Farm Diary – the spirit of the library

This old farmhouse is slowly taking shape. It surprises me how much effort it takes to move a family of five (soon to be six) into a house and get it organized. There is still so much work to do. There will be stuff in boxes for all time. The guy in the local dechetterie knows me now from all the loads of trash I am taking out.




[Our friend Kevin took that photo with a tripod and long exposure.]

We’ve been focusing on getting rooms functional one at a time. The galley was early on, and although it is hardly the ideal kitchen space it is working out well as we figure out workflows that go with it. The dining room is basically a big cheap table with lots of chairs and it was just a matter of getting the random boxes out of there. It still needs a wood stove for warmth but it has a little electric radiator at the moment, which Bug is attached to.

The bedrooms all work and have enough furniture, but we need to get Quattro’s space ready for the birth in three weeks. The couloirs are all a mess of boxes which need to go into the cellar. But the library…




Oh man, I love the library. It is one of the two big rooms downstairs and contains the sofa and some chairs and bookcases. By calling it the library we gave it an identity that helped us make decisions about what goes there. There’s no TV, just chairs and books. The room is tatty, with a bizarre crazy paving floor and some water damage where someone put a concrete skim coat on the walls, but it gets great light and is a calm, quiet place to read, think and work. 




Jean bought some IKEA Billy bookshelves to house our forty-odd boxes of books and the ensemble has been christened The Lambert. Billy bookshelves hold the books of the entire world. The photo below shows one of the travel shelves, a fiction shelf and a shelf of Australian writers, with some Alain de Botton and Harry Potter sneaking in the corners.




The sad thing is that despite all these books we’ll still be book-poor compared to our sitcom neighbor who has a book habit worse than mine.

The library doesn’t yet have a heater. We have a giant cast iron stove to go in there but we’re waiting on the local sweep to squeeze us in to his schedule before we install it. But the library remains comfortable, thanks to it getting the afternoon sun and to Kevin’s work on Project Warm. You can see the evidence of Project Warm with the temporary insulation in the doorway below. We’ll get new doors soon enough.




It’s a great place to think and work, and sometimes in the afternoon the spirit of the library takes over.





  • What do we do with all these hectares?

In the first couple of years I won’t have a cow herd large enough to eat it all as pasture, and I’m wondering what else to grow. I could grow crops to feed to cows that we’re finishing for slaughter, but that’s something that will be small-to-nonexistent in 2011. I don’t want to sell soil fertility away so all hay stays on the farm and I’m not growing grains for sale. I could use cows to trample a lot of the natural growth back into the soil as green manure as part of our focus on improving soil quality.

  • What permanent crops do we plant?

Trees and shrubs take a long time to get productive, so you need to start them right away. Because they’re permanent you have to think hard as to their location. We don’t have steep hillsides on the farm to host a lot of trees but I’m sure on closer inspection we could find something suitable. There is 650 meters of roadway we can line with trees and also a few natural tree lines along paddock boundaries we could extend. There is a small orchard on the farm but it was heavily damaged in the big storm of February 2009 and I’m not sure how productive it is.

  • How do I deal with thistles?

I need to read up on this but I’ve been wondering about the few thistle patches we have. Overgrazing the grass is giving the thistles an advantage, and they have taken hold of a couple of small areas. We could fence these areas off and put in cows to eat and trample, but I think pigs would be better for eating the roots and Jean thinks goats. The joke about goats is that if your fence won’t hold water, it won’t hold goats, and I’m a little leery of chasing nature’s jokers around the farm.



Sunday was a busy day, but not for farming. The tenants moved out of the villa so Michael can now move in. The house is clean and 1960s modern, way more functional than the old farmhouse. The tenants left it in a reasonable shape, even leaving some light bulbs in the sockets. Before they drove off they came by for an aperitif, bringing some of their friends. There was a mixture of English, French and Portuguese spoken. My brain is at a loss at the Portuguese, although Jean catches the odd word.

The kids had a huge day of play which culminated in a Halloween chocolate hunt through the house as Jean had written a sequence of clues for them to follow, one set for each kid. And Halloween is the 12th anniversary of the Hallowedding, where Jean and I got hitched back in Seattle.

8 thoughts on “Farm Diary – the spirit of the library

  1. Deb Lloyd says:

    Oh I love your library!! We have Billy bookcases as well – they are about 16 years old now, have travelled to another continent and back, and still going strong! Nice to see your tomb of Australian History and there is a Bill Bryson there I notice too.

  2. bizzyella says:

    I have a little confession to make. While I like the blog, I really come back for the photos. Are you posting photos from three different people? They are all great. I spent some time photographing a friend’s house in the Dordogne, so I know how difficult it can be to capture the sense of peace and quiet — without making it look just boring. I don’t know how a guy with almost four kids and a mammoth renovation project can make his life look like 24-hour meditation (well, 23 plus naps), but you are doing it. Bravo.

    So, Kevin? Michael? With Quattro almost here I imagine there will soon be a lull, shall we say, on the posting front, at least as far as you and Jean are concerned. Maybe when you are busy with the new arrival, they could introduce themselves.


  3. bc says:

    Hey Lynn,

    Thanks for asking about the photos. Most photos are by Jean, who has talent, although I occasionally take some. They’re all on the ‘doople’ flickr account that the photos above link to.

    The library photos above are by me except for the one where I’m asleep. The star photo was by a visiting friend called Kevin, who came out for two weeks and geeked out one starry night with Jean’s camera and tripod. He’s back in Seattle now.

    In general if it contains kids it is by Jean, if it contains barns it is by me. For some reason I like taking photos of barns. Jean puts a lot of photos on Brat Like Me:

    Michael is a friend and now our neighbor. He’s on TheSWFranceCafe alias and has his own blog about his travels with his large wolf-like hound, Munson ( His house is the other house on the farm so our paths intersect daily. Right now we’re helping him move out of the Salle de Degustation where he’s been camping for a month or so into the house.

  4. bc says:

    One other thing I might not have made clear in a blog about France – Jean is my wife, American, female.

    And Lynn, where are your Dordogne photos?

  5. bc says:

    Deb, I can’t believe a schoolteacher misspelled ‘tome’! Go to the back of the class. 🙂

    Yeah, I do have a fair bit of aussie and kiwi stuff. Now I’ve been overseas for 14 years I can see what a strange world it is down there. I still scan the smh web site now and then. But I need to hear the stories of your letters to the editor. Are they gathered online somewhere?

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