Monday, March 28, 2011

Hear Ye!, hear ye.

The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones;
We have had quite a farming week, and also a tough personal week and I managed to help a neighbor which was fun and rewarding. Cindy learned how to drive a large farm tractor, as luckily she had a really great teacher.
O.K., so where are we? I’ve been finishing the electrical in the kitchen, throwing plaster on the walls, building the kitchen cabinets, and also keeping up with the grounds keeping. Cindy has as always kept the books, taught us French, refinished furniture and tackled the garden. Caleigh has had the least enviable job of being a fourteen year old girl, not that she has been diabolical, but she is surrounded by girls who are, and what do you have? Cat fights on Crack.
Where to start? The kitchen is schedule wise our priority, Caleigh is our priority in terms of life but we’ll go in ascending order. The kitchen is progressing, we bought our cabinets from this custom fabricator the guys name is IKEA, Swedish dude, high end stuff. I will install all the cabinets and then Cindy and I will apply a glaze or something that will soften the one off nature of the cabinetry. The electrical has had the most difficult prep work finished, our electrician will return this Thursday to start wiring the main panel, and start setting up the circuit breakers in the kitchen. The plaster finish on the walls have been kind of a female dog, there was a coat of oil-lead (hybrid decoration?) paint that would not allow the plaster to adhere, so after popping off the plaster bubbles from a week before I took the time to remove the existing paint off the walls. This then allowed me to reapply my custom tinted colored plaster for the second time, so rewarding. Our second mason crew will arrive tomorrow to install the stone arch carved by the first mason. That will leave me with the task of installing the wooden arched window, and filling the remaining empty space with stone. That would be the space without the glass thingy covering it.
Cindy has been refinishing a piece of furniture that I had been pretty vocal about leaving it in Topanga for the termites. When I saw it a couple days later, I laughed, it looked incredible and I realized that I would be the one rebuilding the furniture, but I wouldn’t be the one refinishing it. She also decided to risk it and try driving the tractor, as I was going to cut down a tree beside the house it would be more prudent to have someone in the tractor supplying some tension to the tree for direction, and when I think of tension I think of….anyway Cindy climbed in and after a three minute tutorial off she went. I had earlier climbed up the tree as far as I could, two feet, then went into the house and got an eight foot step ladder and managed another ten feet from that. With the rope tied around the highest part of the trunk, and around my neck in case I fell, I started back down, you always have to think safety after a six pack of wine. Cindy had the tractor running and I got the chainsaw running, so I started with a V cut on the face of the tree in the direction of the fall, and the chainsaw died….I shit you not, so I’m pulling on the starting rope twenty times really quickly with visions of the tree hitting the aforementioned kitchen a tree branch throw away. Crap it’s out of gas, so I run to the gas can a convenient thirty meters away and fill the two cycle chainsaw with straight gas. (It requires a 3 percent blend of oil) I run back and manage to get it restarted and finish the V cut, now the only thing I need is for Cindy to start inching the tractor forward while I cut the back of the tree to release the stored energy of the V cut in front, which she does flawlessly. The tree falls in the perfect location and this exercise in stupidity comes to a favorable end.
Caleigh has made the teenage mistake of having one of her girlfriends ex boyfriends be hers. I won’t even go into the myriad of events that happened, Caleigh made a couple mistakes, all of which were jumped on like a Salem Witch trial on Meth. I guess the part that depressed me was how a girl that was her friend could jump on the bandwagon and betray her so deeply, tell half lies that would shame Cindy and I just in order for, this kid to escape detection. Caleigh handled it with aplomb, and I think she sees the end result in a constructive manner; she at least has a friend that Cindy and I both like he’s a goofy kind of kid. He taught Caleigh how to ride a quad and a dirt bike, I would have preferred to be the one teaching her, but at least it was by someone that seems to get her and cares for her deeply. (Parental guidance required)
The good deed was this morning, I walked outside and peered around the corner of the barn and spied a van stuck on the rural side road that borders our land and some vines, it was an acquaintance of ours who had purchased 3 acres of vines and was often seen pruning his vines ( stop it!) Cindy and I had met him a few times and so I went into the barn and started up the tractor and drove to where he was mired, after a quick strategy meeting in sign and Braille we decided I reverse the tractor down the road pulling him, a little rope trick and a quick couple knot tricks and away we go. It was fun helping someone we had watched pruning his vine till sundown earlier in the winter. As he was getting ready to drive off he told me an old French saying, “A good deed is how most friendships start” I drove the tractor repeating his saying, it warmed me as I drove through the rain to the barn.
Well sleep time, dawn comes early on this here farm, you all come back now, you hear?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

