It is not a complaint nor an exaggeration to say that I’ve been very busy lately. Between the ordinary everyday problems of having a family while simultaneously dividing time between three countries, it’s one thing to remain focused, but quite another to report on it. But let me assure you dear reader, that things are moving forwards.
This year we intend to make one house livable. Which means having water, electricity, kitchen & bathroom. But first, we have to become legal owners. Even when the heirs of the least dilapidated ruin all agree to sell, there are still time consuming legal steps that must be taken. These procedures are all the more difficult when none of the heirs live close by. Next step would be connecting the house to water and electricity. Both have been cut during the 17 years of abandonment. The water system that once supplied several houses presently lies in ruins. It remains to be seen how much work it takes to reconnect, how much of the old tubing is still working.
Electricity appears more straightforward. The main line passes right in front of the house, with a branch leading right to the switch box. In reality, all it takes is simply reconnecting two wires. However, the bureaucratic view of this matter might be very different. I have been warned about costly inspections and lengthy delays of more than a year. Should that be the case we will need to look for alternatives.
Next step will be to provide the house with a new roof, and a septic tank. For pragmatic reasons we will not be installing a traditional slate roof. Surely they are pretty, but the installation requires a lot more work for an uninsulated roof. Instead we will use metal sandwich panels. These can be installed in a short time, are long lasting and above all they are insulated. As the name suggests, sandwich panels consist of two metal panels with styrofoam in between. And no, you don’t have to order them in red, creativity is always possible regardless what material you are using. Even if some people still prefer the look of the old slate roof, it’s good to know that we are talking about the house at the top of the hill. No one has to look at it.
While the house comes equipped with a bathroom and kitchen, it does not have a real septic tank. Rather a shallow pit on the ground level covered by some planks. Back in the day the smell of human excrement formed a lovely bouquet with that of cow, pig and chicken dung. Call us modern, but we will go for a nicely sealed tank outside.
The eventual goal is to divide the house into four apartments, but our priority lies in making it habitable first. Since it does have all the necessary amenities albeit very basic, we will initially restore it to the way it was. This means patching up holes in the floor, fixing doors, replace windows with double glazed ones, work on plumbing & electric, and clean up the giant mess it is in right now. There are still plenty of personal belongings trashed by looters and rotting away through time. Mountains of clothes, moist mattresses, cheap broken furniture, old devices that no longer work. Naturally we will try to reuse as much materials as we can, but a lot of it has to go.
The ground floor used to be stables and farm storage area, and looks like it was last used by King Augeas. Old hay, manure, soil and random trash are mixed into a thick layer. Cleaning up this mess will be the kind of transformation everyone loves to see. Perhaps we could welcome a couple of volunteers, build a giant pile and lit it. Provided we can get it done before the forest fire hazards of summer.
So expect more amazing transformations, videos to come, and who knows, a little party this summer!