Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Economising water and identifying plants

Naiad posted a comment on my blog of 13th May: “ [When speaking with guests] How do you broach the delicate issues of 1)being water-wise (i.e., not spending AGES in the shower twice a day) and 2) disposing of sanitary protection.”

Along with an advert in Permaculture Magazine, we advertise on a mainstream holiday rental website, through which we encounter the majority of our paying guests. So you can imagine that not all our holidaymakers have an ecological bent. And we’re not permacultural evangelists.

There’s a variety of things to inform our guests of when they arrive. One of which is to only put French-bought toilet paper down the toilet, important even for a conventional septic tank. Having then explained about the recycling box and compost bin, imagine the effect on our travel-weary arrivants were we to tell them not to switch on the electric heaters, to switch off the lights when they didn’t need them … oh, and don’t spend to long in the shower ? Have a nice stay !

The answer is in design (of course, this is permaculture). So, at great expense, we have installed an easy-to-light, super-efficient, Danish-built Jøtul woodstove and removed the electric panel heater downstairs. We offer to set a fire a couple of hours before they’re due home in the evening, if they want. Water-wise, we have been very impressed by our economising showerhead and tap aerators from Aqua-Techniques: see my blog of 13th December 2006. The showerhead is the more impressive, in that you get satisfactorily soaked, so much so that I found it difficult to believe that it was using less water, which it was, and to a surprising degree. So our holidaymakers can stay agreeably clean without using too much water and without being dictated to by eco-fascists!

Thanks to Sue and Val (aided by Pete) who’ve helped me identify the mystery yellow flower of my last blog. It is, without doubt, crosswort, (Cruciata laevipes), a member of the bedstraw (Rubiaceae) family of plants.

It’s not poisonous to our sheep, which is nice to know. In fact, the Plants for a Future database says that crosswort “was considered a very good wound herb for both external and internal use. A decoction of the leaves has also been used to treat obstructions of the stomach and bowels, to stimulate the appetite and as a remedy for rheumatism, rupture and dropsy.”

The problem is then that our sheep aren’t eating it, so it is spreading by seeds and stolons (horizontal runners). We must therefore assume that they’re in good health and not suffering from bowel obstructions, rheumatism or dropsy! So, I took my ash-handled Austrian scythe to it to teach it a lesson. Like a lot of weeds, if one keeps cutting them before they set seed, they weaken and (hopefully) die.

Next blog: how we used sheep’s wool insulation to make our pond edges prettier.