This time last year I was rebuilding the Mustardseed platform. Now it’s time for the Peaseblossom platform, which I unmade a couple of weeks ago. This morning, it looked like this:

yurt platform

One of the problems we’ve had with this platform is that there hasn’t been enough room between the yurt and that cutaway at the back. Which makes it a bit of a nightmare when it comes to leaves gathering, mud splashing and various other things. So, I’m moving the whole platform away from the wall by a couple of feet.

Which means planting some acacia uprights.

The nearest useful tree was about 100 metres away, growing at a jaunty angle. I chose the one on the left…

acacia

…and cut my nine supports, which will all go about 45 cm into the ground.

yurt platform 2

As soon as I publish this, I’m off to strip some bark and pound the first post. No pressure, time-wise, but we do have a family staying in this yurt in less than a few weeks. Fortunately, the weather’s just turned perfect and will hopefully stay that way.

August is usually the first month to be booked, and this year is no exception. There’s just one family yurt week left, and some availability in the couple’s yurt.

But as I’ve said before, June and September are excellent months to be here. Almost all the tourist attractions are open, it’s more than warm enough (especially for British people), and the crowds and traffic that occasionally appear in the summer are non existent.

Anyone staying over the weekend of June 20th and 21st will also get to experience the Fête de la Musique – France’s annual free festival. Every town takes part, with live bands, dancing, and plenty of food and drink. If you’re up for a 50-minute drive, you could even see my band SouthWest take over Sarlat town centre for our biggest public gig of the year.

The exchange rate is still fantastic, so come on down/up/across/over.

At the end of last week, I was invited for a drink or few at the newly refurbished bar/tabac in nearby Port de Couze.

(It’s just next to the organic local produce shop and is run by the woman who created the “La Petite Cuillere” café in Lalinde, across the street from the wine shop. She’s done a great job – again – and I’d recommend a visit. There’s good beer and wine, board games and tasteful decor. But that’s not what this post is about.)

I saw a few familiar faces, but I prefer meeting new people and fell into conversation with Les. It turns out, the soirée in the bar was all about him – to raise awareness of his upcoming charity bike ride. None of this John o’ Groats to Land’s End rubbish – he’s cycling the length of Europe, from Gibraltar to Nordkapp. On his own. Not bad for a 60-something ex-graphic designer, a few years after having heart surgery.

He’s leaving Gibraltar on April 26th and doing this:

TTTT-Map

If that’s not worth a mention on this blog – and an inbound link to his site (toptotoetour.com) – I don’t know what is. If I had any money, I’d help him reach his £65,000 target. But, as regular readers will know, I don’t. So instead, I’ll encourage you to part with some of the folding stuff and follow him. (If you’re rich, it’s probably tax deductible. If you’re very rich, what are you doing holding onto all of that cash? Please feed it back into the economy so other people don’t have to worry so much. Honestly.)

You may have read this post a while ago, when I introduced you to my friend and former colleague Phyllis Foundis. At the time, this writer/performer was trying to crowdsource funds to create a TV show in her native Australialand.

If you did part with some folding money, you can give yourself a big fat pat on the back for sponsoring a winner. After making her show and getting it shown locally, then nationally, some weeks ago she picked up some kind of well-deserved awesomeness award. And just a couple of days ago, she was awarded “Most Outstanding New Talent 2015″ at the Astras. Which had a red carpet and everything.

Here’s a picture of her and the glassware. You’ll be seeing more of her in the future…

phyllis foundis

I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I just liked the sound of that headline.

The last few days have been a bit intense. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I went and helped someone put up a 120-metre fence, through our local alternative-currency initiative. This was the first time I’d agreed to do what is effectively a time swap and the benefits were manyfold, including: meeting a likeminded, friendly, interesting and enthusiastic person; eating very well at lunch; learning some new (fencing-related) vocabulary; and using a post rammer like this (image used without permission):

post rammer

After 60 acacia posts rammed on Tuesday, I was more tired than I’d been for months. On Wednesday, we did the strainer posts and some fencing, and I ended up banking the equivalent of 11 hours of work to draw on later. Although you can’t currently eat time banked in this way, I know this will be Incredibly Useful Later.

Yesterday, with rain forecast for today, I took up the floor of one of the 18-foot yurts because the platform needs moving a couple of feet out from the hillside. (This is all part of our theme of doing everything at least twice.) Here’s a very behind-the-scenes shot of the floor under cover in the outdoor kitchen, with the platform up there beyond.

yurt camp

If you work in an office and get paid for being there, you may now enjoy a moment of smugness.

I’ve been trying to get some video of migrating cranes for years. Last year they always seemed to be flying over at night, but this week they were showing off in their thousands.

When you hear this sound, you know it’s either the start of spring or winter. (Although the first time I heard it, I thought hundreds of turkeys were on the loose in the woods – until I looked up.)

The last of the cold nights is behind us, the temperature outside will hit about 18C today and there’s a HUGE amount to do before we open in – ARGH – less than two months!

Now, we blushingly admit that écovallée gets gushingly great reviews on Tripadvisor and Canopy & Stars. But we know where there’s room for improvement – and one of the improvements you are going to see in 2015 is this:

solar heater

You see, our existing solar shower has not been up to the job. Yes, it’s simple. Yes, it cost enough to make you believe it should last for years. But the tank is too small, it’s cold in the mornings when most people want to use it, and last year something went so wrong with the regulator that it ran cold much of the time.

We’re not going to fight it any more. We’re going to put it in storage and invest in the kind of thing you see above. Our friends Ben and Anna at the Quinta do Figo Verde campsite in Portugal have tested this Greek-made system for a couple of years and they love it.

Don’t worry – everything else about our beautiful solar shower will stay the same. The snail shell cubicle, the gravel filter and reed bed, the willow trench, and the joyous experience of showering in the open air.

The only difference is that the water will be as hot as you like, whenever you want.

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