Blog Archives

A Bit Behind

To all my blogging friends out there, I have to say that I am a bit behind.

These last few weeks have been a real struggle at work. I’ve had several projects on my plate to complete and I found out last Friday that I acquired a few more. This, coupled with another issue Dude just found with our house, has made it a whirl wind end of June.

I apologize to those out there whose blogs I read and comment on religiously. I have not forgotten about you or left you by the way side, I promise. I’m just a bit behind and hope to catch up soon, like by the end of the week!  I’ve managed to write a few posts of my own, but even that has been a struggle to find time to do. Last weekend I vowed to take it easy and just run around and see the sites. It was a much needed rest from the past weeks for me.

Now that summer is here, Dude and I were hoping to start on the bathroom remodel, but the house has other plans for us. About a week ago, Dude was doing some work in the kitchen and he found a large crack in the floor tiles that extends about half the width of the kitchen. Apparently one of the beams in the garage that is supporting the kitchen floor is giving way and now it needs to be reinforced.

He said there was a couple of ways to do it and one would be to take out the existing beam and replace it. On any other house I would be fine with that but this is one of the original beams of the house that was put in around 1776, so that would be a big NO in my book to replace.

The other idea was to reinforce the wooden beam with a metal I-beam. It would run alongside the wooden beam and then down either side of the garage. I think we will probably go with that idea, but now Dude has to start another search project for what we need, and how it’s going to be done. It also requires welding equipment which we don’t have. It’s still an idea in the works and he isn’t quite sure how it’s all going to come together but it’s something that needs to be resolved quickly. The tile in the kitchen is super nice and it will end up getting ruined since the one side of the floor has moved and actually sinks in a bit. It isn’t too bad, yet, but it will be very soon.

So there you have it. Work and house taking priority!  I still have visions of one day waking up, the house is done, and all I need to worry about is what village I’m going to sight-see in that day! It better be coming soon, but soon is probably next year 🙂

Oh, by the way, little creatures have started to visit us for the summer. We have suddenly found scorpions and centipedes in the house! That’s always nice, isn’t it??!!

This little guy wondered in one evening. His funeral was that same night.

Still Diggin’ Trenches and Laying Pipe

Sunday and Monday was spent finishing the trenches. We needed to dig them a bit deeper so that when the pipe was in the ground and covered, it would be deep enough to go over with the car on a daily basis without risking the pipe cracking.

The trenching wouldn’t have been so bad except that our entire yard (and pretty much all of Provence) is entirely made of rock. We ran into rocks continuously and it really slowed our process. Both Dude and I couldn’t believe the size of rocks that were coming out of the ground. By the time we were done digging, we found enough rock to build a whole new house!

The good rocks were transported to the back of our lot and we now have a rock garden. We also found asphalt, dishes, roof tiles, a fossil and some bones. Man, the crazy stuff you find in your yard when you’re digging around!

Once the trench was to the depth that Dude thought was good, 25 centimeters on the down side by the gate, we put the pipe together and checked to see if it was level. We had to check, trench, check, trench and check and trench some more before we finally got the pipe to lie correctly so the water would flow properly. Then we wrapped the pipe is some weed barrier to stop the dirt from getting into the holes and only allow the water in.

Then we proceeded to start covering everything back up.

On Monday, Dude connected the pipes together at the entrance of the gate. Since we have two pipes running parallel the length of the drive way, we needed some way to connect them so that they would eventually hook up in one spot with the pipe the city would put in.

After spending some time on that, and a few runs to the material store, the connection was complete and we proceeded to cover the remaining pipe and start to level out the terrain.

Around 3pm, two men from the building department arrived at our house. I had gone to the building department last week to have someone come out to the house from the service technique so they could see the street leading to our house. I mentioned in my last post that one of our problems was that the water can’t exit our property. There was never any drainage put into the street by the city when they made the street and also, the street is now so old and bad that all the water runs into our property instead of away from it.

