Spring Has Truly Sprung, Summer is Fast Approaching and The Heat Is On!: Barn Floor Progress and My
(Firstly, apologies for lack of historic post - too much to cover in the here and now with it being spring and all systems go! Will catch up next time!)
The signs of spring tend to show a lot earlier in France, with all the daffodils and bluebells showing their faces earlier than they generally do in England, but this year has been a little slower as the coldness of the winter stayed on a little longer than usual.
Over the last week, there has been a definite change in climate, with the big beautiful yellow thing in the sky finally showing it's face, proudly surrounded by uninterrupted blue sky! At last!! The daffodils and spring bulbs started to show a few weeks ago now and are now starting to die off.
The stunning blossom on the fruit trees has been in full bloom for the past week and is now starting to drop off, making way for the fruit to grow through. I drove past some big fruit orchards last week and it was an amazing sight to see all the rows of trees in blooms of blossom together - almost like a painting!
It is absolutely beautiful to watch, but also is a stark reminder to us that we are massively against the time. Every day, something outside in the garden is changing, indicating that summer is well on it's way - a scary thought for us at the moment as we need to be back in the barn "camping a la grange" by the beginning of July!
Within the time running up to then we also have 2 weeks away a big garden to maintain and maintenance work needed on the gite! Eeek! Feeling the pressure, but trying not to panic - we have been here before and have managed, so are thinking positive and just getting on with it!
Here are a few springtime pictures to brighten up your day!:
Scott has been very persistent with the tedious task of breaking out the concrete in the barn where the ramped troughs were and has finally arrived at the other end of the barn! The whole length of the barn is now rubble, which when thinking of needing to be living in it in by July is rather daunting!
(The string around the posts indicates what level the floor needs to come up to to level it out. We have raked across the stone that has been broken out to build up the concrete.)
In order to do the next stage - digging out the runs in the concrete for the first fix plumbing pipes to run through before the concrete is filled in and the floor is leveled, we have had to un-install absolutely everything we put in last year to make it livable - the kitchen units, sink, kitchen appliances, bath, WC and furniture; leaving it as a naked barn once again, but now in a poorer state with all the concrete dug out and rubble everywhere. It feels good to be getting things prepared for the concrete to finally be laid in, but is a little soul-destroying at the same time to have to be undoing so much that we did last year only to have to do it all over again once the floor is leveled and the concrete is set.
It was very exciting to get our 20 tons of stone delivered ready for the concrete mix. Another huge mound of many which have sat on our driveway and been eaten up by the renovation works over the past 2.5 years. "I can move, move, move any mountain!" - unfortunately the song that comes into my head every time the wheelbarrow is passed to me and I get the task of moving whatever the mountain is. Who knows - this time it may not be me (I hope so!)??
After our "Manager's Meeting" a couple of weeks back when we listed every task needing to be done and how long it will take and finding out that when all the estimated days added together was equal to the days we have available. Although progress is being made, we have had other things that we have had to focus on as priority to keep us afloat, which means that we have often not been able to get on with the barn until after lunch, with admin time taking up our whole mornings. This has slowed us down hugely and we are very aware now that we are already behind schedule.
Unfortunately, that is just the way it goes sometimes. You can plan as much as you like, but there are always other things that will need your time and attention also and need to be intertwined into what you already have planned. My "To Do" list for the day often doesn't get fully ticked off with the remaining tasks being carried into the following day. You can only do your best.
It was quite exciting this evening to be able to walk around the barn with Scott and discuss where rooms are going to be and how they will be set out in the future. With him digging out the runs for the first fix plumbing, it is very necessary that we have this conversation and think hard about how best things will be positioned. We are both very happy and excited about the plans, even if it is going to be a long time before we actually get there with all of it.
