Finding brocante in the attic and an ivy update

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Oh my goodness we’ve packed a lot in so far this weekend. It began with one of those early Saturday mornings when you wake up with the sun streaming in through the bedroom windows, and even though you’d dearly love a lie-in, you just know that you have to get up; it would be a criminal offence to waste such a beautiful start to the day. And as the forecast yesterday had promised much warmer weather and plenty of sunshine, there was much to do and no time to waste after months of winter and weak sun. Suddenly everything felt so different!

The main job of the day was making a start on Project Ivy, and tackling the alien invader that is covering the old wall at the end of the garden. Thank you, thank you, thank you all so much for taking the time to comment with your thoughts and offer advice about this. I think deep down we knew it had to go, but sometimes one needs a little push, a little affirmation that it is the right thing to do, and an ‘oh it’s definitely the right thing to do’ in your ear; not just because ivy is, as you have all pointed out, so destructive, but because I can see it is going to look fantastic.

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So my first report for the weekend is that Project Ivy is underway, and the good news to go with this is that the wall behind the ivy is remarkably undamaged in any way. This is mostly because the ivy actually has its roots in the mound of building stone in front of the wall, and it has become almost a series of small trees along the mound, leaving the wall behind untouched save for a cloak of ivy shoots; these actually pull off very easily and they’re only attached to the wall at the very top. The bulk of the heavy effort is going into dismantling the mound of rubble and getting at the root-mats of the ivy ‘trees’; these are all intertwined in the top three feet of the stones. Roddy at one stage came back from the barn with an old anchor and some chain which he attached to the back of the ride-on mower and we pulled a great deal of it out like some gang of ancient land clearers. But I am so excited, already there is such a difference; there’s much to do and it’s going to be a long job, but it’s going to be worth it and I will of course update you from time to time on our progress!

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Leaving Roddy to the ivy for a while and the children half helping and half playing I wanted to go and search through some old tiles that are up in our attic. They were left by the previous owners and as it was a warm sunny day I thought I would go up there and have a look after lunch. I rarely go into the attic, it’s always freezing cold and full of cobwebs and spiders. Anyway, I wanted to see if there was anything suitable for a bathroom renovation we are contemplating. The roof above the attic is relatively new, and we were told it was completely restored about ten years ago. The floor on the other hand is a different matter; it has some very dubious spots which Roddy has had to board over and I had to tread carefully in places.

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Several things had been left here for us; there was an old lamp, broken picture frames, some old floorboards and this beautiful stone mantle (although goodness only knows how this ever got up here!). I knew all of these things were here though, as I’ve looked at them briefly before.

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The tiles were stacked fairly high and against some old planks. Slowly I removed pile after pile, putting them to one side as I tried to get to the ones at the bottom so I could see if they were of any interest. I lifted an old piece of wood which had been leaning against the them and as I did so I realised it was in fact not just an old piece of wood at all but was actually the half-broken back to a mirror. Incredibly the glass was still totally intact; I carefully lay it down on the floor, terrified it would fall apart as the back was falling off, my heart beating just a little bit faster.

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Lying on the floor behind where the mirror had been I found this old zinc pitcher, tossed to one side; it’s a typical utilitarian item that had obviously been discarded decades before, but to me it was another real little treasure and another piece to add to my collection. This was turning out to be quite a little adventure.

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There were no tiles that I really wanted, unfortunately, but my little haul of relics more than made up for it. Carefully I climbed back down the strange old ladder and out into the afternoon sunshine, my eyes taking a second or two to become accustomed to the bright light. I ran down the garden so excited to share news of my loot and to get someone to come and help me bring the things down.

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Meanwhile all was progressing well with the wall, but I couldn’t hang about and help for long. I had to take Jack to a party and Gigi to a friend’s house for a “soirée pyjama”, which is such a lovely expression; ‘sleepover’ is one word that has not yet made it into the French language, well, not around us, anyway! We hear ‘le weekend’, ‘le shopping’, ‘le parking’ and ‘non-stop’ on a regular basis but not ‘sleepover’, and long may its French equivalent remain as far as I am concerned as it conjures up such pretty images. Despite the intricacies of our afternoon schedule, Millie, Hetty and I also managed to fit in an hour of tennis on our village court.

