Wednesday 30 November 2016


I have enough oak planks to finish one side of the compost heap, but not the rest.  So I went to our local DIY to price up something to make up the other dividers.   A cheap option would be to use chicken wire, but I have concerns that it would get damaged too easily, so if wood cladding is not too much more expensive, I'll use that instead.

French for cladding: bardage (m), and the cheapest bardage at the DIY is treated pine - it looks solid enough, it's identified as "bardage agri" (presumably for agricultural use), and it's just under 9 euro the square metre - not too bad.   I need just a bit more that 2m square per divider, so we're looking at say 20 euro per divider.   Only it's not expected back in stock until mid-December.  I will have to wait.

I looked up the verb barder, and the most common usage appears to be in the phrase "ça va barder", which means something like "sparks will fly", "there'll be trouble", or if you prefer "the shit will hit the fan".   Alternatively it describes loading something up, or covering e.g. a chicken with bacon, or armouring a horse or person.   You always wanted to know that, didn't you?

Anyway, here's the outer side of the compost heap, clad in rustic oak panels and finished in Cuprinol "Woodland Green" waterproofer.

Monday 28 November 2016

What are politicians for?

The Archdruid in his weekly report last Thursday defended the virtues of trade barriers and customs tarrifs between trading countries.  It's an unusual argument to hear today, when free trade is widely accepted, in economic terms, as being beneficial.  He argues that trade barriers between countries help establish a trade equilibrium, and he observes that free trade between nations has resulted in the past, and is resulting today, in enormous inequalities in wealth, along with increased poverty.

Donald Trump has persuaded Ford not to transfer their small car production to Mexico where costs are lower.  This is good news for American Ford workers, but bad news for Mexicans.  Mexicans on average will be poorer; the American car workers will be richer, and the American public will be slightly poorer, having to pay more for their Fords.  Economists will tell you that as a result, mankind overall is worse off as a result.

Let's imagine a large island, a continent that is a single country.  Business goes on as usual.  Goods are traded freely across its entire surface, people move about according to their desires and money flows where it will within the border.  This is normal national management and it proceeds as well as the government of the day can make it.

Now let's imagine that accidents of history, war and politics have resulted in this same continent being divided into three different countries, each taking about 1/3 of the area, with borders dictated by nothing but the hazards of time and chance.  Suddenly trade barriers between these areas are a good thing?  Why should that be?  Our Archdruid argues that they reduce inequality, and he might well be right, but what is the difference between our continent of one country, and the same continent divided into three countries, that necessiates trade barriers in order to reduce inequality?

Britain comprises three nations: England, Wales and Scotland.  When Wales play Scotland at rugby, it's an international match.  The three nations form a free trade area, with monetary union, free movement of goods, services and people, and it has been successful for .... well, a long time.  It's so transparent that many people forget that it is a successful example of monetary union and free trade between nations.   The difference between Britain and our hypothetical continent of three countries is that Britain is centrally governed, and has a central and universal tax system; fiscal union.

When companies are free to move money into different countries with different tax regimes and different costs of business, the money tends to flow to the most advantageous place and stay there.  What doesn't happen is that it gets freely distributed around the countries where the company operates, and it doesn't get taxed everywhere either.   (Apple for example sits on an enormous cash pile held outside of the USA, and has, I believe, borrowed money in the USA because it's cheaper than paying the tax).

Is this the root cause of the increasing transfer of wealth to the 1% (or 0.1%)?    Does this mean that the people arguing for fiscal union in Europe are right?   Noting as an aside that the tragedy of the commons applies to the planet as a whole and not just bits of it, do we need a world government?

Thursday 24 November 2016

Compost progress

The compost heap project is progressing.  I have concreted in the four posts that mark the corners of the first area, and marked one with the Hand of Sauron to ward off evil spirits.

The sides are being prepared, the idea being to create a faintly rustic effect by using the old unfinished oak fence panels.  They don't look very promising (they're starting to rot), but I'll dry them off, slather them with wood preserver, and paint them with green Cuprinol on the outside, and black creosote on the inside.   The far plank on the trestles is as rescued from the garden, the near one has been worked on to take off the worst of the surface rot.

You can see the current compost heap behind the posts.  It's big.   Once the new area is properly in place I can shred the outer layers of compost and deploy the good stuff underneath around the garden.

Saturday 19 November 2016


Our wood-burning stove has a door on the side that allows you to insert the special chestnut-roasting pan that we bought at a craft fair about 20 years ago and hadn't used since.  You can't see the chestnuts on the pan in the first picture, but the flash kind of destroys the ambience.

Friday 18 November 2016

New rotated barrier

Some tme ago I mentioned the new automatic barriers being installed just down the road.   I noticed at the time that they were installed such that the barrier wouldn't obstruct the road, but went up and down along the length of the road instead.

Well, the actual barriers have been installed, and the mountings have been rotated so that the barrier will in fact block the road when it is down.  I hope that thing was easy to move.  The little sensor that I take to be infra-red, is now not facing the sensor on the other side of the road.  I assume that it has a wide enough angle of operation to still work.

On the rest for the barrier on the opposite side of the road is what I take to be an electromagnet.  They're not taking any chances on people lifting the thing up by hand, eh?

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Waste of energy

As my regular reader will know, we are looking for a mill to buy, the idea being to put it back into use, specifically to generate electricity.   We looked at a pretty mill not long ago.  It's on a small river not all that far from its source, so I thought that it wouldn't generate very much power.  On the other hand, the wheel is fed from above, which makes for more efficient operation.

I had a look at the diversion of water from the main stream that would feed it; it was a bit overgrown with reeds and rushes, and perhaps on a neighbouring property but nothing that couldn't be worked with.  The wheel itself has been restored by a group of local enthusiasts, and there is a little plaque on it to this effect.

So I asked the agent to ask the owner about the water, its access from the river and what power the wheel might produce.  It turns out that the wheel is not powered by the river any more but by water that is pumped back up above it using an electric pump, just to turn the wheel for decoration.


Tuesday 8 November 2016

Sunday 6 November 2016


There was a presentation on the traditional music of the Mayenne, given in the château of Ste Suzanne today.   Broadly, it is similar to folk music the world over: songs to spread the news, bawdy wedding night songs, and songs to help pass the time while doing the boring routine tasks of peasant life.  So we heard the news of the murder of the preacher in Entrammes (it really did happen), and the song about the lady with the limp going off to market with a basket of goods that disappears (eggs roll away, geese fly off, etc), in a growing list akin to One Man Went to Mow, or the Twelve Days of Christmas.

The little group featured a hurdy-gurdy, an instrument you don't see (or hear) much of these days.   The example here featured six strings; four of them each sound a fixed note, and the other two are stopped by a set of keys to create different pitches.   All of the strings sound for all of the time while the handle is turning;  the effect is very similar to that of bagpipes, which perhaps accounts for the instrument's lack of popularity.

Thursday 3 November 2016

Autumn Squash

The green/orange ones are from seeds I collected from a like commercial pumpkin last year; the green stripey ones are from seeds I bought, and the butternut squashes are from seeds from last year's crop.  Not a giant harvest, but plenty for everyone except mad fans of pumpkin soup.   We even managed to get rid of some, I mean we served some delicious pumpkin-based recipies, to some of our gîte clients.

I have bought some commercial seeds for next year, and I will grow them (or at least plant them) in the newly-cleared area under the big walnut tree out the front.   That way they won't interfere with the main veg area that is having a face-lift.

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