Saturday, 8 October 2011

A la campagne

I've always been a country girl at heart.

Apart from a brief spell in Birmingham while at university I have always lived on the edge of the countryside. As a young child growing up in Devon I wanted to run a bed and breakfast, mostly I think because I loved the little country cottages we would pass on our way to the sea. Even during our 40 years in Stoke we lived on the edge of the city and our last house, although basically suburban, was opposite a farm. I always said the best thing about Stoke ( in a nice way) was that it was easy to get out of and we could be in the peak district in 20 minutes. But until now it was always nearly, nearly but never the real thing.We have spent the last year in the heart of real farming countryside. Two of our neighbouring farmers raise cows and veal calves and one has sheep. All of them also grow feed crops and our garden is surrounded on two sides by a field used to grow barley.

I have loved watching and feeling part of the rythm of the farming year - from the changing fields to the changing produce in the market. We can walk from the door exploring the lanes, tracks and footpaths watching the changing seasons and the local wildlife - what a life, how lucky am I?

Recent weeks have been wet, in fact the longest spell of unpleasant weather we have had since our arrival, but I find myself unusually relaxed about the grey skies and muddy garden as the land gets the water it has so gravely lacked all year. The main lesson I learnt in my vegetable garden this year was WATER WATER WATER - take no notice of the weather forecast. If it says it will rain it probably wont and if it does it wont last long enough to do any good. So we have been out and bought the largest water tank we could and our next project is to fix more guttering to collect every precious drop of water that falls on the house. We do already have two large water butts but at the moment only the front of the house has gutters so that will be the first project of the New Year after our Christmas trip to England.

Christmas this year will be spent in the countryside too - in the heart of the Peak District where we have rented a house big enough for a family gathering - it should be fun, hopefully we will get some time in them there hills there may even be some snow - not too much I hope - we wouldn't like to have problems getting back to chez nous!

joyeux noël et bonne annee

Friday, 7 October 2011

worth the wait

We sat for an hour outside the office of the notaire - at first in a state of high excitement and anticipation which gradually turned to a sort of "well what happens now" feeling as we wondered exactly how long the notaire would wait and what happened next if the vendors didn't turn up at all! This was one year ago today - it all turned out OK in the end, the notaire started without them and eventually they arrived and we left the notaire clutching our keys.

We couldn't blame them really - selling their beloved Segala had happened rather more quickly than they had expected and they had had little time to get used to the idea of moving out after putting the house on the market expecting a long wait for a buyer. Then almost immediately along came us, money in the bank and nowhere to else to live. We had had problems with our own house sale ( and had lost the first house we had decided on - good thing too as it turned out as Segala was much the better choice for us.

So now Segala was ours but here followed another wait, two days this time, for our furniture which had been in storage for three months, to arrive and then the fun could really begin.

One year on and we feel as though we've been here much longer. There's been plenty of work, lots of changes and we have many plans to keep us going for some years yet.

I just love the garden and it now feels that we have really made our mark on what was here. A well stocked garden has certainly saved me a fortune but there is always scope for the determined gardener!

The biggest development of all of course has to be the pool - May to August was dominated by its installation. Months of mud and destruction, delays and frustration but eventually , two months behind schedule, it was finished. Thanks to the never ending indian summer we have enjoyed we have been able to get good use out of the pool this year and can look forward to the years to come. We are so glad to have the experience of swimming pool installation behind us and gradually the green is returning where all through the summer there has been a mud mountain. Dealing with the pool company was a nightmare and there were times it did not seem possible that we would have anything but a gert big hole throughout the winter but the finished pool is beautiful. It was definitely the right decision to get it done in the first year - message to anyone thinking about it- never underestimate the destruction of your garden which will be inevitable - at least it wasn't my creation in this case!

The family has grown too. The two of us moved in with two chickens and started to make friends with two farm kittens the previous owners had started feeding. One hitched a ride in a visitors car and disappeared, the other adopted us and moved in. We were too slow prevent her becoming pregnant and before long we had five cats. Although having such a houseful of cats was a bit of a worry it was an education watching Charbonne raise her kittens and we were sorry when she suddenly disappeared never to return ( and that after an expensive spaying operation too!). We managed to find a home for one of the kittens and now we have three lucky black cats which is manageable - one for each lap and a spare one on the sofa!

So that's it, one year gone already, its been worth waiting for!