Saturday, July 08, 2006


“The thirsty earth soaks up the rain / And drinks, and gapes for drink again.” So wrote the poet Abraham Cowley in 1656. Last year, France suffered la Sécheresse (a drought) pretty much all over. When we were looking for somewhere to settle, one of the criteria we considered was the climate: and Brittany looked wet enough to grow our veggies.


However, just when all our young plants were trying to establish themselves, last month just 24mm of rain fell into our rain gauge, whereas the average (according to the official France Meteo website (and click on “Caractéristiques climatiques”) is 42mm. For July, 37mm is expected and, on Tuesday, we recorded a massive 32mm. With another 9mm overnight, we are already over the “target”.


Whilst we and the local farmers are pleased to see the rain, having so much fall all at once onto baked hard earth isn’t ideal as most will run-off without infiltrating. What we need to do is find someway of smoothing out these peaks and troughs of supply and avoid having to use expensive, treated tap water to water the garden: rainwater harvesting is the thing. Looking around at some of the options, the infrastructure and cost is daunting: huge great plastic tanks needing to be buried in the ground, pipes, pumps and filters and all at a cost which suggests a payback in decades.


Cobbling together a budget solution (for about 1/5th of the cost of a ready made system) we’ve bought a 1000 litre (220 gallon) tank and built a support to raise it up to avoid the need for a pump. We just need to buy a filter, which I’m researching at the moment, then connect it all up and hope for some more rain. For a really pragmatic approach to all things watery, and the formulae to calculate how big a storage tank you need relative to size of roof and water requirement, I cannot recommend Judith Thornton’s book The Water Book highly enough.


For another perspective on permaculture from a different part of the globe (Texas, USA) check out “Trailer Park Girl’s” blog .

4 comments :

Jean said...

Hi Gabrielle,

Whew! What a fantastic blog site (hadn't heard of them before)!

This is “The Good Life” in reality. That TV show seemed exaggerated and a fantasy at the time but you are really living it to the letter and more.

You sound so happy and engrossed and fulfilled and everything that makes for a happy lifestyle. It was a brave step in the dark to take. I am so pleased that it is working out so well for you both.

With the predicted serious water shortages here and I guess all over Europe you will be well ahead of the game and your blog could be a source of advice for the rest of us if and when the real crunch comes.

Having been a child in the 30/40s, I have experienced having to share a tin bath with the rest of the family and being without all modern water guzzling appliances. I don’t have a dishwasher now and only had my first washing machine when we moved here 14 years ago. Before that I did a full time career job and all the washing was done in the bath! Everyone thought I was mad but Dave always said there wasn't room in our kitchen to install a Washing machine.

These experiences would make it less of a hardship for me to go back to more primitive and economic use of water.

We have a garden problem as I write which is a resident mole. As I hate killing anything, I have, so far, spent nearly £30 on humane methods to deter the little bugger. However he is always one jump ahead and is having great fun with us and the neighbour’s garden leaving little mounds of earth and raising up newly planted flowers. Any solutions please?

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Thanks for posting a comment Jean. For your mole, try using mothballs! The napthalene has a really strong odor, which they don't like. So, each time you find a new molehill, dig into the tunnel and place a mothball or two. After a few days, your mole should leave you alone and go and bother someone else!
A permaculture approach is to try and see the problem as the solution: so, if you could cope with the mole making a mess of your garden, then collect some of that lovely crumbly earth from the molehills to mix with compost for seedbed, potting, etc.
Do, please, let us know how you get on.

Jean said...

Hi
I am having to take the same route to reply as I took before when I lost everything. Hope I dont lose this entry. Many thanks for info re Moley and the means of discouraging him from frequenting our garden.
We have already purchased some mothballs and done the business. However this is no ordinary mole.
I think it must have had quite a good education. It has already eluded us with our Sonic Mole Scarer (Cost £21) and our humane trap(slightly less expensive) He just circumnavigates both. Now 5 minutes after putting the mothballs down into his tunnel the cheeky ittle devil has pushed it back up to the surface. He didn't leave a note butif he had two fingers I am sure they woudl have formed a rude sign. However watch this space and hopefully he will move next door and our dear friends there can wrestle with the problem.
Hedgey our hedgehog is such a welcome guest as he eats all the slugs and snails. Moley must have a purpose in the ecological chain? If so what is it?

Love J

jean said...

The mole is dead! I, being a silly sentimental woman born and bred in the country, but a townie at heart, can't bear to kill anything not even an innocent spider. Our next door neighbour did the foul dead and is having to take a lot of stick from me (only in jest)!

Moley became such a menace to him, as moved his habitat once we frightened him off with the mothballs, that the damage he had sustained called for drastic and permanent action. As you will be killing chickens, geese and the like I am sure one dead mole wont bleed your heart and probably we should have been more ruthless from the beginning.

I still have this somewhat naive view that everything has a positive purpose in the ecological chain but cannot see what the mole does to keep nature's wheels turning and would be very interested if anybody knows!