vendredi 31 août 2007

Before and after



The worst must be behind me now (I hope)! Both of the front gables are restored and on Monday the battens arrive so I can demolish the dormer and felt the roof. Work on the back of the house will start shortly after though I've already raised the chimney by half a metre. The sun shone today.

mercredi 29 août 2007

New pas d'oiseau take shape

The newly constructed steps are nearly finished but strong winds are threatening to tear the tarpaulins off!

mardi 28 août 2007

Still hot

Claude and I have our l'apero interrupted by paperazzi (Sophie with a camera).

Another very hot day and just another three steps completed.

lundi 27 août 2007


Frank and Sophie and the kids (Ollie, Louis, Dylan and Daisy) dropped in for the night on their way to Barcelona from Bordeaux. They'd been camping for a week close to Bordeaux near Europe's biggest sand dune.

It was good to catch up. I took the kids mushroom hunting in the evening and though we only found half a cep and a pied de mouton they seemed pleased enough and delighted in eating what they'd found.

A succession of visitors - Claude then Philippe and Sophie reminded them that remote doesn't necessarily mean isolated. Claude took great pleasure in talking to Sophie in Spanish and Catalan (Sophie grew up in Argentina).

The weather for last few days has been hot (36 in the shade and humid) and it seems summer has finally arrived. Very hot working on the roof and progress is now reduced to early morning and late evening. Three new steps built on the north gable - another eight to go.

vendredi 24 août 2007

Health update

Corbett seems right as rain this morning, obviously his healthy lifestyle and diet have given him a strong immune system.

The chinese kango hammer did it's job impecably and the gable is now removed back to the underlying blockwork. A new oak rafter is cut and tomorrow hopefully I will install it and start on the lead 'secret gutter' and rebuilding the pas d'oiseau.

jeudi 23 août 2007

Sick as a pig

Poor old Corbett is not well today. He was fine this morning but very lethargic at lunchtime, slept most of the day looking sorry for himself and barely touched his food (for a pig that's most unusual). Spoke with some fellow pig keeper's for advice...he's under observation and if he doesn't perk up in the next 24 hrs I'll have to give him some antibiotics.

Yesterday as it was raining I cleaned the Rayburn outside and in, flues and all, and gave it some cosmetic repairs to chipped enamel, etc.

Today I worked a bit on the second gable before the rain started again. Like most most french DIY it was built with masses of concrete (instead of mortar). My vision of it falling apart with one blow from a lump hammer where sadly incorrect - in fact after two hours of pounding I'd managed to dislodge three stones and one slab. It's so badly built I've got to take a lot down, the 'builder' obviously had a vague idea of building and inserted a DPC between the end of the blockwork and the start of the stonework but unfortunately he put it in the wrong place and its directed all moisture and rain ingress onto the rafter against the wall which he'd wrapped in insulation. Of course it's rotted away and in fact there's virtually nothing left except dust. Decided the demolition would need a 'kango' hammer if works are to stay on programme (particularly given the current inclement weather). Hiring one proved v expensive but Mr Bricolage (the local B&Q) had a special offer machine for just £40! Made in China it's very unsofisticated but has a whopping 1500W motor. No brain, lots of muscle sounds perfect for demolition.

mercredi 22 août 2007


As if to underline the crap summer it snowed on the mountains last night, above is the view from the window this morning.

Netherless it was warm and dry this morning allowing me to make a start on the second gable. The first is nearing completion.

lundi 20 août 2007

Its raining

This weekend was the Fete d'Aleu. Boules events during the day and a disco in the evenings. The village is full during August as most of the houses are second homes. The fete seems to be mostly for them. I think most of the people who live here all year round (I think about 27 of us) aren't so enthusiastic - but l'apero after Sunday mass is well attended. Apparently the mass was taken by the padrey from St Cernin the Cathedral in Toulouse - as he was on holiday in the neighbouring village of Soulan. I met a few new people and afterwards Dede and Mizou (both about eighty though you'd never guess it) invited me for lunch with their grand daughter and her boyfriend. A veritable feast that lasted 3 hours with plenty of alcohol. Desert was taken in the neighbouring house with their neice Annie and her daughter including some prune schnaps which Annie's husband made in 1945! Very nice indeed.

After some more work on the roof today it's now raining and is set to rain for the next few days. So far it's been a poor summer - perhaps we'll have an indian summer?

samedi 18 août 2007

Pas d'oiseau

After a few steps back with the 'pas d'oiseau', at last some steps forward. Things are beginning to shape up and details are being solved. The slabs now follow the pitch line of the roof 300mm above the level of the battens.
Several slabs and their supporting blocks had to be replaced. Moving 30kg blocks of granite or a huge flagstones high on the roof was both difficult, exhausting and dangerous - calling for extreme care and concentration! There aren't too many to replace thankfully, I've started on the gable in worst condition.

mercredi 15 août 2007

Hot, hot, hot

Blisteringly hot today and with the house roof facing south-west, by 2.00 it was too hot to work. Most of the concrete is now removed and the rafter repaired - and after some measuring the task seems more manageable now - weather permitting. The roof is now under wraps as a thunderstorm is due tonight and tomorrow.

