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What's wrong with our house and why we bought it anyway, plus roses and a food book recommendation
Because we were able to stay at our house for a couple of nights before we bought it, we were able to spot its many issues. The thing is, when you fall in love with a home, you’re going to buy it anyway.
Before I get into the issues, I thought I’d share some of the history of the house. This is her 29 years ago, when the previous owners first started doing her up. Note the non-existent kitchen on the right.
Our home is part of a former vineyard. What is now our house was probably once a main house with stables, the house across the way was the cave and we suspect the house next to us was the final main house. In the mid 90s the vineyard was broken up and sold into three separate lots. Our neighbors across the way bought the former cave 30 years ago, and are still remodelling to this day. A year later our property was bought by the previous owner. Her partner, a carpenter, started restoring and remodelling it, while she taught English in various parts of the world and would come and stay here occasionally untill settling here permanently. I don’t know a lot about the house next door, except that it was bought by a lovely French couple (and their herd of animals and now new-born baby) last year.
Skip to last summer, when we first viewed the house. At this point it hadn’t been occupied for a while. The lady we bought the house from had become unwell some time before and was moved back to the UK by her children. Then Brexit and the pandemic happened, and British people weren’t allowed into France for 2 years.
And this is where the house ran into trouble. It’s not the best idea to shutter a stone-built house for 2 years, so when we first walked in incense barely covered the smell of mold creeping everywhere. The bedroom was worst affected, with damp eating away at the wooden floor and mold covering the walls. Because no maintenance was done on the skylights, they’d started to leak. Of course there were mice. And then a few beams in the main part of the house felt paper thin from being worn away by termites.
Unfortunately the previous owner couldn’t tell us when those termites had struck. She also couldn’t tell us about insulation, cost of water or electric, or any of that. She’s alive but she can’t remember. And her children were too far away to notice until all information was lost.
But still, we fell in love. Where most of the houses in our price range were clearly vacation homes, that lack a sense of soul, this was so clearly a home and a very loved home at that. You could just feel it as you walked in.
This is what made me decide not to do one of those huge remodels that are so trendy now on social media. Everything clearly just needed some TLC and some personal touches. As it stands, we haven’t even added a lick of paint yet.
As for those other issues: termites are a huge issue in the Charente and you can scarcely buy a house without them. Because of this termite affected houses can only be sold with a treatment plan, so we have a 3 year treatment plan in place and so far all the damage seems old and there are no active termites to be found. The skylights are a matter of maintenance and the damp and mold is mainly a question of living here. During our first stay, having had windows and doors open, the smell already noticeable faded and now it’s a barely there issue.
Lots of things have been afoot!
Enjoyed all the roses blossoming in our garden, including a sleepy bee butt
Our car is now officially French!
Had a simple but extensive country-lunch with my MIL, one village over. It consisted of soup, salad, savory tart, beef and potato stew, lettuce, cheese, dessert and coffee (including wine or soda) for a devastating €15.50 a head. I don’t know how the French manage to go back to work after that
Been treated as a tourist (i.e. poorly) twice now, so working a little bit harder at that DuoLingo
A friend recently asked for sciency cookbook recs, because he thought that if he understood the science he wouldn’t need recipes, but I believe cooking is mostly vibes and science will only get you so far. It may even fluster you. What I think you really need in cooking is experience in eating and cooking, and recipes that work and give you alternatives on how to make them work in other ways.
Daniel and Matt’s book is a great example of explaining specific elements of cooking without getting so sciency that becomes unusable. The book follows a question and answer format, and each answer includes a recipe, so you can immediately apply the knowledge they’re giving you. It’s very US-centric but exactly the kind of book people who want to ‘understand’ cooking need imho.
Found tofu! At a humongous and awful almost American supermarche near Angouleme
Ordered some really nice sake brewed with French ingredients
Baked Nigella’s lemon meringue cake with homemade lemon curd and fed parts to our neighbors
Lived with a lot of OMG the world is ending anxiety
Slowly doing up my website
In my next newsletter I’ll dive into how moving to France has affected my cooking so far.
If you’d like a list of cookbook recommendations for noobs in the kitchen, or have recommendations, please let me know in the comment.s