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Late Summer 2015
Late Summer 2015 was going to be a very busy time for us as we had bought a wood burner back in the spring and a survey had been carried out on the house for fitting the liner etc. On our early summer visit to Garzanic we had found a major problem with what turned out to be bees in the chimney (we had thought that they were wasps). We contacted a pest control expert, who on his visit to inspect the infestation, quickly corrected us. “Ah non, non, monsieur. C’est abeilles! Abeilles!” Bees are protected in Bretagne so we would need to get the permission from the Maire before we could do anything about removing them from the chimney. The Maire gave his permission for the removal of the bees and the pest controller soon had the situation under control. “If you leave it for about 3 weeks you should not have a problem.” Our worries were now eased. “If you have a problem just call me and I will come back and sort it out for you” he said, getting back into his van after we had paid the fee for his efforts.
We were returning to the UK in a few days and would not be coming back for 5 weeks so the timing was about right. We had confirmation the installation of the wood burner would be on the 7th September.
On our late spring visit we removed the archway which split the lounge in two, and also knocked down part of the return wall, reducing it from 80cm to 40cm. As we had increased the height and opening between the rooms we were able then to instal a 20cm x 20cm oak beam. This has opened up the living area and has made a huge difference. I also exposed the chimney terracotta flue liner to make sure the stainless steel flue liner would be able to be installed. All was OK so I re-sealed the opening to the liner.
We were informed that the installation of the wood burner would be a week earlier than had been planned, so we had to rearrange our travel plans to return home to coincide with the installation.
When we returned in September we removed all of the wallpaper from the area around where the fire was to go and rendered and plastered the wall that I had reduced. The pest controller had said that it would be safe to open up the chimney and get it swept before the installation of the fire.
Every thing was going to plan but, as so often happens, plans have a way of going wrong! We slowly and carefully removed the packing from the chimney liner and shone a torch light up the chimney. All seemed OK. I started to poke my drain clearing rods up the liner and lots of dead bees came down the chimney. There seemed a never-ending amount of bees. We were both very concerned as to how many dead bees there were. The smell was appalling and the whole of the lounge area absolutely stank. Then a big clump of bees fell to the floor and suddenly we could hear from the chimney the sound of bees – then two very big frelons (hornets) came whizzing down into the lounge. (A few days after this we found another dead frelon in another part of the house. We had thought only two had come down the chimney but this one must have got in without us noticing, which could have been very nasty.) The frelons frightened the life out of both of us and we grabbed hold of Kindog and ran out of the room, closing all the doors behind us.
We stood there knowing we had to go back in and catch these huge hornets. I wondered just how many were there and was a swarm of bees going to follow? And what the hell were we going to do?! We managed to trap the hornets in two separate small jars and I quickly blocked the hole up. We went outside to look at the chimney top and there were bees and hornets flying all around. So much for “you shouldn’t have a problem”.
The house stank. There were dead bees in a huge pile in the corner of the room. We were shaking like leaves but we calmed each other down and decided that the bees had to be cleared up. Half an hour later and a rubble bag full of bees, we decided to go and see our friend Gerard and ask his advice.
I showed Gerard the pictures that I had taken of the pile of dead bees. Jacqueline looked up pictures of the frelons in her book and it turned out one was a French species and the other an Asiatic, which meant we had to report it to the Mairie, which we did a day or so later. Gerard contacted the pest controller and made arrangements for him to visit us the next day. Gerard and his wife Jacqueline were surprised at the amount of bees that had come down the chimney. The pest controller came the next day and after a few head shakes and some “Gallic” mutterings he assured us that he had solved the problem and that we would be able to continue clearing the chimney the next day. Gerard turned up the next morning and said he had been in touch with a friend of his, a Monsieur Dupré, and that I could use the suit M. Dupré uses for collecting honey from his hives. Fully protected we continued to clear the bees from the chimney. Gerard and I took it in turns poking the rods up the liner. After about an hour we reached the cowl that sits on the top of the chimney, so at last we had cleared out all the bees. We will be forever grateful to Gerard for all the help and advice he has given us.
Installing the “Poele de Bois”. The artisans Philippe and Johann turned up on the arranged date and time with all of the necessary parts and equipment. We had a quick overview of what was required and they then set to work, one working from the roof down and the other from the ceiling up. We had explained about the bees and they were very understanding and just gave a few Gallic shrugs as if they had seen it all before. We had thought that the chimney was cleared, but the honeycomb from the bees was still in place, so Johann started to try and dislodge it using rods from the chimney top and Philippe and I from the lounge. It took us about an hour of very hard work but finally we managed to clear the honeycomb. The smell from the honeycomb was nearly as bad as it was from the bees. The floor and every tool we were using became sticky. This attracted bees and flies from everywhere; the bees were coming down the flue liner; the flies came in through the open doors. For about an hour or so we all suffered, until I managed to clean the floor and tools. Johann suffered a few scares on top of the roof, because as we were dislodging the honeycomb, the smell was attracting frelons which were trying to get to the source of the smell. He quickly came down from the roof with a very disgruntled look about him and waving his hands around and saying “tres dangerous”. I went to the local “Point Vert” and armed him with some anti-frelon spray which he used with abandonment. Still, I was not going up there, so I just kept him supplied. It wasn’t long before they had the liner and the aeration cowl fitted. Once the air intake pipe was fitted through the wall it was just a case of lifting the wood burner into position and connecting the fixed flue pipe, which they had done in no time. What I thought would take a few days to do was completed by two very skillful French artisans in a matter of a day. We were very impressed by the whole experience from the purchase of the wood burner and survey from Leroy Merlin and installation by the Calor Bois of St Brieuc and would recommend them to anyone. As they say, “you pay for what you get”.