This was an action-packed day as we also had friends coming over to dinner and I had to get cooking. Even though the days are a little warmer the nights are still chilly and Roddy had made a big beef casserole which was bubbling away in the oven. I had to make dessert; I have long since stopped worrying about cooking for the French; I used to fret about it, but I now know my baking can hold its own and in fact our French friends thoroughly enjoy our ‘English’ food. I think for them it is a something a little different maybe, with the way we eat our vegetables at the same time as the meat, and how we rarely have a baguette with a meal; and just as we love eating in a French kitchen, so our French friends seem to love eating in ours – it’s a mutual appreciation.

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This was a wonderful way to end a busy Saturday, with friends and family, good food, good wine and a happy gathering with much laughter and chatter around the kitchen table.

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Today “Project Ivy” continues, as does the current warm spring weather and blue skies. Millie has a tennis tournament later this afternoon and she has just been notified it will be played outdoors instead of on the usual indoor courts; this alone is a sure sign that we are moving determinedly into spring! Our usual Sunday roast is already gently cooking in the oven; we might even eat lunch outside, the first time this year. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend too, whatever you are doing. Susan x

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57 thoughts on “Finding brocante in the attic and an ivy update

  • Another WONDERFUL POSTING ! Thank you so much ! For me it’s like reading a tiny wonderful picture book . And how on earth do you climb that ladder ? I hope you have a wonderful rest of the weekend !

    • Thank you Jacqueline, this is just how I want it to be, a story to dear friends, with a little history and a little bit of French culture thrown in for good measure! The ladder is a precarious climb, but it’s not quite as bad as it looks. The weekend was just perfect and I hope yours has been too. Susan x

  • What a great weekend, filled with a lot of adventures and accomplishments typically of your beautiful life. I enjoy reading every week what is happening your way and being apart and such great writing and photo’s. I believe I started following the beginning of the summer kitchen and was hooked . The new found stone wall is just beautiful if stories could be told of the history and the secrets it holds. Your activities with your family reminds me of when with my four children who kept me very busy, now they are grown and have their own adventures. They have blessed me with seven beautiful grandchildren. I can see how beautiful your home and life style will be loved and remembered by your children and the grandchildren to come. The rock wall will have more to tell of life to come with generations of your growing family.

    • Hi Sallie or Caroly, you’ll have to let me know which! You are certainly blessed with seven grandchildren, what fun you must be having with them all. I remember only too well the post about the summer kitchen, it was about this time last year, just before my husband’s injured foot, alas because of that, we never did get to do what we wanted with the ceiling, hopefully this year, it’s a plan still waiting to happen! But of course there are always so many projects, this is the problem with an old house. I am also trying to find out the history of the wall and why there are two big entrances. I’ll keep delving away until I find an answer! Hope you have had a lovely weekend, Susan x

    • Hi Paulette, thank you, your wonderful home country has been revelling in spring sunshine this weekend, everywhere has come alive, people are suddenly out in their gardens and out walking, it feels good to be in Spring again! Susan x

    • Hi Jean, gosh I never knew that, do you mean anything that might be noisy, as in the sound of lawn mowers? I cannot imagine the French ever being told they cannot do something! Do let me know I am intrigued. Hope you have had a lovely weekend, Susan x

      • In France it’s forbidden to use lawnlowers on a sunday after midday, likewise chainsaws and anything noisy. In our last house the police pulled up one sunday a few months after our arrival in France and warned us that the neighbours had complained and that we risked a fine if we carried on or repeated the error. It’s also considered very un-neighbourly to make a noise any other lunchtime of the week or in the evening! Now I just use the rules to enjoy an enforced bit of leisure and get the work out of the way in the morning.

