Friday, July 29, 2016

The Sunflowers Are In Bloom Again

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The moments the sunflowers here in the Auvergne open up their pedals and turn their heads towards the sun in unison is one of my favorite during the time we spend here in the Auvergne.
Last week, while driving past Usson, a charming village perched on a hilltop, I got out of the car to photograph a field in full bloom. It is a magnificent sight.
That's my son, the professional photographer, whose photos of the sunflowers probably turned out infinitely better than mine.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A New Roof For An Old Farmhouse In The Auvergne

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What do you get an old stone farm house in the Auvergne region of France for its 150 year old birthday?  A new roof, complete with new beams and new clay tiles, of course.  This way, it can weather the next centennial and hopefully bring joy to many more generations of my family.

My husband and I had planned for the work last year, consulting with Pascal, the best roofer and carpenter in the area.  Over the years, Pascal and his wife have become wonderful friends and there is no one else we would trust more to undertake such a large project.
We knew that our 1866 home was in the best of hands.

We had hoped that Pascal could fit in the work during the time we were here in the Auvergne this summer, but were prepared to make a special trip this fall or next spring if necessary.  However, shortly after we arrived here a few weeks ago, Pascal came by to tell us that his crew would begin work the very next week.  My husband and I were ecstatic.  This would mean that my 84 year old father, who bought this house in 1971, will be able to see it completed when he comes here in August.

Shortly after Pascal's visit,  three 15 meter beams were delivered behind the house. More wood deliveries followed. A crew of five showed up a few days later with a huge green machine with a telescopic arm.
And then the demo started…

After three days of work, the old roof was completely dismantled.  The house looked like a ruin. It was a bit disconcerting, especially since the Bastille Day holiday week-end meant that no work would be done for four days and we would have to spend them without protection from the elements.
Of course it rained on one of these days, but that was to be expected here in the Auvergne, where the weather changes as frequently as in Ireland.

Last Monday, the team resumed work, lifting all the beams in place,  covering them with wood planks, adding an impermeable membrane,  and cementing all the holes left by some of the old beams.  By Friday, they started posing the clay tiles on the roof.  It was impressive to watch.

And then, yesterday, the gutters and the last medallion tile was affixed to the peak of the roof.  After a last Pernot with the crew, we made the all sign one of the beams and write down the date of completion: Le 25. Juillet, 2016.

Four baby falcons had hatched in one of the attic windows shortly before the work began. Because the nest was located right below where the central beam needed to be installed, the nest and the chicks needed to be transferred to another attic window. i think that was the most stressful part of the construction, holding our breath until the falcon parents located the chicks and started feeding their babies again.
All is well with the little ones and they are thriving.

After all this work, quiet has returned to our hill and I think the little falcons will be leaving the nest soon.
What have you been up to this summer?


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

News From A Tiny Village In The Auvergne, France

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For those of you who have been patiently waiting for photos of markets, quaint little french towns or sunflower fields, I must apologize.
Since arriving in our family's home in the Auvergne section of France two weeks ago, my husband and I have hardly had the time to take day trips, nor do our shopping at the markets.  The truth is, we have been busy working on the house and have several projects going at once before our first guests arrive and before vacation can really start. Any trips away from the house have consisted of visits to Gedimat, Mr. Bricolage or Big Mat, the French equivalents to Home Depot and Lowe's.
Here are photos of some of the things we are doing.

Tending to the garden, weeding and pruning.
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Planting flowers in all the planters
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Replacing the weed barrier under the pebbles along one side of the house
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And getting more pebbles to make the walk longer.
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Sanding the wood floor in two rooms of the house. The pine flooring had never been finished in the 50 years since it had been installed and it looked sad and scratched.
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After sanding, came the finishing with an oil product that tints and hardens and allows the wood to breathe.
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And voilĂ  the result.
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The result is beautiful.

Our neighbors think 'les américains sont fous,' working all the time.
But the projects above were actually just the small ones.  Currently, there are seven workmen busy on two major projects on the house.  One of them involves three 15 meter pieces of wood, pictured behind our house below. More on those in the next post.
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