From lawn to dust ….and back again

From Lawn to Dust

The weather has been dreadful here over the last few months, and getting work done in the grounds has been difficult, if not impossible. Our main winter project has been to have the fosses (septic tanks) replaced. This is not an insignificant piece of work which we knew we had to do when we took on the property. The contractor, M Logelin, has done a fantastic job; however, I wasn’t prepared for the mess the digging would make to our beautiful grounds. (Peter said he expected it, retrospectively of course,  but I’m not so sure…….) . The work was due to be done in November, but the water table was so high that it was delayed until January. The torrential rain meant the job was stop-start all through the winter months. The upshot was that in April, we had wonderful fosses but no grass!!!

The swimming pool was the centre of a mud bath! The work uncovered the foundations of 3 previous swimming pools, and with that, all the stones that had been buried rose to the surface of the lawn, if I can still call it that! Sleepless night and much agonising about how we transform a mud bath into a beautiful lawn in 8 weeks in time for our first guests!

Everyone we tried to enlist to help us either were too busy or thought the task was too daunting. Being told something can’t be done is great for focusing the mind!  Fortunately, we came across Janine and Ludo of QuercusBessiere who happened to have a few days free. By great fortune, their next job in Lot and Garonne had to be delayed as their soil was heavier than ours and needed more time to dry out! Who knew!!! Their only condition was that we helped them lift the stones! Of course, that would be easy!

After removing the top soil and turf

And back again

We spent three back aching days picking stones; I call them stones. Some were boulders (and to be honest, I was better at making tea! ) in preparation for seeding a lawn that needed to be ready for our first guests in early June.

Ludo and Janine were great. A Dutch couple who has lived in France for many years know their stuff and always go out for lunch every day wherever they are working. They find a local restaurant that does a set menu. Assuming the first day’s lunch is delicious, they then book in for lunch for the duration of their job. Having picked stones endlessly with Janine and Ludo on day one, by day two we decided to adopt their lunch ethos and headed off with them to Chez Claudette a few minutes away in Beaumont. The menu was on the blackboard; it was simple, cheap, and it was delicious. ……and has now become one of our favourite places to lunch (they don’t do dinner!).  The duck sausages were amazing, not to mention the regional apple cake with ice cream for dessert. Washed down with a glass or two of wine and somehow, the afternoon’s stone picking seemed much less arduous (perhaps we didn’t get as much done, who knows!).

The following day, the lawn was seeded, and we said a fond farewell to our new friends who had introduced us to working French style.

The next day we woke up and headed to the window in search of a few shoots – perhaps a little early yet. We remained optimistic until the sky opened that evening and hail fell the size of marbles, and that’s not an exaggeration!  Rivers of grass seed flowed away toward the Couze, and the lawn looked just like a mud bath again.

Not to be discouraged, we got up the next morning. The sun was shining again, and we respread the seed and added a bit more to the bare patches. With a remedial visit from Janine and Ludo later in the week and some sunshine and rain, we now, six weeks later, have a wonderful lawn.

And to prove it Peter got out the sit on mower (he loves that toy) and gave it its first cut yesterday.

Thank you, Janine and Ludo, for saving the lawn and for teaching us to do lunch French style!

Chez Claudette restaurant menu, Beaumont en Perigord
The beautiful new green lawn

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