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Welcome To Wild Oak Wood!

Hello 2018! Wow...we have so much in store for you! For my first post of the year I'm going to be brave and hit the publish button to reveal our new blog name. Welcome to Wild Oak Wood!

Having bought our new house last year we no longer live on Rue Du Belvedere so this blog has had to evolve. Our new house is surrounded by nature. We always knew we wanted land, and now we have 5 and a half hectares of it. Most of it wild woodland with...yes you've guessed it...oak trees! It's beautiful, if a little overgrown at the moment, but we're slowly exploring and finding it's hidden gems, like old stone shepherds huts and endless juniper bushes. The wildlife is also making itself known and we've seen deer, wild boar and pheasants on the land.

We have big plans for all this nature. We want trails through the trees and a natural playground for the kids. We want to get going on the veg patch and ensure the animals are happy (more about them later.) We've been chopping down trees for next years wood stash, but we also want to start planting some fruit trees to be enjoyed in years to come.

We liked the name Wild Oak Wood, not just because it evokes the true nature of this place, but because the intials spell out pretty much what everyone says when they come to visit us...WOW! We thought it was rather fitting. Very soon we'll be revealing all about our new business plans. We're working on the website and have endless to do lists to keep us busy over the coming months. The blog will continue as normal, little stories about what we get up to as a family and about our life in France.

Hope you all endulged yourself over the holidays. Does anyone else do dry January? This is our 4th year running, we'll see how far we get!

Happy Christmas!

With the end of term now here I'm ready to wind down 2017 and plough into 2018 with a head full of ideas, endless 'to do' lists and an exciting project on the horizon. By far the most exciting thing to have happened to us this year has been buying our dream home. Since moving in the summer we've worked hard to get this old farmhouse habitable. (I say we but 90% of the work has been done by Andrew!) There's still a ton of work to do but we can rest over the Christmas period and start up again next year with energy levels renewed and fresh ideas.

Our biggest plan in 2018 will be to set up a business here at our new home. You may have noticed a name change on social media, something I felt I had to do before our chosen name got nicked by someone else! All will be revealed soon but for now we're working on ideas and crossing our fingers that we will be able to achieve all that we're setting out for oursevles in a very short space of time. So this space is set to change once more. Originally started as 'La Famille Brown' and then 'Rue du Belvedere' it will change for a final time as we settle into our new home and business.

We wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a fabulous New Year, and I hope you'll continue to follow our journey here in our new little corner of South West France.

See you in 2018!
Becky x

A Whirlwind Trip Back 'Home'

I've just got back from a whirlwind trip to the UK for the wedding of a childhood friend. Now that my parents have moved it was very strange to not go back to our usual stomping ground of North West London, and I'm not sure if it's something I'll get used to. They've gained the sea which is a big plus point. The photo above looks idyllic but believe me two days later it was snowing! I haven't been to the UK for almost 2 years but it felt good to be back, even if only for a brief period, to see familiar faces and yes...do a bit of shopping. Do I miss much about the UK...not really, but there are a few things I would go back regularly for.

1. The Food
I love the food that France has to offer but living in the countryside means that there are some foods that we just don't have access to. On day one I had a halloumi burger. I love halloumi but I just haven't been able to find it here. I had a proper hot chocolate topped with marshamallows and whipped cream. We went for an Indian meal with tandoori chicken, pilau rice and all the vegetable trimmings. At the wedding we had banana custard ice cream (so good) and fish and chips (a deconstructed version of!) We've got used to being more adventurous with our cooking here but it would be nice to get hold of some particular ingredients more easily.

2. Haircuts
I've had the same hairdresser since I was about 15 years old. She's amazing and always works her magic on my thick curly hair. I have not been able to find a local hairdresser that can cut and tame my hair in the same way. I've tried a few, but they take little time and don't really have the knowledge on what to do with hair such as mine. I'm going to have to probably head down to Toulouse to find a hairdresser as good (and probably pay an arm and a leg in the process.)

3. Inspiration
I've got so used to driving to the same places, going into the same shops, and seeing the same old things. It was so nice to go somewhere new, see new independant shops and what they had to offer. I love browsing the bookshops and seeing what creatives are making. I had to find a dress to wear for the wedding and spent a whole tiresome day in a shopping centre trying to find something. I realised I'm so out of touch with what people are wearing, and is it just me or does every other person have wild colours in their hair?! It's given me the thought that future city breaks might not be such a bad idea, even if they're just to the big towns near us. I love being in the countryside, but I don't want to be totally out of touch with the rest of the world.