We showed all of our pictures to the city workers. The ones of the flooding and the ones of the work we had done. They were very nice and surprisingly said that someone would be out to survey the street and to evaluate what needs to be done for proper drainage and water runoff. They made no promises of when the work would be done, but at least we got the ball rolling with them (that’s what Dude said).

Once they left it was back to fixing the terrain so the water would flow properly (as much as possible) in the correct directions and down the drain pipes. Dude also cemented in the drive over drain box that we put in next to where the rain gutter ends.

Now it looks like we were ready for the 10 tons of gravel to arrive!

Diggin’ Ditches and Pickin’ Cherries

Today was the day we really got down to business digging the trenches in the yard.

First stop was to the local material store to pick up some drainage pipe. Benoit had to tough it out and help us along with getting the stuff home. Our poor car has been through the ringer since we moved to this house. He’s had to do more than Renault ever expected him to do.  As always he was a trooper and we made it home, materials and all and didn’t even get a ticket for illegal use of a car :). Good thing we only needed 4 tubes or we would have had to go back for another pickup.

Once home, Dude and I got to work digging the trenches. We are running two of them down the sides of the yard and they are going to tie into each other and then tie into the drainage pipe that the city comes to put in.

Who knew you could do so much with these three little tools.

Dude’s job was to use the pick to break up the top layer of the drive way, turn the dirt up and get the rocks out. Then my job was taking the trenching shovel and getting all the dirt out.

While Dude was busy doing his part of the job, I went to work picking the delicious cherries off of our tree. We have so many that there is no way I will be able to get them all. Lately the birds have been stopping by to feast so I figured that we should try to get our fair share before they’re gone. I ended up picking almost half of a bucket today and that was only off of 4 branches!

Then it was back to scooping dirt for me.

We were able to get all the trenching done today and tomorrow we just have to fine tune it and then level the driveway out. I’d say we were pretty successful. Let’s hope tomorrow our luck holds out.

Oh, and by the end of the day, Dude was done in.

Gettin’ Back to Work

Dude and I have been taking a bit of a break when it comes to the renovation of our house. We wanted to enjoy the spring weather, save a bit of money and plus, we were just plain sick of working on the house!

It’s been a nice couple of months and we would have taken a few more weeks off but this past weekend we were forced by nature to start up the work again.

Last weekend it decided to rain every evening in our village for four evenings straight. I’m not talking a few raindrops here and there, I’m talking a torrential downpour for about 45 minutes and then it would clear out like it never happened. Then the next morning we would wake to a beautiful blue sky and sunny day. Come 7pm though, look out, the storm would show up again. It was crazy! There would be thunder, lightning and we even had hail one evening!

After the third day of this, guess what??! Our brand new roof that we just had done in February started to leak around the roof window and the leak was running down to the far edge of the house and water was seeping through one of the bedroom walls! We called out the company who did the roof and they came out on Tuesday morning to assess the damage. They are suppose to come back sometime in June to fix the leak. Good thing we didn’t paint the top floor, yet!

Another big surprise was this.

 

Now, I didn’t buy a house with a pool, but voila, I now had one in my yard over the weekend. Dude and I took the photos to the Maire and they are sending someone out to the house because even though part of the problem is that our lot is flat with no proper drainage, the other problem we encountered is that even if we did have proper drainage, all the water would pool high at the front gate because the city never put in a brow ditch or drainage system in the street.

So, sometime next week the service technique of our town is going to show up so they can survey the street and put in a drainage system and fix the street since it is at a higher level than our terrain. This is also a contributing factor in the water pooling. In the meantime, Dude and I are digging some trenches in the yard to put in proper drainage. That’s a job! Confession time-he is doing most of the work, I am only the helper.

Tomorrow we are off to the store to go buy drainage pipe to lie in the trenches and at least start getting the drainage system in place before the service technique shows up. The Maire said we had to show that we were in the process of fixing the area within our property line before the city will do their part.

