Hi – just to let you know November’s blog is up for grabs on my new blog home mannyatkins.com
I’m very excited to announce that Harry has designed a new blog site for me! From now on all blogs will be posted on mannyatkins.com – Please follow the link to see the latest blog – ‘October Skies’.
Summer is well underway and we have so much to report!
Family news first –
So Arty got his Bac – with a Mention Très Bien – what a total hero. Cass, his girlfriend also got a Mention Très bien … clever, hardworking pair!
He’s bought a great little car and is now working for a few months in a local factory to earn a bit of cash to go travelling before starting uni next September 2019 to study Law.
With all the exams and school finished, the whole family, including partners, took a whirlwind trip to the UK, principally to catch up with my Mum, and Joe’s Mum and Dad, but also to see all the family who were free to meet up. It was a brilliant few days, first by the sea in Bournemouth, and then up in York – so lots of driving, (even though we flew to England), and you know how we love a road trip! And – Oh the joy of having all my babes under the same roof!
And so to the house…
Oh where to start! Things are really moving a pace!
WE DID IT!!!
We’ve plumbed our house ourselves!
A few weeks ago, our friendly local plumber connected us up, and tested the system with us, checking the cold water pipes as they ran the water all over the house. And over the next few days we tested the hot water system too. There were, of course, one or two little leaks to deal with, all tightened up and checked now. We are over the moon!! This was a huge deal for us. We made the bold decision to do it ourselves – quite a gamble! But luckily it seems to have paid off!
Until now we’ve had one little pipe bringing water to one little sink in the old kitchen – it has served us royally through the build, with it’s antique, still functioning tiny water heater, but two weeks ago we disconnected it (it has since been reinstated in the workshop!)
Before that, we drilled a big hole through our thick stone wall, at an angle to make sure it’s well underground on the outside (so it doesn’t freeze in winter); the 25mm pipe was then fed through the hole in the wall.
The old tap from the town supply broke while we were working on it, meaning we couldn’t turn it off completely. We rang the Mairie who said they would let the water department know and call back. Within about ten minutes, a charming guy was strolling round the corner to change the tap. He stayed for about two hours – took a tour of the house, had a beer and gave mountains of advice, and filled us with confidence with his appreciation of our handiwork.
Having decided to put the ambitious and original downstairs bathroom a little further down the list of priorities, the imminent arrival of six uni friends of Beth prompted Joe to install the loo. Now connected to the water of course! In fact we have two flushing toilets! (admittedly one’s up quite a big ladder!) The fosse septique is being properly inaugurated with our increased numbers!
Joe’s built a beautiful sliding door for a bit of privacy:
Our other big news is that we have been connected to our real 3 phase electricity supply.
Up until now we’ve had a ‘chantier’ supply – so just a basic feed for the building work – Joe has done an amazing job wiring the whole house – thinking of every light switch, every plug socket that we might need in the future. This is his forté , so obviously he was at home doing this – but it was an enormous undertaking to wire the whole house rather than a musical or theatre show!! We’ve chosen to have a three phase supply as Joe has some big three phase machines in the work shop. The advent of the new supply has prompted a massive workshop reorganisation by Luke and Joe over the last few days.
Light switches are steadily being installed all over the place!
Plasterboarding the ceiling
So we need to get the ceiling over the stairwell plaster-boarded and taped up before we can re-expose the hole and Joe can build the staircases! These will be short-term staircases to enable us to move in. When we’re in, he can slowly and carefully enjoy making the final works of art! It’s too big and interesting a project to rush, and yet we can’t realistically move in with only a ladder to get to the mezzanine – or indeed the only access to upstairs passing through our bed space!
We’re doing well with the fiddly high plaster-boarding – and are really pleased with the effect of keeping our beautiful beams exposed. While Joe and Luke have been reorganising the workshop Marie and I have been cracking on with the ceiling. First three bays are now completed on the South side… only another 11 to go, and then it’s over to the other side!
The Wall and the pool
We wanted a small summer pool to cool off in, and the perfect place to put it was in front of the house where the ground was the flattest and the least stony. The only hitch was that the huge pile of rocks destined to become the retaining wall was in the way… So Joe and Arty moved them… and started to build the wall! The mix of brains and brawn was a sight to behold – this must be how the pyramids were built… or indeed our house all those year ago! We used the tower and the chain hoist to budge these enormous rocks, and the wall started to take shape. It looks gorgeous – like it’s always been there! The ground was properly flattened, de-stoned, and levelled with extreme precision – we set up our pool and have absolutely loved cooling off many times a day throughout this glorious heatwave summer – the heat really has been a total pleasure here, with gentle breezes, occasional storms to clear the air, and cool fresh nights.
