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Archway to…

18 Jan

The bathroom! Yes, unbelievable news. We’re back on in 2014! A mere three years since our first post, we bring you spectacular news from Mas Cabardes. 2013 was a big year on the project (although we didn’t manage to say a word about it…we were so busy…being busy…) but this year things are really going to change around here. Whilst the weather in Wagga Wagga has us housebound in another heatwave, Carol and Jeanot have been hard at work at Le Barry shifting barrow loads of rubble, building, demolishing, building, demolishing, shifting barrow loads of rubble…you get the idea. So as we sit back and put our feet up for another hot night in the southern hemisphere, we can delight in reporting this breaking news to you our beloved friends…

The room formerly known as the ‘oil room’ (by way of it’s being full of oil soaked soil) is soon to be known as the bathroom! Yes, Carol and Jeanot have heaved out the oil, the soil and half the rocks that were holding the walls upright in order to carve a space to freshen up, shower down and do your business. It even has a fancy archway (nearly). See below:

archway 2


Can you see the look on his face. Determination. Concentration. Perfection.

new wall-inside

But there’s more. You want light you say, well let the soft warm sunshine fill your ablutions with joy. He’s even made a window to bring the outside in.


‘But it’s heritage’ you say. Yes my word it is. As Jeanot cleverly fills the old doorway with a new old wall. Who would ever know what lies behind???


Spectacular we hear you cry. Yes it is. It’s a window!


A glorious, huge new window! with…a handsomely crafted ledge. Where did that come from? Only Jeanot knows!

Until next week (we promise) bon voy-arch nous amis. xxx M and J


“You live in a charming village…where the inhabitants respect their surroundings perfectly”

31 Aug Justy dans la voiture

This is what a passer-by said to us last night in perfect French, (then perfect English), as we sat on our porch preparing the evening meal entirely from our potager garden (bar the essential ingredient of Thai Curry paste). This was such an enchanting comment we decided to head our long overdue blog post with it. We are happily ensconced in Le Barry in Mas Cabardes, and have been delighting in a Summer adventure complete with a heatwave comparable to Wagga Wagga weather, two dramatic storms (l’orages), wild  boar visiting our garden for a midnight feast of figs and meeting our delightful neighbours and residents of the Montagne Noire. Progress on the restoration is proceeding apace, with us celebrating the flow of hot water from our solar panels, and the laying of under floor heating on the lower floor. Justy as you can see here broke the ice by turning on the l’eau chaud for the first time in years.

Justy turning on the heat

Carol, Jeanot and Justy have been furiously barrowing cement as the bathroom takes shape and we plot the position of the appliances. Tiles are poised ready to be laid and the hardware catalogues are being scrutinised….decisions, decisions….

Jeanot, master builder extraordinaire at work

Justy plotting the kitchen layout

As well as the building activity, the other favourite pastime has been harvesting the booty from the garden to share with all and sundry. The following sequence of pictures tells the story of last night’s meal which attracted such a flattering compliment from the French passer-by. Recipe: French inspired Vegetable curry. Ingredients: Swiss chard, basil, potatoes, tomatoes (4 varieties), courgettes, aubergines, mint, French beans, carrots, green pepper and the odd dab of Thai Curry paste and of course some vin blanc.

Garden booty

Le chef

Cooking on our camp stove


Other news, Justy’s birthday was cause for party decorations and a decadent cake made by Carol. As Justy has reached such an age, she has been driving around the countryside as if on a Rolls Royce rally, doing a very good imitation of Toad of Toad Hall. So will finish this post with some pictures of inhabitants and their repectful respective perfect surroundings, and sign off for now from Summer in the Montagne Noire,

M and J


Carol and Justy (with chocolate lipstick)

Justy’s birthday bonanza!

Justy dans la voiture

Justy (a.k.a. Toady) dans la voiture


Picnic at La Pradelle

‘Our Village’ Mas Cabardes with Summer potagers

Our heavenly stairway

31 Mar

Hola / Bonjour / G’day,

This week’s news is all about the ups and downs at Le Barry. Whilst the floods were drowning Wagga Wagga and the biggest earthquake in twenty-five years was shaking the artist residencies of Mexico City, things were going up and down, up and down, up and down in France.

Now happily reunited,  we are keen to share the latest happenings at Le Barry.

Big news: After four centuries, Le Barry now has the affordance of a stunning cedar staircase. Hewn from local timber and shaped by a local craftsman, our very own master builder Jeanot has locked this work of art into place. It took several days to assemble the stairs into the tight spot, but  Carol and Jeanot have now successfully (and beautifully) linked the lower two floors of the house. Sunlight now graces every corner of the kitchen. This, alongside Carol’s incredible work on re-pointing the kitchen walls has really lightened the room and pretty much, well, transformed it into a not quite finished kitchen/ diner!

As you can see the staircase arrived in pieces.

Staircase leaving Le Campmas.

Ready to assemble in the kitchen at Le Barry

It’s a tight space to fit a set of stairs but Jeanot worked out that we could drop the stairs just between the two kitchen doors.

