The leaves slowly turned from green to shades of gold, rust and brown as Autumn took hold. For a few short weeks they hung in the trees filling the garden with their jewel colours until the first sharp frost loosened their grip and they started to slowly drift to the ground.
There is barely a surface that doesn’t have a covering of leaves. The lawn is thick with a carpet of them – the perfect playground of our new puppy, Monty. The gutters are full of them so Tim has had to climb our eight-metre ladder to reach the roofline. Raking them up is a futile task, so we’re relying on the mulching blade on the mower to shred them up so the wind can blow them between the blades of grass and onto the flower beds to feed next year’s growth.
We’ve been blessed with good weather, so the clearing up outside has continued. I’ve been waging a war against the ivy that winds itself in strangling tangles around the trunks of our trees, or inches its way up brick walls, its feathery fingers digging and poking between the stones, wearing away the render and weakening the building’s defences.
Tim’s new chainsaw has made short work of the trees that we’ve been unable to save from the ivy’s unwavering campaign of destruction, and the wood shed is being restocked almost as fast as the dry wood is being burned in the kitchen log burner to keep us all warm as the weather gets colder.
Slowly, Claire has been clearing around the lake, taking out unwanted hedges, fighting back brambles and strimming away weeds and long grasses. My parents came to help us for a few weeks and we made great progress opening up areas of the garden that were previously over-run with nettles, ivy and thorns. We kept a bonfire going for days burning dead wood and weeds.
Our neighbours are busy too. Alain’s cows are giving birth and we hear his tractor late into the evenings cutting grass for silage to feed his cattle over the winter. He’s still found time for us though, introducing us to his friends Sylvie and Xavier who were clearing out some old furniture that we might like, and who run their own chambre d’hote in Le Mans and gite in a nearby village.
We popped over to see them and returned two hours later with some beautiful bar stools that in the past stood in a restaurant run by Sylvie’s grandmother (and will spend their future in my new kitchen), some bedside tables, two upholstered chairs, half a dozen eggs laid that morning by their chickens and of course the promise of dinner or an apéro in the future and their very kind advice.
The welcome we receive where ever we go still amazes me, and no matter how busy anyone around here seems to be there is always time for a coffee and a chat. And of course there is always time for la chasse too. Hunting is par for the course here and last weekend Tim and Dale were invited along. They left early Saturday morning, wandering into the mist in search of wild boar and venison.
The sanglier proved elusive, only to be seen in the distance, but they returned to us late in the afternoon with a haunch of fresh venison and tales of long boozy lunches of slow braised pig cheek, dauphinoise potatoes and rolled pork loin washed down with plenty of red wine and champagne. Their French, apparently, had greatly improved as they day went along.
Monty, our Labrador collie cross rescue puppy is settling in well. The cats are putting him in his place and smugly stare at him from the sofa, where they are allowed to sit and he is not. It’s easy to lose hours of your day playing with him though so he’s definitely hampering our progress.
That said, we have finally started to make inroads inside the house, taking down unwanted partitions and removing some of the old fabric from the walls. Tim and I have been slowly making our way through each room, deciding where furniture will go, planning bathrooms, examining the state of walls and floors and making long lists of jobs to be done over the winter months.
The quotes for plumbing and electrics are slowly filtering in after Tim decided that talking on the phone in French was a necessity. He somehow managed to get three plumbers/electricians to turn up at the house more or less on time which is huge progress. Hopefully come the New Year, in the two coldest months of winter, what little heating we have will be ripped out and renovations will truly begin. Please send thermals, jumpers and hot water bottles.