Nicole..Lee and J come to visit the video below is a very good reflection on their visit. We all had a very good time and “J” was absolutely great with helping us in the garden,
Sound Track by Matt Bialas
The day after they arrived, we had a wonderful lunch at L’Esacale Barrage de Bosmeleac. Then, a few days later after the Poele de Bois was installed we went to Josselin and then onto Abbeye Bon Repose, where we had a drink and a light lunch. Unfortunately I left my wallet in the wash room of the restaurant, but I didn’t realise this until about 10am the next day. The discovery of the loss caused total panic as we were about to go to St Brieuc. I was convinced that it would be a day of phone calls and frustration, trying to cancel and replace all my bank cards etc. We rushed over to the restaurant in the car. The owner was there and I explained what I had done, but he said no one had handed in a wallet. I knew what I had done the previous day when I had gone to the wash room: placed my wallet on top of the towel cupboard before using the toilet. I went in to the wash room and, to my great surprise, there it was – still in the same place with all the contents still there… Relief…and sheer happiness came over me. The day turned from gloom to sheer relief, and off we went to St Brieuc. The conversation was just about how foolish and how very lucky I had been. We got to Leroy Merlin in St Brieuc and ordered the wall tiles that were to go behind the wood burner and would pick these up on our next visit to France in late September. A day or so later the family returned to England after a very good holiday, and a few days later we also packed up and returned to the UK.
We return for our last summer visit with a list of things to do. The tiles and adhesive that we had ordered on our last visit were ready for collection and a quick visit to Leroy Merlin had the first thing on the list sorted out. Relatives that have a home in Spain called in on their way back to the UK, which was very nice and as it turned out very handy. I had ordered a cord of wood for the fire and it was going to get delivered on the Monday. The plan was for it to go straight into the garage, but when it arrived the pallet it was on was never going to go in through the doorway as it was too high. The only way to get the wood in was for it to be unloaded from the pallet halfway, then cut in half vertically. We then put the half-pallet in the garage and reloaded the wood. Then we repeated the process for the other half. Many hands make light work as someone once said, and Phyllis and Roger worked their socks off. We were so grateful to both of them. We celebrated our efforts that evening and I had a bit too much wine as it turned out! We enjoyed a lovely meal and started to reminisce about the past and, as time passed and glasses got filled, it was not until the next morning I realised that one less glass would have been advisable, but what the heck – it was a good night and we had worked very hard that day. Kindog needed to go and do the business before going to bed and she started to sniff about on the door step. “Come and look at this!” Mrs K shouted, so we got up to see what all the fuss was about. We couldn’t quite believe what was on the step: a Salamander. I have never seen one before and in fact I don’t think that any of us had seen one. They are surprisingly beautiful in an ugly sort of way. Their markings tell you to stay away. Salamanders are capable of regenerating lost limbs within in a few weeks, including tails and toes, allowing them to survive attacks from predators. Scientist are looking into this regeneration process in the hope of helping people that have been unfortunate to have lost limbs.
We brought a range of flowering bulbs with us for planting in the garden and as the weather was so nice I decided to clear the banked area near the compost containers and Roger gave me a hand with this. The area had been allowed to get overgrown with yellow flowering Broom, and it took quite a bit of effort to remove it and get the area ready for planting. While trying to remove a stump I fell backwards after pulling too hard on a particularly stubborn clump and ended up flat on my back. Roger was creased up laughing and saying what you doing laying down there? After getting to my feet and back to work, it was no more than 60 seconds when Roger was flat on his back after tripping on a stump. We just both cracked up laughing. I think in Roger’s case it’s an age thing but I don’t expect he will agree with me! In the spring of next year it will look nice with Tulips, Daffodils, Alliums and Hyacinths and some others that I can’t remember the names of poking their heads up and putting on a nice show.
It was time for Phyllis and Roger to return to the UK. It had been a nice few days with their company and help, but it had seemed like they had only just arrived and they were off again. I needed to get on and tile the walls behind the fire. It took me the next three days to complete it with fitting in the other thing we had arranged to do while over in France. Our visit was all too short but it had turned out to be productive and we returned to the UK a day or so later looking forward to our Christmas and New year visit. The wood burner was all in place and working so we should be nice and warm when the winter comes and that was our main aim to achieve this year.