The ‘Self-sufficient-ish’ category:

I’ve got wood

November 10th, 2013

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My month-long struggle to get wood is over!

I’d phoned several people whose numbers I found on the internet. Nobody returned my calls. With the cold weather approaching I was getting a little concerned that our lovely new wood-burning stove would remain an ornament. And then yesterday I spotted a neighbour trundling down the road with wood. I stopped him, asked him about it, and, hey presto, this morning I got a big pile of wood delivered!

For info:

  • This is 2 cords of seasoned oak. 1 cord is 3m x 1m x 1m.
  • It took Soren, Milo and me around 3 hours to stack.
  • I paid Soren and Milo 0.20€ for their hard work. They were delighted.

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.

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.



May 16th, 2011

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This morning’s gatherings from the garden:

It’s not exactly self-sufficiency, but I reckon we could survive on eggs and cherries if we had to…  It’s a start anyway!