Manny's Blog

Sharing our French adventure as we live and work and renovate our forever home in the Haute Loire.
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February/March 2017 – Spring is in the air…and snow…and sawdust!

We’ve powered on through February -the weather has been glorious… mostly!

Still basically in demolition mode, here’s what we’ve achieved this month:

We got the water turned on without a hitch… and discovered that the little water heater in the kitchen still works perfectly!


Hot water!

It’s destined for Joe’s workshop later, but for now it means we can wash up with hot water – what luxury! In fact our little ‘chantier kitchen’ works a treat – we can keep it warm, and relatively dust-free … and the cupboards are full!


A perfect start to the day!

Build catering is vital for happy workers in our experience!

We took out the funny little toilet (broken and unusable, even for the build), whacking down the wall, and pulling out pipes! (We’ve re-instated our old bus loo, which works a treat – (knew we’d kept it for the last eight years for a reason!)


Look at that shiner from the hammer-in-the-face incident!

Arty and CloĆ© took out the old mangers – beautiful timber, which we hope to reuse elsewhere in the house:


Burn baby burn- what a team!

We had a massive boost from Tence mairie, when they came to tackle the communal path down to our house. After the heavy snow melted, we were left with a bit of a mud bath – we were never sure if we were going to get out at the end of the day, and had a few mud splattering pushed exits, sliding around tantalisingly close to the wall of our neighbour’s house! And of course, it was getting worse and worse. When Joe and I got to the house on 13th Feb, we were chuffed to see there was a JCB depositing stones at the top of the path – little did we realise they were going to spend the whole day, with four guys – leaving us with the most glorious solid drive…what a difference it’s made!

Thank you to our lovely caring commune!

Next big project was to break up some concrete… we took down a couple of walls…meaning we now have a view from end to end of our home downstairs as well as upstairs:


A few more walls out!

And we attacked the concrete. As you can see the floor slopes fairly dramatically towards the central drain…to swoosh down those cows in days of old! So we need to level off certain sections – we got to it, wheeling barrowloads out and up to the front of the house – then we got the hoist to take the strain, lifting wheelbarrows full from the ground floor to the first floor (which is the barn entrance), and things became much more efficient… Little by little we tackled it section by section, and then on Friday three of Arty’s friends came over with Luke to help unload a big wood delivery, and they finished the job, putting us in a perfect position to dig trenches for the waste water. They were fantastic, and totally affirmed the dream we have of people wanting to come for a day here and there to help… for pleasure and satisfaction – what lovely friends our children have!


And so it begins…


the pile of broken concrete grows…


Arty and friends


digging out the stones


And we are level…(not the photo admittedly, but the floor – honest!)


lowering the floor, and thereby ‘highering’ the doorway!


Well you have to, don’t you?

There have been some splendid bonfires… one so splendid, Joe and I waited well into the evening before feeling comfortable about leaving! It was really exciting to see the house at night – so cosy and welcoming!

Next big job is to start cleaning the beams and walls – Joe and I have worked our way across the first 6 beams – these will be the Studio floor and workshop ceiling, so we just needed to get them de-nailed and blast away the cobwebs and loose debris with wire brushes and the air compressor. Quite proud of how I’m conquering my fear of heights!


There is an access tower beneath me! But I’m still up there!


In action!

Our lovely friend and neighbour Geraldine, who has already lent us props and an invaluable wheelbarrow, delivered her massive air compressor to us last week – it’s given us a huge boost! We’ve also invested in a sander to gently sandblast the beams, it arrived yesterday. So now we’ve laid down the sub-floor on the section we’ve cleaned, and the next task is to experiment with cleaning the walls and our beautiful roof beams. We plan to keep the South wall in natural stone, and insulate the others – just look at that exquisite warm Haute-Loire stone… with the carpentry of the roof, it’s one of the things we fell in love with when we first saw the farm, and we really want to keep as much of it in view as possible!


Access tower in place to start cleaning the beams tomorrow!


‘Top o’ the world!’


Higher than expected!


From the ground to the roof…


A good sized studio door!

So I’d better get to bed now – another early start tomorrow (ending with me teaching English at the CCI in the evening).

Thank you for reading – more soon!- here are a few photos of the magical woods surrounding our field… and me using the mitre saw in my Bob-the-builder tool belt …still very much a learner, but learning fast!


Yes, she can!

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  1. Jitender says:

    Dear Manny,

    I am following your blog after recently watching your movie “If you ever get to heaven”. I am quite impressed with you and your husband and your family. I am Indian national. I use to think family values in the west is more of individualistic and not a close knit family like yours. I read many of your posts which emphasizes on keeping family together. Me and my wife both are 35 years old and have one daughter(2.5 years). I will try to follow your footsteps in terms of making a happy family.
    Have a nice day
    I wish if you can share your email Id. Mine is


    1. mannyatkins says:

      Thank you so much for your lovely response Jitender… to the blog, and the film!

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