As I type this, the cranes are migrating north again. It seems like they’ve only just gone south – and there wasn’t really a winter while they were wherever it was they went.

It’s the third year in a row here without snow. Good news for heating costs. Confusing for all animals who don’t have access to the Internet, and can’t come to their own conclusions about whether it’s too warm, why it might be, and what (if anything) they can do about it.

But that’s beside the point.

The point of this post is to reveal one of the works in progress here at écovallée reception. This structure was created a few years ago, to provide shade during the many months when you can sit outside for all three meals a day.

bamboo roof on free gazebo

Following my usual practice, the uprights are acacia from just over there, placed in posts holes that are back-filled with whatever came out of the holes in the first place. Originally, we bought some rolls of that split bamboo you find in DIY shops. They were hugely expensive (€70 for the roof, I think), badly made, and messily fell apart quite quickly. In an effort to tidy the place up a bit, they went to scrap.

Past guests will be familiar with a clump of bamboo next to the entrance to reception. This has been getting increasingly dense, partly because this is where I usually throw the washing-up water. (I know, I should have a forest garden up here. Give it time.) In a moment of clarity, I realised that I could replace the split-bamboo with real bamboo – cut to the right length – and reduce the amount of bamboo taking over that corner of the driveway. In fact, I may end up using the lot.

It’s already looking pretty good. Many thanks to Ben from Quinta do Figo Verde, who helped me get the project started and convinced me to put those cross pieces in. I’m just plodding away, processing and putting up six pieces a day. If the weather’s with me, it should be finished before I need it.

Perfect yurt for couples

Introducing easyurt: Stay in the 12-foot couples’ yurt for less than before, when you bring your own sheets and towels.

First of all, Happy New Year to readers and guests past, present and future.

There’s plenty to be excited about in the coming months – with some huge changes guaranteed for écovallée.

For those of you still wondering, after the not-so-recent posts, the yurt camp will be open for business as usual. I’ll be receiving guests from mid-May until the end of September and you’ll find the prices here.

As with last year, I’ve found a way of keeping the prices down so that the maximum number of people can come and stay here. A few of last year’s guests complained that écovallée is “too cheap” and I’m “underselling” it. But the idea was always to create a planet-friendly yurt camp that I would want to – and could afford to – stay in. In 2016, you can stay for less than last year if you: (a) bring your own sheets and towels and (b) leave the yurt and communal areas as pristine as they were when you found them. Both of these will mean less work for me, which will leave me more time to socialise with you.

Everybody wins!

Of course, you can always opt for using the sheets and towels that are already here – for a fee that covers the cost of the local laundry. But I’ll still encourage you to leave the place looking beautiful.

One final thought for now – if you’re planning on coming, don’t leave it too long to book. The exchange rate is still in your favour…

I’m keeping the prices for 2016 the same as this year, but there are a few changes you should be aware of.

prices 2016

Change the first

Because I will be running écovallée on my own, I will no longer have time to do the laundry. So when you come, you can either bring your own sheets and towels… or pay €20 per person for sheets and towels that will be laundered in Lalinde.

Change the second

To encourage guests to leave écovallée as they found it, there will now be an additional cleaning charge of €40. The good news is that this will be returned to those who leave the place immaculate. Which should pay for lunch on the way home.

Change the third

You can now book from any day of the week. Outside July and August, it’s a four-night minimum stay. Inside July and August, it’s still full weeks.

Weeks are already being booked, so don’t leave it too long. This year was our best-ever season – with some of the most interesting and lovely guests we have ever had. But next year promises to be even better…

Every now and then, I like to bring you a minute (or so) from écovallée. Here’s a video I shot yesterday, on my reasonably priced phone, from the hammock outside Mustardseed…

Here’s écovallée at 4pm yesterday, when we officially opened for the season.

yurt camp

It’s a terrible shot, taken with a bad camera on a reasonably priced phone. But cloud cover was very handy with the amount of walking around carrying things that had to be done before our first guests arrived.

The forecast for the rest of the week is mostly sunny, with daytime temperatures in the low 20s. Looks like they picked a good week for it.

Here’s this year’s Peaseblossom frame up on the platform, before the cover went back on.

For new readers, it’s an 18-foot Kyrgyz-style coppiced chestnut yurt. Sleeps four very comfortably. The floor is locally sourced pine. Very comfortable on the foot. It gets furnished with comfy beds, duvets and all that stuff you don’t want to carry with you on holiday.

yurt up

It sits in mixed woodland of sweet chestnut, hawthorne, wild service, oak and hornbeam, and overlooks a grassy valley onto more woodland that has, for some reason, a fair amount of pine.

Just down the hill (as you can see in the previous posts) is the solar shower and compost toilet. Out of shot, to the right, is a canvas-covered kitchen and eating area shared with an identical yurt. There’s one other yurt way away to the left, with its own kitchen. That one’s a 12-footer perfect for two, or two and a bit. There’s also another 12-foot yurt off to the right and down the hill, but that’s just for playing in. Hence the sand pit and play area behind.

First guests of the season arrive tomorrow. And the écovallée summer begins…

Here’s the platform at 13h45 the way I wanted it to be at 11h00.

yurt platform 1

Still on schedule but a few things to do before the yurt can go on it. Like trim the whole circle,’cos it’s too big, sand and seal the front door, mop the floor (no small job, that), add the edge, and fetch the yurt from the tractor shed.

But first, some coffee.

Over the last couple of days, my attention has switched from the Peaseblossom platform to the Mustardseed platform.

We have guests staying in this yurt at the end of next week and the floor had moved around a bit during its winter under plastic. (BTW, the mice ate through the plastic and the deer ripped the plastic with their hooves, so this is not the ideal way of keeping it in good condition. I’m still not sure what the ideal way is.)

The best solution as I saw it was to lift the floor and re-lay it. (Which is what I was doing this time last year.) The day before yesterday, I got it to this point:

yurt platform 1

Then yesterday, after much noise (I’m nailing the boards down again this time), it got to this point…

yurt platform 2

And then we put the yurt frame and roof up, and added the wall this morning. You’ll have to take my word for this, as I didn’t stop to take a photo.

In our mid-to-late 40s, this kind of physical activity is not as easy as it was, and Things Are Going To Change. Watch this space for some HUGE news in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I’ll post some video and keep you up to date with work as we put everything else back together for what promises to be our best summer ever!

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.

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.