Enjoying Spring Living in Rural Southwest France

Originally posted on & updated on 24th April, 2024

Here is the latest read from Beth, Jack and friends enjoying French living and spring in the heart of Occitanie in southwest France.

“April Fool’s Day, celebrated on the first day of the month, is brilliant for practical jokers. Known in France as Poisson d’Avril, the tradition dates back to 1564, and these days, along with other pranks, children cut out a paper fish and secretly stick it to their victim’s back. When discovered, the triumphant perpetrator cries ‘Poisson d’Avril’ (April fish!).

Thinking I’d avoided all the fun ‘n’ foolery, I was working at my computer when Jack, my husband, burst in.

“You’ve got a-nother speeding ticket,” he yelled, waving an official-looking document at me.

Noooooooo! I’ve been so careful lately.”

“Gotcha. April Fool!”

Seriously annoying. Mind you, the joke was on Jack, as shortly afterwards, he had to go into the forest to fix a fault on our domaine electric fence. It’s eight kilometres long, it was pouring. Jack was miserable.

The New Year brought torrential rain to our rural corner of southwest France. After two arid summers, it was welcome – for a while.

Before long, the streams and reservoirs were overflowing, and the Garonne River was bursting its banks as it rushed past en route to the Gironde estuary and the Atlantic. Our forest trails became muddy quagmires, as did the surrounding farmland. Cereal farmers, frustrated, could do nothing other than wait it out. It was just too wet.  

We live in a fruit-growing area, and the orchards fared slightly better. I was dog walking through a neighbour’s apple plantation during yet another downpour and came across a team of workers toiling over their pruning job. Roasting or soaked through, they’re always chirpy. Pausing to yodel, ‘Bonjour!’ we briefly chatted about the weather’s general ‘Merde-ness’. Nevertheless, still smiling, Serge gave me a handful of apples before returning to his thankless task. I love those gents.

The skies finally cleared, which had a dramatic effect. While fields drained, farmers started trundling up and down our sleepy lanes on their tractors, hauling ploughs and other kit, ready to prepare their land for planting. Warmed by the sun, gardens lit up with gorgeous yellow pom-pom mimosa blossoms as spring flowers burst out of the ground. We’ve had a riot of snowdrops, daffs, crocuses, with tulips, hyacinths and other colourful plants beginning to show.  

The forest has also perked up no end. Verdant buds are unfurling in the canopy, overlooking patches of blue periwinkles below, and the wild boar and deer are coming out to forage in puddles of sunshine. I reckon we’ll be seeing little ones before too long.

This is the time of year when the orchards are at their most spectacular. With a mixture of almond, apricot and cherry trees, you’ll imagine the glorious chaos of conflicting scents. As their gorgeous blossoms fade, bumptious plums take centre stage. Thousands and thousands of them are festooned with flowers, encouraging the quince trees next door. All expertly snipped, all neat ‘n’ tidy and preparing to provide yet another bumper crop. Following will be the apple blossoms, which are already alive with bees. It’s a pollinator’s haven here.

As the temperatures increased, I got stuck into some gardening jobs and began sowing seeds earlier than usual in the greenhouse. It was a sensible decision. My baby legumes are zooming out of their trays. Meanwhile, my potager, which last autumn I layered with a cardboard base followed by fallen leaves, compost, manure and straw, has been brewing all winter. It should help break up our heavy clay-based soil, but growing root veg will still be challenging,

To combat the claggy soil problem, I’m creating a raised bed. With a weed sheet base and salvaged wood panel surrounds, it’ll be filled with a mixture of sand, compost and soil. This is where I’ll plant carrots, beetroots and parsnips. It’s only little, but it’s another minor self-sufficiency tick.  

Back in the garden, I started pruning our garden roses, and we have lots. Sadly, two of my favourites looked decidedly wilty, and I knew why. Their border, surrounded by Stachys byzantina (lamb’s ear), was infested with the dreaded couch grass, which was suffocating the plants. One manic weeding session and weed sheet later, I planted a line of baby buxus to continue our garden hedges theme and finished with a layer of ‘drive’ gravel. Easy – should look nice.

Meanwhile, it’s that time of year when ‘life finds a way’. Our gentle cockerel, Caesar, proudly cares for his harem, and some of the girls look distinctly broody, so while Jack is in the forest working on general fence maintenance, I’ll be repairing our tumbledown hen coops ready for chicks. When that’s done, it’ll be time to re-paint the shutters. I’ve lost count of the number, but we have more than sixty, and it takes ages.

Is there ever a time on our domaine where we wake up one day with nothing to do? Never. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. We love our lives here in rural France.”

For more real-life stories in rural France, check Beth’s books on Amazon, they are highly recommended for any lover of animals, nature and France bien sûr! Are you and your family aspiring for a new lifestyle in the French countryside? Discover our selection of rural properties and countryside houses for sale in southwest France.


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