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Happy Holidays!

Wow! It's hot! Sorry to state the obvious but I've never known a Summer like it! It's been a little quiet on the blog as we are well and truly into the Summer season which means vide greniers, music festivals, village fetes, daily swim sessions and endless BBQ's. We have a stream of friends and family who are staying with us over August, testing out our tents for us and giving us the feedback we need to make sure next year is perfect for any visiting guests. I promise pictures of the tents will be live by the end of the month so you can get a full picture of what the tents look like. In the meantime I'm officially signing off for the Summer, though you can still find me over on Instagram posting pictures of what we get up to. Have a good one! Keep cool! And see you in September x

Veg Patch - June

As you may know, this is year one for our veg patch and let's just say I'm already learning loads and there's lots that I will be doing differently next year. Our top soil was delivered back in April. We didn't really have time to add any goodness to it so we've just stuck things in the ground this year and crossed our fingers that something will grow. Thankfully things have...

Potatoes and Onions
The potatoes have gone a bit wild. There was a decent amount of topsoil but it doesn't go down that deep. How many potatoes we'll get I have no idea as after the topsoil it will reach a layer filled with stones. Other people have suffered with their onions due to the amount of rain we've had. Ours seem to be growing, we planted red and white, we'll have to see what happens when we lift them up. As both of these crops take up so much space, especially if you want a decent amount, I'll either be moving them next year and be planting a lot more, or not at all.

I do the same every year with tomatoes...plant them and leave them to go wild. I'm now realising that they could probably do with a bit of care in order to get a good crop. We're starting to get some tomatoes growing but some plants seem to be flowering better than others. Next year I'll be planting a whole bed of tomatoes, and will be spacing them out a bit more.

These are doing really well. I started them off in the greenhouse and we're starting to pick them now. We have both yellow and green varieties growing.

Our lettices suffered in the heavy rains a few weeks back but they're making a good recovery. We're picking and eating daily now. Radishes however, although they are so easy to grow I'm realising it's not really something we eat and the kids don't like them. I'll either have to find a way to get them into our diet or not grow them next year. Really hoping we get a good crop of the beetroot though. I started them from seed in the greenhouse and they seem to have taken in the beds. They're starting to break through now but are looking a little mini.

They're slowly doing their thing. Really hoping we get a good crop as we all love sweetcorn and they don't really sell it round here for some reason.

I'm about to pick our first courgette! I started these off again from seed in the greenhouse. I planted loads of different varieties but think I didn't get them planted outside quick enough cause they all started to suffer a bit in pots in the heat. Hoping some will still take if I plant them out now.

We'd love to hear what you're growing in your veg patch this year!

Beautiful Butterflies

The past few weeks it's been so lovely seeing flowers that I've planted along the front of the house establish themselves and start to bloom. It was looking a little sorry for itself for a while but suddenly rain and sun has caused a growth spurt and colour is starting to pop.

We have a rose bush that was already here when we arrived and has flowered beautiful red blooms. Last year I added verbena, thyme, lavender, a lovely yellow flowering plant called 'African Sun'. This year I also started nasturtiums from seed that are starting to produce beautiful rich orange and yellow flowers.

There are also a couple of different sage plants, one with bright hot pink flowers, and an echinacea plant. What I'm loving at the moment is the verbena as it's attracting some beautiful butterflies. I've seen a Red and White Admiral, and a Small Heath. I can see a little butterfly project emerging for the summer holidays to record as many as we can see.

What plants do you love that attract butterflies?

Our Rabbits

One of the things I was excited about when buying our new house was the fact that we would have land to keep animals on. We had already been keeping chickens in our small garden in our old village, but now we would have the space for so much more. I accompanied Jacob's nursery class on their farm visit a couple of years ago and an idea I loved that I've adopted is the idea of keeping animals for a purpose, not just to look cute and keep you company. Any animals here at Wild Oak Wood have to earn their keep and so far we have cats (who catch small rodents) and our fish are now in the pond (who will eat all the mosquitoes...hopefully!)

