Posted in Blog, HOUSE & GARDEN, House Renovation, The Garden

Recycling Old Oak Beams

It’s 2007 — and we’re stripping out the floor joists from what will be our new lounge area.

08-floor-joist

Move on to 2012 — November. Decide to use some of these old oak floor joists to construct two raised plant beds for some yew hedging plants.

0605040301

The worst part was dragging and man-handling them the 50 metres up to the house from their pile in the garden.

I leveled the lower beams, chocking them up with pieces of flat paving, and cutting to length with the chainsaw.

Then selected other lengths to lay on top, turning them around and flipping them over, to try and get the best contact so that they sat snug and stable.

Their heavy weight was enough to keep them in place.

The porous garden sheeting was cut to size and draped over each side of the ‘bed’ which would keep the soil in place when infilling.

When I’d filled each trough (bed) with soil, compost and a bag of horse manure, the rest of the sheeting was turned back over the top, then cut through every 50cm to take each of the ten yew saplings.

Then I finished off with a gravel mulch.

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Posted in Blog, Color Shape Space, DÉCORATION, Inspirations, OUT & ABOUT

Fresco Paintings — Nicolaus Greschny

Nicolaus GreschnySome years ago, we were lucky enough to view a tiny Chapel, lost deep in the less-frequented regions of the Tarn.

Its exact location is best forgotten  as one of our party of three had wheedled the key from whomever it was who held it (not me I might add).

It isn’t normally open to the public. However, by those in the ‘know’, it’s renown for its splendid frescoes by Estonian painter Nicolaus Greschny.

He has painted well over 80 paintings, the majority of which adorn the walls of churches in the South of France. A year or two later, we enjoyed a guided tour of a larger church on the outskirts of Villefrance de Rouergue, in the Aveyron, again to view more frescoes by the same artist.

fresco detail01

So what is Fresco?

Should it happens to be asked when facing both the question-master and the ten million watching public, during your attempt to win the jackpot on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”, then just choose the option that has the following KEY Words — FRESH WET LIME PLASTER – MURALS – WATER BASED PIGMENTS – WALL PAINTING and the money’s yours!

fresco detail03fresco detail04 fresco icon paintingfresco icon paintingfresco icon paintingfresco icon painting

Posted in Blog, Color Shape Space, DÉCORATION, Inspirations, OUT & ABOUT

“Les nomads du silence” — exhibition by Sculptor, Jephan de Villiers

During our afternoon walk near Ginals earlier this year, we stopped off at the Abbaye de Beaulieu to view the exhibition there by the Belgian sculptor, Jephan de Villiers. It added an extra hour to the walk but there was no rush, the weather was warm, and we got more wonderful photos!

Jephan de VilliersAs a young boy, Jephan spent long hours in his grandmother’s garden near Versailles, collecting twigs, leaves and bits of bark to construct vast yet intricate model villages. He has since enjoyed a successful life as a sculptor of international acclaim. Here are some images of work from one of his recent exhibitions, his delightful and whimsical “Nomads of Silence” – magical miniature figures reborn from the dead and decaying detritus of the forest floor.

les nomads

sad eyed lady of the lowlands

Nomads

Sticks

egg and nest

figure on wire

Posted in Blog, DIY Hints & Tips, House Renovation, Tools & Materials, TUTORIALS

Our Old Flagstones get a New Home

…. from a pile of slabs……. to a classy stone floor ….here’s how…

opus romain patternslabs laid out in the courtyard
We laid these flagstones in an “Opus Romain” pattern — laying the flags in regular rows,  but varying the row-width across adjacent rows.

You need to decide beforehand on which widths you are going to use. Commercially available flooring in this pattern usually come in 3 widths; for example, 60cm, 45cm and 30cm. The lengths of the individual slabs will vary so that each width will have say a couple of rectangular sizes and maybe a square size.

“Sounds complicated?” “Not really, once you see a picture or two of how the pattern works, it all pretty obvious.”

Opus Romain stone flooring

…….so onto a few ‘Tips & Tricks’…….

  • Sizing  the Flagstones : This is perhaps the trickiest part of the job! There are no hard and fast rules—you need to assess what you have to work with and try and work out the best width options to choose—to achieve a pleasing pattern without undue waste.
  • Essential Tools — Angle Grinder (preferably with a diamond/carbide disc), club hammer and bolster cold chisel, eye protectors, ear protectors and face mask, tape measure, T-square and marking chalk or pencil.
  • Cutting stone with the grinder – make the straight cuts with the grinder steadily and evenly, letting the machine cut gradually to its maximum depth, around a few cms or so. It isn’t necessary to cut a stone “all-the-way-through.” Then with the bolster chisel inserted around the middle of the cut, give it a few sharp blows with the club hammer—and it should split away cleanly and easily.
  • As you can see in one of the images above, I’ve angled the grinder slightly “off-vertical” — undercutting the edge. This is a little trick to make it easier to lay the cut edges of the flags closer to each other, avoiding the chances of odd lumpy bits left after breaking stopping the close fitting of two adjacent flags.
  • Then carefully and gently tap along the top of the cut edges with the club hammer, chipping little fragments away to leave a more natural looking stone
  • Finally, should it be necessary to remove some stone from the underside of a particularly thick slab, make a series of close parallel cuts, and repeat again at 90°, and then chip these away carefully with the hammer and chisel. (A great way, incidentally, to make your own stone dice!).

