As Autumn draws on there are many tasks to do outdoors - with the house covered in Virginia creeper, and the garden full of trees and shrubs, some strong winds bring down the leaves, with an airborne palette of browns, golds and reds:
- and as we have been clearing leaves and dead annual plants we discover various creatures preparing for the winter:
The period when Autumn changes to Winter is such a mixture: so, as we cover up Orson the Olive Tree to protect him from possible frosts, we still have roses in bud and geraniums in flower:
While some trees and plants 'close down', we see in among the grass all sorts of little fungii forming semi-circles and 'faery rings':
But in the early morning there is no mistaking the lower temperatures and that 'just off frost' feeling and appearance and we're wondering what sort of winter it will be ... this time last year we had quite heavy falls of snow:
After the end of Stage 4 we have three weeks before the Stage 5 starts. There has been a bit of final coat painting to be done and we have now completed this. But the main thing has to get the tiling done - as Stage 5 will need this to be completed so the woodwork ... the skirting and the interior doors ... can be fixed. We sourced some tiles in Carmaux at a very good price and checked that these were anti-slip and would be suitable to take the weight of large wheelchairs. The tile shop recommended a 'macon carrelage' who turned up the following day to have a look, provided a quotation within 24 hours, which we agreed, and he started work the Monday of this week. He has been working woith a colleague, turning up at 8.30am each morning, we give them a coffee and off they go .... they have bought their own microwave oven and they sit down for half-an-hour and have a hot lunch and then put in a full afternoon's work. Their work has been meticulous, putting down a leveling compound, then a webbing material (to prevent movement on the tiles) and finally the tiles, laid in a diamond pattern:
They have said the work will be completed next Wednesday, ready for Stage 4 starting the next week - so, excellent timing. We are very happy with the timing and the standard of the work. We keep on hearing from various 'ex-pats' how poor French workmanship and professionalism is - our experiences over what is now 30 years of having houses in France that need work doing is completely the opposite ... we have had excellent value, high quality workmanship, accurate quotations and work always completed on time ... so, why should that be?
Well, we have been working right 'up to the edge' of the Stage 4 schedule .... working both Saturday and Sunday. But what a great overall result! The fireplace has been finished off, with the 'big bit' being the beam - which we collected from the sawmill on Friday. It is a 3 metre long, oak beam - weighing about 200 kilos, so lifting it up to sit on the stone columns either side of the fireplace was quite tricky ... but here it is!
Then it has been a question of finishing off the detailing around the fireplace and beam:
And the final touches of painting have been completed, with a certain dog providing quality assurance:
The overall area is now fully ready to have the floor tiles laid in a couple of weeks time; and the next Stage, running from the start of December, will complete the fitting of the interior french door, the 'finishing woodwork' (skirting, door architraves and liners etc), the electric sockets and lighting and other 'bits and pieces'. If all this goes without a hitch - and it should, compared to what has been achieved to date ('touch wood' ... there's enough of it ...) - then we will have the whole development ready for Christmas, with the only major job of the wood stove installation to be completed in the early New Year. Really terrific progress and David qualifies for 'constructeur de l'année'!
..... à bientôt ...
A lot of progress since the last Post: where to start? Well, there has been the finishing touches to the concrete screeding, adjoining the flooring panels, all ready for the tile laying the second half of November:
But, most significant has been the work on the fireplace - we want to construct a large, inglenook-type fireplace, using the original barn stones that we have taken out to make the exterior french doors and the large window ... remember those stones?
The idea is to have a raised stone base, with stone pillars either end, and then a beam across the top at about 1.5 metres. So, first of all David lays down a course of stone at the base and then gradually builds up the courses of stone so the front line of stone for the base is formed:
Then hardcore is used to infill behind the front line of stones, ready to take the stone surface:
Then, it is a question of finding stones to lay the whole base and also to build the pillars that will be at either end:
Oska is already anticipating the fireplace .... and claiming his place:
By the end of 'Fireplace Day 1' this is the result - incredible work ... David is a real star!
On the more mundane side of things - the beam painting is all complete and the undercoat has been done on all the boarding in the sitting/dining room:
Some painting statistics: 164 beam coatings (that's 41 beams with 4 coats each!); and 75 litres of paint so far ..... final coat for boarding in sitting/dining room to go and we're aiming to complete this before the tiler comes the week after next.
Tomorrow go to saw mill to finally select the fireplace beam and the rough-cut oak for the skirting etc and sort out delivery as quickly as possible.
We knew those pumpkins in the garden would have a role!
Well, it has been another few days of really good progress - the filling and sanding on the remaining part, the main sitting/dining room, has been completed ... with David working with his patent broomstick method!
We have now completed the all the 'second-coat' painting in the lobby/larder area ... but it's not exactly exciting to past in photographs of white walls ... pristine and beauteous as they are!
More to the point has been the work on laying the wooden flooring, ready for the tiling. The main problem has been the uneven concrete flooring - which needs to be made as level as possible. We have found some of the story behind why the floor is the way it is - apparently the concreting was supposed to be done over two days, but the concrete was delivered (we reckon about 80 tonnes - it is @ 140 square metres) not just on 'Day 1' but all in the morning ... so, a 'team' of six people worked furiously to get it laid as evenly as possible (it was also mid-summer, so very hot) - but, inevitably, it ended up a bit 'wonky' at the far end ... the end we're working on. Anyway, the solution is to lay battens every 70 cms or so, of varying heights, so that any variation in the concrete flooring is compensated for:
The battens are screwed to the floor and the extra-thick (to allow for extra loads that wheelchairs might bring) flooring panels are laid, and then not only are the panels screwed to the battens, but holes are drilled and filled with PVU foam and this sets rigid and secures the panel from moving:
David has to cut the panels to a variety of shapes, using a circular saw with laser-guided cut-lines:
There are some areas of the floor where the irregularity is too great to compensate with the use of battens - so, these have to chipped out (not quite as easy as it sounds, as it is reinforced concrete) and then screeded over to a smooth and even level and butted up to the laid wooden panels, so the tiling has an overall level surface:
By late this afternoon (Sunday) the wooden flooring and all but one small area of the concrete screeding has been completed across all the living/dining room - a terrific amount of progress. Work will then start on laying the wooden flooring in the lobby and larder area. This will enable work to start on the finishing coats of paint on the beams and ceiling in the sitting/dining room - what fun!
But this has been a very good week - excellent progress. Outside the weather has been beautiful ... cloudless Autumn skies, with temperatures in the mid-20's:
Simon lives at Nichoir, Le Bruel, with his wife Noella. They moved here in May 2013, with their Newfoundland dog, Oska, and their cat, Snufkin. Together they have set out on an adventure to create what they hope will be home from home for family and a rather special Chambres D'Hotes for guests.
Simon & Noella Mauger, 'Nichoir', Le Bruel, 81340 Lacapelle Pinet, TARN, France