Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The woodpile is laid

Big excitement today was the fact that we had something for breakfast, milk for tea and the wood was being delivered.
There was a bit of furniture shifting going on and Lucy had taken on the mission to wash all of the chair covers (which were a bit grubby, it has to be said). The chairs are all beige, which isn't the best colour for a holiday let.
I was keeping an ear open for M Vincent. We'd given him Sam's mobile number so he could call when he got to the village, but he just followed his nose up and bang on 11am, I heard the sound of his truck at the front. He greeted me like an old friend and I used my limited French to wish him good day and ask how he was. We then had to revert to grunts and sign language to explain where we were and how he would unload the wood.
He has a Mazda 4x4 with snow tyres and a tipper, so he can deliver wood pretty much anywhere. He was able to back the truck down the passageway between the chalet and the farm next door and tipped it reasonably close to the end of the building. It was a pretty large pile and it looked good wood, nice and dry and aged.
We were stacking the wood under the stairs leading up to the balcony around the top chalet. The stairs come down onto our patio, but they're for emergency use so I've never seen anyone using them. They also lead up to a level above (at the same height as the roof) where there's a small level patch (which is the garden). The chalet is the last building in the village (it was a cow barn belonging to the farm) and the hill is climbing steeply at this stage - a good 1 in 3.
The driveable road finishes at our chalet. You can get a car up there, but that last bit is steep, narrow and has a sharp bend. The road is cleared of snow, but the plough comes up the village pushing the snow ahead of it and piled it up just after our chalet, creating a large snowbank. The tarmac road turns into a dirt track after that and it's used by quads, jeeps and horses only.
Anyway, the space under the stairs off the patio make a great place to store some wood and keep it dry. Lucy was the stacker, Sam and I ferried armfuls between the pile and the stacker and Margaret was the loader. It proved a good system and the pile went down slowly, but steadily as the stack increased at the same rate.
Maurice arrived to check out what was going on and 'helped' a little by bringing some wood back to Margaret in the hope that she might throw it for him. We were very focused though, so Maurice was a minor distraction.
The wood store grew into two layers and Lucy had to add a small third layer to finish off. We also had about five bags of kindling from chips and sticks.

The nights are very cold, down to -5 deg C or lower, but we are on the sunny side of the valley, so once the sun is up, it gets warm quite quickly. The patio is a real sun-trap and it is nice to sit out there in the late morning/early afternoon. Sam had shovelled snow off the previous day and, without the snow cover, the ice underneath had begun melting in the sun. It was melting still more today and would be clear with a further couple of days' good weather.
With the wood stacked, we got changed and headed down to town for some lunch and a wander around. It was about 1pm, so all the shops were shut for lunch, but we had a slow wander and then went into a small cafe by the main square for lunch. It was good food and they were very friendly. Margaret has been practising her French and we're trying to get her to ask for 'van rouge' rather than 'vin rouge' and also specify whether she wants a glass or a bottle. She did remember ‘van’ this time, but when the waitress asked how much and suggested a carafe, Margaret agreed immediately and so ended up with over half a bottle of wine for lunch.
Afterwards, we had a little more of a wander and then headed back to the chalet. Sam was doing veal shank for dinner and it needed a long slow cook. I got the fire going with the last of the supermarket wood and we were soon very warm. The wood-burning stove soon heats up the lounge/kitchen and, if you leave the door open to the bedrooms, then the whole chalet gets warm.
Maurice had been around in the morning and had enjoyed a little more rabbit stew left-overs. Margaret had still more saved for her supper, but she failed to put in an appearance.

Next day, we were planning to go to Val Thorens so we spent some time checking out the options. We'd park up in town and get a half-day ski pass. Margaret would have happily stayed in the chalet, but I was keen for her to come, so she agreed and we planned that she could have a look around town and a few coffees or vin chauds by the side of the piste.