* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Monday, September 29, 2014

An annual fall camp work week -- Part II


My first post on the camp fall clean-up was all about actual cleaning and maintenance.  However, there were two major projects going on at the same time.  One was officially organized, the other was one of my own personal making.  Both enhanced the camp facility.  I thought you might enjoy seeing how it all went as the week wore on.

But first, I received this copy of a publicity for future volunteers showing how much fun our work weeks are.  This is from 2011, showing many of the same people as were involved this year, but it also shows Christina in her last year. 

Particularly interesting is her standing amidst all her laundry before I cleared out her view of the river later during that same week.

One of the first things I discovered when we arrived this time was what a horrid mess the fire pit had turned into.  Not only was it full to overflowing with ash, it had tree-sized roots growing out of it!  I guess all the brush that's been burned in it made some nice compost. 

Fire Pit 01
A sad fire pit
It was impossible to clean out, because somehow big rocks were all mixed in with everything else.  I decided it was time to give it a total make-over in-between washer loads.

Unfortunately, I did not get a picture before somebody chopped down the weeds and somebody else took away the main rock ring.  But this is what it looked like shortly after I got started raking it out to eliminate all the debris.

Fire Pit 02
Digging up what shouldn't be there
I didn't get much farther than this the first day as we got rain right after lunch for the rest of the day.  Hoping it drained a bit overnight, I tackled it again the next day before the rains hit again.  After all, once I'd gotten it started, I had to finish before I left!

Here's a bit of perspective as to how massive a job it was.  Yes, I raked every single inch of the whole thing.

Fire Pit 03
Separating dirt from everything else
This is an interesting bird's eye view (or should I say Doc Leo's view from the upstairs) that really shows what a chore this was. 

You can see the weeds that I raked out, as well as all the rocks that had been buried.  Near the rake, you can see one of the big roots I haven't dug out yet.

This was a horrible job, I thought it would never end, especially when I had to keep stopping for the rain.  And the pressure I felt that it had to get finished!

Fire Pit 05
Isn't it beautiful and enticing?

But now, you tell me.  Does it end up looking civilized?  Does it seem like the job was worth it?  You can see how much smaller I made it, hopefully a more manageable size but big enough for a crowd hanging out around it. 

Fire Pit 06
All set for the marshmallows
I took all the ashes and dirt all mixed together from the inside and filled a lot of holes all over, including most of it under the clothesline.  I also scattered grass clippings all over the bare dirt so it didn't look so ugly.  I don't know how long it will take for any of the grass to fill in.  The rocks aren't buried very deeply, so I hope I don't find they've been kicked out of place next time I'm there.

Fire Pit 07
My new friend

During the week some new people came up that we didn't know, from Ukraine.  They did a whole lot of work.  The new wife doesn't speak much French yet and is very shy.  She's the same age I was when I came to France and didn't speak a word, so I took it upon myself to push her into being social and joining us when she just wanted to hide and work on cleaning a lot of walls. 

Somehow I really endeared myself to her; I think she's actually quite lonely and homesick.  But I can still remember how alienated I felt myself at that stage, and I think she felt a real sisterhood with me.  Which was nice after I came inside after raking ashes!

Kitchen 01
The original kitchen set-up
And now for the really big project which was the whole theme of this work week.  The camp had this ancient industrial stove thing (they call it a piano, I'm not too sure about that particular terminology) that had turned into a real horror.  As I stay as far away from kitchen duty as I do cleaning, I've had no experience with it.  But it apparently takes the oven about three hours just to heat up, some of the burners don't work, it's really contrary.  As it's finally being replaced, it had to be taken apart before it could come out.

Kitchen 02
Taking the stove apart
Kitchen 03
Really taking the stove apart
First, they had to dismantle as much of it as they could.  I was doing laundry and dismantling a fire pit myself, so I'm not sure what all the stages involved.

Kitchen 04
Seeing what all needs to be done
They found a scrap metal dealer who was only too happy to help rip this thing all apart, which probably was installed before some of the walls were built.

Kitchen 05
Really really taking the stove apart

As you can imagine, this was a really massive heavy duty messy noisy job!  Most of the bits and pieces had to be sawed apart.  I'm actually not too sure what all they had to do. 

You haven't seen Doc Leo in many (any?) previous photos because he was totally occupied with this job.

After they got the unit detached from the floor, they had to separate the stove part from the base, which actually was quite exciting to watch.

Kitchen 06
And the base is off!
Kitchen 07

For anybody who's ever demolished or moved old kitchen appliances or cabinets, you know how totally yucky everything is underneath.  This thing was no exception.

The scrap metal guy was really pleased with his haul, I think.

