Puy d’Arnac

A spring poulain!

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Spring is supposed to have arrived, but on some days? I wonder if I made a mistake with the seasons..maybe we are moving into winter? Noo..n..it is spring, surely. In spite of icy weather, we have lilacs blooming profusely, wisterias drooping low with heavy blooms, tulips swaying their hips and young ones grazing in the fields..like our adorable poulette who arrived this weekend.

On Friday night we saw that Gubi was getting restless, walking up and down, snorting, and we knew the hour would not be far. At 3:00 on Saturday morning it started. She lay herself down in the écurie and those first two feet appeared. It was cold out, raining, wet and we piled on the hay so Gubi’s new poulain could enter the world soft and warm.

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After an hour of hard work, the process was over and Gubi could take a break, while the poulain found its strength, its breath and while we could also take a breather!

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Of course the first thing we searched for…a girl or a boy..and yippeeee..a little poulette…a little girl! We called her Duméla, which is “hello” in Sotho, one of south Africa’s 11 official languages.

As tired as she was, on shaky legs, Gubi raised and took on her role as mother. From that moment on, we hear the sound we haven’t heard before..a gentle, soft  throat whinny, which is of course her mothering voice.

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Duméla just went from strength to strength and she is already taking a run on those cute long legs.

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Mon chéri is of course blooming too! He is surrounded by girls here on Coin Perdu, but does he complain..non..how can he, when he he has only excitement and challenges and happiness around him!

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Duméla is today 2 days and a few hours old and cute as a button!

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Sleeping, brushing against Maman and drinking that delicious milk freely, is her biggest happiness at the moment. And what can I say, watching them happy and healthy, is our biggest happiness!

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à bientôt!



A garden in the making

I love a garden. I love gardening, no question about that. But starting a new garden from scratch…on raw farmland, on slopes, on rocksolid ground makes me re ask the question…do I really…I mean reaallly love gardening. To my own detriment…sigh…unfortunately, yes I do. I do love a garden and I do love gardening. With all its backaches and dirt and broken nails and sunburnt skin. I’m so crazy, I love even that too! and while I complain with utter self pity at night about my aching back and aching elbow, I think of the smell of fresh earth, of the fragrance of fennel and lavenders, the beauty of white Iceberg roses against the dark soil, the chickens digging just as hard as me to reach the abundance of earth worms in the fertile soil. I think of the infusion of camomile tea directly from the garden, the succulent veggies from our potager…and I complain even harder but wit a wide smile, because tomorrow I’ll be out there again, seeking again the sun, the soil, the fragrances and this pain for all the indescribable pleasure it gives me.

..stairs lading to future water feature with potager at the left and garden to the right – 2012..

garden in 2012 large

1..view on the “four à pain” – 2010..

The garden is far from finished and it will change completely again next season. But this is what happens to a garden, at least to mine..all of my gardens I first have to live in it for a while, before I really know what it asks for.

1..view on the “four à pain” – 2012..

2..view on the house2010..

2..view on the house -2012..

3..the very first diggings of the potager – 2010..

3..changing the potager  – 2011..

3..potager – 2012..

..view on the garden from the potager – 2012..

..white dahlias in the garden – 2012..

..star dahlia among the echinops..

..dahlias, echinops and Gubi..

..white marguerites around the cherry tree..

..whites, greens and greys for the garden, with touches of blue – 2012..

..the work horse for mowing the lawns  on our difficult terrain..

..the work horse for making new beds on farm land..

It will probably..no, not probably, definitely still take some time before we can move into our home and before we will be done with mud and stones and dust, but in the meantime, I can at least pick a rose or two for the house and get my daily dose of exercise by daily digging up the magnitude of weeds that takes over the garden the minute I turn my back. I suppose it is just a normal part of this garden in the making at Coin Perdu.

An impossible balcony, ancient Egyptian way.

