Posts Tagged ‘rural France’

This is probably the coldest winter I’ve ever had to deal with and right now I’m trying to deal with it with a boiler that keeps turning itself off and barely any wood. This country living lark is certainly an eye opener and there are A LOT of things that I will be doing differently next year! I’m welcome to any tips also!

I know some of you readers live in places where it gets really cold so you may read this and think “whatever!”, but for me -2 is cold, so -11 to -20 degrees Celsius is simply unimaginable (actually it’s not, I’ve been this cold before on a chair lift whilst skiing and I cried and ran off to the nearest bar).

Pretty, but there's no way I'm going out there

Running this house is worse than running a business. There’s always so much to keep on top of and our “to do” list seems to be getting longer by the day. We used to live in a house in Lyon but it was connected to the mains gas system so heating was never an issue as nothing could ever run out!

I recently spoke about my woes with our wood burning stove, well, no sooner had I got the hang of it we woke up one morning last week and realized that we had run out of oil! Suddenly, mastering the stove was no longer an option, I had to keep it going otherwise we’d all be mighty cold!

Thankfully I was able to order in some more oil which was delivered the very next day so only had to slum it for 1 and half days. Unfortunately though, the boiler needed some attention and the oil guy was luckily able to recommend someone to me! Convenient that!

Just as I was congratulating myself and saying how lucky we were that it happened last week, our log delivery was delayed by another week and guess what? We’re running low on logs! We used so many whilst we didn’t have any heating that our supply dwindled VERY quickly.

Real feel temps -16 to -20 degrees!

So fast forward to today… almost -12 degrees Celsius by the back window at just 0850 in the morning. The boiler has decided not to work as it’s too cold so we’re back to square one. No heating, nearly no wood left and no way to keep warm other than reversible air con in our bedroom and a small radiator in Baby Piglet’s bedroom.

Right now I’m trying to decide what to do, I’m tempted to lock up the house and leave as I haven’t been out for a week due to the snow and my lack of suitable snow equipment for the car. Right now I am getting cabin fever and feel as if I may explode. I suppose that would keep the house warm wouldn’t it?

The walnut tree

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So just what does happen to a city Piglet when she’s in the country? Not turning into food, that’s for sure!

Apart from the obvious fact that Baby Piglet has been growing up and been taking up a lot of my free time and that I have returned to work, which takes up all of my day time and most of my energy, we have been slowly adapting to country life.

First of all, the creepy crawlies and all things icky.

I can’t think of one fun “countryside” activity I have partaken in that hasn’t ended up in me running away, hiding from or being bitten by an insect. They seem to be everywhere. I didn’t know I’d have room mates here and whilst I’m trying to adapt and get used to them sometimes it’s just too much.

Spidered In

The Spider

The morning I got up early and decided to make a hearty breakfast, Baby Piglet and I ended up camped out in the kitchen, hiding away from the biggest, scariest spider I’d ever seen. It was seriously huge and I didn’t even need to zoom in on it to take a picture with my phone.

The spider was hanging out at the bottom of the stairs and there was no way I could get back upstairs without going passed it. And do you know how it feels to have a spider looking at you? There was no way I could put Baby Piglet back to bed or wake up Mr Piglet to get him to rescue me.

A route around the kitchen proved useless, I had no spider killer stuff, just pots and pans and a pair of Mr Piglet’s shoes. With some courage from Twitter tweeps and a desperate desire to escape the kitchen

Eventually I plucked up enough courage to hit it really hard with a shoe. A huge wack and it was gone… now was not a time to gently try and get the spider to go outside. Phew!

Punished by a wasp
What’s the best way to be put off eating sugary things or going on fridge raids? Wasps! I tell you, they are the best repellent possible. Last week I helped my self to a mid afternoon snack of apple crumble and on my way to clear the dish away I inadvertently squashed a wasp in my hand whilst picking the dish up. The pain! It took two days for the pain from the sting to go away. Not something I will be repeating in a hurry.

Watch those sleeves!
You would think picking up walnuts from the ground is a fairly harmless activity, right? I mean, what is the worst that could happen? A walnut could drop off the tree in hit you on the head? It wouldn’t exactly make you unconscious now would it? Wrong! Well, not about the walnut falling off the tree, I wouldn’t know about that (and I’m certainly not volunteering to test it).

After a great session and a cardboard box full of nuts, my arm starting itching. Really itching. A look at my arm showed the end of a creepy, hairy (not in the cuddly toy sense) caterpillar sticking out of my sleeve. Urk! I literally ripped off my clothes to get rid of the hairy thing, all whilst shrieking. Mr Piglet wondered what on Earth was wrong with me, I was like a spinning top trying to get my clothes off at the same time, pretty fun to watch I can imagine. He didn’t get to see the caterpillar and I think he thought I’d gone mad until we came inside and my arm was covered in a horrible itchy rash! Yuck!

Not the caterpillar that was up my sleeve (that one was far bigger) but another one I saw in the garden a few weeks ago

What creepy crawlies creep you out and what else should I watch out for?

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Last summer I frequently reported on my attempts to grow various plants and vegetables from my city garden in Lyon, I named the posts “Jardinage Jeudi” which was quite appropriate as I managed to get in the garden once a week, usually on a Thursday!

I’ve been a bit slow in discovering my new garden in rural France. To be honest the weather has been absolutely dreadful, either raining and cold or far too hot. Either way, I’ve preferred to hang out indoors with Baby Piglet in order to stay dry or too stay cool.

