Monday, May 12, 2014

and she's up

moving a house

 Two weeks in for me, the rest of the team have spent much longer preparing the foundations and much of the wood that we have been working with, and the framework is completed and ready to put up.  It all appears to be a bit fast, but the woodsman is sure it’s all OK and is keen to get on.  Each section is loaded onto a trailer and ferried across a field and down a country track to the building site where it is reconstructed.

ready to lift

The tractor then hoists each frame upright and it is temporarily secured in position with numerous cross braces.  Sounds easy, but with each part weighing a good eight hundred kilos, it is no mean feat to get each one in exactly the right position, ready to receive the rest of the precut timbers to complete the framework.  A centimeter out of place and the whole building will be compromised, there isn’t much room for error.

keeping the posts in position

adding temporary support

a little mechanical help
 Two days later and it looks like a house, well, from certain angles at least.  The frames looked tiny when they were lying on the ground in a huge field, but now, upright, they’re massive, much larger than the house itself, as it has a rather interesting design.  You can see from the photos, the roof extends way further than the verticals that will eventually become the walls.  The idea is to have a wrap around terrace that circumnavigates the house, allowing shelter from the sun, rain or wind on whichever side provides the most comfort.  

With the timbers it looks a bit top heavy, but I imagine that it will evolve into something rather stunning.  I’m part tempted to copy.  I won’t, but will certainly develop some of the ideas, isn’t that partly why I’m here?  To learn, discover and improve on the ideas that I already have, before I start on my own.

all up and secure

nestling into the landscape


Another week has passed with no news from the Notaire, it must only mean that everything is going smoothly!!!!!  I tried to phone last Thursday, but it was a public holiday, forgot my phone on Friday and on Monday they are closed anyway, so I’ll give them a call tomorrow and find out what’s going on.

In the mean time, along with the continual work on the building site, I’ve had chance to explore Lamastre, the local market town a bit.  An old mining town from years ago, a bit grim and grey but pre most industrial action, so the coal was shipped out and the area is now quite and calm, the mines closed years ago.  It reminded me somewhat of Dartmouth, from the steep narrow streets lined with granite houses, though miles from the sea and rising on both sides of the valley.  It’s remote here, three quarters of an hour drive to the nearest large town of any note, so it’s similar to Dartmouth in that respect too.

Spotted an interesting fence, rather a fun idea that creates a bit of character to an otherwise bland back street.  

As time is moving on I am becoming increasingly anxious to get my garden planted before the summer gets underway.  A challenge, I know, being hundreds of miles away from a property that is not yet mine, but I’ve done a fair amount of seed sowing this last weekend in preparation.  My mad february purchase of thirty or so packets of seeds in Aldi one evening has come in handy at last, rows and rows of tiny plants are starting to appear from the compost, a mixture of vegetables and flowers, that’ll be ready to transplant within the next couple of weeks.  Hopefully they won’t get too large to untangle or too stretched by being planted so close together.  The whole thing is a bit of an experiment so we’ll just have to wait and see.  I keep reading my permaculture gardening book and have some interesting ideas to try out once things get going. Less work and more produce - can’t be such a bad thing to try.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

the biscuiterie

Swaan cutting biscuits 
straight from the oven

never enough biscuits

part shop, part kitchen

wooden framework

Two weeks in already, time is flying and I’m partly wishing that I could stay here for ages and see this project advance much further than I will be able too. Mainly though, I am excited to be getting closer and closer to the magic date when my own project can start in earnest.

It’s great to be working on a project with a good team of knowledgeable people who know what they are doing, with plans to be followed and a decent amount of organisation.  The foundations are already in place, we took off the formwork last week and since then have been flat out building the five  wooden structures that will hold the weight of the building. 

 It’s been touch and go with the weather as its been cold and showery, but progress has been swift between the showers.  I am now becoming expert at using a router, a drill like machine that we are using for cutting notches in all the beams and rafters so that they hold together and for supporting the rest of the structure once it is in position.  Hopefully this will become clearer once the structure is upright and the next stage is underway.

We’ve spent the last ten days or so constructing five very similar structures, all slightly different, from massive lengths of timber.  The wood comes direct from the saw mill which, fortunately, is a stones throw from the building site, tree trunks are fed in at one end and our pieces, along with an impressive quantity of waste, comes out the other end, directly to where we are building the forms.  A lot of the offcuts are resized for planks and smaller posts, the rest is being rescued for building raised beds for the garden.
the sawmill

one of our beams
Our timbers of varying dimensions are then cut precisely, fitted together with varying joints and marked to ensure that they are complete before they are transported to the building site.  It involves a lot of maneuvering, sawing, cutting, planing and moving, just as I wanted, an opportunity to improve my carpentry skills, it’s great.  Everything is now done for this stage of the build.  

technical bits

even more technical bits
Next week the frames be transported, reassembled in site and lifted into position, bolted into position and then we’ll immediately see the outline framework of a new house.  It’s going to be an exciting week.

In the meantime, when the weather has been less kind, there’s been plenty to keep us occupied indoors.  Swaan and Bert are starting a new venture at the same time as building, to keep money coming in.  Making biscuits.  There’s a cute little building in the village that they’ve rented and turned into a ‘biscuiterie’ so we go there and get stuck into baking.  It’s a completely new project that’s been going for just a couple of weeks and a great opportunity get warm and dry out from time to time.  (the weather has turned much colder than it was a month ago, the usual upside down spring that were becoming accustomed to)

two frames nearing completion