LES GUIS - 2011
Despite everything that I said back a year or two ago about being here permanently giving me more time to work on the place, once can't of course legislate for other matters getting in the way of life.
For personal reasons, I'd been to Canada in late 2010 and, fool that I am, I saw some land that really appealed to me. Consequently in late summer 2011 I flew out there for five weeks in order to formally take possession. As well as that, in the height of the summer I was "working" (if only I were to be paid for it but chance would be a fine thing) on a couple of local tourism projects.
If that wasn't enough, I was also engaged in an (unsuccessful) fight to save a local art-deco mansion from the bulldozers.
And what put the lid on all of this was something very distracting but nevertheless very very beneficial. We were totally unprepared for the bitter, if not savage winter that we were having. And there was a centrally-heated apartment in Brussels lying empty but in need of a full and total renovation. Consequently Terry, Liz and I headed off for about 8 weeks where we rebuilt the place from top to bottom, put it on the market and sold it.
Totally free of commitments in Brussels (he said, totally unaware of what the future was to hold for him) and with no further expenses to pay out in that respect I was finally committed to a full-time existence down here in the Auvergne. However, as you can see, working on the property here was very much on the backburner during 2011.
January saw me back in the bedroom, and you can see the progress that I've been making. We have plasterboard on the exterior walls and you'll notice the "space blanket" insulation wedged in there. There's a 25mm air gap between the exterior wall and the insulation, and a 25mm air gap and 40mm of polystyrene behind the plasterboarding. You have no idea how cold winters can be here. Minus 20°C was recorded in early January.
The extent of the cold weather did take me quite by surprise to be sure. That's why you can see polystyrene wedged in between the beams on the ceiling. The cold percolating up through the floor, despite the insulation that I have underneath the parquet, was bitter.
You'll also notice the wiring for the lights going into position, but you won't yet notice the new double-glazed windows. They haven't arrived yet.
I also managed to extend the vegetable garden with a few new raised beds, and I also now have two compost bins and the footings for the greenhouse that I want to build. It's all taking shape quite nicely down there now.
The only trouble though with having a big vegetable garden is that a great deal of time, effort and commitment is needed to keep it all in good order. That was something that was missing, unfortunately, in 2011 as I was continually being distracted by other events.
I put some more effort into the rainwater harvester too. You'll see that there's a sump into which will fall all of the heavy objects, which I can simply drain off. There's a settling pipe that will hopefully settle out all of the solid matter that might be in the water, and then another housing that contains a mesh filter, some puzzolane and a sandbag.
Insude the rear tank is another settling tank and the water filters out of there into the rear tank and then passes into the front tank.
There's room for further improvement of course, but this is the kind of thing that one discovers by degrees.
Long-term readers of this rubbish will recall that the solar panels that provide the power for the barn are on some kind of temporary framework on the roof of the old Ford Transit Luton. They can't stay there forever - a more permanent home needs to be found for them and so after much deliberation I built a framework on the southern end of the barn.
I've also fitted one of the AIR 403 wind turbines that I bought from Southwest Wind Power in Flagstaff, Arizona in September 2002. I'll move the batteries and the control panel down to that end of the barn in due course.
I haven't forgotten the lean-to in all of this either. If you remember how it looked a year or so ago you'll see quite a mafor improvement. I've been slowly building up the wall, and where all of the white mortar is, that has been done with my own not-so-fair hands.
I can now put a tarpaulin over there at night and that keeps the worst of the weather off the woodwork. But I really do with that I could have a really good go at it for a couple of weeks without so many interruptions. If it's not the bad weather then it's something else.
I did manage a week or two without interruptions, and that coincided with some of the scaffolding being free for a short period. Consequently, not only was I able to finish off all of the pointing at the side of the house, at long last, I was able to put up the little Rutland WG 901 wint turbine that had been hanging around here since the Spring of 2009.
This is all going to be a major step in the right direction if it all works out as it should.
I'd spent much of late autumn cutting up the wood that I'd been storing in the lean-to, now that the tarpaulin that I had had over the roof had been keeping everything dry for a few weeks.
The lean-to was now half-empty and so as a final gesture to 2011 I built myself a kind-of staircase up to the first floor so that I would no longer need to go mountaineering up into there.
So even though I didn't have anything like as much time on my house as I would have liked, it wasn't all completely doom and gloom and I did make some progress.
I'll be interested to see what 2012 brings me.
You can keep up-to-date with my antics on a more-or-less daily basis by reading my blog