Our latest maintenance of woodland was given a fantastic boost by having the Tarragona Hillbillies community group supporting. Once a month this group gets together at someones property to help with a project. This is a great example of mny hands making light work.
We worked at the top of our land and removed 10 old pines that had either already died, were crowded out by other trees and/or were dominating and suffocating the nearby oak trees and shrubs. The two photos below show the before and after. In addition to allowing other plants to grow more, we have removed a fire hazard for summer and secured firewood for the winter. All while enjoying the company of our community and getting great exercise in the fresh air.
We are still understanding the most effective way to deal with the wood processing remnants that we would have normally burnt. However, with no burn licences this year and our only shredder taking too much power from the solar we are building up plies of pine until we can afford the €600 for an diesel shredder/cutter or for summer sun to arrive. Meanwhile we are lopping down the larger branches, creating more storage areas and stacking what was split.
but Meanwhile we are progressing with more tree removal - this time one that was nearer house (so inside the 25m fire safety area) and was partly blocking the solar panels in winter with the lower sun. The tree was around 15m tall so Ethan and Barry took some time to prepare so the process was safe.
The first two photos below show where the tree was between the house and mountain (look between the top of the white parasol and the gazebo roof and the 1st photo shows a pine tree peaking out above some oak trees - it is not there in the 2nd photo). The 3rd photo shows it was very close to some oak trees so another case of thinning out the pine.
The final picture illustrates that the pine was very close to the baranc (large water gulley around 100m deep but dry right now) - the picture is taken from part way down the gulley and looking back up to where the tree was. This added a degree of difficulty so that the tree landed correctly and then when taking the branches off we did not lose them into the gulley. In the end we lost just one branch into the baranc and will retrieve this in the future.
We still need to install the chimney and agree how we provide the 1.5m outside the yurt with the right support. Plus we need to add in the aluminium splash backs behind it to protect the canvas and wood of the yurt
The base is 1m square and as the pictures below show is made up of OSB/chip board, plaster board and then tiles on fire retardant tile fix before being finished with grouting.
With a huge thanks to Marc for his guidance we now have solar power at The Honey Glade Yurt. We over specified the system so that we have a back up for our house should we need that.
Part of the July community meet was a celebration of the samosa. Barry cooked these for the first time as part of the event. The event was a great success - great food and people in a lovely location.
Frances has been expanding her planting and so the development of our growing areas continues. More to be added to this post but below highlights some of the progress.
We had a good potato crop this year while realised that planting in March will reduce the stress of heat and water of the height of summer.
We modified the zone 2 planting area to have some wind protection with trellis that will also allow plants to grow up them.
The patio area was completed with shade, water tanks and support for plants making it a nice space to sit in as well as good for growing plants.
In zone 4 we built and extra raised bed around the remains of an old tree trunk.
During our three week pre-move research tour of Spain in September 2013 we stayed for a week in a Yurt in Tarifa. We had a wonderful experience and dreamed of one day having a Yurt of our own - it took 9 years but today we completed the build of that Yurt. We have a lovely plot, ´The Honey Glade´ near El Perelló and have worked with a Yurt builder near Granada to supply the Yurt. In addition to us enjoying this great space we also have the option to rent the space out and also have a space to live really far from all in case of need.
Having selected a great plot in April 2022 we established ourselves to spend time at the site and be ready for a Yurt delivery in October. We put up a tent, built a shed, added an outdoor kitchen to that shed with water gathering to a tank and set up a compost toilet. This gave us a site we could spend time at and store materials while completing the Yurt build and allow the site to have the facilities needed when the Yurt was finished.
The 3rd photo above shows the location of the yurt and the photos below show the base build using blocks, wooden joists and wooden floor planks. No cement used to end up with a beautiful wooden floor to put the Yurt onto.
July and August 2022 was a very hot summer averaging 35C. No rain meant easy site management in one respect but the heat needed to be managed and early starts and working to midday only was possible. Then in early August we were told the Yurt would be arriving early.... not something we are used to but a happy surprise as this would mean we would miss too much rain and wind when doing the final build. In the end the Yurt arrived 10th September and the base was not complete and then the 1st rain came for 2 months, so the final two weeks had some time pressure and safe storage of a lot of materials to manage.