      • Hi Miranda, well that just goes to show how wonderful the world of blogging is, you learn something new all the time, I am truly grateful, I had no idea, thank you! I am assuming this just goes to show we have never mowed the lawn on a Sunday afternoon! I actually popped into our Mairie to ask them about this, on my way to school this afternoon. They were very blasé, they said, it is sort of forbidden, but really so long as you don’t make too much noise no one really takes any notice! Susan x

      • I think those particular neighbours of mine weren’t particularly friendly – I should have known really since after a year of living in that particular house I never actually saw then . Their gate was always shut…and very high. My new neighbours are quite the opposite and we have many a fine meal at each others houses. I can’t imagine them calling the police on us – well I hope not anyway! By the way, there is a particular reason for the black band on old gilt mirrors – I will research it again and let you know!

      • No they don’t sound very nice! I asked our neighbour about the mowing too this evening, he’s a paysagiste, so I thought he would know for sure. He was not sure though, he said he thought it was probably illegal but he’s never thought about it. We are so lucky to have the most incredibly nice neighbours, like you we eat at each other’s houses all the time, we take it in turns as to which house we eat at, it’s so lovely, they have become great friends. I’m intrigued by the mirror, I know nothing about it at all, except it was in the attic and is rather nice! A little bit of research tells me I think it is from around 1900, but I may be wrong there too!

    • Hi, the shape is identical, thank you for sharing the link, I loved looking at that. I think I will keep the old gilt on ours, in fact I am not sure I am going to do anything to it at all other than ask my husband to put a new back on it to make it safe. I rather like the old chips in the paintwork, it tells a story and for once showing it’s age is a good thing! Hope you have had a lovely weekend, Susan x

  • Such a fun post.

    As folks with an acre of land, our John Deere ride-on tractor is a must have. Ours just turned 13 (yes, my husband keeps track of these things and just told me that a couple of days ago). Dragging bulky/messy debris out with the chain/rope is definitely something we are familiar with. Such a time and effort savings. Go, Roddy.

    Let’s just say that a “soirée pyjama” sounds so much more fun than a sleepover, so I am glad they haven’t come up with an exact translation.

    And how great is it that you can “shop” your attic and still come out with such marvelous finds. Plus, I love the ladder.

    A good weekend, indeed!

    • Hi Mary, oh I hope Roddy doesn’t read this comment! In New Zealand we had a John Deere tractor which was a yard tractor, a mower, it even had a bucket lift attachment at the front, he loved it, but we had 17 acres there and cannot really justify it here, but only yesterday he was saying he wished we had it here! I love the expression “shop your attic” so true, alas I don’t think there is anything else to find up there, I had a jolly good look! Still I can’t complain they were great finds and most unexpected! The soirée pyjama was a huge success, happy little girls! Hope you have had a lovely weekend, Susan x

    • Hi Nadia, wasn’t it a lovely weekend, so nice to see the sun again! I can’t wait to see the finished wall as well! It will be a few more weeks but we’ll get there, it’s just finding the time that’s the problem! Susan x

    • Hi Nancy, it’s such fun to be so busy though, and the attic finds were a real bonus this weekend. I’m not very good at being patient, but this wall is going to be a lesson in just that, patience! I promise I’ll post photos once it is finished but it will be a while! Hope you have had a lovely weekend, Susan x

    • Hi Andrea, yes it was a real find! But I think I prefer fing!!! Hope you have had a lovely weekend, I think this great weather has been pretty widespread so hopefully you’ve had some good weather in England too with lots of sunshine. Susan x

      • Oh I love your sense of humour, is this a new word we have invented? Or rather Andrea has invented and you have given a definition to! You’ve made us all laugh, thank you! Susan x

      • Yes. Wonderful British day – freezing weather, sunshine so of course at the beach with the kids and a picnic. One degree higher in temperature and we’d have had the barbie lit 😀 X.

