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Mum, Actress, Singer, Teacher… Indie publisher — Renovating and Living in France
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Making concrete, breaking concrete and putting up walls…August 2017

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A glimpse of hot air balloon as it descends beyond the trees… bit late with the camera!

Welcome to summer in Solignac – we’ve been moving and grooving our way through July and August – here’s what we’ve been up to!

Laying concrete…

We’ve laid a few more concrete floors – Arty and Cloe make a formidable team… they work and work until the job’s done, and Joe is refining his concreting skills with each new section.. what a difference it makes to be able to walk everywhere downstairs now, without jumping over holes!

Breaking concrete…

We’ve broken and removed more of the concrete garage floor – it is so heavily re-inforced but Arthur has conquered it – we reached the concrete beam and first concrete column…and brought them crashing down.  The light that comes in through our only East-facing window in the early morning, and the West-facing door in the evening is stunning…the concrete dust a temporary but dramatic enhancement!

That was in July, and this week we have all but finished the removal of the floor, with Lucas and Andrea (friends of Arty and Cloe) completing the dynamic team.

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The four of them, plus Luke and Marie for a day of grafting, pushed themselves above and beyond to break through that concrete garage floor, and clear out the debris -revealing the most stunningly beautiful space – what an amazing room this is going to be!  We are about a day away from completing the job!

Interior walls…

And so to the building of the walls and the bringing in and positioning of the massive wooden pillars, which will support the mezzanine. The main spine wall goes from the bottom of the house to the top. It divides Joe’s workshop from the rest of the ground floor; and as it rises, it divides the studio (above the workshop) from the rest of the house.  It is 300mm thick, so built in two frames which will be filled with insulation and finally plasterboarded.

It started here:IMG_2715

And rose up through the floor,  between the beams…

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And on up…

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And up…

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Until we reached the roof!

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It is truly a sight to behold! The four big rectangles will be glass, so the evening light comes into the main part of the house from the West wall windows, and the beautiful roof beams can be seen from end to end!

The big wooden pillars…

During the wall build, we had to bring in and sink two of the huge 500kg wooden pillars which we collected last month. They are seated in the wall and will be the supports for the open walkway to the mezzanine level (which will have two bedrooms and a bathroom).  And here I’d like to talk about the genius of my Joe… he contrived a method which meant that he, Arty and I were able to put them in place! 500kg a piece (probably more!). The technique involved the trailer, the electric hoist, a lot of physics… and a whole lot of bottle!

It seemed impossible, but hey we did it!

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And then with Luke’s help we put it another couple – first cutting the concrete, then digging it out, then getting the wood in place, then concreting them in…

And this week with the Arty/Cloe/Lucas/Andrea team, plus Luke and Marie, we put in the final pillars – it’s a massive step forward!

Making rooms

Having completed the main spine wall, Arty, Joe and I put up the stud walls for the chaufferie (boiler room) and buanderie (utility room). Lots of measuring, cutting and framing – I really enjoyed it!

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Cutting and moving and re-seating beams…

We needed to cut two of the main cross beams for the staircase, and as the staircase side  of both beams (the bits we were losing), were in much better condition than the side we were keeping, Joe decided to move them across so that the stronger, bigger chunks stayed.

They were cut with the chain saw, then hoisted and swung across to their new position – that all went really smoothly. The tricky part was making the holes bigger to take the bigger beam ends.

After some really heavy jack-hammering and chiseling, Arty and Joe got them both in. They have now been firmly cemented in place.

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We re-attached the simple, steep staircase which once led up to the barn – this is where our main staircase will sit. For the first time in months we can go upstairs and downstairs without going outside!

The Post box

We now have a post box… with our name on it! A small job, but felt very significant! Gave us such a thrill to receive our first post (even though it was a bill!!)

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A couple of self-tapping screws…

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Guess which one is ours!

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‘Jonathan Joe with a mouth like an ‘O’ and a wheelbarrow full of surprises!’

The Roof

The newly treated roof looks magnificent – it’s like new (and hopefully will give us at least 25 years without needing attention). We have to get the guys back to finish the garage part – there was a bit of a mis-calculation (on their part) about how big the surface area was (and therefore how much product they needed). Can’t wait to see it all done!

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Renovation camp

So this week has been a real treat with Arty and his friends – what we’ve achieved with a group has been, as always, exponentially so much more than the sum of the extra hands… if that makes sense!

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Arty drove us over there in the Jeep – he’s one week in to his ‘accompanied driving’ year… and is already a really excellent driver! A natural!

 

 

 

 

We camped in the field, washed in the river, ate by the fire and survived a night of incredible storms!

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Camping in the field…(Joe and I sleep in the little tent)

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Down to the river

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Fireside supper

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Contented fatigue!

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What a team!

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so…

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much…

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water!!

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But it soon dried up!

On Monday, we had a lovely surprise visit from Cloe’s uncle Christophe and his wife Maude, who we thought were coming for a quick coffee… they ended up staying all day. What an unexpected bonus!

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To put the last two big pillars in place we needed to re-locate our site kitchen (and the toilet) and remove the wooden ceiling (which we’ve decided not to keep).  That then got driven straight to the dump.

 

 

Once the room had been emptied, and with the pillars in place, we got a real feel of our new bedroom, which will lead straight out to the garden…

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And finally, on Tuesday night Arty was a hero and zapped another very active wasp’s nest in the piggery… waiting until after 10pm, when they were all asleep. This is his third daring wasp-extinction mission; the first nest was in the ground, the second in the wall of the house, and this one was a traditional paper nest in the rafters. Very brave!

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So that’s it for now – thank you so much for reading and following our adventure… more soon x

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  6 comments

  1. janet atkins says:

    Wow. That is mind blowing. What absolute bravery.
    Your August blog really shows what progress you’re making. We’re really thrilled for you.
    Jan and Dave, Mom and Dad xx

  2. Osyth says:

    This is like house renovation on steroids! Mahusive chapeau to you all … and I hope you don’t mind me following along. I have a question. How did Arthur conquer the concrete floor? We have a mass of 6″ deep concrete to remove and have been perusing the best way. I’d be interested to know what he used in his triumphant battle. Ciao, Osyth

    1. mannyatkins says:

      Hi Osyth – great to hear from you, and looking forward to catching up with your blog too!
      So the concrete was really tricky to do safely – in the end we jack-hammered and whacked out enough from the doorway to fit the access tower on the ground, which then meant the guys could work safely without risk of falling through the breaking concrete, or it falling on them! It really was just perseverance: breaking as much as they could with mallet and jack-hammer, then cutting through the thick steel rods with an angle-grinder, then more of the same. Where is your concrete mass? is it ground level or between floors like ours?

  3. John Watson says:

    You guys are AMAZING. I love your blog Manny…but it makes me feel so inadequate! I am in awe of you both and your whole family. Keep the blog going.

    1. mannyatkins says:

      Thank you so much John – I certainly will keep the updates coming!

  4. mannyatkins says:

    Hi Osyth – great to hear from you, and looking forward to catching up with your blog too!
    So the concrete was really tricky to do safely – in the end we jack-hammered and whacked out enough from the doorway to fit the access tower on the ground, which then meant the guys could work safely without risk of falling through the breaking concrete, or it falling on them! It really was just perseverance: breaking as much as they could with mallet and jack-hammer, then cutting through the thick steel rods with an angle-grinder, then more of the same. Where is your concrete mass? is it ground level or between floors like ours?

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