We have gone to great lengths to make écovallée the most perfect environmentally and family friendly yurt camp not just in the Dordogne, or France, but Western Europe – perhaps The World!

Our 18-foot Kyrgyz-style guest yurts are handcrafted coppiced chestnut, because we feel the natural lines are far more beautiful than sawn timber (the walls are also higher than Mongolian yurts, which is an added bonus). The yurts sit on locally sourced wood floors, and have comfy beds with good pillows and duvets, because we wouldn’t want anything less for ourselves. This is also why the safari-style outdoor kitchen has all the pots, pans, utensils and appliances you could want, including a large gas barbecue. And why there’s a stunning solar shower and beautiful tree bog compost toilet just a few metres down the field. Because we have young children, we included a special toy and game-filled Play Yurt just for kids. And we provide a Welcome Picnic for guests staying one week or more so parents can start relaxing as soon as they arrive.

Add Pepito the retired working horse, fresh eggs from the free-range chickens, rabbits, geese, acres of space, a trampoline, woodland play area, wildlife, peace and quiet, countless tourist attractions nearby, and a thriving 13th-Century market town a few hundred metres away, and you’d think we had thought of everything.

But you’d be wrong.

Last year, the cool boxes in the outdoor kitchen couldn’t cope with the heat of Summer, and it was clear we’d need to provide more reliable refrigeration. That refrigeration has now arrived and looks like this:

fridge freezer

It’s rated A++ and has enough space for all three yurts, but obviously from an environmental point of view it still uses electricity we weren’t consuming before. To make this OK, with ourselves, our guests and the planet at large, we’ve signed up to France’s 100% renewable electricity provider – enercoop. Something we’ve been meaning to do for a while.

Now, we’re pretty sure we’ve thought of everything…

It was probably my fault.

Last week, I remember cramming some rabbit halves into the downstairs bit of our fridge-freezer, ignorant of the fact I was supposed to leave space clear around the fan at the back. (I didn’t even know there was a fan at the back. I’ve written instruction manuals from time to time, but haven’t read many.)

The device made uncharacteristic noises for a day or so, and then began to lose its cool.

Of course, I panicked.

I shot into Bergerac and spent a large-ish amount of money on a small-ish A+ chest freezer (which we needed anyway, having taken up space in two friends’ freezers since butchering the last pig in the Spring). Then I read (see how quickly things change – suddenly I’m reading already) that our new freezer needed to sit for 24 hours before being turned on; and left for another 58 hours to get down to temperature.


So I borrowed some space in a neighbour’s freezer (they’re on holiday and I had the key – they’ll never know) to save our precious meat and started to cool down myself.

Since then, we’ve re-discovered how dependent we are on refrigeration. The emergency coolbox and freezer blocks have been fine up to a point, but without a spring nearby, there’s no ready supply of cold beers and instantly drinkable rosé. Carrots go off remarkably quickly when left on the kitchen table. There’s no sense in buying dairy products in any quantity (once again, exposing our lack of goat or access to cow). And the dumping ground on top of the freezer is valuable space our small kitchen feels even smaller without (especially as the new chest freezer is in there, behind the door, where a useful work surface used to be).

The good news is, the fridge-freezer has probably been fixed and may even be sitting in the kitchen right now (I’m at work for the day). The other good news is, we have the chest freezer that marks another step (bizarrely) down the road to self sufficiency. And finally, we had enough money to get through the emergency.

Now, if I can only get the phone working again, we’ll have it all.