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  • Writer's pictureCatherine

France in June

Another month of living in France has passed and once again, life is passing too quickly before our eyes. So much has happened in that time, it’s hard to remember it all, thank God for all the photos I take for reminders!

The house is really coming along, we’ve seen such a change this month. Firstly, all the new windows and doors were installed, they were a little late coming (over three weeks) and were delivered in stages but they’re looking great. They’re apparently the first wooden windows that the workers have installed this year, which is kind of crazy. They also took down our old shutters and removed the metal that holds them together so they can reuse them on the new shutters they’ll be making for us. The plumbers have been and we have all new copper pipes for the heating and water, we’ve reused what we could but a lot had to be replaced for more efficient water usage. We have all the pipes ready to go for our new heat pump to make heating more efficient as well as our new boiler. We also asked them to hook up our well water for the washing machine and douchette for the dry toilet so we can conserve our water usage. The plasterers have been coming for the last two weeks, and in that time they’ve installed the ceiling, all the insulation in the walls plus creating all the new internal walls so we actually have something that resembles a house! It’s changed so dramatically, it’s quite hard to believe. Jean-Guy and Dominique have again been working on the electrical cables, they’re now all in and we’ve installed all the boxes for the plugs and lights. It’s all getting very close now, it’s starting to make us stress about what we’ve forgotten, what we haven’t bought yet and what we still need to do ourselves.

We have done some renovation, we’ve sanded back the metal shutter holders on the house and painted them in black as well as the security poles for the window and bathroom windows and we’re pretty pleased with the result, they're all ready for when the woodworkers have finished building our new shutters. We’ve also managed to sand all the radiators except one so they’re all ready to be painted, unfortunately, we’re in a bit of a heatwave at the minute so we can’t paint at these temperatures, fingers-crossed for next week!

We’ve been doing a lot of gardening, mainly weeding and cutting back as we’ve seen a lot growth on a lot of the plants and we’re trying to get more light into the house. Catherine (Magali’s mum, not me, I don't talk about myself in the third person...) has been a big help and has really done a lot in the garden as well as walking around with us to help us identify the plants she knows and writing their names on slates so we don't forget. We reused what we cutback for a path to the bees as it was getting to be a bit of a treacherous walk and we used the hazelnut tree branches to add to our compost area fence.

We’ve made quite a few new beds in our main vegetable garden as well as sowing beans and making teepees for them to climb on (they’re super tall already!). And the most exciting news is that we’re seeing a lot of growth on the seeds and plants that we had already planted. We’re seeing carrots, fennel, beetroot and leeks all springing up and artichokes, tomatoes and sweet potatoes all doing well, plus our potato bute tests are going really well, with a clear winner of mulch, compost and grass clippings.

The weather has been so crazy, I mentioned the heatwave that we’re currently having but before that it’s been raining a lot plus there’s been loads of wind mixed with really sunny lovely days. There was one storm which took down three of our peach trees and the beautiful old oak in our neighbours field which I’ve taken pictures of many times as it’s such an amazing tree. It’s still laying there now and it’s heartbreaking to see it like that everyday.

We went to Chateau-Gontier to see Christophe as he helped us order a full beehive so I could transfer the bees from the ruchette (a small five frame hive used to catch swarms) to the full ten frame hive. He and Marion had helpfully made some videos of them doing the same thing so I could watch and carry out in practice myself. Once we picked up the hive from the shop, Christophe showed us and helped us to set it up, as well as adding the wax to the frames. Over the next few days, I painted the hive with Linseed oil to protect the wood and prepared mentally for the switchover. The big day arrived and I got the smoker going first as I was nervous that the smoke would be too hot and harm the bees, I suited up and then Magali and I took the hive and tools to where the ruchette is. Magali didn’t have a protective suit so she stayed back to make sure she wouldn’t be stung, while I carried out the swap. It was very nerve-racking and I felt quite inept at times as I wasn’t sure what to do. At one point, I asked Magali to call Christophe for pointers as I was so unsure. Luckily, it was an easy fix and after what seemed like six hours, I had managed to get all the frames and most of the bees into the new hive, unfortunately there were some casualties by my hand so I feel really awful about that. I’ve been checking them everyday and they seem to be happy in their new home.

Big news for the Tiny House part of our project, we went to visit the mayor of Segré en Anjou Bleu (our community) to ask for permission to install our Tiny House on Agricultural land (all of our land is in an agricultural zone which means we can’t build any housing, even if it’s on a trailer). Magali stated our case, along with presenting him with our project booklet in a very hurried meeting on his part, he seemed very keen to get us out as quickly as possible. He said he would look into it but we would have to still submit our declaration of works without his go-ahead so will most likely not be approved. We have a workaround so we’re still going to do it, it just means we’ll have to move the Tiny House every three months, rather than it staying in one position all the time so it will be more work on our part but we're still going to try and convince them to approve our declaration.

I’ve now started taking French lessons as a part of an association called Envol, we gather as a group to speak in French with two native French speakers who help us with pronunciation, finding our words and making correct sentences. The group are very nice, a mixture of people from all over the world, and Claude, our teacher, is very kind and patient. Magali has also been on a week long training course to help acclimatise her to French interviews and getting a job in France, at first she was very nervous about it but she’s really enjoyed her week.

This months fun events including Cousih-Lanta (mixture of Cousinade (a gathering of cousins) and Koh-Lanta (the French version of Survivor), the cousins from Magali’s mums side gathered together for a day of games and fun before the aunts and uncles joined for the evening, we were lucky to have super nice weather and the events were a lot of fun, Magali managed to get soaking wet and her team won so they will be organising next year’s event! We also went with Catherine to the open doors at La Ferme des Pâtis, an organic farm that grows wheat and then makes their own yummy pasta that we always get. It was a really interesting day where we learned about the other things they grow, the processes they have and how they then make the pasta.

It has been another super busy month and it’s hard to believe I’ve now been here three months, hopefully with the French lessons I’ll start to adapt more to life here and maybe one of these days, I’ll get a job but I’m finally starting to enjoy not working, I think the better weather is helping with that as I get to spend my days in the garden or renovating the house, it’s an enjoyable life. If only we didn’t need money to pay for it all…


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