Category: Autumn 2008

To Sum Up

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A really fun month. I personally (Breezy) have felt a huge sense of achievement by putting the small roof on the barn, laying a floor as well as getting the toilet installed as well as loads of other small bit and pieces. I know Al has done it all before but it is all still fairly new to me and it was great to do it all on our own.


We feel like we have made some more friends locally and they are all so keen to help us in any way possible. It is a lovely community to be part of.

It was great to actually spend a few nights at the barn, giving us more of an idea of what we need to be able to live their in a basic way the next time we are back so we do not have to rent anywhere.

We did also manage a couple of walks which gave us an insight into how much more exploring there is to do around the area and now we have to make sure we have the time to get out and enjoy the mountains in a new area.

We are not sure when we are due back there again due to Al’s work commitments but I am sure we will manage a few outings next summer to out little area of Paradise in The Pyrenees. Looking forward to it already!!! Bye

NowNow  In the beginingIn the begining

Categories: Autumn 2008, The Project

Back home

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We were awake at 7am so decided to get up and hit the road. The truck started a huge relief and off we went. Got to Boulogne in good time for a coffee and a croissant before sailing at 11am.

Oh how we love the UK roads!!! Felt like we were back in Paris!!! Anyway, we got to 45 mins from home to get caught up in a jam due to an accident, stand still so we played word mastermind for an hour until things moved.

Back and luckily Chris and Jamie were at home so they helped us unload and then we went and met Dave and Crazy Ken for a drink at The Bear which was a perfect way to end the trip, catching up with all their news etc.

Cheese on toast and bed!!!

Categories: Autumn 2008, The Project

On route back

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We woke up again to snow. Al was happy as he could have a long soak in a bath while I used the wifi to catch up on work e mails.

All looking good for a 9am ish start BUT oh no the car would not start. The steering wheel was locked and we could not get the key to turn. Europe Assistance to the rescue, managed to get the truck going but said we needed to go to Toyota, he kindly took us to Toyota who said the piece would take 3-4 days to order, not ideal!! So we only had one option try not to take the key out of the ignition and do not lock the wheel.

So first stop was Metro which was 2 mins from Toyota, to stock up on wine for the party. A really helpful chap gave us some advice so hoping it is good wine!!! The truck started again so that was a relief. We headed north just after midday.

It was the start of a bit of an epic we decided to go via Paris, not a good decision but you live and learn, we missed a turn off and got stuck in traffic and then more traffic and then yet more of the traffic.

It took 3 hours to get round Paris with Al reading the map getting us out of a mess through lots of back roads and suburbs!!! We finally reached our chosen spot for the night not able to find the hotel and so after I spoke to them, they said they were closed for food and really unfriendly we decided to find somewhere else. Not that easy we ended up driving on to Amiens, city of one way streets. Finally de camped into Hotel Ibis (mainly because they had safe parking) because we would hate to loose all that wine!!! at 10.30pm cream crackered!!! We found a little bar serving pizzas which was ideal so a glass of wine and a pizza and head on the pillow by midnight, we were pooped!!!!

Categories: Autumn 2008, The Project

Getting away in the snow

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Happy Birthday Dad!!! Wink

We woke up and it had stopped snowing, yippee!!! Peter cooked us a wonderful cooked brekky to get us on our way. We headed up the hill with all the trees ladened with snow, it looked like a real winter wonderland. First obstacle of the day was the fallen trees in the road so we were unable to get past. We reversed back down the hill to find the local commune man with his chainsaw to get the tree out of the road.

Tree down on the roadTree down on the road  

We got to the end of the piste and took one look at the piste and decided to park the truck and walk!!! All the trees were bent double with the weight of the snow and it was impossible to get past them at this time.

We had a lovely walk up the track pondering how we were going to be able to felt the roof with a foot of snow and get all our kit back down the track before heading back to the UK???

We passed Olivier on the way with his “croissant” which is an excellent tool for cutting trees and he was busy clearing the piste so he could get his truck out which gave us hope for getting the truck up later on in the day.

We got to the barn and it was stunning, although not ideal for roofing and packing up we felt really happy to see the area in the snow, quite a different feel about it, equally amazing and peaceful.

 Olivier & croissantOlivier & croissant On the pisteOn the piste Snow laden treesSnow laden trees Donkeys and horsesDonkeys and horses

Al got on to the outbuilding roof and tackled clearing the snow so we could get a tarp on it. How he did not slide off I have no idea….he very wisely put some batons on the roof as protection so he could move about more easily without falling off.

I sorted out the bathroom, packed up all the bedding etc. and sorted out all the stuff we needed to take to the UK.

