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Irene Kightley

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since Apr 13, 2009
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South West France
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Recent posts by Irene Kightley

This isn't an earth floor but it had a lot of earth in it. It was our very cheap but very time-consuming alternative to expensive terre cuite tiles. I thought about an earth floor but I dye wool and make a lot of conserves and we have some older dog/cats and sometimes lambs and kids who pee on the floor occasionally, so it was too much of a risk to try an earth floor, then have to redo it because it couldn't stand up to the humidity.

I read how to use straw for insulation under the floor and make the tiles in a book called "The Straw Bale House". So on top of about 75cms of rocks, we laid straw bales with mortar mixed with straw between them to support the floor. The floor is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. On the left in the photo is a small underfloor cellar which stays really cool.

Then we laid a classic screed floor and on top (because our house is bioclimatic and we wanted loads of thermal mass) we made a mix with sand, clay, white cement and ochre colours and made "tiles", tamping them down, then cutting and shaping them by hand (plastic bag over hand) to consolidate the mix and give them a nice finish.

Finishing off the last joints between the "tiles"

Floor after 17 years (Although I promised to wax it every summer, I don't) I love the floor and it doesn't show the dirt much with loads of muddy boots and 5 dogs coming in and out.

4 weeks ago
As we're near the top of a hill, we have a lot of small vernal ponds to prevent water run-off. This is one right on top of the hill, looking towards the house.

This is another small pond just in front of the house

The same tiny pond from another angle with ducks and geese enjoying the water

This pond was puddled by the pigs and tends to keep water all year round

This is our biggest pond (A double pond with false bridge) for swimming and fishing, we made it about 30 years ago and it's fed by a stream

This is a pond we re-laid with cement after several years of problems with liners. It's fed rainwater from the house front roof and takes the final water from the grey water sewage system that we finished last week! I can't wait to see how the system works and to make it a pretty place to sit doing nothing.

This is our latest pond which is being puddled by wild boar, it's fed from a swale

1 month ago

What is it that you leave on all night ?

Just to check : 1kwh = 1000 watts used in one hour, or 100 watts used for 10 hours. Is that what you meant to say?
2 months ago
Good permaculture design allows water to be collected, protected, conserved and reused as much as possible before it is lost.

In the hectare (Mostly Zone 1) around us it was vital - before we built our house, built roads, gardens and shelters etc. - to design our water strategy. Although all our animals are extensively raised, their shelters are concentrated here and we sometimes have more than 200 animals to feed and water.

At first, we had to connect to the city's water to make sure that we had enough, but with careful management, we now pay less than 300€ a year for water - a very small amount for a 37 hectare farm. 🤠

For a guide to practical details on how we manage water, click on the link HERE to see the original photo in flickr. Then move your cursor over the photo for links to larger photos.

2 months ago
A quick and easy way I use is to use Word or Open Office. Open a new page, choose "landscape" for your new page layout then insert a photo, move it to the left, copy it on the right and adjust the sizes of both photos to fit on the page then use screensave to make a new photo in jpeg.
2 months ago
I love hearing the noises of the countryside from our terrace. Birds, deer, more birds, frogs...

3 months ago
Here are some of the climbers we grow here in Zone 7 (The same as you I think?).

Basella alba, Epinard de Malabar, Malabar spinach or Indian Spinach, Ceylon spinach grows fast and high, the leaves are edible raw or cooked.

Callebasse gourd, the flowers are beautiful, you can eat the young fruit and if you leave them to grow and ripen you can use them for containers, lampshades etc.

Christophine, chayote ou chayotte

Kiwai (Actinidia arguta), mini-kiwi or Siberian Kiwi (Resists to -20°c)

3 months ago
It certainly looks like a hornet Hester, how strange.

Here's a selection of some of our bugs.

Scorpion Fly - Panorpa communis (look at its tail)

Convolvulous Hawk Moth Agrius convolvulis (Wingspan Range - 80-120mm - This is probably a male)

Black-headed Cardinal beetle Pyrochroa coccinea on a Tayberry

White spotted rose beetle (Oxythyrea funesta) Called Drap mortuaire in France (Translates to "Mortuary sheet" in English!)

A Hummingbird Hawk-moth stuck in a Star Jasmine (I ripped the flower open to release the moth once I'd taken the video)

4 months ago
An update on the temperature in south west France. I pointed the thermometer at a few rocks outside at about 16h, it read 140°f !

The inside of the house is doing OK. We just don't go out.
4 months ago