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  • Writer's pictureCatherine

One Year in France!

What started as an incredibly social month quickly turned antisocial and one that will no doubt change the world forever. It was also the one-year anniversary since we moved to France! We can't believe how quickly it's gone and to think that this time last year we were living in a Campervan, what a difference a year makes...

On the First of March, we had the whole band of friends around for a traditional English brunch to celebrate a year of us moving to France as well as a kind of house warming. It was quite a feat of preparation and rearranging to fit 11 adults and 10 kids into our little house on a rainy afternoon. But everything went great, everyone loved the food (and Mimosas) and by the end of the afternoon the sun had come out so we could all go for a walk and get some fresh air to digest a little. It was a really great day spent with friends and sharing our little piece of paradise with them, some for the first time.

The next weekend, Magali had been invited to a visit of a pig farm in the area and I got to tag along too but I really wish I hadn't. It was a proper industrialised farm where the pigs didn't go outside at all. We took our own boots, you know, because we were going to a farm but instead we were given protective clothing so we had to don gloves, shoe covers, overalls and a hairnet, not sure if it was to protect us or the pigs... When we were ready, they told us we couldn't take pictures in case animal rights groups used it against them, I prepared myself for what we were about to see as I knew it would be bad. They first took us to the rooms where the mothers had recently given birth to the piglets. The mothers were in metal frames so all they could do was stand up and lie down while the piglets could run around in a tiny pen around them. It wasn't much space when there were seventeen piglets. I was trying so hard to hold back the tears, humans are the most horrible and cruel animals. Not only are we destroying the natural planet that we all live on but we're taking away the way that animals behave naturally, all so we can turn a small profit while mass producing food. It's disgusting. They took us around the other areas and it was so depressing, the small windows that hardly provide any natural light, which when you look out, you can see the vast empty fields where the pigs were once and now are just used to grow the food they give them. After the tour, we got to ask some questions and chat about their work, ironically the farmer said she did it because she loves nature and being outside.

The next day we had another Sunday brunch, this time we went to Carl and Susan's place at Blue Pig Farm, where we spent the whole day chatting, eating and going to see the brand new little piglets that live outdoors with their mums in a natural way. The pigs had a different air about themselves to the day before and you could see in their eyes a different sentiment. Not that they actually know any different. Yes, these pigs are also being bred for food but it mimics closely what would naturally happen, especially in those first few weeks. They get to be outside and in the mud and actually have space to walk around. It made me so much happier and being able to hold the piglets, they're the cutest things.

As we mentioned last month, Magali is on her way to becoming a farmer and she had the opportunity to attend a course near Nantes that teaches about agri-hospitality, the mixture between farming and hosting guests which is just perfect for us. It's three full days spread out over three weeks and Magali went to the first one where she met interesting people and learnt a lot.

Magali was also working at the restaurant this month as despite the growing pandemic, the government still hadn't shut down those businesses yet. She was even working the evening when they finally decided to shut them from midnight. The next day though, they still went ahead with the elections and Magali was at the town hall to take in the votes.

The next day, she wasn't well, who knows if it was from the restaurant, the meetings, or the voting. On Tuesday she was a bit worse so I insisted she call the doctor who surprisingly said she should go in for an appointment, but alone. So I waited desperately at home, not knowing whether she would be coming back or not. But in no time, she was home without being tested and with a prescription for paracetamol. They didn't seem to think it was the virus or at least not bad enough to add to their figures. They said they would call her to check if her symptoms got worse, gave her a paper of what she should and shouldn't do, and that was it.

Then all of France went into lockdown.

Luckily, I already work remotely so nothing much changed. It's harder to focus knowing that the world is becoming different so you're constantly reading the news. It's also quite hard being in the countryside. It seems like it's the same as well, the farmer across from us is working his fields, we can go out and work the land too and Hubert is still working on his land although we're keeping our distance from each other, everything is like normal. We just don't leave. It seems like we're so far away from it all since we can't see for ourselves how different things are. We're so reliant on the news, friends and social media to learn about others and the situations they're facing. Even though Magali can't work, we're extremely lucky to be in the position we're in.

