Thursday, January 15, 2015

panoramicos fantasticos


from overhead

Annoyingly, most of the video footage we took is too long (large) to upload onto blogger and I don't have the software to edit it down.  So here are a selection of arial photos that show most of what we saw.

from the west, the dots are fruit trees that I planted in November, including some within the huge bramble
patch, the paths really stand out.  Over the road, the new drive, veggie plot with raised beds to the right of the drive.
Huge oak tree still with bronze leaf cover and the village of Vieuzos off to the left in the distance.
from the east

from the south east

right overhead, that's Me and Tom on the left by the chalet, my new wooden panel pathway and a
big store of lovely clay under the tarp.

there you/we are

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

tom's drone

A friend of Heathers, Tom, enthused about his recent new toy, a drone equipped with a camera, one afternoon whilst we were indulging in tea and cake.  It sounded fascinating.  

It's a little, remote controlled, battery powered helicopter with a range of several hundred metres and a top speed of around 30kmph with a still and video camera mounted on the undercarriage.  He didn’t take much encouraging and the following day returned with it and we spent a fascinating hour or so looking down on my plot from above.  Hopefully the videos upload and work as well as they do on my computer.  Here goes.


a slow start to 2015

Where does the time go?

Partly to dealing with some sort of virus for a while, the rest of the time on the land, continuing, for the most part with brilliant weather, with various projects of which I still have to photograph.  

The virus was a special one, nothing particularly drastic, it just sapped me of energy for a good ten days, starting on New Years Eve.  I went to bed as 8:45 and woke up the following year!

I pottered about, thankfully at Heathers, doing a bit of research on line, various drawings for construction reference, reading reference books on lime plastering, electricity instillations, solar power and a fascinating architectural book on design considerations, though nothing specific or taxing as my mind wasn’t that keen on functioning much.

Heather’s hip operation was a success and she was home, recuperating, with frequent visitors popping in, I am always included when there is tea on offer and have increased the number of people I have met in the neighbourhood considerably.

One fine day I cut back the shrubs that I had planted last month and prepared several hundred cuttings.  It’s not the ideal time of year as I have no way of keeping them frost free, but better to try and have a few take, than not bother at all.  The soft friable soil on the floor of the ancient stable is ideal for rooting cuttings and as there is no longer a roof, they get well watered every time it rains.  Not that we have seen much rain at all this year.  So far the weather has tended to be mild, sunny and fairly calm, though we have had some decent overnight frosts.
work station for cuttings, with my great new rug that I sit on as it's so warm and snug

Elaeaguns x ebbingei cuttings,  I have my fingers crossed for these as it's the wrong time of year,
they won't get any warmth and will be outside through the worst of the winter. Good Luck.

a selection of seeds and cuttings ready to go into the plant nursery

Friday, December 26, 2014

crisp christmas weather

Winter solstice, and the weather is beautiful.  Cold and crisp but warm enough to work in a T shirt in the sunshine, especially if there is something energetic to be getting on with.

It’s been raining loads, so the ground is rather wet to work unnecessarily, so I have been tempted to start clearing part of the ruin where my new house is going to be.  It’s the first time I’ve done any work on this area, as my priority has been the productive garden areas of the plot until now.  

I decided early on that it would be best to get a lot of long term planting done as soon as possible so that whilst building work is continuing, all the trees and shrubs can get on with growing.  Once the house is complete they will already be a decent size and hopefully the orchard will start to be productive.  All my fruit trees are happily settling in, along with thirty or so evergreen shrubs that I purchased to replace or bulk up the hedge to the windward side of the property.  The sooner there is a decent windbreak there the better.  I still have hedges to plant, but am waiting to clarify the boundaries with the neighbouring farmer before I go ahead and order the plants as I don’t want to get them in the wrong place.  Hopefully they’ll go in this season, if not next year will have to do.

newly planted fruit trees 

new raised beds (under construction)

the new drive, complete with planting, in the winter sun

no point clearing all the brambles!!!

they should grow well with this view I would have thought

So I started clearing the ruin, the safer part where the walls have already fallen.  The brambles went in a couple of hours but the next stage is going to take somewhat longer.  It’s fine, as I can’t get on with much else, there isn’t a rush to start building as the final permissions will be another three or four months in the processing and it’s great to have the opportunity to salvage as much as possible.

There are loads of whole roof tiles which I’ll add to the earlier collection.  Plenty of broken ones too which will make excellent sub base around the site when the time comes.  Hefty, solid timbers, ideal for garden structures or raised bed construction, more rotten bits for experimental projects (check out Hugelcultur, a method of vegetable cultivation that mounds soil over rotten timbers, the rotting wood releases nutrients, retains moisture and yet allows for a free draining soil.  With free materials on site, I thought I might make a couple of beds to see how it works).  Then there are all the unknown bits and pieces underneath the rubble.  Who knows what may be lurking below and by taking a bit of time, I’ll be more likely to find things in tact than if a bulldozer gets anywhere near the site.  Going on a treasure hunt.

