Office / guestroom renovation – part 1

We have been working on this room the last month or two (between gardening, knotweed duty, visitors, illness, car fixing etc!). It is exciting as it is the first room we have been able to get stuck into, until now there have been a lot of little jobs (new windows, insulation things like that!).

Some before shots, this one shows the door going out into the entry area where you come in from the garden:


And looking the other way – the old barn door goes out to the front of the house. We have spoken to our neighbour whos family owned the barn and it used to be where his grandmother kept her chickens! We are going to try to keep the old door as a shutter to go over the double glazed window that we managed to source that fits into the odd sized opening! The front wall stones will be left exposed and pointed:


Electricity starting to be run:



This is only a temporary works light switch just in case you were wondering why we had such strange taste!



It is quite hard to see but this wall is massively bowed so there will be a terracotta brick wall built at the bottom to help even it all out – the bonus with these is that they are breathable – really important in old stone buildings. For the same reason we are doing lime render on all the walls (including the breezeblock walls which were already there).


It has a little damp on one side as well and had a bit of a musty (possibly animal?) smell, particularly when it is cold and damp. I read that enzymatic cleaners are good for smells in old plaster etc and we didn’t have any of that (not even sure what it is) but we figured washing powder has enzymes in it so we ended up mixing a strong dose of washing powder and water and spraying it on the walls, they came up really clean and smelling lovely! So there is a good tip if you have smelly old barn walls in your barn renovation that you want to get smelling nice 😉 .

More shots of the electricity going in:



and Josh starting to clean off the stones on the nice wall:



Time for the insulation to go up (horrid stuff – wish we could afford to do it with wool or wood insulation!):


I wish we’d done this months ago as our room is above this and we would have been so much warmer in the winter!


And the plasterboard goes up!

ImageWe are wanting to use traditional building materials where we can like the lime render and don’t want to use plasterboard anywhere if we can help it. Unfortunately for ceilings there isn’t a lot of choice if we want good insulation to go up so plasterboard it is!


Happy Fête du Travail (Labour day) / May Day!

The first of May is a public holiday in France and is a workers celebration day or Labour day but is also the Fête du Muguet (Lily of the Valley) where you give your loved ones a little bouquet of muguet. Our lovely neighbour popped in this evening with some for us:

imag3979.jpgI hadn’t really thought too much about the day until then but we did work very hard labouring all day on our current project! I really must get my head around all the French holidays and traditions around them!

Garden Part III – Winter

Winter was quite good in terms of everything dying back and allowing us to see what on earth was going on in the garden! It was such a jungle last year we really had no idea at all what plants we have or what needed doing / pruning etc.

The back section of the garden is the ‘working’ area – it is split into a series of terraces (our whole garden is on a slope from left to right as you look at it from the house). The infrastructure is there for the chicken coop, a polytunnel plus the terraces for veggie gardens and the clothes line at the top. These photos are taken from the bottom (right) panning up to the top (left) of the garden:

My winter lettuces (which bizarrely were planted in October, due to be ready mid December but are only just being eaten now – I think it it was the total lack of rain in early winter!) and lots of leaf mulching to keep weeds down and on the right to try to build up the ground level in the tunnel as it is still sloped. You can see the little stable that is now on the land at the back with two lovely horses – we are all (especially Rémy) enjoying having them at the back of the garden:

This shot is from the top of the back looking back down to see all of it:

We had such a mild winter and I knew I had so much work to do that I started cutting back and pruning pretty early in the year. This is one of the days of carnage trying to clear the beds under the big hazel that we look directly over from the house:

I eventually got there and now have a reasonably clear area in those beds but still lots of creeping tree / bushes that I couldn’t pull up so will need to dig them out just haven’t had a chance to get back to them yet.

And of course planning for the veggie beds started. I originally tried to dig it over by hand but then we realised that it was easier to deal with any left over grass roots (what I was trying to avoid doing it by hand) and do it with the rotavater! This tiny patch took me hours! You can also see the start of our bonfire, we ended up with about 6 times this and spent a whole day burning stuff as we finished the bulk of the clearing in the garden.


Operation vine pruning!

Oops I found this post in drafts waiting to be published! This was originally written in the middle of March. We have massive grape vines at the front and back. After talking to the neighbour we think they are very, very old. Last summer they were just enormous and totally unkept but produced masses of tiny, sweet purple grapes. I’ve been reading madly to see how to prune them and I had a go yesterday as my neighbour said I really, really needed to do it ASAP as they are starting to bud (she has the same vine at the front of her house). The instructions were a bit confusing but I had a go, I was reading some other clearer instructions last night and I think I may have taken a bit too much off the one at the back so may have a poor crop this year but they can be pruned very hard so I’m hoping it will be OK and we’ll still get grapes this autumn!

