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  • Writer's pictureCatherine

A Magnificent August

After a wonderful holiday in Scotland with Magali and her niece Lallie, we returned to France on Sunday morning to celebrate Aurore's (Magali's sister) birthday. We had gotten up very early to take the plane so we were all quite tired but it was apparently going to be a big family party so we needed to forget our fatigue and prepare for a long afternoon of sun, food, wine and good times.

The weather was lovely and the food was delicious, Catherine had made our favourite courgette dish with duck and for dessert was the traditional and delicious pâtés aux prunes, Magali's favourite. We played in the pool with the cousins and everyone played mölkky, it was a lovely day and it was so great to see everyone, we even managed to stay awake until late, success!

On Monday, it was our last day with Aurore, Mickaël and the girls. It was another hot day and luckily, we had the chance to go to the house of Mickaël's sister who has an amazing pool that has a cover to alleviate the wind and make it super hot. We all played games of water polo and relays on the body board as well as the obligatory piggy in the middle. It was such a great way to spend the afternoon as well as exhausting!

Tuesday had arrived and it was already time to say goodbye to Aurore, Mickaël and the girls who had to return to the other side of France. It was sad to say goodbye after such a short time and our long trip with Lallie.

A bit later, we left with Jean-Guy and Catherine to go to Le Boulay to get down to work. Our objective for the day was to remove all the skirting boards and tiles around the walls as well as packing the rest of the boxes to continue our mission to empty the house. Jean-Guy also started putting in some electrical plugs to help the workers when they started and what he needs to install for all the electrical work he'll be doing for us. We finished the tiles much quicker than we thought and moved onto the wooden skirting boards. Magali and I were removing them and passing them outside to Jean-Guy to remove the nails so we could reuse the wood later. Whilst doing one, Magali stood up without looking and hit her head on the open window, the sound resonated around the room and you could tell it hurt a lot. She got some ice from Hubert's and sat down for a while to help the pain recede but it still didn't go away fully for the rest of the day.

It was Wednesday, which meant we could finally get some chichis from the market! They're sort of like churros but fatter and they're super yum and the best thing about Wednesdays in Châteaubriant! We left with Jean-Guy and Catherine to go to Magali's aunt and uncle's house for lunch and for me to go with Christoph to collect some honey! We had a yummy lunch on the terrace before Magali, Jean-Guy, Christoph and myself headed the short drive to Christoph's hives. After my volunteering at the Bee Collective, I knew how to remove the caps and spin to get the honey, but I'd never gone to the hive to remove the frames. I was nervous but excited as I donned the suit top, I didn't have the trousers so my jeans would have to do. We made our way to the hive with Magali and Jean-Guy watching from afar as they didn't have any protection. Christoph explained as he smoked the hive a little and removed the top so we could see the frames. We took out them one by one, brushing off the bees lightly with a brush. The bees started to become quite aggressive, with one stinging my thigh through my jeans. I felt so bad that he'd given his life for his honey that I was taking. I went back to watch some more but I found I had bees inside my suit! So I calmly (on the exterior) made my way away from the hive and took off my suit to get the bees out. I managed, but there was one bee stuck in my hair which Jean-Guy had to help me remove. Magali also had one stuck in her hair and she had got stung on her eyelid! We all hid the car for a few moments while they calmed down and Christoph came back to the car. We put the frames in the van and I rode with Christoph back to the house where we started the extraction. It was great to extract honey again, it's so peaceful and so rewarding, the honey was delicious and Christoph gave us our own pot to take home.

After we'd cleaned up, we went back to the terrace to finish the evening with a good meal and a game of wisk (a very stressful card game). It had been a really lovely day, I was so happy despite the growing pain and heat in my thigh.

The next day, we returned to the house with Jean-Guy and Catherine stopping to get some pain relief for my sting, which had largely inflamed and the heat it was giving off was slightly concerning...While Jean-Guy did some DIY around the house, like removing the sink from the bedroom (don't ask), Catherine, Magali and I went through all the papers and things from Grandma's desk, making sure to try and keep anything important, still useful or amazing knick-knacks that could be found in a museum.

In the afternoon, we started removing all the weeds and cutting the large plants around the house to make it easier to access for the workers. Jean-Guy mowed the lawn and then got the big tractor out to remove the very heavy things, like a slate bench, concrete poles and the big metal planters as well as a huge tyre growing some plants. We will of course keep them to reuse as much as possible, especially the tyre as we've seen some really interesting uses for them on upcycling sites.

To finish our day of work, we cleaned the bikes (again) to remove all the spider webs that were everywhere, an impossible task really but we did our best. In the late afternoon, we had a meeting with the bank to change the house from a secondary home to a primary on the insurance in preparation for the works, very exciting, I know!

Friday was wood day. Jean-Guy used his chainsaw to cut some of the dead trees around the property as well as a hazelnut so we utilise the wood for both construction and future firewood. It was a lot of work and took a long time so it was hard to press on but we managed to finish eventually. We used all the excess leaves, wood and lawn clippings from the day before to cover nettle and other weeds to reduce their growth as well as increasing the fertility of the soil for future planting. Fingers crossed it would work as we hoped.

Françoise and Katy arrived to see what we were working on, along with bringing another pâté aux prunes to share. And we arranged to go see them again the next day at their house as Carole and Maxence were arriving to start their holiday.

In the morning, Magali made her amazing basil pesto from the basil she had started to grow there over the summer, there was so much already, it was amazing. She made quite a lot so we could take some to Françoise where we also had more cakes!

In the afternoon, Magali and I went back to the house to finish packing the boxes and cleaning the hangar like we do everytime. Jean-Guy and Catherine couldn't join us as Jean-Guy's sister, Marie France, and her husband, Daniel, had been in Sicily for their holidays and the apartment they were staying in had a gas explosion and Daniel had been injured quite badly. Unfortunately, we couldn't join them to see them as we had to finish the last of our work before heading back the next day. It brought home that these things can happen to anyone at anytime, it can be so random and just if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The next day arrived and it was already time to leave. The week had felt long but also passed super quick. We had managed to do a lot at the house as well as swim in the pool a lot and relaxing a bit so it was definitely a great holiday. We're so grateful for all the help we're given, especially from Jean-Guy and Catherine who are always helping us at the house as well as feeding us for the holidays! Merci beaucoup pour tout!

It's only a couple of weeks before we return again for our first appointment about a Tiny House and meeting with our architect, Marc, can't wait!


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