So now I'm home, here to catch up on emails, finish...no, start my christmas shopping and get ready for the big day that is fast approaching! How are you doing?

Book Making At The Library

Not too long ago on a sunny Saturday morning the boys and I headed off to the village library to take part in a book making workshop. It was a small little group with kids of varying ages from the village. Although more suited to older children, younger ones could attend as long as there was someone who could help them, as there was a bit of measuring and folding to do. The workshop was free and all the materials were provided.

The kids started by choosing the paper for their front and back covers. These were little pieces of marbled paper which the kids fought over before settling on their favourite colours. These were stuck on, together with a little piece of ribbon which would hold the book closed. Next was the interior. Again little squares of coloured paper were chosen to line the inside and then it was on to the main content. The kids were given a piece of A4 paper on which they drew a picture. Jacob decided to stick loads of bits on his and Reuben got into the Christmas spirit with a Christmas tree and Father Christmas. When they had finished the paper was cut in a spiral and folded so that it could be stuck into the small book. The idea was then that as they opened the book it would unravel itself to reveal the "hidden" picture.

The boys were more than happy with the finished result. Reuben did really well all by himself and though Jacob found bits tricky, and lost his concentration a little towards the end, he stuck with it and finished his book! What do you think? 

Our Broody Hen

So...we have a broody hen. This is not our first broody hen, but our first met an awful fate after being discovered and eaten, along with all her eggs, by Mr Fox. Our chickens are free to wander about as they please (though for how much longer I'm not sure as they continuously dig up my newly planted flower beds) and as a result they often lay their eggs wherever they choose. When they start to get broody this means that one day they disappear altogether to sit on their nest of eggs and wait for them to hatch. We lost our first broody hen for weeks until one day we noticed that she was coming back on a daily basis for food. One day I watched, waitied, and followed her back to her nest. We were content knowing where she was and kept checking on her, until one day we found a nest of empty egg shells and not to far away a pile of feathers. That was a sad day.

So this time we're taking no chances. On finding our second broody hen we waited one evening until dark and then moved her to a safe place, creating a new nest for her where she can wait it out. She's sitting on 23 eggs! How many of those will hatch I have no idea but once again we're excited by the thought of baby chicks to look after.

Do you have any tips for looking after chicks? Send them our way! We'll let you know if we get any baby chicks.

La Goutte Végétale - Air Plant Kit

One of my favourite plant fairs is coming up this weekend. Now that we have land this is the first time that I'll actually be able to buy things that I like and have a place to put them.  I consider myself a true beginner gardener. I have lots of ideas and to date I've been a bit of a 'stick it in the ground and see what happens' kind of gardener, but here I really want things to work. Our house is South facing so anything I plant at the front of the house has got to be able to take the full force of the Summer heat. I'm starting to think about the beds directly in front of the house and what might look good in them. I know I want a bed full of lupins and succulents around the pond, and I'm also quite keen on grasses. I'm also desperate to get my veg patch started so that it's ready for Spring next year.

At this particular plant fair there is usually one of Reuben's favourite stands. For years he has walked passed and asked us every time if he could have one and for his birthday this year I finally got round to ordering one. La Goutte Végétale provides little air plant kits in beautiful glass bowls. The kits come with little packets of nature to create your arrangement, and one sunny afternoon Reuben sat to arrange his display and knew exactly where he wanted each little component to go. He wanted to create a little pathway with the slate pieces and have the stick coming out of one of the holes. He placed his plant towards the back and has been watering it with the little water spray once a week.

These are such great plants for kids to look after and I've decided Reuben would make such a good flower arranger! We don't have a great history with house plants so I'm hoping we'll do better with this one. I think you've got to try pretty hard to kill an air plant!

Do you have any favourite house plants?

Welcome Home Chickens!

The chickens are in! Of course I am more than excited that we have now officially moved into our new house, but I am also so thrilled that the move means our chickens have the freedom to roam as they please. We gave them as much space as we could in our last home but here they really are happy hens. We've bought them a new house and have added an important new friend. Red is a beautiful cockerel gifted to us by some friends. He has settled in well with the ladies and we're hoping it will mean little chicks at some point in the future. We're getting used to his cock-a-doodle-doing in the morning and evening (and hoping the neighbours won't be too disrupted by the noise.)

We've decided to let them be proper free range hens with no restrictions. However...I am not happy that they have already destroyed one of my newly planted flower beds. They seem to have a love of fresh soil, perfect for scratching around in and digging up, but it does leave a bit of a mess. So if anyone has any tips of how to keep chickens away from much loved plants do let me know! We will soon be adding some more hens and I quite like the idea of keeping quails as well so watch this space!

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