28 April 2007

The extension is almost ready for the chainage then the roof

We've been working on the house, filling the floor with bottles for insulation and packing them down with clay to make it solid. We need a bit more rain to wet the clay so that it sinks into place and we can walk on it without falling over.

Fabrice has finished putting the blocks up and the whole thing looks amazingly square and straight and very boring. We're still looking for a window for the front and hoping that we'll find something ideal and in proportion with the rest of the building or we may have one made especially. Some more small windows spaces can be cut easily out of the bricks later but we're still looking for nice ideas for them too and the walls provide us with shelter.

Bourrou, hardworkinghippy, extensionWhen we did the last part of the house we had to make temporary wooden windows covered with thick plastic, it was really uncomfortable working on the inside and being blasted by the wind. I used those windows later as covers for seeds in the garden.

Before we go any higher we have to screed the floor and let it dry so that we can move the scaffolding around easily inside to put up the roof and start building the tower.

27 April 2007

Path through the garden to the chicken house

This part of the potager is ready now for summer veg. I've run out of space here (I keep planting pretty inedible things - I can't help it !) so I've started moving the potager out a bit toward's Peggy's park. I might even claim her first park and we'll make her another big one further into the woods for Autumn and she can eat the acorns and chestnuts. (Peggy's our pig.)

That's the plan. But... we've got so much to do at the moment that it's difficult to do important things when so many things are urgent. Our follies are on hold, which is a shame because at this time of the year creativity for planting and deciding about where to put/make things is at it's height.

I've grown a lot of things from seed, but I was very late starting to plant them. So to get early vegetables, I've decided to buy some plants from a friend. He grows good varieties, he's Bio (Organic) and sells bread and a few plants in Vergt market every Friday. More details (Advertising even!) will appear on the right side of the blog when I get a minute to sort that out.

We've another potager down at the cabin with loads of space and running water where we grow Peggy's food and lots of things for bottling, but I do like being able to just pop out for half an hour or so in this garden, to do a wee bit here and and a wee bit there when I'm going to get something or when I'm collecting eggs. (Usually on the way back, when I've got a jumperfull...!!)

Another black lamb born yesterday morning

There are two ewes still due to lamb, the season's been long this year because we kept some of last year's ewe lambs and we like them to lamb a bit later in the season.

We've had three black lambs so far this year. They're so sweet when they're little.

We're on the lookout for a new ram for later this summer. A neighbour has one she's been bottle feeding which she doesn't want to kill (but will do a swop...) This is ideal for us, because he'll be a bit tamer than a tup reared by his mum and won't butt us from behind when we least expect it !

This is a really busy time in the garden

I've almost run out of containers for sprouting seedlings.
I use almost anything I can find, but my favourite is toilet rolls cut in half. With them, when the seedling starts to grow it's second leaves and start a root system, I transfer the whole thing into a bigger container and the roots grow easily into the new compost.

I start most seedlings off with sterilised compost so that it doesn't have to compete with the weeds in ours, then when it's big enough I transfer it into our goat shed compost which feeds the roots and brings the plants on ready for putting out.

A mixed bunch of seeds, originally uploaded by hardworkinghippy.
Romanesco seedlings
I had to start again with a few of my seed tray inside the straw bales. I forgot that the chickens can't get in there and the snails and slugs ate their way through three trays full of nicely sprouting seeds in one night. These seedlings sprouted in two days, and they're safely out of the way of slugs on the back terrace. I cleaned out and lined the bale bed with plastic and I'll pop some seedlings in there tomorrow.

22 April 2007

Lady Banks rose (Rosa banksiae lutea) in flower

Rosa banksiae lutea, rose, climbing rose, hardworkinghippy, Bourrou
Glorious gloriette, originally uploaded by hardworkinghippy.

I know this is not really supposed to be a gardening blog, but one of the most important things in my life is growing things and I have to show you what this rose (planted only four years ago) looks like when it's in full bloom.

The idea for planting the rose on this bank was Andrew's, a friend of Fabrice's, who is a professional gardener in the UK and visits us regularly. I was looking for this rose for ages, then finally Yan (The spice man) sourced it for me from Issigeac Market.

The rose doesn't have much perfume, and only blooms once a year, but that's compensated for by it's lovely shiny, almost evergreen leaves, spreading habit and thornless stems. The Lady Banks rose is usually very long-lived. There's a white one in Arizona which is the largest Rose in the world with a spread of 740m², and a trunk circumference of over 4m.

If you click on the photograph above, you'll see more pics of our rose's development.

17 April 2007

Chez nous it's Wisteria week !

The photographs in this post are of the Wisterias we've planted at the new house over the past five years. I think they are one of the essential ingredients in a romantic garden.

All of ours come from the same mother plant which I brought as a cutting from the UK 16 years ago and which is now entwined around our original gloriette at the cabin. Here's an interior view of the amazing trunk (Pleated when it was young enough to be supple.) which I imagine is now holding up the whole wooden structure.


Unfortunately, the original lost all her flower buds to a bad frost in the valley a couple of weeks ago, but these cuttings, growing in the milder area up the hill at the new house are a joy to behold - the perfume is really intoxicating.

The goat shed is covered in it Wisteria everywhere!
The chicken shed too Wisteria on the chicken shed 2007A misty morning in April with Wisteria

The trees are full of it Wisteria flowering after three years

The chickens love it.Garden wisteria near the home-made goat house

...and this up and coming four year-old specimen will grace the exterior of our new terrace one day. Here's hoping the chestnut uprights (planned for the job) are strong enough to support it in it's glorious maturity.

Wisteria close up

13 April 2007

VIDEO - our piglets sunbathing

Sanglier (Wild boar) skull. After we take the meat for ourselves, we feed the crayfish in the stream.

