Sometimes, French sayings don't translate
"Spring has sprung and the grass is riz, I wonder where the birdie is" is one of my mum's favourite sayings at this time of year and it's very apt as spring has definitely sprung. It's been two months since we last posted and a lot has been happening. The lockdown in France was still very much in place until two weeks ago, so with no social engagements we had a lot of time to bake and cook as well as working on a few projects, like our rainwater collection 'pond'.
In early April, we started working on one of Magali's ideas she's had for a while: redesigning our front garden so we can capture the rainwater from the downpipe (which was just going into the ground and into the ditch). We had a few rules to our design though. We wanted to make it out of things we already had, we wanted it to look pretty since it would be one of the first things that visitors see when they arrive, and we didn't want it to be too much work. Simple, huh?! Luckily, we had to hand a kind of bath tub (one of two we have actually) so we had something to use for catching the water, so the first step was to remove some of the plants that were in the front garden to make way for the bath tub. We kept all the plants that we knew we didn't have anywhere else and got to digging a hole. It was a little tricky thanks to the concrete foundation of the house as well as another concrete pipe on the other side so we didn't have much choice on where the bath tub would actually go, it had to be in between the concrete! We managed to make it down close enough to the level we wanted it, put the tub in the hole and started filling it in. The next bit though would be a bit trickier, how to get the water from the downpipe to the tub? Ideally, we wanted to create a manual switch so you could choose where the water was directed, but I wasn't confident enough in my metal cutting skills to undertake that task, so we went for a more simple option: using an old PVC pipe and just cutting a hole in the downpipe. Then, we needed to find a way to make sure we caught all the water falling, I was trying to use an old plastic bottle as a sort of funnel, but it was hard to fit it in the small hole. But then Hubert (Magali's uncle and our neighbour) had the great idea of using an old inner tube, so I fashioned it into a shape and attached it to the pipe. It's not 100% perfect, but we're definitely catching the majority of the water. While I was doing that, Magali was replanting the plants we wanted to keep in the garden, plus also bringing some of the aquatic plants that were overgrowing a little in our natural water filtration system. She also organised rocks around it plus we used broken terracotta pots that we'd been finding over the property for the last five years. We're really happy with the results so far, but there's still some work to do.
While we were picking up some of the rocks to make the stairs, we had a run in with a snake! Ok, I might be blowing it out of proportion but it was a snake! I had picked up a big rock that we wanted to use and it was just sleeping under it. Once I removed the rock (aka dropping it on the floor and yelling 'snake!'), it slowly moved under another rock. I would've taken a picture to share but I was busy watching it to make sure it wasn't going to attack as well as trying to memorise what it looked like (who knows why?!). I had been thinking about it before so was being a bit careful moving the rocks but it's still scary when it happens, I'm just not good with them. In other snake news, Spliffou caught a snake a few days earlier as well! Well, it's technically called a 'Slow Worm' but in my eyes it's a snake. There's been lots of other animal sightings with a lovely salamander in the nettle, many lizards basking in the sun on the house, the squirrels are eating our cherries and so many birds we can't name them all! Plus, there's been deer in the orchard at the back of the property and we had a visit from a wild boar! That one we didn't see but there was definitely the evidence of his visit in the Pond garden.
Magali continued to grow her seedlings in the house in the early spring. When she separated some of the tomatoes we had over 50 plants! It's really great, but they were taking up quite a bit of space. She finished preparing all the beds and has been sowing in the garden with some success. It was raining quite a bit in early May so we lost quite a lot of sunflowers and corn to the slugs but Magali is sowing more so there's enough for all of us. Now the weather is amazing and sunny, she's planting all the seedlings in the garden and I'm getting my dining room back!
All the flowers were coming out too, it looks lovely around the place. Everywhere you look there's more and more colours. It makes me so happy with all the bees buzzing about and being able to smell all the lovely scents. The solitary bees have taken to making their nests in our windows though, where the water is supposed to come out. They've covered up most of them now even though I've also put out makeshift bee hotels for them, which they are using so at least it's giving our windows a little chance to stay unblocked.
