La Grande Raisandiere is a small farm sitting on 15 acres. It has the traditional stone and yellow render buildings of the Perche. There’s a main house, an outhouse that is almost more beautiful than the main house, a barn and a wonderful former pig sty/barn, that the previous owner used as a chicken coop, and that we intend to turn into our study-bedroom.
La Grande Raisandiere means absolutely nothing in no language whatsoever and certainly not French. If you type it into the internet, the only thing you will find is our house! The person who sold it to us says it’s been called that since at least 1550. Apparently, there was a Petite Raisandiere once but no longer. These days it’s just us.
Our initial thought was to change the name, not least because it’s devilishly hard to say and spell if you’re not French. But with time we came to like the fact that the farm has been called La Grande Raisandiere for centuries, that it has a unique name and that the name means nothing, or rather, whatever you want it to mean! So, we’re sticking with it. After all, French’s foremost permaculture farm, Bec Hellouin up the road in Normandy, also has an unpronounceable name and it seems to work for them!
One of the many things that attracted us to this site was that Steve, the seller, developed an interest in permaculture a few years ago and started planting fruit and nut trees, using no dig techniques and covering bare land with straw. All good stuff even if he lacked a design plan. So, we already have fifteen sweet chestnut trees, ten peaches, ten walnuts, two cherries, two apples and one pear.
There’s a large pond or a small lake (40m long in autumn, winter and spring) depending on your point of view. And a well that apparently goes down to an underground river. Plus, there’s clay a metre down so if you dig a hole, it automatically fills up with rainwater.
There are at least ten mature and majestic oaks on the farm, and a well-developed traditional hedge of hawthorn, hazel, dog rose, brambles and buckthorn running round most of the property. That’s in stark contrast to most of the surrounding farms where the mature trees and hedges have been short-sightedly chopped down to create bigger fields.
We’re a short distance by bike (12 mins for Alexis, 15 mins for Blanche) to La Ferté Bernard, our nearest town and station, and from there it’s 1 hour 50 mins to Paris by train. There’s a bakery in our village and there’s a decent restaurant in La Ferté Bernard with a chef who’s willing to contemplate vegetarian food (no mean feat in rural France!).