We have a come quite a way since we started restoring 3 years ago.But unfortunately, we still have a way to go too. everything happens in its own time. Mon cheri believes patience will finally finish our house. I believe him, but every now and then I let my impatience kick him in the butt a little …just enough to speed up his patience a bit! I am careful not to push too hard though… he is the one doing all the work after all!

Up to now, we have knocked down walls, inside and out. We have opened up large windows and doors. We have put in a second floor for our bedroom. We  have put in a temporary plastic pool for cooling down during the hot Correzien summers. We have had the real pool dug out. We started building terraces. All this was of course mostly done by mon cheri. He is a Camel man. With patience. And a hat. But I have done my share too. The garden is taking shape nicely.  .By my hand. As is the potager with all those healthy vegetables.  The tomatoes are sweet, the salads bountiful. Bulbs are flowering, shrubs are blooming… except for twelve!! 2-year old lavender bushes which were carelessly dug out by a poor soul named William.. I wasn’t angry. I was only foaming a little at the mouth with boiling rage…

And now we have built a balcony.


We had Phillippe’s help, or rather “Fif” as everybody knows him.Aa tall,  willowy shoot of a man. He can swing a hammer just as well as rigging a chain saw. And he’s funny. He of course thinks we are funny too…the way we do things and the off beat ideas we have for our farm house. But he does them anyway, shrugging the shoulders, while a limp cigarette is hanging from a quirky smile.

So the day arrived to get those rustic solid oak beams into place. Fifi lifted one end of a beam and shook his head. “Comment on va arriver..c’est pas possible..on est que deux? He couldn’t’ see only two men lifting these heavy beams up straight into place…it is just not possible. The French love the expression: “C’est pas possible”. It is not possible.

But in the end, it got done with a little heaving and hooing. ancient Egytian style with ropes and pulleys, counterweights and muscle. Add my muscle to that too.

..and the first pillar goes up..

..it stands steadfast..

..and the second pillars stand straight up..

..and the third pillar stands..

If the Egyptians could build pyramids this way, surely we can build a simple balcony…using the same physics…n’est pas Fifi? He lookedat his handiwork with an even more quirky smile. “C’est pas possible”!, he exclaimed with proud disbelief…

..c’est pas possible..!

A sunny 15 January

Smack in the middle of January, gorgeous sunshine exploded on us and being here at Coin Perdu, in the barn, for the winter, it was a gift from heaven. We were outside all day whole day, even though the low temperatures of -3 degr. C( about 26.6 degr F).

By the afternoon, we were still out, and doing all the things (almost) we(and all our animals)would do on a normal summers day..

..wheeling around the bed..

january 15 around the bend large

…rolling in the fields…

…lighting a barbie fire at 16h30…

…while sipping a red wine and munching on a sauccisson

…and the chickens were following the sun…

…a smoke trail is a good sign…

… silhouetted against a perfect day at 18h30…

Autumn at coin Perdu

A spectacular show awaited us when we arrived at Coin Perdu to lock up for the winter. Autumn in all its splendour. Our woods next to the house were blazing with colour and the far off hills were winking to be gazed at.

We have locked up for the rest of 2010 and will start work again in spring 2011. In the near future, some posts will appear on our work done in 2010. We have done a lot of work, but not enough to have our house finished and lived in yet…it will probably take us another season to get to that point.

..à la prochaine..


Restoration – opening up for windows to the south.


The restoration process is back in full swing here at Coin Perdu. We have actually become quite the pro’s  now in the rhythm and routine of logically  advancing the process. Well, to be completely honest, I’ve stepped aside more and more and leaving my poor husband more and more to himself in the grit and grout of restoration. But he doesn’t mind, he tells me every time that I express my guilt….that comes down to almost every day. “This is just not me, I hate this dirt and dust and bruises and scrapes…after all, I am a lady…a least, I’m trying my best  to be a lady!”, is my most uttered phrase. I can see Hartman’s lips shaping each word as I say it.  But I still say it every day. And he still tells me it is OK every day. so from now on, when I say “we” , it actually means “he”. I do other stuff. A lot of other stuff.. But I’ll be sure to use “I” when I talk about that. It is important  stuff too after all.