In the late afternoon I painted the inside of the barn - with no insulation on the roof (the thatch will provide this), polythene covering the window and door openings and the building drying out it's like a sauna.

Saw Mr Whippy again today (the Whip snake) about a meter and a half long and beautiful yellow and black chequered markings.

mardi 14 août 2007

Open roof

After carrying the scaffolding and ladder up from the barn and re-erecting it against the house I finally started taking the roof off. My nightmare scenario is realised and the job's 'a biggun'. The 'pas d'oiseau' (stepped gables) are in poor condition and like most most french buildings they have been bodged with plenty of concrete and flashband. The rafters (about the size of telegraph poles) are at about 3 foot centres and as one clashed with the old concrete chimney a foot long section had been completely removed leaving the two free ends suspended on skyhooks! I've stripped one line of roof sheets against the front gable wall, removed the mineral wool insulation and removed the old concrete chimney which was exceedingly heavy. Then off to St G to get a tarpaulin to cover the hole (rain forecast for thursday).

Tomorrow I'll get out the measuring tape and take stock of the works necessary over the next 4 weeks.

lundi 13 août 2007

A full day

This morning I capped the walls of the grange with mortar laid to falls. then finished the internal linings, fixed the eaves fascias and generally tidied up - just painting internally to do but that can wait for a rainy day. then Sophie arrived with her son Pierre and I gave them the tour of the animals and grange (they were last here in February). Next I replaced the oak cill of one of the windows at quelebu which was rotten with wood left over from the grange window, before repairing the scythe (a tear in the blade), sharpening it and heading over to la maison de la miande to help Philippe (sophie's husband). I cleared all the bracken and brambles around the house whilst Philippe was busy with the chainsaw. Back to Quelebu to feed the pigs before heading over to Claudes for l'apero. Then dinner with Sophie and Philippe who are house sitting for John and Sandrine. On the walk home a blood curdling and incessant growling turned out to be huge hedgehog by the side of the road. Amazingly bright glowworms lit the last part of the route home.

Tomorrow I start on the roof!

vendredi 10 août 2007

Last few days

A mixture of farm work and barn work over the last few days (which have been warm and sunny). On the farm fences have moved, fields have been scythed and vegetables tended to. On the barn the oak tilting fillets are in place on the roof, the insulation is fitted in the walls and the floor is varnished. Another day or so of work on the barn then it's time to 'mothball' it until the thatchers arrive and press on with the house roof and gables. Not sure what I'll find when I open up!

mardi 7 août 2007

Rain, rain, rain

The rain continued all today. So in the dry of the barn I laid a floor. Downstairs things were a bit wetter with ground water rising! But not as bad as before - a land drain and DPM should sort it. In fact this is the first time I've been able to see how much water comes through the walls as I now have a roof to keep the inside face dry. The good news is none.

The maize flowering nicely

lundi 6 août 2007

What a difference a day makes...

Today, in stark contrast to yesterday, it is falling out of the sky. After shopping in St G, I carried all the floorboards from the shed to the barn...they've been in the shed since the wood arrived about a month ago and have taken up just about all the floor space. 20 trips in all.

Spent the afternoon waxing my boots which I repaired yesterday (re-glueing the rands on) and waxing the waxed jacket - man what a job that is! Took forever and after finishing it with a hair dryer it turned from looking like oilskin to looking just the same as when I started. Still it's probably waterproof now.

Rain again tomorrow according to the forecast, so might fix the floorboards as the barn is dry inside.

dimanche 5 août 2007


Temperature hit the magic 40 degrees today and not a breath of wind. Second gable complete photos tomorrow.

samedi 4 août 2007


West gable complete and East underway, but it's too hot to work with clear skies and the temperature in the mid-thirties.

L'apero with the mayor and his neighbour this afternoon. Will probably go into the mountains in the next few days - it's been far too long.

vendredi 3 août 2007

Coeur du Canard 'Quelebu'

Fry some duck hearts, sliced leeks and thickly sliced cep mushrooms, in olive oil and a little butter. Season with salt and pepper. When nearly done add a little creme fraiche, a hint of mustard and some fresh parsley. Serve with boiled potatoes and carrots from the garden.

jeudi 2 août 2007

Ceps at last

The rain continued until lunchtime, but I still managed to finish the bargeboards and fix the customery bouquet to the ridge (traditional 'topping out' here).
The septic tank was emptied at luchtime then off to St G for shopping. As the moon is on the wane the mushrooms are at last pushing and a couple of ceps found in the woods near the barn will go well with my chicken tonight.

mercredi 1 août 2007

Not the barn! (just for a change)

Claude and I put the world to rights

I phone the legal help-line for advice on evicting a squatter from my bath

A rare moment of R and R

24 hours

One day later than planned, but the barn roof is now complete (except for bargeboards and tilting fillets). A few hours later we had a thunderstorm so just as well.

Tomorrow I'll finish the last few bits and probably clad the gables (weather permitting) then its back to the farm work and perhaps some rest!