Updated: Nov 27, 2020
We’ve been in France for two weeks now and are settling into the old farmhouse we’re renting from a lovely British couple who live in a nearby town. I’ve been really impressed by Wendy’s ability to communicate. She introduced herself to the postman, spoke with vendors at the weekly market, figured out how to sign up for a loyalty card at Carrefour (which is like Target), and even helped a lost motorist who pulled up to our house on his ATV.
My language skills are also impressive, albeit in a different way. “I don’t speak French” and “We’re new here” are the only coherent sentiments I’ve managed to communicate. Aside from those, I’ve awkwardly uttered things like “I can’t listen, bye!” when trying to answer a phone call because Wendy was driving and “She is without a toilet” while trying to convince a cashier that I wasn’t stealing the things in my cart—I just needed to take my daughter to the bathroom.
We’re on a five-acre property right next to a busy road with a small garden attached and forest in the back. The yard is fenced so we don’t have to worry about the kids or dogs getting hit by a car, but we do have to be careful about ticks. I’m doing my best to keep the grass short, but the only tool available is a small corded string-trimmer that can’t quite reach one corner, and is currently out of string.
While I find it difficult to mow the lawn with a weed whacker, it is kind of fun to use garden tools again. Among all this uncertainty and situational incompetence, yard work is something I know how to do. I can’t drive us anywhere because the car is a stick shift, I don’t know how to build a fire, and I’m unable to carry on a productive conversation. But I can plug in a little Black & Decker whose handle barely reaches my waist, hold down the trigger, and sweep two inches of string across the grass for three hours in an effort to protect my family from tiny blood-sucking buggers.
Our time here has been an interesting mix so far of administrative tasks like mowing, cleaning, and setting up the house; and tourist activities like visiting the park, exploring nearby towns, and eating lots of baguettes. We also contacted realtors and have begun visiting farm properties. They’re just as I’d imagined.
The first farm we visited had about 20 acres of pasture, five acres of forest, the coolest stone barn I’d ever seen, and a stone-walled courtyard with a piggery that had a huge stone cauldron for feeding hogs. Spring has sprung so the fields were lush and green and filled with dandelions… and a random donkey.
We visited another property with an old bread oven and walked through the tall grass of another whose owner periodically stopped to lift a finger, as if to pause the world for just a moment, to identify the song of a nightingale or blackbird. Every place we’ve seen thus far has had its merits, but none so much as a former nobleman’s property that has been in the family for 12 generations.
Old castle-like doors led to rooms you’d expect and rooms you wouldn’t, along with things you’d expect to see and things you wouldn’t. For example, we didn’t expect to find 10 single beds in the attic, complete with blankets, a few stuffed animals, and lumps under the covers as if children were still sleeping there.
We didn’t open the small door adorned with a sign that read “Barn Owl: Do Not Disturb,” and when I opened another small door and found two piles of what looked like poop from a small dog, I quickly closed it again, though not before noticing the room contained two more tiny beds with blankets.
Despite the creepiness factor, that house is our top contender so far. It was just so cool! But I don’t think you’ll be hearing about it again because we’d have to offer less than half the asking price due to the amount of work it needs. It’s beautifully old, but old none the less and needs major work. We’ve just begun our search though, so while we can envision ourselves bringing life to that property again (aside from what’s already living in the attic!), I expect we’ll encounter other farms we’ll feel good about calling home.
The search continues tomorrow.