After ripping up some floor planks, which was before we got into the rhythm of logical restoration thinking, we now started knocking out the south facing wall for large future windows to allow for plenty of light streaming in.

As Hartman knocekd out the south facing wall, taking out the stones one by one, he constructed horizontal wooden beams and pillars to hold it all up temporarily, preventing the whole lot from tumbling down at some time. The permanent beams and pillars will be constructed from concrete later on, which will be hidden by wooden lintels, beams and pillars and enduit.

Almost the whole of the southern wall will become full length windows with wooden outdoor blinds which will swivel to let in light but cut out the direct sun.

The future door of the top floor(bedroom) to the balcony outside.

In the meantime there is also a lot of going back to the plans, reconsidering, changing, rechecking.

And somewhere in between all this breaking down and dust and building beams which Hartman does, I feature also. I provide the coffee en cookies, food,  the cold water and of course, I take the pictures!

Missing the country

With winter at its worst in January and February, I find myself thinking of and longing for Coin Perdu more often than is good for me. Winters in Touraine are very grey, dark and sombre. On the odd weekend,  when  taking the drive to Coin Perdu to check that everything is still in order, we arrive at Puy d’Arnac in bright sunlight. Cold, but bright. Misty in the early morning,turing brighter during the day.  Maybe it won’t be too many years, or perhaps even months more before I can wake up on  cold January mornings with sun streaking over my bedroom floor at Coin Perdu.

I love Montlouis and our house  here by the Loire. I love our beautiful town of Tours, a mini Paris with it’s incredible architecture. I love the Loire with its wild unpredictability.

…la loire et ses oiseaux..

But the depth of my love lies at Coin Perdu, where the sunsets and clear stars  keep me outdoors early until late… Where I love the roaming cattle with their undisturbed manner, the bells clinging even somewhere at night. Where I love the buses roaming the skies, where I love listening to the the complaints of the owls in the dark of night, crying their dissatisfaction with us taking their barn…I’ve said all these things before. I will say it many more times. They are important things in my life;  the simplicity and honesty of the country side, where life isn’t always easy, but where the  comfort lies in knowing and acknowledging it. There aren’t short cuts in honesty, no shifting of boundaries. There is no playing around with honesty. Taking on a day can’t be played around with…animals can’t wait for their food, hay will be wet tomorrow if not cut today, the birth of a new calf cares not for convenience,  rain boots wait by the door for a good reason…nature dictates and man dances. It gives life its equilibrium. Keeps man humble, with his ear to the ground, his instinct awake. It keeps him alive. It gives him life.

So,  while I am waiting for March and spring to break through so we can pack and take off to Coin Perdu for the spring and summer months to resume working and restoring our mountain home, I have last year’s photos and many memories to keep me going these next two months.

But still, I can’t wait to…

…start working…

…fiddle in our barn kitchen…

…delighting in simple, delicious food…

…go for long walks…

…revel in rediscovering nature and animal life…

…paint, paint and paint…

…enjoying evening barbeques…

…enjoying breath taking sunsets…

A second birthday in the French countryside.

August gave way to the celebration of a second birthdya here at Coin Perdu. This time round, we only took a break in between work for early morning croissants and coffee, a gift, a song and continued later the evening with a meal around the fire…where else!

…starting off the day…

starting off the day

The day started off like any other ay the last few months…old clothes, gloves, work and sweat. But no, nowhere on the chantier(construction site)  was I to be seen. After all, I was birthday girl! So for this dayI roamed about in pretty clothes(to be simply translated as clean clothes !)


taking a break for a croissant and tarte peche

And for early morning coffee break, we sat in the shade of the walnut tree. Took of the gloves and feasted on croissants and tarte peches.

…froth on a cup…

frothing a cup

Gifts were unwrapped…no boughs and pretty paper this year though! In the spirit of the working year, they came clothed in newspaper and wrappings from the brocantes where they were bought. I giggled at the gifts, clearly seeing the attention that was paid to my comments on our stroll at the brocantes.

