Life in a barn

In the previous post I did a show and tell on our Loire home from which it was time a couple of years ago to move on and exchange the Loire valley for the Dordogne valley.

All those who have done some restoration on a house will know the toll it can take on mind and body. Repainting a wall is easy, restoring a whole house by lifting beams, removing floors, adding windows and doors…not easy. But the satisfaction on completing a difficult task  is enoug inspiration to continue. In the meantime, while knackering away at the restoration of the old stone farmhouse, we needed to sleep, eat and bathe, probably in that order. We are lucky in that we have several barns on the farm and so one of them became our home for the next 7 years. At first it was only during summer holidays and 2years later it became permanent home.

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In between working on the house, we equipped the barn for easier living. A stove, a kitchen sink, cooking tools,  table…we are a family who love our food.. what is a space without some bling? A chandelier or two were hung from the make-do insulated “ceiling”. A wood burning stove provided heat in winters. We had an elegant shower made from an old tin tub we found in the barn and we used an old wagon wheel rim for the shower curtain. From an old wooden ladder we constructed a frame for a bathroom sink , also found in the old house.And yes, running hot water! We even had a bit of privacy by constructing a screen from two wooden doors from the old house., hiding a little dressing room behind it. Madame Pompadour in stylish attire,  kept guard by the bathroom/shower/dressing room.

Living in the barn 2016

Below is a view on the dressing room behind the two doors, forming the screen for privacy..Living in the barn 2016-004

Unfortunately  la toilette stayed outside, a good 200 meters away, which is fine on good days, but got a little complicated on cold and wet wintry days. Today, 7 years later, we can recall some funny stories around our outside toilette which by the way, was brought up to modern standards without the wasps and stacks of newspaper.

Our very first night in the barn in 2008…just a sweep with a broom, a bed for us and our girls and a dinner by candlelight.

However many little luxuries we had in the barn, life was  basic and challenging and we lived with the minimum to which we adapted fairly easily. Today I am convinced more than ever that the human race is spoiled and we live in luxury far beyond necessity. I can honestly say we didn’t miss television for those first years, we ate great food on only a wood burning stove/coal stove. We bought fresh produce every day in small quantities for years until we got a fridge a few years later. We washed dishes by hand in a tin bowl for many of those 7 years.  I soaked our washing every night, rinsed the next day and hung out on the clothes line…I honestly admit though; that was a backbreaking task and far from  adventurous! .

The first few years were bare and adventurous. The barn with its high roof was open and windy with the normal inhabitants you find in old stone walls and we shared the barn with an owl family, who lived there long before us and they weren’t eager to give up their loft for a few humans.

Our barn home in its early years: Drapes of old linens found at brocantes to hide the back part of the barn. A couch or two, cooking corner and always wild flowers. I loved those first years!

The beginning of barn life.. view on the shower corner-20

Of course, at some point,true to human nature, we, or shall I admit…I  longed for more comfort.. So the barn started filling up up with cabinets and armoires and commodes and all my art stuff, brought over from the Loire home. I got tired of living out of a suitcase so the dressing room was invented. We started inviting some friends over, so we needed more than 4 cups and plates.

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My art corner took up almost half of the barn, which I enjoyed..living and sleeping and working all in one spot. This concept is carried over into our house we are restoring.

 

Windows and doors got dressed up a little…our souls do need to see some beauty around us..?

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These 7 years  we had a barn for a home is one of the most precious periods of my life and an experience that I will never forget. It is a book full of stories, one that I might write someday, even if only for my family who can relate and will remember all these tales.Living in the barn 2016-007Living in the barn 2016-005

To be continued….

Until next time

Ronelle

“In the shade of the walnut tree” featured in a magazine.

I wrote an article for LEEF, an Afrikaans magazine in SA, about our life here in France. Their February summer issue was devoted to all things French and I was asked to do a contribution. I called it “In the shade of the walnut tree”. This is our favorite spot in summer time where we enjoy our apéros and amuses bouches, long lazy lunches and philosophical discussions.

leef 10001-001So…for the Afrikaans readers out there; the February issue of LEEF magazine is still available on the shelves. For my English and other readers I will soon translate the article into English and post it here.

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In the meantime, here in the French countryside we are enveloped in the blankets of winter with misty days, rain, and cloudy skies.  It makes for an ambiance filled season and we all enjoy gathering in the bistros around cups of coffee or chocolat chauds. Those more daring go for a glass of Ricard. We talk about the cold and the rain congested soil and what we’re having for dinner. Nestled in the misty hills, the chimneys have trails of smoke. The kitchens smell of les potages, soupes et veloutés and long sauce bourguignons.  Our animals are safely sheltered in the stables while the fields are left bare  for regrowth. We are cocooning.

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Correze country side

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à la prochaine fois!

Ronelle

Joyeux Noël 2013!

This year we have only but un petit Noël. We are in the process of moving home and want to be finished by end of December. Typical. Waiting until the last minute to get a lot of things done. And so Noël will have to stand over to next year when I will make up for it in our new home here at Coin Perdu(hopefully restored and liveable by that time..)

To have at least some Christmas spirit in our current barn/home, I put up a branch with some decorations which weren’t packed away too deep. The result is a very rustic tree…and what do you know..without planning it, it turned into a story tree! I am now very chuffed with our impromptu story tree!

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“One day…in a forest far, far in the cold North, was a large forest where the animals roamed gay and free. It was a magical world, undisturbed and quiet, with soft snowflakes sifting gently to the ground and covering the landscape in a coat of white glitter. There were  three quaint little houses with strawberry red walls. Birds were visiting freely, dropping letters through the windows of the three strawberry houses, where  Pére Noël and his elves would sort and read them; while laughing, singing and dancing and working. Then one silent night , the reindeer broke through the darkness with bells and glitter and song,  a hearty laugh echoed through the forest as Pére Noël waved his hand to his family, on his way through a sky of shooting stars to deliver happiness and joy to an outside world.”

