Joyeux Noel from Dogs in their French Estates!

Joyeux Noel from Dogs in their French Estates!

A big thank you to Patrick at my-french-house.com blog for inviting me to share snippets about our lives here in south west France. For this issue, I guess I’d better introduce myself...my name is Beth Haslam.

A few years ago, my husband and I decided to buy a second home in France. A simple enough decision you might think. Pouf, not for us it wasn’t! We packed our car and took our two portly dogs on a viewing trip that turned into an epic adventure.

Surviving near-death encounters, we were steered around the southern belt of France by a variety of eccentric estate agents, including a count. The domaines (estates) we visited, and people we met were so extraordinary I ended up writing about them. The Fat Dogs and French Estates memoir series was born, and I have continued sharing our tales ever since.

After a series of property-viewing disasters, we were about to give up when fate lent a hand. The result? We accidentally bought a domaine in a rural nook of the south-west. Accidentally, because Le Palizac wasn’t on our list, but the moment we saw it, we both instinctively knew it was the place for us.

So here we are, snuggled up in a fruit growing area between apple orchards, grapevines, nuts and plums – lots of plums. Our home is a cosy farmhouse, the kind that wraps its arms around you and whispers ‘Bienvenue’ every time you walk in. We have an assortment of other buildings (not on our original wish-list) and around 168 hectares (400 acres) of deciduous forest laced with streams and lush pastures (much more land than we had intended).

While it’s just us two humans, we’re not alone. For many reasons, we have accumulated a strange menagerie. Mostly rescued, but not all, we share our lives with a mixture of animals including Tripod, our three-legged wild boar. I’ll tell you more about him one day.

Our rural backwater hasn’t altered much for the past thirty years. Friendships and living in tune with nature are vital here. It’s the kind of gentle, supportive environment where folks look after one another. Gifts, mostly farmed produce, are often left on our doorstep. We usually have no idea who gave them, and nothing is ever expected in return.

This upshot of our neighbours’ generosity typically means I end up making so much jam it’s coming out of our ears. Vegetables too, gluts of it, especially tomatoes which grow like dandelions here. So, if you ever want to know what to do with your excess toms ask me, I have about ten different methods of using them now.

With Christmas around the corner, most of the farms are being put to bed for the winter. This period coincides with the appearance of autumn champignons such as cèpes and girolles. It’s a time where farmers, passionate about their mushrooms, can often be seen skulking secretively around woodlands with a wicker pannier and special snippers bent on finding earthy treasures.

Inevitably, lockdowns of various forms are still evident in our little corner of France. Mind you, they haven’t overly dampened spirits. Villages are beginning to bloom with festive spirit and twinkly street lights. Wreaths decorate doors, windows glow with reflections of cheery log fires and trails of smoke toot merrily from chimneys. It’s nothing sophisticated, just the simple signs of country living we love.

We usually have a soirée at this time of year, but confinement regulations mean it can’t go ahead. No matter, everyone understands. Instead, we’ll decorate as usual, and I’ll build a smaller mixture of vin chaud so we can still raise our glasses and bellow ‘à votre santé’ from afar.

I know it’s ever so challenging for everyone at the moment, but I hope your Christmas is as good as it can be, and I look forward to telling you more about our charmed lives here in this magical part of France next year.

Gros bisous,


Beth



Thanks so much Beth for starting this series, we look forward to hearing more about you and all your friends, in particular Tripod!  See more fabulous stories and images on Beth’s website, and it’s definitely worth following her lovely tweets.

If you are aspiring for a lifestyle change in rural France, why not start by looking at these farm properties. And if you already live in France and are worried about insurance for your beloved pets (cats or dogs), you can easily apply for a quote