La Rentrée – wish this summer could go on forever!

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September is upon us… Harry’s been with us for a weekend visit; and for one historic half hour we were all together –

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Now Harry’s back in Paris – I’ve just dropped Beth off at the airport heading back to the UK for her second year at UCA. Arty and I started back at lycée today too, so the golden days of the summer holidays have truly come to an end!

First off, can I take this chance to say thank you for your comments and support – it gives us such a boost! We love fellow blogger Osyth’s description of our adventures:

“This is like house renovation on steroids! “

it really made us laugh!

Here’s what we did in August… on caffeine, wine and laughter (no steroids – promise!)

The heavy storms dotted through the summer (which brought water cascading through the house at some points), made the gutters a pressing priority –

It took a bit of trial and error, as we wanted to keep the original galvanised gutter, all 16 metres of it! We painted and mounted barge boards to change the flow direction, and in the end we bought new clips to be sure our work wasn’t rendered pointless by the old clips breaking as we re-mounted the guttering.

Basically, we’ve changed the direction of the flow so that the rainwater now runs away from the house, rather than down towards it’s foundations!

Although we started in blistering sunshine, there was the rumble of distant thunder in the air…. Joe, Arty and I raced against the storm clouds as we sealed, assembled and put the final pieces in place – just before the heavens opened and we had the heaviest rain – which flowed beautifully through our newly positioned gutter and down-pipe!

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The old galvanised guttering …

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Taking off the old clips…

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And attaching the new ones

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Blue skies…

 

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…and serious rain!

As soon as the sun came out again we finished the down pipe, and the north side of the house is done for now.

The final chunk of concrete was brought down and evacuated by Arty in the garage/cave – what a victory, and what a sensational room it’s going to be!

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This will be our main entrance – glass doors to let the light in, and stairs descending to our shared office.

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luminous view from the door… and we also plan three Veluxes in the roof

Our next big mission was to level the main beams between ground and first floor – after much thought, we decided to use the highest one as our starting point, and put planks (on their edge) along each beam, lining up to our reference height.

This involved a lot of beam straddling which luckily Joe and Arty do with ease and grace-

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Once all the levelling planks were fixed, checked and double-checked, we laid down the sub-floor of OSB panels. We plan to use the salvaged original floorboards on top of this now-flat base.

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We had another blitz of young talent and energy with Beth’s return from the UK (straight from the airport to Solignac and a couple of nights in the tent!) and Cloé and Arty’s friends Lucas and Solene. As always they brought laughter and joy and powered us through getting the sub-floor down. The magical part for us is that the benefits seem to go both ways – they, like us, are constantly learning new skills and conquering old fears (of heights, bats, spiders etc!) Their sense of satisfaction is palpable and their rewards of swimming in the river, and evenings by the fire fill the place with joy!

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These teenage wonders also attacked the garden, Arty cutting down trees, and Cloé blazing through stinging nettles –

We’ve cleared around the six beautiful silver-birches at the side of the house, and also the big clump of trees and weeds in front of the house (where in fact the fosse septique is going to go). It has really changed both views dramatically.

 

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“I cut down trees…”

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guiding the fall… (away from the neighbours fence!)

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Cloé  with the weed-whacker (generously given to us by our lovely Hills!)

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It’s amazing how much more open it feels!

Finally, to the bathroom… We knew we had a walled cellar under what will be our bathroom, and we discovered that much of the wooden floor (and more importantly, the beams beneath it) were pretty rotten, so we pulled it all up…and revealed the most extraordinary space:

 

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So now we’ve uncovered it we feel compelled to use it somehow – current thinking is a sunken Moroccan bathroom, with stone steps leading directly into a hand-built sunken bath, and big walk in shower!!

My husband is a genius, and I’m seriously excited about this!

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So now the tents are down, and work on the house has to jostle for time with other commitments – we’re heading to the UK in a few weeks for Joe’s mum’s 80th birthday, and I’m off to Faro for a week with my Mum on Saturday… and then there’s the small matter of earning a living!

Joe has shot two weddings this summer – he and Luke shot the video for one here in France, and the following week we had a wonderful whirlwind weekend with dear friends John and Katrin near Huddersfield, where Joe took the most beautiful photos.

The trip gave us a chance to see Jan and Dave (Joe’s parents) in their stunning new apartment in York:

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And we also turned a disaster (admittedly very much a first-world disaster) – an overnight delay of our return flight from Manchester to Lyon – into a golden opportunity by grabbing the chance to spend the evening and a very comfortable night with Carrie and John – Joe’s sister and brother-in-law.

All in all – a marathon summer to remember forever… just as I’d hoped!

Thanks for reading this far! More soon – xxx

 

 

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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.

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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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June and July 2017- sunshine and glitter…

nice view!

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

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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!

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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!

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Atelier- Oil Painting by  Deb Milner

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!)

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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!!

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So that’s where we’ve reached as of 19th July 2017… Thanks for reading and may this glorious summer be a long one!

 

 

 

March/April and now May 2017 – including the best Easter ever!

