Our home in Cognac has a shed which we use as a garage. It’s a spacious garage, really, but it means carrying the groceries across the yard to the kitchen. Not a horrible proposition, certainly, except when it rains or there are many wine bottles involved, or the old back is acting up – you get the idea. Luckily, we also have an attached barn just past the kitchen that actually has a garage door opening onto a street. Perfect, right? Well, it could be.
As one can see in the following two pictures the sales agent took for her file, there are positive and negative aspects to this potential garage.
The garage door was falling apart, but more importantly, it is too narrow for our car to fit through it. On the plus side, though, it’s right next to the kitchen/utility area.
We immediately started plotting to turn this barn into a practical, usable space by enlarging the door opening and installing a handy, motorized garage door, only to have our hopes squashed by local masons and general contractors.
There were two major issues. Firstly and most importantly, the city water intake pipe arises from the ground at the inside edge of the cut stone door frame, whereby “inside” means closest to the opening. The Water Provider would be very happy for us to undertake a modernization of the outdated setup by relocating the pipe itself and moving the counter outside for easy reading. At our cost, naturally. One of the contractors told us that the bill was around $5000 last time he had to do something similar on one of his jobs. A further potential problem is the fragility of those old rubble stone walls. Long story short, it would be prudent to install a new, full-length I-beam to assure the overall stability of the barn, and maybe some corner anchors. And would the roof make it through all those changes? Would we get city hall approval for the necessary building permit? Too many “Ifs”! Such a disappointment!
It was time to change track. If we can’t enlarge the door opening, could we possibly shrink the car? Barry began researching the availability and cost of gently used electric cars with promising results. The decrepit double door, though, still had to be replaced. The wood was crumbling and in order to open it, one needed two different keys to unlock it, plus two heavy iron bars had to be lifted off and five additional hooks had to be removed – all of which could only be done from the inside. Whoever installed that contraption must have been quite paranoid!
We proceeded to realize our new plans and first updated the electricity in the barn with two independent circuits for a motorized door and a charging station for a car. Then we had a new garage door installed and, just last week, we bought our low-mileage Citroën C-Zéro which fits perfectly fine through that darn narrow opening – as long as you flip in the rear view mirrors!
On Friday morning, our electricity provider sent over a technician to re-calibrate our counter for night and day electricity tariffs. We now pay a reduced charge for all electricity usage between 22 and 6 hrs. In November, Cognac residents are slated to receive a new generation of counters which will extend those night-time reduced charges throughout the weekend. Being a little greener will hopefully be reflected in our monthly expenses as well. At least, after I figure out how to program the washer and dish-washer for delayed starts!
On Friday night shortly after 22 hrs, I hooked up Zéro for her first “at home” charge. It’s always a bit iffy when you do something for the first time, isn’t it?
The charge went well, so I took Baby Z grocery shopping this morning after which we pulled into the garage backward. So much easier to pull back out, not to mention to unload the shopping 😊