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The New Collection

We’ve started working on the court and the orchard. They are around the mill and there is grass there that needed to be maintained anyhow. It’s logical to start here and –mind you– a good garden needs at least three years of work. The first year is for shaping and planting the new collection. The second year is for (re)planting, growing and maintenance. And during the third year you’ll be (re)planting, growing, maintenance and enjoying.

So this is the year of The New Collection. We bought some plants in France, but they are way too expensive! We’d rather buy the plants in the Netherlands for example at Abbing (Zeist) … I just love to search around that huge nursery.

So far we have planted the following:A part of the New Collection

Achillea millefolium ‘Cloth of Gold’

Ajuga reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’

Anaphalis triplinervis

Anemopsis californica

Aquilegia chrysantha ‘Yellow Queen’

Armeria maritima

Aster ‘Monte Cassino’

Astilbe tangutica

Astilboides tabularisThe untamed garden

Astrantia major

Brunnera ‘Langtree’

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’

Calamogrostis brachytricha

Campanula addenda ‘Blue Star’

Carex muskingumensis

Centaurea montana ‘Grandiflora’

Chaerophyllum roseum

Clematis montana ‘Rosebud’

Darmera peltata

Festuca glauca ‘Intense Blue’

Filipendulina rubra

Iris ensata ‘Diamant’

Iris japonica ‘Variegata’

Luzula nivea

Molinia transparentThe shape of the new borders

Pachysandra terminalis

Papaver orientale ‘Perry’s White’

Parthenocissus tricuspidata ‘Robusta’

Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’

Polygonatum vanitatum

Primula  ‘Gold Lace’

Primula vialii

Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Alba’

Rodgersia podophyllaPlanting

Rosa ‘Penny Lane’

Thalia dealbata

Thalictrum rochebrunianum

Trachelospermum jasminum

Trachystemon orientalis

Verbascum ‘Raspberry Ripple’

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Spending time green

I hate to admit it, but YES, I DO love gardening. I can spend hours walking through a garden –especially the gardens I maintain– checking on every little perennial to see how everyone is doing.

The mill at Tourteron has 5,700 square meters of garden–and that’s a long walk. Mind you: That’s 7,000 square feet. But I honestly don’t mind. It’s a perfect way to start a day before the first cup of coffee. I’d do it all day if I could.

Do I talk to the flowers and the trees? There’s my next confession: I guess so. LOL!

I could talk about gardening all day and show you every single flower there is. But it’s better if you check yourself: I’ve made three galleries at Flickr only on the garden of the mill.

The (unknown) flowers at Tourteron: about the flowers we discovered in the garden.

The New Collection: about the plants we bought and planted.

Shaping the Garden: about the progress we’re making with getting the garden into shape.

So, those three galleries are enough for you to check out. The rest of the big steps will be blogged here (Flickr is only for the pics).

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Just the beginning

When you think you have seen it all, it’s usually just the beginning. In the period while we were still working on the finance we got a call from Madame Picard. During the heavy rain of that night the stream didn’t hold the extra water and…you guessed it: flooded the Mill.

The clay residue of the flood

The clay residue of the flood

Now that was a big surprise. The mill apparently floods at least once every 5 years. At least! We were in shock! And so were all our friends 🙂

We claimed an extra cut on the price, but this time the French owners really said: “Pas possible!” So what to do next? We were this close to buying a mill with a high risk of flooding. We thought about it for a week or so – you know late night wine drinking, talking about risk, chances and dreams. And we decided to do it. “We’re Dutch,” we thought. “We”ll find a way to stop the water!”

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The first step to a Super Gite

On September 30, 2008, we received a call from our Dutch / French agent. He’d seen an old water mill that was about to go on the market, and he guessed correctly that we’d be eager to see it. He knew the real estate agent and said we could have the first look as bidders. Four hours later we drove up the small path and saw the mill for the first time.

The silence was deafening. The location at the bottom of a ridge was superb. The village was only 10 meters uphill. The view was absolutely spectacular!

