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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.

Chasse En Cours

Ok...I'm a little bit upset. We lost three of our baby chickens last week and this time not to Mr Fox. It was Saturday morning and whilst lazing around in our pyjamas (as you do) we heard the chickens outside making a bit of a fuss. When they start making that amount of noise it means there's a predator around and for us that means a quick dash to get wellies on to chase whatever it is away. I've done this a couple of times now with Mr Fox. This time however, whatever was upsetting them had a bell ringing away as it ran, and soon enough it came into sight...it was a hunting dog.

Hunting is a massive sport here in rural France. From September to February, every weekend, men (I have yet to see a lady hunter though I'm sure they're out there) armed with their orange caps and rifles, take over the wilderness with their crazy dogs to hunt out their prey. Round here that could be deer, wild boar, rabbits, pheasants...

The thing is...we live on the edge of that wilderness, that untouched woodland which is prime territory for the chasse. We've actually seen them crossing our land (is that allowed??) The nearer they are the more likely their dogs will find our chickens and we fear for our safety. I've heard too many stories about people being accidentally shot having been mistaken for a wild boar or deer in the bushes. So what can we do? We've spoken to members of our local chasse and let them know that our house is now occupied as before we moved in last year it was empty for a long time. They've ensured us that they will warn us when they will be close to our land (although they have yet to do so.) We've also taken the decision to fence in our chickens for their own safety and we may be down the garden centre to buy our own orange caps for when we're working in the garden at the weekends!

If you've got any tips for how best to approach the local chasse please do pass them on. There's a good article here with information about them if you're interested.

Mega Veg Patch Plans

Happy Mail!! I love receiving fun stuff in the post so I was pretty happy yesterday to receive my order of seeds from Sarah Raven. We've started to get the garden (read 5 hectares of land) sorted bit by bit. We've started clearing undergrowth, pulling down dead trees, and have decided to move the chickens to a new spot where they'll be fenced in. We love our chickens being free range but having lost another three this week to hunting dogs something had to be done. We were pretty pleased with ourselves to bag a free greenhouse which we picked up at the weekend and we will clean and attempt to put that back together before the end of the week. We've found a whole bunch of wooden beams in the barn which we're hoping will be good enough to form the basis of our veg patch which at the moment looks like this...

...but I'm truly hoping by midsummer it will be a thriving veg and flower patch where our guests will be able to pick their own food for their breakfast/lunch/dinner and we'll be preserving our way into autumn and winter.

Speaking of guests...have you seen our new website? We launched our 'Wild Oak Wood' Bell Tent Camping business this week and have already had lots of positive feedback about our new site. We're looking forward to getting our tents in February when we'll have a go putting them up and get some pictures taken so you know exactly what we'll be offering. Let us know what you think!

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? 

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