This is what the back looked like pre-pruning:

Some of what came off:

And all tidy!

The good news is after worrying I’d taken too much (and seeing leaking where I’d pruned – a sign I’d done it too late!) a month later there are now lots of new leaves. I didn’t end up taking much off the front vine as I was worried about it so it will just have to be messy again this summer!


My chooky babies have hatched!

I’d been talking to a mum from Josh’s youth group about our chicken plans and she was excitedly telling me about her new adventures in the same (she got hers last year). She was very excited as she thought that one of the hens was sitting on some babies and said that she was happy for me to have them if it all worked out. I didn’t get too excited as I wasn’t sure if they would really happen but I knew they were Silkies which Louis and I really wanted some of in our flock so really hoped it would work out. I was so excited to get word this week that they have hatched!! We are having 2 and she is keeping 1 (hoping mine turn out to be hens as they are pretty hard to sex apparently!), colours are yet unknown as the dad is a grey Frissee and the possible mums (unsure who’s eggs they are) are dalmation (I think these are known as splash in English), grey, russet or white – although none of them are going to be white (boo hoo) as they are bright yellow. We are going to go for a visit when they are a bit bigger and mum isn’t as protective and we are going to leave them with her until they are about 8 weeks so they get all the good chooky parenting that they need. Here are the darling little fluff balls yesterday at 2 days old:

Can’t wait to meet them and now the pressure is on to get the coop built! Watch this space.

Dinner out!

Our oldest boy has a lovely girlfriend in Australia and her and her mum are currently over here for a visit! We have had a lovely few days with them so far and they are staying at a gite (holiday cottage) just up the road from us. It has 3 separate gites with a lovely communal lounge which as they are the only inhabitants at the moment we got sole use of for dinner! Lots of games and toys for Rémy (he particularly loved the rocking horse) and Lucinda played on the baby grand before dinner – just lovely! Lots of ideas for our renovations.



Our village celebrated ‘Carnivale’ – or Mardi Gras as we know it in English a couple of weeks ago. Louis managed to not bring the note home so it was a bit of a rush to get costumes organised but I managed for Louis and Rémy. Louis decided to go as Luke Skywalker (a costume we could manage with limited time!) so of course we needed a little Jedi costume for the small person. I decided to do the 2nd costume about half an hour before we needed to leave – why do I do this to myself!!? Josh was lovely and donated one of his t-shirts as the cape (actually he didn’t know until he saw him but I wasn’t in too much trouble as he was so cute!) and I re-purposed the unused ghost costume (see the Halloween post for why!) as the shirt underneath plus a mini pool noodle light sabre to match Louis’:


We met at the school and had afternoon tea and a chat. Rémy the mini Jedi charmed everyone! Here he is being watched over by his big brother Louis Luke Skywalker (not sure how I managed to cut his head off!):

The force is strong in you little one

As happened where we lived in the Aude (presuming it is how it works everywhere here) we did a procession around the village

Our village celebrated ‘Carnivale’ – or Mardi Gras as we know it in English a couple of weeks ago. Louis managed to not bring the note home so it was a bit of a rush to get costumes organised but I managed for Louis and Rémy. We met at the school and had afternoon tea and a chat. Rémy the mini Jedi charmed everyone! Here he is being watched over by his big brother Louis Luke Skywalker (not sure how I managed to cut his head off!):

The force is strong in you little one

As happened where we lived in the Aude (presuming it is how it works everywhere in France?) we did a procession around the village,

before burning ‘Mr Carnivale’ on the petanque area. I’m not exactly sure what this was before it burned as I didn’t see it – I think he was in a castle as there was a princesses and knights theme as a nod to the big medieval festival we are having in the summer (reminder to self to start organising costumes for the whole family for that!):

Rémy wasn’t sure what was going on but had a good time anyway waving his light saber around:


And stealing other peoples big hammers:

A lovely afternoon was followed by a great evening with a meal, prizes for best costumes and dancing later organised by the school as a fund-raiser. We were very good for once and came home around 11 but I imagine it would have gone on until the early hours like most parties here!


50 gorgeous pink Lautrec garlic cloves ready to go in the ground!


I was absolutely thrilled to discover I could plant garlic in the spring. Apparently yields are slightly less than for autumn planted garlic but who cares – I get to grow garlic! This variety have a lovely flavour and nice big plump bulbs, they are quite expensive in the shop too so well worth growing, fingers crossed they do grow for me. I can’t wait to see how they go, I’ll definitely update!