Welcoming guests to écovallée this year has been a bit embarrassing. Because, while we’ve spent the last many years making everything look beautiful down in the guest field, we’ve been sorely neglecting ourselves.

Now, that’s fine – and I’m sure it’s perfectly normal among glampsite owners. But unfortunately, the only way to the guest field this year has been past our unfinished Shack and the yurts we live in. What’s not fine about this – at all – is that our yurt covers have been well past their last possible use-by date. They’ve been rotting, full of holes and covered in plastic.

This is not the glamorous introduction to écovallée our guests probably expect. But, fortunately, they have all been so lovely that it hasn’t been a problem – at least, not for them.

So it is with a huge sense of relief and delight that I can show you the spectacular new yurt cover that Her Outdoors made in the last few days:

new yurt cover

It went on yesterday, and was rain tested this morning, and we’re as impressed with Sunbrella (the fabric) as everyone else.

rain drops on yurt cover

I’ll go into detail on features of the new yurt cover design in another post. It includes some radical improvements that make life dryer, snugger and – to me – particularly beautiful.

Before écovallée opened this year, Her Outdoors spent about two weeks scrubbing and re-proofing the covers for the guest yurts. Although good for general fitness, she didn’t feel like repeating the experience (like, EVER), so we’ve decided to take the yurts down and store them inside during future winters.

Which has presented us with a terrifying new problem: mice.

In the past, people have suggested shipping containers as a storage solution. Although ugly, they could be easy to mouse proof. (We looked into it and they’re far too expensive for our lack of budget.) Friend Laura suggested an old Bedford van we could just tow into the field. (Also expensive.) So I priced up cladding the inside of the tractor shed, which could be done for about €800. (Most of which we don’t have.)

In a moment of clarity, I realised the only thing that really needed protecting were the covers – so I just spent a couple of afternoons making a mouse-proof box.

Box 1

I bought some air flow vents and reinforced the puny plastic mesh with metal.

Box 2

Made the hole for the vents by chain drilling and using this handy saw.

Box 3

And screwed it all together. Total spend, around €100.

Mouse proof box

I’ve been inside it and checked for light and I’m pretty sure we’re OK. I’m going to nail some edging strips along the bottom and screw the lid closed just to be sure.

puppet 2

puppet 1

This is what Her Outdoors has been working on, for a lovely sketch she’s written about a picnic. The clay for the head’s been bought in, otherwise it’s been made from scraps – and a pair of baby shoes. Crafty, eh?

food processing

Life’s pretty good at the moment. Her Outdoors is processing the fruits (and vegetables) of her labours, stitching, writing stories, puppet making, and a whole lot more.

I’m mainly learning songs for my solo piano set list, adding some Yann Tiersen, Supertramp, Pink Floyd and whatever I feel like. (As soon as I start working on one song, I think of another one that I should have learnt years ago.) I’m also catching up on some reading and lying in a hammock. Not feeling too guilty about this, as I’ve worn out my strimmer (and a pair of work boots) which is in for nearly €300 in repairs.

Last week, the new website I wrote for the Quay Arts Centre went live. (Not all of the words are mine – and I hope you will be able to tell the difference.) I loved working on this project and welcome similar jobs now the winter’s coming. Over the next few months, I’ll be recording an album with the band, writing Part Two of my book (finally), co-writing a stage play with Her Outdoors, co-writing some songs in English, French and Spanish with a friend, completing the road through the woods, remaking the tractor shed for yurt storage, and focusing on our immediate living environment. (The lean-to needs remaking, a few tons of clay need relocating, wood needs chopping, and cetera.) All on budgets that are either tight or non-existent.

I’ll be writing the odd blog post now and again, too. (This was the now.)

If you stayed with us over the summer, you may have noticed some inexplicable water on the drive outside the Shack. The Services des Eaux came the other day to see what was going on. They brought a digger…

hole 1

…and quickly got to the bottom of the problem – a broken pressure reducer (removed in this shot) conveniently buried under a couple of tons of clay and rubble…

hole 2

…doing a few days’ spade work in a couple of hours.

hole 3

If you didn’t stay with us over the summer, you can soon put that right. The diary’s open for 2015 and we’ve already got five weeks booked.

One of the things I’ve been doing this year – partly for fun and partly for money – is playing in a band.

The band’s called SouthWest and we play store openings, bars, weddings, parties, corporate events – that kind of thing. I’ve made a website at www.south-west.fr and put together facebook, twitter, G+ and youtube pages (all in their early stages). But I haven’t really talked about the band yet, as we’ve been short of photos, video, recordings etc. And those things will only dribble in over the course of the year.

Yesterday, Glenn (the singer) told me he’d put some video footage from a recent wedding in my dropbox folder. So I dug it out and put this together on iMovie 10. It runs to nearly four minutes and, if you’re looking for a wedding band in the Dordogne in the next few months or years, or a band for a Christmas party, you should give it a watch. (It’s a compilation, so you won’t have time to be bored.)

From time to time, I’ll be talking about music on this blog, and am thinking about doing a series of keyboard tutorials over the winter to demonstrate the parts I play to these songs, for other people who need to learn them fast.

On four.

We’ve had people staying in écovallée almost continuously since April. Now we’re taking a deep breath before the main season begins, with both family yurts booked from Saturday until the other side of “Summer”.

The weather’s been close to perfect and temperatures are just about to cross the threshold into the high 30s. That’s the forecast, which really means the low 40s. Our guest yurts are all in shade, so they’re comfortable to be in during the day. Our yurts, unfortunately, are in full sun. Which means we live outside from mid morning until early evening. Which partly explains the lack of blog posts.

Lots going on – pretty much all of it good – just not enough time to write about it.



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