Sunday, 18 November 2018

An autumn walk

Autumn in Corrèze 
This past week has been glorious with warm temperatures, blue skies and beautiful autumn colours. Next week looks completely different with night time temperatures dipping to minus five and the threat of snow so we though we'd take advantage of the last of the fine days and take Mortimer out to Château de Sédières. This 15th century château is only 20 minutes from us and a great place to visit. Owned by the department of Corrèze the grounds are free to enjoy. As well as marked walking trails there are 96 km of bike trails (including some quite extreme cross country ones) and fishing lakes.

Château Sédières, Corrèze

We decided on the lakes walk, an easy ramble of 5 kilometres. The leaves have been dropping fast so we missed the peak of the autumn colours but it was beautiful nonetheless. Mortimer enjoyed the walk and had a little lake dip.

I can't resist the Limousin cattle!

Monday, 5 November 2018


It's been over a month since the plasterer arrived and he finished on Tuesday - two days before the electrician. To say we've been juggling is an understatement as several elements of the conversion had to come together for the end of October, and in an order you wouldn't normally do. We moved from one task to the next and sometimes back again, I'll take you through this month's achievements.


Our plasterer arrived and said that the plasterboarding that we'd done was fine and we were all good to go. For me plastering is the first real job on a site that makes you feel that you're on top of the hill. It was a long haul, with awkward shapes and high ceilings. As seen on nearly every Grand Designs programme it is the new windows that have been the fly in the ointment. We had a call from our suppliers to say that they were 'très compliqué' (which they're really not) and that they wouldn't be ready until January. As they wanted the window openings to be left unplastered, several of the walls have remained as such.

Stone wall

We have insulated the barn to quite a high level, all external walls and the ceiling but this has meant sacrificing some of the character. We were keen to retain the stonework in the upstairs open plan area on the wall which joins the main house (so it doesn't need insulating). As it is very dirty work we wanted to get as much of it done before plastering, and also our charming plasterer had said we could use his extra high scaffolding. All the old mortar had to be removed to a depth of about 2 centimetres, and then refilled. This is not as easy as it sounds as there are no neat lines, the mixture is quite sloppy and you're desperate for it to not all fall off the hawk. Once the mixture has been shoved  applied it has to dry for and hour or so before you go back, smooth it a bit more and then take a wire brush to remove all the mortar that is on the stone, leaving the joints. We're over halfway there, at least we can stand on the floor and work now.


Thursday was the big day. Our electrician had agreed that Andrew could pull all the cables so that it was only the 'consumer' unit and junction boxes that needed to be connected, and of course everything checked. For the last week Andrew has been spending every spare minute (he does have a 'day job' as well) connecting sockets, switches and putting up lights. The ceiling lights meant I had to get on with some painting (hence the pointing has not been finished on the wall) as it's much easier to do this before the recessed spots go in. See what I mean? We're still pointing & plastering and yet I'm painting!

The good news was that the electrician passed all of Andrew's work and was able to connect everything up. In fact Andrew had done so much that Justin only had to spend a day with us and not the scheduled two. You have no idea what it felt like when the lights went on - a huge milestone passed.


For the past few days, and over this weekend, I will be up the scaffolding again with my trusty paint roller. On Monday the pellet stove is being installed (and it will work as we have electricity!) and I would really like to get the end wall that it will sit against painted. And as the plasterer has said I can hold on to the tower a little longer I'm taking advantage of it to paint the 4 metre plus ceilings. Plus I'd like to get them done before we put the floor down.

Although we have no more trades booked in, and so technically no deadlines, we still have a lot to do. We need to give some thought to the two bathrooms, although planned I need to source the fittings and tiles. Flooring has to be sourced for downstairs and I can start to think about furniture - I have my spreadsheet with requirements and sizes that now goes everywhere with me.

In case you were getting bored with building site photographs, we found this spot out on a recent walk, as usual Mortimer headed straight for the water.

The Corrèze river

Sunday, 28 October 2018

SS18 to AW18

This weekend I have been taking my own advice in preparing for winter. I was hoping for a longer transition from the mild autumn to the winter chill but apparently not. Thursday it was 25 degrees, we were in t-shirts and lunch in the garden was under the trees as the sun was too hot. Today, three days later, the woodburner was lit as soon as we returned from Mortimer walking. It's grey and windy and barely above freezing, there has even been a light snowfall up on the Millevaches Plateau.

Nothing to do with anything - just loved her!
Andrew's current office is downstairs in one of the notaires rooms and was freezing last winter. I have dug out some curtains for the door which should help and we've moved a large rug down there to stop some of the draughts coming up through the floor, and my goodness were there draughts. The four notaires rooms were created from the old stable, sometime in the late 1920's we think. Not much thought went into this process as we discovered yesterday. There are a set of collapsing wooden steps from the garden into this raised section of the house which Andrew moved to investigate what was behind them. And the answer - nothing. Yep nothing. There was a gaping hole (now filled with a piece of board) and some blocks on which sits the wooden floor. No wonder it was always so cold! All of this is only temporary as the main house is phase two of our renovation project but it should add a couple of degrees to downstairs.

You can see why this may have been a little chilly!
I've swapped our summer and winter clothes over, although I'm sure there is a box missing somewhere, and have decided I have too many items I just don't wear and so am going to have a 'vide-armoire'. Woolly scarves have been washed and there's an extra layer on the bed, not quite ready for the winter duvet yet. And salads have been replaced by soups. I love soup making and fortunately my kitchen can cope with this level of activity. First of the season was Nigel Slater's cauliflower and cheese which is made with one of our favourite cheeses - Cantal.

Talking of kitchens we have a new addition - a mini oven! We realised that the barn kitchen was not going to happen for a few months and that there were some foods we really missed, jacket and roast potatoes being high on the list. So we popped into ElectroDepot and bought a mini-oven and had a roast for the first time in a year. It also has the added advantage of getting quite warm and so heats the kitchen.

We now feel happy about the winter ahead, we're in a much better position than last year. It's not perfect but we're hoping at some point the barn will be progressed enough for us to move into. But until that time we know we can stay warm and eat well. What more do we need?

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An autumn walk

Autumn in Corrèze   This past week has been glorious with warm temperatures, blue skies and beautiful autumn colours. Next week looks...