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  • Writer's pictureCatherine

Making a House a Home

We’re a bit late with this month’s update, mainly as I was waiting to have the good news of telling you all that I have a job! It's been an extremely hard month as a lot of it has been waiting to hear back about whether I got the job or not which has been very stressful and emotional. But I'm happy to say that I was eventually successful in getting the role as a Technical Writer at Frontastic! It's remote working and it's everything I was hoping for so I'm extremely lucky and can't wait to start on the 16th of December! It's going to be very strange working again, especially after eight months of not having a job, so I'm slightly worried (as we all are when we start a new job) but eager to get back into the routine as well as making a difference to the business.

We had a short trip to London to have a break from all the works and catch up with friends. It was nice to get away for a little bit but it was strange to be back in London, it was so familiar yet not since we couldn’t go back to the old flat. It was great seeing everybody we could and making the most out of things we can't get in France, like bars being open, proper burgers, brunch and bringing back Fever Tree Tonic Water along with Half Hitch Gin! Thanks to Ferenc, we got to go to the Sky Garden for the first time where we had yummy cocktails while enjoying the amazing view of London and had a great time catching up with him. Thanks also to Sarah, Caley and Paul for letting us stay with them (and help with their jigsaw!). It was weird to be back in London as it still felt like home but that may just be because it had been for the last decade but as soon as we arrived back to our home at Le Boulay, it felt like I was home too, I guess that shows that I'm really starting to feel like we are in the right place for this time of our lives.

When we returned home, we were greeted with some bad news though. I went to check the bees and found Asian Hornets were entering the hive which they're not supposed to do with the entrance minimiser or if the bee colony is strong. So I donned my protection and opened the hive but there were no bees. I went through frame by frame and when I looked at the bottom of the hive, I could see the dead bodies of bees that had been ripped apart, which is the way that Asian Hornets usually attack bees. I did get to one frame and found the last of the colony surrounding the queen but they were all immobile, the cold had probably got to them since there weren't enough of them to keep the hive warm or the venom of the Asian Hornets had killed them. It was so heartbreaking to see and I feel like I've really let them down. I had checked the hive before we left for London and they were all active and there were a lot of them, so it seems an attack of Asian Hornets can wipe out a hive in five days, a stark warning for other beekeepers, especially at this time of year when the hornets are supposed to have died already for the season. They also didn't seem to like my traps in November compared to the warmer months so I may need to change the bait as it gets colder. I'm hoping to get another bee colony next year and will take my learnings from this disastrous first year as a beekeeper and will try to be a better one next season.

Back to some more positive news, we’ve started properly unpacking and putting up decorations, including the gift I was given as a leaving present from the team at NOW TV, an old framed poster from the London Underground for Hampstead Heath to remind me of my favourite place in London. It’s starting to really look like our home now it has our things in it and it’s a wonderful feeling.

We’ve painted and reinstalled the old skirting boards in two of the bedrooms and the hallway with the help of Jean-Guy and Catherine (Magali's parents). There were previously only wooden ones in the old bedrooms so we didn’t have enough for the whole house so we have bought some cork which we’ve been cutting, painting and installing in the other rooms, we’re pretty pleased with the result and we've finished every room except for one bedroom which means we're pretty much done with the renovation! We just have the kitchen to finish but that won't be until next year now. We also got all the old shutter bars back from the woodworkers so I could paint them, ready for them to be reused when they create our new shutters.

We had another trip to Angers to buy more supplies for the house, this time mainly supports for shelving, as well as picking up some lights we were buying on Le Bon Coin, France’s version of Gumtree (we almost have all the lights now, just a few more to find!). We’ve starting installing the shelves, the first one in the toilet using a shelf we brought from London (Magali had taken it from her old work at Le Pain Quotidien when they were renovating and were going to throw it out) and it looks great, just having the ability to add a little colour really makes the room, even if it is just the toilet! We've also added one to the bathroom above the washing machine so we can use the space more practically.

The workers came to install the steel and glass partition (in France it's known as a verriere) between the kitchen and dining room this week, it's so we can close off the kitchen when we want to and we decided to have it in glass so we don’t lose the light from the rooms. It looks really amazing and we’re so happy that we got it. A few days before the installation, we had the panic that it was the wrong decision but there was no turning back at that stage, luckily, it was definitely the right thing to do. It's taking some getting used to as we're in the habit of it not being there, Magali even forgot it was there on the first night when she left the living room and it scared her when she saw it! The workers also installed a metal frame and glass in the bathroom to protect the small wall between the shower and bath. We can now have a shower standing up without worrying about ruining all our good work!

Magali and I were invited to apero to the house of one of the students in my French class, Niels, along with all the people in my French class. It was a lovely evening seeing everyone out of the classroom and it was great for Magali to meet all the people I chat about when I come home from class. We also went to visit Blue Pig Farm, an organic pig farm nearby which is owned by an Englishman, Carl. He and his American partner had gone to Magali’s work for lunch where she started chatting to them due to their English accents and it turned out that they knew me through Niels! It’s great living in a small area! They invited us to visit the farm one Sunday where they showed us their ongoing renovation of the farm house (which seems like a lot of work), their permaculture garden (where they implement a test and learn strategy like us) and their lovely pigs (from the older mothers to the cute little piglets which they all raise outdoors on their amazing property). It was really interesting learning about how they came to use their current methods and how they're adapting and learning as they go. They're really like-minded so it's wonderful to share ideas and learnings as well as giving us some seeds and strawberry plants. They're super lovely and we look forward to seeing them again soon.

As always, we've been working in the garden, this time relocating trees and cutting back all the peach trees as it's the only time we could do it before we have to cut back the pear and apple trees. It's quite dirty work digging holes in the rain but it's much easier when the soil is softer than it is in the Summer!

We’ll be putting up the Christmas decorations this week since we’re now in December and it’s less than two weeks before my mum arrives for the Christmas holidays! We’ve got lots to do before then, including sanding the dining room table and oiling it so we have somewhere to have our Christmas festivities when she arrives.

It's been a pretty tough month with all the stress of waiting for the news of the job, the bees dying and our Kickstarter project failing to get enough backing, we've been pretty up and down all month. We won't despair though, we will still be getting the Tiny House next year and will make another crowd funding project closer to the Summer. We will also get another colony of bees in the Spring so we will take the hardships of this month and make them learnings so we can only improve in the future. Having the positive news of getting a job has also helped our mindset as well as any worries about money, which is always helpful!

Thanks for all your support and kind words. You're welcome to come visit us at Le Boulay any time!


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