The importance of trees

Welcome to the latest news from Le Shack on October 23rd 2020.

I know the title of this blog is about trees but first of all I have a question for my female followers. Would you let your husband cut your hair?

Until recently I would have answered that question with ‘over my dead body’ but the times they are a-changing. The number of new daily Coronavirus cases in France are soaring, reaching a peak of over 30,000 recently. It seems that most cases are in the large cities and, from what I understand, this little backwater corner of France is not a hotspot, but even so I’m not overly keen on getting up close and personal with a hairdresser.

I’ve been cutting Michael’s hair on and off for several years now, ever since we have lived on the boat. When you’re continually on the move it’s not always easy to find a hairdresser, let alone one who has a free appointment on the one day we might be in the area. I say I’ve been cutting his hair ‘on and off’ because there are times when I get too enthusiastic with the clipper, to the point where his poor head looks like a patchwork quilt. If it’s at the back where he can’t see it I can get away with it, but occasionally he gets a sideways glimpse of what I’ve done and vows that’ll he never let me do it again.

Letting him loose on my hair might be asking for retribution, but what’s the worst that can happen? I’m a wash-and-go sort of girl, preferably by-passing hairdryers and mirrors – easy to do as we have no mirrors in Le Shack yet – so I won’t be able to see the carnage. And in three months it will grow back anyway.

I know what’s going to happen now. Family and close friends will be gleefully clamouring for a before-and-after photo. Unlucky! This counts as classified information on a need to know basis – and nobody needs to know.

Following on from last week we have now met the other half of our neighbours. The wife of the man we had such an illuminating chat with is Peruvian, Spanish speaking, but she has lived here for 15 years and so her French is fluent with a hint of Spanish about it. She speaks with the local southern French accent which I find quite hard to follow at times, so it’s a miracle we understand each other, but we are chatting most days now and enjoying each others company. Her husband is away looking after a relative so we haven’t seen him again, but I am sure we shall all get along fine when he does come back.

The other day she offered to take me out for a drive, to show me where the local recycling centre was and also a local beauty spot. I turned her down.

Normally I would have been delighted at this overture of friendship, but that was before the coronavirus. Now, I was simply not comfortable at the thought of sharing such an enclosed space, even with a mask on. I explained why I couldn’t go out with her and she completely understood, but it didn’t make me feel any better. I felt immeasurably saddened by the need to distance myself in this way and resentful towards the virus and what it is doing to all our lives.

The feeling is accentuated because we are living in a foreign country where we don’t know anyone. We joyfully set off on these hair-brained adventures of buying a boat or a cabin, but the price we pay is to miss our family and friends. Trips home become precious but the virus situation is making it ever more difficult for us to go back and visit, and for them to visit us in return. It is the one great sadness of being in this truly beautiful corner of France that, at the moment, we can’t share it with anyone. Making friends locally becomes even more important against that backdrop and normally we are are quite good at meeting new people. But this year it seems it won’t be so easy.

One of my fellow bloggers recently posted a picture of a tree that she had come across whilst walking. It was growing sideways, roots hanging on grimly to keep it in place. She said it reminded her of the human race at the moment. Just hanging on in there. It seems to sum up the situation perfectly.

And speaking of trees, we have had our main field cut down by a local farmer and can now walk around without falling over hundreds of hidden mole hills.

We’ve decided that each year our Christmas present to each other will be a tree. We’re starting to list the different specimens we’d like to plant and the list is already a long one. It might have to be Christmas every month.

The weather has turned glorious after a wet and windy patch and so we’re making the most if it by working outside now. We’ve reclaimed two small flower beds around the house and this will be the extent of our cultivated garden. Given that we’re only here for the winter it will be planted with winter colour in mind, followed by spring bulbs and requiring minimal maintenance.

And this is what it looked like afterwards. Lots of brown soil but it will fill in with bulbs later.

Oops, the photographer is there again!

