The ‘Everyday adventures’ category:

Where the hell have you been!?

November 30th, 2015

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Yeah, sorry about that.

Regular readers from the old days may be wondering what’s been happening on our free range adventure. I’ll give you a quick catch up….

  • We bought the old house next door, spent a year doing it up, then sold it to a nice Belgian family.
  • We had some more children; twins! We now have five boys, aged from 8-months to 8-years old.
  • I continue to work with some lovely clients making websites for them – uncomplicate.me
  • We bought a couple of ferrets. They escaped and came back a week later. A little more time later we magically had three ferrets. They escaped again, killed some neighbour’s chickens, and only one of them came back. I am putting this experience into the ‘unsuccessful’ column.
  • I built some massive swings in the back garden, and we got a massive trampoline too, so our garden is now essentially an amusement park.
  • Er… I’m sure there were probably other things that might have been of interest at the time but I’ve probably missed my opportunity to mention them now.

Our simple life is now very hectic, and very noisy! I’d like to say I’ll get back into the blogging routine but, well, let’s see.

A winter walk

February 12th, 2014

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Although it was windy and cold today, it wasn’t raining and there was actually a bit of blue sky, so we thought we’d make the most of our Wednesday-off-school to go out for a walk. It’s been a while because it’s just been so grotty out there recently.

The gang of explorers

Soren & Milo looking through their binoculars

A squirrel’s store

Gosh, what a polite fellow!

Splashing through a stream.

Hi, time for an update

May 6th, 2013

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We’re now well into our third year of our free range adventure. Having been here for so long it’s not really much of an adventure any more, it’s become normal and our routines and activities and environment all seem normal to us. Every now and then I’ll catch a glimpse of how I saw things when we first arrived and I’m reminded of how different our life here in France is from our previous life in England. But different doesn’t mean adventure, which is fine I suppose, it doesn’t have to be a white-knuckle ride 24/7. I do quite like white-knuckle rides though.

I mention this ‘settling in’ effect in an effort to explain why I haven’t posted anything about what we’ve been up to for so long; blogging about your mundane everyday life sometimes seems like a bit of a cheek. But the sun is shining and we’ve been out in the garden the last few days and, whilst it’s not adventurous, it is free range; we can enjoy what we’ve got together, when we please, without outside commitments getting in the way. Except Soren who has to go to school every now and then.

Additionally, I’ve been progressing quite well with alternative ways to make money. By alternative I mean not working for someone else in an office. My website making business – Uncomplicate – is doing well, far better than I ever imagined it would; I currently have 4 websites to make. I’ve been writing for a local English magazine, have published a collection of very short stories on Amazon, and am about 1/4 of the way through writing my first novel. And we’re in the process of buying another house just two doors down from ours, although the news from the solicitor last week suggests it might take quite a long time; there are 27 owners! Corrie’s also considering doing more of her cake-making that made her a fair amount of dough (pardon the bun) at the Christmas markets. None of this will make us wealthy, but it just might mean that we can continue doing what we’ve been doing for a little while longer.

So here, accompanied by some pictures, are a few of the things we’ve been up to…

Apple blossom on our dead apple tree

 

A bench I made (using a frame I found in a junk shop)

 

Our 7 chickens in their winter patch - we're getting 4 or 5 eggs a day at the moment

 

We planted a clematis last year to brighten up the bland front of the house

 

Corrie's been getting a load of vegetable seeds ready to plant out. Here they're inside

 

And here they're outside getting a bit of sun

 

Tomatoes. They're a fruit you know.

 

Corrie's already put quite a lot into the ground - here are onions, garlic and shallots

 

Potatoes, lettuce, spinach, beetroot and some flowers

 

Strawberries with an experimental 'snake shelter' method to keep the fruit clean

 

Last year's strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants

 

This year's use of our field; a playing field. Only goalposts so far....

