Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Well Run Dry

Both literally and figuratively for us last week.
Just a week after the plumbing and electricity were in perfect working order in our brand new kitchen and I had gotten used to not running down the hallway with a bucket of dirty dishes to be washed, I was watering my newly and somewhat pathetic, still more-dirt-than-plant kitchen garden, when l'eau just stopped coming out of the hose. "What the hell?," I pondered. Surely there must be a problem with the hose because as far as I understood it, we had unlimited and free well water (puit l'eau). As it ends up, I was correct about the free part, but having experienced one of the driest Spring on record (and incredibly nice weather), the water table was dangerously low for those of us who wished to take a shower or flush a toilet that day which included my mom and Gary, Caleigh and the sweet exchange student, Tessa, who had just recently arrived from Belgium. Hank and I? Nah, by this time in the project, he and I were used to holding off because really, what was the point when you're just going to get filthy again the next day?
So, we definitely had a petite problem and we proceeded to call and contact everyone we know. We started with our plumber extraordinaire, Mathieu, who came to our house within minutes while on his lunch break to assess the problem. "Not good," he says, but says he will come back after work to see what he can do. We phoned Patrick and I actually left him a message in French which I'm sure was pretty interesting. But he came of course, because he has continued to prove himself invaluable in situations like this. I emailed Isabelle who informed me that we were not the only ones affected because that this had been an unseasonably dry Spring. Of course she offered her assistance in phoning the people at SAUR (the city water people that we had actually been meaning to contact the closer we got to completing the rooms and eventual gites), so she did. Then there was M. Coussy, who responded to my email within the hour offering further suggestions and recommendations and he even went as far as to send a local man over in case we needed a temporary cistern filled with water.
So, other than the not-so-nice woman answering the phone at the SAUR water department, everyone literally stopped what they were doing to help us on Monday. Fortunately, when Mathieu returned that evening after work, he had another brilliant idea and was able to lower our pump in the well so right now, we have water. For how long, who knows. We cannot waste in on things like watering the garden though, so I've resorted to using recycled water from the shower runoff or dishwater just to keep my plants alive. Who would have ever imagined me showering with a bucket or siphoning excess water from my sink? Like the local farmers, I just hope it rains soon.
Figuratively, our non-existant "well" of a budget was also hit very hard this week in the form of our first reading and subsequent electric bill from EDF. Ouch! We knew it wouldn't be pretty with the inefficient heaters cranking in 2-3 rooms all winter long. I also knew that I often cheated by doing laundry during the day AND using our dryer (although, sparingly). $822.50 euros (or $1200 dollars) later, I have learned not to fool around with electricity in France. As I research all of the available plans and figure out which one will be better for us in the long run, I am now washing my clothes and dishes the french way by programming the machines to run in the middle of the night and drying clothes on the line during the day.
Then that pesky "Securite Sociale" health insurance issue came back to bite us in the form of a registered letter informing us that not only are they still demanding $2264 euros for "insuring" us from Jan-March, they now want an additional $122 in late fees. It's kind of strange because when we applied for coverage, we thought that was what we were doing - applying - and should we choose to accept their plan, we would pay the necessary premium. Had we had any idea that we were committing to any amount that they deemed appropriate and that they would charge us for 3 months automatically even though we were not technically covered for 2 of them. Fortunately, we do have an incredible financial advisor who will help us dispute the charges so at the very least, get them reduced.
We ended the week speaking with our financial advisors in LA who have continued offering their support and have invaluable in turning our retirement pittance into, well, a little bit larger pittance. We are making more progress in the house and completed the living room and Hank plans to tackle the upstairs bathrooms next week while I get going on our website and figure out the logistics of selling my mom's beautiful French linens at the local markets until we are up and running as a B&B

Living room

Hank and his cerise tree

Oh, and did I mention that one of Patrick's horses had a filly last week?