Here’s the state of the Mustardseed floor at the moment. I’m going with the same frame layout as the 12-foot last year and there’ll be a ramp to the door like the Play Yurt you can see just down the slope. It’ll be lovely.

yurt joists

A couple of years ago, after the camping season ended, we stayed in “Peaseblossom” in écovallée. I was lying in bed with the door open as the sun came up over the trees opposite. It felt like it was rising just for me – a magical experience, which I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.

This morning, I sat there with my cheap phone and took a video to give you some idea what it was like. The microphone’s not great on the phone, so I added the first song that came into my head. “Here comes the sun” might have been a better choice. But you can always turn the sound off here and put that on instead.

At this time of year, it’s always hard to find time to blog. Here a just some of the reasons why.

A couple of weeks ago, while putting the last leaner on the last post of the new deer-proof fence round the poly tunnel, I had a small accident with a hand saw. Discoveries following this include: When you have two children and a lifestyle like ours, A&E reception is a blissfully quiet place to sit – me and Her Outdoors got to catch up for a few hours without any distractions – in fact, we’re thinking of going back there for a holiday some time. Also, I found that my tetanus jab from 1997 is still OK – although we’re told to have shots every ten years, apparently I still have antibodies – which is good to know.

A few days ago, we said goodbye to Pepito, our retired working horse. He isn’t dead – he’s just living somewhere else. Long-time readers will know that Pepito was the first animal we bought, back in 2007. Originally, he was going to carry guest luggage from cars to yurts, and do some light farming work. But the fight to be open went on for so long, this never happened. It has been a struggle to feed him over the winters, and this year someone offered to look after him, spoil him with luxurious food supplements and surround him with other horses. Of course, he thinks he’s in heaven and we’ve decided to let him stay. This has freed up his field for the geese and chickens, which we will move as soon as we have a moment. As you can appreciate, this deserves a much longer post. But we’ll all have to make do with these few lines for the moment.

I ran for office on the mayor’s team and “we” “lost” in the second round of voting last Sunday. Going to weekly meetings was a very enlightening experience, and allowed me to propose some ideas - like having a communal veggie patch in the village to help prepare for life after fossil fuels. I’m looking forward to working with the new mayor and seeing what his team will bring to the village – including a communal veggie patch. (An idea that should, in my view, be mandated by all governments. The simple fact that this is not being mandated is proof enough for me that governments do not have the interests of the people at heart. Which might explain why many people have apparently lost faith in the current political system.)

The Daughter entered a talent show and got through to the final, performing a song she’d written herself. She didn’t win in her category in the end, but I think came a close second. I was seriously impressed with the solo vocalists, two of whom I would have signed on the spot if that was my job. (If that job even still exists.) The competition was held on consecutive Saturday afternoons in a 150-seat auditorium, and was surprisingly friendly and nurturing. I found it hard to picture similar opportunities being available in the UK and suspect it would have been far more competitive. But not in a good way.

You may remember I was in two bands a few weeks ago. During the course of one week, both bands split up. (Not guilty.) Unwilling to throw away all the work I’d done learning 50 new songs in a few weeks, not to mention creating a website and starting to get the social networking side of things up and running, I introduced the band-less singer from one band to the singer-less band from the other, and now we have a new band. Called “SouthWest”, and offering a dance-floor-filling selection of tracks from the 60s to today, the first gig’s on Saturday. I’ve still got quite a bit of work to do, especially on the backing vocals (haven’t used this much falsetto since the ’80s), so I’m going to have to wrap this up and get back to work.

Before I go, sticking with music, I made some business cards and this simple website for solo piano work. This summer, while guests of écovallée come to relax and enjoy their holidays, me and Her Outdoors will be working harder than ever. I’ll tell you more about that soon, in a post along the lines of: Life as an immigrant.

Last year, we noticed the floor of “Mustardseed”, one of the two family yurts in écovallée, pulling apart. It didn’t seem to be going back together on its own, so we waited for a dry spell and decided to have a really good look.

This is what we found:

yurt joists 1

The two short joists by the door had been pivoting on their screws and lifting the floor, which explains why the door was catching on the boards at that point. It did seem strange.

yurt joists 2

Several of the screws had sheared off, and parts of the frame had moved several inches. Which explains why the floor was so gappy. I imagine this is because I was using green (freshly cut) wood (douglas fir), which tightened up and snapped the screws. (A carpenter might have a view on this.) This choice of wood was driven by necessity and habit – necessity because we didn’t have much money at the time and the wood was cheap, and habit because this is how I’d done it before. (I won’t be doing it like this again.)

yurt joists 3

The ground was very cracked – and this may have led to some of the movement and shearing.

yurt joists 4

Some of the frame wasn’t even attached any more. I used that crowbar to lift the floorboards, which all came up easily. I numbered them and stacked them nearby for re-laying.

yurt floor

Which shows just how portable a yurt camp can be (which could come in useful if we ever decide to relocate).

The weather’s holding, so I’ll be taking the joist frame apart and making a new one. Using shop-bought joists. Based on my 12-foot yurt joist frame. There’ll be a ramp this time and it will be even more beautiful than before. Which is one of the other benefits of doing something more than once – it gets better every time.

At this time of year, this is one of the sounds we love to live with.

Confusing, in the first two years, it was. But all was revealed in its own good time. I’ll get round to scripting these videos one of these days. But you get to watch this before all that. Enjoy.

 

Spring always arrives too soon – and not soon enough.

Too soon, because we’ve got huge amounts of work to do before the écovallée yurt camp opens again at the end of May.

And not soon enough, because only a polar bear would want to live in winter forever. Not that we’ve had a real winter – just a few months of wet weather and no leaves on the trees.

As always, we’re behind on planting, although this new feature should help extend the growing season:

seed tray

It’s a seedling warmer made from pallets I was allowed to take from the local hardware store. It was made to fit this frame that I saved from the dump a few years ago:

seed warmer

Her Outdoors made a greenhouse for it from yurt window material and the hoops were given to us by a friend clearing out their garden. The insulation’s from Christmas and the wall behind is south facing. The warming device was bought new and will hopefully last a long time. The electricity is 100% renewable from French supplier enercoop.

Traditionally, in this part of France, there’s a risk of frost until April 18th. Last year, the problem was our own rabbits who were released by Pepito (the retired working horse) and gorged themselves on 65 newly plated seedlings in the poly tunnel before heading off into the wild. Which reminds me, I need to fence the poly tunnel. Not even sure that’s on the to-do list.

The local tourist board very kindly shot a video showing some of the places to go and things to do, around 45 minutes from the écovallée family yurt camp. In the video, you’ll see shots of Milandes, Castelnaud, Marqueyssac, Beynac and Domme, and some views of the river just east of here.

If you got up early, you could go to all these places in one day. But we’d recommend spreading them out over at least two days. It’s a holiday. Not a competition.

Besides – look at the sky. It’ll be hot.

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