March winds and April showers
So here’s the low down for March and April… and the end of Feb too, it’s been a while, sorry!
There has been a lot of snow! Every time we think it’s stopped there seems to be another little bout of it! Finally though, I think we’re done. The famous Tence jonquilles (daffodils) are out in abundance, the evenings feel longer, and we are really ready for some sustained warmth to infuse our old stones (and our old bones!)
I’m currently writing one-handed with a broken finger after falling off a step ladder! First time I’ve ever broken anything, and considering I was only a few feet up, and Joe and Arty were actually on the roof, I’m glad it was me who fell!! We were tackling our first Velux, it was Easter Sunday… it was April Fool’s day… and I’m afraid the Easter Egg Hunt was cancelled! As was the Velux installation! Tiles popped back on to revisit at a later date!
We’ve started insulating! We’ve bought our super-thin, high-tech roof insulation from a local company. It will sit between the beams, held in place by two thin roof batons (one each side of the insulation) to allow airflow, and we will plaster-board on top. It means we get to see all our beautiful beams and stay toasty warm.
Luke and Arty helped Joe unload the kilometre and a half of batons… in the snow! (We’re talking end of March here, for goodness sake!!)
Joe, Arty and I have since raced along the South side of the roof, leaving the bays which will have Velux windows empty for the moment.
Temporary floor for roof work…
To reach the rafters and the top of the big dividing wall over the stairwell, we have temporarily covered the hole and opened up a little access from our downstairs bedroom. This was no easy feat, it has to take a lot of weight, with the tower etc, so needs to be safe; we decided to put two big beams into the holes where we’d cut and taken out the original beams – pictures show this better than I’m explaining it:
We’ve nearly completed all the pipe work now – hot and cold water, the heating circuit to all the radiator points, and the evacuation to take it all away when we pull the plug!
And we have put the stench pipe into the roof, to let air in to the evacuation system (and smells out!)
Next stage is the installation of our wood-burning boiler, tanks etc. so that we can commission it all! We think we’ve found our supplier, this bit needs to be done by certified professionals!
The Mezzanine bathroom
For me, I think the most thrilling progress we’ve made, giving us a real sense of how far we’ve come, is the upstairs bathroom.
We had to decide on a bathroom suite, and put it in place, in order to put the waste pipes and the taps etc. in the right places. This included putting up one side of the bathroom plasterboard, and even the door to position everything… bloomin’ exciting!!
It has all fitted in perfectly, and we are really happy with our choices! Joe has built a fantastic unit for the basin from reclaimed wood from the house – it just looks so good! It’s a tricky space because of the sloping roof – but even our Arty can stand tall in the shower!
There’s a crawl space behind the bathroom, so we can access all the pipes and the back of the toilet if we need to – without having to take down walls.
The Aga Saga…
Wasn’t sure whether to tell this tale or keep it to ourselves – but hey… honesty is my middle name!
We’ve decided that we really want an old Aga Rosiere as the heart of our kitchen. We found the perfect one on Leboncoin for an amazingly good price; it had been in use until last year, the people sounded lovely…only slight hitch was that it was in the Alsace…about 6 hours drive from us!
So Joe and I decided to make an adventure of it. We booked a little hotel for the Friday night, borrowed our neighbour’s big trailer (we never take for granted the wonderful generosity of our lovely neighbours! So lucky!). We knew it was going to be a feat to get it out of the house, and to load onto the trailer – they are heavy cast-iron beasts, so we had the tower with us, a chain hoist, and another friend’s pallet lifter. We felt well equipped, and Joe had thought through a system to load it (which actually worked flawlessly).
What we hadn’t taken in to account (how could we know?) was that the Aga didn’t fit through the kitchen doorway of the people we were buying it from. Long story short: 8 hours after our arrival, we drove away with it all loaded… having dismantled everything possible, leaving only the base, the front and 4 steel rods to negotiate out of the house, down two tiled steps and up into the trailer, and having emptied ten giant bin-bags of the insulating ground seashell which surrounds the ovens (an unexpected find… who knew?) and covered ourselves and the whole kitchen with a fine coating of soft pink dust!