…olde worlde…

memory on a spoon 8-31-2009 8-14-26 PMold plates crumb scoop

And last, but not least. An end to another birthday here at Coin Perdu. A special day with all my loved ones close to me.


Petillante - Vincent Carême

Sound – The bells of Nonards

The bells still ring  at the church in the little hamlet of Nonards, echoing across our valley, just to be anwered by the bells of Marcillac la Croze…beautiful!

…love song for esmeralda…

bells of nonards 2

…playing solo…

bells of nonanrds 4


bells of Nonards 3

An entry for Sundaystills – sounds.

Brushes – Macromonday

I started cleaning our barn this morning and stopped with a brush in my hand, thinking it could make for quite a nice photo…the brush I mean, not me…

I use a lot of different brushes when cleaning and I love natural bristles. They don’t scratch and at the end of their days, they make me feel good – seeing how derelict they look in old age, I feel comforted that I at least still look a bit better and last a bit longer…after the same amount of work!

…young and healthy…

brush 2

…ready and able…

brushes 3

…firm and willing…

brushes 4

…soft and gentle…

brush 5

All photos with Nikon D70s camera and AF micro nikkor lens 60 mm

An entry for macromonday

Ripping out the first floorplanks’

After knocking down all the interior walls, we were so anxious to see the double volume which we were planning into our  house that we thought we would just rip out one floorplank and one ceiling plank to have  a clean view from top to bottom. Did it stay by only one plank?  No. Of course not! The opening was too small to really see and we are far too greedy. Our excitement got the better of us. One plank became two, and then three and before we knew it, several planks were ripped out in the floor and the ceiling and there we stood like stargazers on a dark cloudless night; staring upwards.

…ripping up floorplanks…

ripping up floorplanks 3not light work!

It was great seeing the double volume! Still hight on excitement, we ran right down to the cellar(where we carried out so much dirt!) and once again bent our necks backwards to be impressed by the height of the double volume. We were impressed. Wonderfully high! Open and spacious. Streams of light filtering in through the roof windows.

…looking through to the beams into the opened up attic in the roof…

opening up to the roof 1

…view from the cellar and looking through (which was) the first floor into the roof…

opening up to the roof 5

…standing down below in the cellar, which will become the ground floor living area…

under the ripped up floorplanks(in the old cellar)

I could envision life when it will all be done. Until I bent my neck back into normal position and my brain switched on again, pushing reality to the fore, focusing my eyes on the chaos still waiting. Not one for extravagant optimism, I removed myself from the reality staring me in the face and drove off in our Peugeot bleu for a coffee in town, cruelly leaving the rest of the team-my husband and our two daughters- to deal with reality… It helped.

And to end this episode, like every day here At Coin Perdu: never does a day end without a moment of beauty or inspiration somewhere, making us realize again that all the sweat and hard work is worth it.


Graphosoma lineatum-Pentatome rayeeMellicta athalia butterfly 1

Lizard (Lacerta vivipara) – Macromonday

While taking a break from loading gravel yesterday, this  little baby lizard came into our circle of relaxation. It amused us for quite a while with its typical child like behavior and I could’ve sworn it loved the attention!

Photos taken with Nikon D70 camera and AF micro nikkor lens, 60mm,1:2.8D

…looking to see if we’re looking…

lizard 1(Lacerta vivipara)

…stopping by Macdonalds…

lizard 2(Lacerta vivipara)

…playing shy…

lizard 3(Lacerta vivipara)

…finally  a smiling pose…

lizard 4(Lacerta vivipara)

An entry for Macromonday.


One of the wonderful things about living in the country, is that you can have undisturbed views on the moon and stars and skies …and clouds. To photograph and paint them, is a major challenge and of course a major delight.

Clouds have each their own atmosphere; a threatening storm, soft and rain filled, stark white agains a cold winter blue sky, grey mists rolling in…then there are the tales they tell; a dragon flying through the air, a ballet dancer in pirouette, a crocodile yawning, an old man smoking his pipe…Who hasn’t stared at the clouds sweeping by while stretched out on a green lawn -lazy after indulging in too  much watermelon – and wondered what goes on up there and beyond.

The first four cloud images were taken at Coin Perdu in Correze. And the last one was taken at the Loire right opposite our home in Montlouis sur Loire, Touraine.

All photos taken with Nikon D70 SLFR and 28-90mm zoomlens.

the explosion

orage 2

…a sunset in April…

sunset in April

…a threatening storm at dusk…

approaching storm at dusk

…sunset and airoplane lines…

sunset with airoplane lines

…a sunset on the river Loire across our home in Montlouis sur Loire…

sunset on the Loire

An entry for Sundaystills – clouds.

Macromonday – Raindrops

After the good rains of yesterday, this morning’s walk provided many opportunities for photos. Drops on plants and fences, water puddles, the snails were abundant and gay in their feasting, the mud stuck optimistically to my hiking boots, making them heavier with each step and I arrived wet and dirty back home. Nothing a shower and good coffee couldn’t fix.

I played around with some water drops on fences and leaves. Back home I realized there wers some dust particles on my lense which shows up on my photos. I was in no mood to go all the way back and redo it all. So it comes down to living with it. I can do that. A lesson for the future:  clean lenses more often.

…water drops on washing line…

water drops on washing line

…water drops on leaf…

water drops on a leaf

An entry for Macromonday.

Elements of life-water, fire, earth, air and ether.


ruisseau a le pescher


fire 2


earth 1


air 3



An  entry for Sundaystills.

Breaking down the first walls.

breaking down walls1After deciding that the basement is not the place to start the restoration process, we moved up into the house and and started swinging a hammer to break down all the inside walls. It felt very destructive to break down a wall and my feeble effort at knocking the wall  had Hartman take over the hammer to get the job done at least in our lifetime.

From there on it was quick and relatively easy and the pity on the walls got less and the blows more powerful. Each rhythmic swing would be a blow against the injustice you’ve suffered in the past – maybe that job you never got, or that bicycle in another lifetime you never received…or maybe even the slap on the bottom from your father for your brother’s misbehave. Whatever the reason, the walls got lower, and  all injustices disappeared under the heavy hammer.

breaking down walls 2

breaking down walls 6

The hard work showed up when all the rubble had to be carried out and away. We have become regulars at the dechetterie(dumping site) and the remorque stood at the ready for one load breaking down walls 4after another.

After the day had come to an end, we put down the gloves hammer and like ususal…lit our fire outside and reflected with satisfaction on the day’s work with a glass of wine, while rubbing sore muscles with aAloe Vera hot gel and bruises with Arnica.

We have a daughter who is as mighty with the knife as she is with swinging a hammer. Thanks to her, we had many a great dinner at the end of a tiring day.


Macromonday – Scottish thistle

The Scottish thistle(Onoporon Acanthium) is a  wonderful source for photography(and painting!). The cows graze all around them and we walk wide circles around the thistle, but it seems the insects are fearless…

Every stage of flowering has its charm and right now, here in France, they are  in full bloom and  just starting to burst open to set free those feather light plumes…how can we not revel in its beauty, like the insects obviously do!


thistle 2(Shield bug)


thistle 3

An entry for Macromonday

Fences of Puy d’Arnac

Playing around the area of our mountain home, coin Perdu in Puy d’Arnac, Correze with my camera. Fences are plentiful, as with all country regions, and filled with character and stunning vistas.

…leaking roof…

fences of correze 9

…a flowery peek…

fences of correze 1

…prayer with a view…

fences of correze 3

…almost wine…

fences of correze 8

…old and worn…

fences of correze 11


fences of correze 6

…la dordogne…

fences of correze 7


fences of correze 5

An entry for Sundaystills.

