February 2013

Gone are the days when I could walk into a room and ask a brilliant designer or artworker (aka Mac Monkey) to “just add that, will you?” Which is why I spent the first part of this morning wrestling with a couple of programmes I don’t know very well, in an effort to add a French flag to the écovallée homepage.


There are at least two things wrong with what I’ve done, which would take a competent person less than a minute to fix, but will take me well over an hour. So I’ll wait until it’s very cold again before having another go.

The flag links to the website in French, which I’ve built in yet another programme I don’t know how to use. If you’re interested in language, you might like to see how some phrases have had to be changed completely, either because they don’t translate or because French doesn’t have the same playful flexibility of English. (Neither, interestingly enough, does United Statesian.)

I’ve been doing Other Things recently, but here’s how work on the new kitchen stands at the moment:

outdoor kitchen

Only a few more wind braces and one upright to go, and I can start the 12-foot yurt platform. We’ve got guests booked here for April 2nd. No pressure.

This is how the new outdoor kitchen stands at the moment.

outdoor kitchen

You can see what I did there.

We’ve had some fantastic guests in écovallée, but up there among the all-time greats are Ed and Pip, who stayed with us at the end of our first year.

Before they went home, Ed insisted on collecting several tractor buckets of rocks from the hillside on the other side of the valley, where they’d been unearthed by the pigs, to a pile by the Play Yurt. I told him I’d post photos of what we did with his rocks, so he could see the physical mark he made on the landscape.

The years passed and Ed’s rocks sat there collecting leaves.

Eventually, some of the rocks were laid on the track at the bottom of the guest field, so the tractor didn’t tilt so alarmingly when ferrying stuff back and forth. (It’s an old tractor, without a rollbar, and one of the most terrifying tools known to man. One slip and it’s certain death. Which would be very inconvenient for Her Outdoors and fairly unsettling for the kids.) Here are those rocks:

eds rocks 1

Now, finally, the rest of Ed’s rocks have been moved by Her Outdoors to their final resting place in the écovallée parking area:

eds rocks 2

Thanks Ed. You can come back any time.

After the school run, I took advantage of the dry weather to turn some of the overstood coppice I cut a couple of years ago into heat for about ten days. (The sawdust goes onto the paths through the woods, which will become more and more National Trust-like over time. That’s my theory anyway.)

wood cutting

While I was cutting, I was thinking about this article that a friend posted on facebook last night. It tells the incredible story of a family who survived for 40 years in the Siberian wilderness. They didn’t have the tractor, axe, chainsaw, boots, thermals, ear defenders, gloves – or even the breakfast I had today. They had practically nothing. For decades.

I’ve said before how far we are from being self sufficient – now you can read what it’s really like.

Even with the rain we’ve been having (and yes, we’ve been having some), it’s possible to do a few things outside. Like cut and strip the acacia poles for the new outdoor kitchen.

Here it was this morning:

outdoor kitchen

The uprights are only in the ground about 30 cm and they survived 65 km winds without support, which I’m taking as a good sign. Those chunkier posts leaning against my makeshift vice are for the yurt platform supports. The shavings will be used as mulch on the willow trench.

I think I’ve just come up with an elegant new joist plan for the next 12-foot yurt platform. It looks like this:

12 foot yurt platform

This plan uses larger joists than I normally do, in a square on four posts, with smaller joists between, strengthened by noggins.

Four extra posts will complete the “circle”, allowing my normal 23mm thick pine flooring to be secured close to the edge, which will carry the weight of the coppiced ash frame.

(The post in the middle isn’t necessary but I might include it to stop any bounce.)

Interestingly (to me, anyway), I tried three joist layouts on paper and all required 33 metres of joist. The other two needed 12 and 17 posts, though, which is why they didn’t win.

Next Page »