June 2009


This is the bit in the reality TV show, just before the ad break in Part Two, where the indomitable couple have run out of time, money and energy. The presenter looks at what’s going on, turns to camera and says: ‘From where I’m standing, I can’t see how they’re going to pull it off’.

But if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know we’ve been here before.

Let’s look at what would have happened in Part Two:
o We bought The Shack and celebrated with home-made elderflower champagne from HFW’s recipe; one of two batches Her Outdoors made worked and it was excellent, if a bit sweet.
o We laid into The Shack with Tools; the internal chimney dropped off the ceiling in one huge piece, just missing my leg and nearly causing A Nasty Accident.
o Our world was rocked by the devastating news that one of our key allies and Genuinely Lovely Bloke, Marc Mercier of Developpement Perigord, died during a rugby match. He was the same age as me; had two young children the same ages as ours; and he will often and always be in our thoughts.
o We took it in turns to exhaust ourselves making and moving rubble (of which there is a staggering amount, even in a small ‘house’).
o I made a chainsaw-mate and we turned an inconveniently placed, overstood chestnut coppice into compost, kindling and firewood for winter 2012.
o Our tractor doctor surgically and brilliantly unseized our tractor in the field, which sadly re-seized and will never tractor again.
o Following an impressive piece of reversing, we took delivery of a sceptic tank and load of plastic pipes for a sewerage system we didn’t want, but which made it possible for Planning to say ‘Oui’.
o We asked the bank for ten grand so we can build the extension we now have permission for. It was a long shot (I don’t have a job). They said ‘Non’.
o The tractor doctor returned with this awesome machine…


…and we sat in the shade and watched as one small scoop for him saved a giant heap of digging for us.
o I then borrowed this machine from English-mafia Lee…


…to dig a trench for concrete footings (at which point the presenter, headshaking, would have said out of the corner of his mouth: ‘And they call themselves environmentalists…’) for the bathroom walls we’re buying with money borrowed from our kids.

Tune in soon for what would have happened in Part Three.

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This is a picture of what we lovingly refer to as The Shrieking Shack (The Shack for short). If there were any lingering doubts about our sanity, the fact that we bought it on Thursday afternoon for around 30,000 euros of the bank’s money in a flat market should settle things.

It measures almost exactly four metres by three-point-three-five and is smaller on the inside than it looks from the outside. (Even smaller when this photo was taken, before we went to work with Tools.)

In its defence, it has a basement, water and electricity, and comes with 7,100 square metres of woodland garden; a long stretch of which conveniently joins onto our existing 40,000 smallholding.

The plot widens…

So we got Planning Permission last week. Which means we can now buy the smallest, ugliest ‘house’ in the world (‘now’ in a pretty loose sense – ‘on Thursday at 2pm’ being more precise). Which means we will soon be moving into our own yurts on our own land (we have some fairly major reconstructive surgery to do first, including adding an unnecessary sewerage system and building a kitchen and bathroom) and open the business we brought with us nearly two years ago.

(How time files, as our paperwork will testify.)

Hardened drinkers will recognise that a bottle of cheap sparkling wine-type stuff was definitely in order. Which I discovered to my surprise and delight can be made more enjoyable and longer lasting with the addition of some equally cheap mixed fruit juice. Who knew?

I’ve been very, very busy. And I’m going to get a lot, lot busier. But as the saying doesn’t go, you should always make time to stop and post the orchids.

This one, which has a name not revealed here (too busy to look it up – see above) appeared over the road from ecovallee:


This is one of the Lizard Orchids just down the road:


And here’s one of the orchids we were expecting this year. The inaccurately named Red Helleborine: