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Midwife Toads

We found something fascinating in our garden this weekend. Since the start of Spring we've been hearing an unusual noise in the garden as the light begins to fade. The best way to describe it is like a smoke alarm that's losing it's battery power and you get a high beep every 3 seconds. Whatever animal it was we knew that there were a few of them around. Every night we are bombarded with a call and response session as one would beep near the house and another would reply off in the woods, then another somewhere else. We spoke to a number of people about what it could be, the best answer we got was a Scops Owl, though I knew it couldn't have been as one noise seemed to be coming from the flower bed in front of the house.

Well this weekend we discovered what it was...midwife toads! Uncovering our pile of sand we found these nestled in the dark, carefully looking after their eggs which are attached to their backs. It's the males that carry the eggs, and when they're about to hatch they'll start looking for water. We have a number of water points on our land. We have a pond in front of the house, which is where I imagine they'll head to first. But we also have a couple of wells, and water collection points by the garage and barn. So come Summer we may be inundated with toads!

Are you a fan of wildlife? Have you found an unusual animal recently?

Zen Painting At Wild Oak Wood

Calling all artists! We have a very special workshop coming up next month. Alex Hubbell is a friend and super talented artist who paints with watercolours. I think her work is beautiful and I was delighted when she agreed to host a workshop here at Wild Oak Wood. In her half or full day session you'll learn the art of zen painting. Alex will give you a toolkit of brushstrokes that you can then use to capture the world around you in vibrant colour!

The course is open to all levels and if you're intrigued you can see more of Alex's work on her website here. Do watch the video of her painting I find the process mesmerising. If you're interested in signing up for this workshop please email us at hello@wildoakwood.com to book your place!

Ivor The Survivor

It's been a pretty heartbreaking weekend. Our flock of chickens has been devastated by some animal who has killed all except one, now lonely, cockerel. I thought things were a little quiet on Sunday morning and went to check on them as usual. What I was met with was a mass of dead chickens (I'll spare you the gruesome details) and one lone, slightly bemused cockerel, wandering around amongst them. This has happened before, and we feel rather guilty as it was our fault once again for not closing the door to the hen house at night, despite the fact that they are now enclosed with fencing all around them. Three are missing, and part of me hopes they'll still wander home at some point.

I get it...it's all part of nature and living in the countryside. It's a sure sign of Spring to see all the animals returning and finding food. I would understand it more however if it was killing just for food. But to kill all that it finds seems more like a game, and that seems unnecessarily cruel. The kids were sad, we are all still sad, but for the sake of Ivor the Survivor, as our remaining cockerel is now named, we'll carry on with a new brood soon.

Bedtime Reading - The Lost Words

Oh Spring...please wake up! I love our wood burning stove to bits but I think we're all ready for a little bit of heat from the sun. When there's so much work to do outside it's so much more motivating when it's warm and dry than cold and wet. We have been looking out for signs of Spring, though they were rather covered in snow this morning. Blossom is starting to bloom, the birds are returning to nest, and we're discovering frogs under rocks ready to hit the pond (another cleaning out job on the list.) Nature is slowly but surely starting to wake up.

The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane has been our bedtime reading recently. If there's one thing I realised in reading this book to the boys is that living in the countryside means that thankfully, lots of these words aren't totally lost to us. Although they were unfamiliar with most of the bird names, they could recall seeing some of them around, especially herons at the moment which are out in the wet fields looking for food. They knew the names of things like brambles having encountered them on walks around the village, and ferns and ivy we have outside our front door.

The illustrations in this book are beautiful, and although the poems were a little advanced for our boys (who are 8 and 6 years,) I hope that in reading the book it encourages them to not just notice and admire the natural world around them, but also want to learn the names of the things that they see. I'm forever pointing out seasonal plants, at the moment it's the yellow blossom on the wild cherry trees and cowslips. When Spring does finally appear in full bloom we'll be outside a lot more learning the names of plants and animals we encounter.

What's on your bedtime reading list at the moment?

Three Good Things

Yesterday was fab! We had a productive day in the garden and Spring had truly sprung with temperatures in double figures and the boys in t-shirts and sunglasses riding their skateboards down the driveway. But today is Monday, it's back to school/work and the rain is back with a mean grey sky. Instead of mourning the loss of the weekend I'm going to link up with Enchanted Pixie and focus on three good things that have happened recently.

Our Vegetable Patch
Our veg patch has come along leaps and bounds and once we've sourced some topsoil we're ready to start planting. I've been holding off with the recent cold weather but we've started sowing under cover. We have so much planting space and I'm looking forward to nurturing all our little seedlings and watching them flourish in their new home.
Workshops At Wild Oak Wood
I launched our Spring Workshops series recently and I'm hoping that there will be some interest as I think what's on offer is so inspiring and the teachers are fab! I'm running the first workshop on all natural balms and from next month there are mindfulness days such as meditation, astrology and zen painting!

Cards From Freshly Pressed
I won an Instagram giveaway! I won a beautiful set of cards from Freshly Pressed with lovely pictures of dried flowers on them. It's not often I win something so it was a treat to receive these in the post over the weekend. I have a friend to write to this week so I'll be posting one off soon!

What three good things have happened to you recently?

Workshops At Wild Oak Wood

It's been an exciting week as I've officially lauched our first series of Spring Workshops to be held here at Wild Oak Wood. Although we're mainly all about camping, I love learning new skills. There are so many inspiring people round here with interesting talents and it's my dream to become a place where people can share their knowledge to those who want to learn.

Our workshops are on the themes of crafting, mindfulness and bushcraft. In the first workshop I'll be showing people how easy it is to make their own naturally scented and tinted balms with 100% natural ingredients.

You'll find details of all our current courses here on our website workshop page, and I'll be introducing our other courses in the following weeks.

I'm really hoping there'll be some interest so do spread the word if you're local. If you would like to book a place, give us a call or send us an email! You can also sign up to our mailing list through our website to be kept up to date with all Wild Oak Wood news.

Half Term Plans

It's half term, and there's a whole lotta work to get done round here. Unlike in the UK where half terms are a week long, here in France they last for two. Two whole weeks where we are setting ourselves the challenge of creating the veg patch, rehousing the animals, clearing the barn, shifting chopped wood, and getting brutal with the overgrowth in the woods round the back of the house. I'm not one for cold weather but I'm breathing a sigh of relief knowing that there's a cold snap forecast next week. It holds off Spring growth for just a little while longer giving us time to chop back before everything madly sprouts back to life.

The kids are at club for three days each week. Unlike school days where they seem to come back with more energy at the end of the day, kids club wipes them out completely. They're off to the cinema this morning and even Jacob announced that it was going to be a 'looong day'! I've been reading this post from Enchanted Pixie and getting ideas for when they're at home. We've been baking weekly recently and have bought some new paints. We're also really getting into board games, Labyrinth is the favourite right now.

Evenings are for chilling out by the fire. I bought this pattern recently from Amuru Toys on Etsy and have been hand sewing just the cutest little bears. In fact...I like making them so much I have decided that all the children that come and camp here at Wild Oak Wood over the Summer will receive one in the welcome basket! I've also been catching up on magazines my mum brought over from the UK. Do any of you read Living France magazine? If you pick up a copy this month you'll find a lovely page all about this blog! Let me know what you think if you have a read.

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