We helped to build a Polytunnel in France last month

We helped to build a Polytunnel in France last month

 Ok, not the snazzyest title for a post, but I’m writing this on the quick when I’m supposed to be doing a virtual gel electrophoresis activity on the conservation genetics of the Adonis Blue butterfly while Toby has a nap, so I apologise in advance for this being imperfect 🙂

Last month we went on an exciting adventure to visit an old school friend and his family on their new smallholding near Viam, in France.

 I love the whole ethos of what Ben and Michelle are creating, so when the opportunity came to help out I jumped at it.  We had a pleasant journey over the channel and down through France, the weather improving with every mile, from snow in Dover to spring sunshine in Viam.  Ollie started practicing his French as soon as we got across the Channel ‘bonbon s’il vous plait’ – I’m not exactly fluent myself, but he got his message across 🙂

The weather magically held out beautifully for us on all the days we needed it to, so instead of the soggy trudge of work I was expecting, we felt like we had a proper holiday into the bargain.

Over the course of the week we helped to build an awesome polytunnel, which with the exception of the sheet plastic and some hose, was entirely made from upcycled materials and natural things available on site.  Ben brought down two pines from a previous owners christmas tree plot, which provided the wood used for the frame, and the finished structure was sturdy and should hopefully provide a longer growing season and greater variety of veggies for the table.

Ben and Michelle have already made huge strides in turning their new home into an eco-friendly smallholding, and hopefully B&B in the near future.  Outside there are two lovely pigs,  chickens providing eggs, a rabbit,  an annual veg plot and the beginnings of a permagarden plot.  Inside there is a wonderfully warm and beautiful family home, complete with range cooker in the kitchen, log burning stove in the sitting room and spacious guest rooms upstairs.  Everything that possibly can be is made from recycled or upcycled materials, including the amazing use of pallet wood to make furniture and mirrors that you’d pay a fortune for in a swanky boutique.

Michelle fed us sumptuously, even managing to cater for this annoying gluten-intolerant vegetarian without a murmur of complaint 🙂  We loved feeling a part of the family for the week, with my little lads loving their new playmate Isaac and being privileged to be part of his 4th birthday celebrations.  We even got treated to some sightseeing of the beautiful roman ruins nearby, and the geektastic ‘granite walk’.

For my boys it was an opportunity to run around in the freshest of fresh air (one of the least polluted regions of France) and for Ollie it was an opportunity also to start exploring other languages.  He got lots of smiles from shop keepers with his ‘merci’s and ‘bonjours’ and both boys enjoyed playing with French children in the  play areas we stopped at en route to and from Viam. For Matt and I it was a chance to work in the sunshine, laugh with like-minded friends and unplug from work and study for a while.  All I have left to say is thank you guys 🙂  Anyone reading this and wanting to know more, there is a link to Ben and Michelle’s blog on my list of favourite blogs.


  • Natalie Ray

    2nd May 2013 at 12:30 pm Reply

    Wow it sounds like you had an amazing time! I love the sound of their project too, didn't realise they were thinking of doing b & b in the future, we would definitely go and stay there! I also didn't realise you were veggie Maz, were you always veggie and I'd just forgotten?x

  • admin

    2nd May 2013 at 12:47 pm Reply

    It was awesome 🙂 I was a veggie from when I was 15, but then at 19 got engaged to a guy whose dad was an organic pig farmer and me being a veggie went down like a sack of pig poop, so like many other things that made me me, I let it slip. Thankfully i came to my senses, and last year (9 years into my relationship with Matt and 10 after breaking it off with Rich)returned to being a veggie, although not as strictly as i still eat fish, and a little organic meat meat maybe once every couple of months. Proper veggies despise people like me i bet, but I'm a moderation kind of gal and being extreme at anything doesn't sit with me, although I respect those who do have more principles 🙂

  • admin

    2nd May 2013 at 12:49 pm Reply

    p.s. Natalie, go have a look at 'the everyday veggie' – link from my facebook. It's written by the girlfriend of a mate who moved out to Panama and is fantastic 🙂

  • The "Powell" Life

    2nd May 2013 at 6:16 pm Reply

    Hey. You make it sound so good here!! Cheers for all your help. THe tunnel is now planted and I will get round to writing a "How we did it" (rather than a "How to do it") blog. Looking like the B&B option is down the pan this year. But people can still come to stay if they want somewhere to go on holiday to do something similar to you guys. There are plenty of projects to go!!

  • admin

    2nd May 2013 at 6:20 pm Reply

    I'm glad it's ok 🙂 sorry the B&B isn't panning out just yet. When I do your main article let me know what you want me to promote, e.g. can you take friends you haven't met yet as paying/contributing working holiday visitors, or just bona fide friends and relatives xx

  • Natalie Ray

    2nd May 2013 at 6:56 pm Reply

    Thanks Maz, I will check out the everyday veggie 🙂 Ben, please do let me know if you ever do b & b, we'd love to come over but not sure we'd be any help with projects with a baby!x

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