Arriving back from England was another shock to the system. Leaving your home for a month seems to throw your well being out of kilter for quite a few days. Maybe exhaustion from the the two day journey including a cancelled train and a detour to another French town didn’t help, but London is as far removed from little rural Auge as the ocean bed is from the furthest parts of the Milky Way. The contrast can jar the senses.
I love London, but I adore my country retreat here. Maybe that’s the dilemma. I have for the past three years been pulled away from our renovation project and I am aging too…bad back, stupidly short-sighted eyes now deciding to go long sighted meaning two pairs of glasses and more grey hairs and not just where they should be..on your head!!! Funnily today Tony said today that when your young you worry about having to wear glasses. Now older we panic when we can’t find them….vanity is replaced by practicality. My Dad would get enraged at losing his glasses, not realising that more often than not, they were pushed up on his head!
With my mother’s illness pulling me back to London likely in a month, all I can do is take on small projects, leaving Tony to press ahead with the barn. We downsized garage plans due to French red tape. Over 20 metre square, the copious dossier regulations can be daunting. We are good at red tape..I was an accountant for over twenty years, but as you age, your need to live your days seems to make form filling seem a quicker route to your grave. In other words..sod it, I need a life!!
Three years ago this view greeted us..but it was freedom. Freedom from city costs and crippling, let’s work till we are seventy, mortgages. The weeds, brambles, rats in the attic and eight legged creepy crawlies were just little temporary setbacks. This was our future home. And we had land and this quirky little bunker house was the perfect attelier. When I first saw it, it reminded me of a German border post. In 2015 we basically dug these buildings out of the land. Land chews through these French rural ruins at quite a pace and it seems some of us find this ressurection challenge utopia. Brits do the Franch barn thing…and yes with little dosh! Couldnt be any other way really.
It’s a hard slog with no regard for the weather. Back breaking and damages has left us both a little battered, but coming back now in 2018 I realize we have broken through and from ruins, a home is emerging. Over the next few months I will show some of our projects and some tips along the way for all you mad renovators and dreamers.
Here is the same patch of land, tamed and soon to be home for a couple of geece. It’s freezing this week, heavy rain and high hurricane like winds but we are building our chicken coop and finishing the goose pond…more of these projects later.
Blogging, photographing, renovating and trying to plan my future business at times makes me panic. We have a tonne load of work to do and I am inclined to procrastinate and sink my head in the sand if I can and hope it all goes away. But chickens arrive Friday and they won’t wait. They will be excited to see their new enormous pen, chase each other round the run and organize who will be Chicken Number One. I am sloshing green paint around tomorrow and hopefully it won’t be so windy as today. I have green fingers and a bright red nose!
The trees here are birch and give some great summer shade. Since the photo top, the removal of evasive brambles strangling their route systems which are surface rather than vertical, and adding fences to protect them from harsh winter winds and equally harsh summer heat, they have tripled in height. Autumn mulching round their bases and some strategic pruning to raise their canopies (that’s cutting out lower branches), allows more air to circulate, bring light and the trees thrive. I have an oak that needs some attention and the lime in the centre of the garden has had a huge overhaul last autumn, thinning out strangling branches and getting the canopy of leaves into a decent shape to create much needed shade. I love tree surgery and with a brave heart and sharp tools you can really help trees to mature handsomely. I feel responsible for these ancient characters and will be planting moreover the next few years. The French cut many for firewood and I too burn wood. I feel ashamed by this admittance but one project we would like to explore is growing our own burn timber. I have to put back what I take…only then will I feel innocent.
Well it’s late, and we are having our daily two hours before bed writing, reading and listening to music. Tonight it’s Joan Armatrading, Beck and Incognito. Evening music for a tired chicken coop painter.
Bunker house renovated after a very sad start. Now it’s La Petite Maison. And below is how we “camped” in the house whilst we lived in France . But don’t worry, we did decorate and installed a temporary kitchen downstairs. But it’s still rough..no hot water or toilet. We have a porta-loo and a small wall mounted boiler for showers, and finally this year a wood burner as the last winter here, we absolutely froze.
The brambles are the most evil plant on the planet and forget sentimentality over brambles jam. For the rear of the house, after a week of blistered hands and torn skin, Christian took pity and brought in the heavy machinery. It saved us hours of work and the brambles war was won.
Bramble killing – cut down to about an inch off the ground. Leave for a month to allow new shoots to develope. At this point spray every plant with neat “round-up” or other specific bramble weed killer. Do this on a hot dry day to optimise absorption into leaves. Repeat four days later. After two weeks the brambles should be black. At this point dig up the root system. It is an interlocking mesh with hard modules from which emanate about three to five horizontal roots up to eight feet long. There is also a sneaky vertical root. As you cut and heave these out, the plants lose their interlinking ability and come out far easier. Be persistent. Next season, around May, stragglers will sprout again. Repeat weed killer, and more digging out. Some gardeners say they are still slaughtering brambles seven years later. Ours have gone in approx one year, give or take a few stubborn patches. Be vigilant in keeping brambles from reappearing especially in remote parts of the garden. If all else fails…get a goat!