I have made one trip to the Market and Supermarket since the full lockdown and it was a very strange experience. The once packed market was rather empty, all the sellers had masks and gloves. The buyers stood very far apart in their queues, shouting their hellos and conversations to each other to make sure they kept their distance. There was one kid with her grandparents who said she hated this Coronavirus, it's no fun. I have to agree with her. The supermarket was more strange. Where you're spaced out at entry but the aisles are close together so if you happen to be in one with another person, you're automatically breaking the distance rule. I was running around trying to be as quick as possible and avoiding any aisle that had another person in it. I felt like Pac-Man trying to evade the ghosts while trying to make it to the bonus cherries. Once you get to the checkout, you're also breaking the distance, not from the staff who've set up a double-checkout so you can't get close to them, but from the other customers who just don't have the space to be two metres apart. I made it out in one piece, but who know if I'm really safe.

I actually became sick this week, no fever or temperature but just really tired and a really sore throat. It's just what Magali had so we assume she gave it to me and it wasn't my trip out that did it. And as my symptoms aren't bad enough to call a doctor, I'm just hoping I'll get better and not get any worse. It's very hard to keep your hopes up when you keep reading news stories about people on the mend then suddenly die, it makes the paranoia and anxiety very real, you're not sure if what you're feeling is all in your head or not. After spending the weekend in bed, I am improving so fingers-crossed I'm passed the worst of it.

Before my illness, we managed to get some work done, I've finally finished restoring the furniture for the dining room and it looks pretty great. I had to replace the back and bottom of it as it was completely rotten thanks to woodworm. For the back I used part of the old bedframe I had cut when renovating our bed and for the bottom some OSB that had come with the shower bottom. So everything was reused. We also cleaned all the windows in the living room along with the French doors and then I oiled them which we hadn't had a chance to do last year (before and after picture above). Magali has taken over one of the bedrooms to make  it into her greenhouse, with lots of little seedlings everywhere some of which we've repotted already. It's looking like spring everywhere with lots of flowers out, and Magali has take lots of dandelions to make capers, put in our salads as well as trying to make dandelion wine. That one takes a while so we'll let you know in a few months if it was successful or not. Like many others, we're also taking this quarantine time to practice baking in our new oven, we don't always have the best results and why we haven't shared many pictures of it (turns out it may not be the oven's fault...). It's also quite hard when you're having to ration eggs...then when you've used them all, trying new vegan recipes since you've also run out of butter and just 'popping out to the shop' doesn't exist anymore. But we're trying, I'm getting pretty good at plain scones. For extra inspiration, we received a lovely gift from Sarah and Caley, they sent us an Edmonds Cookery Book, any true New Zealander has one so I was super happy when I got it, just before they stopped delivering the post too!

We've also been working in the garden, getting the new potato butes ready,  weeding around the strawberries, working on the beds so we can start planting. We were given some raspberry cuttings as well as some vies so we planted those in a few places to see where works best. There's a new challenge for this year too, we've got some asparagus roots that we've planted. They're already two years old so that means we won't get a yield this year but we should from next year and for the following fifteen years so hopefully it works! We also finally finished the slate path around our plant filtration system. We'd bought some we found on Le Bon Coin from a lovely couple nearby. We also went to the dump for the first time. It's not like how I remember the dumps in New Zealand where you can go and pick stuff out if you want to, there was one container where you could though and we found a great Emile Henry dish and Qui Est-Ce?, the French version of Guess Who? which we're playing a lot of but we only play in French so I can practice since I can't go to my French lessons anymore. I'm also reading a graphic novel about Marie Curie out loud to Magali and I've spoken to Claude (my French teacher) on the phone in French and he said he understood everything! So definitely making progress.

Hopefully our news has manage to distract you for a little bit in these strange times. If you're feeling lonely or just want to talk, don't hesitate to get in contact with us. Take care and we hope to see you in person some time soon.

P.S. Last month we said we'd found bees in our hive but it turns out it was another colony that was removing all the honey from our hive, so even though we don't have our own bees, we were at least able to help another colony survive.


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