Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Friday, November 23, 2007

New fosse - part sept - Monday: last day, finishing off

And so at long last I'm finally got to the stage of being able to write the last chapter in the story of installing a new septic tank (fosse septique) in our Brittany holiday Gite ...

As finishing my Fosse installation had taken Tony longer than he'd expected it meant that he was starting to backlog with his next job and so on the Monday just Tony and Nic arrived with another lorry load of gravel that he'd had to bring over from his house (where the builders merchant mistakenly delivered it) to finish off gravelling the driveway. Everyone (including our youngest son, Jack, who's 6) set to work rolling out the weedproof membrane, shovelling the gravel off the lorry, and raking it out until the whole driveway looked perfect.

And once the gravelling had been complete it was amazing what a transformation took place. From what had been a sea of mud as the pipework was being laid to then becoming a desolate area of land in front of the house a couple of days earlier, the whole place was transformed!
The photo was taken from the hay loft window of the second house, looking to the front of the Gite that we currently rent out.

Once the driveway was finished Tony turned his attention (and his digger) to the septic tank and pump chamber again. On the Friday before when he'd covered in over the top of the septic tank we'd found that as the top of the tank was some ½m below the ground level this has resulted in some big 'indentations' in the ground where Tony had had to slope the soil down to the tank level.

After sleeping on it and thinking about it we decided that neither of us were happy with the result and so Tony came up with a solution to put some concrete 'extension' tubes on the top of the fosse to bring the fosse inspection hatches back up to ground level. A neat idea which when he'd then reshaped and levelled off all the soil around them meant that the end result looked much better and there was no big dips in the ground level.

And that was just about it. There was the vent pipe to put up along the side of the house, all the equipment to be loaded onto his lorry, and that was it, job done for Tony and the guys. This final photo shows the completed filter bed in the top garden, everything's levelled off and the garden reseeded.
Compare this to the picture of the garden before the fosse was installed and you'd be hard pressed to spot the difference other than a bit of bare earth which the grass'll soon grow over. All that is visible of the 35 cubic metres of excavation is a slightly different slope to the garden and three small green inspection hatches that you can only just see in the middle of the photo.

The final final job was to settle up with Tony for all the works as I'd only paid him a 40% deposit up front and there was the balance to pay plus all the little extra's that had come about during the works. As I think you'll have realised if you've followed all the story we were both very happy with all the building works and apart from the small problem with the ground level around the top of the tank which he soon agreed to rectify we were pretty much delighted.

So the works were all great but what about the price and the extra's? I was a little disappointed with the "extra's" as there were some things that we'd asked for such as the second filter trap and for a replacement fence post (as one had rotted through), but then also we'd been charged for some things that I felt ought to have been included such as gravelling a small area in front of the driveway gates (which was done with the gravel that had already been bought) and €60 for bashing in the new fence post; to together the bill ended up €1000 more than I was expecting, but overall we were happy with the end result.

By the end of our holiday the grass seed was already sprouting on the newly laid lawns and according to our gardener it all quickly turned back into a lush green garden. Can't wait to go over and see it for myself now ...

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

New fosse - part six - Friday: Inspection and filling all the holes in

Continuing the story of installing a new fosse septique (septic tank) in our French holiday Gite in August ...

Come the morning, come the man from SAUR to inspect the new fosse installation. The system of construction and inspection is quite interesting, basically you pay the water company (in my case SAUR) €350 to take soil samples from round the garden then design the size and placement of the septic tank and filterbed. You then pay your builder to install everything (or if you're feeling brave and have plenty of time on your hands you can do it yourself), then the water company comes out and checks that it's been built according to the plans, and then it's the water company that guarantee that the system meets the regulations and will work for 10 years.

So the inspection man coming is an important step in the installation and Tony had to leave all the pipework, fosse and filterbed exposed so that the SAUR man could come and check everything. As Tony's been installing so many fosses in the area (usually 2 a week, mine was a biggy so took most of the week), he knew the inspection man fairly well but it didn't stop everything being carefully checked and ticked-off. All the pipes had to have an appropriate 'run' on them so that the waste would run in the right direction, the filterbed was measured to ensure it was the correct length and width, a depth-probe was pushed down through the gravel and sand of the filterbed to check that it was the requisite depth, and the distance of everything from boundary walls, property and nearby trees was checked as well. Half an hour or so later the man pronounced that everything was bon, another round of shaking hands, and we were approved to go!

