Tag Archives: mill

Treacle Trick

Treacle |ˈtrēkəl|noun

British term for molasses.

• figurative, cloying sentimentality or flattery: enough of this treacle—let’s get back to business.

We had this idea for a long time. Our biggest question was how to become involved and respected in the village. Since we are Dutch (foreign!), not very good with the French language, and basically exotic for most people in the French countryside, we came up with the Treacle Waffles Trick.

We bought 80 packages of traditional Dutch waffles, stuck invitations on each of them, and delivered them in all the mailboxes of Tourteron. Fifty of the 180 inhabitants came over to meet us and to see the mill. It was a huge success. We met the mayor, the noblemen, the attorney, and the baker. Most of the close neighbors came over to shake our hands.

We’ve also learned that the French do not drink wine nor eat cheese at a reception. That’s food. A reception is not for food. They prefer to drink beer, cider, gentian or even plain water. They also don’t eat meat or sausages (food), although they empty the potato chips in a blink of the eye. Next time we’ll buy only these for sure. It’s much easier, anyway.

Ever since our Waffle Reception people salute us when we drive by. They even come over to the mill to talk about the Citroen 2CV that we’d like to buy. We’re happy that we made some friends that day!

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At some point …

… you start to doubt. OK, we decided, let’s fly in a specialist. Someone who knows what to look for and how to assess the value of the property in all its aspects.

The wooden construction of the mill is ...

The wooden construction of the mill is ...

So we contacted a retired building inspector and asked him what he thought of the project.  He’s undeniably a decent man and a skilled negotiator. he said: “Marco, you’ve bought a beautiful barn, but I doubt whether you will be able to live in it.” And he smiled.

“OK, so the roof is not so good?” “No.”

“OK, the tiles are not so good?” “No, not really.”

“OK, then, and the wooden construction?” “Son, it needs some work.”

“Great! So it needs some work. Fine! How much?” “Over 200k euro’s worth,” he said quietly.

Silence. That we could calculate.

In the photo here you can see the outside tiles. In January 2010 you’ll not be able to see any of this. It’ll all be covered and hidden behind fresh, new white plastered walls.

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Just the beginning

When you think you have seen it all, it’s usually just the beginning. In the period while we were still working on the finance we got a call from Madame Picard. During the heavy rain of that night the stream didn’t hold the extra water and…you guessed it: flooded the Mill.

The clay residue of the flood

The clay residue of the flood

Now that was a big surprise. The mill apparently floods at least once every 5 years. At least! We were in shock! And so were all our friends 🙂

We claimed an extra cut on the price, but this time the French owners really said: “Pas possible!” So what to do next? We were this close to buying a mill with a high risk of flooding. We thought about it for a week or so – you know late night wine drinking, talking about risk, chances and dreams. And we decided to do it. “We’re Dutch,” we thought. “We”ll find a way to stop the water!”

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The next steps are always less easy.

So…you say YES, and then what? It’s almost like the first steps in learning to walk: we didn’t have a clue! What to do next, where to start, who to call. We did know that 1) it was the first house we’d ever bought, 2) it was in France, 3) it needed a lot of renovation, and 4) we didn’t speak a word of French besides bonjour and merci.

We were stitched to the floor when we heard that we’d bought the house. We said YES to the original amount and they said OK. C’est simple.

WOW.

Now it’s for real. We need financing, signatures, papers, insurance, mortgage, the whole thing. In our earlier search for property we met Mr. Creme. He was our agent at Commercy. The man is extremely pleasant to work with. He’s honest, open, and direct, plus he speaks fluent English. Even thought it was not his region (it’s about 4 hours’ drive away) he was willing to help us with the contract, checking the bank stuff, talking to the mayor et cetera, et cetera, et cetera and so on.

And we did need him because there were some ‘small’ issues; knowing this was a water mill we knew the chances were good there was a water issue. And there was, BIG TIME! the mill was flooded once in the past 30 years…at least that was the story told by the seller.

But days after our wedding, we found an approximately 4000-square-meter section of our land to be a lake. The sweet little stream in the middle of the valley happened to have a winter offspring running through our property, creating a sweet little lake right at the place where we planned to put the pool. This was not a good sign.

Winter Pool

Winter Pool

We knew that we had nettles, wild blackberries and other unwanted herbs in this part of the garden, but we had no idea it turned into wetlands during winter. And worse: nobody told us.

We really needed our French contact to help us get some money off the price we had agreed upon. This made everybody involved quite nervous. Even the mayor told us not to have friends asking around about the land and its wet history. We can tell you this much: In France one does not start a discussion about a price once there’s an agreement. 🙂

All of a sudden they found papers on dyke construction works, and promises by the government to raise our land as protection. Even the attorney said it would all be ok. Yeah right: bien! Sure, they held back serious information, and we wanted our money back! This is not going to be fine AT ALL unless we had some additional money to raise this part of the field so we could create that pool. Anyway…

Wouldn’t you fight for it?

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The first step to a Super Gite

On September 30, 2008, we received a call from our Dutch / French agent. He’d seen an old water mill that was about to go on the market, and he guessed correctly that we’d be eager to see it. He knew the real estate agent and said we could have the first look as bidders. Four hours later we drove up the small path and saw the mill for the first time.

The silence was deafening. The location at the bottom of a ridge was superb. The village was only 10 meters uphill. The view was absolutely spectacular!

We knew instantly that this was a Super Gîte to be!

The price was set at an affordable level, but it went up the same day. Luckily we had already expressed our sincere interest. After doing some calculations and drawings that evening, we called the next day to give it a GO.

Then the real story began…

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