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.

I’m beginning to think Pepito, our “working horse”, is a bit of a hippy. He has the long, flowing blond hair, he gets through an unbelievable amount of grass – and he keeps breaking out of his field to set our rabbits free.

A few weeks ago (or was it months – we’ve been busy), he broke out, kicked the mobile rabbit runs around and allowed the boy rabbits to mingle freely with the girl rabbits, the result of which was… more rabbits.

This much you may know.

More recently, he broke out and re-released the rabbits, one of which (the mother of the unplanned bunnies) came back only at the end of the day looking tired and out of breath.

Then, yesterday (was it only yesterday – we really have been busy), he broke out again, re-re-released the rabbits, and allowed the mummy bunny to go all born free and return to the wild, from which she has not returned. I know what you’re thinking – “been eaten by a fox, more like” – and up until recently, I’d have been with you all the way.

But some years ago, after our first break-out (it’s only just occurred to me that it may have been Pepito, who broke back into his field before breakfast) and two female bunnies ran off into the night. We assumed they’d been eaten, until – a couple of weeks ago – Her Outdoors spotted a large, white bunny rabbit just down the road. Almost certainly one of ours, or a blood relative. (Most of the wild rabbits are smallish and brownish.)

It’s a good job we don’t keep lions.

No. Not the title of my latest unpublished children’s book; my soon-to-be-published post on our not very hard working working horse.

Besides turning acres of pasture into wheelbarrows of manure, Pepito has recently started proper work. First he pulled a tree out of the woods (that I’d failed to cut down successfully). Then he did some harrowing practice on what was the old pigs’ last field.

Here’s me having a go:


And here’s Her Outdoors (note the look of concentration on the face – and the lack of gloves – she’s hard, she is):

Pepito ran away a few times. Which meant the fence became Priority Numero Uno for a while. The ground was perfect for these posts and it was a joy to swing a sledgehammer again.


Coming soon, our first attempt at post-and-rail.

We also ate our first wild mushrooms. We didn’t do this stupidly, but bought a comprehensive book on the subject and had them checked by the local pharmacist (a service provided free around these parts). Cooking and eating them was still pretty unnerving, although bluddie delicious.


Here’s a mushroom we didn’t try, although I think you’ll agree it’s pretty wild in its own way.

I just bought Her Outdoors a necklace.


For Pepito. Obviously.

INT. HOME – DAY

FRONT DOOR OPENS AND CLARE ENTERS.

SHE: Do you want the good news or the bad news?

ME: The bad news.

SHE: I’ve stabbed myself with a screwdriver and I’ll probably be out of action for a couple of weeks.

ME: And the good news?

SHE: We need to move Pepito immediately. The lower half of his field is flooded. Actually, it’s more like a river.

ME: (GLAD I DIDN’T ASK FOR THE GOOD NEWS FIRST) Lunch is ready in ten minutes.

After looking up some new vocab (thumb muscle, screwdriver, stab, tetanus), and a relatively quick trip to “Urgences” in Bergerac, the river in Pepito’s field has subsided and slowed and we are both looking forward to different types of single-handed work over the next couple of weeks.

Starting with… more fencing.

If someone I once worked with is to be believed, this post is worth 1,000 words:


Biographical detail that might be useful: This is the last post of the orchard/chicken run enclosure, featuring some of the equipment needed for The Sport of Fencing. (Note the use of cheat boards to add stability to the ladder.)

Here are the other posts:


But fencing doesn’t stop there. Oh no. Next you need to add leaners to your corner posts. They look like this (which you will find in the Rule Book):


Many years ago, on The Big Breakfast (when breakfast TV was worth waking up for), Richard Bacon introduced the weather like this: “It’s a great day if you’re an otter – or you collect water”.

I am absolutely, totally, deliriously happy to show you the water I collected in the last couple of days:


It’s not for me. It’s for Pepito, who arrived today:


And after a few words from Philippe:


Went to find his corner of a field:


What you might call a happy beginning.