Tiling…for the first time!
I’ve watched a few YouTube videos and braved the tiling of the porte d’entrée, with it’s beautiful wooden boots bench and old butler’s sink. For a few days this was the only running tap inside so we needed to get it tiled up and watertight so we could use it! The same thing was necessary in the buanderie – where the newly installed sink needed to be ready for the first visitors, Beth’s friends. Both areas are now tiled and grouted … and I have to admit to being really pleased with the results!
Raising the Roof on the Piggery
We took down the tiles from the piggery roof as the roof has been threatening to fall in at any moment after the last heavy snow. It was a big job with lots of safety considerations – it all went smoothly, and the view from the house is dramatically different as we also cut down the overgrown trees around the old stone walls. Long term we plan to use the four walls to make a dreamy swimming pool! Watch this space!
The Buanderie –
Or utility room! The buanderie is currently serving as the kitchen and will do for a good while I suspect as we build and create our kitchen upstairs. Rather comically it has a dishwasher – a brilliant idea of Joe’s as it only uses cold water and we currently only have cold water, (until the heating is installed… soon we hope – the boiler has already been delivered!) The dishwasher was sitting in storage upstairs, so we carried it down and plumbed it in! It has worked brilliantly with the camping gang!
Help from friends…
Yet again we’ve been blessed by a weekend of help from Luke and Marie’s friends -so generous! They came and helped with some heavy stuff – spent the night in the tents before Beth’s friends arrived – and put in a second shift the next day. Such a boost!
The Secret Seven go Camping!
We have the most magical campsite in the middle of the field – Beth and her six friends have celebrated the pleasures of outdoor living. Marshmallows in the fire, swimming in the river and dancing under the stars. Hopefully its the first of many summer camps.
I have to get this up now – every time I plan to upload an update we add a new achievement – there’s bound to be some things I’ve missed – but you’re basically up to speed! As always, thank you for reading this far! Until next time…
Here we are in May already – Blue skies and long grass, and the field is full of wild flowers. I’m back at work again, with fingers strapped but able to drive!
Lots to tell – lots to show… so let’s get started!
Having abandoned the first Velux after my finger episode, we returned with zeal during the spring holidays – profiting from two full sunny days with Arty, Luke, Joe and me dedicated to making some holes in the roof and filling them with windows!
Day one – we managed to put the three smaller windows in the two mezzanine bedrooms and the bathroom:
On the second day, we tackled two bigger windows – one on the North side, and one on the South. The safety needs change quite dramatically on the other side of the house, as of course it’s two storeys high. Arthur was so at ease on the roof by this point, so he took it on, securely harnessed and attached to the beams inside to keep him safe. A few days later, Arty, Joe and I put in another couple of big ones on the South side.
And last bank holiday weekend – we gambled again with threatening dark clouds on the horizon, and Arty, Luke, Joe and I managed to get the last two windows in!!
Massive psychological landmark to reach – the interior is totally transformed – flooded with bright sunshine in the day, and beautiful soft light in the evening or when it’s raining.
Joe has single-handedly wired up the whole house – hours and hours of intricate installation – we just need to connect it all up now. Enedis will come and move the electrical entry point in the next few weeks – we had to drill a big hole in the wall, and we were lucky enough to have help from our friend Pierre Yves and his father in law who arrived with a massive drilling machine which effortlessly drilled through the stone!
The new floorboards arrive –
We have collected our beautiful new floor. To make space to store it all, we first had to clear out the old floorboards which we still want to use for furniture and other projects – boy those things are heavy!
We were lucky to have a team of Luke’s friends to help unload our beautiful floorboards:
The guys then proceeded to load a trailer full of big heavy stuff for the dump – so appreciated!
The bedhead beam
Our beautiful beam is safely bolted into its resting place – plaster-boarding has begun, electric back-boxes (for plugs and switches) are in place, and we are really getting the feel of how the bedroom space will work.