Before the summer, we are just hoping that the floor is leveled and set, all the services, kitchen and appliances are put back in, the bath and WC are re-installed and the 2x external doors we wish to install will be in. I am also going to be filling in any holes in the walls to stop any little "friends" coming to visit us, as they did last year! If we get time to put some partitioned walls up for a bit of privacy between our bedrooms and WC, then great, but I am not sure we will and so will probably have the old makeshift curtain method that we went for last year! Probably sounds like most people's nightmares to them, but (after getting used to the huge, cavernous space which is the barn) I actually rather enjoyed the experience and the open plannedness of it all. We also have grown very attached to the barn, can see it's beauty and envisage what it will look like one day and what each space will eventually become.
Earlier in the week, we tackled the problem of the sycamore trees which had been growing out from the earth which connects to the roof of our log shed, which connects to the gite. They had been there since we took over the house and Scott had cut them back, but they are a nightmare when the leaves start coming and were actually a threat to the house, so we decided to make it priority to get rid of them before the leaves started growing and it became mission impossible. So, up we went - Scott with the chainsaw and me there to hold the trees and direct them so that they fell in the right direction - a little difficult when they are 4x your height and you are balancing on the edge of a roof whilst trying not to put your foot through the adjoining and very old tiled roof.
The view from where we were stood:
All was going well, but I was in a rush to get on with my jobs before having to stop and prepare lunch. There was one larger tree which Scott had suggested we got some rope for to be able to hold it and stop it from falling. It was leaning towards the gite roof and skylights. Taking after my father in not having a great deal of patience and often opting for the quicker route, rather than the take more time "faffing" as I often like to refer to it and making it safer, I assured Scott that I had this one and he did not need to go and find any rope - I had this one for sure!! So the cutting began...and shortly afterwards I realised that the tree was a lot heavier than I thought and was not going to be persuaded to go in a different direction by me!! I didn't have it! "Sh****t!! It's going, it's going!! Heeeelp!!!" The tree was heading straight toward the roof and was about to take out the window, chimney to the old pizza oven and probably quite a chunk of one of the gite bedroom roof when suddenly I was pushed flat on my back in the opposite direction and the tree was laying on top of me!! Scott had managed to throw the chainsaw down and literally throw himself on the tree pushing it away from the house - JUST!!! Pheeeeeeeew!!!!! Maybe we did need some rope after all!?...
I would say that is the last time I will act so impatiently, but I know it is not - it is just built in me I am afraid! I will never learn!
I have been continuing with the garden. The weather at the moment is perfect for things to grow - rain showers followed by long warm days with lots of sunshine! I cut the hedge just over a week ago and it has grown about 6 inches since then!
Everything is growing like mad and it is a huge battle to stay on top of it as well as trying to get all the other tasks for this time of year done. I still haven't been able to get round to moving the rest of the roof tiles round the side of the barn, which are there from when we replaced the roof last year and are the perfect place for snakes to hide under for coolness, so I want to get rid of them ASAP before we hit snake season good and proper.
I urgently need to get round to planting the rest of my April seeds in the potager also. It may sound crazy to be trying to grow my own vegetables on top of everything else that is going on, but we want to try and be as self sufficient as possible and hope to save a great deal of money by doing so - anything is worth a try right now! At least I have had help from my little helper who planted our strawberries! :o)
I have mown and strimmed the garden twice, cut the hedge twice, planted all the bulbs which we bought through Summer's school (Including 125 gladioli) and weeded all the flower beds and rockeries (my goodness, some of those weeds and hardcore!). To plant all the bulbs, I have had to dig 6" deep, which is harder than it sounds as under that grass a lot of stone before you get through to the mud in most areas - some of it being huge slabs of granite. Today I tackled the masses of ivy and brambles which have been growing wild on the roof of our log shed which joins onto the gite roof since long before we got here. I had had enough of it as it was the first thing I was seeing when coming down the drive. I have done my best, but it is growing from a neighbour's adjoining building, so I don't have access to the root of the problem (excuse the pun!).
