Sunday, November 02, 2008

Volunteers: the third chapter. After the successful stays of Sam and then Kristen and Christine we were happy to accept David’s offer to come and stay for a week, working for his food and lodging. We got excited as David had told us, in his emails, that he’d done a permaculture course in Kinsale , Ireland. We started to compile a(nother) “list of things to do”, specifically for David. We even thought that we could entrust a design project to him and might learn some things from him.

A permaculture design course is typically 72 hours long, so imagine how impressed I was when, in the car coming home from collecting him at Rennes railway station, David told me that the Kinsale course was two years long! I felt like I’d ordered a Ford and, when I turned up at the showroom to collect my new car, the salesman handed me the keys of a Ferrari. This guy must know what his talking about.

We’ve given him, as a project, the area surrounding our chicken house, where we’ve recently cut down some large—unsuitable to their location—pine (macrocarpa) trees. That’s a work in progress, which you’ll read more about in subsequent blogs, but he’s already made his mark in our gite garden. While Gabrielle was showing him around, she pointed out the horseradish (see my amateurish, Photo-shopped visual metaphor at right) planted last spring: proud of its rude health, energetically throwing off big green leaves. David didn’t share her delight but rather recoiled in shock. Horseradish, as well as supplying some very useful roots (horseradish sauce!) and leaves (in salad) is also extremely invasive and will quickly take over the area in which it finds itself. We’re amongst honoured company apparently, faux pas-wise, as David related a tale of the founder of the permaculture course in Kinsale, Rob Hopkins. He’d planted horseradish in the Kinsale Further Education College’s forest garden. Having returned after an absence of three years to speak to the new students, and now knowing a lot more about the beast, he felt it necessary to begin his address by offering a formal apology to the students and staff for planting said horseradish. The remedial action has been to mulch the area for two years under black plastic. Anything less just won’t do, as in pulling it out, any scrap of root left, will re-sprout. This isn’t a pop at Rob at all, just a reassurance to anyone out there (like us) stumbling around in a mist of permacultural confusion, that we’re experimental pioneers rather than experts at the pinnacle. We’ve done some more research and will now fastidiously dig up the horseradish and replant it in a partly submerged dustbin, to control the spread of it’s edible yet invasive roots yet still enjoy the benefits.