Last Sunday (Easter Sunday) we sort of had the day off and spent the whole day just walking on our land.

We took the goats down to new grazing, then we checked up on the sheep's grazing, had a look at the new vegetable garden, the garden at the cabin, then went to see Fabrice's aunt and uncle and on the return journey had a scout along the valley.

The wildlife is incredible, the woods are full of birdsong and buds and the butterflies are starting to make their appearance. (I should have take more photographs, I know!)

This boar's skull was cleaned by the crayfish. There used to be a lot in the stream in Bourrou, but we haven't seen any for a couple of years. A farmer further along the valley pumps water for his polytunnels and when the water level goes below the level of his pond outlet, the stream gets no water. We've been doing our best to clear the small springs we find on our land to keep the water running, but we just have to hope that some of the ponds we've dug help preserve the wildlife in the valley.

Sourrou, Bourrou We intend to create more wetlands, dig ditches for springs and clear all the bloomin' neighbours' trees which have fallen on our land for the past six or seven years, but it all takes time. It's an enormous project and we have to content ourselves to do things gradually.

Here's Max our Border Collie cooling off in the outlet from one of our ponds.

This photo shows about half of our land. (We've just over 100 acres at Bourrou.) It was very overgrown when we bought it about 12 years ago, so it was perfect for our Angora goats who've done a great job of clearing the brambles and ivy. We originally had about a hundred Angoras, but when they started to nibble the tree barks we knew it was time to reduce the herd! This year we decided not to have kids and although it's given us a welcome break from the madness of Spring kidding, it's something I really miss. (Plus the kid Mohair too of course !)

Project Sourrou Bourrou 2007

8 April 2007

First flowers of Lady Banks rose

Everything's moving in the garden.

The weather's been wonderful and we're having a lot of surprises and seeing old friends coming to life to welcome spring. This rose is one of my favourites. It was planted just three years ago and it has spread to almost cover the bank leading up to the gloriette. There are thousands of buds and they'll be open next week. I can hardly wait for the show!

As Peggy (our sow) has been cleaning up the land at the back of the house, we've been finding roots which are too lovely to burn, so we've used them to line the paths leading down to the little caravan.

In between planting, cleaning up the garden and building, we've been looking aound at how things are shaping up in the garden. The Kerria Japonica there is in full bloom this week. The flowers have lasted for ages, probably because they're in the shade for much of the day. There are hundreds of foxgloves pushing up ready for the early summer show. They shed millions of seeds and I spread them in the woods and all around the back of our garden in between the trees.

6 April 2007

We found another midwife toad today

Midwife toad 2, originally uploaded by hardworkinghippy.

5 April 2007

Midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans or Alyte accoucheur) found in the building sand.

This is the toad that makes the high pitched clook...clook...clook sound you can hear in the evenings. The toad got his name because the male helps the female to lay her eggs. He then carries the eggs until they turn into tadpoles.

This is a male, he certainly looks masculine enough. When we handled him he puffed himself up to twice his size. We put him back into a safer place, I hope he and his brood will be OK.

Have a look at this information from www.planetepassion.com HERE

In Chris' site, there's a little recording of the sound they make...clook...clook.

4 April 2007

This is the cement drying...

It's like waiting for a cake to come out of the oven ! We're dying to take the shuttering off to see what it looks like, but we must resist and just get on with something else.

In the meantime, the insulation for the floor is coming along and it should be ready for a screed soon. Fabrice has won on that one, I wanted to do an adobe floor, but maybe in a room where I'll be dying yarn and slopping about with lots of water it's not a very good idea. :-(

The frogs start croaking around 4.30, the noise is wonderful. In the video you can see the bloomin' mess at the back of the house too !

2 April 2007

The weather's been perfect for building and gardening...

...so we've been outside catching up on some work.

I've been gardening & prettying up the goats after the shearing. We sold one goat on Sunday to a Vet who lives in Nantes and three more this morning to a lady who lives about an hour from here. She's just sent me a photo of her goats in situ and their accomodation is a palace compared to here! They looked relaxed and happy and I'm sure they'll be looked after.

Getting on with the garden's a real priority, we're very late this year and I think for the first time in ages I'm not going to be able to grow our plants all from seed. All the beds are ready for planting, but that was thanks to the mulch put on last year and the chickens scratching the earth and nothing at all to do with me. One of the best things about permaculture is you can leave nature to do her work while you get on with yours.

Spring 2007 1

We've also been working on the house all week, mostly Fabrice alone, because the bricks are heavy and I find it difficult to get them up higher than my shoulders.
We're building a Russian stove in the main room, hence the long delay in getting the bricks up. I want a clean, warm room and the closed stove should reduce the amount of dust in the house and heat it without having to go out a lot to get wood.
It's amazingly dusty in the "phase 1" house at the moment from the fire, woodstove, building and the clay all around our building site. The four dogs never wipe their feet either.

Kitchen totem 2

The house extension is advancing slowly but surely. This upright beam had to have it's own foundation, next to the foundation for the stove. In this photo, Fabrice is taking the shuttering off the big upright beam which was poured last week.

self-build, Bourrou, bioclimatique, construction, ecologique, poele de masse, Vergt, auto-construction

In this photo the shuttering's being prepared for pouring the main cross-beam. We wanted to be able to see through the length of the whole downstairs room,so we need to build a very solid structure to house the stove and support the two floors in the tower.

cross beam shuttering, Bourrou

Everything went according to plan, nothing moved. So far so good. Once the structure is solid - in about three week's time - we can start going higher so that we can get the roof on the single storey part and start working on the inside - even if it rains.

Please leave me a discrete message if I get really boring about all this building stuff...