Days like today where the wind is howling down the chimney, rain, and hail are lashing the windows and walls, and you are cuddled up warm in hand-knitted blankets reading that book you’ve been waiting to read for weeks; remind me of why I love living where I am. The realities of living in an old Normandy Farmhouse really stand out these days. The thick walls keep the elements out, and the heat in.
Admittedly, I started writing this post in February, and since I wrote that first paragraph the weather has been frightfully pleasant, blue skies, wispy clouds, and generously warm sunshine. This brings me to my next point rather nicely.
It is not always this cosy, magical place, with the thick stone walls keeping the elements on the outside so let us explore the cons to the pros of living in an old stone farmhouse in the middle of nowhere Normandy…
Before moving here I was aware of maybe two or three types of heating for a house. Central heating with radiators controlled by a little dial on the wall and open fires. In my childhood home, we often had evenings in front of an open fire, staying toasty warm in front of the TV. So naturally, a must-have element to a rural house in Northern France had to be a fire. Woodburners are pretty commonplace around here, the local environment being well maintained for the growth and felling of trees suitable for firewood. Sourcing firewood can be amusing at times! Checking out leboncoin or Facebook marketplace is a must before heading to the supermarket to get firewood. Or even talking to your local farmer.
The central heating in our stone farmhouse is run by oil (le fuel) so it can get very pricey! To compensate we also use kerosine (paraffin) heaters in the kitchen and lounge. A big bottle of paraffin (costs between 28-68 euros) lasts a good period of time and is much more cost-effective for heating individual rooms.
It is something you do get used to fairly quickly, living in 4 jumpers on the colder days and becoming very familiar with different types of heaters during the winter. It does mean in summer that the house stays refreshing and cool, an oasis on the days when Normandy takes a trip down to the south of France.
Depending on location, the internet varies massively. As we are just outside a commune we have no way of having an internet phone line, let alone broadband or fiber. When we first bought the property back in 2014 there was no internet at all. It took a bit of poking around using the free wifi of local towns, to find the solution: satellite internet. Satellite internet works great when it works, but flips to be a disaster on a stormy day. Luckily with the improvement of mobile data and phone signal, we are able to use 4G boxes as well. But still heavily rely on our satellite internet, which at current is working fantastically!
Like the internet, drainage is also location-based. For us again we do not have a connection to the commune sewer so we have a septic tank (fosse septique). Our fosse is a fussy customer. We endeavor to use fosse-friendly soaps, washing liquid, and toilet paper to ensure it stays healthy and needs emptying in the least amount of time.
With a fosse, there are rules and regulations. Recently, an inspector came to view our tank. To make sure it was accessible, had proper ventilation, and was being treated appropriately. They come with little warning and you do have to pay them for the inspection! However, it does ensure that you are not poisoning the water table and are being responsible.
Peace and Quiet
The glorious tranquillity of the countryside. Birds singing, the wind rustling the trees, and the silence in between. You can not put a price on the ambient noise of the natural world. However, there is a cost to living in the middle of nowhere. Unlike cities or towns, everything is not on your doorstep, frankly, it’s the opposite. If you fancy a cheeky takeaway the options are either exceedingly limited or non-existent. In a way, this is good as it has forced me to cook more and plan meals, but admittedly, I do miss Chinese takeout. The same goes for entertainment. If you want to catch a new film or go to a concert, you have to plan around the travel distance. It is very manageable. After you get used to the fact for sure, it is just a very different way of living.
Overall I adore living here. Of course, I miss some modern creature comforts of a sleek city apartment, but I would trade that all for my quiet piece of land in the countryside in a heartbeat.
Is there anything you would like to know about living the Quiet Normandy life? Let me know in the comment or send me an email!