Saturday, September 25, 2010

And on that farm they had some furniture....E,I,E,I,..No!

After our meeting in the notare’s office with our immobilier, and the seller, we left her office and made our way onto the century’s old sidewalk of Duras. As arranged the seller was to meet us at the property and give us a tour and an overview of the various systems. The best way of accomplishing this was for us to follow him to the farm. We were used to a few of the main roads, but he chose to go the back roads, we quickly arrived at the property.
Driving up the driveway there were minor indicators that all was not the way we left it. Previously there was aluminum corral fencing, now gone. There were half a dozen agricultural tractor attachments on the right side of the driveway, gone. A trailers parking spot was vacant; looking into one of the three garages just showed a pile of broken boxes, empty cloth bags piled in a disheveled burial mound off to the side of the garage. As we rounded the driveway and approached the old girl, I noticed that she was still in her spot, looking off to the neighboring fertile fields with envy.
She was built in the beginning of the last century, very well built and typical of the formal farmhouses of the time. The family was obviously wealthy and paid for details that spruced up the attractive structure, had only the family that built her passed down to their generations the care required to maintain a building of this quality. She had seen annual crops planted, cared for, and harvested. Also livestock bred, raised, and invited to dinner. As the crops were repeatedly harvested, and winters reeled off the calendar, she watched. The roof suffered the most, by repeated beatings by rain and snow, the maintenance was neglected. There were telltale signs where water meandered from the roof leaks, down the walls to the dried puddles of wall plaster on the cupped floorboards. The second floor landing bore the brunt of the weather allowed inside the house, the floor boards are now in need of replacing. Wall plaster show cracks and ceilings are shrouded in spider webs, like some old Vincent Price set. But it was her complexion, the outer surfaces that require the most attention.
As we parked our cars, I got out and regarded her. I was thinking “ I hope being away for so long that first seeing her, that she is still the beauty I remembered her as from across the world.” This was a frightful test, looking at her, walking to a couple different vantage points, she did not disappoint.
The seller led Cindy and I into the nearest barn, the one attached to the back of the farmhouse, and indicated where and how to turn on the house water heater. And yes I noted the deserted nature of the place, there had been a lot of misc. tools, another of those trailer vacated parking spaces, and small piles of debris. We had inventoried the property six months earlier, and the seller reviewed it and crossed off different items that he had either committed to others, wanted for himself, or weren’t his to give with the property. The revised four pages and what existed now were not remotely the same. It turns out the seller’s son and daughter had escorted a dealer through the house and added up anything, and I mean anything that was worth a cent. The seller was horrified and ashamed, but didn’t want to cause a row with his children, so he compensated us with the large tractor, and some euros. We were happy with the accounting, but none the less deflated as we walked around the ghost town. We had wanted to put our personal touches, just not that many, as we now had an essentially blank canvas to work with. This blank canvas however required a rebuilt frame and new canvas, but again we knew what we were getting into. Hard to complain about buying an ancient farmhouse in France, and whining about the work you knew it required. We continued to walk the property and be instructed in one hour the acquired knowledge that had been passed down the generations of his family; he skipped the maintenance aspect of the farm and kept it pretty simple. We did not tour the inside of the house as that might have been too depressing for the seller, and to tell you the truth, he was a pretty special man, we knew he had been a man of his word, undermined by his younger generation. After a walk in the pasture, he parted.
Our plan was to set up a bedroom and temp. Kitchen, and clean up the house, so that after our house in California sold we could transfer over to the farm. We entered the house; it had been closed up for a year or so and hadn’t really seen the bottom of a mop in probably 20 years. The smell was terrible, opening windows only brushed off a stronger stench from under the floor boards. It was depressing and took probably three days to air out the house, that and Cindy and I investing backbreaking cleaning, strong chemicals, and a couple bottles of Wine. When the dust settled we were able to slowly transform the abandoned house into pretty nice temporary digs.
The majority of the furniture, for that matter all the worthwhile contents in the house were gone. We did have one bed and a mattress. We spent quite a while bagging trash and transporting discarded items into the barn, we were going to have a container come and pick up the collected waste. As the week progressed we got the house sorted, and swept away spider webs from the inside and outside of the farmhouse, especially the windows. We had a lot of things to accomplish during this ten day recon, appointments for extended stay visa’s, doctors appointments for the residency visa’s, and buying supplies from Home Chateaux type stores.
We awoke the next day and I drove down the street about 600 yards to the Boulangerie and bought a fresh warm baguette from decidedly one of the best bakers in Aquitaine, France. It made up for all the perceived shortcomings of the property, hot coffee and a piece of baguette.

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