Yet another month has passed and it would seem I’ve neglected my blog of late. The summer holidays have flown by and it’s been so nice spending time with family and friends, I just didn’t seem to find much time to sit indoors, typing. You see, in the past, being the peak of the tourist season, August had always been a hectic month for us and we pretty much worked flat out and hardly ever got to see each other…but it’s the complete opposite here. The company Pete works for, like the majority of businesses in the region, closed for the entire month, and I didn’t do that much teaching, as my students were either on holiday, or away on business trips, so we really tried to make the most of our time together as a family.
My mum and dad came over for five weeks and were kind enough to look after the children while Pete and I went on a short break in the Dordogne. With most places requesting a 7-night minimum stay, we were lucky to find a 3-night stay in a quaint, eco Bed and Breakfast, set in 20 acres of woodland, about half an hour away from Bergerac (by car). If you’re looking for a relaxing stay, at the heart of nature, you must check out Terre et Toi. It proposes individual accommodation units such as a yurt and a log cabin, as well as rooms made entirely from eco materials such as straw bales, earthen plaster, hemp and lime. It has composting toilets, reed beds and a cob pizza oven but the pièce de résistance has to be the private swimming lake, which is sheer bliss on a hot August afternoon.
We also went to Perigueux, where we chanced upon a wonderful, authentic Indian restaurant called Chez Manija, which was nestled in a little courtyard, and Bergerac, which was bustling with tourists, wine tasting and a very impressive wooden toy shop called ‘La Bille de Bois’. Both towns were well worth a visit, but we found the sunbeds on our terrace to be equally appealing, where we played chess and reflected on life, over a glass or two of St Emilion Grand Cru, overlooking the lake.
Lovely as it was in the Dordogne, it made us realise that we have something just as beautiful where we are and so we came back feeling relaxed and inspired by our stay, but eager to return to our own haven of tranquillity and family life.
We have to admit that the work pace has definitely slowed down over the hot summer, but we’ve realised that there’s no rush. We are, after all, living in the countryside, and here, nothing ever happens very quickly. It means that rather than burning ourselves out continually working on the house or garden, we’re starting to take up other activities and meet more people.
Pete’s officially joined the local veteran football team, and he’s signed up for a gym near where he works, where as I have more commitments with my English classes, with workshops starting in the commune in September, and I’m looking at taking up yoga.
Still, it does not mean the garden has been neglected…far from it! Thanks to my mum, we have jar upon jar of fruit and veg chutneys, homemade ‘Mamie Sue’ jams, compotes, jellies and coulis…you name it, she’s made it! Needless to say, I’ve gained a little weight in places! The tomatoes are coming thick and fast and the pumpkins are looking good. Since the caterpillars attacked our kale, we’ve replanted spinach, as well as lettuce, carrots, celeriac, coriander and spring onions to see us hopefully through to winter.
The blackberry season has already begun and we’ve already been busy picking damsons and plums from the garden, and collecting windfalls of hazelnuts, walnuts and apples. Much to our dismay, the majority of the hazelnuts have already been eaten by the nasty nut weevil, leaving us with loads of empty hazelnut shells, full of holes!
Pete made a drying rack, which works quite well but might need a little improvement before he’s happy with it. We just paid for a bit of wire mesh, but the rest was made from left over wood and a pane of glass we found in the eaves of the house. Hopefully we can use it to dry out as much fruit as possible, so we don’t waste any. We still have apples, pears, peaches, medlars and figs to harvest, not to mention the chestnuts. Roasted chestnuts at Christmas would be the perfect end to our first year ‘Chez TêteBlanche’.
While my mum has been busy making conserves and spending time with the kids, my dad has been re-plumbing the heating system, removing the old rattling pipework and cast iron radiators and replacing them with modern push-fit plastic piping, and radiators, bought for a bargain price on Le Boncoin. We are still three radiators short but we have enough to keep us warm this winter. We hope to install a small woodburner in the living room and we’ve paid the deposit for the new windows, which will hopefully be fitted before December. We are hoping that insulating the outside walls from the interior, will help to keep the fuel bills at a minimum. At the moment, we’ve managed to save a lot on fuel this summer by only heating the water for half an hour in the morning and again in the evening. It means it’s warm enough for showers and washing up, without leaving the boiler running all day long.
Here’s a quick look at August…in a nut shell!
So, another good month for us! And as we turn the page of the calendar, we’re already looking forward to the warm, autumn colours, the fruit and nut harvest…oh and as much as we love spending time with the kids, after two months of school holidays, we’re probably not the first parents to be looking forward to the new school term!