Sunday, 6 April 2008


That's what we have lots of.
Large sheets, medium sized, 'dressed' or natural. We have got them all.


Left over from when our house was a ruin.
And when our barn was a ruin.
And whilst the old forge (originally attached to our place) continues to be a ruin.

Our current house was originally three properties - of which one became totally collapsed, the middle one only partially crumbled whilst the third survived reasonably intact.

About twenty five years ago a gentleman rebuilt two out of the three with a lot of help from our friend in the village, Robert.

The third that was a 'total ruin' could not be rebuilt because by then there was a new villa next door and it would have infringed on their privacy. So it was 'capped' and became the terrace, with it's glorious panoramic view over the village and the valley. Actually what sold the property to us!
Our barn was originally where the horses were kept ready to be shoed by the farrier at the forge next door. It was allowed to fall into disrepair until just before we bought the ensemble - the previous owners had just had it's walls built up to the original level and a roof put on. Great - it meant we had somewhere to put all our packing cases when the removal lorries arrived from the UK!! Traditionally slate was used in a variety of ways in buildings down here.

As a guttering, it was laid along the top of the stone walls before the roof went on. It still exists along the original back wall of our house. And also on the smaller part of the barn.

But it is interesting to notice - on the house, the slate is neat and top quality. On the barn, it is rough and not very 'dressed'. Not surprising I suppose when you think about it.

Slate was also used to help level up the stones as a wall was built. When using stones of all different sizes, it was impossible to keep a horizontal line. Slate was introduced ever so often to provide a new perfect level.

Again it is interesting to note - on the back (original, and still standing) wall of our house, the stones were partially 'dressed'. That is, roughly cut to make the laying more uniform and smart. Slates were still used, but not to a great extent. However, the walls of the barn were constructed out of stones of varying sizes and shapes - more like rubble that was piled on top of each other, and much more unstable if the wall is breached. Here slate was used in order to help provide some horizental levelling - much more important than with dressed stones! The arch between our house and the barn is not original. It was built by our friend Robert about 25 years ago when he was helping the owner rebuild the house(s). The skill needed to produce a secure and stable arch out of stones of varying sizes and shapes - is awe inspiring to us. He explains that he laid out hundreds of stones on the ground first, and then selected the most appropriate as he went along. I would have loved to have seen the whole process! And what astonishes us is that such stone building skills still exist here - even in the younger generations in the village. There is so much stone around in this region, that it is seen as a resource not to be wasted.

The Communes all have staff who are able to built with such stone, and it is regularly used when new road structures are built. We have the smartest and prettiest roundabouts and walls along public roads you have ever seen!

Anyway - what do WE use the slate for?! For marking out the blackberry plants we have put in along our barn wall of course!! Not exactly a highly skilled process I admit....... Richard started by digging a trench along the wall. In went the shovel, and he followed this by chucking the soil/gravel over his shoulder onto a heap behind him. He had quite a rhythm going.What he did not notice was Xena, behind him, chasing each shovel full as it flew past. She was trying to catch it for him!!! One brick short of a wall, I say.....or maybe just one light on, but nobody home!They look smart anyway. We all love blackberries. And what they pick locally in the hedgerows are so small and dry - we would not even think them worth picking in the UK!

Hopefully a proper apple and blackberry pie next year.......

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