An Uncertain Point of View

île de Ré and Back [Part 2] Sunday 20 August 2017

Despite the previous entries and despite our attempts at budgeting, it appears we may have to take a rest-day – another one, as, physically at least, today hasn’t been the most challenging – in another bloody hotel this week.

Physically and mentally, we could keep going until we get someone from Warmshowers to actually be available – and just keep moving until then. But there are some practical matters to attend to – there are always some ‘practical matters’ to attend to – that require extended Internet access. Something you cannot take for granted in the France we’ve seen so far – even in hotels! But a hotel is the best bet to have that bloody access. Ironically, we require some of this access to more accurately check our finances and take our budgeting beyond best-guesstimate, whilst simultaneously taking a lump out of our finances in order to do so. But, we also need it to make contact with some people, and there’s still a lot of things that need to be checked on – so maybe it is unavoidable this week.

But we have to get off this track as soon as possible.
It’s bloody unnecessary 
and expensive.
And we don’t even like doing it.
It’ll have to come down to necessity to do so.

We’ve got to get better at sorting out accommodation
or dealing with the lack of it when it isn’t there.

Cos Warmshowers really ain’t cuttin’ it at all in France. We’ve had two great hosts in Normandy, of course, but it appears that the whole of France, or at least Pays de la Loire, has gone on vacation for the middle two weeks of August. And while it may, therefore, be wrong to be either too harsh on the place or the website, I am a bit disenchanted with our ability to escape these costly ‘conveniences’ for longer than a week at a time.

So we have to continue to work on this ability, which is what we are about to do. But please notice, you unknown third person I’m having this conversation with, the word ‘work’ there. Keeping such a lifestyle going is definitely not the easy option. It requires planning and effort and focus to retain the integrity of the essential idea of travelling around from place to place, resting our weary bodies, and then moving on. It’s not just dropping everything and buggering off. It isn’t.

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OK, we’ve found a solution for this week – we are good when we put our heads together and focus. Barring finding a host in Bordeaux for two nights at the end of the week, we are going to camp in the environs of Bordeaux Thursday evening. Then, Friday, work our way into the city to try and make us of the facilities available there: wi-fi, recharging, and laundry. Then drift out of the city as twilight approaches to pitch our tents and make our way on Saturday.

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Compost, Mulching, and Preparing the Garden for Spring #3

Organic Matter

As January has come to an end, so has our composting and mulching of the garden beds. We’ve managed to empty the compost pit of most its solid organic matter, and used it in combination with cardboard to cover them. These beds can now absorb all the goodies from both the brown and the green matter, simultaneously being protected from exposure, severe temperatures, and too dry or too wet periods. On top of this, any unwanted perennials or weeds will have to make a lot more effort to grow in Spring or Summer, which is another thing we want: win-win 🤞

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  1. We’ve developed a routine collecting cardboard from supermarkets whenever we get access to a car. This happens on average four times a month, and allows us to collect a significant amount of brown matter.
  2. Here – 25 January 2020 – we harvested celeriac planted 02 May 2019 which we happily shared with our neighbours 😊 We immediately covered the soil with cardboard.
  3. We then extracted whatever was left of the solid organic matter from the pit.
  4. And, in the final stage, distributed it evenly.

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As mentioned in a previous post, in March the cardboard should be nicely decomposing and the layer of organic matter on top quite dry, making it possible for us to break up the bigger pieces, remove any debris, and remove and return anything that still needs breaking down to a compost heap. By April, it will resemble the soil it will become: a new layer of soft soil ready for sowing and planting. Today we had a sneak-peek under a mulch layer and, much to our surprise, we saw busy earthworms already ‘having a good time’ 😁

Avoiding digging or ploughing, and keeping the earth undisturbed, well-fed, protected, and mulched, makes for a much healthier ecosystem for both the plants and the organisms and microbes within. Healthy undisturbed soil provides enough food for all those small creatures, which, in exchange, break down the organic matter, making more healthy and healthier soil for the plants that we want to grow. It is a cyclical process – and one of the most basic, beautiful, and essential cooperations on our planet. 

If we look after the soil, it will look after us. 👍🌍

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This year, we’re aiming to improve our soil-making by building a two-compartment compost container out of pallets. From this, we hope to be able to cover most, if not all, of the garden beds with fresh home-made soil before next Winter. In the meantime, we’ve been making sure that the container we’re presently using is busy receiving green matter, brown matter, and pig manure.

