Some days we wake to deep frost and a thick mist which lingers on into early afternoon. Tod and the dogs disappear into a muffled world on their morning walks; just the sound of Tod's boots crunching on the brittle grass. As the sun slowly breaks through, the farm on the next outcrop of sandstone further up the valley beyond Monsieur F's maize fields emerges as an island lapped by a grey sea.
But this week the weather has turned benign. Blue skies and an almost mildness have me stripping off my heavy gardening jacket as I strim the weed patch to the left of the cottage that remained untouched through the whole of this spring and summer - just too far down the "to do" list. The scrubby bumpy terrain deserves to be something better, with its splendid views across the fields to the distant chateau and small hill-top village. As I cut back the great mounds of weed and grass, I dream of a rose bed and arbour where our guests can sit and watch the changing light on the fields and the swoop of the buzzards as their hunt their prey.
It may take some time before that dream is realised. The ground is above what I suspect are the remnants of a flint walled barn that is shown on the Napoleonic maps. Older than the cottage, sadly all that is left of the barn (Serge having dismantled it) is one long wall, the support for a tatty breeze-block cow shed with a tin roof held down by tyres. We've never understood why the barn was flint. After all, this is clay and sandstone land and no landowner in Napoleonic times would have transported building materials far. Then we learn from one of our farming neighbours (they whose family has been here longest) that there is a small flint quarry just beyond the distant village. Mystery solved.
I fear I will be quarrying flints in our own garden for the foreseeable future if we are to have that new rose bed. Something to add to the "to do" list. And maybe, just maybe, if December stays benign, it will be a task that I manage at least to start, if not accomplish, at the end of this old year.