February 2014

This was going to be our first winter without butchering a pig since 2008/09, until a couple of days ago when a friend was given a large piece of wild boar by a local hunter. Specifically, a side and front right leg with shoulder.

Our friend didn’t have the knives to process this quantity of meat, so asked me if I wanted to do it and split the bounty. Not a proposition to turn down, even if you’re in the middle of your annual cold. The kitchen was quickly adapted to suit the purpose:


Recent guests of écovallée will recognise the bit of work surface which used to be in the outdoor kitchen. (My old butchery surface has been turned into a desk for Her Outdoors’ studio.) This was clamped at one end and secured to the tongue and groove with my last bracket. You’ve got to have brackets lying around. (Preferably where you can find them.)

A few hours later, and the meat has been turned into 7kg of sausages, 2kg of bacon (on the plate to the left of the scales in that picture), what will be a good-sized curry (cooked very long and slow for the sinewy bits) and a rack of ribs for slow cooking with a barbecue sauce.

Interesting to note, the meat was incredibly lean. I think it was more sinewy than our pigs, too, and the tongue and groove was lucky to last the sausage-making process. Imagine one of us putting all their weight on that bottom left corner while the other cranked the handle for all they were worth and you’ll get the picture.

At a guess, I’d say the boar was 70kg when shot. I found the bullet. Which was also very unexpected.

Yesterday, we put the last of the soil on écovallée’s first outdoor hugelbed…

hugelbed 1

…and added some compost, strawberry plants, and straw, pinned down with some twigs.

hugelbed 2

Her Outdoors tells me not to expect too much from this bed this year. She’s going to fix some nitrogen with peas and that’s about it. It’s a very long-term project. And this post is really so we can look back on it in the future and be amazed. (The future’s like that.)

When we first moved here, listening to the radio was like hearing one endless French word, with occasional breaks for music. After a while, you start hearing the gaps between the words – even during the legal bits at the end of commercials. Eventually, you can recognise words you’ve never noticed before, and you can go home and look them up. It’s one of these words I’m going to share with you now: “Machin” (pronounced: “mashan” – with a silent “n”).

It means “thingymajig”.

Now I’ve noticed it, I hear it every day, sometimes several times. “Monsieur (or Madame) Machin” means “whatsisface” (or “wosserface”), which I hear a lot, too. What was once just noise has become something meaningful: “hoojymaflip”.

While I’m on the subject, I’ll give you an English word I learnt last year when reading Iain M. Bank’s Transition. The word is: “susurrating”. I won’t insult you by telling you what it means. And this might be the only time I get to type it. But what a great word!

We moved the geese just now and I shot the whole thing on my phone. The video quality is very poor. (It’s a phone, remember? Not long ago, all you could do with a phone was speak to someone – and only if they were there to pick it up.) So I added an appropriate tune so it won’t be a complete waste of your time.


In this post last week, I said Rob Hopkins had invited me to write something for the Transition Network. After a few false starts, I put something together over the weekend and sent it off. This morning, Rob told me he liked it (huzzah) and, a short while ago, he published it on his blog here (double huzzah – we haven’t had one of those for a while).

That should be enough good news for one post. But it isn’t.

Yesterday, we had a very positive meeting with the mayor about the yurt camp and our future plans. In the evening, I went to a very constructive meeting with our lovely local Transition group (in a straw-bale house – what’s not love to about a building you can grow and put together yourself?), this morning I landed some gardening work for the spring and, a few minutes ago, I found myself back in a band (having been bandless for just over a week) and landed a couple of website jobs to do over the next howevermany days.

If you’d spoken to me on Wednesday, I could have painted a very bleak picture of life. I was feeling like we were putting a huge amount of effort into numerous projects and getting nothing positive in return. Right now, the sun is shining and the world is full of possibilities.

Which reminds me of a Bill Connolly quote about the Scottish climate: “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes”.

I finally finished the door for the geese house. There’s just that gap above the door to fill and the geese can move in – they’re currently all the way down the end there by that small white blob in the bad photo.

goose house door

But the bad weather hasn’t stopped work on the hugelbed, which looked like this a few minutes ago:


The turf on top of the rotting wood was taken from near the geese house, where we’re installing a small pond (ie, digging a hole). On the hillside above the main field, Her Outdoors has been finishing a swale started by pigs a few years ago, adding some well-rotted manure from nearby, and intends to plant some volunteer seedlings from the orchard.

Further outbreaks of hugelkultur can be expected.