It’s great to be working now, during the shortest days, to see how the light works its way round the plot and where the sunny and shaded areas are.  The sun is at it’s lowest in the sky and, whilst it’s strength is weak, it is of the most benefit for passively heating the inside of buildings during the cold winter months.  I checked this out and am very pleased to see that my kitchen and bathroom windows get sunshine all afternoon and till just after five in the evening, almost to sunset, maximising the effect of those warming rays.  The house won’t roast in summer because the windows become shaded by a balcony when the sun is higher in the sky.  If that isn’t enough, some climbing plants will soon be planted to give a little extra shade.

this bit of old wall is where my new kitchen window will be, it's 15:55 on 21/12/14  sunny till the end
exploring in the remains of a barn

Percy in the evening light with new 'keep clean' walkway to the chalet

just a little clearing to do

I’ll post some sketches and plans of the house right soon, so that you can all have a good look, ask questions, make suggestions and generally give it a good going over to see that it all makes sense.  I’ve been living imaginarily inside it for some time, yet still find details that don’t work and improvements that can be easily added at this stage of the proceedings.  Hopefully my next post, I just need to get some paperwork from on site.

it's caught on here too!!

to you all

So, that’s it for now.  A slightly belated Christmas to you all, I write on Boxing Day (Dec 26th) and with the sun shining am heading right back out there to carry on.  Best wishes and much love.  xxxxx

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

warmed by godin

It doesn't look much different from the last picture I posted about a month ago.  though now, it works.  All the parts for the chimney have been sourced, ordered, delivered and fitted.  I fired her up and she burns like a dream, keeping me hot and toasty for the sake of three or four logs an evening.  THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH Brigitte.  

The flue passes out through the wall directly behind the stove before rising to above roof level outside.  I thought it would be easier this way to make/keep the chalet watertight.  The home made double lined flue is insulated with perlite which is held in place with steel wool at each end of the second tube.  The flexible outer tube starts before the insulating boards inside and extends some 15cm past the wall on the outside of the chalet.  It also has a light steel wool stopper at one end to keep vermin and the worst of the draughts out whilst allowing much needed air flow close to the stove.

le conservatoire vegetal d'aquitaine

Fruit trees.  One of my major goals this year has been to get plenty of long term planting done.  Completed before construction work starts so that during the busy months/years, the trees and shrubs can establish and start to bear fruit, so that once I move into my house there will already be the startings of an orchard and some decent sized trees, shrubs and hedges to continue my gardens around.

I have spent hours and hours researching fruit tree nurseries in the region, visiting several and perusing websites when I’ve had the chance.  Then, by chance, I visited some friends who planted an orchard several years ago.  They had an old catalogue from the place where they had bought all their trees and were still excited about the memories of their visit to the nursery.  

Pascale explained that one weekend a year the nursery has a exhibition and open day to celebrate fruit trees with demonstrations of planting, pruning and grafting.  tastings possibilities for the majority of fruits that are in season, a market area for associated goods and products and, as always at such events in france, the opportunity to eat well and copiously at lunchtime in a marquee dedicated to food.  

Since August I have slowly been learning the technical vocabulary to understand this catalogue, dreaming about my orchard and attempting the almost impossible task of reducing the contents of several hundred trees to a manageable number to buy, plant and care for.  It’s not even as if I have reference from all the British varieties that I know.  Whether they be apples, pears, cherries or grapes, all the names were foreign to me.

I managed to limit my choices to four cherries, four plums/gages, five pears, three hazle nuts, two walnuts, two chestnuts and one quince, though with the apples i reduced the hundred and fifty or so possibles to twenty five and took advice from the knowledgeable  staff to finalise my selection to eight varieties.  I sent my order ahead of time, in the hope that they would all be available.

To be accurate, it’s not specifically a nursery but a conservation orchard. It’s grand name is ‘Le Conservatoire Vegetal de l’Aquitaine’ and it’s aim it to preserve heritage varieties of orchard fruits, research new varieties, care and pruning techniques in a way that helps the wider environment.  The use of mixed species plantings to reduce pest invasions, minimal pruning techniques that stress the plant less, increasing the biodiversity within orchards to aid pollenisation and attract beneficial insects, a whole gammut of ideas that lean towards a more holistic and natural way of caring for our environment.  

The date of the exhibition had been in my diary since July and I wasn’t going to miss it for anything.  

It was amazing.  As described by my friends and more.  I was able to taste the vast majority of the apple varieties that I had chosen, plus a couple of pears and walnuts. I made changes to my order without problem. Noted kiwi varieties that were tasty for later on, along with grapes, cherries and other gages that looked good either in the flesh or on posters and was awed by the sheer enormity of the event.  Photographs will tell the story .......

from afar, and already busy

one of several  demonstration marquees

nice juicy pears

small choice of walnuts

jam making demonstrations

thankfully the organisation was faultless

and more......

Between eight and nine thousand visitors from over 30 departements of france in a weekend.  Three hundred or so volunteers from all over the south west to help, advise, demonstrate and transport peoples purchases back to their vehicles.