 

A sort of rockery

 

A small pond - we'll be putting some fish in there soon

 

Herb tyres

 

Weeding (grrr)

 

A living willow den

 

We expanded the boys' sandpit using tyres and, er, more sand

 

My cool tool board - when it's tidy I feel a sense of contentment

 

My welding bench. I am SHIT at welding

 

We sold our UK Mercedes Vito van and replaced it with a French 9 seater Renault Traffic

 

We also knocked down a wall to make two pokey rooms into one lovely, sunny one, but I can’t for the life of me get a good photo of it. Trust me though, it looks like something ‘Grand Designs’ would spend a few minutes slowly panning their camera round.

I’ve probably missed something out from this overdue update, but I think you get the picture.

Adventures on our bike trailer

July 22nd, 2012

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Having three children doesn’t make it difficult to do things in the way you’d think. The baby is easy and isn’t the problem: it’s that I need to occupy BOTH his big brothers whilst Corrie’s looking after him. So going for bike rides was off the cards. Until….

I bought a bike trailer! It’s second-hand, from a friend, but it works really well and they love it. So far we’ve done about 12 miles in it and, whilst I can certainly feel the extra weight, it’s perfectly alright. And hearing the giggles from behind me is lush. But when they bicker it’s not so fun.

I’m not sure if all bike trailers are the same but this one has a big clamp that attaches to the chainstay of the bike. My chainstays are quite short (because of the geometry of the frame), rectangular, and I have disc brakes so the clamp didn’t fit very well and got in the way of my foot when peddling. After looking online for a solution (I didn’t find one) I decided to ditch the clamp and attach the spring directly to the bike using a bolt. It’s much, much better – I’ve got room to peddle now – and more secure.

But that’s all a bit geeky, sorry.

It’s lovely and yellow!

 

A quick update…

June 3rd, 2012

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It’s been a while since I posted, partly because of laziness but mainly because we’ve had another baby (Kasper – he’s lush!) and we’re a bit busy these days.

Here’s a quick update on what we’ve been up to…

  • The pool’s been cleaned up and started again just in time for a few hots days – we’ve been in every day for the last week and although the water’s pretty cold (20 degrees the first day, 25 degrees yesterday) it’s been fun.
  • Corrie’s plants are coming on well, albeit rather late – everything in the garden is late this year. So we’ve got green beans and butternut squash and peas and onions and salad planted and lots of other stuff in pots waiting. And loads of stawberries!
  • I’ve been mowing the garden but can’t keep up. The mixture of lots of rain and lots of sun means the grass is growing super fast and I just can’t cut it often enough. Twice a week might just do it, but I simply don’t have that sort of time these days. The long grass does look nice though.
  • I bought a petrol strimmer to tame some of the jungle bits – I’ve not had time to sort them properly but strimming’s fun!
  • I’ve been doing some web work (I’ve re-started my website making business Uncomplicate) and writing some stuff for a local English paper.
  • Soren and Milo have been running nude around the garden, playing in the paddling pool, digging in the soil, and generally getting rather impressive sun tans.
  • And we had a baby! In keeping with our free range adventure he was born at home in the middle of the night, just Corrie and me; I caught him as he shot out. He’s doing really well.

There’s probably more to tell but this is basically what we’ve been up to.

See ya!

 

The contents of my pockets

April 6th, 2012

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Pocket contents

I’m currently wearing my favourite Howies jeans. Unfortunately for them they’ve become what I call my ‘kickabout jeans’; I wear them all the time for pretty much everything. As a result they have a huge hole in one pocket, muck all over – mud, grass, wood stain  – and are worryingly thin at the knees. But they’re very comfortable, and anyway, my previous ‘kickabout jeans’ are in the bin.

I’m sure I can’t be that unusual but I do tend to accumulate lots of stuff in my pockets, as you can see from the photo above. And before you ask, yes, I do need three different knives with me at all times.

 

My trip to the local garage

March 8th, 2012

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Our van is making some strange noises so, on the recommendation of a neighbour, I called the local garage. I just wanted them to have a quick listen and tell me what it could be; we’d arrange what to do about fixing it afterwards depending on what they reckoned.

So I drove over for 09:30, as agreed. The place is like those desolate garages you see in American movies, with shells of cars dotted around the forecourt and piles of discarded parts against every outer surface of the corrugated metal workshop. There was smoke coming from round the back, black smoke that smelled like tyres.

