The apparition in the centre ground is Gwydion in a King Arthur tunic, in the process of lobbing a wooden Excalibur into an imaginary lake. He’s got shorter hair now, and no longer wears frocks.
It’s so difficult to get the balance right. Really we need enough birds so that one death doesn’t render us eggless for months. But even 2 eggs a day is more than enough for us. Normally we sell some, but it would be more use for us to preserve them. On the rare occasions we buy eggs we normally pay more than we sell them for. I was going to rub them in bees wax. I have now found some instructions for dipping them briefly in a mixture of bees wax and olive oil, so I’ll give that a go, and also a recipe for using lime (I do like my lime).
These recipes come from an interesting looking book called Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes Vol.2 which, according to Chest of Books (where it can be read online in full), “This book is containing ten thousand selected household and workshop formulas, recipes, processes and money-saving methods for the practical use of manufacturers, mechanics, housekeepers and home workers.” It is an 800 page tome that refers to a curious mixture of natural ingredients, acids and petrochemical ingredients. Interesting reading that might well come in useful at some point.
Although I profess to prefer natural ingredients, I’m not in practice terribly pure about this. It has more to do with habit and willful blindness than anything. I use only unbleached flour for my bread, but I’ll eat any old pastry product. I cook 99% sugar free, but I eat Roses chocolates, sliced bread and loads of baked goods from Food For Thought. We always buy toothpaste, but making our own would be no harder than making mayonnaise. I eat Quorn, use WD40, Pritt glue and biro ink, although I know absolutely nothing about how these are produced. If I’m going to use dubious things I may as well source the raw materials and make them myself. I just need to assemble a good collection of pans and utensils that aren’t used for cooking dinner. And wear goggles.
I have often worried about what I call the ‘bits in between’: non-areas of un-garden such as those odd little triangles caused by the curve of a round bed meeting a straight path, or a tyre bed next to the hedge. I wouldn’t want to put appearance above function, but they do actually make up a lot of garden area. In an ideal world they’d be full of nice crops like rocket and mange tout peas, but in fact they are mostly overshadowed areas of duck-trodden mud – and there’s only so much plantain a girl can use. I’d been hoping someone else would solve the problem – like a WWOOFer, or someone who comes to visit, but no one has. As for the stuff, I read in a book once that ‘collections’ look better than individual items, so I have tried to cluster the duck house, the empty buckets, the compost heap and the bins of duck food, say, or group all the pots of plants together on the patio. But it still persists in looking a complete mess.
So now I am contemplating mass and void. Where I went wrong is to place ‘things’ (duck house, bird table, hedgehog house, compost bin, shed) and create beds or plant trees, and leave the remaining space as non-area. In other words the void has not been designed. A better approach might be to design a nice shaped void and then cluster plants and things in the odd shapes. For example the lawn. At the moment it is arranged as follows:
- North a (disproportionately) narrow border of random plants and weeds follows the line of a completely straight fence;
- East a bedraggled hedge follows the slightly diagonal boundary wall, with a jutting out bit of wall, a washing line pole, steps to the gate and a messy area of compost bin, bundled willow, old bike wheels and a hole for disposal of the neighbours’ cat shit;
- South a diagonally placed potting shed, a paddling pool-come-fig-propagator against a broken boundary fence, the dog crate that the ducks live in when they’re at the back and a bit of haphazard planting around the pond;
- West a row of blackcurrants, a (disproportionately narrow) wooden arch, the other washing line pole, a fuchsia, a rose and an old freezer (cold frame).
In the middle the so-called ‘lawn’ is bisected (unequally) by a path of paving slabs, crossed by the washing line and dotted with disparate pieces of garden furniture.
So I’m going to do that thing that Don Juan tells Carlos Castaneda to do (in A Separate Reality I think), which is instead of looking at the shape of the thing itself (in his case leaves on a tree) you look at the shape of the gaps in between. I’ll make a nice round patch of grass void and around it arrange a mass of benches, paraphernalia and plants. At least that’s what I’m going to do if it ever stops raining.
My diesel Transit van used to do somewhere between 25 and 30mpg. I have done four test fill-ups, three with the gizmo operational and one without. My average consumption is currently 34.58 mpg, which includes a run to Cornwall, another to Exeter, some short, local journeys and up through the lanes to Dartmeet. The best mpg has been about 37.06mpg. I then disabled the gizmo and calculated 27.47mpg including a run to Exeter and local journeys. Basically I put in £20 worth of fuel and did 117 miles with the hydro kit, but only 87 miles without it. That’s like gaining an extra gallon of fuel, or an extra 30 miles of driving, every £20. That’s quite a significant improvement, and won’t take all that long to get my £250 back (even without considering the emission reduction side of it). Dearbhaile has had one fitted to her more modern car and can read her fuel consumption from the dashboard: 36.8mpg on the way down to Paignton, and 50mpg on the way back.
To read more about it, see my previous post (click the ‘Energy’ category, or just scroll down, or visit the De Verde website).
You will remember in previous posts and in Permaculture Magazine 74 I explained how the water comes down from a small roof section and up to the top of the garden where it is collected in two water butts. These are now properly connected so that when one is full the second starts to fill from it. It isn’t overly quick, but even in dry spells I nearly managed with the ducks’ original butt so three times the amount should be ample. But when I’m not using any, it becomes full and stays full – except that it doesn’t, it overflows. I couldn’t see exactly where the water went, but I presume some of it flowed down the concrete path to the drain, and some just increased the surface water in the garden.