Kitchen 08
Your trash is my treasure
After they got the whole thing out of there, they had another big aspect of the job to do.  The camp has bought a whole brand new stove replacement, but it requires a totally different base size.  As the old one was up on a pedestal for some reason, it obviously had to come out.  That seemed to be harder work than taking out the stove itself.

Kitchen 09
Lean and mean
Kitchen 10
But the Doc can handle this toy!

When we took apart a lot of our own wall disaster, our friend brought over his two jackhammers.  One of them was really heavy duty.  He was gracious enough to let us borrow them for the camp, and they turned out to be real life savers.

The Doc said the pedestal must have been made out of pure cement, and everybody took turns trying to get it all out.

For those of you who know him personally, isn't it exciting to see Doc Leo be able to handle this monster machine after what he went through in 2007?  A real miracle, and I never cease to be thankful for medical advances.

Kitchen 11
Chipping away little by little
Kitchen 12
Double the fun

The scrap metal guy must have enjoyed our company, as he came back later, while others continued trying to break up this concrete base to make the floor as flat as possible.

Kitchen 13
A bit easier than a jackhammer
At the same time, other jobs were needed.  The Doc is a whiz with his screwdrivers, especially motorized ones, which he brought from home and got to enjoy playing with.  I don't know what other fun stuff he got to do!

Kitchen 14
Where there's a will, there's a way
Meanwhile, everybody still needed to eat despite the lack of a kitchen, so the cook made do with a temporary set-up in the dining room.

Kitchen 15
Final destruction

Then the really fun part began, making the floor whole again.  Obviously, they weren't going to be able to match the old tiles, so they didn't even try.  I told you about the Swedish couple who came down.  She did all kinds of odd jobs, but his main purpose was to refinish the floor, as he's a professional tile guy. 

I enjoyed watching him work, as we still have a few rooms of tiling to do ourselves at home, and it's still a learning experience.

Kitchen 16
Cleaning old tiles
First, he had to do the crummy part of cleaning everything up and preparing for the new part.

As they'd had to break up some of the old floor they needed to repair, the Doc helped him chisel off old mortar off the backs of some salvaged tiles.

Kitchen 17
Getting prepared
Kitchen 18
Getting started
After he built a new smooth base for the new tiles, he painted it with this waterproof stuff.  I'd never heard of that, but he always uses it for kitchen and bathrooms.  As we have a bathroom floor to lay ourselves, this was a very good thing to learn.

It was fun watching him actually lay the tiles, too.

Kitchen 19
The master at work
Kitchen 20
Voilà! It's finished on time!
Fortunately, the camp had an electric tile cutter, as he wouldn't have been able to bring one from home, although he did bring a few small tools he was used to.

Finally, it was all finished by the last day.  Doesn't it look really nice?  I could never have gotten it done that quickly!

So, in one week's time, they got out the big stove unit, broke up the floor, and re-laid a new one.  Redoing the floor took most of the time; the heavy work all got done during the whirlwind first day.  Meanwhile, we made some new friends with the Swedes (they, the cook, and we were the only ones there all six days), and we may possibly be planning a future trip to Sweden to visit them.  That's my kind of exciting!

After we left, the new stove unit got delivered and installed.  Oh, my, isn't it lovely?  I just almost could be enticed to venture into the kitchen and give it a try.  Too bad the floor it sits on is a bit patchwork, but is anybody going to notice?

Kitchen 21
From the left
Kitchen 22
From the right

Going Home
How to restructure a mountain

On our way home after such a productive week, we took a bit of a detour and took a whole different route home than we usually do.  There aren't too many alternative roads in these kinds of mountains, so it often takes a rather extreme detour to see something different. 

I thought you might enjoy this rather complicated route we eventually ended up taking down the mountain.

Traversing mountainous areas can be complex and frustrating, but they do have their appeal!


  1. 3 hours to heat the oven most definitely needs to be replaced, and oooooh, what a shiny and beautiful new stove they have! That thing looks massive.

    The firepit looks pretty small in the first photo, then looks enormous when you are working on it, then looks like you would expect any normal pit to look by the time you had it all finished. It does look quite nice, and I hope it stays that way while you are gone. You look so cute working on it, too! :)

  2. The new stove is supposed to handle 200 people. I don't know what the old one claimed. The camp can't handle that many, so they won't outgrow it!

    Yes, it was disappointing how little the fire pit looked, I was happy to get the overhead photo. Having an adult kid call the grandmother of her own grown kid "cute" was kind of a fun surprise.

  3. You guys do amazing work and it's so worthwhile! The new floor is awesome and the firepit is gorgeous. Can't believe all you do!


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