Welcome to Pumpjack & Piddlewick!

Written by me, Alycea, it showcases an eclectic life of learning in France, surrounded by pet ducks and cats. (The ‘Us’ in About Us). My musings cover the gambit of the quirks of a French lifestyle amongst the quiet chaos of restoring My Mini Medieval Manor and its enclosed garden. Occasionally a sit down with a cup of tea (or coffee) is a very real need.

Life Change

In my middle age I gave up everything, completely changing my life to pursue the proverbial dream of my then partner.  And when I say, ‘gave everything up’, I  mean literally everything we had, including a steady income. We jumped off the cliff and started down the wine making road on a Ducati touring motorcycle.

The choice to chase the dream was an easy one, but the lifestyle had its hard times. The flip side was a real passion and true enjoyment in the day to day. A chance to accomplish, and fail, learn and cry over many things. In other words, to fully embrace life.

But why do it?

As for the Why, When and How? After my partner received his Oenology & Viticulture degree, we began travelling the world following the harvests (otherwise known as vintages) and making wine in such places as Northern Spain, New Zealand and California.  With a dawning realisation that vintages were rather like a very exciting hamster wheel, we chose to get off and take the leap to pursue the dream of making our own wine.

France was the focus, and in particular Burgundy.  We arrived with essentially all we owned in 3 large suitcases, and no jobs or income lined up, but what we did have was an opportunity to look after a small Château, near Chablis, as Caretakers (Gardiens in France) in exchange for a place to live. So I was lucky enough to begin a French life in a beautiful place, we just had to make the rest happen.

Making the Most

To make the most of the little we had I decided to follow a simple lifestyle. I learned how to (had to) recycle, upcycle, forage, wildcraft and  to make the most of a restoration garden.

The first year here was used to begin learning French (as I really knew next to nothing), to get a sense of the French culture (and whether I liked it), and most importantly figure out how one goes about renting, buying or even finding a vineyard.

The entrepreneurial spirit

To support the Dream, and with true entrepreneurial spirit, I put our creative juices (or should that be creative wine?) to the fore and put my hands to many and any tasks. In consequence I have enjoyed a great variety of odd jobs, such as  pruning vineyards, being a chef, selling stuff on ebay, guiding, growing my own food and ultimately and finally (hoorah!) setting up my own businesses.

I started my first Shop on Etsy focused on all the fab French vintage and antique finds I discovered here. The shop keeps growing, bulging at the seams with wonderful finds, and I have since expanded to a second shop centred on the French Silk Scarf (a particular passion of mine). A third then followed to showcase my love of decoupage, paper crafts and creating cards in to my shop Taking Time Too, offering printable digital downloads.

Life Goes On

And as life does progress, the decision was made to stay, buy a house and live in France. Time was taken to decide on a location near Beaune, for better access to more variety of grapes than the Chablis area. A home in a village, where we could walk to everything we needed and wanted, from requisite boulangerie (bakery) to bars, and cafes.

Yet life continues its twists and turns, and, after more than a decade, a parting of the ways. And now I find myself on a new solo adventure. Deciding France shall remain my home, I knew I wanted to work on a home to make it my own. A wee medieval restoration fixer upper was found, complete with overgrown garden. And now life begins a new chapter.

This chapter includes my 3 cuter than cute white Call ducks, Louis and his 2 wives, Macey and Neige. Along with 3 cats : Gigi, Lapsong and Noisette. The frolics that they get up to mean I am constantly kept in a state of laughter, bemusement and even the odd tears.

I like to write about the various humorous and strange goings on I encounter in France in my French Findings posts. Then there are the musings that make up my life in my Vignettes, as well as the additional cultural history I uncover as I research items for my shop. It all adds to my journey as I discover my adopted country.

I hope you enjoy my stories, my discoveries and join me in pursuing my dreams.



  1. Glad that we have found each other online. Good luck with the blog – and, of course, your big adventure in France!

    1. And you! It is our first year’s harvest and although very small, we are very pleased (about 400 bottles total). It will take us we think about 3 to 5 years to totally recover, replant and improve the vineyard to its actual capacity. All being well. In the meantime we are setting up a negociant license – and learning French as we go. All good fun and hard work. How has your year been?

      1. I’m gearing up to make the move. Posting every day for a year (now weekly, in the second year of the blog) focuses my mind. I make numerous trips over each year and have even managed to extend my role at work to take on managing our international relations, which involves frequent trips to Paris…

        1. Wonderful! It’s a great thing to be able to do what you love, and be where you love as well. Where are you moving from? When will you make the move?

          1. Ah, the €64 million question… We’re trying to put ourselves in the strongest position to be able to make the move from Brighton. Not quite sure when yet. On verra!

          2. Now that is coincidence! We moved from Brighton too. David (Pumpjack) went to Plumpton for his Oenology degree and from Brighton we left to the harvests (gaining experience) – north hemisphere (Spain), Southern Hemisphere (New Zealand), north again (California), before deciding we had had enough of that and it was time to pursue our own life. And so here we are. When you’re ready… When the time is right…

  2. Hurrah hurrah for the Gay Hussah (just because I like the rhyme) but really hurrah for you following my blog (very flattering and I’ll endeavour not to disappoint). I’m now following you – irrisitible names but really because my own boffin two brained husband and I are searching for our maison principale (we have a small house in the south of Cantal) where we plan to grow a few vines and make some wines (just for us – nothing like as serious as you) but you are bound to provide mahusive inspiration.

    1. All vines are good vines if they make wine, no matter how many. We planted 90 vines here at the house we look after and they are coming into their 3rd year, so we may get grapes this year. Like you, the plan for these vines is purely wine for the family that own the house, and maybe a couple bottles for ourselves of course. The rest that we look after (currently) we are negotiating a Fermage agreement. The amount of work in recovering this vineyard is astronimical, so have just set up as negociants to make wine from other people’s grapes. Stretching our wings to find what works here in France.

      1. Fascinating and I will read through your posts and share your blog with my husband 🙂

  3. Pumpjack & Piddlewick, what a wonderful adventure you are on. Thank you for following my blog and I am thrilled to have found yours. I will certainly take some time to browse your posts. I hope your day is a happy one! 🙂

  4. What a lovely blog! I admire your derring-do and am surprised that the cat hasn’t eaten the duckling… 🙂 Thank you for the follow.

    1. It’s been a beauteous journey with the animals in particular and discovering that amazingly, on the whole, they get along. 🙂

  5. And an American, originally from those same California vineyards, is also delighted to be sharing your adventure!

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