The other thing we did on Wednesday morning was to go and visit a rock query that is near our village. Once the drainage system is in place we are going to re-gravel the garden and entire entry way to our property. We found some red marble rock and ordered 3 tons of that for the garden area and then ordered some cheaper gravel for the entry way. In all we have 10 tons of gravel coming to our house next Wednesday!

So between trench digging, laying drainage pipe and re-graveling our terrain, it’s going to be a busy week.

This evening we met our new neighbor who bought the house to us on the right. She happened to drive up as we were trench digging and I wanted to let her know that a truck was coming next week to drop the 10 tons of gravel and it was going to block her gate for a day or two. It turns out she speaks English! Apparently she was married to an Englishman so she speaks it very well. Dude and I ended up chatting with her for about an hour. She just got the keys to her house yesterday and came by to drop stuff off. She gave us the tour of the house and guess what??!! She has a crumbling fixer-upper like us! Big surprise!!! We will both be crying on each other’s shoulders throughout all the work 🙂

She also happens to be an artist and showed us a few of her paintings. She has some gorgeous ones of the region with villages off in the distance and surrounded by lavender fields. Dude and I were very impressed.

After show and tell of her house, we showed and telled ours and guess what??!! She said she almost bought our house when it was for sale! Yup! Can you believe it!! Her kids told her it was too big for one person so she declined, but she did say that she had loved it when she first saw it. 🙂

Seeing that she got her own fixer upper (one half the size) with a large garden, she made out and she can see our garden from some of her windows so she seemed happy. We told her she could come and visit any time.

Dude was super happy cuz he kept thinking that some developer would buy that house and make a huge ugly group of apartments and then we would up and die. Seems that our lives have been spared and we now have a nice neighbor, which is always a plus.

Well, time to hit the hay. I have to get to some ditch digging manana!

 

Color Me Lavender

Well another little project chez moi was in the works. Since we have this really old and really messed up French house, our life is full of large and small projects that we try to get to when we can.

This spring has been a bit difficult. Not only do we want to get out and see the countryside during great weather times, we also need to complete some outdoorsy projects that have been put on hold during the winter. So far this spring the weather has not cooperated on most days for either of those things.

One fine day, we actually were able to get a project done that really needed to get done. That project was repairing and painting the garage doors.

Our garage doors are made of wood and they haven’t had any tender loving care for ages (like this rest of this house). The problem we were having is that all the rain was ruining the base of the door and the wood was rotting out in some areas. If we didn’t hurry up and fix and paint the garage, the wood would be no good and the doors would have to be replaced.

I did not like the idea of replacing the doors. All the exterior doors and volets on the house are made out of the exact same wood (exotic wood from Africa) and were very well made. Some one really took the time to do a nice job making them and I very much wanted to keep them. Plus, they all matched in style and it would be difficult and very expensive to try and have new ones made to match the others.

So began the project. The doors looked like this when we bought the house. As you can see, they were pretty dull and lifeless and in dire need of some work. In some areas the paint was chipping and cracked.

Dude started out with sanding the garage doors with a power sander. This took a good deal of time and he had to go over the doors several times.

While he was working on the individual boards, I took to using some sand paper to go in between the boards making sure everything was smooth. I also sanded around the nail holes to get rid of any loose or splintered paint.

Once all the sanding was done, Dude went about putting bondo on the doors to smooth out and help cover the nail holes and impurities. He also fixed one of the boards at the base of the door that was in really bad shape and had started to rot. After doing that, he went back and sanded the doors again.

Who knew he was such an artist? I believe it looks like we put a Christmas tree of bondo on the doors!

After all that, he got to work with repainting them. I had chosen a lavender color for the doors a few weeks prior to the work. Any color related to purple is my favorite color so that was a natural choice for me. I knew I didn’t want anything too dark or overpowering. I had known for a while that when it came time to paint the exterior doors and volets on the house, I wanted everything to be a nice Provencal lavender color. I am very pleased with the outcome and I think the doors turned out really well. They almost look like new doors. I really love the color and think that it suits the house nicely.