Alison and Peter turned up to help,  armed with coffee, hot chocolate and biscuits. They carried some bags with me back to the start of the piste. We took a load of kit in the muck truck at the same time.


Olivier had cleared a path so I could at least get the truck ¾ of the way up the track which helped. Alison and Peter returned up the piste with the muck truck and I met them half way to take over. They headed off with their dog Daisy who was loving the snow!

The sun almost came out and this prompted us into making a decision for the final bit of the roof. We had the choice of just putting a new tarpaulin over the old ones and leaving it but the better option was to remove the old ones, get the felt on the roof and then cover it.

We decided to get on with it and get the felt on. It actually did not take too long and we were pleased to get this done, it should preserve all the recent work we have done before we slate it next year.

After felting it and covering it again with the new tarpaulin, we finished off the soup and did the final bits of packing.

Departing sceneDeparting scene 

One more trip to the truck with the muck truck and Al carrying the ladders to go back to Freddy and we were set for off.

We left the ladders and a note with Feddy and Daniella, wellies and a note with Alison and Peter and a cheque and a note with Cecile!!! Then we were off.

We had aimed to get away by 2pm ish so considering everything we were pleased to have got away by 4pm!!!

We had a good trip north to a lovely little village called Aubazine,  just south of Limoges. It reminded us of the village in the film “Chocolat” we found a cracking little logis and got there just before the restaurant closed. Literally we had a 2 second shower before eating. A great 4 course meal for 23 euros a really good find.

Needless to say it did not take long to fall asleep.

Categories: Autumn 2008, The Project

Refugees from the cold

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It had rained most of the night and the snow level was down to 1200m and it was a tad chilly!!! We had brekky and plenty of hot drinks before Clive turned up to solder the gutters for the out building.

Al and Clive set too while I trundled to the Auberge to do some internet work.


By the time I got back it was snowing and getting colder again. Clive and Al had finished the gutters and Clive headed home while we had a thick soup for lunch in an attempt to warm up!!! We did a little bit of sorting inside after lunch before abandoning work and heading to Daniella’s and Freddy’s to sit by the fire and play cards for the afternoon, felt like refugees!!!

By now the snow was still coming down and Alison and Peter had sent us a text saying come for drinks and dinner and stay the night if it was too cold at the barn. I needed no thought about this, YES to all the above!!! Laughing

The adventure then began as we went to get some food from the barn and wine; we tried in vain to reach the barn but we got stuck on the piste and spent the next 30 minutes trying to get out. Al did a cracking job at getting us out and then reversed the whole way back to the end of the piste before we returned to Alison and Peters for the night. We had a delicious meal, plenty of wine and a warm bed. BLISS!!! Thank you both for a great hotel!!!

Categories: Autumn 2008, The Project

Odd Jobs

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A much warmer night’s sleep and we did not want to get out of bed.

As we had an open bag of cement we got the mixer going again and used it up, concrete around the door to the outhouse, around the vent pipe for the toilet and around one of the windows in the outhouse. We used the last little bit to secure the hot box into the ground so it will not go walk about!!! Cleaned up the mixer and tools; fitted a new door bolt on the annex; got the hot box installed and working; re did the joints on the vent pipe; fixed the leak in the main barn roof; packed the trailer away; cleaned out the Toyota and loaded the mixer up to take back to Annie’s house.

  Hot BoxHot Box

After a sandwich lunch we started fixing brackets to a beach tree as the start of a platform before heading down the valley to return the mixer. Annie was in and we had a cuppa before returning to the barn in the dark. Lardons and pasta cooked indoors followed by a game of cards before bed.

Categories: Autumn 2008, The Project

Ekke’s House

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We survived our first night in the barn, bat free too. Mind you we are keeping up the mossie net just in case the odd bat or mouse decides to visit us!!!

After a chilly nights sleep we rearranged bedding and got the fleece blanket out. Main priority was to get the toilet all connected up before meeting Ekke to go and see his house above Rouze and have a picnic. The toilet took some fettling as France is all metric and of course Canada (where the toilet was made) is all imperial. Once sorted, the toilet was well and truly christened before heading down to collect Ekke.

Ekke spent twenty years building the house which is just off the GR10 above Couflens. A twenty minute walk up the hill from the nearest road most of the materials were carried in by donkey. Ekke described it as very different and very different it is. What a fantastic and inspirational building it is. Ekke is rightly very proud of it and we both loved it too. Make of it what you will from the photos.


After a guided tour we sat down to a feast of a lunch and a glass of wine.

Breezy and I have talked about the house since on many occasion; incorporating some of the ideas into our project.