      • If it makes you feel any better, there was a really cold wind here too, beautiful warm sunshine with some real power to it but that wind, it was cold. Hope the sand didn’t blow into the sandwiches! That’s always the worst thing about windy days on the beach for me! Have a great week, I think there is even more sunshine promised for you, or so our daughter tells us! Susan x

  • I love the comment above…shop your attic. What will become of the stone mantel. Maybe another story? A mystery……
    Ali x

  • Bravo on all your work! I also don’t worry about cooking for the French. I make American stuff and they love it. They beg for our burgers. And carrot cake. And cheesecake. And anything Mexican. I can’t compete so I change the game!
    We bought a beautiful apartment in Carcassonne that came with an attic. The family had lived there for a couple of generations. It also was sad–the latest resident had lost two children. The attic was full of stuff that the remaining son just didn’t want to deal with. It was painful for me to go through knowing the story, and I cannot begin to imagine for him. We tossed most of it, but a few treasures are going to the next vide grenier.

    • Thank you. I’m happy to cook French food, but I’m the one in charge of desserts and after much practice I am now totally in my comfort zone here, my husband is the real chef; he learnt to cook in Switzerland and cooking and good fresh ingredients are a passion of his, although only as a hobby, so I feel quite secure when entertaining thanks to him! It’s a fabulous partnership he usually does the main course and I do appetisers and desserts! Your apartment sounds like a real treasure trove, a very sad story though.

  • Sounds like a perfect “le weekend.”
    That is a gorgeous stone wall, and the gate is spectacular. And a nice mirror find, too — looks similar to one I have that’s probably mid-19th century.

    • Hi Emm, it really was a fabulous weekend! J’adore le weekend! I cannot wait to finish the wall, but I know it’s going to be a long process and finding the time to do it is never easy! The mirror is fabulous, I don’t know how old it is, we thought probably early 1900’s, but I am no expert! Hope you have had a lovely weekend. Susan x

  • What a talent storyteller you are! En lisant je m’ imaginais lire les aventures du Club des cinq comme quand j’ étais jeune ! It look like I’ m reading the adventures of the Famous Five. Merci de partager vos bonheurs familiaux. Thanks to share your stories and your nice pictures, dear Enid .. Ahem… Susan.

    • Bonsoir Philippe, I read every Famous Five book as a child and the Secret Seven and so have all of our children, must be where I get the story telling from!!! To be honest, I’m passionate about my life, our children, France. I just believe in enjoying life to the full and I think that is what comes across, or at least I hope it does! It’s not a five star luxury life, I mean my hands have blisters from pulling Ivy but it’s a pretty good one! Susan X

    • Hi Suzanna, thank you so much, so much potential indeed, but so much work and it’s so time consuming. It’s going to be a long project just because we are trying to find the time to do it and it’s tough back breaking stuff too, some of the stones are huge! We’ll get there and I promise I’ll post the results, it should be done by the summer, that’s my goal! Hope you had a lovely weekend. Susan xx

  • I am quite new to your blog, but have quickly come to treasure your exciting finds, projects and stories about your family and everyday life in France. Each installment is a I jewel…thank you.

    • Hi Diane, I am so glad you have found the blog and even happier that you are enjoying it and thank you for taking the time to comment, I love reading everyone’s stories and listening to what each person has to say, it’s the reason I do this! I hope you have had a good weekend and have a great forthcoming week. Susan x

    • Hi Peta, thank you, I’m glad you did too! As we are finally starting to get some warmer weather, you are starting to cool down, I hope, not sure where you are in Australia, I know parts are calling out for rain and that it has been very hot. Have a great week. Susan x

  • A lovely surprise in votre grenier . Unfortunately ours only yielded dust, old lino, broken tiles and rat traps, but as a foreigner in France, the hand made rat traps have their own charm. I’ve paid a decent sum in a local vide-grenier for a mirror just like the one you found! We too battle with ivy both our house in France and home in Australia. Unfortunately pulling it off walls and fences is not an option for us because of the damage it causes. Bon week-end.

    • Hi Elizabeth, I am amazed that the Ivy has not caused any damage, maybe it is the limestone here, or maybe because where it covers the old wall it is very young and has not yet got hold. Home made rat traps sound intriguing in a strange sort of way, the mind boggles! I can assure you though we did also inherit plenty of dust and lots of spiders! Our two cats have made sure we have no mice or rats, fingers crossed! Have a lovely week Susan x

  • Love the blog! Would it be possible to tell me the manufacturer of your beautiful elephant plate? It’s gorgeous.