I found the little whicker chair in the shot above just sitting in the grass behind the house and have relocated it to a spot under the oak tree. We want the rest of our land to be natural, left to it’s own devices, albeit up to a point. Brambles and bracken not allowed in this field!

This is what a French garden centre looks like at this time of year. They place the chrysanthemums on family graves for All Saints day.

You can only do so much DIY stuff before your head starts to feel like it might explode so we’re trying to be disciplined and take some time off each week. The French version of an OS map gets spread out on the dining room table and we pick a spot that looks as if it might be interesting. This week we chose a walk along part of the GR 653 footpath that runs close to the house and followed it to a lake.

The autumn colours are just beginning to come through, with the pin oak and red oaks providing that first glorious splash of red and gold. It seems that every time we go for a walk in France we end up on one of the many, many signposted pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Invariably we will come across a modern-day pilgrim, always recognisable by the heavy rucksack, and a slightly wild, unkempt look that comes from being on the road for weeks on end, and today was no exception. I often wonder how many of them are doing it for religious reasons and how many simply because it is challenge waiting to be conquered.

As long as there are trees and lakes and walks like this, I think we shall manage to hang on in there, despite the inevitable ups and downs that will come our way this winter. I always come back from a good stomp feeling physically tired, but mentally and emotionally stronger, re-charged and ready to face the next week.

I hope you all manage to find something to help you hang on in there over this winter. Take care.


21 thoughts on “The importance of trees

  1. Thanks for this. I have two comments for you – 1. That flail mower behind the tractor will make very short work of the brambles. I used a much smaller tractor and similar mower to clear a few hectares of 3m tall blackberries. Just have him/her start the mower and drive right over the pokey vines. The ground is likely to be bare below such a thick patch. 2. Hare-brained … although your version may have been more pun-based given the intro 😜


    1. Hi Rob. We thought about using our man with a tractor for the brambles but he wanted to charge a fortune to do it. Michael keeps wandering into farm supplies shops, looking longingly at walk behind tractors. I keep dragging him out….. MJ


  2. Any hairdo seems to be acceptable these days anyway, so as long as you don’t have to walk past a mirror too frequently, it should be reasonably safe. Trimming long hair is easier than short of course so good luck. Am loving your weekly post! Sylvia


  3. Hello there. Following your brave progress with interest. Seems ages since we ‘bumped into you’ near Schwebsange. I like your work on the front patch. Is that an Agapanthus I spied? Lovely idea to buy Trees as gifts too. Good luck.


    1. Hi Lesley. It is indeed an Agapanthus, one of the few plants not strangled by weeds. A new one that size cost a fortune in the garden centre so I am delighted to have it. Can’t wait to get our first tree – although it will need protection from the deer. Cheers. MJ


  4. I always loved the French chrysanthemums for All Saints Day, but I never saw the lovely mixed coloured pots shown in your photograph. I would buy them by the arm full if they sold over here. You should be careful with photographing your shadow. It looks as if Michael has had a go already with a mixing bowl!,


  5. Inspiring as always. Here in OZ a few months back when we had the initial outbreak everyone was going long haired and suddenly grey. We are so fortunate that we have so far miraculously escaped the second wave that is engulfing Europe and the US but the focus here now is opening up and reducing restrictions so anything can happen from here. 40,000 at the football final seems nuts to me. Take care stay safe.


  6. No way would I allow my spouse to cut my hair! (Even though I’ve cut his hair for years.) I finally made an appt. to have mine trimmed. I picked the salon because it only has one chair, so I’d be the only customer. I also washed my own hair before I left and opted out of the blow-dry. We both wore masks and I was in and out in 15 minutes – perfect! Hand sanitizer to finish. 😉
    I understand your nervousness about enclosed places. I’ve shared rides a couple times this summer with a trusted friend, she sat in the back and I drove. We had the windows down and both wore masks. But now that the days are cooling off, I wonder how things will change with no more masked and distanced outdoor visiting. The winter is gonna be long!


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