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I knew I’d forgotten something. Nature doesn’t seem to have slowed down because I had to look for work, and I still haven’t managed to “Dig out the vegetable beds”, partly because of the weather but also because the process of cutting back brambles to get at the ground, then digging out some impressively ugly roots in waterlogged soil while wielding a spade that seems to have about four kilos of damp clay glued to it has sapped my energy and I’ve been doing about two square metres at a time and then giving up and wandering off in search of lighter jobs.
One of these was to put leaf mulch on the beds: I have had loads of leaf mulch donated by neighbours with a huge suburban lawn and some trees, who couldn’t believe their good fortune when they discovered I’d take as many dry leaves as they could leave by my gate, so I’ve re-mulched all but one of the beds with more cardboard and and a layer of leaves deep enough to hide a small rhinoceros. Where there are less bramble incursions I’m using a ‘No-dig’ system where I put a mulch down on top of the grass and allow it all to rot down. This avoids messing up the ground too much and disturbing the layer of humus on top which apparently is very important. It also sounds much better than admitting I couldn’t face digging any more.
This week I was able to actually get the spade into the ground for the first time since December, so today I finally got myself into gear and ordered some seeds, and now the cycle lanes are clear I’l pootle off to Farmers Shop in the next town and get a load of potatoes.
If I’m really careful, we may even end up getting more than the slugs…
There’s been some movement on the apprenticeship front as well. More to come…
Ugh. We’re already more than half a month into the year and so far it’s been a blur. I’d forgotten that interviews were so unnerving. Yesterday I had one for a three year apprenticeship, and soon I’ll have another one for a three month course. They are both in areas I’d like to work in and I’ll say more when I know a bit more. Right now I’m like a cat on hot bricks and I can’t concentrate on a thing.
I’m trying to organise the cob workshop (although one participant has gently reminded me that I’ve not responded to emails as fast as I could, sorry about that). I need a minimum of fifteen people to make the workshop worthwhile and I’ve not got anywhere near that many yet: either I’m not reaching these people or Germans aren’t interested in cob building. Any suggestions of forums or internet addresses welcome.
The workshops are slated to be in the Very Smallholding, and as half of it requires crampons and is currently infested by feral raspberry bushes with attitude and big thorns it isn’t safe to allow access by the general public, so this week I used some nervous energy productively by tidying up. The main job for this month is re-digging a veggie bed where the owner of the land, for some reason thinking that about 100 square metres of raspberry bushes was not nearly enough, planted another trellis’ worth. Now raspberry bushes are like puppies, they look all nice and cute when they’re little but soon they grow. This one grew, and grew, went feral with the others and tried to take over the garden. And the neighbours garden. So now it is gradually being eradicated one spade full at a time with some liberal use of the Anglo-Saxon vernacular.
The other major job for the month is to get two more trailer loads of poo. I think I’ll wait until the interviews are over first.
The last few weeks we’ve had some fairly exciting storms with features like thunder, hail and horizontal snow. Sometimes at the same time. The wind kept us awake one night by rattling the watering can the length of the balcony until it clunked into the wooden railing, waiting until we’d gone to sleep, then rattling it back again. Most of the planters on the balcony seemed to survive but I knew the garden would be a different matter, so after
avoiding it for a few days waiting for the weather to improve I went to see what havoc had been wrought.
There was less than I thought: it turns out that stacking very, very long pieces of wood against a rickety privvy isn’t a great idea in high winds, and that weighing cardboard mulch at the corners because I was too lazy to move the rest of the cow poo down just means that the rain soaks it then the wind shreds it and deposits it in the next garden, and large empty compost bins are surprisingly good at catching wind, but apart from that -and some wretched cat thinking that our garden is its personal toilet- all was well. As an extra bonus the rain had washed the vegetation from the path I cleared in summer leaving what looks like pure clay, which is good news for the cob building workshops, even if it does mean crampons are required to get to the bottom of the hill…
I stacked the wood again and put bricks on anything that might move in high winds, although as we’d had storms off and on for a week it was a bit late, but never mind: gardening is a learning process and I’ve now learned that ‘severe weather warning’ means what it says, and that anything loose should be weighted down straight away and not at some theoretical future date.
Still doesn’t deal with the cat problem though. I’ll experiment with bramble branches to deter them (at lest I have plenty of bramble branches to spare, do you think there’s a market for them?) If that doesn’t work, maybe I could borrow the neighbours Doberman…
Yesterday afternoon I was helping Eldest Son with his homework, when I was reminded that I had an important appointment, as in: now. As this was the culmination of several weeks telephoning people, emailing, and chasing up contacts, I wasn’t about to let it slip by so after five frantic minutes finding gardening (ie: ‘filthy’) clothes, work boots and gloves I legged it out to my friend who was waiting in his 4×4 with trailer.
