Next, we’re going outside…
When we moved here from Toronto, we really thought we’d be living a more laid back life – you know – drinking wine, wandering the beaches, strolling through quaint towns. We do all that, but I think our life is just as busy as ever (it’s just a lot more fun) !
There is so much work to do on the house & the garden grows all year round. Sometimes, as I’m wandering down to the orchard or sitting by the river in the backyard, I stop & think how amazing our adventure has already been.
Everybody knows how good it is for children to spend time in nature. Of course, there are the main benefits – like fresh air, sunshine, exercise – but there are also benefits that aren’t mentioned quite so often.
The sense of accomplishment after some (self-imposed) hard labour or the sense of freedom while yelling at the top of your lungs or the sense of excitement when hiding in the bushes during an extended game of hide and seek (or “cache-cache” as it’s called in French).
Our Secret Garden
When we lived in Toronto, we had a tiny yard. Room enough for a large sandbox & to ride a bike in a small circle. We always hoped that we would have some land one day.
When we arrived, no one had lived here full-time in about 20 years. The first things my husband wanted to buy were a gigantic weed-whacker & a chain saw… so much for french antiques ! The kids were scared to wander too far into the yard for fear of wild animals… (& I wasn’t too keen on it either).
When we found this property, we were surprised by the sheer variety it offered. Our land is laid out in two levels, the house is located in middle of the higher level (it feels a bit like an island) with a front courtyard & back patio area.
The walled orchard & garden is on the lower level (almost 20 feet down !) – you can get down there via a ramp or these stairs…
We never dreamed we’d end up with an old orchard, room for a veggie garden, a river that wrapped around our house, a bridge & even an ancient stone ruin (aka my future garden crafting room & BREAD/PIZZA OVEN ) !!
Needless to say, things were a bit overgrown…
Andrew got right into hacking back the jungle.
The weeds & brambles were so high, the kids couldn’t even walk through the yard !
It looks a lot better now!
I’ve often seen books & blog posts talking about the 4 elements & how to include them in your homeschooling. It’s amazing how naturally the kids do it when left to their own devices.
During the summer months, we don’t have any formal lessons – but the learning continues on unabated. Both kids have become real inventors. Want a sandbox ? Let’s make one.
We looked & looked for a great place for the sandbox (you’d think it would be easy with a yard this size…) finally, an unusual idea hit me. Why not wrap the sandbox around the house ? It had never occurred to me to dig out one of the garden beds, line it with plastic & fill it with sand. They love it because they are close to the house & have lots of room for them both to play.
Of course, my kids know their way around our local quarry. Andrew can tell you exactly how much a ton of the fine, sparkling sand we bought costs – around 20 euros.
On the other side of the river, behind the house, is a reverse ravine (basically a living wall which shelters the house beautifully from raging winds that come down off the ocean).
Our orchard had been sadly neglected, too, over the years, but amazingly our few trees still bear plums, cherries, apples & pears. Andrew, whose interest in anything to do with farming has skyrocketed since moving here, insisted we put in a garden. Of course, we agreed. The kids like to stroke & kiss (!) their veggies as they grow.
With a river (this is not a stream, but a real river with speckled trout, that empties out into the ocean !) winding along one side of the house & around the back, we day-dreamed of the kids paddling idly on hot summer days.
In the summer, the water level is quite low & many a river walk has taken place. What we didn’t know was that we had another “water feature” on our property.
To get to the west yard, you have to cross a bridge because it is separated from the main yard by the river (which runs at the bottom of a deep ravine).
After clearing part of our land which lies on the far side of the river we discovered a strange indentation….
which after a good bit of digging turned out to be …
a pond which is fed by a spring that flows down the hills above our house. The pond is fed by a spring which flows down the hill from behind our house – what a place to splash & play.
Our neighbour, who has lived here since 1938, says she has never seen it before !
While we’ve been here, I’ve had to get used to my kids becoming more & more adventurous. Along the way, they have developed many new skills. While watching his father re-build part of our stone wall, which had fallen, Andrew decided he wanted to build his own BBQ.
With so much time to think & watch & try things out, they come up with some pretty cool stuff. My husband was repairing some of the stone wall which surrounds the orchard. Andrew, who always likes mixing up a batch of mud & water, decided he had to build something, too.
He found old bricks in the basement, mixed up his own mortar from mud & sand & came up with the design all on his own. The best part of the whole project is that it works ! He even cooked crepes one Sunday morning for us. He is proud of it (although he still mutters under his breath because we won’t let him light it…maybe this summer he’ll be old enough…)
We do have hopes for installing some wind-generators, as the wind seems to get caught down in our walled garden. For the moment, most of the wind that gets enjoyed around here is experienced on the swing set.
Woodworking is also a favourite activity.
Friends & neighbours give Andrew tools all the time.
Arabella loves to run, jump, swing, balance, climb & dance in the yard.
In Part 3, come & visit Our Petite Cité de Caractère (“little town of character”), which was founded in the 11th century & is now filled with an international array of interesting people. Click HERE.