We knew instantly that this was a Super Gîte to be!

The price was set at an affordable level, but it went up the same day. Luckily we had already expressed our sincere interest. After doing some calculations and drawings that evening, we called the next day to give it a GO.

Then the real story began…

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The Start of a Dream

Entrance

How  do dreams start, you wonder? Well, this one started at the ancient monastery of Belval Bois des Dames in the heart of the Lorraine. As we walked through the half-demolished house, all kind of visions passed through our minds. We were completely fascinated by the atmosphere of the ancient building and the peaceful green valley. Hidden in a dark forest surrounded by fields of cows owned by the only farmer of the valley–who also happened to be the mayor of Belval (population: 80).

Priory and Chapel The monastery used to be much bigger than the current barn (left), priory (center) and chapel (right). The priory is 16th century, the chapel dating a few centuries older. The whole complex was protected by large wall of which you can still see the foundations in the field around the buildings.

From the outside the house looks more or less undamaged. It still has its proud, religious stature. The symmetric facade of the priory carved in the yellow sand stone is magnificent. The chapel to the right had been in use until the late ’50s. The mayor even went there for ceremonies.

First floorThe inside is a different story. Everything was torn down, with rubbish and debris everywhere. Yet this is where the dream started! We were drawing a picture of these rooms in minimal design with just a few local wooden artifacts that matched the exterior. You don’t need much if the building has this feel: a simple Hästens bed, good light design, a rain-style shower, stone walls with limestone floors, a wooden cross or a statue of some saint. Perfect. The old abbey would live again for people who are looking for tranquility with quality.

And so it happened. The Super Gite concept was born.

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I might as well …

… start writing.

Let me explain where I’m coming from. About three years ago my partner and I started to look for a place out in the country. Amsterdam is cute, lively, liberal and fun yet very crowded, noisy and hectic. Not even close to places like Madrid, New York or London, but still.

A place outside of Amsterdam was not going to be enough. We needed S-P-A-C-E. And the Netherlands do not have space at all. You could try the corners of this tiny country like east of Deventer or north of Groningen, but there’s nowhere you’ll find a place with just the sound of birds.

Besides that we’ve always wanted to live abroad. Spain, Italy or France: you name it, and we’ve been there to check it out. Our #1 choice has always been Spain; the country is great, the people are special, the food is fun (and muy delicioso!). But all that is a flight away. Spain–or at least the Sierra Morena which we aimed at–is simply too far away for a weekend out of the country. You need to book a flight, pack stuff, check in, wait, fly, pick up your car, drive to the house, and then… you’re even more tired then before you left!

Chateau de la Forge

Chateau de la Forge

So we started seriously looking for homes two years ago in an area between 4 to 6 hours’ drive from our home. We looked seriously at several places.

The first contender was this beautiful Chateau de la Forge in Commercy. A bit too far… around 8 hours from Amsterdam…but –OMG– it wa s a dream house. Eight bedrooms, six bathrooms, two living rooms, a drawing room, two dining rooms. This house was great! The garden was the size of a small park; yes, it was huge and so was the price. We made an offer just a bit on the low side and they never wanted to talk with us again. That was a pity, since it truly was a remarkable mansion. (BTW, if anyone is interested, it’s still on the market.)

Monastery at Bois des Dames

Monastery at Bois des Dames

A few months later we got a second call from our contact in France. This time he wanted to show us an ancient monastery chapel. Really our thing, he said–and he was right.

The chapel and priory were situated in a valley surrounded by forest. The Dutch owners had started some renovation we’d call demolition. Demolished ceilings, half-broken fireplaces… it was a mess to say the least. Taking all this into account, we again offered miles less than the owners wanted. We saw a crisis coming and we sure didn’t want it to be our crisis.

The Dutch owners took it off the market again, and they are continuing their dramatic work.

We sure hope the ghosts of the 48 Germans buried in their garden do not obstruct the renovation.

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