The reason for all this activity?
Such is the way my life has turned out.
With seventy cows the local farm wasn’t about to suddenly experience a Bovine Excrement Deficit, but it seemed polite to go and check before reversing a trailer up to the pile and loading up. Ringing the bell at the farmhouse got the expected lack of response, but after wandering about for a bit I met an elderly family member. Unfortunately he spoke a very strong version of the local dialect, and was was deaf so we spent several minutes failing to communicate while the farm geese tried to provide translation and encouragement by honking.
I gave up and wandered around to the farm yard where I discovered it had all been unnecessary as there was a queue. A spotless Volkswagen was standing by the muck, and the owner was delicately scooping winter compost into the tiny trailer. As the pile was bigger than the car we figured there was no rush.
When Clean Volkwagen Driver left, we filled the bottom of our trailer with sawdust and then covered this with as much cow produce as we could, which proved surprisingly difficult, cow manure seems to achieve great density when dropped from a crane. We wiggled our way through the lanes to the Very Smallholding, and I offloaded the trailer while my friend drove to the end of the track and made a 37 point turn to get back. On arrival he remarked that the trailer load of manure didn’t look that much now it was on the ground, and I jokingly asked if he wanted to go again. His response of ”Well, we’ve got more sawdust and the trailer needs cleaning anyway” elevated him to a Hero of the Very Smallholding, and we went and got another load.
I now have a parking space full of very smelly stuff, which is possibly the best anti parking deterrent known to man, and now all I have to do is shift the whole lot down the steps and over the the future vegetable beds, in buckets.
And to think some people go out at weekends.
At the moment we work in a small community based arts group. Organisations working in community theatre don’t have a vast amount of money at the best of times, and we’re very vulnerable to economic downturns: last week one organisation supporting our work sent us a warning to the effect that they won’t be able to help us any more: they’ve been there for us as long as they could and they did manage to send one final cheque which we appreciated: eating is a tough habit to break.
You may recall that I’d signed up with a translation agency in the hope of filling the gap in our finances but since then we had an inexplicable lack of famous German writers wanting me to translate their work, so it’s back to dusting off my CV and sending it off to various potential employers.
What I’m looking for is a job that allows us to stay here and keep going with the work we do, if voluntarily. Even better would be one that does this and gets me some training in the bargain as my theatre training was in the USA and not officially recognised here, meaning I have effectively no qualifications in Germany. It may even be possible as we’re in south Germany which so far is relatively unscathed by the crisis, but obviously it depends on who responds and what sort of work I’m offered and where, and if all goes very not to plan we may end up moving house again.
Mind you, it’s not like we are alone in that right now, and given the eye-watering rent and utilities prices in the Stuttgart region it may be a financial blessing in disguise, but as that would mean moving the family and losing all the relationships we’ve built up here we’ll save that for when we’ve exhausted every other avenue.
Apart from anything else we’ve just finished the compost bin.
When we’ve worked out what’s happening, I’ll let you know.
*According to WordPress, this is the third time I’ve used this title on the blog, should I be worried?.
Autumn turned up last week: one weekend I was in a T-shirt and sweating profusely when I cut a couple of planks for steps, and suddenly all the trees are dropping leaves and its time to turn off the water supply in the Garden (Any ideas how to keep the water on over winter without the pipes freezing?)
And then there were the monsters:
Something has been investigating my veg beds. If it was a mouse they’re getting ambitious, and there aren’t many rabbits in this area, so my money is on a Fox. This will be a challenge if chicken-keeping plans come to fruition, but there’s no fox scat or anything about, so it remains a mystery.
On the other side of the beds I found more monsters in the form of wild mushrooms which I’d pick but I have no idea what they are and I don’t want to spend the next week talking to pink Llamas*. If anyone can identify them please let me know.
The Brambles are still intent on world domination. Unfortunately yours truly neglected two important parts of Operation Bramble Elimination which was to dig the tap roots up first, and put soil over the cardboard so it lies flat instead of dropping strategic bricks and hoping for the best.
I’ve decided the reason Tap Roots are called this is because they’re the same diameter as a water main and almost as deep. I gained several several monsters like these, but they were hideous and wouldn’t fit on the paving slab for a photo so I threw them on the fire before they could fight back. And then, not wanting to share the darkening garden with unknown digging creatures and out sized mutant bramble roots, I went home quickly making sure I locked the gate behind me.
*Although if this drivel is even more incoherent in future entries, you’ll know why.
