Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Another major endeavor - Entry and Stairwell

Sheets of Masonite enclosed the ceiling of the approximately 25 foot tall stairwell. Without removing the panels we wouldn't know the condition of the ceiling. If it was it was truly awful it would have to be repaired. There was only one way to know...

This photo is of the first half of the false ceiling removed showing the condition of the chevrons and ceiling wood. Well now, at least, we knew the extent of the problem.

These walls had been blasted with a thick coat of pinkish colored stucco (1960's?) which did not age well. The white paint trim with the small red line was added by a cousin many, many years ago.

The dark wood on the right is evidence that rodents nested in this void probably in the 1940's. During WWII farmers in the area moved feed grains for their animals closer to the house to detour pilfering by the German military.

The ceiling was a highway into the attic and then only a short distance to the grain loft. The grain in the loft was removed when the rats were discovered. The Masonite cover didn't allow any air circulation and the wood had also been damaged from decades of summer humidity.

The pinewood cripple studs were only finished on one side and leaving the other sides very rough, the plan had been to cover them, forever.  However the wood was cleverly placed so that the false ceiling was flat.  The 200+ nails driven into the chevrons were difficult to remove, most of the chevrons are very old solid oak. Clearly recycled from another building.

This is one of 3 rodent nests. This hole goes up into the open attic space. We carried out bags of dirt and debris straight to the garbage every day. (Needless to say goggles and masks were the uniform of the day). Lots of sanding and water/bleach baths on the wood, it took several days but the wood finally dried and although it looked a bit dingy it was still about 500% improvement. Next came a through spray of pesticide to deter wood destroying pests.

This electrical conduit for the upstairs was added to the exterior of this wall. Here is a view of the wall/ceiling where there was no plaster or paint before the Masonite panels were placed.  At the left side of the blue conduit is another rodent entry area.  That rat had eaten through the wire insulation and was electrocuted.   The skeleton was stuck in the void and came down with the Masonite. Remains were quickly double bagged and even more quickly disposed into the garbage. Nasty work, but once the false ceiling was down there was nothing else to do but to carry on!

Here you can see again there was no finish work above the white trim area

This is near the end of tearing out all the Masonite and beginning to repair the plaster around the top of the white trim area. The ladder was narrow even at the bottom level and made the process a bit dangerous not to mention uncomfortable. We used a lightweight scaffold that was too unsteady on the steps not to mention too short to reach the ceiling.

This photo from the entry area. On the right edge is the rough stucco texture we were eager to cover with plaster and fresh paint.

Debris on the steps in this photo and the one below from just one days work.

Finally the ceiling is taken back to the original wood. Through cleaning, sanding and several days for the wood to dry before the first coat of paint.

Barry begins plastering the walls in sections he can reach from the ladder or the lightweight scaffold.  This is very slow going work and after a few long days makes a decision.

The new scaffold arrives!  After much research a rental company is located and a heavy duty scaffold is found.
It went together like a jigsaw puzzle but it was tall enough, sturdy and steady. The many steps, very tall space made moving the scaffold tricky to position on the steps and still be efficient.
Jeremie was instrumental in the process, not only in locating the rental company but in jumping in with both feet and learning how to plaster walls 20+ feet in the air!

Each time the scaffold needed to be moved a complete dismantling was necessary.

Here is our life saver - Jeremie in person! He had never done any home repair/renovation work but was a quick study. Not only that but his technique and skills improved daily. We couldn't have done without him this year.

Primer coat complete -  now a dab of caulk here and there (actually 10 tubes) to fill the gaps and the finish coat of paint... finally!

I attempted a Faux finish on the door surround, looks good from about 20 feet?

Not sure if we are ready to put any paintings or photos on the walls yet, enjoying the change.

Finished! This photo shows the sleeve to cover the chandelier chain, lucky to find the exact color match. We love the outcome of this project, bright and airy and most of all clean.

And if you have thanks for reading

Friday, September 5, 2014

Shade Garden Update

Before I show you the finished shade garden here are a few photos as a reminder of our starting point.
There were two banks of rabbits hutches that sat in the area for decades.

 The rabbits were protected from predators and shielded from seasonal temperatures. You may be able to glimpse the second structure behind the right edge of the pen in the foreground.
Below is a closer view.

It may not be evident in these photos but the soil, even in this area, is naturally fertile. After many decades of housing rabbits it is easy to imagine how well our new plants will thrive.

Section by section the cages were dismantled and loaded onto the truck. I was not at all sorry to see them leave. 

Our friend and contractor took a few minutes to dig the area where several rose bushes would be re-planted. He was also kind enough to scoop up those roses from the kitchen garden where the septic fosse was being excavated. Full service? You bet!

More help to get the roses in the ground as soon as possible, our friend Jeremie was my hero,

Broken cement tiles filled in the swale where the second bank of rabbit cages sat. Terracotta roof tile delineates the pathway for the reclaimed space.

Barry and Jeremie cleaned out the second story of the barn and rescued several pieces of very old very hard oak and one slab became this rustic bench. The bench measures about 2 x 5 ft and 3 inches thick

Sunflowers define one side of the garden entry, Nicotania on the opposite side. A thick layer of new gravel is layered over GeoTex it promises to discourage weeds from growing (jury is still out for this year).

