Sunday, 29 July 2012

Making progress

I love how our days are so full now. It's wonderful to have a new project to work on and to be working towards creating an amazing new home.

Our main priority has been to clear the place of decades of 'stuff', with the old 'grenier' (our future guest en suite bedroom) seeing the main thrust of our efforts. We have disposed of boxes and boxes of old magazines, of jars, of clothes and goodness knows what else. It is almost clear now and we can see just what a big space it actually is - over 48m2! It'll make a great guest bedroom.

Before we can start work on the interior however, the canal-tiled roof is going to have to come off, timbers treated, lattes replaced, membrane laid and then properly secured canal tiles put back on. It's a job we'd like to tackle before winter, but time is going to be an issue.

The smallest bedroom in the main house has also started its transformation into a first floor bathroom. Here's the obligatory 'before' shot
The 70s wallpaper had to come off (put up in June 1974 by Antoine if the scribble on the wall is to be believed!), the pine clad ceiling and cladding around the beam likewise. The radiator and pipes have been removed and the space looks much lighter and cleaner already. The old beam is actually in fantastic condition and the ceiling boards likewise. Shopping for bathroom equipment next week and then Andy is hoping to start installation next week when I am away!
The other two urgent projects are the sanitation and the heating. We hope to get approval within the month from the authorities for the installation of our 'fosse toutes eaux' which means we should be able to get the system installed by September. Re the heating, we have removed the fuel boiler from the house as that is an expensive and not particularly pleasant system to run. We're opting for a wood-fired system and research is continuing as to the most suitable woodburner with c/h boiler to install here.

I am pleased to say that we have had our first crop of truly delicious plums from our plum trees.
.... collected with the aid of a simple but ingenious device left behind by the previous owners - a long-handled 'grabber' with a bag on the end which gently removes fruit from higher branches. Brilliant!
I have transformed some into jam and have frozen more for the winter.

I am keen to get my potager/kitchen garden up and running as soon as possible so that we stand a chance of having some of our own produce this autumn/winter. Although we have got our 8m x 16m patch marked out with stakes, we have had one major problem which is the length of the grass in the field which had to come down before we can turn over the soil....

 The solution? Ask one of our neighbours, M Maylin, whether his five Breton heavy horses fancied a bit of a feast. The answer? Hell Yeah (said in a French accent naturellement!) They have turned out to be the best grass cutters. The bonus for us is that we are collecting plenty of manure that will be used to nourish the soil over the coming months and scoring brownie points with the locals... a win-win situation!

Talking of locals, the people here have welcomed us with open arms and are so pleased that we will be actually living here rather than just using the place as a holiday home. I am sure we will both be playing an increasingly active role in local life as time goes on. It is a truly special place to be live and I find myself smiling like an idiot just about every time I step out of the door! I love it!

Sunday, 15 July 2012


Goodness me, what a hectic time it has been since we got the keys for our wonderful new home! The week after we got the keys on the 27 June was spent cleaning over a year's worth of dust, dirt and cobwebs from the house, not to mention the many more years of accumulated grime from the kitchen which really was grim! We then moved in all of our worldly goods over the course of a few days before having our first night here on the 4 July. And we love it! The peace and quiet is the most noticeable thing, plus the space and openness of the situation.

The most exciting thing about exploring our new abode has been the discovery of so many items that belonged to farming life many years ago. Here are just some of our discoveries;

Madame was a great hoarder of jams and preserves and clearly didn't like to throw anything way. So it has been up to me to dispose of the hundreds of jars of jams and preserves, some dating back to 1992, in order to clear the shelves for our 'stuff'. We also discovered jar upon jar of beans in two old chest freezers in the barn!
We have had certain urgent works to do since we moved in, the most pressing matter being that of waste disposal. In common with the vast majority of properties in this area, the original arrangement was an outdoor privy....
... which had fortunately not seen any action for a good many years. But it had to go....
... the wood providing fuel for our quatorze juillet bonfire, more of which later! The current waste disposal arrangement is a concrete pipe from the house which takes waste down into the field. It is however broken in a couple of places and was also blocked with mud and scale when we moved in, which meant toilet waste appearing in the field - not pleasant! So Andy valiantly set to and eventually set up a system which works in the short term.
We will however have a proper new sanitation system in place by the end of August if all goes according to plan - the property is slowly being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century!

Our next job was to tidy and clear to the rear of the house where our outdoor living and entertaining area is going to be. We had set ourselves a bit of a deadline by inviting friends over for a 14th July bonfire and barbecue, so the pressure was on. The grass had grown long and tussocky which made mowing hard work but Andy soon got it down to a manageable level. Then a small pine tree that was crowding a fruit tree had to be brought down. It was soon looking tidier
We cleared out the space underneath the hangar structure 

 create a rustic outdoor eating area for our 14th July bash and used all the old, rotten pieces of timber and bushels of kindling that were piled up everywhere to construct a rather large bonfire. We discovered two lovely long benches up in the grenier that we set up around some tables and voila, we were ready
We laid down some of the straw that we found in the barn to cover the bare earth which finished it off nicely. The weather stayed dry on Saturday night, the bonfire and BBQ were a huge success and our new outdoor entertaining area was christened! Good times.
Our first visitor is due on Monday. Really looking forward to seeing Trudi who has been through a hard time recently. This place is sure to recharge her batteries. Have I mentioned how much I love it here?!