Dutch Ovens, Dykes and Daffodils

Tulip Fields
Tulip Fields

We made it to Groeningen, where the beds are comfy and the Gouda is ‘heer lekker’! Pretty sure anything would feel comfortable after a week sharing a very small tent with my brother.. Its our own fault really, we did read the reviews before buying the tent, but it said (promisingly I thought), that it was most suitable for two midgets with no luggage, and we thought it sounded just perfect. At 40 pounds, we figured it was a steal…

Camping in Ternaard
Camping in Ternaard

We lasted one night in that thing, before kicking mum out of her slightly larger tent and forcing her to sleep in “The Womb” (as we lovingly named it). We stole her tent, so it was a little more spacious, and by spacious I mean able to roll over and not be nestled into my brothers armpit.

Camping is so awkward. When you need a wee in the night, you have to thrash your way out of your sleeping bag and liner, stand on your neighbours face a bit, try to squeeze your bottom out of your tent door without getting your feet wet, wriggle your feet into your shoes which may or may not have slugs nestled into them, find your way to the toilet in the dark and also try to remember to take toilet paper with you… And then repeat backwards. Our first night was actually on an overnight ferry from England to the Hook of Holland, which I think may have softened us up a bit and we weren’t mentally prepared for the possibilities of slugs in shoes.

Overnight ferry cabin
Overnight ferry cabin

But all in all, its been a splendid week and my thighs are positively thriving on the challenge! I personally have been thriving on the challenge of eating enough to maintain my energies for cycling 60-80km per day with a laden bicycle, with occasional headwinds and a tender tush. Its a wonderful excuse to eat peanut butter on everything. I actually mean EVERYTHING. Trust me.

CHEESE PLEASE
CHEESE PLEASE

So we’ve cycled over 300km through sleepy beachside towns, sand dunes, tulip fields like rainbows, dijks and windmills, lakes, tiny villages with thatched houses.. A side note: Holland has the most unattractive baby lambs i’ve ever seen (their eyes are extremely close together and they have very muscular faces, and their tails protrude erectly from their bottoms like they were going to the toilet and then forgot about it)….The Dutch have an amazing cycle network from town to town – the Nordzee Cycle Route that mum is following for the next two months goes mostly along a coastal route, which is a pretty incredible journey with different landscape everyday.

A 30km Bridge
A 30km Bridge
Windmill
Windmill
Zandvoort
My noble steed.

The towns are all so so quiet, we’ve begun to wonder if there has been a zombie apocalypse and all that is left are small Dutch women who tend to their gardens and three children who emerge from the schoolyard at lunchtime on their tiny bicycles. We crossed a 30km bridge one day, luckily with a tailwind. I like to wave at the passing vehicles, and say hello to fellow Dutch cyclists (they say something like “Hoy!”, which I have taken to saying in return.) I also like to wave at the men working on the side of the road, and they quite like me, until I lift my bottom off the seat and they see the enormous protrusion of my cycle pants and second-guess themselves. Its all jolly good fun, and you have to have something to take your mind off peanut butter.

Koffie Break Ja
Koffie Break Ja

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I only had one minor crash, whereby I was distracted by something and my front wheel wobbled into the sand, threw me off balance and I charged the sea wall quite aggressively. My achilles tendon is a tad shaky, and it nearly got more hurty today when I basically just rode right into a fence post, completely oblivious to its existence. I came out of that collision unscathed but a little concerned for my state of mind.

Tomorrow Josh and I leave mother dearest to carry on her epic adventure. Josh is carrying on to Amsterdam and beyond; I’m going back to England for a couple of nights to sleep quite a lot and massage my buttocks. Mum is cycling 3000km over the next 8 weeks to fundraise money for a new wheelchair for her sister (my aunt). If you want to, check out her blog at overgroundadventures,com and follow her adventures over the next two months.

Tot ziens (goodbye) , I send you a clog!

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Mossy Bum

Ohhh boy, the weather in France has taken a turn for the chilly. My body is a bit confused, after spending a month in the glorious heat of Spain then reverting to winter weather. Thunderstorms, hail, rain, cold nights… But it’s secretly kind of nice, because it means we can LIGHT THE FIRE. And I love a good fireplace.

I have taken to wearing 70 percent of my wardrobe to bed, leaving 30 percent of my clothing for daytime usage. Needless to say, there’s not a lot of variety going on. Basically I just wear yoga clothes, a chunky jumper and some borrowed gumboots (or should I say, Wellington boots). But we watched a Ted Talk last night and the man giving the talk sagely noted that if all we do is follow fashion, we will never catch up with it, so we might as well not bother…..Right?

As I’m writing this I’m sitting by the fire in our little wooden chalèt, drinking some hand picked mint tea. We have had to do our yoga indoors for the past two days, because it is so gosh darn cold out. Basically, I’ve been doing a lot of baking and indoor work, like cleaning the gités, shifting books, helping with meals.