On the way back we swung by the skip. Ekke spied a velux window with broken glass; so that went in the truck along with an outside light, a switch or two and a pressure hose nozzle. Just as we were about to leave Olivier (donkey man) showed up and a wood burning stove came out of the skip and into his car. This I think is destined to be installed in his Yurt.

Another evening of star gazing, this time accompanied with smoked duck and cauliflower mash. It is so nice to be up at the barn, although very primitive, it feels great to be making progress with it.


Categories: Autumn 2008, The Project

Cement Floor & Friends

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Today is the day that we give up the luxury of the gite and move into the barn. Frantic packing of bags, loading the van and cleaning before a breakfast of egg window. Ekke called by and we made arrangements to hand over the gite at two pm which gave us time to start working on the concrete floor of the outhouse.

Fortunately Walter (the wheelbarrow) just fitted through the narrow door of the building so I mixed and fed Breezy with concrete while she shovelled it around and levelled the floor. Breezy went off down to the village for a final shower before meeting Ekke and handing the keys over while I carried on. En route Breezy met Alison and Peter who asked us over for a drink early evening, Olivier who gave her a bag of donkey milk products and also Anne and Jean who confirmed aperos  at their place in the evening too.

Concrete FloorConcrete Floor  More floorMore floor WalterWalter MixingMixing

Having finished the floor we used the surplus concrete to fit a doorstep outside the outhouse. Then we organised bedding and stuff for our first night before a glass of wine with Alison and Peter and then up the road to Annie and Jean’s. Annie gave us loads of slate last year when we were putting the roof on the main barn and we had a lovely evening with them and her brother chatting in French. Lots of lovely nibbles and flowing wine. We declined a meal after much wine and headed up the hill to the barn for soup and bed.

The sky was clear and the stars were amazing with absolutely no light pollution. WOW!!!

Categories: Autumn 2008, The Project

Pink Fizz & Fire Basket

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Happy Birthday Al and Happy 40th Birthday Henry!!!

As we still needed a load of ballast we headed off early, down the valley to St Girons with the truck and trailer. It was another glorious day. Loaded up and procured a few bits and bobs before the stores closed at twelve. Collecting Freddy’s ladders en route we went straight up to the barn and over the bridge for the last time. With only a couple of inches clearance on either side of the Toyota we try to go across the bridge as little as possible. It is only a matter of time before we put a ding in the truck, however, reducing the distance between a ton of ballast and where it needs mixing is worth the risk. No dings yet and I managed to get the truck right up to the outhouse. While I shovelled out of the back, Breezy used the muck truck to ferry ballast up from the trailer which we had left near the bridge.

A late lunch of sandwiches in the sun. In the afternoon we set about putting up the vent pipe for the toilet. We used the flexible pipe supplied with the toilet to go through a convenient hole in the wall and then attached it to 100mm plastic to go up the outside of the building and clear the roof. The wind fan then screwed to the top.

Toilet VentToilet Vent  Vent fittedVent fitted Fizz and Fire


Another half hour was spent fitting the insulation for under the floor in the outhouse ready for concreting the next day.

As it was my birthday we shared a bottle of pink fizz with the warmth of the fire basket before heading back to the gite and roast chuck. Thanks Ken the fire basket is brilliant and had lots of use already and will we know get plenty more.

Categories: Autumn 2008, The Project

Wood ont Roof

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Blue sky, snow down to 1300m and chuffing freezing. Undeterred we went up the hill to the grange. It looked like chocolate box scenery from inside a warm vehicle. Outside however it was different. Having read the instructions for the toilet installation (scant) we bolted things to floors and cut tubes etc at the same time as identifying any extra items we need to buy to get the thing working. By noon there was nothing else to do but get ready for an assault on the roof of the outhouse. Everything was still frozen and surfaces were slippery.


I got all the tools ready and Breezy dragged all the poplar out of the barn in an effort to keep warm. Having taken a chainsaw to the joists to level them all up the sun finally made an appearance over the mountains at 12:20 and fleeces came off for nailing the planks on the joists. This we kept up until the roof was covered and we had lunch sat on the roof in the sun at 3pm. A bit more chainsaw action cutting off the planks at either side and it looks like we have a roof (minus the slate). Covered that with a couple of tarps and then sorted out the insulation to go under the concrete floor inside.



Finally got a load of water from the river in preparation for the final concrete mixing session this trip. Gonna go get more ballast in the morning and, weather permitting, lay the floor. Then all we need is a door, windows, pointing up the walls, water, heating, lighting, carpet, fridge, cooker and a sofa and we have somewhere nice to stay while we work on the main building!!!

Categories: Autumn 2008, The Project