The doors are actually quite large and each step needed to be done several times in order to have the right outcome. Since it was basically Dude that did the whole job, it did take a while from start to finish.

Lucky for us, the rest of the doors and volets aren’t this big. We do, however, have one door that is in worse shape than the garage doors were and that is the side door to the apartment. The kitchen volet also needs a bit of work. Those will be a project for another day, though. For now, I will be content with my nice lavender garage doors. I really, really like the color.

 

 

Well Begun Is Half Done

All day long I kept saying these words to myself and hearing Mary Poppins saying them, as well.

You know in the movie when Mary Poppins tells Jane and Michael about playing a game and it’s called “Well Begun Is Half Done”, then Michael says that he doesn’t like the sound of it. Well, I don’t like the sound of it either. In the movie  it refers to Jane and Michael tidying up their room and for me it refers to the fact that we continuously have to do things over and over and it always starts out well and then it only gets half finished because something doesn’t work out so good.

Today our “well begun is half done” happened to be the drywall in the two upstairs rooms. Dude has been saying lately that it’s looking pretty good and we can soon primer the walls. Well guess what?? Our brand, spanking, new drywalled walls are cracking. That’s right. Right up the middle in the identical areas of both rooms.

It seems that since the house is made out of concrete it’s continuously expanding and contracting and it’s pulling at our new drywall. We had put in a metal rod and a clee a few months ago to fix this problem since there is a big crack in the side of the house. The rod and clee were supposed to push the house together and stop the crack from getting worse. Then we put up new dry to hide the rod and also to put in some insulation. Well the clee is on one side of the house (the library side), but the other side (Tinki’s room) needs to have a metal UPN to pull it together. We have been having the hardest time trying to get this. Now with the weather being warm during the day and cold at night, the house is heating up and then cooling down and Dude thinks this is causing the drywall to contract and expand with the temperature which is probably the reason for the initial crack in the outside wall of the house.

Great! He did his best to fix the issue, but we seem to be having the same issue with our new wall!

He already fixed two of the cracks and then today he goes upstairs to put another finish coat on the walls and voila, another crack appeared today.

The crazy thing is that it was there during the day, then as soon as the temperature dropped it disappeared and the crack he fixed the other day started to bulge. Now we are desperately in need of finding that stupid UPN.

I already tried looking on line and of course all these metal places won’t answer your email questions and when I call they say that they won’t sell you just one short piece. I even took a picture of one over to Point P to ask those guys where to find one and those losers looked at it like it was from outer space. No one there even knew what it was and those stupid things are on houses all over the place here! FIRED! That’s what I say. How the heck can you work in a construction store and not know what a metal UPN is??

So tomorrow we are headed to a metal shop that is near my work. This guy makes all kinds of neat things and maybe he’ll have a junk pile we can fish through to find it. Once we do find it then we have to figure out how to get it on the other side of the rod (which is in our neighbor’s yard). Then we have to hope it works and our drywall (and outer wall) stops cracking. We can’t paint the walls until then.

I’m still hearing Mary Poppins and it’s translating to “one step forward and two steps back”.

Living Dangerously

Well looky what we have here!

What in the world was the electrician thinking when he put this in? What were the people in this house thinking when they said, “Here you go, Mr. Electrician. Your bill is paid. Thanks it looks great!”

 

OMG! The guy who wired this put the electrical on a piece of wood! A PIECE OF WOOD! Wood burns, people! Electrical stuff catches fire, people. What the heck! Look how this was put together. Dude and I just marveled at this for a long time. He was really stumped and wanted to figure out how this thing actually made it this far without being fried.