another day

It’s ten past eight, and I’ve just crawled under the covers. Today has been a long one, luckily I start the day off driving Caleigh a couple kilometers to the school bus stop, and it gives me a chance to talk with her while we wait the ten minutes for the bus. She is doing well; she was moved up one level in her French class, which fills me with so much pride. Her school day is long and arduous, it’s a world of non-stop French speaking classes, and even her English class is in French. Then I return home after stopping at the Boulangerie for an “ancienne” style baguette. Today I continued on the kitchen ceiling, installing some more old wood beams perpendicular to the existing structural wood beams, to give it a more rustic appearance. After a few of those I decided to go outside and test out the new Huskavana chainsaw, there are a few unruly trees that need guidance. It is really rewarding, so I decide to attack the front driveway where it is overgrown and the type of task that you put off because of how intimidating it seems. This is the area where all the tractors attachments were parked when we bought the place, of course when we arrived to take possession, all the farming implements were gone. Luckily in their place was a collection…of crap. There were disorganized piles of cinder block, none useful, and a ton of termite infested logs, and rusty wire, etc. After about three hours of sorting and piling like pieces of junk in piles, I was able to start raking all the leaves that the Germans in WW2 had trod upon. It was starting to look pretty promising,…until I looked up, the tree that starts our driveway had some Jurassic aged vines engulfing the trunk, I kid you not. Someone had cut it at the ground level but had neglected to remove it from the tree trunk. So I went to the old outhouse on our front yard that now serves as the garden shed and retrieved our pole handled tree trimmer and returned to the strangled tree. After an hour of prying off the atrophied petrified vine, the tree and I took a break. Cindy had returned a short while earlier from going to pick up Caleigh from her one short day, and it gave me a chance to load up our other recent purchase, a new trailer, we had to buy one of course because all three that we bought with the place were gone, but luckily the crap that had been piled into the trailers when we bought the place was left for us. First I piled all the trimmed tree branches into the trailer and drove it to our back brush pile and deposited into the soon to be torched collection of multi-aged branches that were also left for us scattered about gods fifty acres. Then I returned for the trailer load of salvaged wood that would be suitable to be firewood for us next year and drove them to our wood barn. The last trailer full was of 800 pounds of leaves, topped off with all the cinder block pieces, and my trusty pitch fork. Cindy had been helping gather up logs from and adjacent field, which had housed 8 generations of termites, so that wood went to the brush pile, or the termite Viking funeral mount, whichever you like. Off I go to the dump, about 5 miles away, the trailer being fully loaded down with our collection of Sanford and Sons landscaping decorations made their way to the dump. I arrive and already know the routine and set about disgorging the two separate materials into their appointed containers, I watch as some novice arrives and is given the detailed instructions as to how to use the container setup. I smile the way you do at the wide eyed freshmen on the first day of high school, except I will admit that this rookie at least understood the instructions, the same ones that I faltered with. As I’m getting ready to leave I tell the attendant the name of my town” Saint Jean De Duras”, he nods he remembers me and I smile and hand him the Coke a cola I was going to drink on the way home, “Un Americain Champagne” he laughs as he takes it and say thanks and I make my way home. At my jobsite back in L.A. I used to give the Porta-potty cleaning guy a soda each trip he made, as he was a treated like a social leper, but if you thought about it he was the guy one most wanted to see on a regular basis, and he always had a smile and said thanks. It was a little thing but I was glad I had given it the thought initially, and then kept it up. I got home and raked up the remaining overspill of leaves and tidied up the area, and it looked great. I went inside and got a couple glasses of water and told Cindy to come out and check it out, we walk out there, and I’m not making this up the guy who speaks the oddest dialect of French has parked his car smack in the middle of my newly raked Pebble beach putting green. Luckily he sees me as Cindy disappears back into the cottony warmth of our house, so I head over to talk to him for forty minutes about what I still don’t know, either I’m expecting a litter of kittens, Beelzebub is fronting for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, or he’s offering to mow the grass near the house. I look on bewilderedly as he continues to admit to liking whipped cream of mushroom, Stalin was a misunderstood debutant, albeit a great accordion player, or he has to take his tractor to another pasture. I look at him nod as thought what he’s saying has made my day brighter and nod goodbye. Walking inside Cindy looks at me and my expression explains the pain I cannot describe, I really like the guy, I have French friends that have talked to him and also don’t understand much of what he says, but I really have to repeat that I truly like and most importantly trust this man. Cindy cracks up as I sit down for the first time in what feels like three days, she has prepared the most delicious dinner, and we visit with Caleigh for twenty minutes. It was a hysterical dinner with Caleigh relaying the romantic goings on at her school; mostly the na├»ve courting mishaps of kids here age. Cindy and I stay at the table in our combo kitchen, dining room, and living room and talk about what’s on tomorrow’s slate. We each have a glass of red wine from Bordeaux, which I love because it comes in a wooden six pack. Then she stays up a few minutes more checking e-mail and I lumber off to bed thinking what respect I have for farmers on all continents, waking at dawn, quitting at dusk, eating and shortly checking up with their families, going to bed to continue the cycle the next day. I can’t wait for my litter of kittens? I will post pictures tomorrow of before and after.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Archie and Fenetre’