Fitting the staircase, Le Barry

Starting from the bottom, Le Barry

Nearly There, Le Barry

Nearly There, Le Barry

Cuppa anyone?


This staircase will revolutionise life at Le Barry. For one thing you will no longer have to face the elements in your undies when you are trying to either 1) get breakfast in bed for your lover, 2) refresh your Pastis, 3) take a shower. Now you can elegantly descend the stairs with champagne flutes in hand and your modesty intact, and all without getting your feet wet.

To close this post, we’ve mentioned the ups, there were also a couple of downs this week.

A minor incident with a chainsaw, thigh and falling tree. Followed by a near anaphalactic bee sting. The workforce was halved for a day, as Jeanot regained his composure at Le Campmas. No workers comp here.

Until next week. Onwards and upwards!

M and J x

Chauffage-o-rama. Le Barry goes solar.

24 Sep

Dearest readers,

Big things a-foot in the village. Now Jeanot’s broken foot is better (well, he can walk, so he can work!)

Drum roll please……… ……. ……. Le Barry goes solar.

This week we took delivery of the underfloor solar heating materials at the house. Understandably, this breaking news has jumped the queue and bumped the garden story to next week. Alas no tomatoes but it’s all French men and pipes and white vans today.

The EDF van arriving in Mas Cabardes

The Gods of solar energy arrive

In April, we became the first house in the village (we think) to sign up to the solar energy push with the French energy company, EDF. After lots of visits, pastis and coffee, we signed the deal, saved our pennies and just 6 months later  have received the first delivery of components. So, Carol and Jeanot now have their hands full of pipes and floor panels and cables and all that stuff that will miraculously turn into under-floor heating for the kitchen and bathroom and hot water (a.k.a. ‘chauffage’) for both houses.

Easy. You just do it like this...

Giant lego...looks easy from here...

Easy. Done deal…we’re just kicking back and directing the progress from here!

Pastis anyone?

So now we just need to pile a tonne of cement on top. Does anyone have a cement mixer?

Au Revoir.


Stairway to..?

19 Feb

Dear friends,

This week’s post addresses a significant problem at Le Barry. Suppose you wanted to get down to the kitchen from the lounge but didn’t want to have to jump out of the 2nd floor window to get there, you’d probably be thinking…Let’s build a staircase which links the two floors, non? And that is this week’s challenge to the workers.

The first ‘step’ in this monumental task was to decide where to cut the hole for the staircase. Thankfully there is already a staircase leading from the lounge on the second floor upstairs to the bedroom. So, we are ‘extending’ these stairs down to the kitchen. In theory. Easy.

Look at this beautiful hole. Neat as a pin and ready for the next step…

Step two. How to make the staircase? Clearly we have no idea how this is going to happen, but luckily Jeannot and Jean do. Jean lives in the same hamlet of Le Campmas as Carol and Jeannot. He is a carpenter and has offered to accept the challenge of the new stairs.

Here is a photo of Jean (right), Jeannot (centre) and Barthas – the wood cutter (left). Barthas owns the local wood mill and is supplying the raw materials for all those working hands.

Step three. Decision time. There are two options for the wood. We can either build the staircase from local chestnut or cedar trees. We choose chestnut. Warmer, stronger and we think kind of sexier sounding near a wood fire.


Alas, on the site visit, J and C discover that the glorious chestnut is all there but will not be ready for another year. And we may need to go downstairs in the next twelve months. so, easy. Cedar it is. Oh we LOVE CEDAR. fresh, hard, and AVAILABLE. x x x

Here are some images from Barthas’ wood yard in Miravel Cabardes.

And finally, the men select the wood.To be stored for a while in C and J’s shed.

may your feet tread softly upon our heavenly stairway.

Have a good week all. x J and M.

Two beam or not to beam

6 Feb

That is the question.

Well not any more. We now have two new beams at Le Barry. Boring…do I hear you say. Not so my friends. These puppies are holding up the roof that will shelter your gentle heads while you sleep the weeks away…

So here’s the story. There were two rotten beams, one in the bedroom and another in the kitchen, one very strong man (Jeannot) and his damsel and support lady (Carol). Beam one was ‘acquired’ from Lucienne and Nathalie’s farm. Lucky us to have such wonderful and generous neighbours. And it only took Jeannot and five of his closest strong men to relocate beam one to the bedroom at Le Barry. Well, the other four fellas left the beam on the bedroom floor and Jeannot lifted it single-handedly to the sky (all 140kilos. No lie) – and the high beam was at last replaced. We will all sleep safely now. Carol watched, and maybe helped a bit…

Now, let’s just say we ‘liberated’ beam two from a secret location in the forest. Needless to say, that house is no longer standing – plenty a-going on at ground level there. Pick amongst the rubble we say from afar, and the family hands picked up the jewels from the forest floor. Beady eyes and strong men catch the worms of this world. You know it.

The new beam waiting to come into the kitchen

This is what it used to look like…

then this…

and now…

Beam us up Scotty!

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