    • Hi Lesley, thank you, so glad to have your following along. The plate is from Emma Bridgewater, although this is an old discontinued pattern from about 20 years ago! Although I love some of the new patterns too, just google her and have a look at the website, so many beautiful things. Have a lovely week Susan x

    • Gosh I am glad I didn’t find mice! I hate mice, having grown up in an ancient old farmhouse I remember the sound of them scratching above my head! I look very carefully for mice droppings whenever I go in the attic or the barn, but it seems our two young cats are doing a fantastic job, I have never seen any telltale signs at all!

  • Lovely post Susan. Keep up the hard work. Do not remove all the Ivys. You may need some for your Christmas decor haha! Well, Summer is well round the corner, enjoy the sunny days! After all it is “France.”

    • Hi Juli, oh summer is so close, I can feel it, today was a gorgeous 16C and tomorrow is meant to be 18C, it was so nice to be outside without a coat. I am sure plenty of Ivy will find its way back up the wall again and elsewhere, sadly it is something we are not short of in the garden! Susan x

  • Oh – I am able to enjoy a true Spring through your backyard adventures! (Being in Florida in Spring isn’t quite the same.) The absolute euphoria over the first buds, blooms, greening!!!!! Everything coming alive each with every minute that passes. Thank you for including us in this journey!!

  • Lovely post! Am so enjoying seeing your Project Ivy and will wait with great interest to see what is revealed! Yes, Sundays were never the same once the Sunday Trading laws came into being here. It used to be such a quiet day, had a particular feel to it. Everything closed, people just staying home, or visiting friends and family and for the lady of the house, tacit ‘permission’ not to go shopping as they were all shut!! Now it’s just like any other day, you can go shopping or do your supermarket shop if you feel like it. What price convenience? I love the mirror and the jug by the way – real treasures. Have a lovely Spring week.

    • Hi Marian, thank you. Here we seem to have the best of both worlds on Sundays, the supermarkets are open in the morning until midday which is very helpful for those unable to get to them during the week, but then everything closes. The gorgeous spring weather is continuing here, hope England is seeing some good weather too. I will of course keep you posted on project ivy, it’s going to be a very long job, but I am sure it will be more than worth it. Susan x

  • Hi Susan,

    Wow, that wall is going to be wonderful once you get the ivy off of it. My neighbors have ivy in their yard and it has crept over the fence through the years. I do love the look of it but it’s so invasive—it’s quite taken the wooden fence over! The roots have pushed through the slats and I’ve often wondered if the fence could still stand if the ivy were removed… I live in Texas and it’s very Spring-like here. The wild flowers are bursting out and should be at their peak in about a week or so. Enjoy your blossoming spring and thanks, as always, for inviting us in and sharing your French Oasis!

    Christi

    • Hi Christi, I think that is often the way, the Ivy ends up holding up the fence! We were so fortunate that this had taken hold in the old rubble of stones in front not in the wall itself. Isn’t spring just wonderful, new life emerging everywhere ones turns, it all seems so full of hope, it invigorates us. Everywhere is starting to look so pretty here after the dormant winter months. Enjoy those wild flowers, I love picking them and putting them in a vase on the kitchen table, even though they only last a day or so, they are so pretty always. Love sharing with yo and thank you for taking the time to comment. Susan x

  • The ivy that makes little trees after about 10 years is Algerian Ivy. We have a lot of it growing in Southern California. if it were my yard, I would spray all that ivy with Round Up. It will kill everything down to the roots, dry up all the plant material and will make removing it much easier. In my experience, you will be able to replant the area if you wish after about 2 weeks. Round up is only active on the leaves. It does not contaminate the soil.

    • Hi Carol, thanks for your advice, the only problem is I really don’t use chemicals or pesticides here at all, as we try to be totally organic. However, after much hard work we have managed to remove most of the Ivy now and we shall just have to keep on top of it and pull it up if we see regrowth which of course we will. I have removed so much Ivy over the past couple of months all around the property, I think I’m almost getting quite good at this! Have a lovely weekend, Susan x

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