Winter seems to be winding its way down. The T.V. film crew left a couple days ago, and we are left to complete the items started when they were here. We have probably five or so weeks till the kitchen is complete. The comfort of not having a working kitchen is wearing thin; we get to prepare and eat our meals in the house, then go outside to the kitchen entry and wash the dishes in the partially renovated kitchen. Good news is that today we are installing a temp kitchen sink in our laundry area. This will allow us to remove the old kitchen sink and cabinet and complete the kitchen demo; we have already installed most of the new electrical wiring, and will finish that today. Tonight our plumber / electrician is coming to help route the plumbing, and cap and remove the existing kitchen plumbing. Even with the insulation and drywall installed the kitchen is freezing as we have a hole in our southern wall, the effects of needing something to film for the crew, however this forced us to complete the masonry aspect of the window installation. The mason brought over five ancient blocks of stone and then preceded to template them to the new kitchen window, then spent a day and a half cutting and chipping the stone. The photos above are of the interior kitchen south wall with the window (Fenetre’) and the hole, the other photo is of the exterior showing the hole and the arched stone surround. (Archie) We have to finish the interior shell of the kitchen, then we will be able to roll on installing the as yet un-purchased base cabinets, and then install the rough top for the counter, and then it gets easier.
We are also dealing with setting up our “Auto entrepreneur” paperwork that allows us to conduct business in France. We need Driving licenses in the near future, and we need to plan the next phase of our remodel in order to have rentable rooms for the summer. That list doesn’t even start to scratch the surface of how busy we have been and will be, so much to do and a limited timetable to get it done in. I hate Darwin; his theory about the survival of the fittest is catching up with me. Who am I fucking kidding; it’s lapped me twice, and is catching up again. The tortise and the Hare; …my ass.