The potting shed or the summer kitchen; in my mind it has two names and two jobs but today it is wearing its gardener’s hat! One of the best things about old houses in France is that they very often come with a host of outbuildings and the moment I saw our house, this little old structure captured my attention.
When we bought our property, this little building was slightly dilapidated and being tucked away in a corner it seemed it had no real purpose any longer apart from housing the water-pump; but for me, it was surrounded by an aura of romance. We quickly christened it the Summer Kitchen with all sorts of ideas springing to mind, none of which really came to fruition in our first few years here.
Originally this was the laundry, and I am going way back, long before we lived here. Two years ago I shared a post showing how we started working on this space and that, I am sorry to say, is where the work ended. Somehow nothing further had been done; plans were made and never put into practice. Slowly it became a dumping ground, the leaves blew in, the mess grew and we all just sort of closed our eyes, never finding the time to do anything about it. Sure we roasted some chestnuts in the autumn and the odd marshmallow. But still I just looked at it lovingly and admired its facade; the wisteria in the spring, the hollyhocks in the summer. I watched the lizards scurrying across the old terracotta roof and I paid great attention to the plants all around, and yet the inside remained as it was.Then last month on a wet grey Sunday I lit the fire for warmth and I set to work. I knew all along what I wanted to achieve and suddenly nothing was going to stand in my way. The hours flew by and before I knew it dusk was falling and I was still working hard. I was covered in dust, I’d seen far too many spiders and cobwebs for my liking and my clothes were filthy but I couldn’t stop.
Outside the doors the rubbish bags filled up and things started to take shape and this
slowly turned into this, a piece of machinery that plays a very integral role. This is our garden watering system from the well which is situated just outside. Originally water was brought up from the well into the old zinc tank by hand thanks to the enormous wheel. In the mid 1900’s things became a great deal easier and by the 1950’s an electric pump had been added.
It may seem a very old fashioned and antiquated system but it works! And you know what they say, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and this system certainly isn’t broken. We have had the electrics all upgraded but nothing else has changed and water is brought into the holding tank by opening up various valves which build up the pressure; it all seems quite a laborious task to the uninitiated but once one gets the hang of it, it couldn’t actually be simpler! We kept the old electric box just for posterity, and although it is no longer connected it is a great reminder of what once was!
As darkness fell Roddy brought me a glass of wine and we stood by the dying embers in the grate looking around and taking stock. This old armoire had found its way in here last year. I suggested we remove the doors and make shelves out of some old planks
and the rest was plain sailing. Over the next few days everything fell into place. We put the old doors to good use, joining them underneath to make them solid we simply rested them on some trestle legs to make a big rugged table.
Suddenly this place has become my pride and joy, I find I am drawn to it all the time; this is where I potted up dozens of geraniums, and it’s where I arrange great bundles of cut blossom.
The ancient cobbles have been worn smooth in places from centuries of wear and tear, their colour is a subtle shade that would be hard to mimic with modern alternatives.
On a warm spring day it is remarkably cool inside and during the slightly unseasonably chilly weather I treat myself by lighting the fire with old vine clippings stored in a box in the corner.
There is always some inquisitive person who comes by to see what I am up to!
The one bit of bling that I couldn’t resist was an old chandelier. I found this at a local brocante several years ago. It was the end of the day and the vendor was loading everything into his van. I happened to be passing by as the chandelier going into its box and I enquired how much he wanted for it. Keen to have a final purchase at the end of what had probably been a very long day, he was more than happy to negotiate the price and I managed to grab myself something of a bargain. And although Roddy hung it two years ago he has only just wired it up and it is finally being put to good use!
And whilst homework and life continues in the house, I can often be found not too far away in the evenings in my new favourite haven, now that I have ambient lighting, warmth and a table and chairs. I thought about music but there is no need I have an orchestra right outside; the birds sing constantly. This week I have heard the cuckoo calling and the hoopoes are nesting once more in our garden. For me it really is these simple things that make life so special.