The family run a Patisserie, and were so lovely. We couldn’t have done it without their good humour and kindness.
As we were already so far from home, with the trailer borrowed, and lifting equipment on board, we optimistically added picking up a big old saw for the workshop on our route back South.
Again, a tricky job to get it out of the workshop and on to the trailer, but we managed to do it with sheer determination and ingenuity from Joe and the guy we bought it from.
We set off home, exhausted but really happy with what we were towing behind us. Two great second-hand purchases – and we’d met some really lovely interesting people along the way. The second hotel we’d stumbled upon on the Saturday night was gorgeous… all seemed to be perfect. Until… we lost the power assistance on the steering of the car! About 45 minutes from home… Huge heavy load behind our big heavy car! Joe managed to get us safely off the main road. We called the insurance guys, and were towed back to the garage in Tence. Our lovely neighbour came and picked up the full trailer from the garage, and reversed it down our drive to the barn doors. Arty and Luke had joined us by now for the final part in our long and eventful adventure… the unloading of the trailer.
We managed to lower the saw down through the trapdoor to the workshop, with chain hoists and tenacity – it all went pretty smoothly. We’d already taken all the dismantled parts of the Aga, plus the ten bags of pink dust into the house… we had one last task and then we could all go home and relax… it was 7.30 ish and we were so nearly done – we just needed to get the body of the Aga off the trailer and into the house. So we gently rolled the trailer back towards the open doors, it caught a bump and our beautiful Aga toppled out of the trailer, onto the floor and the cast iron front cracked and broke!
It was a heartbreaking conclusion to an already exhausting weekend – we had overcome so many obstacles – at so many points during the weekend we’d made the impossible possible … this just wasn’t the right ending to the tale! I have to confess to a few tears being shed!!
Anyway, a little bit of sleep and time put it all in perspective! Nobody was hurt. The car was simply a hose replacement, and it’s certainly not the end of our Aga story, (but sadly it was the end of that Aga!). We will find another, and we will have plenty of spare parts for it!
We’re almost ready for Enedis to come and install the real electricity for the house. Up until this point we have had a ‘chantier’ site supply. Super cheap and just enough to do the work on the house. We need to change our point of entry too, as the current cables come into what will be our downstairs bathroom!
In preparation for this pricey event, Joe and Arty have laid a wooden pillar in concrete, for the GTL to sit against. Joe has done such an amazing job conceiving and executing the wiring of the whole house. With the needs of the workshop and the studio, we’ve decided to go 3 phase.
We had Bethy home for Easter which was so lovely. And before my finger drama, she and I had a glorious sunset walk up the ‘Suc du Mounier’ – just a 10 minute drive from us. Stunningly beautiful 360 degree view. Big moon rising on one side as the sun set on the other! Heaven!
Oh and I’ve started a new teaching job in the college in Tence – two adorable classes of 12 year olds! I’m thrilled! So close to home, and working with a lovely dynamic and inspiring English teacher. Fingers crossed I’ll be there for a good few years!
Sitting room and kitchen floor
Final update, we’ve decided to use new floorboards instead of spending months trying to reclaim the old ones we took up. Those will be used for furniture and doors etc.
We are really excited to be using a local mill, so local trees, beautifully milled. We’ve ordered them – it will cost less than the cheapest laminated DIY shop-bought flooring… and will look stunning!
Right that’s enough one-handed typing! I’ll try not to leave it so long before the next update! As always, thank you so much for sharing our adventure with us… if you’ve made it this far…’chapeau’!
Another great blog Manny, even one handed.
The work seems to be moving on quickly now – a beautiful batbroom.
The Aga tragedy will soon fade I hope and maybe someone reading the blog may have a replacement, Dave says.
Well done everyone.
Love your blog !!!! xxx
Sent from my iPhone
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