Roses are thriving as are the Hydrangeas, Impatiens and Calendulas. As the pathway curves into the heart of the area we have added annuals along the edging.

The hay I thought would make such a terrific mulch might be a better topping if the chickens weren't so curious.

You may not recognize the foreground as the former rabbit hutch location. A deep layer of gravel and it looks like it has been like this for years, well almost.

We're ready for family and friends! 

Finished just in time for the Family Fete.

About 51 family members came to Montegut this year. This was the perfect spot to begin the celebration. It was sincerely flattering to hear how much they enjoyed the shade garden. It is, after all, Maison de Familie!

And if you have thanks for reading


Friday, August 29, 2014

La Boqueria

Stepping out of the metro line deposited us directly in front of Barcelona's famous outdoor market - La Boqueria. I found this history of the market at:

"The first mention of the Boqueria market of Barcelona dates from 1217, when tables were installed near the old door of the city to sell meat. From December 1470, a market selling pigs occurred at this site. At this time, the Market had the name Mercat Bornet or was (until 1794) simply known asMercat de la Palla (Straw Market).

At the beginning, the market was not enclosed and did not have an official statute, it was regarded as a simple extension of the market of Plaça Nova which then extended to the Plaça del Pi.
Later, the authorities decided to construct a separate market on La Rambla, housing mainly fishmongers and butchers. It is not until 1826 that the market is legally recognized and a convention held in 1835 decides construction of an official place.

Construction began March 19, 1840 under the direction of architect Mas Vilà. The market officially opened the same year, but the plans for the building were modified many times. The official inauguration of the structure was finally made in 1853. In 1911, the new fish market was opened and, in 1914, the metal roof that still exists today was constructed."

The most organized, cleanest and colorful marketplace I have ever seen.

A small bag of pepper followed us home.

Nearly anything you can imagine was available, from the simple to the exotic.

A feast for all of the senses!


Texture of Kiwi, very mild flavor and not too sweet. I choose the pink version, tasty. You can see the whole fruit directly behind the cut fruit I can't decide which is prettier, the whole fruit or the cut fruit.

How I wish we could take one of those home, not the people the peppers!

Such abundance!

One of the dozens of fish counters.

Wonderful welcome to Barcelona, Spain.

And if you have thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


We enjoyed another excellent meal with cousins JP and Odile last week. A feast for the eyes as well as the palate! There is just nothing better than Family and Friends and French Food!

To begin Odile presented a beautiful Saumon Terrine on a bed of Water Cress with homegrown cherry tomatoes and chives. You might be thinking this is too beautiful to eat... but it tasted even better than it looked.

Homemade aiole and mayonaise sauces were the perfect accompaniment to the delicate flavors of the terrine.

Roasted Lamb... exquisite! Green beans and Butter beans (haricot verte et haricot buerre) as typical  side dishes for lamb in this region. I almost forgot to take a photo.. apologizes for the less than tidy plate!

Cheese course. We both love the variety as well as the idea of a small delicious savory bite of cheese at the end of a meal.

Dessert, compliments of Georgette. Her famous Pomme Crumble. We can't seem to get enough of this and now I have the recipe... if you are interested leave a comment. Oh, and such sweet people, they remembered my birthday!

I am making this very soon!

Thank you for another delicious meal and your friendship, mes cousin!

Family is everything, don't you agree?

And if you have thanks for reading...

Au revior.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Shade Garden

 So much has happened in this new space and yet there is much more work scheduled. Here we used old roof times to outline the pathway from the courtyard into the garden.  The roses we transplanted from the kitchen garden septic project are doing quite well and showing new leaves and blooms. The wood chips hide the weed-cloth and hopefully the weeds will cooperate.

The path is a generous 1 metre wide - or about 44 inches. A white landscape cloth will cover the pathway and topped with gravel. We have selected the color - a mix of soft pale colors in cream, tan and yellow.

That enormous roll of hay in this photo will be used to mulch around the plants. Hopefully this will help keep some of the most vigorous weeds from getting another toe-hold.

That patch of white is shards of thin cement broken and used as "fill", it came from the roofing material on the hutches. This is where one bank of the rabbit house stood. This small space will be leveled and also covered in the same gravel.
You can see the outline of the path leading off to the left where we will place a small table and a chair or two. A little private corner for reading or just contemplating the garden.

Or maybe a park bench or lounge chair what do you think? In the center is a red rose that is either a rambler or a climber I haven't figured it out yet. The wisteria is along the fence and is blooming for the second time since April! Gotta love it's enthusiasm. We used large stones to create a border and filled it with one layer of the hay mulch. To help you orientate - that corner of the barn faces South.

This is a long view looking of the same corner. At the foreground is a small bench made from "found" materials - gotta love a farm!
The un-planted area is still being planned. I would love to hear about your ideas for this area feel free to leave a comment. Currently it gets dappled sun until about 2pm then some sun,

Little bench on the lower left, hay mulch and stone border. We trimmed back all the bushes and plants and they are rewarding us with new leaves. It was a solid mass, no distinction between the trees or bushes.

I just love this little bench! We've had rain nearly every afternoon since the hay mulch was laid I'll have to see if it is time to add another layer.