Thursday, 19 November 2015

Wwoofers Jean Michel and Arnaud from Quebec

Jean Michel and Arnaud, two forest fire fighters from Quebec stayed here for a week.  They are on an extensive tour of Europe - with a limited budget they are doing a lot of hitchiking, couchsurfing and wwoofing.  They were keen to learn about living off the land, permaculture and self-sufficiency and brought great skills and enthusiasm to the project.

Some images from their stay:

Creating a nettle barrier so that
the round garden is not invaded.

Experts at using a chainsaw ....
cutting logs for the winter.

A spot of chainsaw maintenance.
Arnaud cut some trees on the land ....

... and split the logs which we then
stacked for use next winter ...

Jean Michel helped me to apply
a lime render to the wall in the
kitchen ....

Mixing the lime render .....

It's a messy job!!
Raking up leaves in the garden ...

We put a layer of the leaves over
three layers of cardboard and
manure and here Jean Michel
puts down a layer of hay from
the barn .... a new sheet mulch
area ready for planting in the
Spring ........

Jean Michel cracking walnuts
harvested from the land ...

Arnaud made a fabulous cheese
and walnut tart .....

Jean Michel researched a recipe to use the excessive
amounts of apples harvested ..... apple doughnuts.

Nasturtium leaves and flowers
picked from the garden to be
transformed into pesto.

At Leisure

Bon Voyage!! Thanks for all the help.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Wwoofer - Ariana Nicolson

Ariana stayed for a couple of weeks in November this year.  She is an 18 year old from North Carolina who is deeply involved in the climate justice movement.  She brought her sharp intelligence and enthusiasm for learning and threw herself into every activity on offer.

She will be attending the climate negotiations with the Sierra Student Coalition at the end of November in Paris.  She has done activism trainings with the Sierra Club as well as with her Quaker high school (the Carolina Friends School).  She will be studying at Clark University, Massachussets next year to do Environmental Studies.

Some images from her stay:


We are working on the kitchen at the moment - putting a lime render on the earth wall before building units .....

Ariana started by helping me to
apply a NHL2 lime render
(1 volume of lime to 3 of
sand).  This is the best type
of lime to put over an earth wall.

She got the hang of it pretty
quickly - not easy!!

On the Land

She helped me to harvest the runaway pumpkins
and courgettes in the round garden ... I haven't watered
all year.  The sheet mulch seems to have done a good
job in retaining the rainwater .... a bumper crop!! 

Harvesting potatoes ....
... and a very large round marrow -
produced from ancient variety
seeds from the organic company
Biaugerme ............
We visited the Palmer family who have a permaculture
inspired project not far from us ... we exchanged
some of our seeds and vegetables for  a few of their raspberry canes ....

.... and planted garlic amongst
the canes .... good companions.

We exchanged home made jam and
vegetables from the land for some
organic manure from a local horse
riding centre and put this around the
raspberry canes ..........

Helping with the cardboard run ... we have free
access to a cabin filled with large sheets of
cardboard which we use for sheet mulcing in
the garden ....................
Ariana put down layers of cardboard
onto brushcut vegetation and then
wheelbarrowed the compost into place
on top of it.

She harvested herbs from the garden, strung
them up and hung them for drying
in the house. We will use them to make dried herbs
 for cooking and teas ...............

Harvesting marigold seeds for
next year's crop .....

Picking wild sloe berries near Mont Saint Michel
... we used them to make jam with apples from the garden.


In the Kitchen

..... Chopping and weighing apples
to make jam, apple butter, cider vinegar
cakes, pies and stewed apple ....

Ariana researched a recipe for apple butter - an
American delicacy and then launched into action ... 
She cracked open lots of walnuts harvested from
the land ........

.... and made a delicious apple
walnut and gorgonzola tart ...

... and a spaghetti squash, chocolate
and walnut cake ......

.... after weeding the garden, she
used chickweed to make vegetable
burgers .......

Weed patties!!!

Making sourdough bread ....

... and vegan crepes ...

Impeccable table manners ...

At Leisure

A spot of weight training with logs
for the fire ......

Cuddling grey cat ....

Playing the guitar beneath the herbs that she
strung up .....

Casting her eyes over one of my
books 'A handbook for changing
the world' .... being a political
activist she was interested in this
book about grassroot action for
sustainable development.

Thank you Ariana for all your help, your company, your enthusiasm, the debates about climate change, the music and all the rest.

Hope to see you back here one day ....

Climate change (rechauffement climatique)

One of the many reasons for my decision to come to France to create this eco-site is my concern about the issue of climate change and the associated question of how we can 'tread lightly on the earth'.  I have been aware of the debates for some years but feel motivated to write a little about this here after talking extensively with a young wwoofer who is staying here at the moment. Ariana is a climate activist from the United States who will be attending the climate negotiations in Paris taking place at the end of November this year.

Three short YouTube documentaries worth viewing:
Some facts about climate change:

See: www.

Climate change: How do we know?

The Earth's climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.1

Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.
The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century. Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. They also show that in the past, large changes in climate have happened very quickly, geologically-speaking: in tens of years, not in millions or even thousands.

The evidence for rapid climate change is compelling:
1) Sea level rise

Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.

2) Global temperature rise

All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880.  Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years. Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.

3) Warming oceans

The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.
4) Shrinking ice sheets

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.

5) Declining Arctic sea ice

Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.
6) Glacial retreat

Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.

7)  Extreme events

The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.
8) Ocean acidification

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent. This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.

9) Decreased snow cover

Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that the snow is melting earlier.


For some answers to frequently asked questions refer to

The effects of climate change: