restoration

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.

…before…

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..!


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 !)

…brunch…

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.

…santé!..

Petillante - Vincent Carême


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.

…inspiration…

Graphosoma lineatum-Pentatome rayeeMellicta athalia butterfly 1


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.