis) which brings in a lot of cash to the farmer. Females sell for less, assuming you can find a buyer. You can sell older cows finished to butchers. A lot of farmers separate these precious male calves in their own pen and keep them inside for their few months on the farm.
Now we don’t have to do Blondes at all. We can devote all our energies to the British herd, running smaller cows like the Devon, Angus or Galloway breeds that are lighter and fatten easier on grass and devote the extra energy to finding local people who want to try them.
We plan to run smaller, grass-friendly cows but instead of running them alongside a wholesale herd we could just focus on the small direct sale herd. Nice in principle, but it runs the risk of going many years before reaching profitability.
[I heard that the hole in the fireplace wall is where they used to put the salt to keep it dry.]