Nearly a week has gone by and I feel completely at home, relaxed, amongst friends and happy that my capability to speak and understand french has returned.
The first couple of days were a bit strange on many counts; the change between hotel living with all the comforts and a building site, getting up at 6 to leave for work at 7 is something I haven’t done for a while either, a raw food diet (yes, here too now) after a winter of chef prepared feasts, speaking a foreign language all the time - it’s getting easier and easier I know and the cold, the weather has changed too, damp and cloudy after weeks of sunshine is shocking.
This morning after a night of rain, the mountains are newly white down to below 1500 metres, something that would have filled me with joy a week ago, now only bodes for a chilly day sieving soil or carpenting inside. Thankfully it’s Saturday so we’re not working, a trip to the market to stock up on food, just the market, no bakery, butchers or supermarket.
It’s still cold and has been frosty most nights, but sleeping in a tiny cabin with a wood burning stove that stays alight all night and working in a very well insulated house by day, all is toasty warm. The only challenge is waiting for some sunshine to warm enough water for a shower. The solar panels here work extremely well and there is warm water even with slight cloud cover. A couple of hour of sunshine and it starts to become hot. Half a day and there is enough for everyone to have a swift shower and perhaps even a bit for washing up. When all else fails, a bowl of water heated on the wood burner suffices.
Chez Pierlo and Sandrine, the house that I lodged at last year, things have progressed enough for the family to move in. It’s not complete by any stretch of the imagination, but sufficiently so for a rough and ready existence. Still no hot water there, but it is always lovely and warm. We’re working on finishing the first floor rooms now, the loft area is complete and looks wonderful. Just ceilings, final finish to the walls and a wood floor to go down on the first floor, final fix electricity and then it’s on to the ground floor. Pierlo thinks they will be finished by the end of the year.
Here, at Dominique and Patrick’s, where we built the straw walls last summer, construction has continued at speed. Considering that the team only spends half a week at each site, there are no professional craftsmen and most of the help is voluntary and transient the whole process is amazing. The structure resembles a house, the roof is complete, minus a few finishing touches, the upstairs, chalet bungalow style has first fix electricity throughout, walls and ceiling more than half way finished using a different method than before, wood lined throughout, insulated with bales of straw throughout. It’ll keep the heat in through the winter and out in the summer, from working inside at present I doubt there will be much need for heating on sunny days throughout the year. The straw has spent the better part of a year being compressed by the weight of the roof structure and has stopped descending and is stable enough to take its clay coating, this can start as soon as the weather is warm dry. It might start before I leave, but if not there may well be the opportunity to check out the methods later on in the year.