mon coeur de campagne

living a simpler, rural French life

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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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Bon 1er mai!

Happy May Day!


May Day started with a friend wishing me a Bon 1er mai and sending a Lily of the Valley posy.

The tradition started on May 1st 1561 when King Charles IX of France offered the ladies of the court a sprig of Lily of the Valley or Muguet as a lucky charm.  Over the years it has evolved into a way of showing friendship.  The florists and markets are full of Lily of the Valley in the lead up to the 01 May.  The local Prefrecture had to issue a warning this year not to pick too many from the woods.

The sunshine, bird song and wild flowers mean that spring is finally here.  The dark nights are over and there is a feeling of celebration in the air.  The long holiday weekend also celebrates the Fete du Travail.

spinning wheel

We spent a sunny afternoon with friends showing us how to spin and weave.  Spinning has been used for thousands of years as a way of producing yarn.  Charlotte enjoyed using a Spinning Wheel using wool from local sheep, a method in use for centuries since the Middle Ages.  She might be taking up spinning as a new hobby and wants to make a rug using wool she has spun herself.  A good start to the month.




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Verre de L’amitié



Last night, the Mayor invited everyone in our commune to toast the New Year with a verre de l’amitié, a glass of friendship.  We made it through the snow thanks to a lift from friends with winter tyres on their car.  The snow was so pretty and the Christmas lights in the centre of the village made it look very festive.

It was nice to see so many people there from our small community.  The Mayor welcomed and thanked everyone who had managed to get there.  He then thanked everyone who works or volunteers for the village, the school, the library and various associations.   He outlined what work had been done around the commune and plans for the coming year.  There was a poignant moment when he asked us to remember everyone who had been touched by terrorism and for those that had passed away.

The champagne was flowing but as we are having a dry January we politely declined.  A first for both of us!  Despite lots of attempts to fill my glass I managed to stick to orange juice until the Mayor handed me a glass of champagne – it would have been rude to say no!  I discreetly passed it to a neighbour who was more than happy to drink it for me.

For a small commune of around 200 people we are an international and friendly bunch made up of mostly French, a couple of Dutch (the numbers of Dutch increases in the summer!!), an English family (us), a German couple, a Texan and a South African.

We thanked the Mayor and asked if he could organise more evenings like this!








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Insider Tips to French Café Society


cafe 1


Sitting outside a café sipping a coffee and watching the world go by is part of daily life in France.  Manners and etiquette are important here so here’s a few tips to help keep you out of hot water!

As you arrive always greet the Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle behind the bar with a bonjour and a general bonjour to everyone in the room.  This is the case, especially in rural France when you enter a shop, post office, doctor.. anywhere…obviously not in a large supermarché and it maybe a bit different in Paris and large towns!  If you decide to sit on the terrace, find a seat and the waiter will come to you.

Always be polite in France. Manners count for a lot and a little politeness goes a long way.  No shouting or calling across the café to gain the attention of the waiter.  Remember merci and s’il vous plait!

Did you know the cost of your coffee depends on where you sit?  Outside on the terrace is always more expensive but sitting up at the bar is the cheapest and you can enjoy the atmosphere.

If you ask for ‘un café s’il vous plait’ the waiter will bring you a café noir or café express in a small expresso sized cup. It will be served with sugar cubes or sugar wraps on the saucer and a tiny biscuit or a chocolate covered almond.  The other popular coffee, mostly drunk at breakfast time is a café crème or café au lait with hot milk, served in a larger cup.

A custom I love is that if the café does not serve croissants or gateaux you can buy your cakes elsewhere and eat them in the café.  I would always check first out of politeness.  We did this recently, before we opened our big box of cakes on the table and the waitress even provided serviettes, plates and knives!!

Bottled water can be expensive and I am happy to drink Eau du robinet (tap water).  If you ask for a verre or pitcher d’eau du robinet you won’t be charged.

For a delicious treat, order a Café Gourmand, a petit café with a selection of bite sized desserts served alongside.


cafe gourmand

You are generally left alone to take your time to enjoy your coffee.  Lots of cafés and bars, even in rural France have free Wi-Fi (internet). When you do decide that you want l‘addition, (the bill), the service charge is already included.  You will see the words Servis Compris on the bill which means service is already included in the total to be paid.

A small extra tip is still a nice gesture to recognise good service as that will go directly to your waiter.

What have your experiences been like?  I would love to know.

Please comment and share.




Parc Life in the snow

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snowy view

Living in a stone house is lovely and cool in the summer but fffffffrrrrreeeezing in the winter.  Thought we had cracked it this year with extra carpets, insulation and a wood fire cooker but…

The temperature dropped, the wood struggled to catch light and the wood fire cooker started to smoke us out of the house.  So we are back to relying on our good old Godin burner and wrapping up in layers of clothes.

Today the pipes downstairs were frozen – more insulation needed – lesson learnt!  Even the wood pile was frozen.

Well you did want to live on a hill….my friend Ange reminded me!  I know and I do love it.

I have walked the dog every day despite the cold and it’s invigorating.

The sun shone this morning and we went for a walk down at the lac.  The scenery is stunning, snow on the hills and a blue sky.

Le Morvan is beautiful even in the cold.