I found Claude and he asked if I wanted a coffee. I declined. He then asked if I minded if he went to get something to eat as he’d missed breakfast. OK, I said, figuring it might pay to be friendly and get him on my side seeing as he was about to assess my van. We walked over to what the sign above said was a cafe, but it wasn’t a cafe any more, it was the garage’s break room. He offered me a coffee again and this time I accepted, perching myself on the edge of a bench and admiring the tastefully decorated ‘walls of porn’. He opened the fridge door and got out some eggs, some ham and some salami, fried himself some eggs, then sat down to eat his fried eggs along with 4 or 5 slices of ham. The salami wasn’t for him; he fed slices of it to his dog. He poured himself a glass of red wine from the open bottle on the table, downed it, filled it again, then took a modest sip. Once he’d finished his eggs and ham he made himself a brie sandwich and alternated between a bite of that and a spoonful of strawberry jam. He knocked back the remaining wine then got up to fill the bottle from a wine box on top of the fridge, sat down and poured himself a third glass. We chatted about cars, computers, hornets.

After about half an hour he finally finished his drink, picked up his plate and dumped it in the sink, then said let’s go and see the van. I opened the bonnet and started the engine, he poked his head in to listen then took out his mobile, pressed some buttons and chatted to someone for a few minutes – I think it might have been his mum. Eventually he came out from under the bonnet to tell me he thought it was probably something like one of the filters or maybe an air pipe that was blocked, nothing too serious, call me next week to arrange dropping it round.

They’re rare these days but I do think I’ve found a good, reliable mechanic.

More snow!

February 5th, 2012

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Loads more snow has fallen today. And since it’s not forecast to get above freezing for another 10 days, I think it’s going to be around for a while.

We’re one year old today!

February 4th, 2012

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It was on the 4th February last year that we finally arrived at our modest French house and embarked on this little adventure.

That first night we camped in what is now the dining room, sleeping on inflatable mattresses that slowly deflated during the night. The next few days were spent exploring the house and the barns, excitedly discovering new things, figuring out where things would go and how we’d make our mark on the place.

A year’s a long time and we’d have done loads of stuff even if we hadn’t moved to France, but here’s some of what we’ve been up to.

  • We’ve renovated most of the house
    7 of the 8 downstairs rooms have been redecorated, the attic has (very nearly) been converted into 2 bedrooms, a septic tank and sand filter has been installed, the electrics redone, the little house in the courtyard has been re-roofed, and a couple of extraneous barns have been knocked down.
  • We’re self-sufficient-ish
    Actually we’re nowhere near self-sufficient, but we’re doing bits of it; the real deal must be seriously hard work!
    So we dug loads of vegetable beds and grew onions, garlic, peppers, aubergines, squashes, green beans, borlotti beans, carrots, parsnips, strawberries, rasperries, tomatoes, and a variety of herbs. They were already here but we also had cherries, pears, peaches and plums.
    We got 6 chickens and set them up with a luxury chicken house and massive run, and they in return have given us 6 eggs every day.
    Corrie makes bread. Of course we buy baguettes but Corrie’s bread-making skills have been honed to the point that I prefer her loaves to those from the boulangerie.
    We don’t generate our own electricity, the well-water’s just for watering the garden, the heating is run on oil, we fill the van up with diesel about every 2 weeks… still a long way to go I think.
  • We’re spending pretty much all of our time together
    Apart from when Soren’s at school we’re all together. We’re not perfect – there’s the occasional *ahem* disagreement – but most of the time we have fun doing stuff with the boys or working on something as a family.
  • We have fun
    It’s nothing much and there are times when we’re bored, but overall we have fun. There’s weekly horse-riding for Soren, loads of stuff out in the garden such as a big sandpit, swings in various trees, a ‘secret den’, a slide, bikes and scooters, spades and soil and worms…. And for Corrie and me we have fun just doing everyday things, and seeing the boys enjoy themselves.
  • We’ve made friends
    We’ve got to know quite a few people, and even more to wave at as we’re driving along, and the boys have loads of friends to play with (all of whom are English I’m a little ashamed to admit).
  • We’ve explored a little bit
    Admittedly we’ve not gone very far, but we’ve been for walks around the tracks and woods around where we live and to be honest they’ve felt like enough of an adventure to satisfy us. We’ve spotted exciting wildlife and poked strange mushrooms and collected natural treasures and watched migrating birds and had picnics in the countryside and gone for bike rides….
  • Soren goes to school and is starting to speak French
    We’d originally thought home-schooling would suit us all best but that sort of thing simply doesn’t happen here. Plus we needed to kick-start his French as he was not keen on learning it from me! It’s working, and whilst he only goes to school for the mornings – 09:15 to 16:45 is a very long day for a 4 year old – he’s starting to enjoy it and develop new skills of which he is rightly proud.
  • I’m learning lots of new skills
    They’re mainly DIY-related, but I’m really enjoying making things and am getting pretty good. I don’t think I need to go into any detail as I’ve posted most of my projects on here already!
  • We’ve made another baby
    He’ll be here in May. Now that is going to be a real adventure!

