Still January 2015!
Two blog posts in the space of two weeks…I am beginning to wonder if I might have too much time on my hands, then it hits me that not even four weeks into this life-changing project, we have been so busy, it already feels like we have been here for months. Madeleine has already settled in well at school and Alexander should normally be joining her within the next couple of weeks or so.
Last weekend, the Mayor welcomed us for a meet-and-greet at the village hall, where we were introduced to some of the locals. He mentioned the annual events lined up for Compolibat in 2015, the various clubs available to its residents, such as hunting, rambling and gymnastics, and kindly offered us at least three slices of Galette des Rois each, followed by a refreshing glass of cider. All was going well for us until our delightful two year old son decided to pull his pants down in front of the mayor and bare all during his welcome speech. He then proceeded to shouting ‘gateau’ repeatedly, at the top of his voice as he ran his grubby fingers across the entire cake table during the 1-minute silence for Charlie Hebdo. Well at least everyone knows who we are now, the Whiteheads have arrived in Compolibat!
We are absolutely loving the winter here, in beautiful, sunny Aveyron. Our hamlet is perched on the top of a rolling hill, which means we not only have unobstructed views of the countryside, but we are one of the first areas to get the sunshine in the morning, as the mist sits over the village, down below.
We have been enjoying January temperatures of up to 15°C and even though it only takes us four minutes to drive to the village itself, our hamlet is often 5°C warmer due to the sun’s dominant presence. The large windows in our south-facing living room allow us to admire the sunrise each day and the plan is to put in some large patio doors, leading out on to a raised-deck terrace.
We’ve been observing the sun’s winter path in order to determine the sunniest and shadiest areas of the land for our permaculture garden. We will know much more about the land a year from now, but we still aim to get a good yield of vegetables and herbs before then.
We started harvesting seeds last autumn, but we couldn’t resist ordering the others online. We made a list of everything we would like to grow in our first year and this is what we came up with:
We have started to clear the shrubbery at the back of the house (on the north side) and we have recovered enough large rocks to be able to make our herb spiral, which will normally go within close proximity of the kitchen, for obvious reasons. A herb spiral is a cleverly raised herb garden, proposing different microclimates that enable each individual herb to thrive in its ideal environment, so varieties that love dry and sunny conditions, such as oregano, rosemary and thyme, will go on the sunny side, nearest the top of the spiral, and those preferring cooler and moister conditions, such as mint or chives, will go on the north side, nearer the bottom.
We are still trying to decide exactly where to put the raised vegetable beds, but we figure we will need six of them to begin with. The most obvious spot would be close to Pete’s recently-erected compost bin (made from old bedroom doors) and the rainwater catchment tank we plan to put behind the ‘poulailler’ (chicken house). We will most likely get the chickens around late March/early April. For now, they will live inside the already existing chicken house, which at some point in time would ideally become an eco gite made of tyres, cob or both. At the moment, the chicken house is being used as a storage shed, but the end section is pretty much chicken-ready and there’s plenty of space for a connecting chicken-run.
We are not yet sure how many chickens to get to begin with. If we go with the optimistic theory of a maximum of 1 egg per hen per day, 5 or 6 should be comfortable to start with. Of course we will have to watch out for predators, further more so now we have a second dog… Introducing the latest member of the Whitehead family, Gypsy:
For one particularly immaculate household in a nearby village, ‘Jeepsie’ (as she was formerly known before we changed the spelling), turned out to be quite the unwanted Christmas present, waking the baby with her yaps and whines, and constantly soiling the impeccably clean floor tiles, but for us, she is just the perfect family pet. At just 9 weeks old, this little beauty melted our hearts and although it was out of the blue, our impulsive decision to adopt her felt so right. Since we have gone out on a whim with so many other decisions over the past few weeks, we figure we will just go with the flow. Our 6-year old Lhasa Apso, Clive, did not seem too impressed with Gypsy to say the least, but he has always been a grumpy dog at heart; we wouldn’t want him any other way. While Gypsy finds herself alone at night on the living room floor, with limited furniture to chew on, Clive still sleeps like a king in our room, at the bottom of our bed.
We have been counting the pennies since Christmas, and as the savings begin to dwindle, so too does the work on the house. Nonetheless, we have been eating well and having cut down on our meat intake, our increased plant protein diet seems to suit our new lifestyle perfectly, leaving us with more energy, particularly in the mornings, and helping us to dramatically cut down on our shopping bill.
So far, so good…we seem to be adapting to our new environment and climate rather well. Not being a particular mud-lover myself, I am starting to accept that life in the country means that my car will be forever dirty, inside and out, that I will never leave the house without my beloved boots, and that two year olds love jumping up and down in muddy puddles just as much as (if not more than) Peppa Pig and a 2-month old Golden Retriever puppy!