Saturday, 27 September 2014

Seasonal cooking with wild and cultivated plants

We try as much as possible to cook and eat with cultivated and wild produce from the land.  Some images from this year:
Heritage variety 'rainbow carrots ' grown with
 seed bought from Biaugerme.  As they are not
F1 hybrids, the seed can be collected to grow the
next season's crop
Monster pumpkins
Pumpkin soup made from pumpkins grown in a
hugulbed - with fresh parsley as a garnish

Help ex Charlie enjoys the pumkin

Help ex Gunita from Latvia made
many delicious tarts and cakes
using the wild plums from the land

A plum tart made with wild plums

We make fresh salads with herbs, flowers, leaves and
raw vegetables from the land
Help ex Indi makes jams and chutneys from apples
Gunita, help ex from Latvia picks fresh organic salad
leaves, herbs and flowers
Help ex Gita from Latvia - la cueillette

Gita prepares supper with produce
from the garden


The library

I still have an enormous number of books in England that will come over at some point.  In the meantime I have knocked together some bookshelves from the old floorboards and other bits of wood.  The books mainly come under the themes of vegetarian and vegan cooking, organic growing, green philosophy, self development and ecoconstruction.:
Help ex Indi has recently arranged all the books into labelled categories:
Temporary bookshelf in extension
Indi reading 'We want real food' by Graham Harvey

Thursday, 18 September 2014

help ex - Indi and Charlie

Indi and Charlie arrived a couple of days ago - a young couple who have been travelling around Europe visiting and volunteering on eco-communities.  Both are interested in philosophy, ecology and spirituality and so far it has been a rich exchange of ideas.
Insulating the stair wall with a thermal corrector
The first project they are tackling here is insulating the stair wall.  We are using a thermal corrector rather than the 20cm of terre paille (straw and slip) here as there is not much width on the stairs to spare.  This consists of a mix of one volume of chopped up straw (average fibre lengths 10cm), one volume of sand 0/4 and one volume of soaked clay earth.  It is called a thermal corrector rather than an insulation layer ... all mixed in the concrete mixer.
Charlie uses the lawnmower to chop up straw
Indi prepares the straw

Indi loads the thermal corrector mix into buckets
before applying to the wall

Indi applies the thermal corrector mix to
the wall with her hands

Charlie and Indi applying the thermal
 corrector render to the stair wall
Applying an earth render (corps d'enduit) to the terre paille insulation
Charlie applies the corps d'enduit to the
terre paille insulation
Indi applying the corps d'enduit earth
render to the downstairs wall
Cooking at La Mariais
Indi spent a day perusing my collection of vegetariancookery books and planned a menu for the week
Deep in creative thought with the
 cookery books
Indi puts her culinary research into practice
Charlie, an accomplished cook has
created many delicious meals using
fresh organic vegetables from the garden
Charlie chops wood for the outdoor
 woodburning cooking stove
He fashioned a blow pipe from a piece of metal
he found on the land and used it to keep the fire
going in the survival stove
Enjoying the kitty cats
Indi spends quality time with spotty cat
Charlie and spotty cat share the
same taste in colours





Workshop created in lean-to

Help exer John has done a fantastic job in the lean-to at the back of the house.  He has transformed it into a workshop with workbench, shelving, electric points and tool holders.  Everything except for screws was found around the property (recycled wood, chipboard etc)
John explains where everything is

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Chantier pierre vu chez Anne Clair and Mike

Today I went to give Anne Clair a hand with rendering an interior stone wall with lime.  Mike, Anne Clair and their three children live on the other side of Saint Hilaire du Harcouet in a yurt while they renovate an old torchis building using ecological materials where possible and practical.  They have worked hard on the land uisng permaculture principles and have a thriving vegetable garden, chickens and pigs and they have planted many trees.  Mike has constructed several successful rocket stoves (to heat the yurt and the water in the bath house).
Some images of their place and today's chantier:
The yurt and vegetable garden

They renovated this little torchis dwelling last year with
 earth and lime and Mike has built a rocket stove  inside which heats
 water recuperated from the roof of a nearby barn

Their future home

Anne Clair fills a bucket with the lime and sand mix
(a mixture of chaux vif and sand that was left to mature for several
months in this barrel)

Liam helps to bring the buckets of lime to the pulley

Anne Clair shows the children how to use the pulley

Liam and Anna Rose take charge of the pulley

Successful team work

Anne Clair prepares to apply the lime putty and
 sand mix to the stone wall

Applying the mix to the wall.  Once dry
 the mix can be scrubbed with a brush to
 reveal as much or little of the stones as is wanted

Liam takes time out to demonstrate his skills in using the swing
Anna Rose brings stones in her wheelbarrow

Anna Rose tries dad's security boots for size

Mike spent the day taking care of the little
 one and prepared a delicious vegetarian meal
 with produce from the garden

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Exterior earth render to repair torchis wall

The two last exterior 'pans' or torchis needed to be repaired before winter to protect the straw and slip insulation that we had done on the inside.  Once the wooden lattice work had been repaired it was clear that in some areas we could mix earth and hay to make torchis sausages to intertwine around them but that in other places there was no room to do this - instead we fabricated a slap on render of one clay earth to one chopped up straw to one sand and some cow manure.  Some images below:
John treads the clay earth water and hay
John makes sausages of the mix to wind around the wooden lattice work
After securing the scaffolding, I apply the two mixtures to the top two panels

Earth renders on internal walls (enduits terres sur murs interieur)

The terre paille insulation(straw and slip insulation) and terre paille walls were now dry enough to apply earth renders.  After much reading and deliberation, I decided to treat the surface as you would a straw bale wall and to apply a slip (clay earth and water) as the first coat followed by a corps d'enduit of a mixture of cow manure, clay earth, hemp fibres (chenovotte) and sand 0/4. 
Normally you should do extensive testing of various combinations of all of these ingredients but due to time constraints I decided to go for an educated guess.  From tests that I had done last year I knew that the clay earth I have is around 20% clay and the rest silt.  Having this amount of silt in the earth is not great as the clay has to work hard to bind these particles which are not sticky - as well as the sand.  There are various things you can add to the mix to make it more sticky (wheat flour paste and cow manure for example) so in the spirit of low impact development, I decided on adding 30% cow manure (bouse de vache) which I had collected from a nearby farm.  I also knew that a mixture of one clay earth to one sand to one fibre produced a good render.  So I decided on a mix of one sand 0/4 to one clay earth to one hemp fibre and a third cow manure.
We soaked the cow manure and filtered earth in a bathtub for 24 hours and then mixed it in the concrete mixer with the sand, hemp fibres and water.  We then applied this by hand to the wall.  Some images of the process are shown below:

We applied slip by hand to the straw and slip walls

We used bamboo screening around the door
and window edges.  A thick gloopy mix of clay is spread underneath, the bamboo applied and slip applied over the top.

We fabricated 15cm long staples from old metal coat hangers then hammered them in to secure the bamboo strips
Preparing the earth render to go over the slip (corps d'enduit)

Kevin put the earth through a sieve

The sieved earth fills a third of the bath, 30 percent cow manure is added and water is added to three quarter full.  This is left to soak for 24 hours. 

I watered the wall before appying the render

John puts the ingredients in the concrete mixer - earth and cow manure followed
by the sand and finally the hemp fibres


Applying the render by hand

John uses a règle de macon to even out the renders

John uses a plastic taloche to smooth the surface after an hour or so