Updated: May 7, 2021
Emigration is not immediately the first thing you think about or do in times of corona. Nevertheless, in November 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, we left Haarlem in the Netherlands, to Bretagne / Brittany in France. We have exchanged urban life for a life in the French countryside. What our life looks like now? We would like to tell you about this in our first blog, with pictures of our budding little paradise!
So since November 2020, we have been living in the French countryside, on the edge of the small village Plessala in Côte d'Armor in the heart of Brittany. Suddenly we have become part of an agricultural community. We are surrounded by cows, chickens, pigs, some sheep and lots of nature. Do you know what it is to wake up to a flute and chirrup concert? That's awesome!
Back to November 2020, how did it come about? Sometimes a setback suddenly becomes an opportunity. Covid19 is of course a worldwide disaster that we cannot just get rid of. As freelancers, we were faced with doom scenarios. This, added to the many years of workload and a long-cherished wish to 'start fresh' one more time, the chance surfaced fairly quickly.
The heart of Brittany turned out to be financially feasible, partly because we were able to sell our house in the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands well. So we left our town house with a garden of 30m2 and a roof terrace of 40m2 for a natural stone cottage with attached 4040m2 ‘wonderground’ on the brook Le Lery. Not hindered by any knowledge of the French language or customs, by the way. The land around the house consists of forest and rough lawn. In the forest there are oaks that are more than 100 years old! By means of small and sensitive interventions, we want to create various naturalistic gardens and an edible forest garden. We named our place Ty-Vert, ‘Ty’ is Breton for home and ‘Vert’ stands for green in terms of planting and lifestyle.
Gradually we take root and connect with our new living environment. Every day is different and every day is enjoyment what we see, hear, feel and smell. Although ... spreading the manure is not much enjoyable in terms of smell, but it is nice to move with the farm life and the agricultural cycle. To get intense with the seasons and to understand what needs to be done to get food from the ground on our plates. Nothing is self-evident anymore and we actually like that very much.
Now, after 6 months, we are slowly but surely becoming part of our small community in our little hamlet. A treasure, that's it. The youngest permanent resident is 46 and the oldest 91! The oldest, Eugene, is still busy every day in his vegetable and floral garden and with his chickens. He drives around on his old tractor and visits everyone by car daily to see if everybody is doing well. It’s a small community with unique characters who show us what neighborhood is and how you can grow old healthy and cheerful in a slow pace.
Gardening like we never imagined
Never thought we would sit on a lawn mower every week to mow the grass. Or saw the wood from our own forest into chunks with an electric chainsaw to dry and burn in the wood stoves. Working with a shredder and brush cutter. Would set up a polytunnel measuring 3.30 m x 6.00 m! Or that we would organically create a flower meadow of 300m2. They are unusual devices and activities for formerly city dwellers, but it all quickly feels very ‘natural’. Our surrounding residents have taken a shifted walking tour in order to be able to follow (almost) daily what we are doing. With a friendly chat, which we sometimes understand and sometimes don't quite well yet, the walkers indicate that they are satisfied with what we do and try to integrate well. We follow the customs that apply here, while in fact we just do what has seemed so nice and valuable to us for so long: we follow our heart.
Practise what you preach
In our working life we have done projects for years that brought people more in contact with nature, natural processes and materials and art. Most recent we created several sensory experience gardens for vulnerable elderly people. Over the years we have also, together and individually, made several books in the Netherlands. ‘Self-sufficient living and working places’ (Thoth, 2005) and ‘The unlocked garden’ (Blauwdruk, 2020) were the preludes to our rural life and green lifestyle here. With the Ty-Vert blogs we would like to share with you what that practice looks like.
This is the first blog of what will hopefully be a series of years to come about the ins and outs of our stay in Plessala. We hope the blogs will inform and inspire lots of people to follow their passion and to live more green in a broad sense.