Welcome to another week in our off-grid life at Le Shack on Friday 13th November – an unlucky day for some but let’s hope that won’t apply to us.
Autumn has arrived on the valley floor as all the summer crops of maize and sunflower are being cut and the fields ploughed over. The photo above was taken yesterday evening as I went out for my usual stroll – Le Shack is tucked away in the hills behind the field. The temperatures are still staying high – it feels like a gentle British summer for which we are appropriately grateful. I’ve no idea whether this is normal or we are just being lucky.
We have more important news than what the weather is doing. After seven weeks we have a water supply indoors! It’s the little things that you notice; the joy of not trudging outside in the pitch black to wash my teeth at the outside tap and the novelty of doing the washing-up in a proper sink with taps and running water instead of in a basin on the kitchen table.
Although everything is operational we are not finished yet. We need tiles around the sink and on the workshop and also a shelf. I want a plant in the corner, to make it look nice, but in the absence of being able to buy such things at the moment as the French government has decreed that flowers and plants are not essential items (can’t agree with that) I have cut some Rosemary from the garden and that will have to do. And when we can buy some curtain material, another non-essential item, we can make some curtains to hide all the plumbing and storage underneath. Those who have been with me since first lockdown might recognise the pictures on the wall – these are Michael’s drawings from when we were confined to Olivia for three months.
Although we have a sink and a shower, this is an off-grid system so it still isn’t quite as simple as in a conventional house. Let’s face it, nothing is as simple as a conventional house! Given the limited space that we have, one sink for dishes and another for personal washing, so much the norm in conventional living, makes no sense, so we use the one sink for both jobs.
When we want a shower, the procedure is as follows. Firstly, we turn on the generator, which in turn provides power to the water heater, very neatly plumbed in under the sink by our resident plumber-come-Jack-of-all-trades, Michael. After about fifteen minutes there will be enough hot water in the water heater for the first person to have a shower, of necessity a fairly short shower as the tank only holds 15 litres. There is then a brief interlude to allow the water to heat up again and the second person takes a shower. It soon became evident that the 15 litres capacity was a myth, so we are having a re-think of that. I suspect our re-think will end up with us enjoying a very short, but incredibly sweet, hot shower, finished off by a dowsing in cooler water. Bracing. Good for us all to have a bit of cold water I’m sure. Do I sound like I am trying to convince myself?
The shower tray is the cauldron that was left here by the previous owner, Marthe, and is surrounded by shower curtains. If money were no object we would tile the walls and have a lovely big shower tray but the budget for renovations has now been reached – and passed – and so it will have to wait. I had a fear that the shower would turn out to be one of those clingy shower-curtain affairs, where you spend all your time trying to extricate yourself from smothering plastic and shrieking ‘ get it off me, get it off me’ but it is surprisingly spacious in there, so no shrieking was necessary.
We could adopt the same process ie turning the generator on, for heating the water to do the dishes – and it might just about manage that – but we’ve stuck with our existing system which is both simpler and saves fuel. We found a cast-iron Dutch oven buried in the weeds in one of our earlier tidying up sessions outside, which has proved to be the perfect receptacle for heating water up on the wood-burner – just the right amount for the washing up.
Now on to sunsets. To see the sunset we have to walk out along the track and then turn and look to the west. So often we get distracted by something and forget to do this, and then we miss something wonderful. Luckily Michael remembered for this particular evening and captured this lovely shot.
Finally, this week’s video – which is a visit to a graveyard.
I mentioned a few weeks ago about the French custom of buying chrysanthemums and laying them on graves. This takes place on the first of November and is known as La Toussaint in France, or All Saints Day. It is a day to honour the dead, to visit the cemetery and lay flowers on the grave and also to spend time with family. Chyrsanthemums are associated with death in France, often used at funerals, and have a link with immortality as they can withstand the winter frosts. Other countries view these flowers differently, associating them with love, happiness and loyalty and in Australia they are given as a token of love on Mother’s Day. Which just goes to show that you need to get the right flower for the right country or you might seriously upset somebody!
I’ll leave you with the video below and wish you all well. Apologies if some of it is a bit blurry. I think it’s part me wobbling the phone and part the file size being reduced on upload. Will try to do better next week. See you soon.