Over the weekend, whilst housesitting for the family while they were in Holland, Izzy and I made a delightful array of natural cosmetics, some practical, some not so much. Our toothpaste turned out a little funky, and Izzy is convinced it’s making her teeth go brown, which is sort of the opposite of what we were hoping to achieve. Our lip balm is a little bit solid, probably because the standard room temperature at the moment is much lower than average. Therefore the coconut oil is like rock.

We washed our hair with baking soda, made a nettle tonic (to promote hair growth and thickness), then conditioned with Apple cider vinegar. It actually worked really well in my hair, and is a whole lot cheaper than buying real shampoo. Apparently you have about two good hair days in the space of six weeks when you start doing this, after which your hair is MAGNIFICENT. Eyes on the prize Rosie, eyes on the prize. I feel a bit weird doing it, because I quite enjoy that lather effect that you get from shampooing your hair. With baking soda and water, you just kind of mush it around your scalp. It will take some getting used to. I added some essential oils to my nettle tonic to make it smell better. Because nettles don’t really smell that sexy.

We did naked yoga. Naked. I’m just gonna leave that sentence there. Take what you want from it….

I love this place, it’s like a haven of information and terrible jokes and shouting in Dutch and accordion playing and naughty escaping ponies. I love it when Ron makes a joke in English and laughs for a good five minutes at his own wit. Yesterday, when Izzy and I were moving shelves, he cried from the other side of the room “Easy does it! Oh! Oh! ……IZZY does it! Haha! Ha!” That man is hilarious. I love how Mariken calls asparagus ‘Aspergers’ and nutrients ‘nutritions’. I love how Igor farts so much that nobody even says anything anymore. He just lets one rip and everyone continues around him.

Izzy leaves tomorrow, after which it will just be me in my little wooden cabin, doing my strange breathy meditation all alone and sipping tea for one. I will miss the delightful outbursts of song and enthusiasm that happen whenever Izzy is in the room. She is like an excitable child who buzzes around doing a million things at once and is so inspired by everything and everyone, then exhausts herself and has to lie down for a while. Her enthusiasm is contagious, her art is amazing, I will miss that little chipmunk! She is so remarkably comfortable with being naked. Today we went for a walk in the forest, took off all our clothes, climbed a tree that hung over the river, and meditated… Oh what a sentence that is. Very nice indeed, aside from the extremely mossy bum.

Here are some pics of our weekend of housesitting and our very potent wheatgrass juice from our half day juice detox (we got hungry at lunchtime and there were pancakes, need I say more…). As Mariken says, there’s no point in juicing when it’s cold and you feel deprived. It will make you unhappy, and you want to feel happy. Wise words from a wise woman.

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Shots!
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Izzy, unimpressed
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Buckwheat pancakes, red cabbage coleslaw, dal
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Izzy and feast
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Eat the rainbow

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Raw vegan lasagne

Best. Day. Ever.

Wednesday was an action packed day. These Dutch people, they don’t mess around, they get things done. It’s invigorating and inspiring, and you are so ready for bed when the time comes.

The day began with some yoga and a meditation with Izzy outside our little chalet, which we have been doing every day. They say it takes 30 days to develop a habit, and I think I just hit that. Right now I’m loving the Sivananda sun salutations, probably because that was the style we were doing in Spain every morning. The meditation is the 108 breath meditation, which involves alot of heavy breathing which is kind of awkward…. But it sets you up for a very peaceful morning meditation.

 

Bums
Bums
Saluting the Sun
Saluting the Sun

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After that, we had our green smoothies and did some weeding and gardening. I am learning all about which ones are weeds and which ones are plants, which is quite useful to know. I needed to be taught, otherwise I would just go around pulling everything out because it “‘looks messy”… We went foraging for greens to have in our lunchtime salad, now I know that things growing all around our feet are totally edible and actually taste kind of good. Apart from some things which will make you ill, don’t eat those ones…

Then we ate lunch, then we made a raw apple pie for our dinner party that evening! Oh boy, it was good. Its free of.. gluten, dairy, processed sugar, and… meat. You would hope so.

Here’s the recipe, if you’re into that kind of thing. Or maybe you do not know how to work the oven, in which case this is perfect for you.
Raw Apple Pie
Base
200g ground almonds
150g dates, soaked, or a date paste
pinch salt
Filling
3 apples
1 cup dates, soaked
raisins
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
half a tsp ginger
pinch nutmeg

Blend together the base mixture in a food processor, press into the bottom of a shallow dish lined with baking paper. The mixture doesnt need to be around the sides. Blend the filling ingredients, press on top of the crust and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Put it in your mouth.

