Some of the hardest work we’ve done will never be seen by anyone. (I’m not complaining – it’s just one of those things.) The grey water treatment from the outdoor kitchen sink is not a good example – it was really quite easy.

We took a (free) bath and put a load of washed gravel in it:

We laid some (found) weed matting on top:

Then some washed sand:

Some top soil:

And finally some mulch from the other side of the valley.

More mulch was added, and some plants. But you get the gist. Before it gets here, water drains from the sink, through some straw in a box, and along a pipe under the kitchen paving. (The kitchen paving – that was hard work.)

Now I’ve finally managed to post those rocks (New readers – see below and below below), I can show you what’s on the work-in-progress list.

First: Grey water treatment for the outdoor kitchen. Washing-up water will drain through a straw bale grease trap, run along the pipe (a nice, easy bit under the floor there) into some mulch, filter through some washed sand, then gravel, before draining into the ground under a vine. Ooh – and must lay the patio floor and build the kitchen on that weed-suppressing matting you can see behind.

Equal first: Yurt platform. If you can get any more local, or sustainable, than using turf from the upper side of the slope to build up the lower side, I want to hear about it. This is huge fun, and much warmer than making igloos (I imagine). It also takes a surprisingly long time. It soon became clear I had too much mud, so I started making…

Equal equal first: Compost toilet platform. We’re going for a 2m x 2m toilet for comfort. This shot’s a bit out of date. There’s now some of the ramp leading to the toilet (for baby buggies and off-road wheelchair users).

Equal, equal equal first: Take down the 12-foot yurt, replace the cover, sand and oil the frame – when it’s not raining. And put it all back up in time for one of Her Outdoors’ friends, who’s arriving on Saturday. Lots to do. Got to go.

On Boxing Day (December 26th, for non-British types), great excitement followed the appearance of fluffy white precipitation delicately descending from the heavens.

Within seconds, we were staring through the living room window like children (which was, admittedly, easier for the children), exclaiming with delight.

At first, the flakes weren’t big enough to settle. Then they were. Joy and excitement grew as the thin layer of snow on the ground became slightly thicker. And thicker still.

I had a flashback to a hotel meeting room in Minneapolis, January 1997. I was looking across a concept-strewn table, through the window at the blizzard that had just started. ‘Hey look! It’s snowing!’ I exclaimed (which is like saying: ‘What a beautiful day!’ in San Diego). Everyone else looked out and said: ‘Oh, shoot/Jeez.’ (You’ve seen Fargo. It really is like that.)

Which is probably why: ‘Oh Ho – it’s snowing!’ almost instantly became: ‘Oh No – it’s snowing!’

We live in the middle of nowhere, remember? We drive an ordinary car with ordinary tyres. In an area not known for gritters and snowploughs. With several steep roads between us and the animals.

The animals! Frozen rain means frozen hosepipes!

My morning trip to the land confirmed my fears. The chickens were low. The pigs were out. And the horse was almost on empty. The taps were frozen solid and I had almost nothing in reserve. (I have to say, the land looked absolutely beautiful. I must make a toboggan run for the same time next year.)

My complete lack of preparation meant fetching water by car (all the while willing the thermometer to swing back and stay well above freezing), then wheelbarrowing it down the long zig-zag path from the road and across the field. Several times. And a promise not to get caught short like this again.

PS Happy New Year. We’re looking forward to one of the hardest years of our lives, physically. In the first half, we have to build six yurt platforms and covers of between 12 and 26 feet, a 50-metre (yard) access road for the emergency services, toilet and shower facilities, a reception-cum-office-cum-kitchen, drainage and various other things. And all we seem to have time for at the moment is looking after the animals and the children. More on this, later.

For months, I’ve been looking forward to writing a blog about the time we asked a water diviner (sourcier) onto the land, to find the spring that would make self-sufficiency much, much easier. And cheaper.

It was going to be called, punnily enough: Diviner intervention.

But the spring couldn’t wait and it sprung up right in the middle of the long field, near the veggie patch, the other day.

It’ll be a long time before anything wipes the smile off our faces.

I managed to put this together before the rain stopped.

Then put this together.

Before the eggs started (but only by a few hours).

By Sunday, we might have enough for pancakes.

One of the reasons I went for this piece of land was that it’s about 40 metres (yards) above the level of the river nearby.

So I figured, even if Greenland and both poles defrosted at the same time, we’d be flood-free.

Turns out, water falls from the sky as well as rises from the sea.

I just wish we had some more containers to catch it all.

Read a couple of amusing bullet points (in a very American book called: “You can farm”) the other day. They were, and remain:
o Unseasonably wet or unseasonably dry is normal, not exceptional.
o “Normal” weather is exceptional.

So I bring news that a period of normal weather has filled up a Very Deep hole on our land…

Showed us where the lower points are in the long field…

And identified a good spot for a ditch, which I will dig as soon as exceptional weather returns…

In other news, the mayor is coming to see écovallée on Thursday, so I’ve just booked two of the main benefits in having a job – days off.

Even though we have nothing on paper, it finally feels like we’re going to get this project on the ground. Which means we haven’t been completely wasting our time putting up a polytunnel:

Digging our first veggie beds:

Thinking of a way we can use the water that appears at the bottom of Pepito’s field, flows along under the blackthorn, and disappears into a hole in the ground that, bizarrely, we don’t own:

Or getting a job. Like I just did (more on this, later).

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.