Oh wait, I have to back it up, because the whole reason we found this little gem is due to a new hot water tank that we had to buy (the existing one was super tiny and ancient). So the story here is that we couldn’t ever get hot water while we were working on the house (before we moved in). No matter what, we couldn’t get the old tank to work, so Dude and I went out and bought a new one a few days before moving in cuz there was no way in heck that I was going without hot water (I already did that and wrote about it, too).

Well, the day before the big move we were here trying to hook it up. It’s located in the garage, of all places. Dude was such a professional and the thing was ready to go in no time. Then the directions said to wait for the blinking green light to work and that’s when you know it’s good to go. Ok-Check. Then the directions said that it could take around 4 to 6 hours before hot water would miraculously appear. Ok-off we went to do some more work.

Around 5 hours later I decided to do the big test and went to the kitchen to turn on the hot water. I let that thing run for 10 minutes with no hot water to be found. So I did what I always do when something doesn’t work right, I called Dude and told him to fix it.

Back into the garage we went. Dude looked at it and said that the green light was blinking and the bottom of the tank was hot so it must be working. Really? Cuz I thought that meant hot water would come out of the tap! Yes, folks, I’m a smart ass, I admit it.

Dude took the cover off of the bottom of the tank and discovered that in the short time span of 5 hours, one of the wires touched the heating element on the bottom of the tank and shorted it out. What kind of idiots make a hot water tank that doesn’t put any protection on the wires and has it sitting snug next to the heating element? Give me a break! New hot water tank already busted.

Well, he managed to fix it and got the thing going again with the green blinking light. So now we had to wait a few more hours. It’s a good thing we had stuff to do.

I gave it around 2 more hours and went back to the kitchen to see if we now had hot water. Guess what??? It was a big “NOPE”. Ahhhh! This was super frustrating and all the while I’m looking at Dude to get this thing taken care of cuz I’m not doing without the comfort of a hot shower (especially when I just purchased a new hot water tank to ensure that).

That’s when we found the little gem that I mentioned a bit ago. Dude said that he didn’t think anything was wrong with the tank and that it must be something with the electrical. So we hunted around for the source and found our little piece of “junk on wood”. You should have seen the look on Dude’s face when he saw that. He was like, “What the hell is this?!” Then he proceeds to take of the cover to investigate (while the thing was live, I might add) and see if the problem lied there. I finally told him to shut the power down cuz I was freaking out.

So he gets on this kick about checking this piece of junk out and we kind of lost sight of why we were even investigating it. We were that dumbfounded. Dude kept talking about how this would be so illegal in the states and only an idiot would put a man-made electrical gadget like this on a piece of wood and to just look at the foam coming out of the top and the way the wires were (they had a black wire and a brown wire, but no blue wire which is a neutral). He just couldn’t stop going on and on about it. Luckily we were kind of laughing about it, too. It helped relieve the tension of the fact that we still didn’t have hot water and didn’t know why.

Finally after a full investigation, which included Dude getting out his tester to make sure it worked, he decided that all was well and it was working properly. He also came to the brilliant conclusion that he was going to have to change this Mickey Mouse set up that we had going. Like I’ve said before, it’s a good thing we have a house made of stone.

Finally after some more detective work, he followed some pipe around the garage to a valve. On a hunch he turned the valve on and voila, it magically gave us some hot water. Now this is not scalding hot water like I want, but it was hot none the less. I decided it was good enough for us to move in. It’s a good thing to cuz the next day we had to leave our rented apartment.

Dude still tells me he has no idea what the heck that contraption is on the wall. All he says it that it’s called, “Major Code Violation”. I guess the original owners were never investigated on the electrical in this place (either that or it was the owner’s brother who did the work and he didn’t care about lighting up his kin and passed it off as great).

In any case, that scary thing is still in the garage and we still have semi-hot water (I’m still waiting for scalding level). One of these days he’ll get to fixing it and I can be proud to boast a real professional job was done. For now, I’m just glad that we haven’t heard a pop and sizzle, cuz that would mean our “Major Code Violation” went bad. That in turn would mean no hot water for me and that in turn would be a major nightmare for Dude……

Saturday at LeRoy-Merlin

Today was not what I would exactly call a fun day. What started out as a side trip to our normal weekend road trip, turned out to take the entire afternoon. Tinki and I were not too happy, to say the least.