..the forest was filled with birds and ice and mosss and lichens..

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…and the elves worked while they danced and sung merry songs..

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..the reindeer were ready, waiting…

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Three quaint houses with strawberry red walls..

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..and the skies were bright with shooting stars..

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May you all,  on that dark night when the stars will be extra bright and you hear a hearty laugh,  receive countless gifts of happiness and joy!!

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Joyeux Noël

Ronelle

Rustic apples in puff pastry(bourdelots aux pommes)..and l’hotel de ville.

Autumn is the time of year we eat rustic food. Finish are the dainty salads and light desserts..we now go for rustic, unadorned meals. Apples are in abundance and it will be a shame to allow the time to pass and not use them to their full. I saw these apples in pastry somewhere in a magazine and I only remember they were called by the melodious name of Bourdelots and it looked much prettier than mine. I made them just on feeling, and I can’t imagine the magazine version being tastier, because they are so delicious with the puff pastry and brown sugar and apricot jam…and don’t they look pretty rustic too..(good excuse, n’est pas)?

..Rustic apples in puff pastry..

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La Recette:

  1. Clean and peel 4 apples, remove the inner core and drizzle with lemon juice.
  2. Unroll a sheet of puff pastry, cut into quarters. Place 4 quarters on a baking paper on a baking sheet.
  3. Place an apple on each quarter. Fill the apples with a teaspoon of apricot jam, a knob of butter and sproinkle with brown sugar.
  4. Wrap the pastry around the apples and brush with beaten egg.
  5. If you have puff pastry left, cut strips and stick it around the apples from top to bottom.
  6. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
  7. Reheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  8. Remove the apples from the fridge, brush again with beaten egg. Sprinkle again with brown sugar.
  9. Place on sprigs of rosemary  and bake in the hot oven at 200°C for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for another 25 minutes.
  10. If the apples get too dark on top, cover with brown paper.
  11. Serve warm, or at room temperature with a big dollop of whooped cream or a scoop of créme fraîche or vanilla ice cream.

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Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Bring the dough right up to the edge of the apples which will ensure that the apples are covered more fully with pastry.
  • In order for puff pastry to rise high and crispy, the dough must be cold and baked in a hot oven for the first 10- 15 minutes.
  • Serve the apples as a side dish with a meat roast, like pork or venison.
  • Fill the apples with spices of your choice or with dried fruit like raisins and nuts.

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The mairie or hotel de ville is an important part of every city, town and village in France. It can be as tiny as a hamlet, but it will have a mairie and an eglise. The hotel de ville is usually bigger and houses the  mairie and houses several administration departments. But they both hop-use the office of the mayor of a town and the administration offices as well as an école of the commune. So it is no strange sight to see kiddies run around at lunchtime in part of the grounds of the mairie.

The mairies of the campagne has nothing to do with the elaborate and grand hotels de ville of the cities, like Paris or Tours, Lyon. Some are so small, you even pass by it without knowing.

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..the mairie in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne..

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..with its administration offices around the corner..

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..the little hotel de ville in Bétaille, just alongside he main road through the village..

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..the very typical stone hotel de ville of Biars-sur-Cere, with its lovely surroundings,dressed each season in different vegetation..

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..le mairie of Biars sur Cere.

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..the mairie is still wearing its summer ballgown and pretty soon, with Toussaint at 1 November, it will change to Fall Chrysanthemes..

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..In Bretenoux, the hotel de ville is obscured by lovely trees..

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..and right opposite it, is the traditional memorial of the soldiers who fought in the war..

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..the quaint, typically Corrézien mairie of Le Pescher where our eldest got married..

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..and next to it, the mémorial of Le Pescher..

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..the mairie of Marcillac la Croze is one of those you pass by without knowing..it sits up on a hill, all alone. The day I looked for this mairie I drove up to its pretty eglise, full of history and asked a gentleman who was raking the  leaves, where I could find the mairie. We got caught up in a 30 minute conversation. I had to cut the motor of the car after a while, because he just couldn’t stop talking..

les hotels de villes - Marcillac la Croze

..Of course I can’t leave our own sweet village of Puy d’Arnac behind. Our mairie has recently had a makeover and is now a chic gathering point in the village where the mayor has her offices and I often have to drop in for keys for  the garbage points or documents or this or that..

  les hotels de villes - Puy d'Arnac

..and right next to the mairie, its école

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..in Vayrac, the hotel de ville is huge with a big spacious place in front of it..

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..and to the side, village life continues..

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..Altillac has a beautiful building and I pass it almost every day to buy baguette and cheese..The pride of India trees  in front complement the building so beautiful in high summer…I always slow down and admire this mairie.. les hotels de villes -Altillac 1

..the mairie of la Chapelle aux Saints, is really out in la campagne and stands all alone among green fields..

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This is a prehistoric area, a very important sightseeing site in our area and the mairie forms part of the site..the ecole is at the back of the mairie..

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There is still so much to show and so much to be said about the hotel de ville in France and every town’s mairie is special.. Once you have found a town’s hotel de ville, you have also found its centre ville. I will certainly explore and show more at a later stage. These ones are all in a radius of 20 minutes from home. And like the hotels de villes, there are also the fascinating eglises, which I’ll save for another time.

So, with the theme of hotel de ville and French admin , I want to share the Marseillaise, sung by my favorite artist…Edith of course! We celebrated her life in PAris, as she died 50 years ago this October. I just LOVE her..and the song – I sing along with her just as loud as she does! Enjoy!

..à la prochaine fois..

Ronelle