If I had to sum up February in two words, it would be WET and MUDDY. I have never seen so much mud in my life and like the sand you still find in your car two weeks after a day trip to the beach, the mud seems to get everywhere in the house, no matter how many times I mop the floor, the kids’ feet are always black. Add to this, two muddy dogs, who want, more than anything, to jump all over a nice clean bed after diving in the puddles outside, and you start to get the picture. The pouring rain has left me wondering if the sun will ever shine again in Compolibat, but it would seem tomorrow is the day that Spring will make an appearance and bring with it an abundance of sunshine to lighten my spirits.
Pete has turned one of the upstairs south-facing bedrooms into a make-shift greenhouse, where I can finally get round to sowing my seeds this week!
With a dry week ahead of us, we should be able to level-off the mud outside and prepare the area for a gravel delivery the week after. Stepping out onto a gravelled driveway will be sheer bliss…it really is the small things in life that make a difference.
We’ve bought some floor tiles for the composting bathroom, for which Pete has been bringing some off-cuts of wood home from work, so he will soon be able to start insulating the walls and panel it throughout. The major work in store for us is mainly outdoors, where we have yet to prepare the chicken house, build a herb spiral, build a safety cover over the septic tank, gravel the driveway and turn our grassy backyard into a thriving vegetable garden.
The septic tank, in its state, which remains to be properly covered
and made child-proof as a matter of urgency!
This is the area where the vegetable beds will go…
at the moment, a patch of grass!
A couple of weeks ago, our kind neighbour, Gérard, gave us 10 rose bushes for our garden.
Pete and the children helped to dig a little area out the front and with my mum’s help, we planted our first rose garden. Quite a milestone for us at Chez TêteBlanche!
A few weeks ago, when the sun did show itself for a short time, we put up an outdoor washing line. It might sound like such a small thing, but it was immensely satisfying, drying the washing outdoors for the first time this year, without having to use the drier, but more to the point, in our very own garden! It is still strange to think that after all this time of renting, we are finally homeowners. We might be poor in the monetary sense, but we feel very rich and privileged in terms of quality of life.
We recently ran out of fuel, which is not really something we were accustomed to in Chamonix, where we had mains gas central heating. As you might have well guessed, it ran out on a Sunday so absolutely no chance of us getting an emergency delivery until the following day. The temperature quickly dropped throughout the house and of course, we had no hot water either. It was at this point in time, we realised two things:
- How we could really do with a cosy wood-burner to snuggle around
- How costly the fuel boiler is to run, in an un-insulated house of this size.
So, we are going to have to start making some major changes, quicker than we anticipated. Originally, we were going to apply for a grant through ANAH, who could subsidise us 35% of all the renovation work carried out. The problem is, this process is extremely long, and we simply cannot afford to keep forking out fuel at the rate we are going. Therefore, we are hoping to get some local financial aids and bonuses, along with 30% reduction in the form of tax credits, so that we can replace all the windows with double-glazing, insulate the roof, install a thermodynamic hot water system (so we only need to use the boiler for the heating in the colder months) and install a wood burning stove. If we can have all of this done by the autumn, we should be in a much better position for next winter, which will help us save money in the long term, and increase our energy efficiency, thus helping the environment. We’ve just been contacted by Pacte Energie Solidarité, who confirm we are eligible to have 70m² of our roof insulated for just 1€…it sounds too good to be true, but apparently it’s all above board and being a low income family now means we can use these kinds of financial, government-backed aids to our advantage! As they say here often, ‘on verra bien’…we’ll see!