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What Do You Do When It's Gone?

Is it true, in the words of Joni Mitchell, ‘…you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…’?

I don’t believe it's always the case, but perhaps our lives are so complex and multi-connected that we take some things for granted and underestimate the broader consequences of losing them.

As mentioned in a previous blog, my pop-up hide was destroyed in a storm earlier in the year. It did well to last as long as it did, so it was no real surprise when I eventually found it shredded and wrapped around a bush some distance away. Since then I have been a hide-less wildlife photographer, which has severely inhibited my ability to achieve close-up detailed nature photography.

Another aspect to losing my canvass hide was unexpected. Not only has my photography been affected, but I have really missed my tiny private space where I have had so many special moments with wild creatures. It makes a big difference when the wildlife doesn’t know you are there and is not feeling threatened or keeping its distance. I hadn’t realised how important the hide was to my sense of well-being, until it was no longer there. Something had to be done.

I decided to build a permanent hide with an adjacent pond. The project has to be completed amongst an unavoidable batch of other claims on my attention - such as figuring out French bureaucracy, that is definitely no worse than English bureaucracy, but in another language - which are inevitable when you relocate to a new place. Also, there are additional challenges such as sourcing materials and finding out the types of timber and sizes of everything, which tend to be different from those in England. Another consideration was that the hide had to be under a certain size in order to avoid having to pay extra property tax. Thank goodness for the internet!

One Step at a Time

In some circumstances, the worry that a project might become overwhelming can prevent us from achieving the very thing we need most. It is then that we must prioritise and take things one step at a time in bite sized pieces. There was a lot of planning and researching to be done, but my canvass hide will be replaced by a far superior and infinitely more comfortable one; the silver lining to this particular cloud!

The chosen location for the new hide, in my field with its beautiful landscape and ancient orchard, brings unique challenges.

Here, we are in the foothills of the Millevaches Plateau, which is essentially a huge lump of granite that was turned on its side by volcanic activity millions of years ago. The field is fairly exposed to the wind and weather because it is near the top of a hill and it has very little topsoil, which is also filled with rocks. I didn’t want my new hide going the same way as the pop-up hide, so I decided to anchor it into the ground with metal post holders secured by concrete. I needed to dig six holes by hand. Now, the more practical amongst you may be able to see where I’m going with this! After digging down only a few inches, I hit the equivalent of a brick wall.

It is a hot, hot summer in Limousin; not the weather to be wrestling with prehistoric granite. After wearing myself out trying to dig through large lumps of uncooperative rock, I headed for some shade and dripped sweat into my water bottle while I recovered. It could be that the singing of the Melodious Warblers and Golden Orioles lifted my despondent mood, or that the sight of such a diverse variety of stunning butterflies dancing around in my field reminded me why the project has to be completed, and encouraged an innovative state of mind. Inspiration arrived as I remembered that I still had my powerful cordless drill with chisel attachment from my days as a plumber.

I returned home, dug out my big drill and took a breather as batteries were charged, literally and metaphorically. Then I returned to the orchard and gave it a try. It wasn’t subtle, but it worked. The land took pity on me and, after several hours of arduous work, I managed to dig all six holes to a depth of 60cms. I felt tired, but totally victorious!

Dig Deep

Now the foundation for the hide is complete and the next steps are under way. It seems as if the building of the hide represents a stronger attachment to my new place. The new hide has roots extending into the earth and will become part of the landscape, whereas the old one was merely pinned to the surface. Commitment is important for building endurance. I literally had to ‘dig deep’ to get the task completed and am certain that the wonderful surrounding nature encouraged me to take a break, and also gave me a lift. If you give it sufficient time, the natural environment has a way of re-focussing your attention away from personal problems. When this happens, your innovative self is free to figure out creative solutions, which then arrive in your conscious mind as good ideas you can act upon.

The depths we may have to dig to realise our dreams is always unknown when we start out, but what I do know is that if the holes need to be deeper, there is always a way!

Nature is Everywhere

Nature is everywhere, even in urban environments. Perhaps, as our wildlife disappears, we may all learn to appreciate the consequences of its loss. I wonder if the natural world helps you find solutions to your problems? How do you think it does that?

I would love to hear from you, please comment below.

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Jun 23, 2022

Just reading about this gargantuas effort on your part has made me feel exhausted Andy!

However once finished it will be a source of lasting joy and solace for many years to come.

I'm looking forward to seeing photos of the finished hide and pond.

Andy Jenner
Andy Jenner
Jun 23, 2022
Replying to

Thank you Lyn. It certainly was exhausting but worth it. I will post photos of progress as it goes on. Thank you again for your kind comments.

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