April 2010

I didn’t tell you – we found a horse plough the other week. Not quite in working condition but, with a little love, attention, vinegar, coca cola maybe and some kind of easing product, the plough we’ve been waiting for (for over two years) is now sitting outside our kitchen. Exactly like this:

It all started with a message from one of the English Mafia: An ad on angloinfo said an antique horse plough was taking up valuable barn space; cleaned up, would make a good garden ornament.

Already sounding better than a plough taking up yard space, I got in touch with the owner and offered a pitiful amount of cash, and some free-range sausages and bacon. Which she readily accepted.

We borrowed a trailer and went to take a look. It was the closest thing to a working plough we’ve seen – several parts actually move (sadly not the wheels, but give it time). Digging around in the barn, I also found whippletrees (not the easiest things to get your hands on, I can tell you), parts of a horse buggy, some wood with an odd metal thing on it, an old wheelbarrow and a ceramic double sink, all of which they let us have for nothing. (This couple were moving on to pastures new – and antipodean – and all this stuff was going to landfill the following day if we didn’t take it.)

Which brings me neatly to the upcoming UK General Election.

Over the last many months, I’ve spent some time dwelling on what can replace the failing capitalist model. (As you do.) It’s great to see the LibDems finally becoming the lead party. But having read their manifesto next to the Green Party’s a few elections ago, me and Her Outdoors jumped ship. Try it. You might surprise yourself.

Having also read the IPCC report, among other things, even a shift as radical as installing a sensible, sensitive government in one of over 180 countries worldwide will be too little, too late. I doubt any existing form of government can effect the change we really need(TM) as fast as we really need it.

But Roz and Clyde did just that. They turned down offers of more money because we are going to put the plough back into use. That’s what the world needs in the years ahead. To make the resources that already exist available to the people who need them. Not for money. But because it’s the sustainable thing to do. The only thing to do.

Next: Interesting Rocks found while digging a hole for the sceptic tank.

Time, after a very long pause, for my second, utterly unanticipated post on Interesting Rocks found scattered around écovallée.

Rock 2 looks a lot like a development from the previous scraper I found outside the tractor shed. It’s about the same size, has the same sharpened edge on the inside curve, and a more refined (although non-believers still aren’t convinced – how could this possibly be naturally occurring?) axe-like head.

What I like about this one are the holes that have been carved through it. I like to think it was carried around on a belt, like a side axe. But it could equally have been used to tie the rock onto what I believe is still called “a stick”.

This hole-drilling idea must have caught on, as the same technique was used in this smaller Rock I found the other day. (I found the euro coin in my pocket moments ago, shot here for scale. Get me.)

This could easily have been worn as a necklace. A Swiss army rock, if you like. Waiting for pockets to be invented.

(Needful note: I’ve given the fact that many of my Interesting Rocks are made from cretaceous limestone some thought. Limestone is plentiful here – just take a look at the main field if you don’t believe me – and flint much more scarce. Having done a fair bit of scrounging around the land in search of building materials, it makes perfect sense to make tools from the most readily available resource, even if they wouldn’t last long. What else would you do with your prehistoric time?)

Following the recent “Day of the Orchid” date-based écovallée scientific study, we saw the first Burnt Orchids today. They could have come up yesterday and not been noticed. But it won’t have been much before that.

More on this, later.

I couldn’t get the angle right without a cherry picker or helicopter. But there it is. We love it.

Today we saw our first Early Purple orchids poking through the ground, between the veggie patch and the tractor. We think it’s a bit later than last year, but can’t know for sure. Next year, I’ll be able to tell you with something approaching scientific accuracy.

(Reading “Song of the Dodo” at the moment, after a few years of resistance. Predictably, it’s brilliant. Makes island biogeography a subject you’d want to queue up to study.)


Went down to the not-shops yesterday and picked out some nice chestnut for the new outdoor kitchen (with a chainsaw). Four 18-foot poles, six 16-foot poles and two 26-foot poles. By the end of the week it should look like this:

Only in colour.

Now I have to go and dig some lovely new holes for my lovely new poles.

Some of you will know all about the power of manifestation. Others will say: “Be careful what you wish for” without realising that they are acknowledging the very same unstoppable force. I won’t go into detail – it’s all out there on the interweb.

Why am I saying this? Because in my very first post, I mentioned going to France to “become a peasant”. Recently, when it looked like the yurt project was finally dead, I even started a second blog called “peasant life”. Around the same time, I changed my twitter name to bloodypeasant – trying to find the humour in what was observably a pretty dire situation.

For months now, we’ve been living not just like peasants, but as peasants. Scratching around for money, wearing clothes donated by the wonderful English Mafia, living very hand to mouth (no change there – it was just the same in England, only the overheads were higher), occasionally wailing, and might even have gnashed our teeth if we knew how.

But all that’s changed. I’ve tweaked the ecovallee.com website to announce the 2010 offering (fewer frills – not quite easyyurt but not the most luxurious yurt camp in the world, either), changed my other blog name and my twitter name. We’re not going to be peasants any more. (We’ve stopped that – it’s silly.) We’re going to be something infinitely more pleasant.

After the drama and intrigue (again) of the last many days, it was a real joy to get back to some good, honest smallholding-type stuff.

First thing(ish), I went up the hill to one of our fabulous neighbours (also, former, former owners of this land), to borrow a tractor with a plough-type thing. This, I dragged up and down a part of the main field we’re going to plant potatoes and animal fodder in (you don’t want to know what our winter food bill was; and I’m not going to tell you). The field had been previously cleared by our first set of pigs, so was very lumpy in places. (I don’t think I’ll ever get used to driving a tractor without a rollbar over uneven ground – and why should I? It’s scary.) But I made some satisfying grooves eventually.

After a few hours, I returned the tractor, driving up the nice flat road in the sunshine, waving at the kids home from school for a lunch of home-made pizza topped with home-reared sausages. Then tweaked the ecovallee.com website to let the world know we’ll be open this year (OK, not so smallholdery, but I’m a very modern peasant), and hammered in a dozen or so fenceposts. Would have done more, but my body needs to remember how to swing a sledgehammer when standing on a chair. (Note to self: 1.80 is a better length than 1.75 – that’s the length of the post, not the height of the chair.)

Found a few euros to buy some wine to go with home-reared rabbit stew and all is well with the world. Apart from with boy, who’s complaining of a sore throat. But as Steven Wright has said at least once: You can’t have everything – where would you keep it?