Textures in nature

We always admire the most obvious in nature – a stunning view, blinding lightning, a cute butterfly, sweet cherries, sveltering heat, cool rivers, colourful wildflowers, majestic mountains, playful clouds…

Moving in closer we start noticing the less obvious, but intrinsic part of nature – its texture.  The feel of the roughness of  treebark under your hands, the smoothness of a pebble, the prickliness of a rosebush, the powder on an old limestone wall, the stubble of dried moss, the cool dense coat of green moss, the lumpy skin of a warty toad, the slipperiness of slyme, the delicate  artistry of a spiderweb…

Just like human life, the “older” nature grows, the more interesting the texture becomes…except of course, when texture is your lot to carry from birth, like our warty old friend, le crapaud communBufo Bufo.

I chose to do shots of all “old and worn textures”.

…born old…

S: o,oo6s; A: f/5,0


…rust on an old chain…

S: 0,002s; A: f/5,0

chain in old wall

…old dried moss…

S: 0,002: A: f/3,5

dry moss on old stone

…a 150 year old wall…

S: 0,002s; A: f/5,0

old wall

…fine traces on an old brickwall…

S: 0,006s; A: f/6,3

old wall-1

…original stables wall from 1880…

S: 0.000s; A: f3,3

old wall 3

…an old weathered bistro chair…

S: 0,010s; A: f/13,0

old wooden chair

…rustic arches..

S: 0,25s; A: f/13,0

rusty iron arch

…medici pots, withstanding the test of time…

S: 0,005s; A: f/6,3

rusty medici urn

…gravel, smooth and rough…

S: 0,002s; A: f/6,3

smooth and rough

..a smooth snail on a smooth wall..

S: 0.008s; A: f/6,3

snail on wall 2

…the silvery stickiness of a home

S: 0,004s; A: f/5,6

spiderweb in fence

…a hairy creature in its  sticky home…

S: 0,004s; A: f/5,6

sir spider 2

This  is a contribution to the Sunday Stills challenge – textures, hosted by Ed Prescott.

Echoes across the woods

We arrived back in Montlouis sur Loire, our permanent home, from a six week stay at  Coin Perdu in Puy d’Arnac, where we worked a lot, hiked a lot, painted a lot, had friends visiting, so we wined and dined a lot and we experienced a lot.

With no Internet available, we were cut off from the outside world, or rather, we do sort of have Internet, but we are only provided with 56 kb/s by France Telecom which means that we have almost more ancient connection than the old modem system. So forget Internet, we don’t even try. Mobile phones only work on extremely bad mood days. We didn’t experience those. Fixed lines don’t exist, not yet anyway.  No room for television in our barn where we are living for the next few months. Civilized? I don’t know. What does civilized mean after all?


echoes in the forestAny way, the only means of communication that exists at Coin perdu are the echoes of our voices across the valleys and woods. Echoes would thus be my means of “phoning” Hartman at the homestead where he’s ripping out walls and floors, to come help me carry my painting stuff from where I’m splashing and splattering  in the woods, or in the hills or by the rivers. He has a fancy manner of whistling that is very distinct in its echo, I can only shout which breaks up towards the end in some sort of falsetto shriek, but it has its echo anyway. Or at least, it has Hartman showing up soon and that’s what counts. May I never have to show off my shriek. We had a friend visiting us who entertained us on his famous Tarzan cry. The echo had all the animals in the forest answering.  And fleeing. A Welsh Tarzan.  How about that. He still has to work a bit on his Tarzan outfit though…


I reveled in plein air painting and sketching, sometimes even completed three a day and I loved every single minute. My wardrobe can testify to that. I have to invest in a completely new wardrobe, but at least I can now stand in front of the mirror and choose my oil stained outfit for the day. Even our steering wheel is a colourful caleidoscope, an original abstract creation of expressionistic finger painting.

…en plein air…

le forêtpaint out

A first birthday at Coin Perdu

Birthdays can be festive. Even in ruins. Or among the rubble. One only needs a sense of adventure. A sense of humor. A sunset and a candle.

So was our first birthday, having Marinell as the privileged member of the family to experience her birthday at Coin Perdu!