There’s plenty to do in the garden as it looks a bit like a glorified field with a few trees right now. Not quite an idyllic country garden although we do have some pretty awesome fruit trees including two apple trees and a peach tree:

Our red apple tree

Peach tree



Not really knowing where to start and with no real budget so to speak, I’ve decided to start off with the vegetable patches. At least I should be able to grow some produce then I can save myself money on food and hopefully buy a few plants to start my hedge.

We have three raised patches which I have to weed first. The weeds here are tough and grow back just as soon as I have finished. I guess the rain isn’t helping as everything is growing really quick.

Good heavens! Look at those weeds!

Some marigolds I found amongst the weeds

Now only if it would stop raining long enough for me to finish...

I plan to plant celery, radishes, parsnips, rutabaga and onions to start off with. They were the only things that I could find to plant at this time of year – thankfully they are all things I enjoy and I would be pretty chuffed if the parsnips worked out as I have such a tough time buying them here.

Before planting though I need to finish weeding and then turn the soil, mixing some fertilizer at the same time.

I don’t suppose anyone has any tips on growing any of these vegetables by any chance please? What else are you planting at this time of year in your vegetable patch?

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SOLD!! The city pad is sold!! We finally accepted an offer that put an end to negotiations on Monday morning and can confirm that come January, if all goes smoothly, the Piglet family will be homeless unless we find something quick!

As is always the way, as soon as we had agreed a price (less than the asking price but nonetheless a price we are happy with) we got a call from another interested person, an international footballer! Tempted by the money but morally aware that the property was already sold, we politely, but regretfully sent his agent packing. I don’t think they’re used to being told that sold means sold and not if they pay more then they can buy it! Anyway, at least we know we made the right decision on a moral basis even if it was a hard one to make financially.

In anticipation of the sale, Mr Piglet and I started house hunting on Saturday. We had spent some time looking on the internet but had not started really looking as I am very superstitious and didn’t want to jinx selling the property. I could not imagine the heartache if I’d found the perfect property only to not be able to buy it because we hadn’t sold.

Rather rapidly we chose two properties that looked great on paper and seemed to answer everything on our wish list:

– spacious, ideally 200m2
– outbuildings
– rural but not isolated
– character building if possible (shouldn’t be hard in France)
– ADSL required!
– Not on a busy road
– No structural renovation required in the main property

Easy right?

Arriving in the village I desperately needed the loo (being pregnant meant that Husband did not moan for once!) so we stopped in the village bar for a coffee. Entering the small room, I was overwhelmed by the stench of cigarettes and alcohol – it’s been a while now since smoking was banned in bars and restaurants but that law has obviously not reached parts of rural France as yet.

I glanced around, taking in my surroundings and saw a woman about my age showing off her new purchases to some other women in the bar. Thrilled at the thought of sharing a shopping addiction with other villagers I looked on. Now, I’m no fashionista, but the excited exclamations and squeals of joy she was receiving lead me to believe that she had acquired a pair of Louboutins or similar coveted footwear, and incited me to take a closer peek into the box she was holding. What a shock! The contents were silver, sparkly trainers! Not quite what I was expecting!

It was daft of me to expect someone to have these in rural France!

As I continued to scan the bar area, my eyes were drawn to a caricature of a man, the type of person I’d always expected to see in France when I was about 10 but who, rather disappointedly in reality doesn’t exist. You know, the man with the beret hat, the mariner t-shirt, closely cut hair and brightly coloured belt? Well, I had to do a double take, as this guy at the bar was exactly that, the typical French guy that I believed didn’t exist. All that was missing was a baguette and some onions. He was drinking Pastis (at 1130 am) and was discussing hunting so maybe the lack of baguette and onions can be forgiven as he’d obviously not caught anything so wouldn’t be making lunch. Afterall, that would explain why he was in a bar drowning his sorrows in Pastis!

My stereotypical image of a Frenchman

Feeling rather out of sorts in the bar, Mr Piglet and I left rapidly after downing our coffee, bemused by the characters we had encountered. Was village living really going to be the right thing for us? Then again, I’m sure if we went into any bar in Lyon at 1130 in the morning we’d meet some strange souls so we decided to discount this experience as being unrelated to country living.

As for the properties we visited, all I can say was the trip was a waste of time and nothing was suitable.

The first property was being advertised as habitable and requiring comfort refreshing (ie. Decoration) yet, walking around I was scared stiff that the ceilings were going to cave in, that I would be electrocuted or the floor would give way.

The second property was being advertised as being 200 m2 and as having outbuildings, but reality again turned out to be different. Entering the front door, I was immediately confronted with a close up view of the back door. Now, I’m a bit short sighted and things normally look quite far away, but the back door was only 5 metres away from me! The kitchen was a non-existent black hole and the bedrooms could only be called single box rooms at best. Not quite what I was expecting! At best, we estimated the house measured no more than 140 m2. As for the numerous outbuildings advertised, there was one, measuring 20 metres squared on the ground, so maximum extension potential of 40 m2!

Our quest for space may seem excessive but when both spouses work from home, an office in the spare bedroom is not really practical, so we need space to work, to live and to welcome house guests especially now that we have a mini us on it’s way!

All in all, a disappointing first outing. Our next visits are being planned with military precision and hopefully, just hopefully, we will stumble upon the perfect property very soon otherwise we really will be homeless!

ps. I did take some pictures but they’re stuck on my camera for the time being and don’t want to come off!

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