Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Week 36

Day 242, Monday 8th November

The Boss goes off to work as usual for a Monday morning.

Steve and I take a trip to Brico's to buy some Firerock. This is basically fibreglass that withstands high temperatures and has a metallic backing to reflect the heat inside the house. The smoke generated by the fire goes up the stainless steel tube up the chimney. However, as the rest of the chimney is open to the elements, so does lots of the heat generated.


In case you've forgotten the view, it is now as the picture, but was ...






By blocking the chimney at roof level using Firerock, the theory is that all the warm air can rise up the chimney and warm the walls, without affecting global warming. Hence we will get some heating effect from the fires in the upstairs rooms.

After lunch we meet Sparkie to collect some firewood. We are buying a "brass" although I'm sure that is not the spelling. A brass is 4 cubic meters, and as Sparkie explained, its not really 4 cubic meters. Its is one Stair (again spelt phonetically). I hope you're following this. A Brass is 4 cubic meters, while a Stair is 4 cubic meters theoretically. As there are gaps between the logs, you don't actually get a cubic meter of wood. You get the wood, plus the gaps between them. And 4 cubic meters of wood with gaps of air, is a Stair.

Anyway, it takes two packed van loads and now all we have to do is cut every single log into two, carry them to the house from the barn, and by then we'll be hot enough without burning the logs.

More watering of the grassy knoll with some slivers of green showing themselves, an outside light, several scotch pancakes (because we had visitors, this is not the norm you understand) and the day is finished.

Now we'll see if Firerock works.

Day 243, Tuesday 9th November

Its Steve's last day. He takes a trip to the vet to get his dogs passport updated and brings back the croissants. Ordinary Intermarche croissants, but, croissants are croissants.

Easy day doing odd jobs. Steve says the electrics are guaranteed until he reaches Boulogne, but not thereafter. We tried cutting a few of the newly acquired logs with a blunt coarse saw. Perhaps the useless chain saw we were lent will do better.

Another trip to the DIY store to get sockets and wall boxes, while they are on special offer. And then its almost time for bed.

Doesn't time fly when you're having fun?

Day 244, Wednesday 10th November

The alarm is set so that we are all up in time for Steve to leave and get his ferry. Except that my phone is still on summer time and that means the Boss is up at half past 6, not half past seven! Oh well, the new logs are working well and the fire soon bursts into life.

Steve gets away and as its the coldest and greyest day so far, and we got up so early, we go back to bed. Tough old life this.

Later we begin to prepare the "lounge" for progressing to become the lounge. Move all the assorted furniture there into the middle of the room. Move all the building materials like rolls of laine de verre (fibreglass) and floor insulation, to the upstairs. With several stripped camp beds, and all the building materials, the upstairs looks more like a doss-house every day.

And then pull cables. We work on the principle that there are never enough sockets. But as I've only allowed for a single circuit, and the limit is eight sockets, placement is important. I'll probably put in more, but worry about the excess after the EDF inspection, which I am really looking forward to!

However, having bought a large cheap bottle of washing up liquid, pulling cables through conduit is now easy peezy. After a while its gets too dark to work in the lounge unless temporary lighting is rigged up, so any excuse to knock off early.

One more trip to Brico's where I order a sealed double glazed unit. They don't want to take the order as the guy that deals with glass is off today, but I insist. Except on reflection, the last time I did that, they lost the order!

A few days ago, I made a promise which I am now regretting. I have to play Scrabble with the Boss before bed. However, unusually, I win!

I can go to bed happy

Day 245, Thursday 11th November

Its still cold and grey. We could almost be in England, except its too quiet for a weekday.

The Boss decides its time for a spring clean, after all the drilling and cutting that's been done lately. I mix some cement and start filling in the gap around the "lounge" floor. Why a gap you might ask? Well, the books all say for a slab of concrete larger than 4 meters, add an expansion joint.

So we laid the concrete for the floor, almost 5 meters square and are putting an expansion joint around the outside of the slab, and then concreting from the joint to the wall. No, Tommy Walsh had nothing to do with this and perhaps the picture will help to make clear?



Of course you can't see the expansion joint. Its between the old and the new concrete. What you can see is a block holding the cable for sockets back against the wall, while the cement dries.


On your own, its hard. Shovel the sand and cement, mix, load the wheelbarrow, over the obstacle course, empty and level. The light is poor and its not getting warmer, even though the sun appears briefly every now and then.