When we took over the garden I was already muttering about running workshops there, partly to help pay for what we wanted to do, partly to get to know people within the local networks. This wasn’t possible at first because when we moved in the place was full of asbestos, and it doesn’t look good if you hold a workshop in a garden littered with a health hazard, so first that had to go, and then the shed had to be cleared so that we could do useful things. Like get inside.
Now the shed is cleared, and most of the Asbestos at ground level is gone. There is the small matter of the shed roof but that’s keeping the shed and its contents mostly dry so it’s geting a reprieve. We are also lacking important items like a loo, but I’m almost ready with that and to get me to move a bit faster we’ve decided to organise a cob building workshop as the 28th to the 30th of May 2012.
We’ll be hosting a workshop in cob building by Bernhard Gruber from Austria, who taught on my Permaculture Design Course, and we’ll be trying to build a cob oven as our first project. This is a simple oven that reuses the heat from one fire up to three times: first you put the fire in the oven and heat it up, then you use the heat in the clay to make things like Pizza, then you can put normal bread in to heat slowly, and finally you can use the residual heat to dry out fruit.
The goal is that everyone who comes is able to go home knowing how to build with cob, and able to make their own cob oven at home. If we get enough people on the workshop, we may go wild and try a rocket stove, but we have other pressing needs as well, so it would depend on the size of the group.
On the off chance that someone wants to come and join in, the boring but important details are:
Cost: €60 a day for tuition. (€180 total, 10% discount if you book and pay by Dec 31st)
This doesn’t include food or somewhere to stay: we’ll provide food and ask for what it costs us, and we are working on a place for people to unroll sleeping bags if you can’t find somewhere else to stay.
Course length: 3 days (From 10:00 on Monday the 29th to about 16:00 on Wednesday the 30th.) There will hopefully be an extra evening event with information on permaculture or Bernhards work in Tanzania on Tuesday.
Other details on request, but I don’t want to bore everyone more than I usually do. Please contact me through the form in the sidebar.
More of the usual entries next week, probably involing me panicking that I’ve got too much to do before the workshop begins.
BTW If any German speakers want to come, and would like a discount, I could do with some help making translations…
Für alle, die das Bauen eines eigenen Brotbackofens interessiert und die es selbst zu Hause ausprobieren wollen.
Seit Urzeiten versucht der Mensch sich das Feuer nutzbar zu machen, es geht primär nicht nur darum die Wärmequelle zu entfachen, sondern auch Energie zu sparen und zu speichern. Dieses System versuchen wir mit einem einfachen und sehr praktischen Brotbackofen aus Lehm zu veranschaulichen. Der Ofen kann mehrfach verwendet werden, mit der kurz anhaltenden Hitze am Anfang kann man Pizzen backen, anschließend schiebt man Brot ein, welches eine lang anhaltende, kontinuierliche Wärme braucht. Die Restwärme nützt man noch zum Trocknen von Früchten. Einen solchen Brotbackofen kann man verschieden bauen, mit einem Geflecht aus Weiden, das mit einem Lehm-Sand-Stroh-Gemisch überzogen wird. Einfacher hingegen ist es, eine Form aus feinem Sand zu bilden und diese mit dem Lehm-Sand-Stroh-Gemisch zu überziehen, wobei der Sand nach Fertigstellung (Trocknung des Ofens)heraus geräumt wird. Je nach Gruppengröße kann neben dem Brotbackofen noch ein so genannter „Rocketstove“, zum Kochen mit dünnem Astwerk errichtet werden.
Bernhard Gruber lebt in Neuhofen an der Krems, ist aufgewachsen auf einer Kleinstlandwirtschaft in Wels, welche seit Anfang der 90er Jahre nach den Prinzipien der Permakultur bewirtschaftet wird: Er erhielt im Juli 2005 das internationale Permakultur-Zertifikat am Ökozentrum von Klosterneustift, Vahrn / Südtirol
Bernhard Gruber unterstützt beratend und planend Schulprojekte, Interkulturelle Gärten, Gemeinschaftsgärten, Hausgärten, Biolandbau, Projekte im Bereich der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit, Talente-Tauschkreise und Projekte um Frithjof Bergmanns „Neue Arbeit“.
€ 60,00 pro tag ungefördert (€180 für alle drei tagen, und einen 10% Frühbucher rabatt wann sie bis Dezember 31ste voll bezahlen)
Termine und Ort:
Montag 28.05.2012- Mittwoch 30.05.2012
genauer Kursort wird bekannt gegeben
Spätestens 14 Tage vor dem jeweiligen Kursbeginn
Maximale TeilnehmerInnenzahl: 20
Kontakt durch der kommentare oder korschtal[@]gmail.com