I still feel exhilarated every time I wake here in France. In fact I have to pinch myself sometimes. The morning light is amazing and filters softly through our trees creating long shadows across the lawns. The air is slightly damp as we live on top of a plateau that drops away South to the spa town of Evaux-les-Bains, the Parc Natural de Millevaches en Limousin and beyond that the volcanoes of the Avergne where Evian and Volvic draw their famous mineral waters and Roche and Avene use them for cosmetics. Mornings are chill and a little damp but by midday the heat is rising and it’s time for sunhats and shade.
We are rural by French standards of rural, an area of pastureland and beef cattle; but it provides us with the opportunity to have a slice of country life and wake up to these magnificent trees. The property here is affordable, ancient farm cottages and cow barns crumbling into disrepair now the young want the city life. Their loss is our gain. A million pound barn conversion back in Sussex will set you back only £200k here. The little cottage a snip at €45k with relatively little work to do. And land is literally thrown into the deal. Our farmhouse came with two hectares and I still cannot comprehend it is like owning the whole of my mother’s road back in Woodford! Standing knee high in long grass with the crickets chirping and the mighty oaks surrounding me, it’s certainly my heaven on earth.
We are letting many of the sapling oaks grow and have instructed the local council to stop trimming our hedges as the process of cutting means young trees never reach maturity. In just one year the ash, hazel, and willow are recovering well and we will be planting fir and birches next year to shade the two fields a little as temperatures soar to over 40 degrees in summer. One field we use for our poultry, the second is being left wild for butterflies and insects and our veggie garden and the shade enables more diverse wild flowers and grasses to take over the pasture. No longer grazed by cattle, the nitrogen levels can be reduced in the ground too, no more grass fertilizer either and the meadow will slowly recover.
I will be writing a lot of posts soon on creating a meadow, composting, managing poultry and tree pruning; along with updates on property renovations and interior design. But for now the sun is up, it’s time for breakfast and a day in the garden making it ready for its winter slumber. There’s still long grass to shear round the trees, compost to turn, old dead branches to trim now the leaves are turning and one last grass cut. My pink sun hat is on, cotton shorts too and my nobbly knees are out to scare everyone!