Moving in to Le Shack – the off-grid adventure begins

Welcome to the 21st blog of The Olivia Rose Diaries which I have now combined with our off-grid adventures in Le Shack.

Well we’re in! Le Shack is officially our new off-grid home for the six months of winter each year, before we return to our boat Olivia Rose for a summer of carefree cruising. At least that was the plan before Covid arrived – now all we can do is wait and see what next year holds. We are incredibly relieved that we got in before the situation gets any worse. We can hunker down for the winter in splendid isolation – modern-day hermits.

So let me introduce you to our little cabin in greater detail. Perched on the side of a valley, we can just see the Pyrenées on a clear day, whilst our immediate views are of lovely rolling countryside that reminds us happily of our beloved Wales. The place has been left vacant for a year, so everything is beginning to look a bit tired and the land particularly is in need of some attention. We are now the proud owners of just under five acres of land, roughly half of which is made up of one field in which the cabin sits, whilst the rest is mostly woodland with a small patch of open land buried in amongst it somewhere. It’s so overgrown with brambles we haven’t found that particular part of our vast estate yet. A strimmer is high on our list of essential purchases.

You can’t see the cabin at all from the lane that passes by for it has been built under the lee of a massive ash tree, tucked down in a dark shady corner of the field, almost as if the previous owner didn’t want anyone to know she was there. Given that she built it without planning permission it’s as good a place as any to put it. Thankfully for us the local mairie eventually caught up with her, suggested that enough was enough and she had to play by the rules, which resulted in planning permission being granted retrospectively so we are now legal.

Due to popular request I shall begin the tour in the composting toilet. It’s funny how something we don’t talk about in a conventional house becomes an object of such interest, part fascination- part horror, when it is sited in an outside shed with no flushing water and the nose-wrinkling prospect of what you do with your bucket when it is full. I find it all quite fascinating and will share more details with you at a later date but for now here is a picture of our loo shed.

I mentioned last week that the toilet itself was so close to the door that my knees would have butted up against it. Given that there was space further behind it, we couldn’t understand why it was positioned there so we duly moved it further back. It consists of a wooden frame, which a normal toilet seat is fixed to, with a bucket underneath. We bought a set of very smart new buckets and a new toilet seat, cleared out an army of spiders and dusty cobwebs from both the ceiling and under the toilet frame itself and voila – what else could you wish for? We have both used it and it is absolutely fine.

We had our first series of heavy rain showers last night, a pattern which is set to be the norm for the next couple of weeks, and this morning we found out why the loo had been sited so close to the door. It was the only part of the shed that was watertight. Now we need to take an umbrella to the loo – or move it back to its original position. Another little job added to the list. Our mission at the moment is simply to get everything operational. We can then come back and make less pressing improvements at our leisure.

Our tour now moves inside Le Shack to the ‘shower room’. I mentioned in my last blog that the previous owner had a novel alternative to the conventional plastic shower tray and here is the picture to prove it.

Given that there is so much to do on Le Shack, we brought our caravan down as a temporary living space for sleeping, cooking. washing and eating and, on the one hand, I am very glad we did. However, we’ve been here just four nights now and I find I am hankering to move in, even though we have no kitchen, no lighting, no plumbing, no shower and no bed. Patience has never been my strong point.

Also lurking in the background is the spectre of Covid. France has seen new daily cases of over 16,000 and, more tellingly, the hospital admissions and number of deaths, which had remained stable despite the high number of cases, are now on the rise. Localised lockdowns must soon be inevitable, but these could make it difficult for us to get certain essential items to ensure comfortable living through the winter. There is a growing sense of urgency in sourcing seasoned firewood, batteries, lights, plumbing supplies, wood to build a bed frame – the list seems endless.

The tour will finish here for this week. The rain has briefly stopped and it is time to get back to Le Shack and attack the next job on my list.

I hope you are all keeping well and keeping your spirits up as best as is possible in trying and worrying times.

See you next week.


16 thoughts on “Moving in to Le Shack – the off-grid adventure begins

  1. Excellent, it is such fun following the trials and tribulations, all of which you just take in your stride. I do hope you get a few days of mellow autumn weather and the rain leaves you alone for a few weeks. Stay safe.


    1. Hi Trish. We’re trying to work out how to extricate fire wood down from the top of the hill in an almost impenetrable woodland through a massive thicket of brambles – still jealous? Bring back memories? Take care of you too. MJ


  2. Another good read! You have come up with two solutions for your leaky loo – how about a bit of roofing felt to stop the leak, which might be better than squeezing your knees against the door! Perhaps it would be very difficult to find the leak, leading to a whole new roof.


  3. Oh, my, you are true adventurers! I’m sure you’ll have it all shipshape in no time. 🙂
    Of course, the gardener in me noticed the greenhouse – that would make me very happy indeed.


  4. Your adventures never end. We thought Covid would be bad so we escaped Sydney for winter down to our little beach shack. Stocked up enough food for a few months. Converted the second bedroom into a larder. We too went through the critical issue of where to source seasoned firewood. We live in a National Park and it is illegal to take any dead trees for firewood. After the bushfires there are thousands of cut and fallen trees but aren’t allowed to take them. We actually ended up putting in a new deck and used the old one for firewood. We did have some cold nights but nothing like you will experience in France. Good luck with the provisioning and the lifestyle.


  5. Hi Both (and Maddie) – bet she is loving all that space to roam around. Well, you have certainly got a lot of work to do there…. but knowing you both, you will thrive on it and we really wish you both well. Shame we live so far away as we have tons of logs going free….. ah well !! You obviously need to get out there and buy up all those DIY goods you need a.s.a.p. and a well stocked larder (of sorts) just in case, as this Covid is never ending isn’t it. We have lockdowns here in Wales, with Cardiff, Swansea and Llanelli being the latest, yesterday and today. Still keeping my Tesco deliveries going, fortnightly, but people, again are starting to panic buy??? There is just no need for it, and it is extremely annoying – it seems that nobody else matters but them!!!
    Anyway, we really do wish you both well and good luck. We are loving the photos and can imagine the work you have to do, but you will get through it. Our very best wishes to you both and look forward to the next blog…. Love Ann and Gareth x


  6. Congratulations and our best wishes for this new beginning in your life!

    We are still on the move, have now fixed our winter port for Henriette and can go there whenever we want, it is not far away. Weather is not like in the south of France here…

    Did I ever speak about my off-grid washing machine to you? Here it is:

    We use it on board, it needs no electricity, just a little bit man-power and warm water…. In case you might be interested….

    Perhaps it will work and we might meet in spring, before you will untie the lines in Basse ham. We will see what corona will make with us until then…

    Enjoy your time in le shack and have a good start there !

    Melanie and Matthias

    Von: The Olivia Rose Diaries Gesendet: Samstag, 26. September 2020 14:24 An: Betreff: [New post] Moving in to Le Shack – the off-grid adventure begins

    maryjane678 posted: ” Our new home – rather unkempt after being empty for a while Welcome to the 21st blog of The Olivia Rose Diaries which I have now combined with our off-grid adventures in Le Shack. Well we’re in! Le Shack is officially our new off-grid home for the “


    1. Hi Melanie. That looks a fantastic washing machine. But wow, not cheap. Yes, hope to see you next year once we’re back on the boat. Enjoy the rest of your cruising – you must be one of fewer than normal. MJ


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