We've been harvesting Lilac flowers to make Lilac jelly for the first time, it takes a lot of prep work taking all the flowers out but it's pretty tasty. We also harvested some Elderflowers to make syrup, which was again a lot of prep work but it's pretty delicious. I even tried making Elderflower Champagne. It's pretty explosive so I lost half a bottle when I was 'burping' it on the first day but we still have another bottle that we were able to try and it's really yummy! I'm super proud, next year I'll have to make more though as it doesn't last long! We've had loads of strawberries (even more now thanks to Carl and Susan), we're harvesting (and enjoying) some everyday, plus Catherine (Magali's mum) showed us how to make her infamous coulis recipe so we've got some in freezer ready to enjoy. We've also had loads of cherries. I tried making cherry jam and Magali (and her mum) made a clafoutis (a cherry cake thing) which was super yum so on my next harvest I had a go at making one too. Magali has also been utilising the mint that Carl and Susan (again) gave us earlier in the year that's growing great guns in some yummy cocktails.
With not being able to go out much in April and early May, we were baking and cooking more than ever. I tried my hand at a Lemon Tart (once with meringue on top) and cookies, while Magali's been making savoury tarts, burgers, bread, pizza, biscuits and much more! Plus we had our first BBQ of the year!
So then the really big news is that our lockdown has been relaxed so we can see other people! We've been to see Carl and Susan so they could give us the strawberry plants I mentioned earlier (it was quite a lot), plus leeks, tomatillos, and tomatoes in exchange for some sweet potatoes. Magali and Susan also had a huge seed swap, they were sitting on the floor of the living room going through all the seeds like they were trading cards! It was great to see them again and we had a lovely evening together. Magali's parents also came to see us, they wanted to clean their campervan that we'd been using during the renovation so they could take it back to their place. It was so nice to see them too, it almost feels back to normal. It's also super strange to see the hangar without the campervan now, it opens up so much space. We've seen some more of the family and I can see how happy it makes Magali, it's been really hard for her being so close to them now but not being able to see them. So it was even nicer that her parents came this weekend too for three days (they slept in the campervan) and helped us a lot, as well as enjoying playing games, eating, and seeing more of the family. We also tried the dandelion wine we made a few months ago! It's definitely not wine and it definitely has a high alcohol percentage but I really like it. Another new thing we tried was routi, a red wine soup that's traditionally eaten after making hay. We had helped Hubert make the hay and he was surprised that I'd never tried it so we were immediately invited. It's cold red wine with sugar that has bread soaked in it that's you have to cool down after the hot work. It was an experience to say the least, it would've been nicer without the bread but then that's just wine isn't it?!
I've been working on more furniture restorations, this time for a table/cabinet for the living room. I sanded it right back and replaced a marble square on the top with a graphite coloured painted top. I had to put in a new bottom as well since it was a bit damaged from all the time in the garage which I also painted graphite, it looks pretty cool I think.
I also got to work on a bedside table. It originally had a marble top too (there was obviously a trend at the time) so I replaced that as well as the bottom which had been eat a bit. I made the feet a little more to our taste and after some heavy duty sanding and hole filling, I painted/oiled it. I really love doing all this furniture restoration. It relaxes me and I feel so proud of my work, which I then get to show off to everyone that comes to visit (which isn't that many people at the moment).
I'm so thankful for these blogs as it's such a great way for taking the time to look back and reflect on just how much we do. We never really take the time to enjoy our accomplishments, it's always straight onto the next thing since there's always so much to do. It's so great to be able to relish in our accomplishments and we hope you enjoy reading about them as much as we love telling you about them.
We're currently working on our website and updating the design to include the reservations for our Tiny House so watch out for the new look in the coming weeks. We've also just had some amazing news, Baluchon, the makers of our Tiny House, have started working on it and they've sent us some photos! We'll be going to see it for ourselves soon and we'll share some pics with you shortly!