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  1. Green matter (plant-based waste) and brown matter (paper, egg-boxes, and egg shells).
  2. Pig manure and straw.
  3. More brown matter (mainly cardboard and paper). It eliminates smells and helps absorb excess liquid from any soggy organic waste that comes next. 
  4. Pallets donated by our neighbours, waiting to be converted into the new composter. As part of an offer made to all local residents, the black plastic container was provided at no cost by our local council to promote a more eco-friendly use of household organic waste in the region. It has certainly found a good home here 😊

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Before closing today’s post, we’d like to share with you the joy and pleasure of harvesting vegetables in Winter. We sowed these carrots 25 April 2019. Today, 02 February 2020, they are still crispy, sweet – and very tasty. We haven’t had to buy any carrots since late Summer last year. So yes, a winter garden is something we’re going to be looking into even more this year 👍👩‍🌾💚👨‍🌾

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Great Adaptation for Polish (and English) Language Learners

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Alicja w krainie czarów adapted by Scotia Victoria Gilroy

5*/5

As an adaptation and translation, I felt the vibe of the original Alice story, and found myself laughing and smiling throughout. I can happily say, therefore, that this was a job very well done and performed with care to the source material, allowing me to confidently recommend this to Polish language learners at around the B1/Lower Intermediate+ level who may be interested in improving their skills while enjoying an adaptation of a classic tale that talks to rather than down.

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*Of course, this mark reflects my opinion on this as an adaptation and translation rather than as a piece of literature.

Italy 2018

via Italy 2018

We are in a process of uploading our 2018 Touring Gallery. The journey took us from  Ferrara in Italy through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia to Bulgaria. An incredible experience it was.

Follow the link Italy 2018 if you wish to see the images from our brief yet beautiful Italian journey from Ferrara to Gorizia, before entering Slovenia. Enjoy ✌🏼🚵🏽‍♂️🚵🏽‍♀️

 

Conflicting Emotions

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Rain by Don Paterson

3.5/5

A mixed-bag, within which I feel there is a little something for everyone, but I am uncertain how satisfying the overall package is. My relationship, not only with the whole collection, but with individual pieces, is in constant flux – not only from mood to mood, but from moment to moment. 

Sometimes a piece and I sing at at complementary frequencies; at others, the same piece lies flat and lifeless upon the page.

And then I don’t know: am I being overly generous because such-and-such a piece was there for me at the right time? or overly harsh because it wasn’t the right moment for it? I think it’s only fair to go with the latter, with the caveat that many of these pieces are fair-weather friends: there to reflect a mood, but not to influence or alter one.

With that in mind, if you do hit upon that particular piece at that particular moment, I’m sure you’ll find some moments to treasure. I’m similarly sure that sometimes you’ll find nothing worth your while.

Despite the low moments, it does hit some heights and there is some genuine feeling here that makes it worth visiting despite the misses – and leads me to feel that this is a slightly above average collection worth a qualified recommendation.

 

Compost, Mulching, and Preparing the Garden for Spring #2

Green Matter and Brown Matter

At the moment we keep compost in two places: a (420L) compost container and a compost pit.

The container provides enough drainage so that last year it was possible for us to experiment on producing moist (not soggy) fertile soil. During the minimum 6-8 months it’s resting, it is turned over two or three times. We then cover the beds, preferably before Winter, using it as both compost and mulch. In Spring, without any digging, we can plant vegetables directly in it, using a small dibber.

Compost in the form of freshly made fertile soil is already a properly balanced mixture of green and brown matter. Green matter is only plant-based waste and coffee dregs. Brown matter is egg shells, cardboard, paper, straw, sawdust (untreated wood), and manure – also called by some “an activator” (more information about how we did it last year and why will appear in a separate post). 

The pit is a place where, in a more traditional Polish rural household, people would put their scraps and other organic waste. In the end, although well rotten, due to relatively poor drainage, the organic matter unfortunately remains rather wet and is therefore smelly. Access to the compost is also quite difficult as most of it remains deep in the pit.

However, making use of resources already available to us before introducing any bigger changes or potential improvements somehow seems a natural thing to do. So, although soggy, smelly, and difficult to retrieve, the compost is a very good source of nitrogen – produced by green matter (mainly grass clippings and fresh leaves) breaking down – and we are more than happy to use it in the garden; any excess liquid is then used to feed the fruit trees and bushes.

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Over the course of the last two weeks, we’ve cleared one of the two long vegetable beds, which we then covered with cardboard (brown matter) collected from local shops and markets. The (green matter) compost from the pit has now rotted well enough, so we put a 5cm layer on top of the cardboard. Last year we placed the compost directly onto the soil and it worked pretty well.

As we’ve gained more experience, we know that the soil and earth-worms absolutely love the addition of brown matter, so it only made sense to add it to the beds. The green-matter-plus-brown-matter combo brings many benefits to the garden:

  • adding new layers of soil
  • feeding the soil
  • protecting the soil and the life in it from too much exposure
  • reducing weeds
  • retaining moisture
  • providing drainage
  • and more

Around March, that once soggy, green matter will be much drier. We’ll then break down and reduce the bigger, harder pieces and remove anything that still needs further composting. By then, the cardboard will have started decomposing nicely. After that, the bed will be ready for direct planting – without any prior digging. We will add some dry pig manure at some point, and as the plants are growing we’ll feed them with our home-made nettle slurry.

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