Welcome to this weeks blog (Dec 4th 2020) about life in our off-grid cabin in France.
Now that the higher priority jobs have been done in Le Shack we have given ourselves a break from indoor jobs and turned our attention outside. The month of November has been incredibly sunny and warm and it seemed a waste to spend it indoors.
The sun might be shining outside, but it doesn’t manage to filter through to inside the cabin. In the winter months the position of the surrounding trees and the hill behind us means that very little natural light comes in to Le Shack. Our big French patio doors are north facing and the cabin is oddly designed, with a row of small windows just under the roof-line which are east facing but blocked by a huge oak tree. This means that we have the wood-burner going at night regardless of how sunny it might have been during the day and as a result our log store is beginning to empty out. It is time to begin to collect our own wood.
We enjoy wooding. There is something wholesome about it, as well as the satisfaction of knowing you will be warm and cosy when the bad weather finally arrives. When we lived in Wales, although we rented land for our small-holding, there were no trees to provide firewood. Sometimes we managed to buy a fallen tree from a nearby land-owner, other times we weren’t above a bit of ‘stealth wooding’ if we saw a bit of suitable wood by the wayside that seemed to belong to nobody else. It would mysteriously find its way into our sheep trailer, which fortuitously happened to be with us on that day. We don’t have to resort to such drastic means here as we are in the novel position of owning our own wood, or two little plots of wood to be accurate, located up on the hill above us.
There are two areas of slight concern. The first is that these woods are wild, there are no neat boundaries between one persons plot and the next, they simply run into each other. We have studied the deeds to try and work out where the boundaries might be and will hope for the best. The other, more pressing challenge, relates to access. There is no chance of getting a trailer anywhere near our woods, not that we’ve got one anyway. It is going to have to be cut into manageable pieces, dragged out by hand, roped onto our sack trolley, and we are going to have to cut a path through brambles and overgrown woodland to both get in and get out, all of this on a steep slope.
I say ‘we’, – and all of you who know us well will know what is coming next – but this is the ‘royal we’, which means Michael is doing all the work. I am there to supervise, to suggest that he might like to do it a different way to what he thinks he might, and to offer moral support and regular cups of tea. This is teamwork at its best. And he doesn’t mind – he’s just bought a brand new chainsaw so he’s happy.
The best way to show you what we’ve done is by video so I have two to inflict upon you this week. The first one shows us in the woods and the second shows part of the route out across the bramble wilderness and into our field.
We’re concentrating on fallen wood at the moment as there is so much of it that there is no need to chop down anything living. The forests all around us are predominantly oak and sweet chestnut, and our first batch is from an old oak limb that must have fallen from way on high in the winds some years ago. It is already seasoned and will burn strong and slow. Our aim is to spend a few days each month getting logs down to Le Shack and storing it, ready for next winter.
So that is it for this week. I’ll finish with a bit of good news as our lock-down here in France has been lifted slightly. We can now walk for up to three hours for personal exercise and the one kilometre limit has been extended to twenty kilometres, so next week we shall be able to get out and explore further afield – happy days.
Wishing you all well.