"Opus Romain" style of laying paving
You may then decide whether to grout the spaces between the stone with a lime mortar — or simply brush in some sand or fine gravel. Depends on what look you’re after.

And if the floor is exposed to light and rain, then you’ll need to weed the cracks from time to time if they haven’t been grouted.

So give it a try and “Bonne Chance!”

Posted in Blog, Color Shape Space, DÉCORATION, Inspirations, OUT & ABOUT

A Walk, A Church, A Door, Texture & The Color Lilac

One of the things I love doing when on a walk here in South West France, whether it be in town or country, is to explore the color and textures that surround us in our environment.

Let’s have a closer look at this church that I came across at St. Sabine.

“Yes, I thought, quite a nice little country church, typical for this area of South West France.”

But as we get nearer – a lilac door no less – I wonder who thought of that color so many years ago? — A closer look is in order, me thinks………..

What a lovely pale lilac – now fading gently over the countless seasons of hot summer sun on these metal doors:

I want to get up close and personal – Let’s Go!

What a Surprise – Graffiti that I had no idea was there when I took the photo. I think there must have been some budding artists in St. Sabine when this door was painted. What fabulous texture and use of color – and on a French country church yard.

Door St Sabine France

Ah, I’ve found another door at the side of the church

A wooden door here – old and peeling – but such a fabulous color and texture — Love it!

Well, this is just a little snippet of my observations on just one of the wonderful marked pathway walks we have here in South West France. This one is on the PR19, St Antonin Noble Val (post code 82140) round trip walk.

I took these photos with my ipad3 which I always take with me on my walks now, as you just never know what you will see.

Texture and color provide great influence for all sorts of projects – painting, decor, the picture and photo frames I make…… lots and lots of things. It’s worth keeping a record for the future – you just never know when it will come in useful!

More walking snippets to come later……………

Posted in Blog, Inspirations, The Garden

Our Courtyard Hearth — Warm Evenings After the Sun Goes Down

Fire lit, ready for the evening
Fire just lit, early evening

Forget what’s on the tele, or those emails that need sending — just fill your glass with a full bodied bordeaux, or your pint mug of fresh mint tea, pull up your lounger, kick off your shoes,  and let the conversation take you wherever you wish.

Staring into the flames of a well built wood-fire is time well spent. It may seems idle at first, but I reckon it can be the spawning ground for many of your future plans — ideas form as the fire flickers — your imagination leaps and soars as each new zephyr in the night-time air fans the embers into life for one more time…………

Courtyard hearth

“Simple to Make — Simply Wonderful to Sit Around”

“This Is Truly What Evenings Were Made For!”

Old Dry Wood Burns Well

Posted in Blog, Color Shape Space, HOUSE & GARDEN, Inspirations, The Garden

Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth Tomatoes in SW France

home grown tomatoes
Why can’t I grow tomatoes like this!

Now you won’t find tomatoes like these in the supermarket! My neighbor Maurice, a spritely 82-year-old,  grew these in his vegetable garden across the road from our house deep in the heart of the countryside here in South West France.

One of the advantages of living in South West France with hot sunny summers, and having a very generous neighbor with ‘green fingers’ and many years experience of living off the land.

As you see, they are not perfect tomatoes – they are irregular shapes, have patches of green amongst the bright orange and reds, little imperfections here and there.

But who cares – they taste absolutely delicious!

Posted in Blog, OUT & ABOUT

38°C Today in South West France

Pluto by Details In The Decor
Pluto, a photo by Details In The Decor on Flickr.

26 th July 2012 is most definately the hottest day of the year here in Penne du Tarn, South West France.

Too hot to work outside, too hot for the internet to work untill 6 pm in th evening (yes, the modem starts flashing and refuses to work over 30°C!).

So Martin decided to be creative with Adobe Illustrator!

Posted in 3rd SHELF FROM THE TOP, Blog, Paper Ephemera

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside – The Old Suitcase

I love the flea markets that are in our region of South West France during the summer months. I found this battered old suitcase at one of them the other week. What a surprise  when I opened it up and found inside……..

All these books!

old French books

I just couldn’t resist – especially as the price was only 5 euros. OK, it was very heavy, but I hauled it back to the car, put it in the boot, and carried on looking around the rest of the Flea Market (‘brocante’ in French).

Can you see the maps in the background? I bought them at the same market – what a good mornings work!

And what was inside the books?

What a surprise! When I was delving into these old French paperback books, what did I find?

letter postcard envelope in old books

Bookmarks

Bookmarks for most of us usually end up being the nearest piece of paper we can find at the time. And so it has been for most readers for many a year. I found a lovely little collection of impromptu bookmarks in my suitcase of battered books:

I. An old postcard from ‘Le Havre’, France

2. An old envelope from Paris in 1927

3. And a love letter!

More of these at a later date. Oh the romance of old paper ephemera!