It can only be described as a miserable time of year – Christmas and New Year celebrations are over, the decorations have been packed away and the weather is grey, damp and uninspiring….. Perhaps a good time, then, to look back at what happened for us in 2017 🙂

January

In contrast to the storms, rain and fog we have experienced so far, this time last year, the temperatures plummeted to -8 degrees and we had a week of frosts – it was truly cold but beautiful…

Inside, I redecorated Edward’s bedroom, painted furniture and, with Edward’s help, made internal shutters for my bedroom….

 

    

      

I also found time to start my first linocut of the year (for my 2017 Christmas cards!), cutting at the kitchen table while I waited for the studio to be constructed….

Speaking of which, Edward braved the cold and managed to make some headway with the studio – his aim being to create an insulated ‘box’, inside which he could work in relative comfort (!) and which would also offer some storage space for items currently taking up room in the house…..

February

Edward continued work on the studio and finished insulating the walls and ceilings before fitting the spotlights….

   

Then we decided panelling the ceiling would be better…..

Some time was spent preparing food for the French students due to arrive over half-term later in the month for a week’s sejour…

And while on a walk in the countryside, just up the track from the house, accompanied by Colin, we were excited to discover a large badger set in one of the little copses… Colin was interested too!

Inside, I finished the Christmas card linocuts…

And started a new drawing for the next one….

Meanwhile, outside, the fruits of earlier labours were beginning to show….

Then, we returned to the side garden, where clearing the vicious thicket of brambles on the bank continued, the borders were made bigger, new borders and island beds were created, dug, planted and mulched with manure from our farmer friend, and Edward started constructing a picket fence from the pallets we kept from when the roof slates were delivered……

   

   

 

   

Buoyed up by the effect of the fencing, Edward continued with construction of the planned rail fencing along the terrace, where he would also be building archways…..

March

Impressed with the efforts in the side garden and the new feel of this enclosed area, we felt that the pathway let it down, plus in winter, it was horrible to walk on, with mud caking shoes and boots after every trip out.  So I levelled the ground and lay weed suppressant material down before we headed out to our local agricultural supplier to buy some gravel….

     

 

3 trips with the trailer and 1.5 tonnes later – what a difference it made!

Meanwhile, Edward made great headway with the fencing in front of the terrace and constructing the archways…

   

By the end of the month it was completed.

Clearing the brambles on the bank in the side garden went well, reaching the thicket by the rowan tree.  It seemed like a good idea to make a second set of steps , so that one could make a circular route around  – I took the car up to the rock pile in our farmer friend’s field to collect a few for this new project!

Elsewhere in the garden, pathways were made using the old roof slates and mini borders around the stone seats were created.

  

  

And, with a lot of manual effort, we managed to take out the stump of a huge forsythia we cut down when we first arrived, so that this area too could be landscaped and planted…

  

  

Over the time we have been here, we’ve had three different compost heap locations!  This month Edward started to build the first of 3 new bays for the final location 🙂

And finally, inside, I managed to paint another piece of furniture – the large sideboard we have on the landing and use for bed linen using home-made chalk paint – phew!

 

April

Fencing and archways were ready to be painted, while Edward pick-axed the ground in front so that narrow borders could be made for some summer colour…

  

 

Edward constructed new fencing between the orchard and the meadow and around the nursery, followed by gate for the entrance to the property…

  

  

  

I smashed more old slates for the pathways in the woodland, finally clearing the pile of slates at the side of the barn.

    

Edward also finished constructing the compost bays…

and then started clearing some of the worst mistletoe from one of the apple trees – it was a bigger job than we’d anticipated, so we’ll be returning to do more at a later date!

Aside from all the hard work around the garden, we had some time for fun too… Our dear friends, Mike and Hilary came for afternoon tea and arrived with another boot-load of plants, which soon filled the new border around the end stone seat….

On a walk up the track and into the fields behind the house, Colin and Mouse came too – it was like a day at the races as they chased each other along the rows of cut hay…

 

One evening, while playing belote with our neighbours, Yves and Aline offered to take us out to a nearby beauty spot, St Leonard des Bois.  True to their word, they arrived one afternoon and we spent a very pleasant few hours exploring the area and taking in spectacular views 🙂

      

One day, we even managed a little trip out to Carrouges, where we walked around the romantic, moated castle, which we first visited on one of our holidays in the area some years ago….

 

At the end of the month we had another week’s sejour with three French students.  Happily,  we still keep in touch with one of them, Valentine, and later in the summer we met her mother and brother too when they came for a visit 🙂

Wildlife started to appear too – we had a beautiful hare come to inspect the side garden and the first of the swallows arrived….

   

May

May was a bit like a holiday month for us, comparatively speaking!  In April, we’d bought a small tunnel for the vegetable garden, which we erected and planted up at the beginning of the month…

To make access to the vegetable garden easier, I made steps for the bank, using old beams found in the small barn…

   

Then we had a day out, meeting up with our gentle friends Victorine and Nazeem in Angers.  They took us around for a little tour of the town before we went on to an art gallery, where I met up with fellow printmaker, Olesya Dzhuraeva 🙂

     

We had visitors from England: our dear friends Gary and Barry, Mum and Dad and our lovely French friends, Victorine and Valentine, who taught me how to make macarons!

