Sunday, November 20, 2011

parc national regional des causse de quercy

I have just returned from a wonderful, action packed, though slightly short visit to France.  I am back in England to dogsit for my brother for a few days, then visit the rest of my family and some London based friends before heading to the mountains again for winter.

My visit was to Marcilhac-sur-célé, a tiny village that nestles in a gorge valley deep in the Parc National regional des Causses de Quercy.  The scenery there is absolutely stunning and the weather was impeccable for November, if I had packed shorts, they would have been well worn.

looking down on Marcilhac-sur-célé from the top of the gorge
I stayed with Brigitte, a wonderful helpX host whose ancient stone house overlooks the valley whilst nestling into the sparse woodland that reflects the barren nature of the limestone region.  A calm and tranquil location with great views and hardly a passing car.
terrace with potager and formal garden area beyond
My morning tasks mainly involved chasing well rooted weeds in the potager and garden areas and using my technical knowledge to bring into line a collection of roses, some of which hadn’t been dramatically pruned for a number of years.  Neither task was particularly hard work, as extracting the roots of perennial weeds takes time and concentration, else fragments get left behind to grow again and if you go at a climbing rose bush with too much vigour you tend to become hooked up, tangled and trapped far too easily, so a steady, paced approach tends to work best.  The results were excellent, possibly a bit more severe than expected, but next year will definitely show results.

Brigitte in the traditional gardener pose
the river Célé passing through Marcilhac

In return, I was incredibly well fed with delicious meals, great conversations and encouragement in my french language skills, which is always appreciated.  Brigitte did more than enough to keep me occupied and amused throughout my visit.   So much so that I feel as if we hardly ever stopped.
November light over Figeac

We visited Figeac, the largest local town in the area, where Brigitte takes accordion lessons and then plays with a group of musicians, a double treat as I got to have a good look round the quaint old town whilst she was taking her lessons and then sat in to enjoy some great practice music.  It was almost like having a private concert, although they did repeat some pieces several times to get it right.  It has made me want to find an instrument to play!

 We visited friends for meals and evenings out so frequently that it felt as if we never stopped.  A great rural community of similarly minded folk that make sure that a good time is had without too much expense.  Family popped in and Timon, the two year old grand son was looked after on several occasions, he was great fun and his books proved to be excellent help filling in some of my vocabulary gaps.  

the garden of Stephan and his family, they are hoping to become self sufficient and autonomous 

It was a shame that I had to leave so soon, as I was beginning to get somewhat settled and could easily have spent another few weeks enjoying my visit.  Alas, plans were already made, I have four great dogs to walk twice a day, the chance to enjoy a bit of city life, some time completely on my own, which is a rare occurrence whilst helpXing the whole time and the opportunity to catch up well on all sorts of things that pass me by on my trips away.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

beauregard ruin

After a brief interlude back home I am again in France, this time more seriously searching for somewhere to settle down.
Before I left, back in October, I was staying at Nicholas’ in Ruffepeyre, and visited a ruin on the outskirts of a village some 60 km away.  
A small building with solid walls built out of the most beautiful stone, with a tumble down roof in need of complete replacement.  It stands adjacent to a communal track, a field away from the village overlooking its land.
There was no running water on site or electricity, but I was promised that both were available and that the ‘house’ had renovation permission that included a small extension.  Its terrain faces south, about an acre of pasture in total which I dream of turning into a productive vegetable garden with fruit trees in the boundary hedgerows and perhaps a tiny camping site somewhere shady for the walkers that pass by in the summer time.  
I have just been for a second visit with my current HelpX host.  Brigitte kindly drove me there, she was excited to see the project too.  We visited Limogne market en route, picking up bits and pieces for a lunchtime picnic and I had the opportunity to explore the local region a bit further.
The site is more amazing than when I saw it the first time.  I had braced myself for a disappointment as I thought that my imagination may have run wild and created some fantasy place in my head, but it hadn’t.  It was almost exactly as I remembered.  The land is slightly more sloping, which is excellent news, almost completely secluded from passers by at the lowest point.  The funny barn structure is bigger and more solidly constructed, 10 m by 12 m, with an additional 5 m of hardstanding at the front which will make an excellent workshop and storage shed, not to mention immediate chicken enclosure and sunbathing terrace (for my visitors of course).  There are still the most tasty of apples on some of the trees, and in the weak November sun, one can see that a good proportion of the land gets plenty of sunlight throughout the year.
The biggest excitement and discovery is on a small, oddly shaped patch of adjoining land.  I didn’t get chance to explore during my last visit with the agent, but this time, without any time constraints, my expectations have been verified.  After looking at the plans on line, something told me that there was a  source of water there.  My thoughts proved to be true.  A well with an almost complete hand pump, almost completely full to the brim.  I reckon the water level to be at about 2 m, so an excavation on ‘my’ side of the fence should reveal similar.  My beans and tomatoes will be happy after all.
We lunched in the corner of the land, enjoying the sunshine and the view, my head racing, not really knowing what to think or do.  Several hours later, back at the house, I am still a little stunned, in a good way, perhaps it is the excitement of taking this project one step further, or maybe the fear of taking such a large step into the unknown.  I am contented to know that my second visit has made the project one step closer and that with good news from the agent next week, I may well be in a position to proceed with the purchase.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

what do you think?

in need of renovation, it could make a beautiful home

south facing, off the beaten track, although one of 
the GR walks passes along this route.

October sunshine illuminates this exciting proposition,
an acre of slightly sloping fertile land awaits cultivation and a new venture.

a lick of paint and some new carpet, it'll be fine.
anyone know how to rebuild ceilings, plaster and install a kitchen?

the old owners have even left the tiles to put back on the roof.
All I need to do now is learn the necessary skills.

Images of the second plot of land that I have viewed on my quest to settle down again after four years on the road.  My plan is to find somewhere small and affordable with a decent amount of land.  I want to produce enough fruit and veg to feed myself year round, hopefully provide courses, or at least an insight into productive gardening and for those in need of a bit of guidance. Host helpX helpers to share the bounty of knowledge that I have accumulated over the years and to live more simply with less demands on the excesses of modern consumerism.

Your comments please....