We’re putting up plasterboard all over the place now – and every piece is thrilling as it starts to transform the space into our home!
I’m tasked with the job of jointing and finishing… I’ve watched a few YouTube videos, and started learning my craft in the pantry, very forgiving as it will mostly all be covered! Flush with the success of my first attempts, I’ve moved on to the big spine wall –
I’m loving it! We shall see how good it looks when it’s finished and painted, but I find the process really satisfying… fair bit to go yet mind!
Below is the beginnings of the pantry door – reclaimed from an original door in the house – dismantled, adjusted and reassembled in the workshop by Joe – it will have glass panels. The pink box will house an electric cooker, with a microwave above. The freezer will live in the pantry, along with lots of open shelves of food and kitchen stuff – what a treat!
Roof Insulating continues…
We are so nearly finished with the roof insulation; next we need to plasterboard it!
Family news – birthdays and driving tests… (and a quick trip to the UK)
Arty had his 18th birthday in April – on the actual weekend of his birthday, Arty and Cassandra, Luke and Marie and Joe and I went and tried our hand at an escape game in St Etienne. We tackled their most difficult game, Paranoya – and achieved it with seconds to spare! Only 20% succeed, so we were pretty chuffed! So satisfying – and really good fun!
And last Saturday he celebrated with a bunch of friends in Solignac – BBQ, and a night around the campfire – I really love that he chose to celebrate his birthday at the house!
Sounded like a great night!
I too had a birthday – and had the most lovely day!
Beautiful pressies, including a gorgeous yellow rose from Joe –
We finished the afternoon with a stroll down to the river (our first this year) – I cannot think of anywhere I’d rather have spent my birthday!
So that was Friday May 11th… two days later – this happened:
It lasted a few days, but normality seems to have returned thank goodness! Really quite unsettling!!
Coming of age
Not only did Arthur have his 18th birthday, he also had his first tattoo! (Christmas pressie from Joe and I)
That’s all four of our children inked now! Who’d have thought it!
It’s a beautiful design, and really well done – he’s thrilled!
It’s healed really nicely, and suits him so much:
And the final big news is that Arty passed his driving test…not only past it, but got a test result of 31/31 …. he’s good!
But before all that birthday fun – I took a whirlwind trip to the UK to have a girlie weekend with my Mum and sisters – we named it ‘The Onesie weekend’ as Mum kitted us all out in one… it was a heavenly few days of laughter and love!
Well I think you’re pretty much up to speed now – as always, thank you for joining us on our big adventure – Fingers crossed for a long and glorious summer! Rumour is we’re going to have a heatwave… bring it, on I say!
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’!
Stunningly beautiful snowy wintery weather has been with us for much of January and February – but we started the year with a few days of T-shirt-worthy sunshine, which we took advantage of to continue working on our beautiful bed-head beam.
It was the only time we got outside though… there has been a lot of snow and it’s been very chilly inside and out!
One day we arrived at Solignac to find we had condensation on the outside! Colder on the inside than in the snow!
We’ve got our work cut out warming up these old stones! We’re confident that we we’ll have it cosy before next winter!
Electricity and Plumbing
Joe has now finished the first fix of the electrics, with his usual attention to detail – he’s really in his comfort zone here and completed the run of cables (and there are a lot of them!) with aplomb.
And so we take a little side-step away from our comfort zone and tackle the plumbing!
It’s a big old surface to cover, and doing the pipe-work ourselves makes a massive financial difference to our whole project. The plan is to bring in a professional to install and commission the wood-burning boiler.
So with lots of YouTube video watching and late night research to try and do this right, we’ve decided to go the PER (polyethylene) route. It seems to be very popular, and the cheapest and most accessible to non-experts like us.
We’ve been greatly enjoying a French YouTuber LJVS – he’s informative and very funny! We actually contacted him when we realised he’s not far from us, to see if we can get together and he replied – “Pourquoi pas avec plaisir” –
Joe drew up a pipes and water-works plan and we unpacked the A1 printer and printed out a few copies which are strategically pinned up around the house.
We went to BricoDepôt and filled our trolley with a stack of gear … and got started!
And as half term comes to a chilly end, we’ve pretty much finished the hot and cold water distribution feeds, and are awaiting supplies from a big internet order to start the heating run to the radiators. It’s looking good so far…although of course we won’t know how well we’ve done until we can run some water through it! Quite nerve-wracking actually, but hugely satisfying to feel that this is another thing we’ve tackled ourselves!