The day started off early morning with café liégeois and panini in Brive la Gaillarde and ended with a festive occasion on a beautiful hot summer’s evening at Coin Perdu, in front of the house, amidst the masonry… sunset and blue skies, good food and a smoky fire, special friends, candles and wine, laughter and jokes. The list of carnival can go on and on; from the nibblings on olives in cups around the fire to the gazing at stars in a dark and quiet expanse.

…birthday liégeois…

birthday liegoise

…dinner under the stars…

festive fire

dinner under the stars

…nibblings in cups…

nibblings by the fire

…a cosy fire…

a cosy fire

…candles and wine…

wine and dine


…sunset on a birthday…


Where to start?

…let’s start in the cellar…

the cellar

Where does one start a restoration process? Where exactly lies the beginning and does one ever reach the end? It probably depends on who’s doing the job.

As for us, we are those kind of peope who first jump in and then we decide which style to swim. It has had it’s catastrophical results in the past, but it has also been the way to many discoveries and unforeseen adventures. So it is with restoring Coin Perdu. We jumped in at the deep side buying it and we jumped deep side in living in the barn(a story for another day) and now we are jumping smack in the middle in the restoration process. So far so good.

Decicion made and the first blows were felled in the cellar under the house. It is a dark and humid area, with solid rock in parts, water seeping through the rock and steep side of the the hill against which the house is built. Every sheep and goat and animal in search of shelter, slept there. That’s how it was in those days: the family living in the house above the animals in the cellar, close enough to hear any mischief or attacks on the animals at night – man and beast, with their individual smells and flavours and habits snuggly together. Life was about survival and not about convenience or rather, luxury. This wasn’t Versailles. It still isn’t.

This dark and dungy cellar is to become our open and sunny living space, with wide French doors and double volume windows opening onto a patio alongside the old Tilleul tree, overlooking the hills. A pergola and walnut tree will provide cool, green shade in the blistering summer months. This is our anticipation. But first, we have to deal with reality.


the cellar1

more rock

solid rock in the cellar

We spent three days working “down under”, clearing away the dirt and grime, while still discovering hidden “treasures: a wine barrel, a barrel top which became our outside table, small bits and pieces we turned into furniture for our living in the barn, preserved plums and peas, a snake, a toad and enough wood and twigs to start years of BBQ fires.

Shoveling away soil and chiseling away on the rocks made room for drainage. We measured levels, got out the plans, changed the plans, paused for coffee and cookies to recalculate heights and widths. I changed my mind about a door from there to a door here. We all stormed to and fro through the low entrance, knocking our heads into chanting mode, uttering some original vocabulary… We toiled on the bend all the time, for the beams are very low and very hard.  Hartman’s tall 1. 95 m commanded a hard hat after a while of which we only had one. Some strong language every now and then would be proof that on a hatless head somewhere, a bulge was growing.

…on the beat…

on the beat

…taking a break…

DSC_0091taking a break

We cleaned out the cellar and decided it was after all not the place to start renovating. Inside the house, knocking out the walls, is where it all needed to begin.

You might think three days were wasted. Not at all. The cellar was clean. The snake took a hike. The toad realized it was summer. It got us in renovation-thinking-mode. A team spirit was built, our heads got knocked into clarity and we were now ready for the work ahead.

Traces of yesteryear.

Walking around on Coin Perdu delivers surprises around every bend.

…savouring the old…

savouring the old

Firs, it is the obvious: the kitchen with some of the belongings still lying around, the rooms with its wooden, tilting floors, the original closets built into thick walls, the old barns with its farming implements, the old stables with its original chains and feeding cribs, no bathroom, an old longdrop outside behind the four a pain, the chicken coop and pig sty…

Then the stories of long ago and the people and their habits, likes and dislikes, their lifestyles slowly reveal itself when you start losing yourself in the discoveries. And you wonder about them. About the past of this house that is now yours.