Once the approval had been given Tony and the guys got on straight away with filling in all the trenches and starting to put the garden back together. The excess plastic around the filterbed was trimmed off and then over the top of the filterbed gravel went a layer of white weed-proof membrane (to stop anything growing down into the filterbed) and then Tony started the digger up. Firstly he levelled out the remaining sub-soil and then he started on the 2m high pile of topsoil that he'd removed before digging out the filter bed.

I think our kids thought that the topsoil pile had been specially made for them as they'd spent a fair bit of the week playing "king of the castle" and throwing each other down the hill, getting very muddy, then washing it off in the swimming pool - oh to be a child again!

Tony meanwhile was using the digger to level and sculpt all the soil around and over the filterbed in order to blend the soil level into the rest of the garden. As some 35 cubic metres of soil had been dug out of the garden for the filterbed, this all had to go somewhere and we were expecting there to be a somewhat obvious gradient to the garden, especially towards the laurel hedge that runs alongside our neighbours where it looked like the new ground level was about ½m above the original level. The end result though was a very pleasant surprise for both of us, there was no noticeable 'hump' in the garden, and there was only a gentle gradient down to hedge.

Finally the guys then connected the last of the new pipework to the soil pipe coming out of the house so it meant that we could use the toilet at last and flush into the new fosse (I'll draw a veil over the lack of toilet facilities for the proceeding 4 days), and then Tony and the guys started filling and levelling off the ground in the driveway.

Bennodet meanwhile was down the back of the house shovelling all the soil into the trench over the pipes to and from the filterbed, then the guys were out with rakes to smooth off the ground over the filterbed, sprinkle grass seed over the new garden, sweep the road, and then put back up the fence that they'd taken down so that they could get all the equipment on-site.

In the quote for the fosse works we'd asked Tony to also put down a weedproof membrane and new gravel in the driveway (to match the driveway on the opposite side we had laid in 2006). As the driveway was levelled out the guys started rolling out the membrane and pouring the gravel out. Unfortunately the builders merchant Tony had bought the gravel from had dropped the gravel that was destined for my drive over at Tony's house (40 miles away) rather than mine so Tony had to make several journeys with his truck to ferry the gravel over to my house before it could be tipped out and levelled off.

As the driveway started to take shape the last job of the day for Tony was to use the digger to level and sculpt the soil and topsoil in and around the fosse itself and the concrete pump chamber. It was getting fairly late by then but as they finished it was pretty clear that he'd not had the same success in blending in the soil levels. The problem was that the pump and fosse were about ½m below the surface level but as we needed to retain access to the lids over both the pump and the fosse, Tony had had to slope the soil down ½m from the ground level to the lids.
Promising to return on Monday to finish the last bits off the guys went off for a well deserved beer (or two).

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Coolwebsite - Jigzone, it's a puzzle to me

In a change from the usual programming schedule I thought I'd blog with details of a pretty cool website I've come across recently, Zigzone which features literally hundreds of Jigsaws that you can puzzle over online as well as share with your friends

The Jigsaw puzzles are divided into galleries and categories of similar types of puzzle (e.g. Animals, Flowers & Gardens, Nature Scenes, Travel, etc) and for each puzzle you can choose between 35 different 'cuts' with varying levels of difficulty such as the 20 piece classic jigsaw shape, 240 piece classic jigsaw shape, triangle shaped pieces, square pieces, and some really wacky different shaped pieces that will guarantee hair-pulling frustration!

All the jigsaw puzzles themselves are manipulated with a neat Java application that lets you drag and drop the pieces into place and once you've finished you can measure your best completion time and compare it to other puzzle solvers.

To give some flavour of what's available, here's a small selection of puzzles to try out:

Firstly a simple 20 piece classic of a Peacock:

Click to Mix and Solve

Next up a somewhat harder 50 piece circular jigsaw cut of a Rocky Shore:

Click to Mix and Solve

Keeping with my predilection for all things French, a 48 piece classic cut of the French Riviera:

Click to Mix and Solve

And if you thought that was easy, how about trying to solve the same puzzle with 48 Euro symbols instead?

Click to Mix and Solve