For the first function, the soakaway, it is evident that the swale doesn’t need to be very deep. As much as anything it is acting as a guide for the water – a bit like when you hang a chain from a gutter or run your finger down the inside of a tent. It really needs an overflow that works the instant the water gets too high – but that means drilling a hole, and I want to be certain this is the best way to do it. At the moment I just leave the tap trickling into the swale when it’s raining. The plan is for the overflow to run into the ducks’ bowl, which will in turn overflow into the swale, because that way they get cleaner or replenished water without me having to do anything – and it’s grey water flowing away rather than nice clean rain. The problem with a lot of this is that you have to experiment gradually with cause and effect; keep observing, change things slowly and incrementally.
“Yeah, I pulled away, changed up to 2nd, really gunned it, up into 3rd, doing x000 revs, up through the gears, into 4th, by the time I put it into top I was doing a ton. Then I really opened it up…!”
My other theory is that it is some sort of ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ situation, where they don’t want to admit that they can’t tell any difference. Anyway, I don’t care, to be honest. If it improves my mpg that’s good enough for me – and I’m pretty sure it is – it’s definitely doing in excess of 35mpg, but it will take up to 500 miles to reach its optimum performance, as it has to sort of flush out the system.
Column A: How much you spent on fuel
Column B: Pence per litre as shown on the pump
Column C: Pence per gallon =SUM(B2*4.5)
Column D: Gallons used =SUM(A2/C2)
Column E: Miles driven (since last fuel fill up)
Column F: Miles per gallon =SUM(E2/D2)
I have done several test fill-ups now, and at the moment the best mpg has been about 37 (including a run down to Cornwall) and averaging about 34, compared with 27mpg without the gizmo connected (you can easily disconnect the fuse to go back to normal). At the last comparison I put in £20 worth of fuel and did 117 miles with the hydro kit, but only 87 miles without it. Basically that’s like gaining an extra gallon of fuel, or an extra 30 miles of driving, every £20. That’s quite a significant improvement, and won’t take all that long to get my £250 back (even without considering the emission reduction side of it).
If you buy one, I’d be really grateful of you would mention me, or the Permaculture House in Totnes website, as they said will give me a bit of referral commission. At risk of sounding like some sort of Amway nutter, I really do think this is a brilliant thing and if enough people get it it will have a significant effect on the environment. I’m just so lucky it happens to be near to home, because people are travelling down to Paignton from all over the country to get it done. John also exports them to developing countries – who use his training videos to learn to fit them so he doesn’t have to fly anywhere – and presumably it creates jobs for local people.
What I love is that we don’t need to frown upon the older vehicle any more. I’ve always had a problem with the idea that poor people who can’t afford a multi-thousand pound new eco-car are the pollution baddies, and that scrappage schemes etc do not adequately consider the embodied energy in the manufacturing process and how wasteful it is to throw them away rather than pay small local vehicle firms to mend them and keep them on the road. Plus older vehicles are just so much nicer. This is going to be brilliant for Land-Rover owners, classic cars and bikes, live-in vehicles – and of course for anyone who ends up doing a lot of mileage, even if ethically they’d rather not. The price is low enough that it is within the range of normal people, and the savings should be great enough that you’ll realistically get your money back. It is therefore as accessible to people who don’t care about carbon reduction as to those who do.
One of my smallholding goals is to keep dairy sheep – although, with prohibitively high set up costs, stringent hygiene standards, and an onerous level of work, I had always thought it would be something to defer until later. But at Monkton Wyld and Fivepenny Farm the dairy operations are encouragingly rustic and leave plenty of time for other activities and interests.
The good thing about Monkton Wyld is that the community provides a ready made market for Simon’s milk and cheese. He gets paid more per litre for his milk than I pay for it in the wholefood shop. He pointed out that the community is the size of a small village, and stressed that to start a viable smallholding you need to think about who your market is going to be. I know this in theory: they say it in business plan workshops. But I am so used to selling things remotely, to random people online, I have lost touch with the concreteness of local marketing. If there are people there who want your stuff, you’ll sell it. But if someone else starts up doing what you do, you are going to lose a lot of your market – unless theirs is crap or yours is better (or cheaper). It highlights the importance of cooperation rather than competition as well as finding gaps in the market. It is not only ‘What can you sell your customers that they can’t currently get?’ and ‘What can you do to fill the gaps between what the current suppliers sell and do?’ but also ‘How can I assist or complement the work of other local suppliers?
I’d been wondering what to do with the paddling pool and the polystyrene and the celotex and the old camping sleep mats and the big crates and the paper cups and the compost in the plastic bin by the shed. And I had been wondering where to put the figs to propagate. So now that’s all resolved. 87 fig cuttings in paper cup pots of soil-based compost, laid out in crates placed on insulation in the paddling pool and standing in willow-water to promote rooting.
It makes a nice neat area without too much sun, and will retain moisture. Figs like rooting in the wet. The next phase is to erect a rudimenatary willow bender and cover it with reclaimed polythene. Yeah, polytunnel!
The first half of the course was theory. Teaching was a fairly traditional teacher-led format, without touchy-feely novelty teaching methods but quite informal and with ample opportunity to ask questions and explore topics. These included assessing and buying land, social and economic structures, planning and development and agricultural issues such as crops, livestock and grass management. There was a 16 page handout to accompany the course. Simon also treated us to two slideshows of smallholdings and low-impact buildings, shown on a retro projector so prone to malfunction that on the second night it unfortunately drove him to drink.
The second half of the course was site visits. Our knowledgeable tutors and hosts demonstrated actual examples and provided loads of valuable experience-based information, closing the gaps between theory and practice. I just went round probing and gleaning every bit of useful information I could. I’ll have to save the detail for future posts , but in the meantime please do follow the links or search the web to find out more about these inspirational projects. I also recommend you keep an eye out for the practical smallholding skills course to be run at Monkton Wyld.
Flintbatch Working Woods
The Trading Post
And talking of steam, I’ve run out of it…