In a year we’ve done all sorts of fun stuff. Hopefully we can have at least one more adventure-filled year.

Snow!

January 31st, 2012

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Soren’s school was closing early on Monday; the buses were coming at 14:45 to pick up the children, instead of at 16:45.

“Pourquoi?” I asked.
“A cause de la neige!”

We found this amusing because they’d been talking about snow coming for days and there was no sign of it – and yesterday was no different – yet they were all in an excited panic and shutting down well in advance. However, flakes started to fall at about 16:00 and by nightfall there was a good covering of snow, so we had to admit that actually they were right and we were wrong.

This morning Soren got up and straight away headed downstairs. Corrie just had time to put his hat and jacket on – over his pyjamas – before he was out there!

What did you do today?

January 17th, 2012

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Let’s see… today is a weekday so my old self would have:

  • got up early
  • driven a long way to work (we always lived a long way from my work) listening to Radio 2 or Radio 4 if I was feeling grown up
  • did some webby stuff all day long at the office involving meetings, phone calls, emails and several ‘quick catch up’ cups of tea with colleagues
  • eaten a lunch consisting of sandwich, crisps and chocolate bar
  • driven home listening to Radio 2.

Today however I’m my current self and I:

  • got up quite early and played with Milo whilst Corrie took Soren to school
  • let the chickens out and collected the eggs (6! We’ve got 6 chickens, it’s freezing cold winter at the moment and they’re still giving us 4-6 eggs a day)
  • put up some stud work, measured, cut and screwed into place The Last Big Piece Of Plasterboard in the loft
  • had some (half) of Corrie’s delicious homemade quiche for lunch and some Tropical 7-Up (very odd)
  • sat in the sunshine with a pile of logs, a log splitter and a mallet and turned the big logs into smaller ones
  • made a bonfire with various bits of garden rubbish whilst
    • Soren trained one of the dogs (basically ran around the field with him)
    • Milo went looking for treasure (he found a ‘mouse cup’ – an acorn)
    • Corrie raked up loads of twigs from the bit round the back of the barns we always ignore and made it look nice(r)
  • pulled up 10 funny-looking stumpy carrots for tonight’s dinner.
  • made paper planes for the boys whilst Youth Lagoon played quietly on the stereo in the background.

I really, really, really preferred my current self’s day.

Bike rides with Soren

January 6th, 2012

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I bought a Weeride Co-Pilot last April and Soren and I quickly clocked up hundreds of miles on the little lanes and woodland tracks.

He was too small back then to reach both pedals so couldn’t contribute, but that was OK: I was fat and needed the exercise. It was hard work as the trailer bike is quite heavy, and with a wobbling Soren on top even more so, but it was a delight to be whooshing through the French countryside with him. He has since grown enough to pedal, which is nice, but he’s also developed an extreme ‘Why?’ habit  (for example, “Why are ditches made of long?”) so we haven’t been out that much recently: having him directly behind me CONSTANTLY asking ‘Why?’ drove me mad! ‘

Soren’s school is in the local village 4 1/2 miles away, close enough to cycle, so I always planned to drop him off or pick him up on what he calls the ‘mini bike’. For some reason though we never actually did this… until today. It was very cold but sunny, so perhaps not idyllic, but Soren loved the novelty and I loved being back on the bike. And because he was having fun there weren’t too many questions. In fact he pointed things out to me rather than ask me about them, such as, “When we ride forwards the trees go backwards!”

