Category: Spring 2007

Planting and Depart

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Today is a day of sorting and cleaning in preparation for an early departure for Chamonix in the morning.

Yesterday we went exploring out of the valley and discovered a climbing area at Massat. On route back we had time to call in with Hans and his wife Marion above Oust. Hans is going to help us in the autumn and was an artist before he started building. Marion is a writer and their house is fantastic; full of character and charm. After a quick tour; a coffee and a bite to eat we trundled back to the grange to meet Matt, another builder who can spare us some time.

Then today packing tools and cleaning. At lunch time we met Pierre at the grange to plant the trees. It is so nice to plant something before we lock up and leave for the summer.


Categories: Spring 2007, The Project

Dinner Digging and Divining

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Yesterday we spent the whole morning scouring the forest behind the grange for an “eau de source” or a spring. No luck. Whenever we see the Mayor, the first thing he says is have we found the source yet! It gets a little repetitive after a while. On the flora front; as well as naturalised autumn flowering crocus we have naturalised hellebores as well. 

Had lunch, and then back to the apartment for a siesta, clean up and a game of boule before going out to dinner.

Pierre who had helped us with the collection of slates had kindly asked us for dinner at his place, in the old school opposite the church so a 2 minute walk away.

He is a very interesting chap with lots of insight into the area and a fund of local knowledge. He is a great friend of the previous owner and just wants to see the place lived in. He is going to keep an eye on the place in our absence.

He had cooked a lovely meal of duck with honey chestnuts and fantastic baked spuds which he had split open and had then stuffed a little bit of ginger and thyme in the centre and finally wrapped them in cured ham before baking them.

Before we left he said that he had 2 Japanese Apple trees for us to plant at the Bergerie which have lovely red flowers.

Early start today to meet Bernard with his digger. An hour or so later and we have expanded the entry from the piste and created a parking / delivery area for the autumn. By the time we get back in September Bernard says it will be grassed over again and not be noticeable.

We then refashioned a coat hanger and used a couple of biro sleeves to make a pair of divining rods. Having trampled through the knee high wet grass several times, the results are promising to the back of the building. Maybe we have an opportunity for a well or bore hole. Decided to cut the grass in the autumn and get a few others involved in water divining then.



Back to the apartment for lunch and to start sorting lists out for the autumn.

Categories: Spring 2007, The Project

Roof repairs & access

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Woke up to more snow and looking very chilly outside!!! We headed up the valley again on roof restoration duties!!! Al donned his climbing head and trundled up and down ladders for the morning with tin for the roof, nails, weights etc in an attempt to make the hole in the roof smaller. Job well done, slightly more water tight!

In the meantime, I attacked the back wall to make access easier for the Sept. It meant pulling part of the small wall behind the Bergerie down and rebuilding it. Al came and helped with the finishing touches and to lift some HUGE stone for a step on to the back terrace. Looks great.

More nettles in the pm. Rescued by Clive the UK builder who had come to give us some advice. Great advice and even better news that he can spare us 3 weeks in the autumn to help us with the new roof. Looks like we are nearly sorted with labour for the roof, a huge relief.

Categories: Spring 2007, The Project

Snow and More Slate!

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Snow down to about 1200m overnight gave the morning a very different feel to it.


The day started with us returning Annie and Murray’s cement mixer. It had rained over night and was still drizzling. The footbridge over the river was slippery and the thought of one or both of us ending up in the torrent did cross my mind. Then down to Seix to rendezvous with Bernard, the sawmill owner and digger driver. We now have him booked for half a day to create a turning area for delivery lorries and parking area for a couple of vehicles. A quick dash to get me some tobacco and then into a café to meet Hans, a Dutch builder. He has been in the area for 15 years; started as an artist and then got into building work; more importantly he is free in Sept & Oct and he has experience of using old slate. Another fine contact and recruit. Back to the apartment for lunch and to make contact with another builder, Matt, made an appointment to meet him on Friday. Then back up the hill to sort out the remainder of the slate at the other Grange before Pierre turned up with his 4×4 to shift them. Pierre had fantastic news as he has tracked down the owner of another Grange over the river who has given us permission to take her slates as well. So we now have access to enough to do the front for sure.

Categories: Spring 2007, The Project

Bridge to start – booze to finish

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Decided to make a prompt start with the intention of finishing the bridge access. So a full on morning, with the end result being access for vehicles…BRILLIANT!!!

We had also partly finished repairing the main window shutter, so Al scuttled up a ladder to tackle the final parts so that we are now secure. Another big tick.

Pierre had offered his 4WD to shift the slate pile from the grange 400m down the road. Joel the previous owner and Pierre knew we were looking for more slate so had asked him and he said it is all yours. So now we are pretty sure that we have enough reclaimed for the front of the Bergerie.

Annie turned up mid way through so we managed to get ¾ of the pile moved before Pierre was in need of beer! He has kindly said he will come back tomorrow to get the last lot with us, which is fantastic, makes life a great deal easier with his 4WD.

Day of wildlife too, while having lunch Al spied a fox next to the Bergerie a lot bigger than in the UK. Then as we were wandering to pick up the slates we saw Roe Deer. The Stag’s call is like a dog barking and rather scary too!!  The Female Roe deer was beautiful and so graceful bounding into the forest.

The rain finally arrived so we packed up for the day and headed down to warm up.



