Yesterday, except for the bit where I lost my bank card and DS screamed the whole time that I was on the phone to the bank, I think we had the perfect day. The sun shone, we met some friends, we played in the woods. All Day Long.
Some friends are organising regular get togethers, just a day every week when like-minds meet up in a local park. The kids can play in the woods, the stream or on the swings, we can chat as well as join in with the little ones, we build a fire and cook together. Yesterday P kept the two eldest girls busy by mixing ash from the fire with water to make a black paste. They painted every bare inch of themselves, spread a lot of it on their clothes and faces, and had a great time. The younger ones tended to muddle around, exploring cautiously either with a parent in hand orbiting us close by. The sun shone, we found a leech in the stream (not a snake, sadly, but not an earthworm, much to P’s relief!), contributed sticks to the shelter that S has started to construct, and had fun defending their space which, according to DD, was a wild panthers’ den for most of the time.
Five hours of play later we were on our way home with smiles on our faces, the smell of woodsmoke in our clothes and two very tired children. Days like this are why we’re here, why we uprooted our family and moved to this back-end-of-nowhere part of France hoping to find a house or piece of land to call home and also find a way to live day-to-day, as financially free as possible. We’re not getting so far with the house/land but we do have a place that feels like home and the money side of things is work in progress. Yes, there are definitely challenges: the language being the main one. It’s too quiet for some with a slow pace of life but we’re getting the hang of it and we really feel the difference during the times we’re back in the UK; too busy, too many people, not enough mental or physical space. Days spent mucking about in the woods are normal here. There may come a time when we all need more than that but for now it’s perfect and I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.
The only downer is that we were all so busy enjoying ourselves, there aren’t any pics to share. Next time. Because I really think every blog post needs a picture, here’s one from walk we did the other day: DD and James walked and talked while DS and me followed along behind saying, “choo choo!” Happy days.
It’s a long weekend here in France, as with much of Europe (I think), made longer for the us by the fact that DD came back from school on Friday with suspected conjunctivitis (joy of joys) so we’ve been busying ourselves in the garden. Today we worked on our new compositing solution, which I plan to blog about once we’ve finished setting it up, and also caught up with our lovely neighbours Patrick and Claudine, who took us around their veggie patch and orchard and gave us some of the many lettuces they’ve started in their cold frame, as they’re now ready to plant out and they have loads of them. These are the sucrine variety, or Little Gem en anglais, apparently native to this part of the world and a really good grower in this climate.
They have a wonderful garden which they work hard at maintaining. They know what they’re doing and have been giving us some good advice with our little patch, which is more than welcome. While we’ve gardened before and grown veg the climate is very different. They’re keen for us to succeed, which is lovely, and happy to also share their produce as well as their knowledge! Rhubarb is one of my favourite fruits (edible plants, actually) so when Claudine showed me their well-established patch I was more than happy to take up her offer of a large bunch to take home.
Claudine and I were also able to clear up the main difference between jam and compote, so now I know (it’s do with the amount of sugar used and the length of time you plan to store it.) Her recommendation for rhubarb was very definitely rhubarb tart.
Now to find some sugar-free rhubarb recipes, which will be new territory as my preferred dishes are usually fairly sugar-dense, like stewed rhubarb crumble and custard. Can I find a passable rhubarb tart recipe that will be up to Claudine’s standards, I wonder?
One of the things I’m enjoying most about being here is making new friends and having to be open to those around me – particularly given the language and, to some extent, the cultural differences – in order for that to happen so feel extremely lucky that we were welcomed unreservedly into this small community from the moment we arrived. Now, just two months later, our children are in and out of one anothers houses and we adults have shared food, our homes, exchanged ideas, recipes, parenting advice (naturally!). As incomers, we’ve been invited to parties, events, even a wedding! I can’t imagine having packed this much in to such a small time had we relocated within the UK but I think much of this comes down to the fact that we’re in a small hameau where everyone knows and helps everyone and their lives are already very intertwined. Plus, with so much of life taking place outdoors and so many children keen to play with an interact with other children, it naturally follows that out lives are more public and less isolated. It’s really lovely.
Even if we end up moving to another area or hameau, I have no doubt that we will remain in close contact with the people here and we will remain connected for a long time. Our children are happy together and that makes us happy together. As luck would have it we also have commonalities that go beyond our children. James is rediscovering his love of music and now goes to “guitar club” once a week as well as getting together with the other resident musicians for a jam night every now and again. For my part I’m supporting B in organising a regular sling meet style event, something she’s wanted to do for a while but hasn’t had the energy to do by herself and something I wanted to do but didn’t feel I could unless I had better French and knowledge of the people and the area. I’ve also taken DD to the local forest school (école de la forêt), which is organised by V, who lives in a hameau a bit further along the valley. DD loves it. I love all the cooperation and the sense of community and look forward to being able to give something back once we have more space and are more settled. Even with my limited French language skills I’m able to participate and getting involved in helps me to put down roots and create some stability for DD and DS – a foundation for our new life. I’m so pleased we came here, to this exact place, however temporary it turns out to be.
a blog about family life in France, discovering a new place, new people, and learning a language