The New Year

Good morning to the world, and
good morning to another sunny
but cold winter's day in Quinson, Provence!
Life at La Vudèle is absolutely amazing, and every day offers a different experience. We sat down yesterday and looked back at the past year, 2010,which was our first full year up here, at 550m altitude, in lavender country.

The garden is very dormant, after this season's very successful olive harvest (we managed to bottle 15 liters which we sell in our little shop at La Vudèle) but this is also the time to trim some of the trees, like the prune tree the other day. Or the fig tree this coming week.

We started a chambre d'hotes, with one spacious double bedroom which, once the bed finally arrived, was booked every night, and our table d'hotes having been very much in demand. But because we want to offer fresh food we always ask to reserve 24 hours in advance. As for this coming year during the summer months we are going to ask for a minimum stay of 2 nights; a chambre d'hotes, even with only one room, does involve a lot of work because the guests are part of our daily lives and hence can and should expect personal attention.

For two years in a row we volunteered at the same farm in the Drôme as WWOOFers, at Ferme du Pescher. For Jim it wa a great experience to not only learn something new but to also improve on his cheese-making methods. For 2011 we are considering a cheese-making farm with cow's milk, maybe in the Jura? We love Comté.

Due to Claudia breaking her arm in December of 2009 we didn't do any big walks or hikes this year but rather focused on our new neighborhood, enjoyed sailing on the lac Saint Croix on Jim's sail boat, met more people here in the area and all in all spent a lot of time here at La Vudèle.

The vegetable garden was a big success, especially after we started watering more often. We have our own 'source', a bassin which collects rain water so we do use natural resources but at the same time it is completing the cycle locally. And since we don't use any kind of fertilizer, not even so called organic ones, our soil is very clean. We started a compost which is now dormant in the winter but which we have used a little bit on feeding the various vegetable plants. For next year we want to try more variations but definitely loved our own fresh courgette, aubergine and tomatoes! And if all goes well we'll have some Provencal artichokes this coming summer.

We traveled to the Netherlands several times, to visit Jim's elderly mother who is turning 90 this year! Usually we stay with Jim's friends in a small town about 30 minutes outside of Amsterdam but close to his mother's care home; this way we get to enjoy a family atmosphere at Hilly and Dirk's and at the same time are close to the attractions, museums and, yes, shops in A'dam.

We also went to Germany in October, for my father's 70th birthday. Thanks to my uncle's buddies he started his own tomato plantation on the balcony but too much watering (as much as 5 times a day) and the use of Blaukorn chemical fertilizer his tomato harvest was abundant but the taste very watery. O well, maybe more luck this coming year, without the fertilizer and more patience ;-)

1.1.2011 also marked the day Claudia's cosmetics company C'etrange was officially registered in France! This means that in the coming months we will be busy setting things up, finding new suppliers, creating a market here in France, etc.

And Jim wants to do a lot of work inside the house, making it more chic and modern, lots of painting, taking out of old tiles and putting in two new bathrooms, one of the guests and one for us. I think we should wait until 2012 with the new kitchen ;-)

All in all this coming year will be filled with exciting projects but at the same time with tranquility here at La Vudèle.

New Year's Day at La Vudèle

 Happy 2011 to everyone,
Claudia, Jim & Willem the cat