The summer was not all jazz and junketing. Inspired by the burst of activity on the barn in May we thought we really ought to continue replacing the worst sections of the floor. We made a second trip, this time with a slightly larger trailer, to M Sovignet at the sawmill in St Félicien to pick up more planks and having made most of the floor safe we called a temporary halt to operations.
We sawed up and stacked all the old boards, which will keep us warm this winter, cleared a space in the stable to store them and thought we’d leave it at that for the time being. But this sort of job is a little bit like picking flowers in a wood: there are always a few more lovely ones just a little further on . . . and you end up as Red Riding Hood!
The next section was rather more challenging since the beams were very widely spaced and uneven. It was at this point that, despite our endless admonishments to each other to be careful, Markus fell through into the stable, unfortunately landing on an arcane bit of agricultural kit rather than on straw and ancient manure! He was very lucky not to be more badly hurt and got away with just a few visits to the local physiotherapist who is as effective as she is charming.
Having done so much it seemed silly not to go on and finish the whole job and before long Markus was taking careful measurements and making calculations on spare bits of board. We borrowed an even larger trailer and set off again for the sawmill.
We first met M Sovignet years ago when we were negotiating floor boards for the house. A tall man, he was standing, dramatically silhouetted against a stormy sky, on a pile of tree trunks with a massive chainsaw hanging from his hand. He looked formidable, but turned out to be charming. We knew his father and they have the same ironic but basically optimistic view of life. M Sovignet père was apt to remark, when some natural or unnatural disaster was under discussion “Il y a bien longtemps que le monde il tourne”, implying that the world keeps rotating no matter what. His son has enlarged the family business considerably but he always has time for a friendly chat and treats our orders a seriously as if he were supplying a major contractor with the roof timbers for an entire housing development. We loaded up again and made multiple trips back to les Sarziers. The job proceeded steadily and we impressed ourselves by replacing a further two beams without mishap.
Kate was employed in cleaning and nailing (we used kilos of nails) and Markus’s measuring skills proved impressive – we used up almost every scrap of timber that we had ordered for the job.
The transformation of the barn has been spectacular and we feel that we have acquired a whole new useable space. Certainly the floor, although now level, still has a noticeable slope on it since the whole house and barn were originally built that way. But from the outset we did not propose to do a major demolition job but rather to make a structural and practical floor. And there is an upside . . . we now have a great space for bad weather concerts, with a raked seating area for the audience!