PHOTOS JANUARY 2009
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The first task of 2009 was to deal with the drainage. You may remember from 2008 that I laid a drain in front of the verandah that descended down the field. The idea is that I will have some kind of junction box where the drains will meet and will connect with the "other" kind of waste when I build the bathroom extension. From there, a large waste pipe will carry everything away to the first of the lagoons that I will be building.
In the meantime, to remove the water right away from where I'm working, I've developed a temporary drainage system.
Once the temporary drain had been installed, the next task was to remove the overhanging trees. These were stopping light getting to the grass and so everything here had turned to swamp, and they would also prevent sunlight from reaching the lagoons.
Another good reason is that they would provide me with a huge supply of firewood to burn when I install myself and a pot-bellied stove up in the attic of the house. I reckon that if I slowly work my way all round the perimeter of the field during the course of the next few years then by the time I arrive back up at the top on the other side, the trees here will have re-grown and I can start to give then another cut.
And if you had been carefully following my adventures from last year you'll remember that I had a mini-disaster in November when the inverter shorted out and took a huge pile of battery voltage with it.
I went into carefully energy-husbanding mode but nevertheless, who would have thought of this for the 10th of January? I've 370 watts of solar energy in only a temporary siting, charging up 1200 amp-hours of battery. And here we are, all fully-charged again.
The following day, the members of the wild plant group (where we all meet off and go to look for edible wild plants, pick them, cook them and eat them) went for the January walk - around the low hills between Espinasse and Pionsat.
It was really cold but a beautiful day and at a certain point there was a stunning view right across to the Puy-de-Dôme - all 1465 metres (4750 or so feet) of it and the highest point of the area. It is of course an old volcano, one of 80 in the area, but there has been no evidence of an eruption for at least 4000 years.
Over the last year or two I've grown quite a pile of wood, what with one thing and another. But it's no good sitting in piles around the place and getting in the way. So while the weather is too dry to work inside but too cold to dig in the garden, I can make a start on cutting it up.
I've nowhere really to keep it for now though, so loading it onto a pallet or two will at least keep it off the ground and give it a chance to dry out. I can move it somewhere else at a later date.
You might have also read my pages on the scandal that is the story of the Viaduc des Fades. At the time that it was built it was the highest railway bridge in the world, and it is still second-highest today.
Anyway, I went down to see Liz today, the first time that I've been there in the winter and wth all the leaves off the trees there is this stunning view of the viaduct from the main road. I was so impressed by this.
With clearing up the first pile of wood there was some residue left - decaying leaves and the like. It wasn't worth picking up to put on the fire so seeing as it was a nice day and the weather had been dry for a week I decided to light my first garden fire of 2009. It spluttered into life quite nicely and I was really impressed. But as usual, it coughed and spluttered itself to a standstill after 20 minutes.
I don't know why it is. Whenever I want to light a fire I can never do it. But when I'm tryng my best not to set anything alight, such as when I'm welding in a seat support for a Ford Cortina, I can conjure up a raging inferno without even trying.
One of the things that I do in my spare time is to follow the fortunes of FC Pionsat-St.Hilaire, my local football team, and in fact I keep a web page of their exploits.
What with the awful weather we've been having there's been no matches for 6 weeks but the good weather for the last few days brought about a sudden thaw and the footy sprang briefly into life. It wasn't this cold, though.
This winter has been really cold and damp and where my head is where I sleep is right up against the chimney of the house. It's cold and clammy there and down at ground level the damp is worrying. I'll get pleurisy if I'm not careful.
What I've decided to do then is every week, late Sunday afternoon, burn all of the week's accumulated rubbish in the fire in the house. This will warm up the house, dry out the chimney and I can also cook some baked potatoes to have with my vegan pizza.
This is another sign of progress.
There is also the garden to attend to, and I want to do better than last year which was a bit ad-hoc. I've sat down and made out a sort-of planner for this year showing me what I've got in the way of seeds and when and where I can plant them. You know that my garden is a series of raised beds on some waste land. You can see them on last year's pages.
I need to keep the brassica, the roots and the others separate from each other and not replant things where they were planted last year. There's also something about symbiotic gardening and I need to track down a book on that from somewhere.
Now this was something of a surprise to me. If you look very carefully at the bottom margin of the photo just to the right of the copyright logo, you'll see a red arrow painted on the roadway pointing down the track at the back of my house.
I had a word with the new mayor back in April last year about a project I had in mind that needed some intervention from the local council in the track just here. I wonder if this might be it. It'll be really exciting news if it is.
I was round at Liz's a short time later to drop off some firewood for her. She was just on the point of going for a walk with the dogs she was looking after so I tagged along as well.
We went to the Trois Cuves or "Three Basins", a waterfall in the Gorges de la Sioule. The Sioule is a fast-flowing river and has carved itself deeper into the rock than the slower and smaller tributaries that feed it, and so the whole of the valley is lined with waterfalls.
You may not think that seeing someone's washing hanging on a washing line is of any particular importance, but it is to me. I mentioned earlier that I had been having battery issues, and that I'd now reached a point where the batteries were fully-charged. But here today, they topped out at about 11:00 and it was a really nice sunny day, so it was a shame to waste the electricity and the heat.
Out came the little tabletop washing machine that I had bought from the Virlet brocante last summer. It takes about 2 hours to do a complete cycle, which involves a fair amount of human input and so by just after 13:00 I had the washing hanging on the line with plenty of daylight left. I'm well impressed with that for a January afternoon.
It's amazing what you find when you go for a good prowl around, and today I was hunting for metal at the steel stockholders' in Montluçon. This is what I found tucked away down at the bottom of the yard.
It's a Moyse shunting engine, made in Paris in 1970 and powered by a Magirus Deutz diesel lorry engine. It looks like it's been here for years and it won't be going anywhere else as all of the track around the yard has been tarred over a long time ago.
It's what they would call around here artisanal which is probably the best translation of what a British Rail engineer meant when he used the term "garden shed engineering" to describe the output of the British Rail Engineering Works in Crewe.
It seems to have started off as some sort of chassis and then the rest of it added on at a later date as some kind of optional extras. I'm intrigued to know what it might have been before it became a factory shunter.