15 days after the arrival of the Yurt we started the build. The weather was just 15C to 25C and a light breeze so 9 hours building the Yurt was at least manageable as far as the weather. A huge thanks to Stephanie, Geode, Marc, Kristin and Federico who helped unload materials and build the Yurt who allowed Ethan, Frances, Joshua and I to complete the work without running out of energy.
From the 16th April and an empty plot (1st photo below) to the 26th September and a fully constructed Yurt (final photo).
We moved most of the furniture into the yurt on the 1st of October. Building the sofa bed and re-installing the double bed from the tent. More to do with a small table and chairs to add and a clothes rack. We also took the tent down after 5 months, with two small holes to repair after the bleaching of the sun that discoloured it tremendously but overall it did very well given the length of time it was used for.
In addition to completing the set up in the Yurt we need to install the solar power system (huge thanks to Marc for his design and support here), receive and install the log burning stove and complete the outbuildings: toilet, woodshed, kitchen and shower. The plan is to finish in November.
We have just had our solar hot water system installed. This is a significant milestone because it took 14 months from the request to the contractor for the work to the actual install. This also importantly means that all aspects of running our home are now self-sufficient. With gas prices still increasing moving the hot water away from gas on demand heating is also a great cost saving.
We can switch between solar and gas by closing and opening valves to re-direct the water. Our view is that keeping it simple and not adding an automation means there is less to go wrong in the future.
In addition we will gain extra solar power to our overall system as any excess will be re-directed to charge our batteries.
We will wait to see if we can gain a warm/airing cupboard by boxing in the the hot water tank. We have already worked on that part of the garage to make it more insulated and overall more hospitable to be in and will be tiling the floor and creating shelves and space for storage. As we experience the new system we may the box in the tank.
This now means that all key utilities are self sufficient and sustainable:
1. Electricity: Solar panels
2. Water: Rain water collection
3. Heating: Wood burning stove with back bolier for radiators
4. Hot water: Solar panels heating a large water tank
5. Cooking: Wood fired stove
6. Sewage: Compost toilets & grey water recycling
7. Communications: Community groups, CB Radio, CD Music, DVD films
All backed up by at least one other source, respectively:
1. Petrol generator and mobile battery packs
2. Mountain water and water storage tanks
3. Gas heaters
4. Gas water heater
5. Gas cookers
6. Other natural forms of use but with good maintenance no back up is needed
7. Mobile phone & internet
When we last wrote about our water supply we had done a number of upgrades to capture more water, store more water, reduce our use and recycle grey water:
In last 2 years, summer 2020 to summer 2022, we have made a number of improvements and additions to achieve the following:
Each picture below has a caption that confirms the Litres each tank holds, where the water supply comes from and which planting area it supplies.
So our house supply survives well each summer to no lower than 30% of capacity and we have enough water for our planting. With the latest tanks installed we hope to stay well ahead of the demand as we increase the planting. In addition we hope to re-start the use of the outdoor shower in 2023 as we have had to use that water for plants in the last two years. Maybe the jacuzzi also can be used again soon while it is all about priorities and then adding the extra as these can be afforded - after all we can always go to the beach of the pool.
We now have eight plant growing areas. These areas are safe from the goat eating stuff and have the flat land that can have it´s soil improved and be accessed by water. Three of the plating areas are shown below.
Frances is the seed collector and propogator and all round grower. Barry is the builder of planting areas, fences, gates and water supply. While Ethan supports all and is especially the one moving soil, stones, manure, mulch and compost to different areas of the garden.
The below photos shows the seed growing area by the garage and two nearby planting areas with pots to help grow new seedlings. The 3rd picture show part of our patio area that is both now home to pots with growing support and a partial shade area (for the plants and us) with a roof to gather rain. Where possible we always try to gain more than one use from each area.
The photos below show plants and produce: courgette, okra, strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, apples, Asturian tree cabbage, butternut squash, amaranth, beetroot and cucumber
Today (25th July) we finished a new extension to our planting area which once was the goat pen. The below 1st three photos show we have added a new raised bed from concrete blocks filled with soil taken from new water tanks preparation, rabbit manure and compost from a Falset store. Cucumber seedlings and fennel will now be planted out. Water will come from the new tanks that will be at the top of our driveway fed from the rooves of our wood sheds (4th to 6th photo shows the water gather prep waiting the arrival of the two new 1300L tanks).
Frances and Barry Copping bought Xalet Pigall in 2015. They are working towards resilience and self-sufficiency.