We stayed at Sébastien’s place for two weeks, helping with firewood and his conservatory build. I found it super interesting to see how he essentially built an insulating structure all the way around the stone barn which he renovated from ground up. He’s built a wrap around extension around the building with double glazed windows, allowing solar energy to heat up the stones but keeping the heat in. The temperature inside was incredibly stable and I would imagine once the conservatory is built, it will provide extra heat during sunny days in the winter.
We visited another person in the local area who showed us how to build two poly tunnels like the one pictured below for under 250 euros – that’s 125 euro for a 7x3m tunnel which is incredibly cheap. He used concrete rebars and put them through a hose for the structure. Then covered it with generic reinforced plastic and dug the sides into the soil. Quick, easy, really strong and affordable.
We also learnt about honey making. Unfortunately the colony had died this year and no new honey was made, but we tasted some that they had packed away as reserve and it was delicious. A single box could produce 10 to 40 litres of honey depending on the availability of flowers and requires only one extraction at the end of the season. They become inactive during winter and require no upkeep, which is ideal for me because I want to be free to travel for extended periods of time. This may be naive but from what I gather, the work hours invested vs the benefit of having an annual supply of honey seems really good. More on bee keeping can be read here. Colony collapse disorder is a worry but Paul Stamets is now experimenting on a large scale with medicinal mushroom extracts. See the video below for a short introduction and watch this video talk by Stamets for a more detailed video.
Leading on from Sébastien’s place, we stopped over at Thebeau’s farm again to help inoculate a few more oak logs with Shiitake dowels.
We drilled 10mm wide holes in 15cm intervals along the log and in 5cm intervals around the log.
This process took far longer than I had expected. The logs were larger in diameter than usual but I’ve already got a few ideas in mind on how to make the drilling process streamlined and efficient.
The dowels inoculated with shiitake spawn were then tapped into the log.
We stopped over at my friends house to help set up his new solar panels. They use a brand new technology that allows electricity to be generated from the under side of the panels. Officially registered as 390W each but can produce up to 600W if you maximise the reflection off the floor.
We house sat for a week at a friends house where we were able to spread out a little, chill out and make magnetic mosquito nets to put on the van windows. It was the perfect timing since the flies are out in full force now.
We are currently staying with a family deep in the mountains on the border of France and Spain. They grow and forage wild herbs and flowers from the pristine mountains to be turned into tinctures and balms. They never take more than they need from the environment, they always leave some for the insects and sell these high quality produce at super reasonable prices. We really like their ethics and hope to do a full blog post soon but for now here’s a picture of today’s harvest, foraged from the garden. Short leaf plantain (foreground), long leaf plantain (top left), plus some big dandelion leaves (top right).