Another beautiful day and not a cloud in the sky, refreshed after a good nights sleep we arrived at the lake at 9.30 determined to get this sorted. Thankfully the digger hadn’t moved. The silt was at the same level as yesterday. Our first decision was to put our waders on!!! Why didn’t we think of that yesterday it would have saved our clothes and getting covered in mud.

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The quagmire where the digger was stuck fast

With Tom’s skill in using the bucket to tilt the digger up we managed to get the track back on and tightened in 20 minutes. Then before we put the track down we dug out as much silt as possible. Lined the hole with granite and wood to give the track as much grip as possible. I held my breath as Tom put the digger upright and into full throttle. Amazingly to me the digger came out of the mire as soon as it was upright. I could have cried but instead a “high five” with Tom. Once out he parked the digger onto a solid bit of lake bed he went around the digger checking every grease nipple, pumping in grease just to make sure!!!

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Tom checking every nipple with the grease gun

We planned a route to track the digger out of the lake. This was not as easy as it sounds. Obviously we wanted to avoid any further deep patches of silt. The only way out of the lake was to track the digger along the upper bank. But the banks were quite steep which meant the digger was at a very steep angle. It was too muddy for Tom to build a ramp up the bank and out of the lake. It was about 80 meters to a granite slope. It was narrow but sloped enough, we thought, to get the digger up the granite ledge and onto the bank.

Tom set off slowly keeping as high on the bank as possible. I was beginning to think this was sorted when the digger got stuck again. No track off this time but stuck fast again. Just as Tom and I were wondering how to approach this one Jean Pierre appeared on the bank with a friend. He told us to wait and disappeared out of sight. We introduced ourselves to Jean Pierre’s mate Michel, a very wise looking guy. Perhaps it was his white hair and matching beard or just my wishful thinking that he may have an immediate solution to our problem.

Suddenly and completely out of nowhere Jean Pierre appeared in a very large orange tractor. What a star!!!!!! No translation needed, we were all spurred into action. Jean Pierre pulled a long chain from the back of the tractor. He then motioned for Tom to put the first link over one of the solid metal spikes on the bucket. As Tom grabbed the spike it came away in his hand. I got that look that every Dad knows and followed by those infamous words “it wasn’t me”. I couldn’t help crying with laughter. Jean Pierre didn’t seem to mind at all. Something about a mates dodgy welding!!!! Tom put the link over the next spike. Michel and I pulled the chain tight so Tom could fix the other end onto the digger.

Here we go!! Jean Pierre raised the bucket and reversed the tractor slowly. Tom was in the digger. There was a sudden jolt when the chain tightened, Tom jumped and I don’t blame him. The chain violently slipped up the side with a very loud clank and stopped just by his head.  This was dangerous enough for anyone but my son was in the digger cab!!!!!!!! I was standing a safe distance away with Michel and Oscar. It was one of Oscar’s favourite pastimes to continually run around and bark at a moving machine but this time I picked him up so he couldn’t go anywhere!!!!.

The chain was taught and Jean Pierre started to increase the throttle. The digger began to move!!!!! Tom put the digger into full throttle and it slowly climbed out of the silt. Once free Jean Pierre stopped the tractor. We all congratulated ourselves. I could have kissed everyone!!!!! Tom and I shared our concerns about the chain. But thankfully it worked!!!!!

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Jean Pierre checking the chain with Tom in the digger

We quickly discussed our idea of getting the digger up the granite slope with Michel and Jean Pierre. Now our French is poor, and Jean Pierre and Michel’s English was non existent but we all understood the next stage perfectly!!!! Tom would track the digger to the bottom of the granite slope then we would attach the chain again so the tractor could pull the digger up the slope.

Here we go again. Jean Pierre slowly reversed the tractor along the bank. Tom used the bucket behind the digger to stabalise it up the granite slope. It slowly began to climb up. Then disaster the track came off the digger at the slopes highest point. Jean Pierre stopped the tractor and Tom swung the bucket to the front to stop the digger toppling backwards off the granite.

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The digger at the top of the granite slope with the track off!!!!!!!

We all gathered around the disconnected track. Jean Pierre pulled out his mobile and was quickly dialing a number. Michel explained that  Jean Pierre had a friend who was a digger driver. Phone call over Jean Pierre told us that his friend would come to the lake after lunch (in France that is around 14.30). So Tom and I decided it was a good time to eat as well. Noon to 2pm or 2.30pm is the typical French lunch time. It was noon already so we headed home for a quick bite to eat and a cup of tea.

Back for the afternoon and Jean Pierre was there with Michel and his digger mate. Wow they were back early from lunch. The guy jumped in the digger cab and started the engine. He tried to move the bucket but every time digger slipped back. This meant we couldn’t tilt the machine to get the track back on. Twice Tom shouted at the guy to stop as the digger was moving further back and the end cog was completely unprotected against the granite. The guy jumped out, a few words with Jean Pierre and Michel, some typical French shrugs and a couple of  “je nais se quoi” and he was back in his car and gone. Now what!!!!!!

Tom and I listened carefully to Jean Pierre. We understood that his digger mate would return tomorrow afternoon to help us again. So Tom and I decided it was best to get on with clearing the banks of snags for the rest of the afternoon as the water-level was beginning to rise.

There were a lot of tree roots protruding from the edge of the lake and several large tree stumps towards the center. The tree stumps would only be accessible for another day or two before being completely submerged again by the rising water. Jean Pierre asked us to wade out to move the stumps to one area nearer to the bank. He would then pull these out of the lake with his tractor. Now when wood is fully immersed in water it floats. But if its too shallow to float it becomes very, very heavy indeed from being soaked in water. I felt bad as Tom had to do most of the work. I was next to useless with one hand but I couldn’t leave him to it. This was hard work wading through half a meter of water in silt moving each stump so Jean Pierre could get the chain around the wood. It can be dangerous if you walk into a deep patch. That’s why it is always best to have a good sized stick to feel the bottom and support your next step. Remembering to step onto your toes and keep your feet moving so you don’t have time to get stuck!!!!! Never do this kind of work on your own as it is very dangerous indeed. Being a strong swimmer will not help at all if you are up to your chest in mud!!!!!!

It took Jean Pierre two trips to pull all the stumps out of the lake and we were very grateful indeed for all his help. The rest of the afternoon went without incident and both Tom and I finished clearing most of the banks. Tired, pleased with what we had done and frustrated over the digger stuck again we left the lake for the day.

We were both determined to sort the digger ourselves. Our pride was damaged and we were both annoyed that this had happened again. Accidents do happen but we both felt that we cold have done better!!!! Oh well as I said before its another day tomorrow. The digger is out of the silt and we have made very good progress in clearing the banks.

Back home to work on the web site!!!!!

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