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When Joe takes photos of the beams…

 

This year we’ve had the most memorable, magical family Easter gathering in Solignac – Easter egg hunt, archery, Ninja (new game…very funny!) and a magnificent roaring bonfire… and a feast of snacks!  Truly special!

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Beth came home from Uni for a fortnight, and our lovely friend Hills has arrived from the USA to spend a few months helping us with the build…and Harry came home for a few days while Armel stayed in Paris and worked on her final papers for her Masters degree.

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So for a few sweet days we were all together and we relished every minute of it! A rare and treasured treat for me to be surrounded by family! Beth even managed to get her brothers together to record with her for her You Tube channel (well-worth-a-visit #proudmum) – a witty homage to S Club 7 :

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And so to the house… so much to tell! – I left you at the beginning of March with Joe and I working our way across all the first floor beams,  cleaning and de-nailing them.

We then got stuck in to the digging of the trenches to take the evacuation pipes from the bathrooms, kitchen, utility room etc. This involved cutting and digging up large chunks of concrete, and a lot of serious pick-axe and shovel action!

The pipes have to descend at an angle of -2º to make sure everything leaves the building and reaches the fosse septique (septic tank) which will be installed in the garden later.  Until we have properly laid all the pipework and are sure it’s all sealed and perfect… we can’t fill in the huge holes we’ve now made! We hired a digger for a weekend and did some serious digging!! But we’ve done a huge amount by hand…encountering several rocks the size of a small car!

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We’ve still got the very last bit to do – and we’ve hit the Easter holidays now so have more bodies on hand to get stuck in! Joe and I have been there at the house every weekend, often joined by Luke and Marie, and Arty and Cloe, whenever they can.

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We spent the most lovely evening with our neighbours the other weekend – they are so nice – really welcoming and interesting and full of useful local information.

IMG_1463We were so thrilled, as we are only about six houses in our little hamlet, and to find such delightful people so close just confirmed our gut feeling that Solignac is going to be such a happy place to live!

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Hills has jumped straight into sanding our beautiful roof beams – we’ve laid down a temporary floor so that we can work our way right across –IMG_0891.jpg

*That’s as far as I got with the ‘after Easter’ blog… a month has passed without me quite finishing… so here’s what we did in May:

May came and went in a blur!

Joe, Luke and I took a week out of the build to go to Frankfurt and install the stand Joe had built for an exhibition; I translated and hostessed for a week, and then we took it down and brought it all home. I came home to the most wonderful surprise birthday party, with Harry and Armel popping down from Paris too! Felt so so lucky!

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We all hit Solignac again mid May…profiting from the numerous May holidays in France to get some extra days work on the house.

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Things are buzzing for Joe and Luke at 43Media, and I’ve been teaching full-time at the lycée again, covering the maternity leave of another English teacher – so our working days have been restricted to weekends and fériés (public holidays).

Here’s what we’ve been up to:

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We abandoned the sander, which has spent more time not working than sanding… constant repairing, modifying and de-blocking it, finally made us quit while were were still sane, and move on.

 

 

 

We’re disappointed – we thought we’d bought well from a local company in the Ardèche, but it has wasted so much of our precious time – so we had to change plans. It has a five year guarantee, so we’ll get on to them and sort it out – but in the meantime Hills continues to wire brush and air-blast the beams from her lofty tower in preparation for us to hire a more robust machine for a couple of days. The beams which we actually managed to sand look sensational  – we can’t wait to see them all looking so beautiful!

The other big job we have oh-so-nearly finished is the laying of all the evacuation pipes.

We had a little bit more digging to do – then we dry-fitted them all, then glued them… and finally tested them last weekend. A couple of little adjustments and we will make the final test (hopefully) this weekend – so satisfying!

This is massive, as once tried and tested, we can re-instate the floor and move on to the next stage of the build. It will be a real turning point, as we begin to construct instead of demolish!!

So the good news is:  the weather has been glorious – our meadow looks spectacular…

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Beth came home from Uni in the UK yesterday…

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And in less celebratory news: Arthur had to have his tendons re-attached after a nasty cut of his left index finger last week! He’s been unbelievably brave, and should make a full recovery.

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Wish us luck! – have a great weekend, and thank you for reading!

 

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!

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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!

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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!)

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

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

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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:

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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!

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And so it begins…

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the pile of broken concrete grows…

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Arty and friends

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digging out the stones

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

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

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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!

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

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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!

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Access tower in place to start cleaning the beams tomorrow!

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‘Top o’ the world!’

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Higher than expected!

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From the ground to the roof…

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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!

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Yes, she can!

The first month – January 2017…slowly slowly catchy monkey (what does that even mean?)

We’re nearly a month into ‘the build’… and it’s been a month of giant leaps!

Since we signed for the house on 11th Jan, we’ve had a lot of magnificent snow – so we didn’t venture over to Solignac on the first weekend. Instead, we spent it in Bas, dismantling the studio and the workshop which we had constructed in the basement here … quite emotional, there have been many precious and creative moments spent in both!  We will use all the wood and insulation for construction at the farm, and we need to set up our chantier workshop over there too of course.