I take the shutters down so the Boss can finish the painting of these. Doing so, was difficult when we first arrived. Now it seems to be really tough and I thought I had got stronger. I think it must be insufficient coffee and croissants. I prescribe more frequent pain au chocolat, but the Boss disagrees with the diagnosis.

We invite Louis over for an aperitif which he downs in one, and then drinks a small French style strong black coffee with two sugars. I hope I can manage that and still sleep well at 82.

When its this cold, the number of gaps upstairs, between the walls and the roof, become more obvious.

Oh well, less frequent showers means lower electricity and water bills

Day 246, Friday 12th November

Cloudless sky and hence its roof day. This is when I really appreciate France. No, not when I'm on the roof, but when its sunny and the clear air becomes obvious.

I want to finish the tiles down one apex of the roof. When we began the roof, we made the mistake of thinking that  we can press on and come back to the apex's. In retrospect, its not that easy.

First job is to remove enough of the tiles to make it possible to move about. Then, get some extra tiles and special "faux tille" or ridge tiles as we've been calling them onto the roof. They are larger and noticeably heavier than normal tiles.

Just moving tiles about, with a chain of two people and the scaffold platforms some distance apart, makes the moving of tiles, slow and very tiring. And then we need cement on the roof as the faux tille are cemented on.

By early afternoon, the apex is almost complete but I need to wait for the cement to dry before finishing the corner. I probably also need to move the scaffold to do so. While we've got cement and the scaffold in place, we decide to use the time to work on the wall.

The wall needs building up, to the height of the roof, to eliminate a few of the many air gaps. The wind has got up while the Boss collected and threw up the stones, so every time it changes direction, I get to smell a little more like something off the barbeque.




This is before






And this is after

When my arms can't lift anything else, we get off the scaffold hoping to call it a day. No such luck for us country folk. Get some logs from the barn, cut them and stack them inside.

Oh for a chain saw, or even central heating

Day 247, Saturday 13th November

Its cold again today, but the sun looks like coming out. We both wake up with headaches and as a result don't get going until late morning. We suspect the cause is smoke blowing into the bedroom, every time the wind changes. With so many holes between the inside and the open air, we may have to do something! 

I pull the final cables for sockets through the conduit in the "lounge" and then start clearing up; again, so that we can move some thing around and get to the fireplace. The sun is now out in an almost cloudless sky.

After lunch, we go off  to Angoulême (see week 10 for the picture of the mayors pad), where there is a large DIY store called Castorama. A chain once French, now owned by B&Q, but still trading with their French name. While in a checkout queue a few days ago at Brico's an Irish guy got talking and mentioned that Castorama had petrol chainsaws at well under 200€. Pure coincidence as I had never mentioned chainsaws or even logs, but useful info.

Of course while we are there, the range of things means we wander about looking, for probably two hours. I buy a petrol chainsaw, all the associated stuff like chain oil and two-stroke oil, as well as a few bits I can't readily get at Brico's. The Boss buys a mini Christmas tree and some tree lights for 1€, as well as special furniture wax's and polishes.

 By the time we get home, its too late to start figuring out how to use a chain saw. So we collect logs and use good old Desmond Decker, and a little manpower (no its not sexist as I did the cutting).

Its dark by six, these days, so evenings seem to get longer as we finish working earlier. Six egg yolks from three egg shell; must mean we're going to win the lottery.

The Boss has "Sense and Sensibility" on video. Despite my dislike of Hugh Grant, I try, but give up half way through.

But as today was a rest day (well, almost), tomorrow is work



Day 248, Sunday 14th November

Although the sun is shining, its even colder today. Summer has really gone now.

Nothing for it but to read the instructions on my new toy and then cut some logs. As I'll be out all day Tuesday and Wednesday, the Boss will need enough to keep going until Thursday morning.

Reading the instructions and precautions on the chainsaw, is enough to frighten anyone into not using it. However, once assembled and with right protective gear, it makes really short work of cutting logs. We now have enough cut to last for a few days.

Then its back to the "lounge". Finish off the cementing around the outside. Start to build up the stone that has burnt away, presumably from an open fire. The wood burner in the kitchen shows what happens when wood burns at different temperatures. If it burns good and hot, with a reasonable flow of air, the glass does not soot up.

The Boss says the answer is to leave the fire up high every night