He can ride his own bike very competently now so I don’t know whether he’ll start to ask to go on that rather than the Co-Pilot in future, but hopefully we’ll be able to carry on going out for rides together like this for a while longer; without the constant questioning it’s absolutely lush.

 

I’ve just popped upstairs

November 23rd, 2011

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I hate those blogs that leave huge gaps in between updates. I’ve unfortunately allowed ours to become one of those. Let me offer my excuses….

My brother came over on the 1st November to help me convert the loft, so we’ve been upstairs all day every day turning it into two bedrooms and a corridor joining them up with the existing stairs. It’s going very well – the Velux windows are in, the plasterboard frames are up, the floor frame and floor is down, the trip with a trailer to buy the supplies has been made, the plumbing and first fix electricals have been done – but we’re both properly knackered by the end of the day.

We’re now putting in the insulation after which we’ll put up the plasterboard; we’re almost at the point where everything will take shape and we’re very excited about that!

So please forgive my lack of virtual effort. Once my efforts upstairs have come to an end I’ll make it up to you.

 

Some of the leaves are brown

October 13th, 2011

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Milo, Spooky and I went for a walk this morning. It was a lovely sunny day and the colours of the trees were beautiful. I think it might be Autumn.

Can’t stay for long, just turn around and I’m gone again

October 4th, 2011

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I went home to England last week to get the van serviced and MOTd. Rather than take everyone, including the 3 dogs, I went on my own for a quick practical visit.

The journey from our house to Calais via Paris was actually pretty straightforward but expensive: €47 of tolls! I arrived at the Eurotunnel check-in a couple of hours early and was offered the next train. I accepted and was zooming under the Channel 2 hours ahead of schedule, watching an episode of ‘Spaced’ on the van’s DVD player. The journey from Folkestone to Milton Keynes was also straightforward, albeit slow due to 50mph average speed checks the whole way. I finally arrived at 21:45, 10 hours after setting off. Not bad for 520 miles all on my own.

The next few days involved:

  • golf – it was HOT, I went round in 112.
  • tennis – also HOT, my dad was beating me when we called it a day 6-2 3-3.
  • cinema – ‘My Afternoons with Marguerite’ at the OU, quite good.
  • a late night visit to Tesco for things unavailable in France – horrible.
  • a trip to B&Q for bargain rolls of insulation – they’re useless.
  • the obligatory journey round IKEA – fine actually.
  • a McDonald’s – niiiiice.
  • a chinese take-away since we have no take-aways within 40 miles at home – niiiice.
  • a visit to my friend Alex to catch up (it’s been 8 years) and to meet her 2 lovely babies.
  • a wonder round CMK (the big shopping centre in Milton Keynes) – yuk.
  • a walk round Aspley woods – a nice place to be.
  • oh and the MOT and service.

It was a busy few days but it was nice to spend some time with my parents and do stuff with them in between the various tasks I had to complete.

The journey back also took 10 hours but it was hotter (32 degrees most of the way) so I had my windows open and therefore couldn’t listen to my podcasts, which is usually one of the pleasures of a long drive.

I find it difficult not to be melancholic about ‘home’, and seeing an old friend, walking round the woods, being in my old room… it would have been easy to lose myself in the old times. But that part of England has become so horrifically developed, constantly noisy, and incredibly busy, that I was keen to get back to my new home and its quiet emptiness; any nostalgic thoughts were quickly extinguished as I rushed south.

And now I’ve been home for a few days. All the stuff’s been put away (and the Hob-Nobs eaten) and we’re back to normal. It’s nice here. Popping back for a bit is nice too, but, well, I think I’m starting to prefer it here to be honest.