One day in January, we made a spontaneous decision to turn the small hole in the wall in our bedroom (which used to to take the pipe out of the old wood burning stove) into a fireplace! Arty took the sledgehammer to it, and there was no turning back!! We toyed with the idea of an open fire, but I think we will probably put a pellet-burner in there to make the temperature easier to regulate, since it’s a bedroom. Won’t it be glorious to snuggle in on a snowy evening with a real flame!
New Doors to keep out the cold –
The drafty old garage doors have been replaced by another set of beautiful doors made by Joe from old floorboards from the barn – and he’s added a frame to the big barn doors too – what a difference they make!
A visual tour…
Here are a few general pictures of where we are with the layout upstairs –
Harry got his driving licence!! Yay! He headed off back to Sweden on Valentines day. How romantic! We had such a fun few months with the four of us living together – the last six weeks in the flat with Harry and Arty sharing a room! Very happy he’s back with his lovely wife Armel, but we miss him lots!
And finally… when the snow is at its prettiest…
It reminds us of why we’ve chosen to live in the mountains of the Haute Loire!
Thanks so much for reading – until next time – Bisous à tous!
So 2018 is upon us it seems – it arrived so fast my head is spinning!
Hope you had the most wonderful of Christmases and the New Year celebration of your choice! (Ours was a cosy, quiet and extremely relaxed affair!)
Before you read any further, please take a look at this year’s Christmas video and Review of 2017 from Beth… I could honestly watch it all day it makes me so happy and tingly!
It’s been all change here as we moved two days before Christmas into a small and cosy flat much nearer Solignac for the end of the renovation. It was quite a gargantuan effort from all concerned, but it feels like a giant leap towards our future home. All but the bare essentials are now stored in the studio in Solignac, and we can be on site in less than ten minutes which will make life so much easier. We bid a heartfelt fond farewell to the house in Bas, which has been such a magnificent and happy home for the last five years. So many happy memories there, it holds a very special place in our hearts!
Here’s a quick family December update to bring you up to speed…
On the family front:
Harry got his code! (The written part of his driving licence) Yay! He’s back with us in a few days to get that driving licence ‘dans la poche’ *in the pocket as quickly as possible.
Arty released the short film he and his friends made in their half term holidays. Well worth a watch, however good your French is!
The teaser for the beautiful series of films Joe and Luke made over the summer were screened to a really appreciative audience: You can see it on the 43 Media Facebook Page (by clicking on the photo below!)
And Luke and Harry played together at a charity event in front of 600 peeps!
Beth came home for the Xmas hols, and we had one glorious cross-over night together before Harry left to spend Christmas in Sweden with Armel.
And meanwhile, down on the farm…
There’s been a fair bit of snow…
Joe has been courageously braving the icy conditions to spread wires all around the house for the first LX fix. Truly in awe of this man… he knows his onions!
Much of this job Joe has done alone, but whenever possible Arty, Luke and Harry have been by his side!
Windows and Doors
Our beautiful new doors (French windows I guess we’d call them anywhere but here!) have been fitted… oh, the light they give us is glorious!
And a chimney!
We were lucky enough to be given a wood burning stove a few months ago. We ordered a chimney and Arty attached the five and a half metres of it to the interior studio stone wall. Since then we’ve been waiting patiently to install the last piece of chimney through the roof. Ironically, just when we’ve needed the heat the most, through this very chilly month, the weather has been too bad to get up on the roof and stick a hole in it so that we could light the fire!
A few days ago, however, the sun came out and we seized the chance. Arty scaled the roof, properly harnessed to keep him safe from harm. He first marked up and cut the hole in the wood from the inside, then he climbed up on the roof, removed some tiles, which Joe cut to size, and added the top part of the chimney. He was so confident and assured up there – big respect to that boy!
And finally, a bit of warmth! Felt like quite an iconic moment!
And the ultimate bedhead!
This beautiful beam will be our bedhead – taken from where the staircase will go, this heavy beauty is being sanded, prepared and hoisted in to place to grace our bedroom!
And I think you’re more or less up to speed – so thank you so much for reading, and I hope your 2018 turns out to be everything you hope for!
Here’s Beth to sing us out with her most recent song – and stunning video to transport you into the new year…