One day whilst browsing the Bon Coin (the French version of Ebay) I came across a local farmer selling rabbits. After persuading Andrew that they would be a good idea we went along with the boys to choose our new additions and came away with one male and two females, who I am officially naming Willow, Clover and Bailey. You know the saying about rabbits, they were at it as soon as we put them in a box together and the day we left for the UK for Christmas we were blessed with a little brood of baby rabbits. Not that we saw them properly however till we got back as they were hidden away under a bundle of rabbit fur.

We kept all our rabbits inside over winter but they are now in their permanent home outside, shaded under trees and happy with their palaces that Andrew built with old wood found in the barn and unused roof tiles from the garage. However, as mentioned at the start, these animals are for a purpose, we're keeping them for meat. Although rabbit may not be a frequent site in some supermarkets, here lots of people keep them for this purpose and you can buy them from the local butcher or find them in the supermarkets. Rabbits are easy to breed, produce lots in one go, and they don't need a huge amount of space. Many are kept in cages though we didn't like the idea of this. (We may regret this decision however when it comes to catching them...they are fast!) These rabbits are more wild than tame. They're curious at times when you enter their pen but generally they don't like to be handled and run away when you try and stroke them. These aren't small rabbits either, they're a big breed, about the size of large cats.

We're on a road to self sufficiency, and along with the chickens and veg patch we're making a start. This is year one and we're experimenting, seeing what works for us as a family and what our land throws up at us throught the year. The kids are totally on board, we haven't held anything back from them, they understand the purpose of the animals we keep and what we're trying to achieve here. We're not a vegetarian family so what better way to know what's on our plate than to grow and rear as much as we can ourselves?

What's next? Definietly bees at some point and next year we have pigs on the agenda. It would be great to have an animal that could keep the grass in the big fields down for us. I have a romantic idea of keeping goats but I know how cheeky they can be! Do you keep animals? We'd love to hear your experiences and any tips that you may have.

Homemade Playdough - Eco Living

Wednesday afternoons the kids have no school. They've just had two weeks off school and there are endless bank holidays in May meaning disrupted weeks and late nights as we just can't seem to get back into the school rhythm. Our boys are pretty good at keeping themselves entertained but every so often they fail to find things to amuse themselves so it's good to have a couple of things up our sleeves like this....homemade playdough.

I haven't bought playdough for years once I discovered how easy it was to make. This is my favourite recipe, though I make it without the jelly. I usually use any old food colouring but I had a box of this natural stuff from our local Biocoop which works perfectly. The pink is beetroot, green is nettle powder, and the yellow smells so strongly of turmuric. The boys use it with their electric dough kit and light up their creations!

Have you tried making your own playdough? What's your favourite recipe?

Homemade Deodorant - Eco Living

Andrew and I gave up on shop bought deodorant a while ago. After reading Bea Johnsons Zero Waste Home and realising how easy it would be to make we decided to give it a go as quite frankly what did we have to lose (apart from our friends if it didn't work!) The real test was always going to be Summer. It can get really hot here. We work...we sweat...and we smell. But I can thankfully say the homemade stuff works it's magic and I'm pleasantly surprised.

There's no doubt that there are days when it needs to be applied more than once, but the bicarbonate of soda is great at getting rid of those unwanted odours. After trying a few different recipes my current favourite one is in Handmade Beauty by Annie Strole. It uses coconut oil, shea butter, bicarb and arrowroot, which I managed to find in my local bio shop. We customise it with whatever essential oil takes our fancy, which is currently clary sage. The ingredients make it more of a solid deodorant, we keep it in a jar and just scoop and apply with our fingers.

Have you tried using a natural deodorant? Do you have a favourite use for bicarbonate of soda?
A Green and Rosie Life

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?
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