We are trying to make a more private divide from the barn and our garden to the pool area and gite garden for the summer, so sown some wildflower seeds around the parameters in the hope that they will grow to the 120cm it says on the box. Only time will tell.
The hundreds of pots of arum lily bulbs which Scott's Mum has kindly cultivated for us. All planted now!
One of the weeded rockery beds!
Cinderalla giving me trampoline envy as I work! :o)
Cinderella helping with the potager
Warning! Be careful when in sun for long periods of time! I always wear at least a factor 30, but missed these bits on my back! OUCH! So important to protect your skin well - have learnt my lesson now and will ask Scott to do these bits next time!
The potager is coming along with new potatoes, baking potatoes,beetroot, rocket, batavia lettuce, spinach and charantine melons planted (3rd time lucky with these I am hoping!) and the tomatoes and peppers are growing nicely on the windows cills. Still so much more to plant before the end of April - slowly getting round to it!
One day a week I am also going to my Mum's place to clean for her tenants and maintain the garden while they are away. It is nice to have a change of scenery and to be able to pay mum and Simon back some favours as goodness knows how much they have helped us!
The emotional bit...
Summer is off school on her holidays at the moment and has another week left. It is lovely to have her around, but she is going through a little bit of a stage right now where she doesn't want to listen and is totally in her own world. She very often doesn't want to get involved with doing things outside with me in the garden as she usually would, which is fine, but I would prefer her to be outside playing than inside watching films or TV on her own and on rainy days, she often ends up doing that. It makes me feel really guilty as I like to be able to do things with her one on one and help develop her skills and interactivity and let her have a bit of fun with us, but we just cannot stop if we want to get the place sorted for the summer and give her somewhere comfortable to live during that time.
Scott says that I have no need to worry and that she is very happy and I think sometimes I can punish myself unnecessarily as we check on her all the time and she has toys and the freedom to do what she wants while she is at home - often going on the trampoline and swing when the sun is out and obviously enjoying herself, but I am conscious that she doesn't have other children around her to play with. She has lots of school friends and went to a birthday party last Wednesday the other day. We had a nice unexpected visit from our friends last Sunday evening, who are the parents to Summer's "boyfriend" who came also with his brothers. It was a lovely surprise - we always enjoy their company, have a lot in common and are always relaxed in their company.
It was lovely to see Summer playing with her friends also, but we are noticing more and more that she is developing a "spoilt" streak and can get a little "huffy" when she doesn't get her own way playing with a certain person or toy when she is playing with other children. She has always known how to share and has not had any problems before, so I think it is a form of attention seeking. It is very obvious to me that she needs a little brother or sister.
As I have said before, we want so badly to have another baby and to give Summer that little brother or sister and playmate that she needs, but we are still so confused about where we want to live and I want to know that I am in the right place and settled before I have a baby.
We thought we had made up our minds that we wanted to try and get the barn to a livable standard and try and turn things around so that the majority of our time was in England and we spent the summer holidays here doing the gite changeovers and seeing our friends here, but from a community and friends point of view, for all of us, this place seems to have it. Since the sun has come out and we have been able to work out in it and feel that overwhelming sense of freedom and excitement in what we are doing - visualising the barn as our one day amazing and beautiful home, it is all of a sudden a really tough decision again.
We are all progressing more and more with the language and becoming more and more confident with it, being able to hold far more complex conversations than we ever thought was possible. We know that if we move back, although we will try very hard to keep the language going by speaking French to each other at certain times of the day, skyping French friends, visiting them when we are visiting and having weekly French lessons, Summer is bound to forget a lot of it and will not be constantly immersed in the language as she is in school.
But when I think about the family and us all missing out there, the decision becomes even tougher. We love it here, but we love and miss our family so much and all feel like we are missing out on so much quality time with them. At the end of the day, this place will always be here, but time with family is limited.
So difficult and not sure I want to have to make a decision right now, but would love to hear your point of view.