THE MONTHS OF WINTER…
November it was, a neighbour reminds me, we arrived at La Faye in Creuse, central France, north of Massif Central, a rather large region of France, spanning from here all the way south to the Languedoc.
November it was.
Winters are long here we hear.
They get cold but not heavily in that way nor in the way of snow.
We feel disappointment as we, both artists and lovers of extremes and flavours, love seasonal differentials.
We find undulating hills in place of magical unreachable mountain peaks, green pastures with four legged friends happily grazing, big, large birds, wild boars, deer, and other wondrous and wonderful creatures. The world here is much more clearly owned by nature. And for that we are joyous to have found our farmhouse to make a home here.
Since the pandemic upsurge of urban folks escaping to the land and smaller communities, just as we did, finding a home with some land and space for 2 studios and all the other requirements we originally put on a list, and within budget, without being too much of a project, became quite a feat!
Unknowns and errors pave the way of all the doubts we had and still wonder about but, there is something special here. I often see this place as thick soil with all its ecosystem happily living below, invisible until you begin looking bit deeper, until you begin planting and then you reap and harvest and find the magic. Afterall, it is a place of magic, centuries of white magic has been and is practiced here.
It is wonky, it slopes backwards from first floor up.
We are concerned at first then we learn, from local elders, of building habits and purposes in the times this old girl first grew from ground, late 18thCentury. Bringing light on all things historical takes time, slowly we discover from those that know as we load wood to get warmth back into the old girl and our wintered bones.
In the cold of winter, we spent time considering and observing this old girl more closely.
A functioning home but a home that had been through the 80s, original gorgeous chestnut floorboards were forbidden breath by layers of PVC flooring, horrible synthetic carpets, and a large amount of poorly finished jobs and unattended ones.
All the woodwork, and much of it there is has been varnished or dyed, losing some of its natural charm in the process, making a house quite dark and separating the full entity that a room can be when less disjointed by extreme colour alternance between walls and wood.
A mixture of the marks of a time, a culture, a people, that disregarded the handsome-ness of ancient craftsmanship with little clue of style and certainly little care for the earth.
We begin doing what we can in the cold months of winter. We had not planned for this amount of work. Nor is it a full renovation, but I wonder if I had known would I have chosen a home more bare and less affected by the 80s and taken on perhaps what would have been a bigger but cleaner kind of project.
All doubts aside, lets take you on this project of compromise to restore this handsome kind old girl.
Renovation compromise had to be made even before we arrived here.
The wooden furniture I had inherited from my mother had been kept in a cold old barn for a decade or more, it also needed care before it could safely enter our home and not bring devastating damage to its wooden structure.
I had amply researched a kind and safe way of treating our wood-wormed furniture it but became filled by fear and decided on a product that goes against my fundamental ehtos. We used a treatment called Xylopehene, it is what is used by most for this kind of treatment of wood eating beasties.
It is composed of Cypermethrin, a synthetic pyrethroid (A pyrethroid is an organic compound similar to the natural pyrethrins, which are produced by the flowers of pyrethrums (Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium and C. coccineum). Pyrethroids are used as commercial and household insecticides. In household concentrations pyrethroids are generally harmless to humans.) used as an insecticide in large-scale commercial agricultural applications as well as in consumer products for domestic purposes. It behaves as a fast-acting neurotoxin in insects. It is a highly toxic product, provoking long term harmful effects particularly to aquatic life.
Treat a situation that could essentially become devastating to the structure of our home
Using a toxic product to eliminate that risk
Using an environmentally friendly product which could eliminate that risk but not absolutely.
We are led by fear in this modern world. Fear is a custom in which our consumer world is very well versed.
I have acted here at first out of fear and made a choice which was not the most ecological and for that I feel shame and sadness. We treated this worm riddled furniture with the Xylophene compound.
Since, I have used in less actively worm-eaten wooden structures, a kinder compound. Galtane HM1made by Galtane. A natural treatment. I am working on my approach to risk and to its real tangibility, educating myself further both in terms of ecological solutions but also spiritually, cognitively, adjusting my personal approach to fear, often led by our lack of knowledge of a situation.
A house renovation project brings so much more than the mere uncovering and fixing of building issues. It awakens the structure of our own human foundation.
Until next time for more on inner outer exploration through our French farmhouse renovation….