Coin Perdu belonged to three generations of the same family. The house and outer buildings were handbuilt by the father, passed on to the son, and the grandson then ended their generation. After his death at old age recently,  it was inherited by his sister, who sold it to us and we are now starting a new book there, with our own stories.

Growing up in South Africa, where storytelling is a fundamental part of growing up, of teaching lessons, of learning about life, we are now sensitve to the stories and tales of this old property. We will allow it to remember its past, while  breathing our new experiences .

Click on images to enlarge

…the stables, situated under the big barn, which will become our future wine cellar…

cow barn1cow barn2

…the working barn, with all its tools and farming equipment and hay fever triggering elements…

stable barn1stable barn2

stable barn3farm equipment1

…my soon-to-be-dinner-table…

farm equipment2

…the large barn – our living “chalet/quarters” for the next few months

large barn

…the old kitchen, with traces of a previous life untouched on a yellow oil cloth: a gas cylinder, a bar of soap, the yellow pages, a plastic bucket…

homemade sink

…an ashtray, wine glasses, string , a pen -we use Monsieur’s wine glasses and I think of him every time…


…his meals consisted of many bottles of  paté de canard, probably along with une baguette et du vin rouge …

paté de canard

…two woodburning stoves and their tools, an old kitchen cupboard with beautiful doors, some vintage frills on the dirty shelves, a modern plastic coffeegrinder, a chamber pot bench in the massive fireplace…

kitchen fireplaceold closet

…old porcelaine pieces dug up and discovered every day…

old porcelaine pieces

…plum preserves dug up under the ground, preserved peas in wine bottles from even deeper…

plums preservepreserved peas

…Old school books of Jeanne, inscriptions on 20 Aout, 1884, discovered in the barn

20 aout 1884Schoolbooks 1884

The house is ours.

The house is ours!

After being obliged to wait 3 months for the land to be claimed by farmers in the area, we could finally sign a paper and shake a hand, making it ours. According to law, the surrounding farmers have first claim to agricultural land. We have 13 hectares of lovely land, including forests with old oak trees, a stream and brooks, hills and pastures, and an abundant animal life.

I had dreams of arriving at a stone house with a few outbouldings surrounding it, making it cozy and I could envision several activies going on in all of them, giving the whole place a liveliness and energy. The dream came to life when we came round the bend and fell upon  three stone buildings nestling closely together and …surprise surprise…a few smaller ones as well! I was ecstatic withmy heart racing in my chest!  That evening we put in our offer.  It was accepted and there we were. The balls were rolling.

In the meantime, we visited often, drank coffees all over the tiny villages, packed picnic baskets, bought vin de paille along the way and lazed in shady corners, just munching away and wallowing  in our dream clouds.

…picnic with vin de paille


On a cold wintry day, the hands were shaken and congratulations were in order. We stepped out Madame le notaire‘ s office, a heavy load of papers in our hands and a light load of money in the bank. Fair exchange. We were quite an audience in the office….Madame le Notaire on centre stage and all the rest of us, spread around her like members of an orchestra; those selling the land, those buying the land(us, of course), those who were the original owners, those who were going to exchange partielles of land with us, those who orignally owned the land that was going to be exchanged and those who were in charge of the process and those who saw to the correct signing of the papers and those….I can’t remember who they were…

The paperload still gets heavier…letters to be written to France Telecom, to provide us with broadband internet, letters to ask the 260 inhabitants of Puy d’Arnac permission ot buy the municipal road that runs through our property, through our house to be exact. Not that the road can be seen with the eye, or has ever been used, but as it exists on the map, it exists in life. Madame le Maire arrived in her walking shoes to take a look at this chemin, shaking her head and confirming…we have to write a letter. But not to worry, it won’t be expensive. So we’ll write the letter and hope it is not expensive.

We forgot about letters and mortgages and paperwork and internet. We went “home” , sat by a fire and watched the sun go down.

…sunset with wine…

a glass of winesunset

The next issue will tell about the findings; an old schoolbook from 1885, a horse cart, wood burning stove, evidences from another lifetime…