The past year has been rather on the quiet side…in terms of my presence here. I hope to change it in the new year, pump some new life into Myfrenchkitchen, add some new and exciting experiences, adventures and yes, why not…recipes!

..Roasted rack of pork on hay and some marrow..

In the meantime I am at Coin Perdu again , have been here for the past few months, after only a quick return to Montlouis. I am staying in the barn with the cats and chickens and horses. Of course not all us us together in the barn, but almost.  It will be the one and only winter we’ll spend in the barn, as our house will be finished next winter, if all goes well. For that reason, I wanted to take a kind of sabbatical here in the barn for the winter. My sweet husband, who is always eager to take on an adventure, was quick to help me close up the barn…putting up some temporary insulation in the up to now open roof. He built me glass doors to allow more light into the otherwise dark barn and moved the heavy wooden doors so they serve as shutters on the outside of the glass doors.. He installed a wonderful Godin wood burning fireplace andfixed the wood burning stove on the opposite side of the barn. This is where we do our cooking and even  baking in the oven. It is my first experience with a wood burning oven and since I don’t havean oven thermometre, it all comes down to testing the heat with my hand..slow counting….1 is still too cold, good for slowly drying out biscotti….5 is about really hot and good for baking some chocolat fondant desert, which I usually bake in my fancy oven in Montlouis at 200 degrees C.

..putting in glass doors, insulation..

…baking in a wooden stove oven…

…winter landscape..

Hartman also closed up the very wide openings in the plank floor, where one can see through to the cattle stables down below and where some mighty cold air bellows upwards into the barn.  Some carpets picked up at the brocante and a chandelier here and there for a bit of whimsy glamour. Et voila, a barn for the winter! There are still some openings here and there, but a little suffering is good too…it provides fresh air!

..some glamour in a barn…

The worst part of this whole experience is when nature calls and in this case it is literally a call of nature…our temporary toilette is outside, on the Eastern side of the house, while the barn is on the western side of the house. So I literally have to do some cross country to answer nature’s call! First it entails putting on boots to scramble through the mud, then a jacket to keep me a little dry at least and at night…a torch…to see what I’m doing in the mud…and elsewhere, remembering that the toilette has no light. To lighten you aghastness at this experience,  it is a modern working toilette, flushing, clean and nice smelling, with a door, no flies or bees or spiders, well maybe some tiny harmless  spiders, looking for a little protection from the rain…

…the chemin to the stable and…toilette…

…with wet and muddy clothes……

For most of the time, I am alone here, except on weekends when Hartman join me, or when the children come visit for the weekend. I spend my time painting and doing art, experimenting and playing with mediums and techniques. a typical day would be…waking up warm and snug in a warm bed, stepping first toe out into the cold, cowardly jumping back, finding courage to lift my whole body from the warmth. dashing out, I run for a hot shower, dressing with the speed of lightning. Put on coffee machine. Put on my boots and all, open the shutter doors to let in the day light. Run for nature’s call. Open up the chickens who follow me with moans of happiness knowing where we are going, yoghurt and delicacies are awaiting them. Food for the cats. Talking and chatting to all. Grabbing 4 apples and pocket knife. Off to the stables, all the while whistling to call Gaitchi and Gubi form the fields. Spooning some molasse covered horse muesli into their bowls, I hear the rumbling of the earth as they approach the stables, eager to get to their buckets. We talk ad snuggle, brush and talk. Back to the barn where the freshly brewed coffee makes the trip through the mud and rain all worth it. Two slices of toast made on the wood burning stove, a up of coffee and seating myself by the computer to check mail and listen to morning radio. And then  off to work. Drawing, painting,  maybe some photography in the countryside. Writing. A walk in the fields with my camera and horses. Sketching in the countryside.  A drive to the town of Brive to relieve a bit of cabin fever. Feeding the horses again, closing up the chickens, keeping the fire going in the Godin and stove, dinner, a nice adventure movie, reading, more writing, bed.

..snug inside the barn wit paints…

… and books…

…and a warm bed…

…and food…

..and everything else I need…

…and my friend…Madame Pompadour…

Does it all sound romantic and story book like? Perhaps. But it isn’t always moonlight and roses. My jeans are never clean, always full of mud. I don’t have a dryer and with the constant rain, I can’t get my clothes dry. If I don’t see to the stove and fireplace, I don’t have any heating. the wood is heavy to carry from the other barn. Cleaning the stove and fireplace every morning isn’t fun. After a while, sledding in the mud isn’t funny any more. I don’t have my “stuff” with me…of course can’t fit a whole home into a barn. even though we have put up insulation, I have no ceiling and dust still sifts down. I don’t have a bath in which I can soak my sometimes cold body, only a home made shower in a sinktub. BUT! I have warm running water. I sleep warm. My husband arrives every Friday evening. My children visit. I have my animals that I love around me. In fact I have everything I need.

…Gaitchi et Gubi…

…Tartelette, Mimolette, Ciboulette et Camembert

…Tokala et Ayiani

This winter time in the barn makes me realize how we take life for granted. How we actually have too much of everything. Our homes are overheated. Our kitchens are over equipped. Our closets are luxuriously full. A bit of struggle can do us all good. It can make us realize that life is actually a gift.

May you have a wonderful festive season and may you see life as it is meant to be. A precious gift.