We also decided that we would drink the Magnum of Champers that Henry (my big bro) had given me for a special occasion. We were going to save it for when the roof goes on but can’t wait that long so we thought that finishing the bridge was a very good excuse. Thanks H, we are just about to clean up and then pop the cork so thinking of you!!!

Categories: Spring 2007, The Project

Market & more slate

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26th May

Market Day….off we headed to St Girons in the rain.

We had a few things to buy, mainly cement as we had run out for completion of the bridge hopefully tomorrow. Can’t seem to get the chainsaw looked at so may have to take it back to Chamonix and try and get someone there to give it a service so that it actually works!!

Opened up accounts, food shop and lovely cheese shopping at the market.

If anyone intends to visit you need to make sure you are around for a Saturday morning as it is a brilliant French local market with loads of goodies.

Paella from the market for lunch before heading up for an afternoon of work.

We removed the final bit of manure from around the main poles.

Then on to window making. It looks great that we now have all entrances secured and with the old style of barn doors in keeping with the area.


We had a visit from Pierre (Joel’s friend) with a photo of the barn 15 odd years ago. Sadly it still had the tin roof on then we were hoping for a picky as it stood with the old slate roof. Anyway he had good news that he had spoken to the owner of the Grange down the road and said we could go and collect the slates for nothing. A huge pile. He was more than happy to help with shifting it all in his 4WD. Yeah. Think we will wait for a dumper truck before we start; lugging it up from the bridge to the top terrace….maybe wait for Monti Bianco’s next visit. We know how much you loved that job!!!

Caught up with the locals in the bar for a quick rose then home. A good productive day.

Categories: Spring 2007, The Project

Finally propped up the roof

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On the way out this morning we liberate Freddy’s ladders, which protrude somewhat from the back of Vinnie, who is already laid down with a cement mixer and bags of cement. A slow trip up the road and then we start making concrete for the bridge.



Adam arrives to sort out the roof as we run out of cement and the rain starts, so we cover what we have done and help out. Adam is a master builder with years of experience and is like a mountain goat with a hammer, a chain saw and a red baseball cap. A prop is installed to support the existing roof and Adam departs. Lulu arrives who owns a grange down the valley. He has been great in introducing us to locals and giving local information.

Categories: Spring 2007, The Project

Permit Seeking

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First thing we set about the “Permit de Travaux” filling in all the paperwork; gathering all the stuff we needed and preparing what we were going to say to the Marie in the afternoon.

Having got 2 ½ ton of ballast in Murray’s trailer and left it at the start of the 4×4 track we then proceeded to shift it in 6 loads in the back of Vinnie up to the grange.

Once  unloaded, we took the trailer back to Annie and Murray. Then declined a cup of tea and liberated their cement mixer. Feels a bit rude as we are on a mission to get as much done as possible and they have been so good to us. Once we have a new roof I hope we will be a bit more laid back and have time to spend on others. In the meantime we have to hope that what comes around goes around?

Finally got to take the papers to the Marie; the door is locked and nobody there. A pattern is emerging. We hang around; catch Murray as he is working locally; sit in Vinnie and play word mastermind and wait. The Mayor finally turns up; lengthy discussions and we submit the paperwork; it gets approval and we see it put in an envelope and addressed. At last we may have permission to put a new roof on!

Categories: Spring 2007, The Project

Debs away – ballast

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5.30am was a rude awakening but we got Debs off to St Giron and onto the bus. Then we managed to tick our whole list of things to do while we were there. Most importantly was getting the papers from the DDE for the “Permit de Travaux” it looks a lot simpler than the other paperwork we had been filling out.

We got back to the apartment for lunch and there was a message from Murray to say he was going down to St Girons to collect sand so could bring a load of ballast and sand back for us too. So Al shot off back down the valley to help. That is great news and will save us a lot of time and money. Vinnie is not too keen on being loaded with excessive amounts of heavy goods.

Categories: Spring 2007, The Project

Dung Clearance and Chilly Swimming

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The mist was hanging over the tops again but you could see patches of blue above which was great. The aim for the day was to clear the inside of the barn which we knew was going to be hard work. A good system with 2 digging and one person trundling with Walter to the ever growing compost heap!!!!

By midday we were beginning to flag but light was at the end of the tunnel and by 1.30pm we had cleared the whole of the inside of the bergerie except for the poles holding the roof up! What a difference.

Debs and I had a wander up to a good view point before lunch by the river.

We opted for an easy afternoon as all a bit pooped. Scrambled up to try and find the source for an hour but to no avail.

Then Debs and I decided as the sun was shining and we were hot and sweaty that we should have a swim/very quick dip in the river!!! We wandered up to the waterfall opposite and found a suitably chilly pool, plunged in and shot out!!! Al just took the piccys….wise move!!!

In the evening we went to see the Scottish couple Annie and Murray who are living just down the road and trying to be self sufficient. Another lovely spot by the river on much steeper terrain than ours and after walking up to the top of their land could quite see how they are both very fit!!! Along with the fact that they have 12 huge Huski like dogs to exercise as well.

We were too late back for boules but ended Deb’s last night with Rumikub and to bed as we had a 5.30am start the next day to get Debs to her bus in St Giron.


It has been great to have Debs here for a few days and very much appreciated all her work and sense of humour as always. See you when it is finished Debs!

Categories: Spring 2007, The Project