Friday, February 27, 2009

If you look in on our blog regularly, I apologise for lack of activity but we’ve been uncharacteristically absent. Why uncharacteristically? Because, with all our animals, it’s not easy to go away together—hence separate trips back to see family and friends post-Christmas. Thank you to neighbour Kysinia for caring for our charges. And why absent? We went to visit a couple, who are both architects, to get our straw-bale house build project on track again; more on that soon. I’d previously promised a woolly blog on felting our sheep’s wool but still need to coax the (not normally) hesitant Gabrielle in front of the video camera to show you how she “needle felts”; soon, I promise.

A permaculture principle is “the problem is the solution” but it’s not always so, and it’s sometimes not at all evident where the solution is to be found. The problem: we designed our potager as a series of raised beds—Emilia Hazelip stylie —which rise from the intervening paths in soft curves. i.e., without a solid edge. Despite our soil being heavy clay, i.e., having plenty of structure, the earth edges of our raised beds annoyingly crumble and blur with the pathways. There are some reasons against edges, one being that they create yet another haven for garden gastropods (snails and slugs by another name). Despite this, Gabrielle wanted me to install neat wooden edging. I explained how much would that wood require and the idea died on its feet.

A permaculture problem without an apparent permaculture solution or so it seemed until neighbour Serge arrived outside our house after a long, hard working day, announcing himself in a horn-beeping-flat-backed-Ford-Transit-builders’-van sort of way. Accustomed to, but not sharing, our strange English eco-aspirations, he’d seen some wood and stone heading straight to landfill on a house renovation job he was on and thought of us. He had some unfeasibly large flat pieces of dressed granite for our house-build project and a sample of a chestnut plank: inch-thick tongue-and-groove flooring. If it was any use, perhaps as firewood, he proffered, he could deliver us a lorry-load.

So what we needed was hundreds of feet of straight planks of a durable hardwood, like chestnut, for example … and then Serge turns up. (He's on the left in the photo below.) Although he refused payment, his resistantance buckled when I stuck a bottle of single-malt Laphroaig whisky under his nose. So there you have it: no philosophy, no easy answers, just a gloat about how amazingly fortunate we’ve been! Cheers, Serge!