mon coeur de campagne

living a simpler, rural French life

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Where There’s A Will…

The rubbish Charlotte “inherited” in her garden has kept the scrap metal men very happy but after countless trips to the dechetterie we still kept finding more and more.
Forty years plus of fridges, old bikes, sofas, even animal bones and was disgusting. Luckily several friends recommended Will Weeks, who does all kinds of quality landscape work across the Nivernais.


Will is much in demand and works long hours.  He arrived in the dark one evening with the mini pelle on a trailer and parked up ready to come back to start the next day.


He managed to do more in six hours than we could have done in six years.  Will ripped up the brambles and overgrown hedges and found even more junk and dumped building materials.  He stayed in his cab, in the torrential rain, and got the job done. 


The garden is finally clear and a blank canvas.  The next stage of the project will be revealing the beautiful view behind the overgrown trees.  And then next spring the fosse septique,  a big expense which needs saving up for.  But we know a man who can install it and we are on his job list already!!

mini pail



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Renovating in France

Our daughter has bought a very old, run down house which needs lots of work. The good news is that it is next door but one to where we live.  It is a huge project made complicated because there is no budget. C is on benefits as she has severe epilepsy and is unfortunately unable to work. 

Buying the house has given her a new interest and focus. Trying to make her understand that all the work needed is going to take time and lots of saving up is another thing!  

Last week we visited the Maire with our plans to replace the old windows and put new wooden windows in the back of the house. The house is on a corner and doesn’t over-look anyone. We took the plans and photos to show the old wreck,sorry house, as it is now and what it will look like with the new windows.  It’s always a good idea to get to know your Maire and to keep him updated with building plans. From what I can see it’s who you know that counts living in rural France. 

 The secretary started a dossier, helped us fill in the Declaration,and advised us about taking the photos, then the Maire signed it saying that there should be no problems in granting permission. He is happy that we are improving the village eyesore. 

The Secretary stamped several pages. Stamping documents is a “thing” here. I love seeing the satisfaction of the pharmacist, the garagists, the tax officers, etc as they decisively plunge the stamper onto the paper! 

We just have to wait until 15 June and then providing we haven’t received any correspondence from the Bureau, the work begins.

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My Bluebell Bliss 

 The Morvan, Nievre in Burgundy. Unknown and unspoilt except for a few pioneering adventurers and nature lovers. Le Morvan in May is spectacular! Cherry blossom thickly covers the trees with pink fluffy Pom poms. The Hawthorn blossom drapes the hedgerows like white lace. Road sides and woodland are sprinkled with the confetti of wildflowers. The air is filled with the sweet smell of bluebells or Jacinthes Sauvages and the sound of birds singing! A feeling of joy is burgeoning all around and heralding a long, hot summer. 



Bluebell Chemin


Bluebell Chemin


Sun dappled woodland


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ATELIER construction de nichoirs pour hirondelles


We went to a workshop to learn how to make nichoirs – nests – for hirondelles – swallows – at la Maison du Parc, St Brisson.    It was one of a series of ateliers organised by La Parc naturel régional du Morvan and la Société d’Histoire Naturelle d’Autun.  We learnt a lot about the birds and discovered that there are two types of hirondellesL’Hirondelle de Fenetre and L’Hirondelle Rustique.  L’Hirondelle de Fenetre like their nests to be up close under a ledge, window or balcony.

L’Hirondelle Rustique often make their nests in or around barns and old farm buildings.   L’Hirondelle Rustique have a wide chest and the tail looks longer and more pointed than  LHirondelle de Fenetre.

Numbers of hirondelles have declined dramatically.  When we first bought our house here in Le Morvan we would regularly see hirondelles at the end of a hot summer’s day swooping to catch flies. Sadly their habit is under threat due to old buildings being renovated, the increased use of insecticides and predators such as cats and pigeons.


Charlotte getting hands-on!

bowl 1

Mix it up!

You need plaster, water, generous handfuls of earth and straw – mix together to make a paste.


Use a bowl as a mould and cover half the bowl. As the paste sets you can feel the heat, leave to set for around 30 minutes and then gently ease the bowl away.


Voila! A chateau de luxe for the hirondelles!

We had an interesting walk around the parc looking at birds nests that had been made  to encourage the birds to nest.  There was an impressive tower or bird hotel housing rows of nests, it has been built high in the air to keep the birds safe.

The hirondelles are due to arrive between March and April.

We hope they like the nid and move in!


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Beating the Blues




Vauminot, Lac de Pannecière


It’s been a hard few months.  A long winter and health problems since last October have made it extra challenging.  Husband hurt his back working on daughter’s renovation project.  He went from doing pretty much everything around the house to nothing.  A huge shock for me!  I had to get stuck in, despite my back problems and do all the dog walks in rain, fog and snow, the cooking and work too.  Bringing the wood in was the particularly tough.  Believe me there is no romance in lugging wood however warm and inviting wood burners look in homes magazines, the reality is a bit different.

Two bouts of very debilitating flu since New Year has not been fun either. It felt like Groundhog Day.  I just had to focus on getting through each grey day.

And all the time coping with a daughter with severe epilepsy.  So yes I have felt sorry for myself, probably been moaning too much and been seriously questioning how we can manage living here as we get older.

Today Husband is on the mend, our hacking coughs are gradually going and the sun has come out for the whole day!  Instantly life seems brighter.





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Journées du Patrimoine

Le Jardin de Cuy

An oasis of charm in the wild Morvan


It was cold and wet for this year’s Open House weekend so I decided to stay close to home and explore a garden that I had never visited before.

Le Jardin de Cuy is a Jardin Remarquable designed around a maison forte. The origins of the fortified house date from the 14th century and until the French Revolution it was the home of the Seigneurs de Cuy.  In 2001 the present owners began to transform one of the meadows into a garden full of romance and charm.

The paths through the two hectare sized, contemporary garden lead along fruit trees, a terraced garden with dark leafed plants,  potager or kitchen garden,  and a cut flower enclosure, an oval with tall grasses; and there are herbaceous mixed borders around the ancient courtyard.

There is an ancient cypress tree standing sentinel-like alongside the house, an avenue of 25 swamp oaks and lots of interesting plants – even a pistachio tree.

Water adds to the sense of calm with four small lakes in a row, hedge homes for wildlife and a gently sloping valley with Charolais cows.

Until the end of September the garden is acting as the perfect backdrop for sculptures made using local clay created by sculptor Andrew McGarva.

To find out more

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A Gorgeous Glut

It’s harvest time and everyone has a huge amount of courgettes. Last year we hardly had any!  This year if you mention the word courgette, friends and neighbours widen their eyes and step back in horror with a shake of the head and a quick “Non!” Friends have even taken to arriving for aperos clutching a selection of courgettes or courgette apero cakes – even better!

One lovely friend had too many tomatoes and bought a big bag along to a party.  I love tomatoes so it was a great present for me.

The freezer is full of courgettes and runner beans, haricots espagnole and a variety of different soups.

Our vine hasn’t given us so many grapes as usual but they are sweet and juicy.  We have turned them into juice and are eating the rest.

We will just have to get inventive with the courgette recipes.  There’s ratatouille, chutney, soup, braised, grilled, roast, stuffed, pureed, shredded, salad, cakes and bread.

Any other ideas?