 

Cat and Pie
Cat and Pie

After making our pie, Mariken took Izzy and I on a trip to a nearby town called Chantelle, where there is a monastery with REAL NUNS, a forest and a river. Dreamy. We had a look in the nun shop where they sell all their homemade goodies, then hiked into the forest to forage some wild garlic for our pesto. I was expecting bulbs of garlic to be popping out of the hillside, but no, they are leaves that taste like garlic! Magnificient leaves! And pretty flowers that you can also eat. Oh nature, you never fail to amaze.

Then we found a swimming hole and decided to go swimming. Naked. Because there was no one around, and because we could. Initially I was like oh my word, I barely know these people! I cannot bare my flesh to them! Then I thought, meh. They can just deal with my awkward tan lines.

It was the shortest swim of my life because it was so GOSH DARN FREEZING. It literally took my breath away.

We drove home singing along to Bob Marley. Bobby never fails to capture the mood.

Mariken showed me how she works with her ponies without using a halter. They have seven ponies, all of them a little bit mischievious. They try to eat my gumboot on regular occasions.

Ponies
Ponies

That night we had a 3 course raw vegan meal with some of the guests – Auke, Saskia and their wee tot Shuart. I have no idea how to spell his name, but its pronounced as a combination of Stuart and Short. We had wild garlic pesto, raw lasagne and, of course, our apple pie. And wine, because whats a dinner party without wine? Then we had a soul shakedown party, which is essentially all of us dancing around and Auke the giant swinging around the pole in the middle of the room like a giant pole dancer. He is genuinely the tallest person I ever met. He has to duck to get in everywhere.

Shuart on his machine
Shuart on his machine
The Brenazet Family
The Brenazet Family

We made a bonfire outside and sat around making up stories. A pretty awesome day. Izzy and I are looking after the farm for the next 3 days while Mariken, Ron, Igor and Nikola go back to Holland for Opa’s birthday party. We are excited to have some quality farm time, make some exciting meals and walk Elsa the dog. This place is beautiful! Who knows why some of the photos are black and white and some are in colour…. I am too tired to figure it out.

Ron
Ron
Little guy
Little guy

Brenazet france mei 2014 001 (219)

Brenazet france mei 2014 001 (217)

Brenazet france mei 2014 001 (221)

Brenazet

I am all settled into my home for the next 3 weeks; Brenazet, a camping and gités site run by a delightful, energetic Dutch family. It always takes me a few days to adjust into anywhere- figuring out what goes where, who does what, what is expected of you and how to make the horses go into their stables at night…. But I think I’m going to fit in just fine here.

I am sleeping in a little wooden cabin with another helper, Izzy, who has been here before and returned for a little while after a slightly disastrous helpx in the south of Spain. She calls this her home away from home, and i can see what she means, it’s so cosy and homey! Ron, Mariken, and their two sons Igor and Nikola have brought a touch of Dutch into the French countryside.

Our cabin has a log fire, a terrace with little chairs to sit in and read our books, comfy wooden bunk bed type sleeping quarters and a little kitchen to make tea and things….

It is a lot colder here than it was in Spain, I had to borrow a jumper from Ron to keep me warm. My first afternoon we took a trip to La Bosse, an amazing lake somewhere near here (so disoriented, who knows) and did some al fresco yoga. The last two days have been filled with gardening, tea, amazing organic food (including chocolate avocado mousse which is so good) , cleaning the gités, walking the dog, doing yoga in a paddock amongst the bugs and the animals, and reading my book. The yoga class was taught by Mariken, all in French, but I feel like I understood most of it- I knew ‘left, right, inhale and exhale’, and that’s pretty much all you need. I did find myself bending into awkward shapes to be able to see what she was doing on occasion. But yoga is a pretty universal language, and it’s always nice to see how different people teach. Outside yoga is the best, even if we did get a bit of hay fever.

Happy to be here, grateful for the peace and quiet of farm life, it reminds me of my childhood! And I have realised my fear of chickens pecking me to death has not lessened…..Mariken is the best cook, everything is so healthy but hearty and satisfying! Today for lunch we had vegetarian burgers, fennel salad, greens and herbs from the garden, and a curried cauliflower dish. We just had supper and she made a sugar free almond and rhubarb cake, so good!

Today we went foraging for flowers and for the lunchtime salad, I learnt all about the edible plants and flowers that grow amongst the grass. So if i am ever lost, I know I can just pick some plantain and I won’t go hungry! My mum would be so proud – yesterday I weeded a flower bed and a vegetable garden, wore gardening gloves, got stung by nettles, ate nettle soup, wore her giant purple jumper and then picked some mint from the garden to make tea. Mother, I am becoming you!

In the morning I’m doing my own yoga on our terrace, with Izzy for company. I missed it for a day and I could feel it in my bones!

Anyway, it’s probably about time I showered.

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Gités
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The stables
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Yoga with child
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Vege Garden
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My cabin
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Cosy (Hyggelig?)
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Bunk beds!