In the spring, I’ll be doing the usual preparation work before écovallée opens, and I have to finish the road to the car park some time before then. But I have plenty of other projects to be getting on with.

The first big project is a new idea: teaching people how to create or improve their own website, using WordPress. I’ll be running one-day introductory courses, and one-day content courses, in one of the region’s best restaurants – Les Petits Plats. (I’ll be re-doing their website, too.) I’ve written about the courses here and I’ll keep you up to date on this blog, from time to time.

Apart from that, I’ll be working hard on music. My objective is to get my solo piano set in my head, so I can throw my chord charts away. Then I’ll try and do the same with the band. Both sets added together run to about six hours, so it won’t be easy. As part of this process, I’m going to be recording a load of piano tutorials on my new YouTube channel. I couldn’t have learnt the 200-odd songs I’ve learnt in the last few years without YouTube. This is my attempt to put something back.

If you’re thinking that the blog is wandering off track, both of these activities still fall under the banner of self sufficiency. At the end of his book, John Seymour recommends using all your skills to bring in the money our world doesn’t let you live without. It’s not just about pushing wheelbarrows and wearing dirty clothes.

As an added bonus, during the winter months, I can do both of these inside.

food processing

Life’s pretty good at the moment. Her Outdoors is processing the fruits (and vegetables) of her labours, stitching, writing stories, puppet making, and a whole lot more.

I’m mainly learning songs for my solo piano set list, adding some Yann Tiersen, Supertramp, Pink Floyd and whatever I feel like. (As soon as I start working on one song, I think of another one that I should have learnt years ago.) I’m also catching up on some reading and lying in a hammock. Not feeling too guilty about this, as I’ve worn out my strimmer (and a pair of work boots) which is in for nearly €300 in repairs.

Last week, the new website I wrote for the Quay Arts Centre went live. (Not all of the words are mine – and I hope you will be able to tell the difference.) I loved working on this project and welcome similar jobs now the winter’s coming. Over the next few months, I’ll be recording an album with the band, writing Part Two of my book (finally), co-writing a stage play with Her Outdoors, co-writing some songs in English, French and Spanish with a friend, completing the road through the woods, remaking the tractor shed for yurt storage, and focusing on our immediate living environment. (The lean-to needs remaking, a few tons of clay need relocating, wood needs chopping, and cetera.) All on budgets that are either tight or non-existent.

I’ll be writing the odd blog post now and again, too. (This was the now.)

The Mark V website for écovallée is now live and looks like this:

écovallée screen shot

Click on the image to visit the new site right now.

I really enjoyed doing this, although it meant many hours spent in front of a screen. My only regret was loading enormous images into the WordPress media library, which had to be re-sized and re-loaded when the whole site was nearly finished. (My advice: Choose a reasonable size at the start and stick with it. I went for 400 pixels high, which is no doubt unnecessarily big. But everything in écovallée is over-engineered, so that goes with the whole spirit of the place.)

Huge thanks again to Luke Seall, who helped me again this morning when the site on my local server had to be moved to my web host. If you’re looking for a website designer, you should see if he’s got some time free. I know he’s busy until next year, but that’s only a couple of weeks away.

One of the many exciting improvements we’re making before the start of next season is a new website.

Yes, I know the we have at the moment is very beautiful. But it was designed by a designer, using a load of programs I don’t have access to, and there are a number of limiting problems. The headlines are built as images, for example, so can’t be tweaked. Changing the text is a bit bewildering and I have to write code that sometimes goes wrong. Not to mention adding buttons at the bottom and making the “maps” fit. I also want to make the blog and twitter feed part of the new site – and who knows what else in the future?

As with many things, I’m going to be doing this experientially, and for as little as possible. I’ll keep you informed of my progress when relevant.

To begin, I’ve decided to build the new website using wordpress. Everyone raves about wordpress, and I’m vaguely familiar with it through writing this and other blogs. I’ve also decided to create the new site on my computer, rather than “live” on the Internet, for which I needed some software called MAMP. Getting these two things to talk to each other, even with YouTube video walk-throughs, was not entirely straightforward, so I also put a call into Luke from project1p (who is now exchanging website design for money) and now I’m in a position to start.

It’s going to be raining for a few days, so you shouldn’t have to wait too long before you see more. But I can’t show you too much, or it wouldn’t be part of the Longest Teaser Campaign in History.

Gone are the days when I could walk into a room and ask a brilliant designer or artworker (aka Mac Monkey) to “just add that, will you?” Which is why I spent the first part of this morning wrestling with a couple of programmes I don’t know very well, in an effort to add a French flag to the écovallée homepage.


There are at least two things wrong with what I’ve done, which would take a competent person less than a minute to fix, but will take me well over an hour. So I’ll wait until it’s very cold again before having another go.

The flag links to the website in French, which I’ve built in yet another programme I don’t know how to use. If you’re interested in language, you might like to see how some phrases have had to be changed completely, either because they don’t translate or because French doesn’t have the same playful flexibility of English. (Neither, interestingly enough, does United Statesian.)

It’s been raining a lot recently. So aside from digging out a few tree stumps for the new guest yurt platform, raking leaves into piles to rot down for a year or two, fencing the horse field, building a brash hedge from blackthorn to keep out the Chasse (after one of our pigs was brought down by two cute-looking terriers), moving gravel to keep down the mud, building kitchen cabinets, coppicing the woodland behind our yurt, collecting water containers to catch the rain, hay to feed the horse and all that fun stuff, we’ve redesigned and rewritten the website. Which now looks like this.

Dull it never is, this life we have chosen.