Saturday, January 28, 2006

Catching up

How shameful that I've not blogged in so long! But don't think that we've been idle in my absence. Here's a quick recap of what's happened in the past few months:


  • Continued cleaning filthy house. Thrill of cleaning up shit begins to wear off after third consecutive weekend of doing so. We decide to take the next weekend off.
  • Hired local man (Jackee) and his incomprehensible son to remove piles of junk out barn and cellar. They do a fantastic job. We are relieved that we didn't have to do it.
  • Architects and co. came from Germany to meet with French workers! Interesting weekend. Are told that our roof needs to be cranked up (as if with a jack) to repair a beam underneath. We are apprehensive. Do not like the idea of raising the roof. But architects reassure us that this is normal. One french roofer looks dubious. We decide not to hire him.
  • Architects really tear into house. They uninhibitedly tear plaster off of walls, ceilings; break pieces of wood off windows, punch holes into things. Dawg and Lola watch anxiously, occassionally reminding each other, as we step over a new pile of rubble, that these are our friends and that we trust them. We really do.
  • Architects tell us that beam in the kitchen will need to be replaced. This is not a surprise. Even to our novice eyes, we can see that it is thoroughly rotten. We go from room to room, looking for problems. There is much discussion in rapid French and German about what needs to be done. Little effort is made to translate. Lola decides she hates everybody and sulkily takes car out for a spin in the countryside. Mood brights as she realizes that she could run off to Italy or even Greece, if she wanted, and no one could stop her! But in the end, she returns to the house. More effort is made to translate. We are all friends again.


  • Spend one weekend, per architect's intructions, scraping plaster off walls so that the brick or stone underneath is exposed. Heaps of crumbled plaster linger like snow drifts the kitchen and hallway. We are covered from head-to-toe in fine white powder. (Yes, we were wearing masks, mom). Despite all the plaster everywhere, house looks cleaner. Without plaster - no cobwebs!
  • We tire of scraping plaster off the walls. We'll have to get help.
  • Set up more meetings with electricians, plumbers, mason, carpenters, window-makers, and roofers. Beginning to get more familiar with French construction terms.
  • Have fun deciding where we want heaters and light switches to go. When electrician comes, go from room to room thinking of what makes the most sense. Excited by the idea that the house may actually one day have electric light and heat!
  • Receive first estimates for roof repair, electricity, heating, plumbing, and window repair. Prices make Lola feel queasy. Dawg is, as ever, unfazed. Dawg has no sense.

  • Meet with awesome carpenter who says that he can raise the roof, no problem. He fixed roof of local church - he can fix our roof. We trust him; Lola can even understand him. He's hired!
  • Meet with awesome window-maker. To preserve character of house, we want new windows that are as close to the originals as possible. The problem is double-glazing will change the character a bit. We have debate over whether to double-glaze. Dawg is more for aesthetics; that crazy Lola is more for warmth. For now, warmth wins.
  • We wait anxiously for more estimates to come in. None do.
  • Awesome carpenter (M. Dulion) agrees to stabilize our house in early Jan. Dawg worries obsessively that house will fall over Christmas holidays. It doesn't, of course.


  • First visit to the house of the year shows that M. Dulion (carpenter) has been there and stabilized it. To our surprise, we see that he has already completed the lifting of roof and repair of the beam! We are amazed and excited that the first construction works have been done.
  • Are told by M. Dulion that he needs to see all the beams in the kitchen and downstairs bathroom. This means that we have to remove the floor in the master bedroom and master bath. We are not sure how to do that, but are game. We call on our English neighbor, Red, for help. We ask him to begin removing the floor -- but to save some work for us so that we can brag to all our friends that we are capable of such hearty work.
  • We arrive at the house bright and early on Sat morning. Red has indeed removed half of the hardwood floor in the bedroom. The slats have been thrown down into the garden. We can still walk around in the bedroom, but we have to walk along the beams and joists. It is really cool to see the house exposed like this. Have never thought of how floors are held up or the intricate woodwork that lies beneath them. Now, when looking at a ceiling or a floor, it feels like I can see straight through them.
  • Dawg and Lola get to work. We tear off the tommettes (octogonal shaped red clay tiles) in the bathroom while Red finishes up the bedroom. We are very proud as we hammer and chisel away. There is a flutter of excitment as Red uses his chainsaw to cut the floor around the fireplace in the bedroom.
  • After removing the tiles in the bathroom, we see that the beams are covered with a layer of cement and plaster. Dawg and Red begin to break through the mixture. It creates an amazing amount of dust. Asthmatic Lola leaves to clean up the garden, which now has the remains of our bedroom floor piled in it. Feeling very rugged, she slings the floorboards over her shoulder and, four or five at a time, carries them into the garage. Not sure what we're saving them for. Maybe firewood. We know that we won't be putting them back into the bedroom. Tommettes are used throughout the rest of the house, and when we redo the bedroom floor, we'll put in new tommettes.
  • After floors are removed (since Red gave us a head start, we finish in a couple of hours), M. Dulion and the mason come to evaluate the beams. They are, in short, a mess. Particularly in the bathroom. Many will need to be replaced. For some beams, it is pretty obvious -- you can break off a handful of it, and it turns to sawdust in your hand. Others we have to trust his opinion (though we take lots of pictures to run by the architects). Anyway - the bottom line is that the estimate has to be redone and it'll be more expensive than we thought. This is not really a surprise. Everyone who has renovated or restored a house has warned us to expect what we pay out to be around 50% higher than our estimates. Still, this news hurts.
  • On the bright side, we buy a wheelbarrow!

Next up-- pictures of Lola and Dawg hard at work.

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