Posted by: kathandroger | June 6, 2015

Into the bowels of the earth and the unusual amphibian.

We have a deep well in our wine cellar. For many years it served as the only water source for the farm, was dug about 50 years ago, and  has about 7 metres of water at a depth of 4 metres. The water is delivered to a tank by a submersible pump which was changed about 10 years ago. We still use the water for the vegetable plot and our seemingly endless flower beds, although we now have a mains supply for the house and gites. After the pump stopped working a few months ago, our electrician came and fiddled about a bit and declared that the pump was knackered, and that I would have to haul it up to check it. Now I do love to have a bash at things, so one overcast day, when working outside was unpleasant, I decided to have a go. No chance! – the pump was too heavy, the connecting bits and pieces too complicated and through many bitter experiences I have learned that sometimes it is better to call an expert. It also saves an ear bashing from ‘er indoors. As it happens, we have a “puisatier” (well specialist) living locally, and duly Jacques and his wife arrived in their 20 year old bashed up Toyota land cruiser. What a lovely couple. He, thin as a rake, in his 60,s and as fit as a slim butchers dog, and she, full of smiles and gentle advice to her husband. In no time they had assembled the “trueil” (winch) onto the frame-called a “chevre” (goat), and Jacques duly donned his harness and disappeared into the deep hole, encouraged by his wife.IMG_3105I think I detected a bit of well cussing as the joints were difficult to undo, but after some time the pump and puisatier reappeared.IMG_3103He shook his head for some time. It appears that pumps were often replaced by plumbers, who don’t know what they are doing, and this pump was made for a bore hole (forage), not a well. The design allows for the motor to be cooled by the flow of water around it in a narrow hole, but in a wide well the cooling is not sufficient and the motor sometimes overheats and fails.IMG_3100As a new pump costs about 900 euros we were a bit unhappy, but the well man has a mate who would test it for us. A day later and good news, the pump is still in good order, although those stupid plumbers had used the wrong water line connectors and they had all gone rusty. More fiddling about, this time with the electrics, and it was evident that the problem was the condenser in the electrics used to boost the current to start the motor.-we had the same problem with the swimming pool pump and I had managed to fix that one myself. More cussing of electricians, and Jacques wife was unwell that day, so I had to be his stand in helper whilst we fitted the new condenser-kindly donated, gratuit, by his mate who had checked the pump. Both the well man and I are not electricians, and the new contacts in control boxes are beyond us to refit, even when I introduced some surgical instruments to ease the fiddling. Jacques called his sparky mate in town, who arrived in a few minutes and fixed a new control box which he had in his van, and hey presto all was working again! The only sad reflection was that the original electrician should have found out the condenser was at fault and that the well man,and his fee, was not needed at all! But never mind, apparently puisatiers are very rare in France now-nobody wants to go down deep dark dank dangerous holes any more, and it was a real privilege to work for a few hours with him. His stories about 40 metre deep wells in Paris and elsewhere were a joy, and his evident passion for his dying craft a lesson in life.

I love the local wildlife, and have seen lots of yellow and black Salamanders, especially in the autumn, when they seem to want to be run over by local cars, especially in the woods. Kath called me a couple of days ago to see this specimen which she discovered in the swimming pool.IMG_3090What a pretty chap-actually it is probably a female, and it is known locally as a “triton” (Triturus marmoratus) or marbled newt in English terminology, but not found there. Clever things, newt, using stars as navigation to pools apparently, but this one chose a swimming pool instead and couldn’t get out! They are apparently popular for keeping as pets, and I found some for sale in the USA for 100 dollars each! Ours was saved and liberated, a lovely animal.


  1. Can you hang a strip of something over the side of the pool for amphibs to escape? We’ve been recommended a landscaping geotextile called Enkamat, which looks a bit like camouflage net. It needs to be something they can grip on firmly if they need to climb vertically. You could also chuck a couple of pieces of polystyrene in the pool. They can climb on them and rest while they wait for rescue, rather than exhaust themselves and drown when they get too cold or tired. I’ve got some in my water butts because occasionally I’d loose a lizard in them.

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