June and July 2017- sunshine and glitter…
News in brief…
Our lovely Hills had to leave us with a chronic shoulder pain and docs orders to stop using it while it repairs – she spent her last month in France recuperating with her French ‘family’ in Provence – (from her French exchange when she was 16!) – she blogs her time here beautifully –Hillary’s blog
Beth’s wonderful friends Josh and Katie came for two weeks to help with the build – they were magnificent and powered us forward with their laughter, strength and glitter!
Arty’s finger is healing nicely – he’s working his way towards full use again before too long. He also passed his French and Science Baccalaureate, setting him up for a great final year at lycée.
So what’s changed?
With Josh and Katie’s arrival, we were able to work on a much greater scale – I took over from Hills on cleaning the last few beams of the apex of the barn – then Josh, Katie and Beth worked the whole length of the barn, with one short tower on each side, to complete the cleaning (wire-brushing and blasting with air).
I then took on the mission of angle-grinding off all the protruding roof nails which, if left, would catch and damage the insulation we will be putting between the beams. It was often a real ‘mind-over-fear’ task as I’m a bit wobbly about heights, and sometimes needed to hook a safety harness over the beams, when there was no room to put the platform barrier up. But I did it, and the satisfaction was immense! I know it would have been much quicker if Joe had done it as he moves so confidently on the tower with his years of experience, but I also knew that by doing it myself he was able to properly project manage the enthusiastic team we were lucky enough to be working with, and so it all made sense.
My dream of building and working and eating and drinking and swimming in the river in a kind of real life ‘montage -with-music’ renovation scene really has been the reality for these last few weeks!
With the roof beams cleaned and de-nailed, we moved on to put the floor in for the workshop, and the momentous filling in of the trenches we dug for the evacuation pipes.
Joe’s first concrete floor was a triumph, with his crew of Beth, Katie and Josh filling our trusty new friend ‘Clive’ the cement mixer – and running the full wheelbarrows through the house, our utility room now has a floor… no walls yet, but hey, I’m excited!
The workshop floor is a work of mathematical genius… and many hands! The slopes of the old stable floor which it is covering were various and multi-directional; so the decision was to build a flat floor (rather than try and attack the concrete by raising or digging it up, which would have been a huge and expensive job.)
The result is so satisfying, and cost a fraction of the various alternatives.
In the middle of the workshop was the massive low central beam, already in two pieces and supported by a large breeze block and cement column. It was bang in the centre of the space and a real restriction… so out they both came!! After Joe had put up two lovely supporting beams and wooden pillars each side.
Elsewhere, Josh Katie and Beth, and then Luke and Arty and three of his wonderful friends Maxime, Corentin and Bastien, attacked the hefty concrete floor between the garage and the cave (the cellar). This has been waiting in the wings a bit while we’ve been doing other things – We broke through at the entry when we had the digger, but the concrete and steel reinforcement rods are stupidly hard, and we were considering getting professional artisans in to do the job as it looked impossible for us alone… the problem is finding a safe way to attack it – you can’t work beneath it, in case it falls on you, and equally you can’t work on it from above… in case it falls! The plan was to clear enough space to put the tower in and then slowly work across the room from the safety of the tower. And the guys have managed to do exactly that. It’s incredibly dusty and heavy work – only possible in short stints with proper protection.
They are brilliantly taking away the rubble as they create it – and transporting it up to the giant rubble pile destined to become hard-core for our parking area. It’s hard graft, but the method works, and whilst I must confess to not having had a go myself – the progress is thrilling! We’ve had a bit of a heatwave here (we’re not the only ones I know!) – and the afternoon light that now streams in through the concrete dust is magical! This will be our main entrance to the house, with stairs down to the room below… there will be three velux windows in the roof. So what was a low-ceilinged dark space, pretty well underground, with a low-roofed garage above it (too small for our car), will be transformed into a glorious light-filled office space for Joe and I. So lucky!
We had a massive wood delivery a few weeks ago – well, the local saw-mill owner lent us his van to make several trips to and fro, fully loaded each time. This is all local wood which was cut a month ago, and has been drying at his lumber yard. It is magnificent, and is already being put to use in the construction of our home.
Apart from the cave/garage demolition, which will take a few heavy days to get through, there was one last wall to come down… one last act of destruction – the wall between the old kitchen and the adjoining room. On Josh and Katie’s last day, while I was giving a couple of English lessons, Joe decided they would finish on a high and take it down. We had the extra treat of Harry and Armel’s help too. As I walked in just after lunch, the space was transformed, with all the debris already gone. So exciting!!! This will be our bedroom, with access straight out to the garden.
Alongside all this progress, we’ve had numerous swims in the breathtakingly beautiful Lignon, just at the bottom of our garden, we’ve had parties and BBQs; bonfires and champagne… and on Wednesday 5th July, Joe and I spent our first night in Solignac, in a little tent in our field – lay under the stars in the moonlight heady with the magic of where we’ve found ourselves – woke to watch the sun rise over the forest, saw the most beautiful fox prowl the newly cut field in the early morning light as we sipped our coffee, followed closely by a large hare lolloping across the grass.
Oh yes, the newly cut field… We discovered that it’s our responsibility to tend our field, and it can get quite complicated as farmers who rent or use your land gain rights that can be hard to oppose or change. Through our lovely neighbours Jeanne and Laurent, we were introduced to Didier the woodsman (and the nicest most interesting man you could hope to meet – more of Didier later I promise!) who introduced us to Max, a young sheep farmer who on a spoken, annually renewable agreement, will cut the field for us – gently and traditionally – take the high quality hay for his lambs for the winter…in exchange for some lamb!! What a perfect solution! So last week Max cut and baled the hay, ready for collection in a few days.
We had a ground study to check the drain-ability of the soil for the septic tank… all good. That will probably get put in place September/October time.
Also in September we should be fitting the front windows, which are ordered from a local window maker!
We’re having the roof tiles treated next week, which will apparently give us a good 25 years on their life – The roof is in great nick, but the tiles are now quite porous which could cause problems if we don’t address it… seemed crazy not to protect all our hard work underneath it!
We had a very special treat from a lovely artist friend Deb Milner in the UK – I noticed on her Instagram that one of her oil paintings was so like our view through to our arched doorway from what will be our study – I asked if we could maybe buy it and she sent it as a present!! It is a stunning piece of work and will take pride of place in Solignac!
We’ve just waved Beth off back to England for five weeks work with a small production company in Farnham – before she left, she added a couple of new songs to her You Tube Channel– do check them out… one little one with me! (felt very honoured!)
And for her last one, a cover of Ben Howard’s ‘Old Pine’, she put together the most magical video summing up her summer so far please take a look – she’s a clever girl!
Proud doesn’t even begin to cover it!!
So that’s where we’ve reached as of 19th July 2017… Thanks for reading and may this glorious summer be a long one!