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Factory House to Apple Puree – A French Homestead Life

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I have hurt my back again. Mowers with pull cords are absolutely dangerous! I have a lot of grass and land weeds to contend with and petrol mowers are a necessity. But they do not make them suitable for women. I am not a feminist but I do expect manufacturers to know our upper body strength is not so good, so in trying to start for the umpteenth time, something clicked.

I have struggled for a week trying to manage my chickens and finish decorating our Factory House that we have finally, after much wrangling of ideas, decided to sell. Its too large for us to keep simply as a storage and sewing facility when cash flow is honestly, rather tight. We did the necessary decorating as it was in a terrible state, unclean, a few cracks, a leaking bathroom and decor from the 1970’s. I loved the paper and actually kept a lot of it for my atelier, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

Below are the after pictures. We used paint we had already, hence the maybe strange colour combinations, but we know the French Market doesn’t really value decor unless it’s very high end.

The building is a strange one. When Gouzon begun to develop, a house was built and a car paint shop next door. The rest of the town was residential. Over the years businesses moved in and moved alongside the house, nothing with chimneys or belching chemicals, just farm equipment depots and chicken grain suppliers…good for me. When we came looking for premises, and this one came up right at the end of town, we were ecstatic. It had access to the motorway uninterrupted views accross the meadows and a lot of land. Premises are hard to find so central and we were not too worried about the house. It was the sticking point for many as it needed to either be demolished or adapted for business. For us that was feasible. It was also only 15 minutes from our barn.

However as we settled into French life, and my desire to move my geese and chickens from a now very muddy, totally grasses space, with two little goslings just hatched, Cashew and Peacan, we had to find a better home. The barn needed so much work and we had our physical limits. North of Boussac, about forty minutes drive through the beautiful country lanes and wooded areas, we found The Farmhouse. It was very reasonable due to having two hectares of land that for many buyers was too much to manage. For a farmer it was great, but who wanted another farmhouse? We grabbed it and moved the birds in January 2019.

Fast forward to 2021 summer. Our farmhouse is wonderful but now with my deteriorating back, a daily commute to the factory was becoming stressful. Time to rethink. The little house on the land became my studio, Thistle Cottage, and if we sold the Factoy House, it meant I could build the much cherished dream of having a light, sunny studio in my garden, overlooking the orchard, where the geese and my rescue cockerels could come and moan at me for treats. All the renovating had taken its toll on our cash and we so wanted to finish the barn. We bought it back in 2016 and I felt we had let the neighbours down. It was such a mess and although now looking respectable with its new roof, windows and gardens fenced, the brambles were fighting back and the front still wasn’t pointed.

So the Factory House has to go. It would make fabulous home once you landscape and add trees. Our factory is being renovated to be very homey…with timber cladding, rugs, curtains…more studio, loft. I hope potential buyers see potential.

Here are a selection of the before, a week after we cleared out the rotten carpets, stripped walls and stopped the leaks.

The previous owner was inclined to drink, she never cleaned or repaired anything. The house smelt and was home to generations of spiders. Another French trait perhaps….leaving without removing personal affects, furniture? Back in UK our homes must be empty. Absolutely unless the contents have been listed, valued and sold with the property. Here you open stuck doors, or find a cellar or loft space unmarked on the deeds ( The French do not ever give a plan of a house), and inside you have a brocante, literally. Alot of the furniture is fine and often we keep and renovate. Alot is also beyond repair and at the dechetteries (rubbish tips), it’s a bit of a joke as us Brits, Dutch, South Africans and Belgians slog away clearing van loads of musty, mouldy, broken remnants from generations of French who just dump their unloved belongings where it can’t be seen. I think it is shameful. Some goes from here to the brocantes and we often use our hard earned cash rebuying pre-loved and restoring them back to home use. It’s almost right of passage here for us. It’s recycling and upcycling on a big scale.

I love this bath and actually hope the buyers do not want it. For me it’s the perfect dog bath.

So what’s this got to do with apple puree? Well I can never sit still and the back us hurting, so what better thing to do than cut up home grown apples and make puree for delicious apple pies.

Method – chop the apples roughly, removing cores. Don’t worry about skins, all flavour and texture.

Half cover with water in a large pan. I add two tablespoons of sugar and half a cup of lemon juice. I am going to freeze this pulp but I still want a little preserving ingredients to help when I defrost. If I don’t make the pie straight away, I know the apples will be fine for a day or two. These apples are bitter sweet and cook in about twenty minutes.

Once soft, I turn off the heat and stir vigorously to break all the apples into a rough pulp. Leave on the stove to cool and then freeze. On defrosting I will turn them onto my blind-baked pastry base, after adding a little flour and oats to thicken, top with a few ground almonds and then bake for fifteen minutes. I might add an egg and milk, to make the pie a little more like an apple, egg custard. Enjoy!

I also get to spend time with Otto. He is going through new feather growth and a little under the weather. I will post about Otto. He is adorable and deserves more than a mention. My friend and saved from the dinner table….one of seven I took in.

Otto. Not perfect. He has neurological issues. But perhaps that’s why he gets on with me!

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