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So many musical moments and parties… a genuine garage band location!

First visit after signing…

Once the roads were safe, Joe and I couldn’t resist heading on over the following weekend – to ‘begin’… we took the chain saw, and hot soup and a lot of warm clothes, and went with the modest mission of cutting down the over-grown pear tree nestled too close to the house by the front door…

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Look at that excitement!

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The chainsaw took a little bit of starting in the cold… but once it got going there was no stopping us!

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Mission accomplished!

We temporarily weather-proofed the downstairs windows with clear plastic, and left it at that for starters… slow and steady, slow and steady…

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Narnia snow!

2nd and 3rd trip

The snow continued, and on Thursday 26th we had an appointment at the farm with the electricity company, after a series of lengthy phone calls about whether we could be connected, as the previous owners had never had an account in their name which meant that the house has had no power for at least ten years. Joe and I drove there in two cars, as I had to go on to work afterwards, and he wanted to stay on a bit… however the weather turned to blizzard mode during our drive over. The EDF guys came regardless, and with cheery smiles and no fuss, turned the power on! I turned around and the kitchen light was on! So exciting!

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Let there be light!

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Can you spot the electricity men in the blizzard?!           (The house with the icicles is our neighbours’, with their nearly-finished garage just waiting for its roof)

With the weather worsening, we didn’t hang about, much as we wanted to, but crept back on white roads, not icy…just so much snow falling so fast.

The following weekend we went over with Luke and Marie taking the access tower, and our old cooker from the bus, and a bunch of tools. We put up our chantier sign and investigated the extent of our electricity.

And we’re off!

So into February – the snow has almost all melted away, and we had a massive weekend! – Arthur, Luke, Joe and I on Saturday; Luke, Marie, Joe and I on Sunday – and we achieved an unbelievable amount of work!

Basically we took out the whole barn floor, storing the beautiful thick planks to be planed and re-used;  and burning the rotten ones in a massive bonfire. We don’t have running water in the house yet, but we do have source water bubbling up through the rocks and flowing through a pipe into our field. So effectively we have crystal clear mountain water in abundance! The weather was idyllic on Saturday – with clear blue skies and sunshine. We cooked rice on our trusty bus cooker, drunk copious cups of tea, and ate outside in our T-shirts!

Saturday in pictures…

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And Sunday…

On Sunday we continued, less sunshine but the same spirit. We exchanged Arty (who was playing football) for Luke’s girlfriend Marie, who cleaned our site kitchen until it sparkled! We had a nasty moment where Joe received a blow to the cheekbone with a hammer (poor Luke was wielding it). It’s produced a real shiner, and is still pretty painful – but even that didn’t stop Joe powering on until the work was done! We swept and organised before we left, and were glowing with pride at what we’d achieved in one weekend.

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It’s ours!

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Brave new year…

2017 has started well for us – after a truly magical Christmas of returning offspring and their loved ones. Simple and delicious: we ate and drank and talked and laughed and really appreciated each other’s company – bliss!

Beth and I recorded a little song, which was a great honour for me – her biggest fan! (although I was a bit croaky after the cold that seemed to catch everyone we know wherever they were in the world! ) –

Arty edited our annual Christmas video – taking the mantle from Beth now that she’s away studying…

And on Boxing Day, we went over to the farm and cracked open a  bottle of champagne while we were all together (before Harry and Armel returned to Paris and Beth flew back to England), even though we were still a whisker away from completing. We drank champagne and all played a magnificent and rather bizarre game of hide and seek!

Off to the Notaire’s…

So having finally received our mortgage offer just before Christmas…waited the obligatory 11 days taking us to just after Christmas (29th December) – we signed and initialed a mountain of mortgage papers at the bank.  We drove over to Tence on Wednesday 11th Jan 2017 to the Notaire’s.  The weather was beautiful – clear blue skies and perfect snow to left and right (but none on the road to hinder us).

All went smoothly – our charming, witty and meticulous Notaire went through our 57 page (I’m not kidding!) act of purchase, which we all duly initialed and signed… and the deed was done! … and the deeds were ours!

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I was trembling with anticipation in the Notaire’s, adrenalin flowing…in fact we’ve been pretty fuelled on adrenalin ever since if I’m honest!

We went to see our great friends the Aicardis to share our news – and the four of us went over to the house, which was gloriously wearing it’s winter cloak – I was dying to see it in the snow… and it didn’t disappoint!

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So now this thing we’re doing is really happening, and no longer a ‘fingers crossed’, ‘if all goes well’ affair…

To do list…

It’s time to reconnect the electricity… (after 10 years), and turn the water back on. Then we need to set up a temporary on-site office… probably in here –img_1735 if we can get that little wood burner going!

There’s a few concrete floors to dig out; the floorboards of the grange (the barn) to take up; pretty well all the windows to replace; the fosse septique (septic tank) to put in; and a whole lot of fun to have!!

Watch this space! And thanks for reading!

xxx