We chose to live at the mill at Bernède as we fell in love with its rugged beauty and because it was the kind of place we could take time to live each day according to the moods and seasons of the mountains.
When we arrived in August 2012 the buildings were not habitable. For us the priorities were simple: tap the spring so that we could get water, and have somewhere warm and dry to live in. To do this we put up a teepee in September. Two months later the snow arrived … and the cold as well. There we were, in the teepee, in minus 17°C temperatures - but it was cosy and warm! In March we put up a small yurt which little by little became a bedroom, then a kitchen (to prepare our meals) and finally a playroom and wardrobe etc… Space was at a premium but fortunately the warm days returned and the family could move outside!!! Not much time to be bored here!
The area, the style of life ….
Magali: I thought I knew what to expect here, but it is more than I could have imagined. Above all I began to work in rhythm with the seasons. I no longer look at nature as a passive observer might, I actually live it now. I was brought up in a house, a “modern” existence, surrounded by four walls, shielded from outside noise …. never breathing the outside air…. while here I feel the wind blowing, the sunshine or the mist, no matter whether it is day or night ….
The dream versus the reality: the trials and the tribulations
Living without any electricity is an experience which really makes one conscious of how much energy we consume. After two winters with a solar panel producing 50 watts for 2 electrical outlets of 12 volts (one in the teepee and the other in the yurt), we opted for a generator to power a washing machine - and the electric tools for the building work … which was progressing slowly according to what money we had available, and the kind of advice we were getting.
Making apple juice, clearing the land around the mill (40 years of neglect sure produces a lot of brush, brambles and balsam...), family life which we did not want to sacrifice … and not much time for boredom, but one must remember to look after oneself.
Since March 2013, we’ve had a temporary EDF electricity meter and since then life has become a lot easier - but we don’t abuse our consumption of electricity. Life without a fridge-freezer is possible …
Our professional activities
Woodturning, selling apple juice, working at the markets for Olivier; theatre workshops and part-time work (soon) for Magali at the Seven Valleys organic shop.
Our hopes and challenges
Above and beyond political events, and cultural and religious influences – we all need to eat, drink, and meet our needs EVERY DAY. Our first challenge is simple, we are 2 adults and 3 children, so we drink and wash ourselves with spring water (a real pleasure!!!) and of course we’ve built a dry toilet. We don’t waste our communal source of drinking water – and we certainly don’t defecate in it!!!! To put it simply, we are really happy to know that our children don’t consider their existence on this planet to be a right.
The vegetable garden is progressing, the cabins made of willow are growing, and I can’t wait for the mill to start turning again (“shanti, shanti”) … Our dream while developing and restoring this place is to welcome people and share our crazy ideas about ‘the dynamics of water.’
To give time for the family, and to open up new horizons, we jumped at the chance when somebody offered the use of a nine and a half metre sailing boat. Isn’t that reasonable? That’s okay, no?