Thursday, October 4, 2018

My house has new corners.....

- new corners has my house.    

In all truth I should not use the plural because my house is only supposed to have one new corner. But that would not scan.  Indeed, I do not know in reality whether the house has its new corner yet.  It was supposed too be put in this September.  We thought it better to be elsewhere whilst the work was done. As the above picture shows:  it is work on a new corner of the Shepherd's Cottage - there only one corner stone had to be replaced.

This is the split in our wall which demands new corner stones - due to age and weather damage, not least the iron gate catch that heated and cooled at a different rate to the stones. Spot the invading, wall eating ivy...

As far as we know this is the first time since its building some 200 years or so ago that stonework has had to be replaced.  The reasons why one corner only (that is written in hope) has to be replaced are multiple but come down basically to the nature of the site and the type of construction.  Add in recent weather extremes

La Chaise new house, as it was in 18 whenever,  was built on a clay soil slope, probably with stones from the fields though the corners would have been made of quarried stone as were the door and window openings. There is a an old quarry at La Tour Blanche which is not very far away and which is purported to date back to Roman occupation times. But I suspect/know the new stone will come from a truly local quarry much nearer, it was not specified on the estimate.
This is the terrace we had built to try and anchor the base of the house - only it is the upper part of the walls that is heading down the hill

The forty centimetre +/-  field stone walls were/are held together by a mixture of clay, mortar and prayer. A previous owner added a fine outer layer of cement, we added an inner layer of 'crepi', a style of cement. Then added paint.

The fact that clay swells with rain and dries with heat, that the house had a very heavy Roman style red pottery tiled roof, did not help the stability of the construction.  We have made the roof lighter by successive re-tiling efforts but the house is still 10 centimetres wider at the top of the original walls than at the the bottom, all ten on the downward slope side.    It is held together by massive iron ties running through the attic and attached to an S in iron on the outside.  We added a massive triple T to hold the old and newer (relatively) downside walls together.

And this is what happens when the small tractor backs into the terrace...our first meetings with new stonemasons.

We have found a new stonemason to do the work on our house, and the others at La Chaise.   He says since the weather fluctuations, heat/wet/cold he is overworked.   His name?   Simeon Pierre - honest - a very local artisan.   His son is at school with our grandsons....

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

return of the wild orchids

It is wonderful to come back to the Dordogne in May after a long wet and cold winter.  Spring was suddenly unusually warm and now everything is in flower - roses, roses everywhere. There is a two foot high wild sage stem on the slope up to no: 8 green.

But the greatest news is that the wild orchids are back, the first wave of lazy purples, pyramid and scented orchids deep in the long grass near juniper bushes. The small meadow blue and brown butterflies, the occasional large white, hover around.

For some time now, ever since the juniper bushes on that rocky slope of land we refer to as 'Greece', started to die we saw less and less orchids.  There appears to be a strange form of symbiosis between junipers, orchids and ants, so the nearness of ant heaps and orchids to juniper roots would seem to indicate.

To my joy I saw the first orchids underneath young junipers along the fence of the horse fields.

The horse fields are still truly wild - because none of the La Chaise based golf fanatics have put a green on them.   Also it is several years since horses last pastured there and our 28 odd sheep and a random number of lambs in season make little impact on the two hectares.   Vetch and clover flourish, some cornflowers can be seen and, of course, 'horse-flowers' abound, known in other languages as 'lion's teeth' for their serrated leaves, edible when very young.