Lazy Days

 I love this time of year. These lazy days between Christmas and New Year when you can justifiably pull out the couch and watch endless films with a bowl of chocolate. We’ve been taking it slow, hibernating away in our house in the woods with our wood fire burning 24/7. Thoughts are ever so slowly turning to 2019 and what it might hold. If you follow elsewhere you’ll know that we’re expecting baby number 3 in late Spring. This means we’ve put our Wild Oak Wood camping plans on hold till 2020. It gives us time to adjust to being a family of five, but also take our time getting everything perfect for when we open our home to guests the following year. There’s a huge amount of work to be done on the land and we’re hoping to welcome some volunteers next summer to help out, as well as give the tents another test.

For now the boys are still taking over the house with their lego and I’m finding it hard to move from my favorite spot by the fire. I’m meal planning for the month of January, ordering seed catalogues and starting to plan the veg patch, and finding ways to use up fabric that’s been sitting in my fabric box for far too long.

Wherever you are in the world we hope you’ve had lovely Christmas and are ready to welcome the New Year and all that it holds!
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Caylus Pottery Market





I know I keep going on about how this market is my favourite market...but Caylus pottery market, held over a weekend in August every year, really is my FAVOURITE summer market! Every year I'm blown away by the quality of the handmade items on display and I always come away with a few pieces (though I could come away with a LOT more.)

This year I came away with two new mugs to add to my 'posh' mug collection. I also couldn't resist a new bowl from the fluorescent stand above. I don't match colours or styles, I tend to just go for what I like, which is turning out to be pretty eclectic. I'm now on the lookout for the perfect cabinet or shelving unit so I can display them all in my dining room. And how cool is this guys clay sculpting. These figures popped up on corners all around the local area throughout the summer!
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Goat Farm - Alphabet Adventures


I can't believe it's taken us so long to go and visit this goat farm which is literally 2 minutes down the road from us. The Moulin de Vignasse produces delicious goats cheese that you can find in local markets or buy on selected days at their farm shop. We went along this weekend on a Journée du Patrimonie (European Heritage Day) where local monuments and cultural spots open their doors for people to come and visit. 

It's a lovely little farm! We got to see all the mama goats who were waiting to be milked. The younger goats were in a next door pen and there was a daddy goat outside (I swear he's smiling!) The mamas all rushed into the milking room at 5.30 to get their feed and be electronically milked. The boys found it fascinating to watch the milk being collected and whisked off down tubes to later be made into cheese. 

The farm also has a couple of pigs that they raise for meat and that enjoy being fed on goats milk which I'd not seen or heard of before.  The pigs loved lapping it up along with munching on quinces from a nearby tree.

The farm is also a working moulin and we were able to see the big wheel churning away in the water and listen to an explanation about how their organic flour is made, which you can also buy in their shop. Sadly by the time we'd arrived they had sold out of cheese but we'll be back to try out their different varieties. 

Did you visit anywhere this weekend as part of the European Heritage Days?
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Mini Golf - Alphabet Adventures


The highlight of Summer for Reuben is always his birthday. Last year we rushed to get the pool ready so that we could have our first pool party. This year we had lots of family round and a pool party would have been nice but the weather had other ideas. Despite the heat that we'd had all Summer, this year was cloudy and drizzled a lot, though to be fair it was much needed. We didn't let it get in the way of celebrations however and we all headed off to St André de Najac for a game of mini golf.

We arrived en mass and were greeted by a lovely couple who told us they had been running the place for 15 years. After being sized up for clubs and having chosen our coloured balls we hit the course after a brief explanation on how to keep score. The kids played as they wished and whizzed around, hitting their balls in all manner of directions (including one in the pond.) The adults however played a slightly more serious game, keeping score and a close eye on who gained penalties on some of the more difficult holes. 


It was a really fun morning (especially as I came out victorious!) that was finished off with hot chocolates and a promise of birthday cake when we arrived back home. We'll be including mini golf as part of our Alphabet Adventure guide in the Summer as an activity for all ages!
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A Simple Shelter



Of all the crazy things that have happened this summer...the kids, the work, the stream of visiting family and friends, the swimming, the trips out, the markets, the wasp stings...this has made me smile the most. This simple shelter, handmade by our 15 year old nephew, epitomises everything that we hope Wild Oak Wood to be. It's about getting out into the wonderful nature that surrounds us, being inspired, and getting creative, no matter how young or old you are. Teenagers can be hard to get going at the best of times, but he took the time and energy, under no instruction whatsoever, and toiled away until he had blisters on his hands. I love it! And I'm sure it won't be the last shelter to be built here in our woods!

We'd love to hear what you've been getting up to this summer and what you're looking forward to in the autumn.
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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
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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.


Tomatoes
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.



Beans
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.


Salad
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.


Sweetcorn
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.



Courgettes
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!
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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?
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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.
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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?
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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

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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?
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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!
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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.
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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?
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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?


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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.
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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.


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