Joyeuse fête!!


16 thoughts on “A quiet year

  1. Oh lala.. what a feast for the eyes Ronelle..
    Oh lala..I would love to visit and admire your sense of adventure..

    I need a bathroom in the house and heat:) And I think after 2 weeks I would be very lonely..But..maybe not.. especially w/ the best visiss on the weekend..And that charming town ..You have a true artist’s heart.All the progress is looking out of this world,the chandeliers:) Your bed looks like every invitation to a dream like sleep..your paints.. the easel..the stone..the rafters..Tout est magnifiquement beau.
    You and H are a dream team.Match made in heaven.

    The meal looks tasty too..Et les poules.. 🙂

    Thank you for this lovely Christmas visit.I fell in love with your blog the moment I laid eyes on it.
    I am so happy i did.


  2. My mother used to say “no matter where you live there is something to love and something to hate. You choose what to to dwell on.” You have the magic touch! Gorgeous! Merry Christmas!


  3. Ronelle you are like a pioneer! My mother grew up in Ireland and often told us the stories of her home only heated by the fireplace and their beds upstairs in attic. We are so spoiled with all of our comforts, convection ovens, microwaves, gas fireplaces, etc. I can’t wait to see your new home. Rack of pork is one of my favorites on the frill with herbs in the summertime.



  4. Ronelle, it was wonderful “visiting” Coin Perdu today! I loved reading about your life at Coin Perdu with Madame Pompadour, the chickens, horses, cats, baking, cooking, delicious hot coffee etc. Your photographs are beautiful! You have so much talent decorating the old barn with beautiful chandeliers, books, paint brushes, antique furniture, white linen, etc. May you and your family have a wonderful Christmas together at Coin Perdu!


  5. I grew up in the country, with pets, horses, wild animals as pets, but indoor plumbing 🙂 I am truly a city girl now and love my social life on weekends but I envy your quiet, beautiful, artistic solitude. Your country life is truly beautiful!

    Merry Christmas, Ronelle!


  6. Who said:” What we make of life is what life makes of us.” ?
    You have made a wonderful life through your appreciation of the smaller things. Happy Christmas!


  7. May I come and stay :>)))) I wouldn’t get in your wqy – just eat your wonderful food and hide in corners sketching. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.


  8. What an adventure Ronelle. The barn remodel is quite monumental. Your husband must be very skilled. You’ve turned it into a winter wonderland, full of beauty. I would enjoy the peace and quiet, but not quite as tolerant of the inconveniences as you. However, when you’re having fun and enjoying life, the inconveniences aren’t as important as we think they are. Especially if dinner from the oven is that lovely pork dish you’ve created.
    Joyeux Noel to you and your family. I look forward with great anticipation to your new year and the adventures you share with us.


  9. My dear Ronelle, I lingered over every word, studied every photo, smiled, laughed, and did my own oh, la la! I think you are more pioneering than I and I salute you, but wouldn’t a hot, steamy bath be a great Christmas treat?

    The barn is wonderful…and thanks to your descriptions I can feel the bellow of cold air whoosing into it. I loved seeing your paints and paintings, your sweet horses, chickens, cat, I loved it all and can see this beautiful journey in a fine book. Why not? You could not only photograph for the book, but also the paintings…and of course the writing.

    For nearly a year I lived in a VW camper and toured the U.S. We focused mostly on wildlife areas, but we saw so much besides. When we finally returned to unpack boxes and set up a home I became depressed by all the things we owned. Life had been simple and unfettered and felt wonderful and freeing…so I understand a bit how you feel.

    I love visiting you and treasure your visits to me. My copper pans do get cleaned once in a while, thus the soft shine, but mostly they’re used over and over and over.

    Sending love across the cold miles and into your heart,



  10. Yes it does look romantic, but I imagine some difficulties with the temporary things…beautiful though 🙂
    The roast looks like perfection! Happy Holidays


  11. Hello Ronelle,

    Your site remains one of my favorites . . such an inspiration and so uplifting. Thanks for sharing your world of art, food, animals (truly they are our best friends) and the simple, pure life. Visiting France is still my priority — perhaps in September to attend a cooking and book making (art) class in Durfort. 2011 was uneventful, yet a challenging year for me. I really got behind on blogging and posting as I worked full time until this past November. Working long days, under pressure, as I did can quickly rob one’s creativity and artistic interests. Now that I’m getting my life back, I plan to resume my watercolor painting, knitting and simply enjoying the beauty that surrounds me.
    All the best to your and your family in 2012.

    Buon Natale!


  12. Did you name your roosters after cheeses? Those are roosters, right?
    You are one crazy woman Ronelle, and I sure do admire you. This was a magical visit. I’m not so sure I could do it, but maybe, because you have chandeliers in the barn!

    Wishing you a warm wonderful Christmas.
    Your blogger friend,
    Lori Lynn


  13. It is the day after Christmas and I came upon your blog this morning. It was a wonderful gift to open and enjoy every bit of its content. Your surroundings are beautiful! Your story told so creatively and so well; the quiet time; your wonderful animals; all of it so dreamy (or almost all of it!) As for the barn, it couldn’t be more magnifique!!!!!!!!!!!
    So happy to hear you will be blogging again. I used to follow you and hadn’t been by in a while. Can’t wait for your next post!!


Comments are now closed.