Le Clos du Hérisson
A 17th c farmhouse latched onto me one evening as I was house hunting near Dieppe, in the Normandy countryside.
As I walked across the terrace toward the front door I was unable to resist peeking through the French doors into the dimly lit interior. A merrily crackling fireplace gave off the incomparable glow which makes women of all ages look stunning. The perfume of apple wood smoke wove through the dusky air to my nostrils.
I had made my decision by the time the seller answered the doorbell. This house would be mine, or I would belong to it, as it were.
Our symbiotic relationship, the house and mine, began some 25 years ago, and we've not split up since. There have been some arguments regarding the electricity, the leaking roof, the death of the boiler and cobweb issues, but we've made overcome our differences and forgiven each other each time.
The House and I - Together Thru Life
We've raised two beautiful girls, a slew of puppies and kittens, been a refuge for two guinea pigs named Max and Rudy, and a bearded dragon from Australia named Jean-Louis, and no, that's not my father-in-law, it's a creature of the lizard type.
A succession of hedgehogs waddle through the yard, and eat out of the dog's dish, some of them physically removed from the dish by its owner, who ends up bleeding from the tongue.
We've got bird's nests in the spaces between the oak beams and the roof, a rabbit warren beneath the bathroom shower, accessible from outdoors, and quite a few owls hooting me to sleep at night.
We have brown and white neighbors who sometimes get lost, clambering over the hedgerow to come eat our apples. One brown eyed girl was noisily chewing her cud and watching me take my shower until I grabbed her by the horns to walk her back down the road to her home field. The next day I went to the farm to buy some of her butter, rich with the yellow that God intended butter to be.
Life in Normandy
Life in the Normandy countryside is steeped in traditions and an ancient Cauchois dialect, rainy in the winter and quite a lot throughout the rest of the year.
But when the sun shines, you wouldn't want to be anywhere else on earth. Green takes on a new meaning here. The lush, fertile countryside is the dairy farm, bread basket, and sugar bowl of France. Not to mention the extensive fruit orchards and vegetable plots.
The coastline is dotted with fishing villages each more picturesque than the next. Buying fresh fish from the fishermen's wives who still sell fish off a wheelbarrow type cart filled with ice is an activity which dates from the middle ages.
And yet, today the port in Dieppe still has a designated area called “les Barrières” where the ladies: strong women with red hands worn raw from working with scales and ice, sell you fish so fresh, some of it is still alive.
Sharing the Seduction
Hedgerows and hedgehogs, cows and animals of all kinds, flower beds and tree lined lanes, Normandy will seduce the ancient soul in you, as it did mine.
And when you're lucky enough to belong to that world, and be owned by a piece of land carrying those traditions and history in the wind whispering through its trees, you decide that sharing this is a must.
It's impossible to hoard such an incredible experience for oneself.
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