Dude decided he wanted to go to the “centre commercial” and hit up LeRoy-Merlin. You see, we are in the midst of buying our first house in France and it’s a real fixer-upper. We know absolutely nothing about the construction products that are available in France, what they are or what brands are good and what brands to stay away from.

Since the “escrow” is due to close in a few weeks and the house will officially be ours, he wanted to get a jump on the research to figure out what we are going to need and how we will go about getting it.

Off to LeRoy-Merlin we went, the Home Depot of France. This place is actually really cool when you’re in the mood to go. The problem was that I wasn’t in the mood today. I was all set for my Saturday to begin with some fun sight-seeing and Dude just sprung it on Tinki and I.

Lesson #1-Don’t listen to Dude when he says he wants to take a quick look at something in LeRoy-Merlin before going on with the rest of the day.

Lesson#2-Don’t agree to go with him after you have ignored Lesson #1.

Since I didn’t learn either lesson until today, Tinki and I went along.

LeRoy-Merlin was really crowded due in large part to the fact that Saturday is the only weekend day that the French can shop there since the store is closed on Sunday. Can you imagine Home Depot being closed on Sunday? No way, it would never happen.

Unfortunately, it was also extremely warm in the store because the French don’t really understand the idea of air-conditioning, yet. Like I said, the store is supper fun when you’re in the mood, but not on a hot day on Saturday.

We began our shopping spree on the exterior, side lot. Here is where they keep the gravel, pipes, rain cutters, dry wall, wood and all the large outdoor goods. Thankfully there were some areas of shade because Tinki and I were beginning to melt out there. Someone could make a mint if they had a little ice cream and soda cart and just walked around this outdoor area selling refreshing goodies. I know, cuz I would have paid a hundred Euros for an ice cream cone right about 15 minutes after we got there. That’s how hot and nasty it was!

Finally after a little complaining on my part, and Tinki’s, we ventured inside. Even though it was still warm, as least the sun wasn’t beating on us. First stop was the paint aisle. I picked out a nice purple paint with texture, cuz purple is my favorite color. Michael likes raspberry so he wants to go with that. For Tinki’s room she wants green walls and purple carpet. Luckily, we found both.

Next up were some neat stones that Dude and I are contemplating putting on one of the bedroom walls. I love them. They will go great with the style of the house and most likely, his raspberry paint. I think the purple paint will be for my library (which I am SO stoked about)! Flooring was next. We found a great deal on some hardwood floors that we are thinking about putting in upstairs. I also found some great grey flooring that I would like to use on the first floor hallway, master bedroom and bathroom. Then it was onto the tubs and showers (for Tinki’s bathroom) then the electrical gadgets.

By now, Tinki and I were famished and really done in by the heat. Yes, I do admit that I am a weeny. I HATE the heat. We decided to leave Dude to continue his looking around and we went out to the car for some lunch that thankfully, we had packed before we left.

While we found a somewhat cool and shady spot, Dude was trying to figure out the electrical stuff. It was quite interesting getting strange looks from people while we ate out of our car in the parking lot. I think it was mostly because we had some really great looking food and cool drinks. Everyone was super jealous.

After filling our tummies, Tinki and I headed back in to find Dude still in the electrical aisle trying to figure out how he was going to relearn all the items that he already knows about in the states, but now cuz we’re in France he has to start all over again. No bueno.

We hung around a little while longer and then Tinki and I were done. We needed to get the heck outta there.

By now it was like 5pm and we never got our Saturday road trip. Tinki and I were disappointed. Homeward bound we went. Next time, I will remember Lession#1 and #2 and if I happen to forget, Tinki will surely remind me.

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