31 October 2006
28 October 2006
I've kept chickens ever since I've had enough garden to give them a good life.
They're well worth the work because they are just so beautiful to have around, clean up the gardens and 50 or so can keep us in meat and eggs all year.
Angora goats are really useful animals.
As well as being a very affectionate, friendly, curious and easy to look after goat, they provide good meat and a lovely yarn.
Their fleece is really fine and warm and very shiny and the kid fleece has a drape like silk.
They are the most important animal on our smallholding - not only financially but also to keep the land and woods clear of brambles and provide lots of manure for our vegetables and fruit trees.
18 October 2006
This blog was born only a few weeks ago, but we've been building our house for seven years and one day I'll get together all the photos, notes, drawings and ideas that we had while we were building and put them on a website. ...One day.
The ideas for the house at Sourrou began about 14 years ago when Fabrice and I were living in the cabin and negotiating buying the land here. I've always been interested and involved in building and renovation and one of the Open University courses I did to develop that interest was Design: Processes and Products. (T263) The course content was invaluable in structuring my ideas about the "Perfect House".
Fabrice is a qualified stonemason and like me, is fascinated by sacred architecture, building techniques and the harmony in nature of buildings and objects. So although we come from different worlds our ideas merge and our skills are complementary.
My original idea was to build the house in straw. When I broke that news to Fabrice, I was surprised when he said "Great!" and showed me his sheep shed where a straw bale wall had been built more than 30 years before by his grandfather - unrendered and still in good condition.
So eventually, the difficult and very stressful negotiations for the land right next to the cabin (How lucky is that!) came to a close. We got the CU and the Mayor got his hectare with the springs on it (but that's another story...) We then applied for planning permission for the house which would be in straw, off-grid, built for solar gain, using basic geometric principles, with materials sourced from our land or nearby and as energy efficient as possible.
That all sounds pretty sensible to me, but I suppose my appearance and the way I have of rabbiting on about things that I find fascinating give the impression that I'm a bit of a hippy and the original flowery plans which I drew up (Complete with French spelling mistakes!) didn't go down at all well with the Mayor or the local planning department.
Getting planning permission took almost 2 years of refusals, reapplying, waiting for results, redoing the drawings, and referring again and again to my "bible" at that time from the collection Concevoir et Construire : Les plans de votre Maison.
Finally, planning permission was granted and we started work.
There are some photographs of the building process in this link:
Construction of the first phase of our house at Sourrou
16 October 2006
Our chickens free-range everywhere, but we protect our vegetable plot by caging some of the produce or by simply putting sticks around newly planted things like courgettes.
Our chicken shed is simply a huge cage, clad with wood offcuts, and chestnut poles and to make it pretty, I've covered it with climbing plants and planted round the edges with shrubs and flowers.
We use empty gunpowder barrels with the lids cut in half for nesting boxes and when the hens start to go broody, we put them into the cage inside the henhouse to make sure that the others don't try to lay their eggs in a sitting hen's clutch and to ensure they has peace and quiet for the 21 days it takes for the eggs to hatch.
Here's a short video which gives shows the size and layout of the henhouse:
The shed's in the woods at the back of the house, hidden behind tall trees and bushes and banked against the last terrace of the vegetable garden. The water comes from the roof and is stored in three barrels at the back of the shed. We rarely run out of water.
15 October 2006
We haven't had too much damage this year by animals. We've been using a scarecrow with a radio in his pocket - shame it didn't scare off some selfish devil who turned his or her car round in the maize field, probably while they were looking for mushrooms in our woods.
9 October 2006
Didi our new Daschund pup (she's a wirehaired/smooth haired cross) is settling in nicely with our other dogs.
Max the Border Collie was great, but bared his teeth a bit when Didi got a bit too silly. She's now started to behave and he's her big best friend. Bonnie our other wire haired Daschund was jealous at first, snapped at Didi and sulked in her bed for two weeks, but they've started playing together and it's great to see them scrapping. Judy is a big Griffon Vendéen and totaly ignored Didi up until a few days ago, when, much to our delight, they started playing!
All our dogs work. Max is a fine example of a keen and intelligent sheepdog and thankfully he's great with our Angora goats too. Didi is being trained by Fabrice to hunt rabbits and she'll join Judy and Bonnie in the Wild Boar hunt when she's ready.