It has taken three years and we’re far from finished. But lock, stock and barrels, we have now officially moved to the farm.
A hundred years ago John’s great-uncle bought this land on a hilltop, with its enchanting chateau on the river below. It was handed down to successive generations, and during the lifetime of his parents, family life in the big house made sense. When they died that logic seemed to evaporate. Some of the current descendents are separated by an ocean and the joint maintenance of a far-away petit chateau turned out to be more than blood alone could sustain.
Our hearts were broken as we gaped at the family treasure about to be lost. But as fate would have it, John had already begun the process of transforming an old cow barn near the vineyard into a small winery. He cleared out the whole messy thing himself – tore apart beams, installed an enormous door and a bright window, insulated the roof…
The shiny wine tanks arrived and we celebrated our first harvest and the making of our first wine. Days and nights were spent trekking up to the winery, sometimes at 2 am to check the fermentation, often before dawn to check the cooling, always after dark for one last tucking in. We were seduced by the sky on top of this hill – glorious dawns, magical sunsets and a night sky lit by an infinity of stars!
And so a new logic set in, a new love. Why sleep apart?
We held on to the land. An old, abandoned farmhouse offered stone walls and a roof in need of repair. Everything else had to be gutted. The site was hidden by a ramshackle chicken coop, ill-placed, draggly trees, raggedy bushes, unsightly electric lines. The bulldozer thrashed and shook and leveled.
It took months to clear up the debris by hand, and a year for John and Henri to tear off the ivy smothering the face of the cliff.
And then, one day, lo and behold, a view of the Dordogne valley appeared.
All our lives we’ve been city dwellers. I wouldn’t change that for anything. But recently the quiet and the earth and the creatures have been refashioning us, staking their claims in our hearts. My friend Lori says that painful endings should be seen as wonderful beginnings in disguise. Now we take a little walk around the farm each night and when we count our blisters, we also count our lucky stars.