    

And in the middle of the month, we went on a guided tour (by our Parisian friends, organised for the commune) to Paris 🙂

Meanwhile, around the garden, the borders were flourishing and the little nursery was soon filling up with new plants 🙂

  

June

This month rather continued the holiday feel.  We had a return visit from Victorine, who so kindly helped us for a couple of days to paint the outside of the studio…

Followed by a lovely week with our friends, Anne and Steve, who brought glorious weather with them…

We met up again with Victorine and the rest of the Ronsin family, Stéphane, Nathalie and Valentine, for a wonderful day out at the Château de Lude for a picnic and a browse around the plant fair.  Needless to say we came back with a few purchases!

  

We finished the month with another student sejour, with the highlight of the week being a visit to the zoo at Spay, feeding the budgerigars 🙂

July

Back to work in the garden, planting a small hedge along the curved edge of the lawn and clearing the lower bank of weeds and the larger rocks…

   

Planting on the bank started but the increasing heat of the summer stopped play – to be resumed later in the year….

Edward started re-training the overgrown pear trees…

and amazingly, the narrow borders in front of the terrace and which were only planted up a couple of months ago, were in full bloom….

The work on the studio resumed, as we decided what to do with the inside walls…

With the summer fruit needing attention, time was spent inside bottling fruit, making jam and pie fillings…..

     

       

By now we had decided, for a number of reasons, to call it a day with taking in French students for immersion holidays.  This month we had our last students, ‘our girls’, who were the first group to arrive last year and the last to stay with us this year – we love them all 🙂

August

Back in the studio and suddenly, it seemed, we were getting close to finishing – ceiling done, panelling well underway, and while I painted walls and furniture, Edward sorted out the fiddling works around the windows and the electrics…

   

 

  

Then the first of the work benches went in before we painted the floor….

Outside and vegetable garden was yielding plenty of fruit, vegetables and armfuls of flowers

  

This month we took a trip up the coast near to Cherbourg so that I could meet one of my FB friends and fellow printmaker, Ayse Anil, who had come over from Turkey for a workshop.  We had a lovely afternoon and made an exchange of our artwork too 🙂

    

And we had a fabulous day out with our friends, Mike and Hilary, at the brocante fair at Bagnoles de l’Orne…

   

September

A year after it was started, the studio was finished!

   

And my first print from the new studio came off the press…

    

After the study was emptied of all the studio stuff that had been stored there for almost 2 years, we were able to to do up this room too…

 

This month saw the Journees de Patrimoine – heritage days, where various buildings and monuments across France were open to the public, often free of charge over one weekend.  We took advantage to see two privately owned castles in our area…

   

Later in the month, we took a trip to the UK, staying with Mum and Dad, meeting up with other family and friends and exchanging Christmas presents – we were very well organised!

   

October

Back home and we were busy preparing for our first party to celebrate our 2nd year at La Biochère and our two birthdays – 23 of our friends were coming for an evening soirèe and buffet….

    

   

   

   

It was hard work but really enjoyable and everyone seemed to have a good time too – we had lots of very positive comments during and after the party and perhaps, given that we’re not really ‘party people’, we may do another one in 2018!!

Our next challenge for us was to attend a 4-day course with Leggett Immobilier for our new venture in estate agency.  We drove down to the Dordogne for the course, which was an intense few days, but we came back inspired, motivated and ready to go….

But before we really got started on building up our portfolio of houses, we had a lovely few days with cousins, David and Marion, who came over to visit.  We were lucky with the weather and enjoyed a couple of trips out…

   

I managed to start work on a new linocut too….

November

This month, we started building up our portfolio in earnest, in our newly finished study…

On our ‘days off’ we decided to try to sort out the courtyard.  In the summer it’s generally ok, although does need weed killing regularly, but in the winter, it becomes a muddy mess and is impossible to walk across without getting muddy shoes… so by hand, we started to scrape the worst of the mud off the top and made new flower beds, edged with rocks from the top field…

  

 

December

The first day of the month we had a flurry of snow – just a dusting but enough to feel seasonal!  Prospecting for houses continued but we also wanted to get the courtyard finished.  So, between working and bad weather, we finished scraping the yard of mud, created more new beds (into which we deposited the mud), lay weed-suppressant material and then spread 26 tonnes of gravel!  It’s difficult to describe how hard it was but the relief to have it finally done will stay with us for some time!

   

  

And so, we finished the courtyard with a day to spare before Mum and Dad came to stay for Christmas!

  

Looking back it’s been quite a year and it’s easy to forget all the things we have done as we are constantly looking forward to the next project or piece of work that needs doing.  It has been hard work but good fun too and we are now really beginning to see the fruits of all our labours.  Above all, we are settled and happy and feel fortunate for all the good friends we have made since moving out here.  Our local friends have made us feel very welcome in the community and we can’t ask for much more than that….. I wonder what 2018 has in store for us… ♥