It isn't all roses and moonlight here at the chateau. It's a lot of hard work, and it doesn't always go without a hitch. Especially with a project like the Big Barn - where every job is at a massive scale. With foundation issues, concrete pouring all the wrong ways, and me falling flat on my face, this was one of those days, that I hope "we''ll laugh about later".
this wall is missing a foundation!
While excavating the Big Barn in order to create a level floor - our digger man ran into a Big Challenge. He found that the walls of the building don't run equally deep everywhere, and one piece of wall did not have foundations all the way down to our dig level. He quickly scooped the dirt floor back in place, because leaving the wall without support might lead to it collapsing entirely.
Do you see the black earth at the bottom of those bits of wall? That's where the foundation is missing. There is literally just earth - no stone. Like elsewhere in the barn.
We'd need to build a concrete support as a new foundation. The need for a lot of concrete had us speed up the next part of the project. We saw an opportunity to combine a couple of big concrete jobs. Having a concrete truck come over is quite expensive, so we figured we'd try and do 3 jobs in one go.
1. Our digger man dug trenches that will serve as foundations to the inner walls we're building up here and we need to fill these with concrete.
2. We needed to build sills for the windows that are coming in. The old barn doors were fine sliding open over a dirt floor, but with windows arriving in their place - we needed to build a solid base for them to rest on.
3. And of course we needed to build a concrete support to serve as a new foundation where the old wall was lacking one.
So there was a plan in place, but still, we had a few sleepless nights. The concrete truck wouldn't come till after the weekend - and the weather was terrible, with wind and rain beating hard against out foundationless wall. We were afraid the water might create a small landslide, washing away the earth packed against our risky wall.
But it turned out to be a great test for the solidity of the building - it stood there strong and proud on Monday morning - not a hair out of place.
John had been hard at work all weekend building casings for the window sills. The casing for the new foundation to the wall could not be put in place until the morning of the day the concrete truck arrived, because we didn't want to remove the earth to make place for the casing - that would only create instability. We scrambled all morning to get things ready.
This is the casing for one of the window sills.
In the middle of all the scrambling, I got a call from the concrete truck company telling me we hadn't made payment and so they wouldn't be coming this afternoon. But I HAD made payment! I talked myself sideways, to absolutely no effect. Just a repeated: "Desolee, madame. In the end it took me driving over there with payment proof in hand to convince them! An hour lost on my part, but the concrete truck did finally arrive that afternoon.
If I thought that was the end of our stress, I was sorely mistaken. Halfway into filling the windowsill casing, it turned out it wasn't strong enough. Concrete was pouring out the sides and it was bending the entire casing out of shape. We were all running to get extra supports to push the concrete back in place. Of course that involved me tripping over a bloody trench and falling flat on my face... I think that was the point where our digger man decided he couldn't continue to just look on at this drama unfolding. Soon he was by our side, scooping concrete off the floor with a bucket and pouring it back into the casing.
Next up were the trenches which we needed to fill with concrete to create foundations for our future inner walls. It turned out that the funnel on the concrete truck wasn't long enough to reach them, and so the entire truck had to manouvre into the building to get closer to the trenches. Very, very slowly this giant truck backed up into the barn... I looked on with my hands covering my eyes, as our digger man climbed on top of the truck to slowly guide it through the doorway. He wanted to be up there to ensure that there really was 1 cm(!) left between the top of the truck and doorway. I was shaking my head no. He was shaking his head yes. I was getting ready to call the insurance company. But then the truck did finally make it in.
Even inside the building though, it couldn't get close enough. We ended up having to build a makeshift concrete slide out of corrugated iron, and using the scoop on the digger to transport the concrete scoop by scoop onto our slide - where me and John were standing to frantically rake the concrete into and along the trenches.
I've seen worse
The entire operation took hours and the whole time me and John feared the truck driver would get fed up and just leave. Finally - wounded, blistered and exhausted, we drained the truck of all the concrete and proceeded to thank and apologize to the guy. He didn't have much to say. Only shrugged his shoulders and mumbled: "I've seen worse".